A Pathology of Fear and Lies


The debate over the impending US-led assault on Iraq has often focused on the likely motivations to oust Saddam Hussein and his regime.

There is the hawkish view. Namely, the motives influencing the United States to attack Iraq stem from a rational analysis of a set of obvious “truisms”:

1) Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and has been playing games with UN inspectors for 12 years.

2) He is linked to terrorists.

3) He has a history of aggression and thus “threatens peace.”

4) For added effect we are also reminded that he’s a really bad guy too, as if evil leaders automatically threaten the United States.

For these reasons, we are told, he and his regime represent a clear and present threat to the safety and security of the United States, its “allies,” the “peace of the world,” etc. and that war is the only solution.

But such a conclusion, that this starved and broken nation, is an immanent threat, is not based upon what the world community thinks. It’s not even based upon what US and British intelligence thinks, or what many of their military planners think. Nor is it based upon what the actual authors of the so-called Iraq dossier think, (the British government plagiarized and misrepresented their work, and in any case the data dates back to 1991). And it’s probably not what chief UN inspector Hans Blix thinks either, not as I write this (though his job is to describe not to prescribe).

Yet there you have it, in a nutshell, the standard hawkish argument as to what motivates the US and Britain: Iraq is an immanent threat because the US and British governments say so, end of story. And if only everyone would hurry up and get onside, then we could all get on with the business of turning Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Tikrit to rubble.

Where to begin? Well, for starters Saddam’s only real hope of a “weapon of mass destruction,” his nuclear program, was by any reasonable analysis, dismantled years ago. Whatever chemical or biological cocktails he may have hidden beneath the desert sands, in some Syrian village, up his arse??”wherever, these are tactical tools for the battlefield and rather unreliable ones at that. And on that score, his army is weak, and by all accounts his missiles are short range and few in number. He has not threatened his neighbours in over a dozen years.

Alleged links between al Queda and Iraq are dubious at best, and at any rate, would signal a desperate act of convenience and a stupid one at that. The enemy of my enemy is my friend only works if you are capable of making friends. Saddam has no friends. Why would he give a deadly concoction to some loose cannon Islamists who want him dead, while giving his main enemy, the Americans, the perfect excuse to blast him to hell? He may prefer to go out with a blast, but by all accounts he’s rather anti-social lately.

So regardless of what scenario emerges at the UN in the next few days or weeks, one salient fact remains as clear as the driven snow: Iraq poses no clear and present danger to the safety and security of the United States, or to their tag-along British puppy.

So what can possibly be the motives?

Anti-war critics offer various conjectures. There is the longstanding Anglo-American condominium over the supply of mid-east oil, with Iraq straddling atop the second largest reserves in the world. Having a compliant client in this “vital region” (to quote Bush) is therefore mandatory. Then there’s the obvious windfall in profits for the arms sector and the naked connections between both of these industries and various members of the Bush cabinet. There is the neo-conservative doctrine of pre-emptive warfare, predating Sept. 11 in which Iraq is only the first target in an ongoing imperial foray.

There is the suggestion that Israel is urging the US to attack in order to solidify their hegemonic position in the Middle East. Still others suggest that it’s just Bush Junior trying to atone for the sin of Bush the Elder who decided against capturing or killing the guy the first time round.

These and many other points certainly have merit. Yet none alone, or even in combination fully account for the Bush administration’s monomaniacal fixation with Iraq.

To look for deeper motives, we must peer into the collective mindset of the War Party and look for clues. The first thing one notices is that fear mongering has become the Bush administration’s modus operendi. And if fear is the flip side of anger, then it follows that fear mongering is the flip side of warmongering.

But fear mongering need not always be a case of conscious deception, although such trickery is always at play among cynical practitioners, (and no doubt they exist throughout the Bush administration). But it is also true that the mongers themselves often believe their own fears have validity, no matter how irrational.

Consider Bush himself. Equipped with only a limited understanding of the world’s complexity, he apparently lives in a dualistic mental world of black and white, and good and evil, as befits the fundamentalist creed. Such child-like propensities suggest that he likely believes his own worst fears are warranted, no matter how absurd they appear from outside these limited mental parameters. A reasonable analysis from his own CIA labeled Iraq a 7th level threat, Saddam a boxed-in third-rate thug; but no matter says the boss. Because when you formulate actions (I dare not say “policy”) based upon your worst delusional nightmares, all rationality goes out the window.

So there’s a certain pathology at work here. Of course it makes matters worse if you’re a pathological liar as well. Then you’ve come to believe your own lies too, a list too long to get into here but suffice to say, that in more honest times, the Mother of all Fibbers would have been hung from the nearest telephone wire, pants ablaze. But apparently Americans have come to expect those in high office to not only lie, but to steal, cheat and murder as well. It’s become rather ho-hum.

So here we have a set of delusional pathologies at play, lying and fear-mongering, and quite probably, succumbing to many of these lies and fears as well. It’s a deadly matrix. Especially for the children of Baghdad whose souls and bodies have the misfortunes of being in the targeting area of the 800 or so cruise missiles that the Commander in Chief plans to drop on them in the first 48 hours of his great crusade.

In the highly acclaimed film “Bowling for Columbine”, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore seeks out the reasons for America’s propensity for gun violence. After discarding several standard myths, Moore discovers that it’s really all about fear. Specifically White America has built its edifice of power on a foundation of fear. Fear of everything from Native Americans, to Black people, to killer African bees, to mysterious new viruses, to badly functioning escalators. 9-11 gave fear-mongers their coup de tat.

Recall that Michael Moore was Ralph Nader’s campaign manager and in order to get out the Nader vote, he urged against strategically voting for the Democrats. His assertion was that when you make a decision based on fear, it never works out.

The principle stands. Something to keep in mind as Bush heads to war.

Post Script: a recent CBC news sound byte caught the Smirking Chimp making yet another of his signature faux pas. While referring to Saddam and his henchmen, Dubya almost said “the Iranian people” but managed to fumble his way into “the Iraqi people.” Now don’t you feel safe and secure?

WAYNE SAUNDERS is a freelance writer based in Canada. He can be reached at planetway@netscape.net