Now that the police believe they have in custody the Suburban Sniper, George W. Bush can once again try to get the people to focus on his message that as many as 24 million Iraqis need to be wiped off the earth in order to destroy Saddam Hussein and avenge the uncompleted work of George the Elder.
Saddam, with a Florida-rigged re-election, has done more to destroy human rights in Iraq than any other leader in that nation’s 70-year history as an independent kingdom. So far, the U.S. has been unable to remove Saddam by assassination or force. So, to kill Saddam, President Bush plans to destroy his country.
Beating the war drums at political pep rallies and at State dinners, the President has prepared Americans for war by declaring that Iraq has chemical, biological and, maybe, nuclear weapons. He says we are already fighting a war against terrorism. But, more than two dozen countries now have biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons, and there is no credible evidence there are links between Iraq and the terrorists who destroyed about 3,000 lives on 9/11.
The talk of war with Iraq to stop terrorism and the possible use of weapons against the U.S. is probably the President’s smoke screen to divert attention from the oil slick lobby, which has a long fiduciary interest with the President and his aides. It is also the failure to deal with international terrorism and critical domestic issues. The U.S. hasn’t destroyed al-Queda, nor has it located Osama bin Laden, who may be dead or hiding in a country that was far less capable of waging war than Iraq. But, Iraq does have industrial complexes that blow-up much nicer than do caves for the 6 O’Clock News. Underlying all of these reasons is that the President wants to end the work his father failed to finish more than a decade earlier.
To assure compliance with his wishes, President Bush–with the rabid encouragement of the Vice-President, defense secretary, and attorney general–none of whom ever saw combat–has tightened the noose around the Constitution, declaring that dissent is unpatriotic. They have ordered new restrictions, scripted by the fear of “terrorism,” to be enforced against bookstores, libraries, and American citizens who once thought they were living in a democracy, and not in a nation that has adopted some of the tactics against its own citizens that dictatorships use against theirs.
When the U.S. finishes its sabre-rattling and when the President, backed by a waffling Congress, launches an invasion, we will learn that a war against Iraq may cost $9-$10 billion a month. We will also learn that a “pre-emptive strike,” the kind President Bush proposes and which Japan once launched against the U.S., will undoubtedly bring in additional countries on both sides, escalating the war, the financial cost, and the casualties. To make sure everyone knows we won, we will keep score.
Because most Americans didn’t understand the Vietnam War, and most came to oppose it, the government, aided by a gullible media, turned the war into a sporting contest, with points scored based upon body counts. The more “body kills,” the higher the score. By the end of the war, if readers believed the media and the military, they would have learned that every North Vietnamese and Viet Cong civilian and soldier was killed at least twice. Even accounting for inflated figures, the final score was about a million of the enemy and our allies killed vs. “only” about 54,000 Americans.
During the Gulf War, which helped restore American pride from what is now conceded as a military and diplomatic loss in Vietnam, “only” 282 of the 50,000-120,000 killed were Americans. The military had prepared for Dover Air Force Base to receive as many as 20,000 body bags. We proclaimed victory, but Saddam continued his dictatorship.
By the end of the U.S.-Iraqi War, we will destroy Iraq’s infrastructure, its businesses and homes; we will kill more civilians than military, and write it off as “collateral damage.” Then, as President Bush promised, we will rebuild Iraq at a cost of $150 to $250 billion, more than the President will budget for health care reform or educational improvements; more than he thinks appropriate to improve the transportation system or to reduce the levels of poverty in the United States. The $127 billion budget surplus, which vanished under this President’s stewardship, has been replaced by a $157 billion budget deficit, a reminder of the President’s dismal economic, domestic, and foreign policies.
For at least a decade, the United States will expend funds for an occupation army that future administrations will have to deal with.
Opposing the upcoming war are numerous military leaders who have distinguished themselves in battle and don’t believe a “pre-emptive strike” is necessary or wise. Among those who oppose the President’s call to arms without provocation are Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to this president’s father; Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf who led the Coalition force against Iraq in 1990-1991; and, for the most part, Gen. Colin Powell, currently secretary of state, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Gulf War. They are well aware we may still need those 20,000 body bags for a war the enemy did not start.
But the only voice that counts is that of a former jet jockey for the Texas Air National Guard who never saw combat outside of a bar, and seems to think putting more than three million Americans in harm’s way justifies killing one dictator from the “axis of evil.”
Final Score: President Bush, 1; Everyone else’s opinion: It doesn’t count.
Walter Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, is the author of 13 books; his latest is “The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era” a probing and witty look at the Clinton administration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org