Bush’s Weird War

Mr Bush’s Titanic War on Terror Will Eventually Sink Beneath the Waves Meantime, all the men who claim to be fighting terror are using this lunatic “war” simply for their own purposes by Robert Fisk

First it was to be a crusade. Then it became the “War for Civilization”. Then the “War without End”. Then the “War against Terror”. And now–believe it or not–President Bush is promising us a “Titanic War on Terror”. This gets weirder and weirder. What can come next? Given the latest Bush projections last week–“we know that thousands of trained killers are plotting to attack us”–he must surely have an even more gargantuan cliche up his sleeve.

Well, he must have known about the would-be Chicago “dirty” bomber–another little secret he didn’t tell the American people about for a month. Until, of course, it served a purpose. We shall hear more about this strange episode–and I’ll hazard a guess the story will change in the next few days and weeks. But what could be more titanic than the new and ominously named “Department for Homeland Security”, with its 170,000 future employees and its $37.5bn (lbs26.6bn) budget? It will not, mark you, incorporate the rival CIA and FBI–already at each other’s throats over the failure to prevent the crimes against humanity of 11 September–and will thus ensure that the intelligence battle will be triangular: between the CIA, the FBI and the boys from “Homeland Security”. This, I suspect, will be the real titanic war.

Because the intelligence men of the United States are not going to beat their real enemies like this. Theirs is a mission impossible, because they will not be allowed to do what any crime-fighting organization does to ensures success–to search for a motive for the crime. They are not going to be allowed to ask the “why” question. Only the “who” and “how”.

Because if this is a war against evil, against “people who hate democracy”, then any attempt to discover the real reasons for this hatred of America–the deaths of tens of thousands of children in Iraq, perhaps, or the Israeli-Palestinian bloodbath, or the presence of thousands of US troops in Saudi Arabia–will touch far too sensitively upon US foreign policy, indeed upon the very relationships that bind America to the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and to a raft of Arab dictators.

Here’s just one example of what I mean. New American “security” rules will force hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims from certain countries to be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated when they enter the US. This will apply, according to the US Attorney General, John Ashcroft, to nearly all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan, most of whom will not get visas at all. The list is not surprising. Iran and Iraq are part of Mr Bush’s infantile “axis of evil”. Syria is on the list, presumably because it supports Hamas’ war against Israel.

It is a political list, constructed around the Bush policy of good-versus-evil. But not a single citizen from Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan has been accused of plotting the atrocities of 11 September. The suicide-hijackers came principally from Saudi Arabia, with one from Egypt and another from Lebanon. The men whom the Moroccans have arrested–all supposedly linked to al-Qa’ida–are all Saudis.

Yet Saudis–who comprised the vast majority of the September killers–are going to have no problems entering the US under the new security rules. In other words, men and women from the one country whose citizens the Americans have every reason to fear will be exempt from any fingerprinting, or photographing, or interrogation, when they arrive at JFK. Because, of course, Saudi Arabia is one of the good guys, a “friend of America”, the land with the greatest oil reserves on earth. Egypt, too, will be exempt, since President Hosni Mubarak is a supporter of the “peace process”.

Thus America’s new security rules are already being framed around Mr Bush’s political fantasies rather than the reality of international crime. If this is a war between “the innocent and the guilty”–another Bush bon mot last week–then the land that bred the guilty will have no problems with the lads from the Department of Homeland Security or the US Department of Immigration.

But why, for that matter, should any Arabs take Mr Bush seriously right now? The man who vowed to fight a “war without end” against “terror” told Israel to halt its West Bank operations in April–and then sat back while Mr Sharon continued those same operations for another month. On 4 April, Mr Bush demanded that Mr Sharon take “immediate action” to ease the Israeli siege of Palestinian towns; but, two months later, Mr Sharon–a “man of peace”, according to Mr Bush–is still tightening those sieges.

If Mr Sharon is not frightened of Mr Bush, why should Osama bin Laden be concerned? Last week’s appeal by President Mubarak for a calendar for a Palestinian state produced, even by Mr Bush’s absurd standards, an extraordinary illogicality. No doubt aware that he would be meeting Mr Sharon two days later, he replied: “We are not ready to lay down a specific calendar except for the fact that we’ve got to get started quickly, soon, so we can seize the moment.”

The Bush line therefore goes like this: this matter is so important that we’ve got to act urgently and with all haste–but not so important that we need bother about when to act. Mr Sharon, of course, doesn’t want any such “calendar”. Mr Sharon doesn’t want a Palestinian state. So Mr Bush–at the one moment that he should have been showing resolve to his friends as well as his enemies–flunked again. After Mr Sharon turned up at the White House, Mr Bush derided the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, went along with Mr Sharon’s refusal to talk to him and virtually dismissed the Middle East summit that the Palestinians and the world wants this summer but which Mr Sharon, of course, does not.

In the meantime, as well as Mr Sharon, all of the men who claim to be fighting terror are using this lunatic “war” for their own purposes. The Egyptians, who allegedly warned the CIA about an attack in America before 11 September, have been busy passing a new law that will so restrict the work of non-governmental organizations that it will be almost impossible for human rights groups to work in Egypt. So no more reports of police torture. The Algerian military, widely believed to have had a hand in the dirty war mass killings of the past 10 years, have just been exercising with NATO ships in the Mediterranean. We’ll be seeing more of this.

It was almost inevitable, of course, that someone in America would be found to explain the difference between “good terrorists”–the ones we don’t bomb, like the IRA, ETA or the old African National Congress–and those we should bomb. Sure enough, Michael Elliott turned up in Time magazine last week to tell us that “not all terrorists are alike”. There are, he claimed, “political terrorists” who have “an identifiable goal” and “millenarian terrorists” who have no “political agenda”, who “owe their allegiance to a higher authority in heaven”. So there you have it. If they’ll talk to the Americans, terrorists are OK. If they won’t, well then it’s everlasting war.

So with this twisted morality, who really believes that “Homeland Security” is going to catch the bad guys before they strike again? My guess is that the “Titanic War on Terror” will follow its unsinkable namesake. And we all know what happened to that.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It