War, war or war

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Posted by Tony from dsc04.lai-ca-4-196.rasserver.net ( on Sunday, September 29, 2002 at 1:14PM :

War, war or war
By Terry Sawyer
Online Journal Contributing Writer

September 26, 2002—Believe it or not, there are drawbacks to running the presidency like a bottom-tier public relations firm staffed by carnies.

This week brought us the collapse of George W. Bush's short-lived stab at pretending that other people in the world might justly disagree with us or, Baby Jesus forbid, occasionally be right about their disagreement. This thinly feigned spirit of cooperation consisted of one speech of your typical Bush moralism: completely inconsistent and yet uncompromising in its contradiction and backed up with cigar-chomping, golf-course machismo. We huffed and puffed and then blew our house down.

I'm sure that this strategy probably sounded ingenious at some cabinet BBQ luncheon. First, you create a wholly fabricated sense of urgency in order to deter the country from focusing on the fact that other than accidental moments of imposed greatness, your administration has been a feckless flop.

If the imminence of Saddam Hussein's amorphous threats to the universe were so self-evident, why wasn't it the immediate focus of his administration? Why didn't toppling Saddam take precedence over tossing a few veal cutlet tax cuts to his wealthy underwriters?

Keeping people on the precipice of war and keeping people intoxicated with the anticipation of wiping out some fairy tale version of a "bad guy" is a lot easier than selling the public on the complicated consequences of fighting the war on terrorism or the potentially devastating costs of occupying a country of fractured, warring ethnicities. Lord knows that the poor Afghans will only have a reprieve from chaos once they're able to elect a bulletproof leader.

Secondly, of course, was the administration's retrofitted barrage of justifications for war. Briefly, Saddam had his finger in the 9/11 pie, though it took little time to whittle away the "evidence" into mere insinuation. Not that is isn't possible, but there certainly wasn't enough information on which to base an invasion of Iraq. But the administration has a dark familiarity with the institutional memory of the public. Put one reason out one day, if it doesn't work, make another reason the prime reason for war and no one but a few barely read journalists is likely to ask why you're treating war with another country as if you're just a teenage boy trying to find what ever words will get you down your girlfriend's pants.

From that point forward we've heard countless appeals framed in terms of everything from his lack of respect for human rights (though, curiously, we don't care to invade Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, or a couple dozen other countries apparently outside the range of Dubya's sporadically bleeding heart) to the fact that he's used weapons of mass destruction against dissident minority populations of his own country (though we didn't mind so much when it was those evil axis dwellers, the Iranians).

All of these are reasons Saddam is a terrible human being, to be sure, but none of these make a compelling case for engaging in a protracted war followed by an even more protracted puppet government, which is sure to make the United States the internationally recognized imperial terrorist target even more so than it already is. Not to mention that the idea that the Iraqi people will be flooded with joy at their violently imposed new government is like saying that the Iranians sure enough loved the Shah when we had our hand up his ass. And for what? There is no evidence that maintaining the Kurdish protectorate in the north, tightening sanctions, and reinstituting weapons inspections would not be enough to curtail whatever indeterminate threats Iraq might pose to his neighbors.

Does anyone else notice that virtually all the people he supposedly threatens oppose the potentially greater destabilization of war? It would be better for Saddam not to be in charge of Iraq, but it is unfathomable to think that the U.S. might gain anything from going down the path of lawless, whimsical regime changes. Power wielded so loosely is hubris frosted in overkill. Doesn't Karl Rove watch "Behind the Music?"

The grand finale came when George Bush grudgingly caved to the fact that we couldn't garner support from a single ally in the world other than the Tony Blair, whose allegiance has been pocked marked with wishy-washy caveats. Surprising everyone, he seemed to be calling the international community on the carpet, calling everyone to the task of enforcing the spirit of a fierce United Nations obligation.

Of course, no one in the situation room seemed to plan for Iraq's complete agreement to the resumption inspections and their checkmating has forced the Bush administration to pull off the mask of collaboration and start loudly writing their names in the snow again. Bush seems to be saying "War, goddam you, I told all you international sissies that you could help us pay for a war or get the hell out of the way."

The rest of the world, not quite as eager to start killing people, had mistaken Mr. Bush's podium showmanship for a second chance at finding an alternate to apocalypse policy. In fact, even the consideration of any option other than war prompted Bush to remark, "It's time to determine if they will be a force for peace or an ineffective debating society." Take that, you bunch of girls. Apparently the work of diplomacy is beneath a man who believes his re-tooled image as some sort of moral savant in the body and mind of the Marlboro Man.

Don't look for a Democratic opposition any time soon. They're as scarce as the reasons for war and everyone hates to be considered yellow-bellied in a world where masculinity and patriotism are based on your willingness to drop bombs on foreign people whose governments piss you off. This is the era of redneck diplomacy, which is to say fully funded military-industrial bar brawls.

The next few weeks will bring out all the badly stitched excuses on why no amount of cooperation from Saddam Hussein can forestall the momentum of war. We've already made the T-shirts, the Pentagon will say. We've spent a couple of months preparing public opinion, Fox News will lament. And for the rest of us, we'll be forced to watch and wait for the unforeseen consequences of an approval-rating pole vault into the maw of death and destruction.

-- Tony
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