Israelis are leaning forward in their foxholes," writes
Hackworth. "Their troops are locked and cocked, and their
logistical types have been roving the world with checkbooks
at high port, buying bombs and bullets aplenty." All of
it paid for by you, the American taxpayer, but I digress:
"Now," says Hackworth, "the USA is rushing to the rescue."
Europe has been stripped of Patriot missiles, which have
been deployed to Israel: "But while we're providing that
troubled country with theater missile-protection," he opines,
"we've left our soldiers stark naked, unable to stop a single
Scud." Our policymakers think this is a small price to pay
for the protection of Israel, although the families and
friends of our servicemen and women stationed overseas might
have a different opinion.
to Hackworth's sources, "'Our ground combat forces in Germany
a complete armored corps have moved out in
to the field 'to train.' An insider there says, 'Training,
hell. We're contingency planning for a fight in the Middle
East.'" The process started while Clinton was still desecrating
the White House, and seems to have escalated sharply since
Dubya took the reins. I kind of like the way Hackworth puts
it: "The Bush bunch was presented with the problem on Jan.
20. Just the way JFK inherited the Bay of Pigs debacle from
Ike, and Clinton had the Somali disaster dumped in his lap
by Bush the Elder." While Hackworth is careful not to over-editorialize,
the clear implication is that US intervention on the side
of Israel will end in a debacle but that it won't
really be Dubya's fault. After all, he "inherited" the problem.
Besides, Hackworth avers, we can "thank our lucky starts
he has Colin Powell and Dick Cheney" by his side: they,
perhaps, can avert what is sure to be a disaster of epic
don't think so. While Powell is said to be a closet isolationist,
he was the first to step up to the plate in the administration's
right-off-the-bat rhetorical offensive against Saddam Hussein,
and Cheney soon chimed
in. In case you haven't noticed, the propaganda campaign
of the War Party has already shifted into high gear, and
you can tell they're serious because they're hauling out
the big guns. Instead of just making vague statements about
how Saddam would like to recreate his "weapons of mass destruction,"
a series of recent polemics disguised as news stories claim
that he already has nuclear weapons two
nukes, to be exact, according to an anonymous "defector"
cited in the London Telegraph.
all else fails, and the War Party cannot garner enough interest
in having yet another go at our favorite Mideast punching
bag, they bring up the question of the Saddam Bomb. Having
Satanized the Iraqi leader to the point where people are
bound to believe anything about him, they evoke the image
of a nuclear-armed madman burning with hatred and ready,
willing, and able to incinerate his two least favorite Israeli
cities. (Never mind that he hasn't got a delivery system
capable of reaching that far: grade-B movie scenarios such
as this are rife with loose ends, but usually you're supposed
to be too entertained to notice.) "There are at least two
nuclear bombs which are ready for use," our mysterious "defector"
said last week. "Before the UN inspectors came, there were
47 factories involved in the project. Now there are 64."
wait a minute: are there even that many factories still
operating in Iraq? With a strict embargo on any items of
"strategic" value, no matter how remotely connected it may
be to any possible military use, how are these factories
supplied, and, more obviously, how have they escaped satellite
surveillance, not to mention detection by constant overflights
of US and British warplanes? The construction of a nuclear
device would require the creation of a distinctive industrial
complex, including a huge source of electric power, a railroad
siding, and a network of access roads, all of which would
make the plant highly visible and instantly detectable.
If Saddam already has not one but two nukes ready
to be lobbed in Israel's general direction, how in heck
did we miss it? "They're digging shelters there," our "defector"
raves, as if the Iraqis have no reason to build air-raid
shelters after suffering a full decade of continuous bombing.
But there is, unfortunately, no shelter from the constant
barrage of war propaganda that we have been subjected to
this bitter season: it inundates us like the snow that has
enveloped much of the Northeast, and even as far south as
Georgia and Alabama, this winter. As the lights go out in
California and the heating bill arrives, war is in the icy
AT THE TIMES
New York Times weighed in with a slight variation
on what is essentially the same story, a
piece by Steven Lee Meyers and Eric Schmitt that reads
like a Department of Defense press release printed verbatim:
the authors report the assertions of US government officials
that Iraq has rebuilt its weapons factories as if they were
fact. Their story brings to mind Truman Capote's crack about
Jack Kerouac's stream-of-conscousness writing style: "That's
not writing, that's typing!"
ON A THEME
the Telegraph's "defector" pinpointed the town of
Hemrin, in northeast Iraq, near the Iranian border, as the
site of the Saddam Bombs, the Times version takes
us West of Bagdhad, to the Falluja industrial complex, where
the Iraqis are reportedly cooking up a witch's brew of chemical
and biological weapons. The article notes that outgoing
defense secretary William Cohen released a warning, a few
days before his departure, about the reconstruction of two
key factories in the Falluja complex, one of which makes
brake fluid but could also produce ricin, a deadly
biological toxin. "There is no smoking gun," one official
is quoted as saying, but, as we all know, the Iraqis are
guilty until proven innocent. Why should they use chlorine
to disinfect the water supply which, in its present
untreated state, is spreading disease throughout Iraq
when they can use it to make "weapons of mass destruction"?
Answering questions like this is what the weapons inspection
program was all about. But the inspections aren't happening
as long as the sanctions stay in place, in spite of the
assurances of former arms inspector Scott Ritter that Iraq
has been effectively disarmed since 1998.
is interesting to note that, in the article in Arms Control
Today [June 2000] referenced in the above link, Ritter
discusses the claims of a "defector" who fled Iraq in 1995
and said he had evidence that the Saddam Bomb existed: it
was, he averred, a "20-kiloton nuclear bomb," but the inspectors
could find no evidence. Indeed, what they found was that
Iraq did not even have the components, let alone a finished
bomb and the means to deliver it. As Ritter put it:
is highly unlikely that the defector's claims concerning
an Iraqi nuclear bomb are accurate. Unfortunately, speculation
that Iraq has retained some nuclear capability simply will
not go away. It is conceivable that Iraq could have retained
certain components of a nuclear device. However, there is
no credible evidence of this, and even if such material
were retained, it would be of no use to Iraq, given the
extent to which Iraq's nuclear program was dismantled by
the IAEA. The best
way to ensure that Iraq does not reconstitute its nuclear
weapons program is to get IAEA inspectors back into Iraq,
where they can resume their task of monitoring Iraqi compliance."
MYTH THAT WOULDN'T DIE
do they get these defectors who come out of the woodwork
at crucial times? Who wants to bet it's the same "defector,"
recycling different versions of the same old story when
needed. For just when the verbal pyrotechnics on both sides
reach a fever pitch and war looms on the horizon, up pops
yet another Iraqi "defector," eager for his fifteen minutes
of fame and none with any proof whatsoever. But the
myth of the Saddam Bomb will never die. No matter how much
inspectors praise Iraq as the Associated Press
headline put it for its full cooperation, the War
Party is determined to keep this one alive. The only problem
for them is that, each time it is raised, and then dismissed
as arrant nonsense, the myth of the Saddam Bomb seems less
FOREIGN POLICY FOR A DECADENT PEOPLE
fits in with a theme I've been pursuing in this space recently:
what's up with the really low grade war propaganda
that we've been exposed to recently? I've been thinking
a lot about this question lately, as the lies I've had to
debunk in the past few weeks have gotten steadily more outrageous.
It is, I believe, indicative of a coarsening or perceived
coarsening of the public's sensibilities, and that
the oddly unconvincing, one-dimensional nature of the stories
we've been hearing Carla Del Ponte's ludicrous
charge that Milosevic killed his own propagandists,
fabricated National Public Radio story of the alleged
Serbian "crematorium" at Trepca, Reason magazine's
about how "depleted"
uranium is good for you is due to this cultural
phenomenon, which some might call decadence. A foreign policy
for a people attuned to "reality TV" might, in this respect,
be compared to an episode of "Gladiators," or the cartoonish
spectacles of the WWF. This cultural trend, in tandem with
the general dumbing-down of virtually all public discourse,
is Imperial America at its worst: it is a culture that a
citizen of the late Roman Empire would have recognized.
While mystified by the intricacies of the cell phone, our
ancient Roman time traveler would find our mindless hedonism
all too familiar. The politics of spectacle and sensation,
which reduces foreign policy to a gladiatorial contest,
is an ancient theme recovered and replayed here at the "end"
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