'The Fact They Believe Our Lies Is Good Enough for Me,' Pundit Claims

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In
defense of his position that most Americans favor an attack on Iraq,
Andrew Sullivan writes:
“I’d say 81 percent [the support shown in a Newsweek poll
from October 2001] is pretty decisive. The notion that Americans
need to be apprised of Saddam’s threat, have not thought about the
pros and cons of war, and need a thorough from-scratch debate about
this is self-evidently silly.”

There
is a curious phenomenon at work here. The neoconservative/neoliberal
press and the Bush administration hawks run a campaign to link Iraq
to the September 11 and the anthrax attacks, whether or not the
evidence shows such a link. They exaggerate the threat Iraq presents
to the US. Sullivan pitches in regularly to assist this propaganda
campaign. The campaign having succeeded, he then cites the opinions
of the people he and his friends have deceived to illustrate that
there is no need for further debate on the subject!

Where
is my evidence? Look at this story
on a recent opinion poll:

The
poll, published in USA Today, showed 53% of Americans answering
yes to the question “Should ground troops be sent to the Persian
Gulf to remove Saddam Hussein from power?” and 41% against.
This
contrasts with the majority of 61-31 when the question was asked
two months ago and 74-20 in November.
Some
analysts believe this is still provides a satisfactory base on
which to swing support behind the president, as is traditional
when war actually breaks out.
The
poll also showed that 94% believe that President Saddam either
has weapons of mass destruction or is developing them, 86% believe
he is supporting terrorist groups intending to attack the US,
and 53% believe he was involved in the September 11 attacks.

So
most Americans believe Hussein has or will soon have “weapons of
mass destruction.”* But what about the opinion
of someone who has actually been in Iraq for a great length of time?
Someone whose activities give him better knowledge of Iraq’s threat
than anyone but Iraqi military leaders? Someone who has no reason
to be biased in favor of Iraq or against the Bush administration,
having fought for America in the Gulf War and voted for Bush? That
man, Scott Ritter, says:

But
all of this [knowledge of how to build weapons] is useless…unless
Iraq has access to the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars
required to rebuild the industrial infrastructure (necessary)
to build these weapons. They didn’t have it in 1998. They don’t
have it today. This paranoia about what Iraq is doing now that
there aren’t weapons inspectors reflects a lack of understanding
of the reality in Iraq…. I, for one, believe that a.) Iraq represents
a threat to no one, and b.) Iraq will not represent a threat to
anyone if we can get weapons inspectors back in. Iraq will accept
these inspectors if we agree to the immediate lifting of economic
sanctions.

So,
oops, it seems most Americans are wrong on that one! But of course,
the war hawks keep telling them that Iraq either has, or is just
on the verge of having, some terrible weapon or another, so it’s
not all that surprising they are confused.

How
about the 53% who think Iraq was involved in the September 11th
attacks? The obvious question would be, “Believe it based on what
evidence?” The only evidence I’ve seen, and the only evidence I
believe most Americans have seen, is, curiously enough, mere assertions
and innuendoes from… the Iraq war hawks, like Sullivan. There
was, for instance, the infamous day that the NY Post ran
a headline
implying that it had been definitely discovered that
the anthrax attacks originated in Iraq, when the story behind the
headline turned out to be pure speculation. There is the vague rumor
of a meeting between Atta and some Iraqi agent in Prague. And there
is the repeated assertion that Iraq must be involved: Hey,
Saddam is bad, isn’t he?

Sullivan
has enthusiastically participated in this campaign of yellow journalism.
Look at this
post
, written before there was any evidence whatsoever of where
the anthrax attacks had originated:

At
this point, it seems to me that a refusal to extend the war to
Iraq is not even an option. We have to extend it to Iraq. It is
by far the most likely source of this weapon; it is clearly willing
to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism
of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi
threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally,
a Rubicon has been crossed. The terrorists have launched a biological
weapon against the United States. They have therefore made biological
warfare thinkable and thus repeatable. We once had a doctrine
that such a Rubicon would be answered with a nuclear response.
We backed down on that threat in the Gulf War but Saddam didn’t
dare use biological weapons then. Someone has dared to use them
now. Our response must be as grave as this new threat.

Consider
the “logic” of the above paragraph: We must attack Iraq. They probably
just attacked us. Anyway, I know (somehow) that they will attack
us even if they didn’t attack us. Someone used a biological weapon
against the United States. We once would have “answered with a nuclear
response.” But we backed down on that in the Gulf War, and even
though I know Saddam will use biological weapons against
us, he didn’t use them against us when he had a chance. But someone
has used them now. Therefore we must attack Iraq.

Can
Sullivan really be so confused that he thinks the above is a line
of reasoning? Or is he just attempting to baffle the reader so that
the reader is sure that he has seen some sort of argument for attacking
Iraq, which must be somewhat sophisticated, since he can’t make
heads or tails of it and it uses words like “Rubicon”?

Moreover,
since last year the reason we had to attack Iraq was that it was
the likely source of the anthrax attacks, logically enough, when
all evidence points to a domestic source, Sullivan should apologize
and back down. What? Do you take him for some sort of pansy? If
Iraq didn’t cross that stinkin’ Rubicon, there must be some other
stinkin’ Rubicon it did cross. So we’d better attack anyway.

When
confronted with the tenuous nature of any ties between Iraq and
the September 11th attacks, Sullivan sputters and simply reasserts
the link, with no evidence: “This is preposterous. The only reason
invading Iraq is being discussed at all is because of September
11 and what it taught us.”

Well,
the war hawks certainly discussed invading Iraq before September
11th, and then simply seized on those attacks to forward what was
already their agenda. But Sullivan does have a point. The repeated
lies and innuendo the neocon press has fed the American public,
attempting to connect Iraq to September 11th directly (its agents
met Atta) and indirectly (if they didn’t meet Atta, Iraq will probably
attack us soon anyway), is the only reason the public is
tolerant of the idea of an attack.

So
it seems to me that a “thorough from-scratch debate” is exactly
what is called for.

*
Jim Henley writes:

I
am saying that “weapons of mass destruction” is on the way to
being a voodoo phrase, and that the enthusiasts of allegedly prophylactic
war use it for the same reason left-wing pressure groups invoke
“the children” – as a political soporific. The phrase is being
used to anesthetize the critical faculties of the body politic,
when our critical faculties are what the problem most calls for.

August
30,
2002

Gene
Callahan [send him mail],
the author of Economics for Real People, is
an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
and a contributing columnist to LewRockwell.com.

Gene
Callahan/Stu Morgenstern Archives

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