George Bush said in his address to the nation on October 7 that the United States “has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history’s course.”
Apparently, Bush accidentally left out part of this sentence in his talk in Cincinnati.
The statement is true with one small qualification: The U.S. has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history’s course if the brutal and lawless were not based in Washington or properly subordinated to U.S. interests.
The U.S. and its allies (Iraq under Hussein when he was a “friend,” Indonesia under Suharto, Israel under numerous governments, and a long list of others) must have a monopoly on the legitimate use of brutality and lawlessness on the world stage, and particularly in the Middle East.
Iraq’s real crime is that it challenged this monopoly by invading Kuwait in 1990 without U.S. backing (which Iraq had for its attack on Iran and its repression at home, as well).
Competition in the field of lawlessness and brutality is strictly forbidden.
Bush tried to sell the war on Iraq with high-sounding rhetoric. He quoted John F. Kennedy: “Neither the United States of America, nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small.”
Yet, setting aside Kennedy’s own history of brutal wars and intimidation, Bush’s October 7 speech was precisely an offensive threat based on deliberate deception.
Bush is threatening to “pre-emptively” attack a nation and change its government based on its potential capacity to some day possibly support or carry out a terrorist attack.
To convince people of this twisted logic, the Bush administration — with the Democrats quickly lining up behind — is lying to the public about Iraq’s connections to al-Qaeda and the evidence that it has developed its weapons program.
In his speech, Bush made five explicit references to September 11, even though no connection exists between Iraq and the attacks of thirteen months ago.
And Bush continued to lie about U.S. motivations for the war.
In his speech, Bush claimed that he is motivated by a desire to see democracy in Iraq and by the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.”
“America is a friend to the people of Iraq,” he explained.
But the people of Iraq have good reason to feel otherwise.
As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times noted in an unusual October 4 report from Baghdad, “while ordinary Iraqis were very friendly … they were enraged at the U.S. after 11 years of economic sanctions.”
Iraqis have good reason to be angry at the U.S. government, Kristof noted, particularly since “U.S. bombing of water treatment plants, difficulties importing purification chemicals like chlorine (which can be used for weapons), and shortages of medicines [have] led to a more than doubling of infant mortality.”
Another war on Iraq will lead to even more civilian casualties and damage to Iraq’s infrastructure.
We should recall the impact of the last war.
Gulf War veteran Anthony Swofford, a former Marine corporal, writing in the New York Times, October 2, offered a small reminder of the reality of that war: “From the ground, I witnessed the savage results of American air superiority: tanks and troop carriers turned upside down and ripped inside out; rotten, burned, half-buried bodies littering the desert like the detritus of years — not weeks — of combat.”
Bush’s real interests in this war are not the Iraq people, or defending Americans from attack, but expanding U.S. domination of the world.
The Bush administration sees regime change in Iraq as part of a broader effort to redraw the map of the Middle East and extend U.S. control of this geopolitically critical region, home to two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves.
Given Bush’s real agenda, it is not surprising that opposition to the war is growing around the world. But the key to stopping Bush’s war is at home.
The potential for building a broad antiwar movement in the United States is significant.
A New York Times opinion poll this week found that 70 percent of those polled would rather Congress talked more about the dismal state of the U.S. economy than about attacking Iraq. And 53 percent think Bush is actually more interested in regime change than Iraq’s weapons.
This skepticism is significant. To reach a wider audience, we will have to expose each of Bush’s lies, recalling the lies that were told to get us into he last major assault on Iraq in 1991 (babies ripped from incubators in Kuwait, Iraqi troops amassed on the Saudi border, not “letting aggression stand”).
And we will have to dynamically and creatively link the real issues facing working people in the U.S. — health care, jobs, education — and the methodical drive to war.
A broad, democratic, active struggle is needed if we are going to prevent this war — and keep the brutal and lawless in Washington from setting history’s course.
Anthony Arnove is the editor of Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. An updated edition of the book will be available soon from South End Press. He also recently wrote “The Case Against Bush’s War,” available on ZNet and the web site of the International Socialist Review.