(Reprised as a reminder of the criminal dishonesty of the Bush administration)
Our present circumstance is a welter of detail: When did Iraq do what? What is the character of Saddam Hussein? What will Iraq do if they acquire certain weapons? On and on for dozens of questions.
Each question seems to have dozens of answers depending on the wishes of the questioner. This is very disturbing considering the consequence that some significant part of a million young man might be sent to war and many more other innocents put in the way of the most destructive weapons the uninhibited cleverness of humans can devise. It is especially disturbing when the answers of one's own government seem consistently biased in favor of immediate and warlike action.
Almost the whole rest of the earth answers differently, counseling caution. While not as dramatic, there are options offering many of the same assurances without the massive killing that war would bring. It appears that my government desires war for its own reasons of conquest rather than to reduce the dangers of death and suffering for those most endangered.
(This is the place where commentators are supposed to speak in reverential tones about how bad Hussein is and how he should be removed -- how the Bush administration is right about that, etc. But Hussein is ordinary among his despotic peers and has done little compared to the death and suffering gone unnoticed by writers of the history of the winners in the story of Empire.)
In a very real sense there is no enemy. Rather a straw man is being constructed by my own government with the help of media -- the media whose function it is to report truth and to question official positions (history shows that official positions are very often self-serving and shortsighted when allowed). Saddam Hussein, in the general opinion of most of the world, is no worse than many despotic leaders and Iraq is no more dangerous than similarly situated countries. And certainly Iraq has only the capacity to defend itself and no real capacity to be even a regional aggressor. If this view is wrong, nothing has been presented beyond rhetoric to deny it.
There are perhaps 30 countries in the world today that have very unsettling leadership regardless of the political label that might otherwise be appended. The failings range from incompetence, through negligence to despotism and practical insanity -- all the problems found in other forms of employment. If my country is to be a good world citizen, then we should be working to increase the standards of leadership by supporting world bodies that can exert those kinds of healthy influences.
But this is not the focus of this government. The significant actors (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, the Bush family) apparently see a window of opportunity to drive the U.S. to a position of total world domination: military, economic, social/cultural and religious. Their worldview is one of opportunities and enemies, both mediated by force. The great irony is that they are not wrong when they are in charge; when a powerful force sees the world so narrowly, the conditions of the debate are defined in their terms.
Iraq is chosen as a strategic first step. The coercive apparatus of propaganda is working out the kinks in the manipulation and control of media. Military organization and re-equipping is being done with absolute control of all physical space and all communications and information as the goal.
Only in America are there a significant number of people supporting an invasion of Iraq. I suggest it is largely because they have only seen information that both supports that action and presents it as a near certainty. There has been a virtual blackout of meaningful debate. With the exception, to date, of Phil Donahue no one has been allowed to offer a view opposing the administration's without having their patriotism and honesty directly questioned. Scott Ritter has been slandered and administration actors organized to weaken and neutralize his voice. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and other thoughtful representatives of their views have received almost no media attention.
Broadcast and cable media have presented almost exclusively the administration voice and still the real support for the actual conditions of war is less than 50% or so. Millions of people across the country are expressing reservations. Millions of people are talking to their friends and neighbors and hearing that they too have reservations, concerns about lack of evidence, doubts about the real need to go to war. Yet we hear from Ari Fleisher that "the President has 70% support," a number that is given no specific basis and not in line with other reports of polling data. The statement is not challenged by the press corps.
To put the situation in simple terms, all of the evidence seems to point to the Bush administration trying to operate an agenda of conquest. It has all the military power, most of the economic power and is only marginally concerned with moral authority. Iraq is too weak to fight back beyond home defense and so will collect few friends, but strong enough, and unwise enough, to look threatening. It is an hors d'oeuvre.
Many thousands of Iraqis will be killed, citizen and soldier. Very few American soldiers will die in the first phase -- many more in the second phase. As in Columbia the military will protect commercial interests and as with both Columbia and Afghanistan the country will be left to its own devices. The disruptions of order will offer opportunities for further conquests and power projections in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Far East.
It has been since before the 2000 election, and stated again in the most recent position paper, the explicit policy of this administration that no country shall ever again be allowed to gain military strength approaching that of the United States. This fact, in combination with dominance of all matters economic and material, will deliver another trifecta: military, economic and resource hegemony.
The unasked question arises, why does the U.S. need such a massive military in this case (5 percent of GDP). The implied answer is that there are lots of bad people in the world who hate the U.S. and it may need to fight especially theater wars; two, three or more at a time. This again would end up being true if the U.S. presses its advantage on to all societies and nations -- acting its will on others because it has the power to do so. They will fight back. The rest of the world is very nervous because they see these things clearly. The Bush administration has said the total control of the world is its goal. It commissioned a report related to the feasibility of such control before the 2000 election and the most recent position paper to Congress again states this goal.
If it were only humans warring with each other -- trying to take over the world, yet again -- then it would be terrible and a prelude to terrible suffering delivered by greedy megalomaniacs and religious zealots -- yet again. But given the ecologically fragile nature of our present world and the power of the thousands of weapons we have forsworn the use of, yet may be unable to avoid using, we could, in the service of fools, trigger a great convulsive act of biological, biophysical rejection of large amounts of the life of this planet.
It would be, in a way, perversely poetic to have much of life on earth damaged by the actions of George W. Bush -- by all accounts an ordinary man who thinks especially well of himself -- and humanity diminished; an ordinary species that developed the ability to think and so thought, unwisely (unsapiens), especially well of itself when to think well of everything else would have been its salvation.
Glasgow Sunday Herald, "Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President" by Neil Mackay, 15 September 2002
"Rebuilding America's Defenses" A report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000
‘Bush Shifts Strategy From Deterrence to Dominance’
By Karen DeYoung and Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff WritersSaturday, September 21, 2002; Page A01