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Contradictions and Absurdities

The title could be the name of a television quiz show, although I doubt the subject matter would attract a large audience, especially in that key market of the United States.

Even on progressive and liberal Internet sites in the United States, one finds ritualized deference to “our brave boys.” Well, this just makes me wonder whose boys aren’t brave? Like most human qualities, I imagine bravery is pretty evenly distributed across the human population. In other words, the expression can only be propaganda or uttered out of fear.

Further, I have to say that professional American soldiers, exceedingly well paid and rewarded by world standards, are in fact doing their jobs.

Lastly, I fail to see even a normal display of bravery in the vast, richly-equipped armed forces of the world’s wealthiest country attacking the smaller, far more poorly-equipped forces of a nation with less than a tenth the population and maybe a hundredth the wealth. If this is bravery, then Italians dive-bombing Abyssinia or Germans using tanks on Polish cavalry were brave.

The dreariest, most uninformed words used over and over are those comparing Hussein to Hitler and diplomacy to appeasement. There is no comparison, except in the minds of those who know little history but insist on repeating phrases like “history repeats itself,” having very little idea as to what they are saying.

Germany, despite severe defeat and reparations from the First World War and a terrible depression, in the 1930s remained a major industrial, intellectual, and military power, potentially a great world power. It was re-arming at a furious pace soon after Hitler’s rise to Chancellor. There was no guess work in knowing this; everybody in Europe understood it. There was even a considerable degree of sympathy with the idea that Germany should recover her place in Europe, although few wanted the re-asserted militarism that Hitler brought.

Germany was surrounded, and thereby posed a threat to the stability of, several other major powers, including France and Italy. Moreover, going clear back to the mid-1920s, Hitler had laid out, for anyone to read, his intention of invading the Slavic states east of Germany. This, too, was no secret, and there was even some sympathy with the idea since few Western statesmen liked the Soviet Union.

Hitler made it clear from about 1919 that he detested Jews, Slavs, and Communists, and that, given the means, he would treat them ruthlessly.

Iraq is a small country, with a population less than Canada’s. While it is fairly advanced by the standards of Arab states, it cannot meaningfully be called an advanced country. Apart from the state of its economy and the general level of its development, Iraq is not even in a geographical position to threaten a major power. Iraq has had two wars, both of them with the connivance or at least encouragement, of the United States.

Hussein is a nasty dictator, but he is no different from dozens of others the U.S. has put into place or formed friendly relations with when it suited them. There is no evidence that he has ever had the same visceral hatreds of whole groups and races that Hitler had. He doesn’t like Israel, but then neither do many other people in the Middle East. He has suppressed the Kurds because they seek independence, not because they are Kurds, and in doing so, he is in the company of countries like Turkey and the United States. He is brutal, just as Mr. Sharon is brutal, but unless you want to use the distorted language carelessly flung around in the United States, he has not committed, nor does he have any interest in committing, genocide.

A fundamental point cannot be made too strongly. Iraq is not, nor has it ever been, any threat to the United States. It posses neither the will nor the ability to attack the United States. Iraq did once have a nuclear-weapons program. That program was not aimed at the United States, but at two rival or enemy states, Israel which already has a nuclear arsenal and Iran which shows significant signs of developing one, Iran being of course a country with whom Iraq fought a vicious war during the 1980s. Every genuine expert, from previous and current weapons inspectors to refugee Iraqi scientists, agrees that Iraq’s nuclear program no longer exists.

An annoyingly-ignorant expression is “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), something first mouthed by the Pentagon under President Clinton. It cannot be too strongly stated that there is only one genuine weapon of mass destruction, and that is a nuclear (or thermonuclear) weapon. It also cannot be stressed too strongly that only one nation has actually used such a weapon.

Recently I heard an American colonel in a brief interview confirm what is widely understood, that if Hussein were to use poison gas, assuming he has some, it would have very little effect on the battle field. Indeed.

As for biological weapons, we all saw what military-grade anthrax, without the high-tech means for its distribution, can do just a couple of years ago in the United States when one of the country’s many home-grown terrorists started sending samples through the mail to prominent public figures (never caught, by the way, just like a number of others including the weirdo who added poison to Tylenol bottles years ago). It was all very nasty, rather scary, but it killed only a few people. Hardly a strategic threat.

Of course, you have to ask yourself that if, indeed, Hussein has some stockpile of these materials, what will be the effect of America’s horrific bombardment on their release and spread? Is this a more intelligent approach than inspection and proper disposal?

Despite Bush’s incoherent blubbering, Iraq has never had dealings with al Qaeda. There is no evidence for this notion whatsoever. Of course, now that the U.S. has invaded the country, and it is fighting for its life, anything becomes possible. Besides, if relations with al Qaeda were a sound cause for war, there were far better candidates.

Al Qaeda was in good part a creation of Pakistan’s intelligence service wishing to manipulate affairs in Afghanistan. But, no, Pakistan is not expected to be attacked any time soon. Instead, it is America’s ally in fighting terror, having been granted numerous bounties and forgiveness of past behavior.

You could make a crude case for attacking Saudi Arabia, certainly no cruder than some of the actual arguments we hear from Washington. Fourteen of the 9/11 desperados were Saudis. But, no, while Saudi Arabia has been called some names in Washington and intimidated into changing some of its practices in making charitable donations, it is under no threat.

The best case for invasion based strictly on al Qaeda dealings, of course, could be made against a giant, secretive organization headquartered in Langley, Virginia, but no threats of any kind have been made against the CIA. Indeed, one expects the organization’s feeding trough has been filled to overflowing with Bush’s astronomical increases in military spending. Yet we know for sure that the good gentlemen of 9/11 entered the United States with valid visas, and we know for sure that the CIA had been in the business for years of arranging just such things as part of its secret nasty work in Afghanistan and other places.

So that leaves Iraq – a country whose ruler has personal animosity towards bin Laden at least as great as that displayed by Mr. Bush towards Yasser Arafat – as the place to attack. Does that make sense to you? No, and it doesn’t to anyone else in the world, outside Washington and those dependent on its bounty or afraid of its wrath.

We have had an entire list of false claims and downright lies from an administration desperate to make a case. Bush has claimed, time and time again, intelligence information he simply never had. If, in fact, he ever had anything decisive, he refused to share it with U.N. weapons inspectors. Instead, on several occasions, U.S.-supplied information sent inspectors on pointless expeditions. Would you call that kind of action supporting or deliberately hurting the U.N.?

Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. was de facto proof that the U.S. had no case. Had there been proof, there would not even have been such a presentation. The case would have been made in private to the members of the Security Council. That’s how things are normally done in world affairs.

No, what we got was a show-boat performance intended to sway public emotions, not to supply anyone with facts they did not already have. Powell uttered the same assertions and guesses already heard many times. If that, truly, was the best the CIA could do in coming up with facts for such a seemingly-dire matter, they are seriously wasting American taxpayers’ money.

We have the much-repeated assertion that people like Canada or France or Germany should be supporting their friend. No sensible person can make friendship an argument for supporting a war that most people in the world agree is without legitimate purpose. Should I assist my neighbor who decides to beat members of his family or throw rocks at the windows of the house of another neighbor he happens to hate? Anyway, Canada has always supported legitimate international actions, and it has always paid its dues, but the U.N. did not authorize the violence in which America is now engaged.

The American ambassador to Canada, Mr. Cellucci, has been going around making inappropriate public comments about disappointment in not being supported by friends. An ambassador making such statements, directly interfering in the internal affairs of the country to which he is accredited, would normally be asked to leave. But Mr. Cellucci feels safe continuing to act the diplomatic cretin, because he knows that if Canada were to request his departure, it would be viewed as a hostile act in an already-aggrieved Washington.

There has been much bellowing to the south over a couple of foolish remarks made in Canada concerning Mr. Bush’s mental capacity and character. But such personal comments pale compared to the words of an ambassador, speaking with the full force of his government’s approval, interfering in the internal, democratically-determined affairs of a country like Canada.

In a sense, the ambassador’s willingness to do this over such a sensitive issue only proves again how right Canada’s government has been in following the policy it has. Canada always supports UN-mandated action. It cannot support the dangerous, arbitrary whims of an administration whose poor attitudes and lack of civility are reflected directly in Mr. Cellucci’s remarks.

JOHN CHUCKMAN lives in Canada. He can be reached at: chuckman@counterpunch.org

 

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John Chuckman lives in Canada.

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