The Road To War
April 19, 2002
Sometime this fall, probably before the mid-term elections, the U.S. will likely be at war with Iraq. Not because Iraq is a threat to our security or engaged in terrorism. It will happen because more than a decade ago a small cabal of political heavyweights in the administration of George Bush the First sat down and drew up a blueprint to rule the world. X-File fantasies? Not unless the New Yorker Magazine has decided to join the “I was abducted by aliens” crowd.
In the magazine’s April 1, 2002 edition writer Nicholas Lemann records one of the downright scariest set of interviews to appear in print since Richard Nixon’s Oval Office ravings about nuclear war. In them, the key movers and shakers in the present Bush Administration lay out the plan they have been following since Sept. 11, a plan that will that launch this country into a series of regional wars aimed at insuring that the U.S. will remain the supreme power in the world.
Almost before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney called together a group of players to chart out a strategy for the post-Cold War world. The names should be familiar, because they run the present administration: Sec. Of Defense William Rumsfeld; Dep. Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Sec. Of State Colin Powell; And Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.
The goal was to “shape” the world in order to, in the words of another team member, Zalmay Khalizad (now special envoy to Afghanistan), “preclude the rise of another global rival for the indefinite future.” In his book “From Containment to Global Leadership?” Khalizad argues that it is “vital” to prevent such a rival from developing and “to be willing to use force if necessary” to stop it.
The tone of these people is chilling. Our allies are cast as a bunch of lily-livered whiners, international agreement are dismissed as straitjackets, and the “enemy”portrayed as a mob of wogs, easily scattered by a show of cold steel. In his Middle East briefing of senior White House staff, Bernard Lewis of Princeton (another “team” member) argued that “in that part of the world nothing matters more than resolute force and will.” Homework was undoubtedly the collected works of Cecil Rhodes and Rudyard Kipling.
When Bush addressed the nation Sept. 20, he called on the American people and our allies to join a “war on terrorism.” But in the intervening six months, the goals of that war have changed drastically. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told Lemann that the policy was not just to go after terrorists, but to prevent the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction in “the hands of irresponsible states.”
This is a handy little distinction, because on Feb. 5 the CIA said there was no evidence Iraq has engaged in any terrorism directed at the US or its allies. And while the Administration has trumpeted the fact that Iraq stopped all arms inspections three years ago, no one outside of Washington (with the exception of British Prime Minister Tony Blair) actually thinks Iraq has such weapons. As Scott Ritter, former head of the United Nations Special Commission on Concealment says, “It was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, strictly from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed.”
Would it make a difference if Iraq agreed to inspections? Nope. When asked that question by CNN, Powell replied that “even then the United States believes the Iraqi people would be better served with a new kind of leadership.”
The latest rationale for invasion is that Iraq has ties with Al Qaeda, a charge based more on tortured logic than intelligence. CIA Director George Tenet told Congress last month that, while there was no evidence that such ties exist, still and all, the “mutual antipathy” that the two had for the U.S. “suggests that tactical cooperation between the two is possible.” If one can find two flimsier words than “suggests” and “possible” to launch a war, I would love to hear them.
The lack of evidence linking Iraq to terrorism is deeply disturbing to our allies. Even Bush’s strongest ally, Great Britain, is split on an invasion. More than 122 Labor Members of Parliament have signed a petition opposing any attack.
By shifting the target from terrorism to weapons that might fall into the hands of terrorists, virtually any county on earth becomes a target. The Administration has already lined up Syria, Iran, Somalia and the Sudan once Iraq is toppled. The fact that invading any of these countries would violate international law and the UN charter doesn’t faze the White House. But there will be a cost for all this.
As Canada’s Foreign Minister Bill Graham said, “Nobody is supporting Saddam Hussein, but everyone recognizes in international politics you have to have a process where, before you invade a sovereign country, there has to be a reason for it, or we are going to lead to international chaos.”