last week's episode of The McLaughlin Group, pundit Pat Buchanan
stated flatly that, "the only people who will benefit from this
war are Richard Perle, Ariel Sharon and Osama bin Laden." Indeed,
the top priorities of the Bush Administration right now are to feed
the War Party's insatiable appetite for bloodshed, to enable the Israeli
Right Wing, and to provide terrorist masterminds with a pretext
for further symbolic attacks. Unfortunately, the grave that the Administration
is currently digging for itself will be big enough for all of us.
However obvious this may be, and despite the widespread
misgivings of sane people the world over, reality is currently being
overwhelmed by this administration's boundless stores of belligerence.
As we will see, toppling the flimsy foundations on which the pro-war
edifice rests is not a very difficult matter. While the War Party's
fraudulent justifications for war are myriad, debunking the top ten
1. War on Iraq Will Make the World Safer From Terrorism
a recent speech, Anthony Cordesman of the CSIS warned that, "five
years from now, the world will be a much more dangerous place than
it is today." The ripple effect of a war on Iraq would cause
scores of new terrorist groups to spring up all over the Islamic world.
The decimation of the Iraqi
civilian population – an unavoidable result of the Pentagon's use
and indeed of its general plan
for a massive attack – would immediately and irrevocably turn millions
of Muslims against the United States.
CIA director George Tenet has repeatedly said that
terrorism will only increase in the event of a war. Certainly, he
is someone who has the inside knowledge to support this rather commonsensical
belief. Recently his agency reaffirmed it, and added that anti-Americanism
will be a strong force in the dark
new world of the immediate future: "…in human terms, your
daughters are unlikely to be able to travel abroad in future years
without a phalanx of security personnel." American troops stationed
in Iraq would be directly
targeted by terrorists "sucked in" from far and wide.
However, the Bush Administration has been fairly successful
in convincing Americans that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are
somehow working in tandem. They have been able to exploit widespread
American ignorance to bury the fact that Saddam and Osama are mutual
antagonists. Hussein's regime, while brutal, is relatively secular.
And, whereas bin Laden promotes the creation of a multi-national "pan-Arab
theocracy," Hussein is an Iraqi nationalist. The former has openly
declared his loathing for the latter.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the wheels
of propaganda have been greased by gaping
"A recent Knight Ridder survey showed that
45 percent of those polled believe that "some" or "most"
of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. In fact, 15 of the 19 were Saudis."
No matter. This is one misconception that the White
House has no interest in correcting. Yet even as the buildup of troops
in the Gulf grows larger – and more costly – by the day, the administration
is forced to admit that its counter-terrorism
budget is "meager" – and that we are no closer to finding
bin Laden, either. A suggestion: have they checked Saddam's palaces?
The most dangerous outcome of the erroneous association
is aptly stated in the CSM article cited above:
"As the US continues to press its case against
these two men, US policymakers must identify and understand the differences
between them, says Roxanne Euben, a political science professor at
Wellesley College. The more they are lumped together, she says, "the
more we risk bringing about the collaboration we most fear, thereby
making it a self-fulfilling prophecy."
This statement needs to be qualified somewhat. It
is not so much that Osama and Saddam would be sitting in some bunker
together, plotting and poring over maps. Rather, it's the independent
collaboration of goals – the probability that bin Laden will hijack
the Iraqi cause for his own (theocratic) ends, while Saddam will try
to do the same for his own (nationalistic) purposes. In the event
of a war, either or both of these movements will look pretty appealing
to many frustrated, disenfranchised budding jihadis.
That said, the professor is right about the result –
that any ensuing terrorism should have been predicted. Surely the
Bush Administration is well aware that it is fulfilling that prophecy
as we speak.
Sadly, when the inevitable occurs, and the United
States is again attacked, the clear causative connection between Iraq
and terrorism will be quietly buried by the needs of the moment. When
the free world's fearless leader attempts to rally the people after
the next unspeakable act of terror, Americans will be too shocked
to even think of blaming their government for bringing death and destruction
upon them. And for bravely leading a nation in crisis, Bush may even
win an election – or at least the favorable mention in the history
books that would have almost certainly been denied him, before this
whole mess started. Sadly, modern America is a country where leaders
rally, and liars lead.
2. Saddam Hussein – the Biggest Threat to American
to what the Bush Administration would
have us believe, Saddam is not the biggest threat to national
security. The CIA and FBI continue to
reserve that honor for al Qaeda. Indeed, Saddam – "…perhaps
only fifth or sixth on the list," according to recent intelligence
analyses – has been contained for so many years, his army so
diminished, that it is ludicrous to believe Iraq presents a threat
to America. The US government has continually presented the case that
Saddam possesses the infamous "WMD" (weapons of mass destruction),
and intends to use them. Yet, if this is indeed the case, hasn't he
certainly had ample time and reason to deploy them over the past 12
years? The fact that Saddam has never used such weapons against the
Americans – even when they were invading his own country –
shows that he is far more cautious than Bush and Co. would have us
believe. Again, the greater danger from Iraq is that such weapons
– if they do indeed exist – could fall into the hands
of freelance terrorists (i.e., not state-sponsored) during the chaos
of battle. And that is when we could really be in trouble.
More than a threat to American national security,
Saddam Hussein is currently a threat to the collective pride of the
War Party. One simply cannot whip up as much antagonistic rhetoric
as they have and then meekly back down. Especially since failing to
catch Osama bin Laden was a big (but now buried) personal blow, their
overweening hubris can only be satisfied by eliminating Saddam Hussein.
It is unfortunate that, when the ineluctable result of this Greek
tragedy arrives, the rest of us will also share in the fall.
3. Overthrowing Saddam Will Stabilize the Region
the Iraqi government with an American military lordship, and indefinitely
occupying a completely shattered country – do they really consider
this a recipe for regional stability? Unfortunately, the Bush Administration
did not really think out the whole operation to its logical conclusion.
recently as September, the president said that it was "up
to the international community" to pick a successor, and that
he would accept "any alternative" to Saddam. It seems that
for the Americans, the idea of who would run the post-war Iraq is
merely an unpleasant and irritating afterthought.
The original plan – to set up Iraqi National Congress
head Ahmed Chalabi as president – was considered until early February,
but retracted after the CIA objected. The Iraqi expat banker was seen
as too compromised and too unpopular at home.
By ignoring Hussein's Ba'athist Party, the US has
greatly limited its options. After axing Chalabi, the only players
left were the Kurds and the Shiite fundamentalists (the Turkoman and
Assyrian minorities, it is thought, aren't sufficiently powerful to
The final decision – to install "Guv'nah"
Tommy Franks as military dictator, ruling over a coterie of US Army
"cabinet ministers" – was hit upon as the Administration
realized, too late, that all other contenders were fatally compromised.
Empowering the Kurds would involve instant intervention from Turkey.
Inviting in the
Iran-backed fundamentalists from the "Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" would – well, you figure it out.
However, the exclusion of any of these groups will
also cause turmoil and even civil war. And so the brilliant plan that
will make Iraq the 51st state was reached as a kind of
desperate nod to pragmatism. The Kurds, who are wary of American betrayal
in the past, want safeguards against Turkish attacks from the north.
And the Turks want their liabilities covered, too – only that they're
not counting on the Americans to do it, especially after raising the
stakes by denying American troops access to the country. Yet despite
Ankara's assurances, it is hard to believe that the installation of
to 80,000 Turkish troops in northern Iraq would not quickly spill
over into all-out war. The US naïvely seems to believe that,
if only its soldiers were leading the march from southern Turkey,
it could keep the two enemies at bay. However, there is the
volatile issue of Kirkuk – de facto capital of northern, Kurdish
Iraq and a prize coveted for its wealth of oil. Both the Turks and
Kurds have demanded the city; the Americans, therefore, are determined
to see that neither of them gets it. But will they believe to do so,
without access from Turkey? Things could get very messy very soon.
Iran and Syria, which also have their own Kurdish
minorities, share Turkey's anxieties. Should Kurdish militias be perceived
as dangerous, one should not rule out the intervention of either.
It has proven difficult for the US to reassure Iraq's neighbors of
their safety in the wake of an attack. Even worse, the domestic opposition
the US would like to court – namely, the Iraqi Kurds and the Shiites –
are fractious and retain dark, decade-old memories of American betrayal.
Getting this cast of characters united behind Uncle Sam, for any length
of time and for any coherent purpose is unlikely.
4. A War Will Save the US Economy
likelihood of war is causing daily fluctuations in major economic
indices such as the price of oil and stocks. Analysts are fairly unanimous
in saying that war fears are impacting negatively on the world economy.
Indeed, every time Washington issues a new ultimatum (or, indeed,
every time Donald Rumsfeld opens his mouth) stocks fall and investor
Right now American oil reserves are as low as they've
ever been, and world prices are now hovering at almost
$40 a barrel – and could soon top
$50 a barrel. However, the latest predictions are that in an extended
war oil could hit $80
a barrel, according to New Zealand treasury officials. The potential
effects of such a hike are hard to imagine. Yet even if oil doesn't
go through the roof in such a way, merely remaining at $40 will cause
major harm to the US economy over the next 6 months.
In addition, war jitters have led to the biggest
collapse of American consumer confidence in a decade. Reports
the Times of London:
"The slump in American consumer confidence
caught financial markets totally unaware. Most analysts predicted
a modest decline, but the 15-point drop in the US Conference Board's
index to 64.0 was comparable to the 17-point drop seen immediately
after the September 11 attacks, far worse than any analyst had been
Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, said:
'This is not an immediate disaster for the economy, but it will be
if there is no resolution of the Iraq crisis in the next month or
The report concludes that if current trends continue,
consumer spending may not grow at all this year: "…this is clearly
very worrying since consumer spending has been almost the only thing
keeping the economy afloat." Apparently, not even the run on
plastic sheets and duct tape will save us now.
There is also the question of how we will fund this
little adventure. Currently, there are over 200,000 American soldiers
in the Gulf, poised for action. According to Donald Rumsfeld, estimating
the war's cost is "impossible" – in other words, more
than anyone could ever imagine.
Even worse are the post-war estimates. On 25 February,
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services
Committee that, "…something on the order of several
hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that
would be required," to keep the peace. A figure "in the
many billions" was thrown out recently by another American official.
It is clear that without being consulted and without approving, the
American taxpayer is going to bear the brunt of the coming folly.
5. War Will Bring Democracy to the Arabs
United States claims that by overthrowing Saddam a new and more democratic
government can be installed – something that will be greeted with joyous
praise from all those living in Iraq.
The only problem is that it will be a democracy imposed
by tyrants – a point that will not be forgotten. Further, whatever
"government" the Americans install will have no validity
whatsoever among the Iraqi people (should there be any left after
the massive bombings being planned). The "opposition" is
fractious and unruly, riven by internal dissent and the ulterior motives
of external sponsors. It is "just
large enough to be useless," in the words of one delegate,
and composed of parties whose allegiances
are doubtful. As the Guardian put it last November, "…the
fact that most have foreign patrons also raises a question about the
degree of their legitimacy and autonomy."
Some – like the 'Islamic Revolution' folks – gamely
love of democracy. Says party rep Hamid al-Bayati, "…everybody
believes in democracy, even Islamists. We are Islamists, and we believe
that democracy is the only way to ensure freedom." However, al-Bayati's
Islamist peer among the Kurds, Sheikh Assar Feily, quite
bluntly states that, "…Iraqis will never let an American
soldier be the ruler."
This sentiment only increases as the opposition parties
realize that they won't get what they want. If united, theirs will
be a coalition based on shared deprivation.
In short, no matter what kind of puppet regime is
installed, the military occupation of Iraq is doomed to fail. Almost
daily, new reports emerge that indicate American forces will be greeted
with widespread resentment from the residents (of all ethnicities)
in Iraq. In short, Americans who expect the troops will be greeted
with cheers and American flags are beyond deluded:
"…virtually all Iraqis will fiercely resist
any U.S.-led invasion, (Engineer Qusai) Jabbar predicts.
"You don't need to be in love with Saddam
to defend your country to the last," he said. "Americans
think they will come here and rule us. They don't know what they are
coming into. If they get food from someone, it will be poisoned. If
they turn around with their back to us, we will stick a knife in it.
Snipers will be looking for them from every rooftop."
Even if such a sprightly defense does not spring up
from the locals, the upheaval and chaos of the ensuing "reconstruction"
will open up a new and attractive market for suicide bombers from
far and wide. But one does not even need to look far. Indeed, sporadic
reports have attested to the existence of an al Qaeda-linked group
existing in "free" Kurdish areas near the Iran border. The
borders with all neighboring states are both vast and porous. The
US will find that blowing things up from high altitudes is much more
simple than is defending even one building from a terrorist attack.
Yet if Saddam is the hated oppressor, than why does
such apparent resentment of America exist? Fundamentally, the practice
of overthrowing governments in the name of democracy building is the
problematic issue. For it is, in another time and under another name,
the same thing as the medieval Crusades. In the end, regime change
for "democracy" differs little from Muslim extremists' desires
to forcibly spread Islam across the globe.
However, the analogy seem to have gone over the head
of warmonger-in-chief Richard Perle, who is now demanding
regime changes in Iran, Syria and Libya:
"Perle said he does not expect significant
Arab opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
'What interests me is that almost all Arab states
are showing a sense of realism and an understanding of their own interests
on this issue."
Imagine that! The unnamed "12 Arab states"
supporting the US are, no doubt, cowering in fear, lest their regimes
be changed too.
6. Because We're Already There
the lamest reason is the one most cited by military planners: that
it would be a shame not to have a war, since we've gone to
so much trouble already to send massive amounts of troops, aircraft
and armaments. The fact that most of these are floating on aircraft
carriers is a good reminder that none of them had been invited by
anyone in the region.
7. Because George W. Bush is a Moral Man
strangest justification for war is one dear to the hearts of "Christian
conservatives," who incidentally enough make up the president's
power base. This view states that war is justified because George
Bush is a moral man, and therefore, a moral (read: infallible) leader.
Armstrong Williams, a popular black Evangelical radio host, declared
as much in a passionate speech recently in Arlington, Virginia. The
frightening thing, to judge from the many nodding heads in the crowd,
is that many people actually believe this logic.
It is an utterly subjective issue, whether or not
the president – or anyone, for that matter – is "moral." And
it would not even be a topic for serious thought, except that the
morality madness has influential backers. Yet now that such criteria
are being used to justify military action, we are swerving disturbingly
close to mindsets thought long retired, such as the (literally) god-given
authority of the Roman emperors, or the divine right of kings promulgated
by medieval rulers in Western Europe.
However, the president himself seems to enjoy such
laudations. Don't forget that he turned down Saddam's invite for a
debate out of fear
of "moral equivalency." Hopefully Bush's policy will
catch on – and we can all start refusing to speak to people we find
less moral than ourselves.
Attending functions such as the 51st
Annual National Prayer Breakfast, hiring fundamentalists like
Attorney General John Ashcroft, and empowering the religious right
in general are proof that Bush's is the most theocratic administration
in recent memory. When it comes time for the bombs to fall, he can
surely count on the support of those who see the war as an opportunity
to bring on the Apocalypse and Second Coming as quickly as possible.
But no matter. We should have faith in our leaders
and military, what with all of their modern, high-tech equipment.
Indeed, if the smart bombs, night-vision goggles, surveillance planes,
etc. were not formidable enough, we should remember that the US has
a secret weapon:
"CIA Director George Tenet told the (prayer)
breakfast, "God teaches us to be resolute in the face of evil,
using all of the weapons and armor that the word of God supplies."
And we wonder why Osama is still at large.
8. War: The American People Want It
public support is shaky at best and continues to waver. It is currently
hovering at just over 50 percent, but since the beginning of February
on slipping. After the massive peace demonstrations of 15 February,
antiwar activists did not take a breather, but actually have
stepped up the pace. Last week's "virtual march" on
Washington saw hundreds
of thousands of phone calls and faxes from all across America
flood White House and congressional switchboards. The nation's largest
labor union, AFL-CIO,
just announced its official opposition to the war. 59
major American musicians and Ben & Jerry's founder Ben
Cohen have publicized the antiwar movement in recent days. Even
senior citizens are out there kicking up a storm.
The administration's reply to this notable dissent
can best be described as utterly
contemptuous. In his official reaction to the 11-million strong
world protest, President Bush compared the peace-loving majority to
a "focus group," and ruled out taking their concerns into
consideration. This regrettable statement shows that George Bush is
completely out of touch with the reality of the world's antiwar feeling.
In fact, if you want to talk about narrow-minded interest groups,
why don't we consider the president's supporters:
"…Pew found support among college graduates
was 13 points lower than among those without degrees. Backing among
rural residents was 16 points higher than among city dwellers. White
evangelical Christians were the strongest backers of all – 85 percent
in the Pew poll."
Nevertheless, even this dependable bedrock of support
may be eroded as Americans learn more and more of the truth. After
having been lied
to every time an intervention took place, Americans are growing
increasingly wary of giving their unreserved trust to the government –
especially one that loves
domestic spying. The media is also coming under scrutiny. We know
that CNN is now actively cooperating with Pentagon requests that all
reports be censored by "monitors" before they can be
broadcast. Since this information is now in the public domain, viewers
will be watching the news far more critically than they did during
the first Gulf War.
In the end, even the most gung-ho war supporters may
be swayed when they see American civilians being targeted
as "enemy combatants."
Because We're Supported by an 'Alliance of the Willing'
unexpected defiance of American warmongering on Saturday left
Washington "stunned," and its war plans in jeopardy. By
refusing to accept American troops on its territory, the Turkish parliament
took a risk that will hopefully embolden other countries that have
much less to lose by standing up for themselves.
Indeed, if we want to talk about democracy, the much-maligned
Turkey appears to be the only US ally that has heeded the popular
will of its citizens. Its population is dead set against a war, its
new government is unsettled by the mere thought of one, and the all-powerful
military is extremely hostile to the idea of tens of thousands of
US troops intervening on its soil. The bravery of its parliament in
upholding democracy is to be commended.
Most analysts and/or pessimists (such as myself) did
not really believe Turkey would pull through. Its initial bargaining
price – $92 billion – was quite obviously a bluff. The request provoked
open anger in Washington; surely, the Turks never expected to get
it. They were instead presented with $26 billion as the US' final
Those who accuse Turkey of greediness have to consider
that the first Gulf War – undoubtedly, less dangerous and costly than
its coming sequel – eliminated $80 billion from the Turkish economy.
The $26 billion that the US was recently offering is a drop in the
bucket compared to what Turkey will incur in losses. And, if this
war goes as badly as many believe, the country's economic and even
territorial security will be severely jeopardized. In overthrowing
Saddam, the US may just send the entire region into chaos. And how
much will $26 billion – or even $92 billion – matter then?
even in the best-case scenario, war funding tends to be a myth. Although
the bribery amounts look very generous on paper, the full amount never
arrives. Indeed, it's not as if the US Treasury writes out checks
for $26 billion, saying, "there boys, go wild."
the granting of aid means simply that the donators are given even
more control over the country in question, deciding what can be spent
where, calling on loans at random, and finally, issuing thinly veiled
political threats. Turkey remains vulnerable to US coercion because
the latter has saddled
it with so many unpayable IMF loans. In Macedonia's case, a dependence
on outside aid has reduced it to a mere object
of political manipulation. Indeed, that country has still not
received funds promised for the major strain that came from accepting
400,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees in 1999. There is no reason
to believe that things will turn out differently in the case of Iraq
and the "coalition of the willing."
US officials quite
happily admit that they are merely buying off countries. But they
deny bullying some of them. However, even countries that seem happy
enough in public (like Mexico) are
privately in distress:
"…Mexican diplomats have previously described
their conversations with U.S. officials as hostile in tone and complained
that Washington was demonstrating little concern for the constraints
of the Mexican government, whose people are overwhelmingly opposed
to a war with Iraq.
"They actually told us: 'any country that
doesn't go along with us will be paying a heavy price,' one Mexican
diplomat said recently."
Courted merely for its temporary Security Council
membership, Mexico is (or was) showing more gumption than other Council
part-timers. US officials have descended on the Dark Continent to
try and buy three votes from Cameroon,
Guinea and Angola. Since a relatively small amount of cash goes
a long way in Africa, they will probably be successful.
Washington has used harsher tactics when dealing with
real countries. Yet US intransigence continues
to alienate important Security Council members Russia, China and
France. The sentiment is that at no time in its history has America
bullied so much as now. Many warn that the US could well lose
its allies over Iraq – and especially if it decides to buck
the Security Council and rush recklessly off to war. Even the
stalwart Brits are unnerved by the news that America plans
to use toxic gas against the Iraqis – something forbidden by UK
Furthermore, cooperation is set to plummet now that
secret NSA document leaked to the Observer has exposed
Condeleeza Rice's plan to tap the phones and monitor the emails of
Security Council ambassadors in New York. As this brazen affront to
good diplomatic relations sinks in, and as the courageous example
of Turkey resonates around the world, we just may see the "alliance
of the willing" unravel before our eyes.
10. Because Empire's Duty Demands Noble Sacrifice
I have noted elsewhere,
a disturbing new trend in War Party apologia, from Right and Left
alike, has sprung up from the ashes of September 11th.
It is the rhetoric of empire – one justified by our alleged benevolence –
and is repeatedly cast in terms of Americans called to fulfill a "duty"
that inherently involves "sacrifice." This logic speaks
of a war we are undertaking "unwillingly," one that has
been "thrust upon us." At the above-mentioned "National
Prayer Breakfast," the
president said, "one thing is for certain, we didn't ask
for these challenges. But we will meet them." One might think
he was talking about a broken leg.
Of course, in reality the only ones doing the thrusting
are the hawks in the current administration. And the main sacrifice
they seem to be making is of their sanity.
Sacrifice for the greater good has long been one of
the trickiest issues for American politicians to utilize. A trite
CNN synopsis recalls that Jimmy Carter once asked the people to
wear sweaters and lower their thermostats; however, the article doesn't
report the strong negative backlash to Carter's plea. Nor does it
consider the fundamental disparities existing between different "sacrifices"
at different times. However, America's traditionally anti-Socialist
mindset means that, historically speaking, calls to sacrifice for
society as a whole have been met with considerable suspicion. It is
evident that political stratagems invoking conditions for "sacrifice"
have differed considerably when used by Democrats and Republicans.
That said, one has to wonder how the American people
will react now, in regards to a war that is publicly being associated
with the narrow interests of the business partners of Bush, Cheney
et al. Even as Americans at home are told to "sacrifice"
their livelihood for the war, it's come out that certain companies
set for $900 million in future Iraq reconstruction
contracts. This number is eclipsed, of course by the profits that
oil companies and military contractors will make off of Iraq.
Indeed, the issue of noble sacrifice may just prove
to be the Bush Administration's undoing. Most Americans prefer a republic,
not an empire, and a strong economy as well. Especially after Enron,
there is little interest in sacrificing to ensure the bottom line
like Dick Cheney.
President Bush is currently out of step not only with
public antiwar opinion – but also, with the importance of the economy
to most Americans. Perhaps there will be some brief surge of popular
support when the bombs start falling, but in the long, violent and
messy peace that will follow, widespread grumbling will almost certainly
set in. Invokers of sacrifice as a national principle have traditionally
had a rough time of it. In regards to Iraq (which has, after all,
never attacked the US) gung-ho patriotism is at low ebb. The Bush
Administration may well need to seek out a new strategy for unity
in the Empire – or forever hold its peace.