The recent report by the Iraq weapons inspector prompted some commentators to fall into the “blame it on the CIA” trap that the Bush administration laid.
For instance, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that the report “removes any semblance of the Bush administration’s rationale for having gone to war in Iraq” and “removes any doubt about the need to overhaul this country’s intelligence community.”
They should have just said that the report “removes any semblance of the Bush administration’s publicly stated rationale.”
The real reason had nothing to do with a “threat” from Iraq, nor with intelligence failures. Just the opposite.
While the Bush administration had been amply warned about the danger from Bin Laden, they also knew that Iraq posed no threat to us, either before or after 9/11. Years of sanctions and weapons inspections, as Colin Powell said in February 2001, had kept Saddam Hussein “in his box,” unable to threaten his neighbors, let alone us.
The illegal assault on Iraq was not rooted in self-defense (let alone altruism), but in a totalitarian vision of America as ruler of the world, which a small cabal of neoconservatives had been trying to sell to every administration since the Cold War.
Finally they found a taker in the feckless George Bush, who put them in charge of the Pentagon. These zealots had long viewed a Gulf War-weakened Iraq as a good place to start their experiment in American Empire. All they needed was a “Pearl Harbor.” Then came 9/11.
As Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading neocons, admitted later, the administration had to find a way to convince the American people to support a preemptive strike on a country which hadn’t attacked us. They settled on weapons of mass destruction “for bureaucratic reasons” because, he said, “it was the one reason everyone could agree on.” There followed the massive propaganda blitz.
It’s plain now that it was not so much a case of intelligence blunders as it was intelligence manipulation. Just one example comes from James Bamford’s book, “A Pretext for War.” Bamford suggests that the CIA caved in to pressure from administration hard-liners, and quotes a CIA case officer who says that in January 2003 one of the agency’s higher-ups called a meeting and said: “You know what — if Bush wants to go to war it’s your job to give him a reason to do so.”
Had our foreign policy not been in the grip of the neocon ideologues who exploited Bin Laden’s attack for their own purposes, we could have concentrated our military, diplomatic and economic resources in an all-out effort, not only to bring Al Qaeda to justice, but to start to ameliorate the root causes of Islamic radicalism. Sympathetic governments would have helped us.
United Americans were ready to work together in such projects as the development of alternative fuel sources. We could have defended ourselves without resorting to a climate of fear, suspicion and divisiveness at home and around the world.
Of course, that would have deprived Karl Rove of his vision of never-ending conflict (and the fearful voters) he’s counting on to keep Republican “wartime presidents” ruling into perpetuity.
Here in Milwaukee, four days after the “no weapons” report was released came news of the death in Iraq of another 19-year-old from a small Wisconsin town. For what?
Perhaps the ultimate answer lies in the 40-year campaign corporate America has waged to turn our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” into a theo-oligarchy in the exclusive service of their ambitions for world dominance.
In the September Harper’s magazine, Lewis Lapham describes how “the basic American consensus” changed from “a liberal to a conservative bias.” From a vision of “capitalist jihad” unrolled by Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964, America’s corporate chieftains built a multi-million-dollar propaganda machine of conservative think tanks, media giants and foundations which they have used to steer unsuspecting Americans to the far right.
Under George W. Bush’s administration, with CEO compensation running many hundreds of times more than average worker pay, this cabal is well on its way to acquiring the goal of its own wholly-owned government “Of Us, By Us, For Us.”
Meantime America keeps marching soldiers off to an unnecessary war, like a society uncomprehendingly sacrificing its children to appease an imagined god in the volcano.
On Nov. 2, let’s hope that we the voters can perhaps start to redeem these tragic losses and, in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, assure “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Ann Germanson is a reader in Milwaukee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.