Fending Off The Threat Of Peace


To
fend off the threat of peace, determination is necessary. Elected
officials and high-level appointees must work effectively with reporters
and pundits. This is no time for the U.S. government to risk taking
“yes” for an answer from Iraq. Guarding against the danger
of peace, the Bush administration has moved the goal posts, quickly
pounding them into the ground. 

In
early August, a State Department undersecretary swung a heavy mallet.
“Let there be no mistake,” said John Bolton. “While
we also insist on the reintroduction of the weapons inspectors,
our policy at the same time insists on regime change in Baghdad—and
that policy will not be altered, whether inspectors go in or not.” 

The
U.S. Congress got a public invitation. A letter from a top Iraqi
official said  “congressional visitors and weapons experts
of their choice could visit any site in Iraq alleged to be used
for development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons,”
USA Today reported. 

Summing
up the diplomatic overture, the front page of the New
York Times informed readers that the letter “was
apparently trying to pit legislators against the Bush administration”
(a pithy phrase helping to quash a dastardly peace initiative).
Later on, the article noted, “the letter said members of Congress
could bring all the arms experts they wanted and should plan to
stay three weeks.” 

There
may have been a moment of panic in Washington. On the face of it,
the August 5 invitation was unequivocally stating that members of
the Senate and House—plus some of the best and most experienced
weapons inspectors in the world—could go to Iraq and engage
in a thorough inspection process. That’s similar to what the
White House has been demanding of Iraq for many years. 

The
news had ominous potential. It could derail the war train gaining
so much momentum this summer. But U.S. media coverage matched the
bipartisan refusal by leaders in Congress to do anything but scorn
the offer. 

Even
before describing the invitation from Iraq’s government, the
first words of a USA Today news story on August 6 called
it “the latest Iraqi bid to complicate U.S. invasion plans.”
That’s some reporting. When our most powerful politicians are
hell-bent on starting a war, complete with human misery and death
of unfathomable proportions, then the last thing they want is complications
before the bloodshed gets underway. 

Why
should anyone in Washington try to defuse this crisis when we have
such a clear opportunity to light such an enormous fuse in the Middle
East? 

Sure,
here at home, there are always some people eager to unleash the
dogs of peace. Not content to pray, they actually believe: Blessed
are the peacemakers. They don’t defer to the machinery of war
that grinds human beings as if they were mere sausage. They don’t
make peace with how determined the Executive Branch must be—and
how sheepish and even cowardly the members of Congress must be—so
that the bombs can fall in all their glory. 

One
of the people who is trying to impede the war drive is Scott Ritter,
a former chief weapons inspector for the UN in Iraq. “To date,”
Ritter says, “the Bush administration has been unable—or
unwilling—to back up its rhetoric concerning the Iraqi threat
with any substantive facts.” 

In
Britain, the press is failing to welcome the next war. On August
4 in the Observer, foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont
wrote: “The question now appears to be not whether there will
be a war, but when. The answer is that in war, as other matters,
timing is all. For President George W. Bush that timing will be
dictated by the demands of a domestic political agenda.” 

A
news story in the July 30 edition of the Financial Times
began this way: “Rolf Ekeus, head of United Nations weapons
inspections in Iraq from 1991-97, has accused the U.S. and other
Security Council members of manipulating the U.N. inspections teams
for their own political ends. The revelation by one of the most
respected Swedish diplomats is certain to strengthen Iraq’s
argument against allowing U.N. inspectors back into the country.” 

Such
reporting, if widely pursued on this side of the Atlantic, could
seriously undermine the war planners. But don’t worry. The
threat of peace is up against good old professional news judgment
here in the U.S.                    Z 


Norman
Solomon’s latest book is
The Habits of Highly Deceptive
Media. His syndicated column focuses on media and politics.