July 11, 2003

'IF IT FEELS GOOD, DO IT'
That's what the Bush Doctrine of 'preemption' really means

by Justin Raimondo

Never mind those weapons of mass destruction, said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the Senate armed services committee:

"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder. We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, through the prism of our experience on 9/11."

Rumsfeld, for once, is not lying. It was only on the surface that the War Party seemed to be arguing that Iraq posed a military threat to its neighbors and the U.S. The subtext of all this was that they didn't need a reason: a feeling would do. This is the irrationalism at the core of our theory of "preemption," which now governs American foreign and military policy in the post-9/11 era: it doesn't require evidence, only a vague premonition (based on murky "intelligence" of dubious provenance) that someone, somewhere, might become a threat.

It's sooooooo contemporary American: we're a nation that is constantly getting in touch with its "feelings," perpetually seeking "validation" and "closure," where subjectivism and emotionalism are the semi-official religion. No wonder the end result has been the Oprah-ization of American foreign policy. The policy of subjective preemption is just good old American narcissism mixed with a liberal dose of post-9/11 paranoia.

9/11 must have ripped a hole in a space-time continuum, and repealed the laws of logic as well as those governing international relations. There is no other way to explain the statements of administration spokesman in the weeks following the announced "end" of the war. The only evidence we have points to the willingness of this administration to invade Iraq without any evidence of WMD or Iraq's aggressive intentions. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz blithely revealed that, in the days after 9/11, the decision to go to war with Iraq had already been made:

"On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when. There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first."

So who cares about not finding those fearsome weapons Saddam was supposedly ready to level Chicago with? If it feels good, do it. And we can do whatever we want because who's going to stop us?

Not Congress, which lamely calls for an "investigation" into the lies that dragged us into war indirectly asking to be absolved of any responsibility. We were duped into voting to strike Iraq, they seem to be saying, but who're they kidding? They knew it was all lies from the get-go, and were cowed by the polls and the relentless propaganda.

Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar, fresh from their trip to Iraq, tell us the administration didn't come clean with the American people about just what the occupation of Iraq would involve. But they knew what was going to happen the guerrilla war, the rising costs in troops and treasure and yet, when it came time to vote, they opted for war.

The Bush administration didn't just lie about the casus belli, they lied about the consequences and the cost. Now that the camel's nose is already under the tent, the Pentagon has almost doubled the estimated bill: where once it was $2 billion per month, Rumsfeld told the armed services committee that the new estimate is $3.9 billion not counting the costs of the "reconstruction."

General Tommy Franks, stepping down as supreme commander at Centcom, told the Senate committee that the U.S. would be in Iraq "for the foreseeable future." But Rumsfeld sought to assuage the lawmakers' anxiety at this grim prospect by posing the possibility that we could Iraqi-ize the occupation, and turn over part of the burden to our allies:

"The numbers of US forces could change, while the footprint stayed the same, in the event that we have greater success in bringing in additional coalition forces, in the event we are able to accelerate the Iraqi army."

Forget about our "coalition." The Brits are about ready to boil Phony Tony in oil. As for the French and the Germans, they want no part of our Iraqi misadventure unless the reins are handed over to the UN, which is neither likely nor desireable. The only footprint in the Iraqi sands is going to be our own, even as we sink under the weight of our own imperial pretensions.

By the way, I wouldn't count on being able to "accelerate the Iraqi army" unless Rummy envisions the U.S. being accelerated right out of there. Today (Thursday, July 10) the Iraqi police in Falluja threatened to walk off the job unless the Americans who trained and armed them high-tailed it out of town but quick. As the Washington Post reports:

"'We have the ability to protect these sites,' said Riyadh Abdel-Latif, the town's police chief. "The presence of Americans endangers us. We asked the Americans more than a month and a half ago to leave Falluja.' The protesters handed a petition to the mayor and U.S. commander in the town, saying they would resign in 48 hours if American troops did not leave."

Clyde Prestowitz, a former Reagan aide, says the Republicans could lose the White House if the war of attrition in Iraq drags on, or worsens, and the WMD remain a figment of the presidential imagination. Writing in the British Spectator, Prestowitz opines:

"It was one thing for the President to ask Americans to send their sons and daughters into harm's way to ward off the threat of WMD, but if the threat was and is non-existent, how does the government explain to the public why it is putting their young people in danger?"

A good question. Too bad no major party candidate for President who asks it will be on the November 2004 ballot. The Democratic wing of the War Party will make sure of that. The War Party controls both major parties, and nearly always has: all other parties are "minor" in comparison, and must go through the nearly impossible task of getting on the ballot in all 50 states. Such are the wonders of the "democracy" we're so keen to export to the far corners of the globe.

But rising popular sentiment against this ongoing war isn't going away, and becomes even more volatile when it has no real political outlet. And dissent is on the rise in the most unlikely places.

Here's a message Private First Class Matthew O'Dell gave to an American reporter to give to this administration:

"You call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home."

Bring 'em on? I don't think so, Mr. President. Listen to your own soldiers, take a look at the polls, and bring 'em home!

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

The Spectator is a treasure trove these days, and not just because of Taki's "High Life" column. Lloyd Evans pens a pithy piece of reportage on the recent conference sponsored by the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a major bastion of the Euro-left, that is just too funny for words. I especially like the nasty descriptions of the sorry visual state of the assembled commies, but there's also this confirmation of the Trotsky-con phenomenon, which has roiled the American Right with controversy ever since Michael Lind and Jeet Heers conjured Trotsky's ghost walking the halls of the White House. Describing a speech by leftie MP George Galloway, Evans writes:

"He mocked his accusers in New Labour. Two grandees, he said, who were once his political allies, had quizzed him over his anti-war stance. 'One of them used to be Trotskyite.' Loud sniggers. 'The other was a Maoist.' Laughter. He smiled, shrugged and held out his hands as if in supplication. 'I've stood still. But they ...'and he swept his arms off to the right in a whooshing gesture. Tremendous laughter and huge applause."

Take it from one who knows: the War Party is swarming with "ex"-Reds of a pinkish hue, and Mensheviks of the second mobilization. The leopard may have changed his spots, but he's just as a bloodthirsty as ever.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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