The Left Hook! Archive


Wed. March 19, 2003

War, Again

March 13 (Thurs.) -- With the Bush administration, it's just one spectacle after another; the next one more bizarre than the one before. "President" Bush's press conference, last week, tips the bizarro scale--it was what may be called the Press Conference of the Living Dead. Prepped by his handlers to stay calm, Bush came across as virtually comatose, speaking in a flat monotone and answering every question, regardless of its content, with the same handful of talking points; his usual litany of lies that the corporate press has allowed to stand uncorrected for seven months. In a move unprecedented in the history of these press conferences, the whole event was carefully scripted by the White House before it ever began. Those in the press who would be allowed to ask questions were determined beforehand, the order of the questioners was predetermined--Bush made no effort to conceal the fact that he was reading it off a card on the podium in front of him--and there were no follow-up questions allowed. No one has suggested that those in the press contingent had to submit their questions and have them approved beforehand, but no one who saw the "press conference" could possibly be surprised if that was, in fact, revealed to be the case. Such a screening process couldn't possibly have produced a softer, more pointless, or less relevant set of questions on the crisis at hand.  Bob Somerby, over at the Daily Howler, has written a good short piece about the "zombified" performance of the press corps.

What was billed as a "press conference," in other words, was nothing more than a White House propaganda show, with the "President" using the occasion only to hammer home, in cadence, the same nonsense he's been excreting for seven months now, and those in the corporate press acting as props in the venture.

Most disturbingly, those in the press, rather than making even a cursory effort to live up to their responsibility to act as a check on power, willingly accepted their assigned roles in this farce. This was supposed to be a press conference, being held on the verge of war by a "President" who has driven our country to that verge of war, and who avoids press conferences like the plague, and, under these circumstances, no objection was raised to any aspect of the staged nature of the event and no effort was made to ask even a single difficult question about anything. It would boggle the mind of the hardest-bitten cynic.

March 15 (Sat.) -- Yesterday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, asked the FBI to investigate the matter of forged documents used by the Bush administration to "prove" that Iraq had been trying to restart its nuclear program. For three months now, the administration has been waving around the documents in question as evidence that the Hussein regime had been shopping for uranium in Niger. On March 7, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei revealed the documents to be phonies. Sec. of State Colin Powell denied the administration had fabricated the documents, claiming they'd been provided by another country. An unnamed one, of course.

The "President" and his underlings have been desperate to find some evidence to support their increasingly wild allegations regarding Iraq, and, for months now, the press has been replete with stories of administration higher-ups putting the heat on the intelligence and law enforcement professionals to produce something that backs up the claims of the "President." Now, an explosive piece of evidence they've used to make their case turns out to be a fabrication. Did they fabricate it themselves? Did they really get it from a foreign government, which would suggest that the donor government was trying to drive the U.S. into a war? The corporate press couldn't possibly seem to care less. Though this is a potentially huge scandal, it has barely made a ripple in the corporate press. As usual.

[ElBaradaei was quite forceful in his presentation to the UN on March 7. He said flatly "There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities" in Iraq. He noted that inspectors had been through the sites designated as "suspect" by the administration with a fine tooth comb and "after three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq." He also used the occasion to once again deflate the administration's frequent claim that Iraq has been attempting to acquire aluminum tubes for use in a centrifuge enrichment process--the tubes in question were intended for the Iraqi rocket program.]

March 17 (Mon.) -- At the Night of the Living Dead Press Conference, only a few days ago, the "President" had this to say, about a UN resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq:

"Yes, we'll call for a vote no matter what the whip count is. You bet. It's time for people to show their cards and let people know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

A real cowboy, isn't he? Well, the cowboy turned out to be all hat and no cattle--he folded today, withdrawing the resolution without ever allowing it to come to a vote. John Negroponte, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, chalked up the withdrawal to the threat by France to veto any such resolution: "We regret that in the face of an explicit threat to veto, the vote-counting became a secondary consideration." This is about as close to the truth as anything else we get from Negroponte, who earned his position in the current administration by pimping for Central American terrorists during the 1980s. What he doesn't want anyone to know about the resolution in question is that it would have never been vetoed by France, Russia, or anyone  else, because it never had enough support to make invoking a veto necessary. It was thrown overboard merely to allow the "President" to pretend as though his actions have some level of legality beyond that of a rogue state looking to pillage another nation: he's going to enforce the UN's resolutions, he's been telling us, whether the UN likes it or not. This is, of course, a preposterous position, which would have been made even more cartoonish (and would have forced the press to finally confront the issue) if the UN had proactively voted against an invasion.

March 17 (Mon.) -- Tonight, the "President" went on nationwide television with more of his cowboy talk. Like the villain in a B-Western, Saddam Hussein and his sons have now been given 48 hours to get outta' town. Leave Iraq, or face a U.S. invasion, which will, of course, occur, no matter what Hussein and his sons decide. The address was unremarkable--Bush's stock litany of lies from the last seven months. One genuinely hilarious moment occured when he addressed the Iraqis themselves: "...all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people." That's right--he told them not to destroy the oil wells before telling them they shouldn't use weapons of mass destruction (the Iraqis have reportedly been rigging the wells with explosives). A revealing look at the priorities of the "President."

March 18 (Tues.) -- One of Bush's stock lies from last night is worth addressing further: The idea that his administration has been forced into a war by Saddam Hussein. "Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation," he said, "the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it."

In reality, the birth of the Iraq war can be found in a group of individuals organized, in the 1990s, as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The individuals comprising PNAC are a collection of real-life Dr. Strangeloves, who present an utopian vision of a 21st century wherein the U.S. government exercises total dominion over the earth (benevolent dominion, in their formulation, of course), and goes stomping all over the world proactively snuffing out any potential future competitor, and crushing any nation not sufficiently subservient to its interests. The group's "statement of principles" (which calls their approach a "Reaganite policy") says they "aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership."

It would be easy to write this off as the work of Cold-War-era lunatic fringe cranks (which is exactly what it is) were it not for the fact that a good deal of PNAC's name membership roster has been placed in high positions in the Bush administration, or are otherwise connected to it. These include Vice President Dick Cheney; Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby; Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld; Deputy Defense Sec. Paul Wolfowitz; Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan then to opposition groups inside Iraq; John Bolton, Undersecretary of State; Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Jeb Bush, the brother of the "President"; Elliot Abrams, Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations at the National Security Council (there are many others, as well--they fill the upper echelons of the administration).

The PNAC gang's mad fever-dream of world domination is the real origin of the Iraqi conflict. They've been advancing it for a decade now, long before the existence of either the present Bush administration or the PNAC organization itself. Properly speaking, it began during the first Bush administration with a 1992 draft plan created by Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Libby which called for a "new order, imposed by the U.S. on the world. The U.S. government, it says, should take measures to prevent the rise of any potential rival power--"deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role," in the words of the document. This objective, the plan says, "is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union and Southwest Asia." After the draft had been leaked to the press, causing a minor scandal, the administration rejected it and moved on.

That wasn't the end of it, though. The ideas embodied in the rejected draft percolated for years in the right-wing circles that would eventually coalesce into PNAC. For example, Zalmay Khalilzad penned a pamphlet advancing them in 1995 ("From Containment to Global Leadership?")--it recommended that the U.S. government "preclude the rise of another global rival for the indefinite future." The notion resurfaced a year later in a Foreign Affairs article by right-wing writers Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan (both of whom would later become founding members of PNAC). Entitled "Towards a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," it advanced the notion that the goal of the U.S. government should be a "benevolent global hegemony" (Of couse, a real "Reaganite" policy would have little to do with benevolence).  In 1997, PNAC was founded, with Kristol as the chairman. Kristol is the editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard, and December saw a cover-story in that publication called "Saddam Must Go," with articles on the theme by PNAC-ers Zalmay Khalilzad, Paul Wolfowitz, Frederick Kagan, and Peter Rodman. A few weeks later, the group was lobbying for a U.S. attack on Iraq, recommending that such an attack should occur even if against the wishes of the United Nations or our allies.

In 2000, PNAC produced its magnum opus: "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for the New Century." Prepared for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Jeb Bush, the document traced its lineage directly from the rejected 1992 draft plan, calling for world domination by the United States government, the military muscle to back it up, and the will to use it. Here, the organization placed its call for an attack on Iraq in context, as just another part of their plan:

"...the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Something to keep in mind next time the "President" begins ranting about non-existent Iraqi connections to al Qaida or likely non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as the reasons for war. By 2002, Bush had brought matters full circle, with the publication of his National Security Strategy of the United States, a document which finally enshrines, as official policy, the insane plan for world domination rejected by the first Bush administration a decade earlier.

BTW, the PNAC-ers, in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks on the U.S., pounced on the occasion like sharks after bleeding meat, forcefully arguing that this was an opportunity that should be exploited in order to attack Iraq, even if Iraq had nothing to do with it. Within hours of the last plane striking the World Trade Center, and with the knowledge that it had, in fact, been an al Qaida operation, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz began scheming on how to stir up an invasion of Iraq. Rumsfeld put the matter to the "President" the next day. Within six days, Bush had signed an order that gave birth to the conflict with Afghanistan. Included in it was a directive that the Pentagon should begin drawing up plans for an attack on Iraq. When Perle's Defense Policy Board met at the Pentagon on Sept. 19th and 20th, they "animatedly discussed the importance of ousting Hussein," according to the Washington Post (1/12/03). This is how the present war on Iraq was born. After the terror attacks on the U.S., it was suddenly posssible to make embracing the mad dreams of the PNAC-ers politically beneficial, and Karl Rove, Bush's hotshot political advisor and the real driving force behind the administration, is never one to let such an opportunity pass.

The rest, as they say, is history. History that should be remembered the next time the "President" goes on television and talks about how he's been somehow forced into a war by Saddam Hussein.

March 19 (Wed.) -- Well, it seems the shooting has started. Don your hip waders, and pass the popcorn--Operation Elect Bush in 2004 is underway.


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