September 8, 2003

BUSH SPEECH: NO U-TURN ON THE ROAD TO EMPIRE
Deeper into the Iraqi quagmire

by Justin Raimondo

The Sunday morning talk shows were teeming with administration spokesmen, prepping the public for their boss's evening pitch for support on Iraq. Here's Colin Powell on "Face the Nation":

"It's going to cost more, and there will be continued sacrifice on the part of our young men and women. Hopefully, in the very near future we'll get control of the security situation."

Such talk no doubt made General Anthony Zinni, retired Marine Centcom chief, extremely nervous. It was only last Thursday that he'd issued a warning in a speech to hundreds of Marine and Navy officers:

"My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice. I ask you, is it happening again?"

The garbage and the lies: the State Department dishes out the former, while the Defense Department's civilian leaders whip up the latter. The War Party's kitchen is a busy place: they're always cooking up something, and there's a lot on the backburner: Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are all bubbling and boiling, albeit not yet spilling over.

The neoconservative cabal that lied us into war may seem like they're on the defensive, what with some prominent Democrats calling for Rummy and Wolfie to resign, and Maureen Dowd chortling over the neocons' public humiliation. "Tonight," she predicts, "will be a stomach-churning moment for Mr. Bush, and he must be puzzling over how he got snarled in this nightmare."

With the excerpts from the President's speech that were released in advance, however, it was clear before he even opened his mouth that the rest of us were in for some stomach-churning moments of our own. Far from backing down, Bush declared:

"We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own Nation more secure."

This recalls John F. Kennedy's paean to interventionism delivered in the early stages of the war in Vietnam, invoking the alleged nobility of "sacrifice" and declaring that we'd:

"Pay any price, bear any burden."

With support for the war and his reelection plummeting, a case of the presidential butterflies would not be at all surprising. But Bush's critics were no doubt surprised to find that he's not as conciliatory as they think he ought to be. The same Washington Post report leaking excerpts of the speech noted:

"A poll released Saturday indicated that nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, which were carried out by al-Qaida, even though terrorism experts and others describe only loose links between al-Qaida and Saddam."

Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have merged into a single vanishing villain, and this successful strategy of conflation underlies the administration's hard line on the war: invading Iraq was necessary to "protect America" from terrorist attacks, they aver. It's all part of a long-term strategy to "drain the swamp" that nurtures terrorism in the Middle East. As Bush puts it:

"The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and beyond, would be a grave setback for international terrorism."

Progress and peace in the Middle East? We should only live so long. This has got to mean a decades-long effort, bigger than the Marshall Plan and the occupation of Japan combined. The bill for all this is going to be astronomical. The Post cites one estimate at $70 billion or so, and another congressional insider who said:

"'I think it could be bigger than $80 billion,' said a congressional aide, who is familiar with the president's work in refining how much to request from Congress. 'I think the expectation is that it's going to be a very, very big number.'"

He was right: it turned out to be $87 billion. How is the administration going to justify this tremendous expenditure of American treasure and lives? How can the President overcome rising opposition to his policies, and grumbling within his own party? By constantly invoking the memory of 9/11, this administration and the radical neocons who have hijacked American foreign policy hope to mobilize the American people under a banner of rage and fear. The War Party keeps poking at an open wound, hoping the American public will stay enraged long enough to support their Napoleonic visions of empire. The President prodded this wound in his speech:

"The surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today, so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities."

This is what kept the Democrats silenced for so long, and re-invoking the terror-stricken atmosphere that created such cowed passivity has got to be Bush's goal. 9/11 is his trump card, and we can count on him playing it often in the months to come. In his speech, the President declared:

"We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power."

This is the real meaning of the doctrine of preemptive war. He is referring here not just to Iraq, but to the entire Middle East, which he and his neocon advisors have in their sights. Incredibly, the neocon idea that we were wrong to leave Beirut, and that we should have stood and fought in Somalia, finds expression in the Bush speech:

"They want to shake the will of the civilized world. In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken."

But Ronald Reagan gave the order to leave Beirut, not because he was "decadent and weak," as Bush phrased it, but because U.S. forces were sitting ducks for a terrorist attack just like our troops in Iraq. Somalia was a classic quagmire: we should never have gone in, and we were right to get out. What the President didn't mention was the casualties we suffered in Beirut 241 Marines killed in a single blast.

Although there are conflicting reports on this, the [UK] Telegraph avers that the President is pretty steamed about Iran's alleged pursuit of nukes. No, the War Party isn't making a U-turn on the road to empire: they're just taking a slight breather before they rev up their engines for the next lap of their journey.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

On September 11, this site will feature my book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, in its entirety. This coming Wednesday, September 10, you can read the introduction, which explains the strange publishing history of this work, and my reasons for putting it online.

David Limbaugh, brother of Rush, tells us paleocons to chill out and relax, because Hurrah! – "President Bush is not a neocon."

Now, aren't you relieved?

The President, Limbaugh avers, didn't come up with any world-conquering scheme prior to 9/11. Uh, no, but his chief advisors did. The President, says Limbaugh, is just a plain old ordinary mainstream conservative, like himself, who is just looking out for "American interests." Yes, but, as Limbaugh puts it, "the rap against neoconservatives is that they are imperialists who want to export democracy by force and prop up Israel at almost any cost." Yet it just so happens that the Bush administration's list of Middle East targets coincides precisely with the list of Israel's enemies. What a coincidence.

Directly addressing us paleocons, Limbaugh writes:

"It may surprise you to know that there are those of us out here (I'd call us mainstream conservatives) who are hawkish against terrorism and bullish on Israel, yet not interested in creating an American empire. Our guiding principle is protecting America's strategic national interests. If that means we sometimes have to attack other nations, even preemptively, so be it. We are far from being isolationists, but we are just as far from being imperialists."

Such radicalism represents a violation of the conservative temperament, and hardly anyone is surprised that mainstream conservatives such as David Keene, Donald Devine, Robert Novak, William S. Lind, and others – are rebelling against the neocons' vision of endless wars. Hardly anyone but Brother Rush, that neocon shill, who worked himself into a lather over it.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, our ability to maintain the present troop level in Iraq will have run out by next March. By that time, too, the patience of the American public will have also run out including, I suspect, that of many mainstream conservatives. What Limbaugh and his fellow "mainstreamers" are going to discover is that there is no middle ground between imperialism and the traditional foreign policy of the Founders of this country, whom the neocons (and liberal internationalists) continually smear by calling their policy "isolationism."

On one point, however, Limbaugh may be right: does anyone believe George W. Bush has read Leo Strauss? I doubt whether he's even heard of Leon Trotsky. Dubya's no neocon: he's just their useful idiot.

Speaking of idiotic, the administration's plan to insert Turkish troops into Iraq has got to be the worst idea since the war that landed us there in the first place. This is one of these "what were they thinking?" proposals that seems almost too ridiculous to be true. If you want to scare yourself in preparation for Halloween (hey, it's just around the corner), then check out this MSNBC report:

"Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan shrugged off comments on Thursday by Iraq's new foreign minister that Turkish peacekeeping troops would not be welcome in Iraq, saying Ankara would make its own decision."

The idea that the Kurds, or any Baghdad-based government in which they play a significant role, are going to invite the Turks in to patrol Iraqi streets, is just absurd. For the U.S. to impose such a decision on its Iraqi sock puppets would provoke a full-scale rebellion in the Kurdish lands to the north and risk spreading the war throughout the region. Walking through the Iraqi minefield of ethnic and religious rivalries and sensitivities, the U.S. is like a stumbling, bumbling, and not particularly intelligent giant puppy. Johnny Depp had it exactly right.

In Friday's column, "Imperial Eye for the Republican Guy," I speculated that our old Republic is now undergoing a makeover, in which the plain Republican cloth coat is being thrown out in favor of the imperial purple. Now, as if to confirm my thesis, comes the news that Colin Powell is a big fan of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the hit TV show where the "Fab Five" team goes to work on some typically fashion-challenged uni-browed aesthetically underprivileged hetero, introducing him to the world of interior design, clean underwear, and fine wines.

So, that's where the realists in the administration got their line on Iraq – from Kyan Douglas, who advises us to "Spray, delay, and walk away."

So true, whether you're dispensing scent, or foreign policy wisdom. Boy oh boy, our government could sure use Kyan's services. To cite him again, will somebody please tell Paul Wolfowitz that "There's no excuse for nose hair 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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