[saymaListserv] From England: The Guardian Opinion Column
listener at bellsouth.net
Wed Oct 9 21:30:23 JEST 2002
Subject: From England
The Guardian, U.K.
America's Great Misleader
Bush's arguments strain the limits of plausibility to justify war on Iraq,
and this, says Simon Tisdall, means regime change is imperative - in
Tuesday October 8, 2002
The refusal of the three main US television networks to give live coverage to President George Bush's address to the nation on Iraq affords an intriguing insight into the way the American "war" debate is developing. Hardly a day now passes without Mr Bush or his officials stressing the urgency of the supposed Iraqi threat and the vital importance of confronting it now. To listen to the president, one might think that it is the only issue
that matters - and that the affairs of the nation are otherwise in perfect order.
In his speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr Bush employed what might in British parlance be termed the kitchen sink approach. In other words, he threw just about everything he had at the target, including domestic appliances. In his opening paragraph alone, for example, he linked the words "Iraq" and "terror" or "terrorism" on no fewer than four occasions. This despite the fact that the administration's evidence of links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the September 11 al-Qaida murderers is paper-thin.
In spelling out the dangers posed by terrorism, which may be defined as the use of fear and violence to attain political ends, Mr Bush used fear and the threat of violence to promote his policy. Since when has it been the proper function of an American president to scare the children? But with his claim that Iraq might use unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) for biological and chemical weapons attacks "targeting the United States", he strayed into the realms of horror-movie fantasy.
It would be useful to know what plausible evidence the administration has for suggesting that "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists ... This could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving fingerprints".
As a matter of fact, rather than propaganda, the administration has no such evidence, only suppositions - for although Saddam is bad, he is not mad.
It would be helpful to understand what purpose is served by over-stating Iraq's missile capability, and postulating the theoretical possibility of Iraqi attacks on countries such as Turkey. Mr Bush's advisers surely know that Iraq has no motive for such attacks, that its deputy prime minister was visiting Ankara only the other day, and that Israel's chief of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi, (who should know), says he doubts
Iraq has the capability for such actions.
Even as he threatened to wage open-ended war, Mr Bush insisted that his administration's purpose is "to secure the peace" - apparently oblivious to the intrinsic contradiction contained in the two statements. He said the White House "did not ask for this present challenge". But as all the world, and the American public, increasingly suspects, it is a challenge Mr Bush has deliberately chosen to dramatise and prioritise.
That Saddam is a serious problem is hardly a new idea. That, suddenly, the US must without delay start a full-scale war in the Middle East to topple him most certainly is. Mr Bush said that if Saddam did not comply with the almost impossible preconditions that the US is insisting upon in the UN security council, America would act "with allies at our side". This is disingenuous, to say the very least. The US does not have the support of traditional allies in Europe or the former Gulf war allies in the Arab world for anything that smacks of precipitate or unilateral action, let alone "regime change". Nor is it likely to obtain it.
Only Tony Blair's British government is on board the Bush bandwagon - and even in Britain, polls show a majority of people are opposed to military action. Americans who worry that the US is going out on a limb in terms of democratic opinion, international law and pra> ctical military concerns are right to do so.
Mr Bush even went so far as to purloin the words of John F Kennedy and suggest that what the US is now facing is akin to the Cuban missile crisis. That is a gross exaggeration of the position. It is at odds with the known facts. As such, it is misleading and unnecessarily, irresponsibly alarming to the American people. This is not leadership in the Churchillian style that Mr Bush professes to admire. It is mere demagoguery.
The television networks were plainly unimpressed. And so, too, are a growing number of Americans. The more Mr Bush presses his case, and the more the people listen to him and analyse his case, the more unconvinced they become.
The latest in a raft of opinion polls, taken by the New York Times and CBS News, shows clearly that American common sense is beginning to eclipse the president's over-excited rhetoric Majorities of those interviewed believe that Mr Bush is spending too much time on Iraq; that the same goes for a sheepish, supine Congress; that other
problems are being ignored; that the economy is heading south even as the troops head east; that a broad coalition of countries is an essential prerequisite for military action; and that a war could have unpredictable,dangerous consequences for the region and the wider world.
Most sensibly of all, Americans who rightly believe that the main, present and urgent threat to US security emanates from the al-Qaida network and its sympathisers wonder why Mr Bush is trying to shift the focus to Iraq. Al-Qaida is still out there. It is undefeated. It is probably planning more outrages. It may be found in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, perhaps in the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. But not in Iraq.
The bottom-line question that will not go away, and which was left unanswered in Cincinnati, is what is driving Mr Bush down this path? Is it a desire to draw attention away from his poor to chronic domestic policy record? Is it an attempted diversion from the stock market collapse, America's rising unemployment and its corporate malfeasance scandals? Is it all about oil? Or the mid-term elections? Or his own re-election bid in 2004? Or is it a personal, Bush family vendetta against Saddam?
Any one of these explanations makes more sense than far-fetched claims that Saddam is planning attacks on the most powerful nation in the history of the world, attacks that would certainly be traced back to him and would result in his utter annihilation.
As this American debate develops, Mr Bush is starting to lose the argument. Perhaps he will listen. But perhaps he will go ahead anyway. In which case, the necessity for regime change does indeed become overwhelming.
Regime change in Washington, that is.
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