Along with probably a few billion others on this planet, I keep asking, “What’s the rush, Mr. President?” The Bush administration seems intent on going to war with Iraq over the objections of most nations. In the face of questioning from prominent leaders, we get few specifics. There is no evidence of an immediate threat to any of Iraq’s neighbors, let alone to the United States, yet the administration insists that it is urgent to act. Responding to the recent Iraqi offer of unconditional inspections, the administration virtually ridiculed the proposal, while most nations have held out the possibility of a peaceful solution to the current crisis.
We must ask, again, why the rush? In order to come to a conclusion, we must set the background. While it is true that the regime of Saddam Hussein is brutal and dictatorial, this is nothing new to the United States. Hussein was brutal and dictatorial when he was our ally. He bombed the Iranians and the Kurds with poison gas then, but little was said. So, brutality cannot be a reason for the urgency.
The Iraqi military is in disarray. Most observers have concluded that it is a shell of its 1991 self. The Iraqi air force has been virtually destroyed, and its missile capability is limited, certainly making it highly unlikely that Iraq could represent a threat to the United States. Further, there have been no indications of Iraqi troop movements on the ground signifying preparation for an invasion of a neighbor.
The Bush administration has made much of the possibility of an Iraqi nuclear or chemical/biological threat, but it has no current, credible information. In fact, when asked for such information the administration carries out a dance that would have made Fred Astaire proud.
The Bush administration has few allies on this foray. It has been able to convince Britain’s Tony Blair to support it, but this is tricky since Blair has so little domestic support for his stance. The Israelis support Bush, apparently with an interest in diverting world attention from their own war. No one else is with us. There is no force in the real world that is demanding immediate action on Iraq.
Finally, there is the credibility question facing the Bush administration when it demands that the United Nations act to ensure implementation of its resolutions.
But many nations, including Israel, have ignored significant United Nations resolutions, and the United States has never insisted upon implementation, let alone threatened war over such a failure.
So, we return to why the rush. As cynical as it may sound, the answer appears to be entirely political. As many predicted, the so-called war against terrorism is dragging on, becoming a guerrilla war in Afghanistan and an undefined campaign in other places. More importantly from the standpoint of politics, the November 2002 congressional elections are upon us and the issues that have received the most attention – the sluggish economy and corporate corruption – are not to the advantage of the Bush team. In other words, the administration seeks to refocus people’s attention on an external and allegedly imminent threat and keep their minds off issues that could strike at them and their families immediately.
So, the reality is that there is no reason to rush to war. Unfortunately, the war’s pretext has to do with keeping us oblivious to one fact: the Bush administration has a domestic agenda at odds with the interests of the vast majority of the electorate. Given this, the administration is prepared to lead a dash into potential disaster.
I hate to admit that the cynics were right on this one.
Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a long-time labor activist and currently president of TransAfricaForum.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org