Normally, the title for this column could be a headline for The Onion, that hilarious, irreverent Wisconsin publication that twists things around in order to hint at some absurd reality. The Onion presents fake news and commentary, poking fun at politics, culture, or whatever. Nothing is off limits and they do a great job, so normally my title could serve as one of their satirical jumping off points. After all, how could the US deploy hundreds of thousands of troops overseas and begin operations in Northern Iraq without around the clock coverage on CNN? How absurd!
Well, no actually. Of what do I speak? For starters we must go offshore, or more accurately, online, to a piece entitled “In all but name only, the war’s on”, by Marc Erikson in The Asia Times, filed on Aug. 17. He notes that back in January, when Bush began talking about “regime change” in Iraq, he signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (as a footnote, this violates US law, but as expected there was very little ballyhoo about that). At the time there were approximately 50,000 US and British troops surrounding Iraq.
According to Erickson and numerous overseas reports, that number has quietly grown to well over 100,000 US troops in and around Iraq. This does not include soldiers, sailors and airmen within the expanded theatre of operations. There have been two main acceleration points: March and June. A new airfield is operational in Qatar and thousands of US troops are working with local forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, mapping out targets, and covertly planning what will be the long awaited major escalation of a campaign already under way. There’s more, much more. On August 9, the Turkish daily, Hurriyet, reported that 5,000 Turkish troops entered northern Iraq and took over a key airbase, north of Mosul.
Meanwhile the Jordanian news agency Petra counts thousands more US troops present to conduct joint exercises with the Jordanian army. Still thousands more have been added to Kuwait. If you add in the surrounding region, including allied troops, the number deployed or ready to attack on short notice may reach upwards of 400,000. So where are the nightly reports showing tearful loved ones waiving goodbye as their beloved sons and daughters embark on the latest crusade against the evil doers? Undoubtedly many units are being re-assigned, but many more are shipping out under stealth, seemingly without notice. All we seem to hear about is the stepped up bombing campaign. But then what better way to start a new war, than to clandestinely create a military situation with unstoppable momentum?
So the war is on, begun in cloaked fashion as it were, during the dog days of summer.
Given these developments overseas, the factional in-fighting within the Bush administration concerning war with Iraq should be viewed not as a major turf war, but more as a low level distraction (I will eat those words if Colin Powell were to resign before his term is complete, preferably pre-invasion). In fact what the media circus has achieved this summer is concealment of the aforementioned troop deployments, their actual missions, and the actual strategy. What fellow pundit John Chuckman, calls “geopolitics by an idiot” was undoubtedly planned months ago. Even cursory research outside the bounds of acceptable reporting leads to the inevitable conclusion that it’s not a question of “if” or “when” the US attacks Iraq. Earth to the North American media: it’s already begun!
Historically, “the guns of August” is not exactly an original, and yet in the age of instant global communication, one marvels at the truly Orwellian performance. It advances under a barrage of distortions, half-truths and outright lies unleashed daily in order to justify blatant aggression. The White House knows there is no proof linking Iraq to the events of Sept. 11, and they know the anthrax attacks were, mysteriously, domestic. Shared hatred of the United States fails to connect Saddam’s tyrannical secular state with Osama’s stateless, fanatical Islam.
Meanwhile, there is the personal testimony of former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who claims that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction are largely disarmed, that the “Iraqi threat” is built upon a framework of deceit, and that a “handful of ideologues have hijacked the national security policy of the United States for their own ambitions.”
And lets not forget Iraq’s coveted oil reserves.
Rather than closely examining any such motives, or the wisdom, legality, or necessity of an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, and the certainty of increased misery, mayhem and regional destabilization, the media prefer to fix their gaze upon the timing of such an attack, on possible military strategies, and of course those divisions within the Bush administration. It all makes for good gossip amongst the chattering classes (ok, some of it is downright interesting, like how a small cabal of hawks centered in the civilian offices of the Pentagon, along with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol have essentially high-jacked US foreign policy). But focusing on questions such as whether or not Dubya will attack before the November mid-term elections, or wait until early next year, only serve to deflect attention from ominous developments on the ground that, in more honest times, we’d hear at least something about (as late as Sept. 1, the Toronto Star repeated the official story that a mere 60,000 US troops are currently in the region).
Appointed by the high court, the Bush cabal is as dangerous a sect as has ever ruled the republic; the best and the brightest ideologues the Hard Right can offer. It’s time to awaken from summer slumber, admit that they’ve begun a totally predictable and unnecessary war on Iraq, one that flies in the face of minimal morality as well as logic. Against the wishes of nearly the entire planet, they are determined to proceed, no matter what.
A precarious situation, it merely awaits a catalyst, planned or otherwise, for a “justified” escalation. Look for the implanting of Gulf War II psychosis within the malleable American psyche with Bush’s speech to the UN general assembly on Sept. 12. In the coming weeks, it is expected that the propaganda offensive will rev up to full throttle.
The absurdity of the situation reminds us that a little levity is good for the soul, even during dire times. Thankfully The Onion continues to pull no punches in its social satire, post 9- 11, despite the fact that these are not normal times, and quite clearly, this is a not a normal administration in Washington. And yet there is nothing funny about deceiving a population into fighting a war they would not support if only a few simple facts were laid bare, and if relevant developments were actually being noted by the media, this side of the pond. At the risk of losing one’s sense of humour during dire times, we must face the fact that reality has truly eclipsed satire.
It may be the first step towards resisting all this madness.
Wayne Saunders is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org