Hoo-boy. Look out, world, here comes King George the W, all saddled up on his war pony, decked out in his Commander-in-Chief outfit, and hollering about going to war in Iraq to kick ol’ Saddam Hussein’s butt!
Wait a minute. I thought it was the September 11 terrorists we were after—Osama bin Laden and his horrific al Qaeda network. Just a while ago, Bush was beating his chest, promising to “smoke ’em out,” and declaring that he would not rest until those who had attacked America were brought to justice “dead or alive,” remember? A year later, George still doesn’t have a scalp on his political belt—Osama can’t be found, and al Qaeda reportedly is already regrouping in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and who knows where else. They’re still out there, and still a threat to our national security.
So George has turned from chasing the hard one to try to bag an easier one, one that he knows where to find: the Beast of Baghdad. In September, full of his characteristic frat-boy bravado, Bush suddenly shifted our nation’s military and media focus from stopping the crashbombing terrorists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans on a single day to mounting an invasion of Iraq for the purpose of “regime change.” We’ve gotta go to war and take out Saddam, he began bellowing.
“We,” white boy? George has always been a warmonger, not a warrior. During Vietnam, he enthusiastically supported the war—but, alas, couldn’t personally go to battle. Getting student deferments, he was busy being a cheerleader at Yale, after which he got the helping hand of an oilman neighbor who intervened politically in Texas to keep the Bush boy on the home front, defending Houston from the VC.
Bush’s own family is not at risk from his pounding of the war drum. Nor are the families of the other war-whooping politicos, pundits, political consultants, media executives, or think-tank theorists. None of their sons, daughters, or other loved ones will be shipped off to Mr. Bush’s vicarious war adventure.
Others will pay the price. And it will be heavy. The British general who commanded the renowned “Desert Rats” in the 1991 Gulf War forecasts a casualty rate of 15% among our troops invading Iraq. If we deploy a force of 250,000, that would mean more than 35,000 soldiers killed, shattered, maimed, or disabled—not to mention those who will die later from battlefield-poisoning syndromes, as happened in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Nor does it count the hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s 23 million civilians who’ll die. Nor does it contemplate all sorts of nasty scenarios involving chemical and biological weapons, nukes, an Israeli offensive, a Muslim world explosion, and . . . well, war is hell.
Why Saddam? Why now? Let us count the assortment of absurdities that the Bushites have trotted out in the past few weeks to rationalize George’s Iraq Attack:
Saddam is a terrible man. Golly, yes he is. But what’s new? He was terrible last year, five years ago, and long before that.
He was known to be a murderous thug way back in 1983, when Ronald Reagan and Poppa George Bush officially cozied up to Saddam, dispatching none other than Don Rumsfeld as a special envoy to woo the Beast. At the time, the Reagan-Bush White House wanted to use Hussein against the rising theocracy in Iran, which they perceived as a threat to U.S. oil interests. So they spent billions of our tax dollars to build up Saddam’s army, providing cash, weapons, and military intelligence to support him in his bloody, five-year war.
Nor did Hussein’s terribleness prevent Poppa Bush’s administration from trying to set him up as a regional pillar of U.S. foreign policy, with congressional delegations led by the likes of Bob Dole visiting “our strongman” to promote business deals, and with American corporations vying to win Iraqi military contracts.
Bush the Elder danced with this devil right up to the moment Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990—and even then, a Bush diplomat, April Glaspie, had winked at Hussein, indicating that the State Department did not oppose his taking some of the Kuwaiti territory he laid claim to.
After the 1991 war that devastated Iraq’s military and economic might, who rushed in to help this terrible thug rebuild? Dick Cheney! As CEO of Halliburton Inc., he oversaw $23.8 million in deals to rebuild Iraq’s oilfield infrastructure—more than any other U.S. corporation.
When it comes to being a partner with the US of A, the standard is not whether you’re “terrible,” but whether you’re convenient. If Bush is looking for terrible, he need look no further than the gaggle he presently calls “partners” in his global terrorism crusade, including the tyrant Musharraf of Pakistan, the despotic Saud family of Saudi Arabia, and the jail wardens who rule China.
Okay, but what about his WMD? The excited claim here is that the Beast is now a direct threat to the U.S. because he has developed WMD—“Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
Bush himself recently said flatly that Iraq is “six months away” from having a nuclear bomb, citing a 1998 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency. “I don’t know what more evidence we need,” an impatient George whined. However, the agency has responded that no such report exists. Indeed, the IAEA has reported that Hussein’s nuclear program was completely dismantled by 1998, as was his missile capacity to hurl any WMDs at his neighbors, much less at us 6,000 miles away.
Saddam personally remains full of piss and vinegar, and no doubt he wants to assemble a nuke, but his war machine is a shadow of its former self. Middle East military experts report that, contrary to Bush’s Chicken Little alarms, Iraq’s ability to develop, build, and launch a WMD program is minimal. Saddam’s navy is kaput, his air force is a fraction of what it was a decade ago, his overall armed forces are down by two-thirds, and he’s cut his annual military spending by 90%. His defensive capabilities are still strong, especially around Baghdad where he’s dug in, but his offensive punch is shriveled.
Yet Rumsfeld, when asked to produce real evidence that Iraq suddenly is a nuclear threat, got in a snit and blathered, “The absence of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence of absence.” Rummy needs a vacation.
Well, did you know that Saddam is directly linked to Osama? This is supposed to be Bush’s clincher argument for offing Hussein, and he’s had Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condi Rice out on the pundit circuit furrowing their brows and making embarrassingly wild and vague claims of skullduggery between the two demonic leaders.
Bush himself recently screeched, “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.” Actually, you can. Quite easily. Far from being allies, they are sworn enemies. In 1990, Osama even offered to lead an Islamic force to liberate Kuwait from Saddam, whom he views as a vainglorious heathen, an enemy of the true Islam. Al Qaeda even put Hussein on its list of targets.
For his part, the last thing Saddam wants is to allow a mess of Osama-style Shiite fundamentalism in his home region. He, of course, is Muslim, but it’s power, not religion that motivates him. While Iraq is a Muslim nation and 60% of its people are Shiites, Hussein brutally suppresses them and routinely murders all Shiite clerics who could pose a threat to his secular reign.
Hey, it’s about bringing peace and democracy to the region. Here’s where the Bushite hardliners go all squishy, claiming that the forced ouster of Saddam will, like the 1944 liberation of Paris, make Americans heroes, leading to a flowering of freedom. As Condi Rice mistily describes it, the Arab world will undergo a spontaneous “march of democracy” once we oust Hussein.
“Is she dreaming?” asked one incredulous Egyptian official. As Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, starkly puts it, a Bush invasion of Iraq “would open the gates of hell.”
Gate One is in the al Qaeda network, which drools at the prospect of another Yankee imperialist attack on a Muslim nation. In one blow, they get rid of the infidel Saddam and gain a huge recruiting victory among the world’s enraged Muslims.
Gate Two is in the slums of Baghdad and southern Iraq, where the impoverished Shiite majority will go on a bloodthirsty rampage against Saddam’s ruling Sunni minority (only 16% of the population). But while the Shiites despise Hussein, they won’t welcome Americans as conquering heroes, because, 1. they reject Western materialism and imperialism, and 2. the Bushites have refused to reach out to them, instead working with a handful of dissidents within the Sunni elite to take power après Hussein.
Hell’s Gate Three is in neighboring Iran, where the mullahs dream of extending their repressive theocracy into Iraq, imposing a puppet state through their fellow Shiites. While the Iranian and Iraqi Shiites are different, they could forge an alliance of convenience that would expand the war on Saddam into a gruesome war with Iran, which actually is close to having a nuclear capability.
Gate Four is in northern Iraq, where the Kurds are eager to create an independent state. These Kurds are pro-American, but one of our most reliable allies, Turkey, is vehemently anti-Kurd and says it will not allow a new Kurdish state. So, George, in this looming war, do we support our Kurdish allies, or our Turkish allies? (It’s the Kurds, by the way, whom the Bushites mislabel when they refer to Saddam gassing “his own people”—they’re an occupied people, not Saddam’s property.)
Gate Five is in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and other autocracies we count as allies and oil partners. They, too, rule by repressing their impoverished and fundamentalist Islamic majority, which will be inflamed by Bush’s attack and will pose a newly energized threat to the reign of George’s monarchical oil buddies.
Gate Six is us, who’ll face an even stronger wave of anti-American, Islamic outrage if Bush deviates from chasing terrorists to chasing Saddam.
What’s this really about?
The Bushites can’t even stay consistent with any one of their incredible rationales, flitting from one excuse to another. (George even has declared that we should hit Hussein for Oedipal reasons: “This is the guy who tried to kill my dad,” he cried.) But behind all the flim-flamming, there are three forces propelling them to rush us pell-mell into this war:
1. NOVEMBER’S ELECTIONS. As we learned from their heist of Florida’s electoral votes after the 2000 election, these guys are all about grabbing power and using it to shove through their corporate agenda.
This summer, Bush and the GOP were in a heap of political trouble —CEO crooks on the front page, investigators sniffing into both George’s and Cheney’s business scams, rising unemployment, diving stock prices, swelling deficits, drug-price gouging, September 11 intelligence bungling, John Ashcroft’s loopiness, favoritism to polluters, giveaways to the rich—and many other real issues. With the control of Congress at stake in November, they had to change the political focus fast, and there sat big, fat Saddam—the ultimate Weapon of Mass Distraction.
The always-dangerous Karl Rove, George’s long-time Machiavelli, began telling all Republican campaigns to “focus on war” for the rest of the political year, and Bush’s chief of staff, Andy Card, confided that the reason they waited until September to beat the drums against Iraq is that, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
2. ONE WORD: OIL. Larry Lindsey, Bush’s top economic advisor, gloats that there’s a very oily reason to invade: “When there is regime change in Iraq, you could add three million to five million barrels [per day] of production to world supply,” adding that “the successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.”
Grabbing Iraqi oil has been a goal of the big companies and Bush White House from Day 1. The infamous “Cheney Report” on energy policy, written early in 2001 by industry lobbyists, declares that the top priority must be increasing U.S. access to Persian Gulf oil, because, 1. our consumption of imported crude is going to increase dramatically; 2. Saudi Arabia, our chief supplier, is politically shaky; and 3. Iraq has massive reserves that U.S. oil companies want to control.
“ There’s not an oil company out there that wouldn’t be interested in Iraq,” conceded an industry analyst, and our hand-picked Sunni allies inside Iraq say that once Saddam is out, they’ll cancel all of his deals and cut new ones, with the U.S. taking the lead in reallocation. James Woolsey, former CIA director and a big boot-Saddam proponent, unabashedly says that wavering nations like France and Russia “should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we’ll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies will work closely with them.”
3. ARROGANCE AND EMPIRE. W’s family laughs that, as a boy, he used to light firecrackers and shove them down the throats of frogs just to watch them explode. Boys will be boys, I guess, but now the Bush boy is determined to shove America’s military firepower down the throats of the world, beginning with Iraq.
George has propounded an astonishingly arrogant new policy of imposing an American empire over the world. Issued last month as a 33-page document, it was dubbed the “Bush Doctrine,” but it’s really the Bush Dictate. It combatively asserts that his administration will: 1. seek to maintain a permanent military might so overwhelming that no other nation, friend or foe, can ever rival it (thus putting a smile on the faces of lobbyists for every U.S. military contractor); 2. act alone to intervene anywhere they want in order to advance what they decide are U.S. interests; 3. feel free to make pre-emptive strikes against any nation they perceive even a threat or to be a potential threat to these undefined U.S. interests, including pre-emptive strikes with nuclear weapons; and 4. aggressively use U.S. economic clout and the power of the IMF and World Bank to demand that all nations adopt “pro-growth legal and regulatory policies to encourage business investment,” plus “tax policies, particularly lower marginal tax rates that improve incentives” for wealthy corporate investors.
Like their lunge for Iraqi oil, the Bushites’ pugnacious assertion of a New American Empire has long been in the works among the plotters who form the continuum from Bush I to Bush II. As revealed in Harper’s magazine by investigative reporter David Armstrong, it goes back to an internal Pentagon document called “Defense Planning Guidance,” initiated in late 1989, when then-Defense Secretary Cheney worried about declining public support for an ever-expanding military establishment. The DPG, developed under the supervision of the superhawkish Paul Wolfowitz and with the backing of superstar military man Powell, amounted to a plan for the U.S. to rule the world. “The overt theme is unilateralism,” writes Armstrong, “but it is ultimately a story of domination.” In the last year of Bush I’s presidency, Powell pitched the plan to a House committee, candidly saying the U.S. should become the world’s baddest street thug: “I want to be the bully on the block,” Powell blared. And he’s the dove!
Then, just before the 2000 election, a right-wing think tank called Project for the New American Century prepared a policy paper for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other Bushites updating the DPG. This paper called for Bush II to take military control of the Gulf region, calling our armed forces “the cavalry of the new American frontier.” It declared that the U.S. must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”
The Bushites are beyond dangerous—they are kooky laissez-faire empire builders, zealots seeking to compel a rowdy and rebellious world to accept their corporate ideology, imposing their will by military force. This is not about Iraq—it’s about perverting 227 years of our people’s democratic aspirations into a far-fetched reach for global corporate dominance. It is a wrenching perversion of who we are.
It’s our country, not theirs, and it’s our values and ultimately our national security that they are putting at risk. These people must be stopped, yet there’s only weakling opposition in Congress. No one is going to stop them but us. Remember Patti Smith’s song: “People have the power. The power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools.