THE NO SOVEREIGNTY ZONE
pilots were "in danger," the administration avers, and therefore
we had to "respond." It is, of course, useless to point
out to such people that our pilots were intruders in Iraqi
airspace: since national sovereignty is a concept that the
US no longer recognizes (not even in regard to itself),
then how is it possible to answer such an Orwellian argument?
We are "defending" ourselves halfway across the earth, in
the name of a "no-fly zone" unilaterally declared by us,
with only the fig-leaf of a vaguely-worded UN resolution
to cover the nakedness of our aggression. There is, of course,
only one way to eliminate the danger to our pilots, and
that is to stop violating Iraqi airspace, cease the relentless
pounding of Iraq, and while we're at it lift
the sanctions that have decimated an entire generation of
Iraqi children. Such a rational policy, however, will obviously
never be adopted by this administration.
must admit, though, that our rookie President did seem rather
queasy at the prospect of having to announce a US attack
on Iraq while in the middle of his visit to Mexico: in his
comments Bush went out of his way to emphasize that he had
made the decision, all by himself: "It was a mission about
which I was informed and I authorized." Well, yes, at least
we hope so, but obviously there was some question
about that, not least of all in the President's own mind.
Of course, you say, I couldn't know what is going on in
the presidential brain. But faces reveal emotions, and often
much more. The look on Bush's face, as he answered questions
about the bombing, betrayed what seemed to me like an enormous
reluctance: one wonders if his advisors told him that Friday
is a holy day in Iraq, like Sunday is here, and that people
are generally out on the street walking with their families.
airstrike was used as a testing ground in two senses: first,
as an experiment to see how the new "standoff" weapons that
allow long-distance targeting work. Since US policymakers
have discovered that war is tolerable to Americans just
as long as all the casualties are on the other side, military
technology has been developed to achieve just this result:
I guess we'll have to wait for the smoke to clear to see
how the testing went, but in the meantime what is striking
is the utter cowardice of this attack. As in the Kosovo
war, where NATO warplanes bombed from 30,000 ft., hitting
plenty of civilian targets in the process, Americans want
to "stand off" while they inflict mass destruction on their
demonized "enemies": it is a vicious, strangely womanish
strategy, entirely motivated by political considerations
and fear: it is as if our leaders fully realize that
the entire Middle East isn't worth a single American life
and they don't want anyone else to realize it, either.
IT UP THE FLAGPOLE
the airstrike is a test run to see how much political support
there is for a more extended conflict. The results, so far,
must be heartening to the War Party: here in the supposedly
"leftist" Bay Area, where "antiwar" sentiment is alleged
to be strong, our congressional delegation was interviewed
on the local news, and all three Nancy Pelosi, Mike
Honda, and some other liberal Democratic swine supported
the attack, with few if any reservations. People interviewed
in the street seemed surprised, and generally clue-less:
one burnt-out San Francisco flake opined that it was "scary"
because "look who's president!" Then the TV cameras panned
across the pathetic scene of the International Action Center
holding a "protest" against the bombing at the corner of
Market and Powell streets, where the cable-cars turn around:
the plaza, on this cold afternoon, was practically empty,
with no more than half a dozen placard-carrying protesters
milling aimlessly about. Score one for the War Party.
FRONTS, ONE WAR
Iraqis link the Baghdad raid to the stepped-up Israeli attacks
on the Palestinians: Sharon's renewed assault on the PLO
and the Anglo-American assault on Iraq are different fronts
in the same war, and the prelude, they say, to a wider war,
spearheaded by Israel and supported by the US and Great
Britain. While this scenario may be somewhat overstated,
they have a point. This is a regional struggle, and an Israeli
attack on Iraq is not out of the question: it has, after
all, happened before. But why should the Israelis drop the
bombs when their American and British cat's-paws are perfectly
willing to fight their battles for them? And that, in short,
is what this whole confrontation with Iraq is about: Saddam
is not a threat to any of his Arab neighbors, as the administration
admits, because Iraq doesn't have the military capability.
Israel, alone, is threatened, not so much militarily as
politically: Saddam has taken up the Palestinian cause,
paying $20,000 to the families of each and every martyred
Palestinian and becoming the hero of the Arab "street" as
a symbol of fighting resistance to Western domination and
Israeli arrogance. Keeping this in mind, then, let's put
the escalation of the war on Iraq in context.
this is happening just as the Marc
Rich scandal is beginning to break is, I suppose, a
very convenient coincidence. Suddenly the headlines
about Israeli officials manipulating Clinton in the final
hours of his presidency, and growing outrage at the pardon
a crook at the behest of a foreign power, are swept off
the front pages. Now the airwaves are filled with speculation
about Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction," replacing
not only the image of the fugitive crook and Israeli spy,
but also pushing news of Israeli helicopter gunships shooting
down Palestinian teenagers to the back pages. Score another
one for the War Party.
Republicans were enraged by the use of our armed forces
means to divert attention away from the more embarrassing
moments of the last administration: but will they hold George
W. Bush to the same standard? Some of them will, but many
others, I fear, will not: they have too much invested in
believing that, this time, things are going to be different.
This, of course, is an ironic position for conservatives
to take since they, above all, exhort us to learn
from history, abjure utopianism, and distrust grandiose
claims of "newness" on general principles. It was great,
however, to see good
old Bob Novak on Crossfire disdaining the whole
nonsensical premise of our policy in the Middle East, which
is that America's national interest is, somehow, served
by making war on Iraq, and alienating the entire Arab world.
As a backdrop to all this, the market dropped like a stone
at the news of the attack an ominous taste of what
is to come if the War Party gets its way.
ARROGANCE OF POWER
we watch this administration in action denying that
this represents an escalation, denying their aggression,
denying that it is our Israel-centric Middle East stance
that put our soldiers stationed overseas in mortal danger
there is a sinister, tortuous quality to their evasive
explanations. If we make war, in Bush's words, it's because
we want "to make sure the world is a peaceful as possible."
If we suddenly ratchet up the military campaign against
Iraq less than a week after Bush declared his "reluctance"
to go to war then all of this is "routine" according
to an annoyed-looking Condolezza Rice, whose opaque patrician
arrogance defines this administration's developing style.
QUESTION OF TIMING
this is the first phase of a long-range plan to "take out"
Saddam Hussein, and "solve" the Iraqi Question once and
for all, seems beyond question. Regular readers of this
column know that I have been harping
on the near inevitability of this prospect
years! and so none of this comes as a shock.
But what is, indeed, a little shocking is the timing of
all this: it not only drives the Marc Rich scandal off the
front pages, but also occurs on the eve of secretary of
Powell's trip to the Middle East, where he will try
to bring our Arab allies back into the US fold. The airstrike
did not make an already difficult task any easier, and this
raises an interesting question.
WAR AT HOME
seems clear, first of all, that there are distinctive factions
within the administration: one, centered in the Defense
Department, with secretary Donald Rumsfeld and certainly
Paul Wolfowitz, his deputy, behind a major move in the Middle
East. The other faction, centered around the State Department,
is not so enthusiastic about the prospect of Desert Storm
II: Powell, they say, was opposed the first time around,
and what is different now except that the circumstances
are even less auspicious? It could be that the origin of
this "routine" escalation lies in the factional dynamics
of the Bush administration: that this was an attempt to
undercut not only Powell's first diplomatic foray, but his
whole position within the administration as the authoritative
voice on foreign policy. Could a factional war within the
Bush administration spark a shooting war in the Middle East?
It may already be happening.
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