When Bombs Replace Reason



We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

–Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, U.S. Representative to the International Conference on Military Trials, August 12, 1945

Bombs rained on Baghdad.

Buildings I had visited in September 2002 had disappeared in fire and smoke. I hoped that the smiling Iraqi janitors and maintenance staff who had said welcome in heavily accented English had not remained on the premises. In Tariq Aziz’s office, now obliterated, the Deputy Prime Minister resisted former Senator Jim Abourezk and Congressman Nick Rahall’s persuasive arguments to allow the UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. “Without guarantees that he [Bush] will not attack, why should we concede?” he asked. The inspectors, after all, had given President Clinton the coordinates for targets to bomb and had provided US and British intelligence with data on military matters far a field from weapons of mass destruction. “If you’re doomed if you do [let the inspectors in] and doomed if you don’t,” said Aziz, “you’d better don’t.” Iraqi leaders overruled him and the inspectors returned. I don’t know if they will find evidence of the much touted hidden weapons, but Aziz has proven correct.

The liberation of Iraq, announced the president on March 19, was underway. I watched the improved rerun of the TV light show of bombs and missiles destroying property, followed by truly shocking and awesome shots of flames and smoke, while an embedded voice prattled on with details of the coalition’s progress. The 103rd captured blah blah, while the 74th marched northward with little opposition. Corporal Smith of the 3rd infantry wrote a letter to his wife, while Private Jones talked with tears in his eyes about his newborn baby girl.

A few marine casualties, no reports of the numbers of Iraqi dead, some speculation as to the number of Iraqis who had surrendered, rumors of Saddam being dead or wounded. Then, some war footage of US technology obliterating the primitive Iraqi forces. Yes, truth becomes war’s first victim. Indeed, it had suffered near fatal wounds before the war. But how do we separate the big lies from the innocuous ones?

The lies about how many dead and wounded, how many Iraqis surrendered and in which direction the 104th was moving pale in comparison with the foundation of lies established before the technological massacre began. In December 2002, the White House declared that ”the greatest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology.” As David von Drehle quoted a security document in the March 21, 2003 Washington Post, “Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction. . . . The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed.”

Instead of using verbal logic, Washington now relies on the logic of bombing the shock and awe method of reasoning. It has invented a cause dethroning tyrants, liberating oppressed people and assuring that our enemies or potential enemies do not possess weapons of mass destruction that they can use or deliver to terrorists.

The United States doesn’t have a monopoly on weapons of mass destruction but it can certainly out-compete the rest of the world combined as it has demonstrated over the last dozen years in the 1991Gulf War and in serial bombings of various third world targets since then. No matter how short or warped memories have become, surely some people will recall that the United States is unique among nations for its use of atomic weapons, that the United States and England engaged in firebombing entire cities in Germany and Japan, that the United States has just tested a MOAB (mother of all bombs) and remains the only nation that has threatened to use nuclear weapons in pre-emptive strikes against nations it defines as potential threats. Britain, by the way, introduced poison gas as a weapon in the Middle East after World War I to suppress nationalist uprisings.

One of the most pernicious lies that Bush has told has the terrorists who operate in many countries linked to Saddam Hussein. He had repeated references to Iraq and the 9/11 ghouls so often that according to polls nearly half the US public believed such ties actually existed. If they do, one wonders, why doesn’t he show us or our skeptical allies some solid evidence of these connections? In Iraq I heard nothing but hatred and contempt for the Wahabbi sect members who crashed planes into buildings. From officials and people on the street, the universal attitude of contempt for those terrorists prevailed. And, of course, bin Laden himself has expressed his contempt for Saddam Hussein. You would not know this if you restricted yourself to watching TV news or reading newspaper headlines.

In my fantasy I see a day when courageous editors fashion headlines or TV teases: “Bush Repeats Same Old Crap!” Instead, they uncritically repeat his lies and then cut to the next un-related story or commercial.

Similarly, when the Administration used forged documents to try to show that Saddam had an on-going nuclear program, the media remained un-skeptical. After the war began, the following appeared.

“On the eve of Mr. Bush’s ultimatum, it came to light that a key piece of evidence used by the Bush administration to link Iraq to a nuclear weapons program is a forgery,” wrote the conservative Craig Paul Roberts in the March 21, 2003 Washington Times. Roberts reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has asked the FBI to investigate the origin of the forged documents that the Bush administration used to make its case that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. Secretary of State Colin Powell denies that the Bush administration created the phony documents. “It came from other sources,” Mr. Powell told Congress. But he could not identify the source.

On March 22, after the bombs had destroyed Baghdad, Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung wrote that CIA officials now say they communicated significant doubts to the administration about the evidence backing up charges that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons, charges that found their way into President Bush’s State of the Union address, a State Department `fact sheet and public remarks by numerous senior officials.

According to several officials, decisions about what information to declassify and use to make the administration’s public case have been made by a small group that includes top CIA and National Security Council officials. “The policy guys make decisions about things like this,” said one official, referring to the uranium evidence. When the State Department “fact sheet” was issued, the official said, “people winced and thought, ‘Why are you repeating this trash’?”

But these officials don’t resign and the media does not emphasize the Administration’s duplicity. Indeed, Fox and CNN reporters continued to repeat lies about Saddam’s nuclear program and underplayed the revelation about the forged documents. Lies become headlines. Truth screams silently in pain!

Lies told by the fathers, lies told by the sons. Remember how Daddy George had liberated Panama by arresting the arch villain of 1989, Manuel Noriega, for narco-trafficking? At his subsequent trial in Florida the US government presented fifty-two witnesses, all of them convicted felons to attest to Noriega’s illegal drug dealings. I don’t recall any DEA or CIA agents testifying that Noriega had given them major tips to arrest big-time drug cartel heavies and bust whole drug labs or that he had for years provided the United States with crucial intelligence information on the region. Yes, truth gets lost in war and in rigged court trials.

After Panama, Bush 41 freed Kuwait, and then decided to stop his imperial adventures. The presidential elections, after all, were too close to risk having a US occupation force in Iraq.

Baby Bush launched his war or Technological Massacre II to disarm Iraq. Using massive quantities of weapons of mass destruction to level a city of five million people, the US armed forces will now seek out Saddam’s tiny quantity of biological and chemical weapons. I have every reason to believe they will find it whether or not Saddam really had it.

A few journalists might raise skeptical questions, but most will accept whatever proof Bush offers to justify his first vicarious taste of combat, which he continues to speak with several tongues. The shock and awe display of carnage will intimidate dictators who harbor terrorists and direct non-harborers in the region toward democracy.

The elated Iraqi people will now build a free society. This means, I suppose that they will now join the corporate global order as proper factory workers and consumers. People of Iran, North Korea, Libya, Cuba etc. take note!!!

Iraq will soon shine as an example of freedom to all other Islamic societies, the President has promised. Above all, the massive tonnage dropped on Iraq should signal the entire world: don’t mess with the United States of America. Ironically, of course, Iraq did not provoke the United States or threaten it directly or indirectly. That little fact no longer matters. The victors don’t need to worry about facing war crimes tribunals yet.

In the past two years, the always vague meaning of “national security” has changed. “The struggle against global terrorism is different from any other war in our history,” wrote the authors of the September 2002 National Security doctrine paper. The paper warned that the war against the elusive enemy will be fought on many fronts and over an extended period of time.

So if you’ve still retained a modicum of human sensibility, don’t expect your feelings of horror to abate. The authors of the new doctrine declare that “progress will come through the persistent accumulation of successes some seen, some unseen.” Remember the words of Bush to Congress on September 20, 2001:


”Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen,” Bush declared. The American people need to know we’re facing a different enemy than we have ever faced. The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy.”

Bush targeted not just terrorists but also sovereign nations that ”harbor” terrorists. And the mission continued to expand. By September 2002, a year after the attacks, the new security strategy cast the net broadly, declaring that ”America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror.” He has yet to define ”compromised’.

The overreaching strategy behind the ”shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad aims at the masses of Middle Eastern people who now hate America more than ever.

As Joe Stalin purportedly asked after an adviser told him of the Pope’s opposition to his policies, “how many divisions does the Pope have?” We shall soon find out how many divisions the Arab streets have, how many world public opinion can wield and how many the anti-war protestors inside the United States and England can put into play. Divisions can boycott US products and make life seriously uncomfortable for US and British business travelers, emissaries and tourists. This is democracy.

What the President speaks of democracy he means its opposite.With his beady eyes rolling in reverie, Bush praises the virtues of democracy as if oblivious to the fact that he consorts with anti-democratic tyrants in host of countries, like Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Kuwait. He talks of spreading freedom and liberty abroad while Attorney General Ayatollah Ashcroft reduces our domestic liberties.

If that’s not enough, prepare for a world in which the authors of the war will try to kill the United Nations or reduce it to the benign status of the League of Nations before World War II. If you doubt this, see Richard Perle’s column, reprinted in the March 21, 2003 Guardian. The headline reads: “Thank God for the death of the UN.”

In 1964, Mario Savio exhorted students at the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. His words remain the appropriate response to the Perles and the imperialists in the White House.

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you’ve got to make it stop.”

SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Get his latest film, IRAQ: VOICES FROM THE STREETS. Call Cinema Guild 1-800-723-5522. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org


Today’s Features

Daniel Wolff
A Road Trip in Wartime

Chris Clarke
We Never Spit on Any Baby Killers

David Lindorff
Saddam, a Hero Made in Washington

Pierre Tristam
Icarus on Crack: American Hubris and Iraq

Jason Leopold
Richard Perle: the Enterprising Hawk

Technological Massacre

Carol Norris
The Mother of All Bombs

Riad Abdelkarim, MD
Iraq War Lingo 101

Adam Engel
Schlock and Awe

Steve Perry
War Web Log

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

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SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.