no-nonsense military affairs columnist Colonel David Hackworth, who gives his
readers a grunt's-eye view of what the perfumed princes of the Pentagon are up
to, writes that "war
is in the wind. But you wouldn't know it if you get your news from Brokaw,
Jennings and Rather." Ah, but you would know it if you get your news from
Antiwar.com: we've been covering the developing story of the coming Mideast war
for weeks, in our news section as well as in
this column, and Hackworth confirms rumors of war with the news that US troops
are on the move.
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 proportions.
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
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 wind.
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 UN nuclear
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 credible.
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, the completely
fabricated National Public Radio story of the alleged Serbian "crematorium"
at Trepca, Reason magazine's recent
screed 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" of history.
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