WHAT WE THINK
September 13, 2002 | Page 3
THE TRAIN is leaving the station, so get on board. Or else. That's the message that George W. Bush will deliver to the world's governments in his planned speech at the United Nations (UN) on September 12. The wording will be different.
In the days leading up to September 11, the White House launched a sweeping propaganda offensive in defense of its war drive on Iraq. There was Dick Cheney and other officials, of course, saturating the airwaves with the absurd claim that Saddam Hussein is close to obtaining nuclear weapons.
But the main thrust of the operation was to show that Bush's gang is willing to ask for support for its war plans--from Congress or allied governments around the world.
They'll ask. But there will only be one option. As an administration official told Britain's Guardian, "The UN has to decide--it's either part of the problem, or it's part of the solution."
Incredibly, Bush's pledge to ask Congress for authorization for a war--and the deal struck with lapdog British Prime Minister Tony Blair to allow Britain to round up international support by giving the UN "one last chance"--was seen by some commentators as evidence that the administration was backing down from its "go-it-alone" strategy.
No one should be fooled. Whatever rhetoric Bush uses at the UN this week about acting together will be a cover--for his administration's determination to wield U.S. military power more aggressively than ever before.
As antiwar and progressive author Michael Parenti told the International Socialist Review, "While the rest of us, you and I, saw September 11 as a horrible, horrible tragedy, [the White House] saw it as a golden opportunity."
Led by Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, military hard-liners who were considered crackpots a few years ago now dominate the administration, and they've seized on September 11 as the excuse for trying to usher in a new era in U.S. policy.
The U.S. is already the world's overwhelming military superpower. But the hawks want Washington to use this power--on a much wider scale and according to a new set of rules. Their argument is that the U.S. is way ahead, but that it will only maintain its edge by showing its willingness to take military action against even the appearance of a future threat.
This is why talk of a "pre-emptive" war against Iraq is all the rage in Washington--with Rumsfeld declaring that the U.S. doesn't need to show evidence of the existence of "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq since the "absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence."
Out the window are some of the basic ways that the U.S. government has conducted foreign policy--from consideration of the instability unleashed when the U.S. takes military action, to the efforts to give a legitimate cloak to intervention with the agreement of international institutions like the UN, or at least Washington's main allies in Europe and Japan.
The Cheney-Rumsfeld gang want to head off any challenge to U.S. power for decades to come--from "rogue states" and allies alike--no matter what the cost. Yet this attempt to usher in a new era of U.S. hyper-power will create explosive conflicts.
For one thing, the U.S. would have to shoulder a huge financial burden at a time when the American economy is suffering through severe problems--which can only mean making working people pay for the war. More importantly, every arrogant step taken by the U.S. military only sows more anger and desperation around the world--which won't be contained forever by brute force.
Leading voices within the Washington establishment recognize the risks. That's the crux of the debate about Bush's war drive that broke into the open among leading figures like former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
But the debate is extremely narrow--a disagreement between friends over tactics. The establishment voices that criticize the White House today will be on board when Washington goes to war on Iraq.
Far more important than the debate at the top are the growing doubts about the war drive among ordinary people. Every poll coming into September has shown a decline in support for any military action against Iraq--and outright opposition among a majority if the U.S. doesn't have the support of the UN or European governments.
This is why Bush met with Blair last week and why he'll appeal to the "international community" in his UN speech--to make it seem like the U.S. is seeking approval for its war. But behind this curtain of rhetoric will be the iron fist of U.S. military power.
Washington wants a war on Iraq, and it will go to any length to get one. But it won't go unopposed. More and more people question Bush's war drive--and are prepared to do something about it. On college campuses especially, antiwar activists have found a new audience.
The need to build antiwar groups is urgent. But this will require taking up the political questions of the war. Washington wants to use the war on Iraq to demonstrate that the U.S. is the world's super-cop--and no resolution from the UN will change that.
Washington's war makers arrogantly claim the right to determine the fate of people around the globe--to decide which regimes stand, and which ones fall--no matter what the human cost. It's time to step up the fight against the Bush war machine.