The Left Hook! Archive


Mon., Sept. 23, 2002


"Forget the Hype;

It's all about Politics"

Forget the hype; it's all about politics.

Quite a suggestion, that. One can scarcely get one's mind around the concept of a massive war of aggression, with thousands upon thousands of lives at stake, for partisan political purposes. Your sickeningly cynical editor, with his growing distaste for this administration, can't even convince himself of it. It sounds like the lowest grade of hysterical conspiracist raving. Something barely even worth considering.

Still, a lot of recent items have begged the question. At the very least, it can be said that partisan politics are clearly playing too heavy a role in what's happening.

Supporters of the "President" have exploited our natural tendency to be skeptical of assigning such motives to such a weighty matter, making a great show of being offended by the suggestion. That's the song Republican strategist Ed Gillespie was singing on MSNBC's Donahue program Thursday:

In terms of the timing of this, y'know, it is reprehensible to suggest that the timing of the debate over Iraq and our decision toward Iraq is timed toward the election, and, in fact, it would be more reprehensible to suggest that we should movie it back past the election 'til the next congress when there's information out there that says that this man, Saddam Hussein, is acquiring the possibility of having biochemical weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons. That would be the height of irresponsibility.

If you believe, as those in the administration say they do, that an Iraqi nuclear weapon is imminent, and an imminent threat, how responsible is it to create a marketing strategy to sell that idea to the public then delay unleashing that strategy for months while this imminent threat becomes, presumably, even more imminent? No one on Donahue asked that question of the professionally outraged Mr. Gillespie, but, as related in Left Hook! on Sept. 10, that's exactly what the "President" and his underlings did. Key figures in the administration spoke openly to the New York Times about developing the get-the-public-behind-a-war strategy then delaying its implementation. They were murky on when it came into being, but they were very clear that it was months earlier. They didn't admit that the delay was for the purpose of manipulating the elections, but they did say the goal of the strategy was a vote approving the use of force "in the next four to five weeks," which conveniently dropped the debate over such approval right in the final stretch of an election campaign about which the White House has already exhibited a great deal of anxiety.[1]

Outside of partisan political considerations, is there any other conceivable explanation for this? The ever-so-skeptical Times never even raised the question (the reporter, Elisabeth Bumiller, opted, instead, to act as a stenographer for a lot of eyewash from the administration regarding the timing of the thing).

It could, of course, be that Bush, acting as a Machiavellian thug, simply feels putting this in the middle of a contentious political campaign is the best way to go about getting approval for an invasion he legitimately feels needs to occur. If that's the case, though, why won't the "President" offer any real reason for an invasion? We can presume that, if he legitimately feels it is necessary, those feelings aren't based on wind. There must be evidence. Instead of giving it to us, we seen, over the past few weeks and months, every "justification" under the sun dragged out and trial-balloned. In every case, these have gone up in smoke. The embarrassing spectacle of the "President" and the British Prime Minister lying about the contents of an IAEA report. Misrepresenting commercial sattelite photos. Nonsense, by the gallon. The delay in initiating the marketing campaign clearly suggests that those in the administration have no real concerns about Saddam's alleged imminent development of nuclear weapons. Could they legitimately believe this is a danger but are overstating the matter in order to gain approval for the use of force? Mere paranoia is certainly no justification for a full-scale invasion of another country. If there's any persuasive evidence for the administration's allegations regarding Iraq, the public being asked to rally behind a military adventure has a right to it. None has been forthcoming.

However gruesome the thought, it's necessary to give some serious consideration to the extent to which this "President's" Iraq policy is about domestic politics. The Bush administration inherited an unresolved situation in Iraq from two previous administrations. The "President" and his underlings give every indication that they're intentionally manipulating it for political gain. Imagine this thought floating around inside the collective craniums of Team Bush: "It has to have some kind of resolution; why not do it in a way that benefits us?"

One of the officials who spoke to the New York Times about the marketing campaign was the "President's" ace political advisor Karl Rove. For nearly a year now, Rove has been working furiously behind the scenes to exploit the War On Terrorism for partisan political purposes.[2] In January, Rove appeared at a Republican National Commitee meeting in Austin and layed out what he felt should be the parties' message for the November elections: "Win the war, protect the homeland, and revive the economy." Rove very explicitly urged Republicans to exploit these issues:

Americans trust the Republicans to do a better job of keeping our communities and our families safe... We can also go to the country on [the War On Terrorism] because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America.

Earlier this summer, it was revealed that Rove and White House political director Kenneth Mehlman had prepared a confidential analysis of the 2002 campaign for the Republicans. Their presentation, prepared at a time when the administration was already working on its Iraq marketing strategy, stressed that Republican candidates should--as a means of "maintain[ing] a positive issue environment"--"focus on war."

Concurrent with this, the administration spent months equating Iraq, through insinuation, with international terrorism in general and the terrorist attack on the U.S. in particular. As those who made them were well aware, these insinuations are unsupported by any evidence, and the only reason for making them is to allow the administration to do an end-run around justifying a war with Iraq. If people can be made to believe Iraq was somehow responsible for the terror attack on the U.S., it would no longer matter that no evidence exists to justify the various specific charges offered as a reason for war; public anger alone would generate support for an attack and there would no longer be any need to provide any real justification. Just initiate a marketing strategy that stresses the "link" and watch the poll numbers rise.[3]

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail:

"Across the country, GOP House and Senate candidates are emphasizing the possibility of war in Iraq, either touting their support for Bush or highlighting their opponents' reservations--past or present--about military strikes against the Baghdad regime, according to several candidates and party strategists."
--Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2002


[1] Among other things, Bush's fundraising has been almost desperately prodigious--he's raised over $100 million for the Republicans in this election cycle, compared to $39 million raised by Clinton for his party at the same point in his administration.

[2] Less than two weeks before Rove's appearance before the RNC, the "President" told a town meeting in California:

"The nation is united and there is a resolve and a spirit that is just so fantastic to feel. And I am obviously grateful to be the president of such a strong and vibrant land. We have responded to the issues abroad with unanimity and clarity of purpose and resolve."

[3] The administration's efforts, in this regard--and the absolute refusal of much of the corporate press to combat them--have been remarkably successful. An Aug. 23 Gallup poll showed that 53% of respondents believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the terror attacks on the U.S. An incredible 86% of respondents said they believed Saddam Hussein is supporting terror groups planning attacks upon the U.S. Having implanted these ideas, administration officials now say making war on Iraq is a natural next step of the War On Terrorism--a major theme of their marketing strategy.

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