All Eyes on Iraq
All eyes are on Iraq.
But as the War Party runs interference, President Bush delivered a State of the Union Address that would make Karl Marx blush, and it seems that few pundits or pols are willing to challenge a president and Congress that continue to increase spending at twice the rate of Clinton.
While the president proposes sleepy tax cuts that change the lives of no one, he also proposes multi-billion dollar program after multi-billion dollar program that ultimately diminish the lives of those he presumes to help.
But nothing sells like the promise of extended life and painlessness: "We must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need." I don't know where the president lives, but even our scores of millions of non-citizens have the benefit of these promises, starting with our overflowing emergency rooms.
And in an attempt to socialize a drug industry that has saved an unprecedented number of lives and has increased the quality of life for all by virtue of their profit and research, the president promises to give "seniors access to preventive medicine and new drugs."
But a little suggestion of kickback to his fellow pols never hurts: "And just like you — the members of Congress, and your staffs, and other federal employees — all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs."
Except our telescopic philanthropy doesn't see far enough, so he asks "Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." And when a pol says "new money" he means "new money" — fire up the presses.
After he's greased the skids by promising freebies to every kind of voter he can think of (but especially the ones that wield the most power), he moves to his pet project, the hardest sell and most expensive program of all, not only in capital and operating cost, but in terms of long-term negative return on investment: The war on Iraq.
The president told us that "the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others," meaning foreign nations; that is, after millions upon millions of dollars worth of traveling and begging, he's not found anyone important to sign on.
Confirming that the administration has no solid evidence for WMD, the president scares us with tales of "anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola, and plague," and tells us that "We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us." In what makes Star Wars sound enormously credible, he proposes "Project Bioshield" to guard against "one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes." They can't keep out millions of illegal aliens, but they're not going to allow one vial of poison to cross any border or enter any port.
In a moment of unintended irony, the president told us that "As we fight this war, we will remember where it began — here, in our own country."
Pushing credulity to the limits, the president tells us that "Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations." Picture this: pathetic little starving Iraq, who not for lack of trying has not hit one American plane for years and years of continual bombing missions after thousand of sorties into their territory, is "blocking" U-2 flyovers.
And the coup de grāce:
Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
To be certain, I wouldn't invite Saddam Hussein to my garden party, but this sounds awfully desperate — this description makes the Marquis de Sade look like Mr. Rogers. It's a blatant attempt that exceeds even tales of babies on bayonets and overturned incubators, neither of which turned out to be true — why should we believe this government now?
And even though dear David Frum has moved to greener pastures (he stayed long enough to accumulate source notes for a spiffy new Bush bio), the president couldn't depart without setting the stage for war with the remaining elements of the dreaded "axis of evil": Iran and North Korea.
Perle of Wisdom?
The one segment of the president's speech that probably drew the longest sighs from thinking Americans is that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda." They never give up.
But what else do they have?
Even Bush's English lapdog would like him to concentrate on the WMD angle — at least they can slap satellite photos on the overhead projector and subject them to whatever interpretation fits the bill.
In the hours leading up to Colin Powell's address to the U.N., there was fierce debate about what emphasis was to be placed on links to al Qaeda. I would think so — the links are still terribly vague, nowadays usually referring to al Qaeda agents in areas of Iraq under Kurdish control.
But even with respect to WMD, there is nothing really new in the evidence that Powell provided, and interpretation of that existing evidence has indeed been quite varied. The day before he delivered the speech, even Powell admitted his report contained no "smoking gun." Part of the temporary "success" of the speech among some quarters is due to the perceived credibility of Powell. As one observer commented, the U.N. presentation was 40% evidence, 60% Powell. But to most concerned, this administration lost its credibility long before Mr. Powell ever stepped foot in the U.N.
No one really believes that Iraq is accumulating WMD in order to start a worldwide bloodbath, but the most important point is nearly always obfuscated: Even if Saddam Hussein does have WMD, it does not jeopardize this nation's security. It just doesn't.
And this explains why the administration keeps returning to the hopeless links with worldwide terrorism — without it, the case for war to preserve national security just isn't there.
But the message is mixed — the president occasionally lapses into neoconservative Wilsonianism, proudly claiming that America shall carry the banner of freedom for the whole world, defending the security of every nation and soul, whatever the cost. On that basis, he could probably make an argument for invading any nation on the planet, including his own.
The U.N. responded to the president's address by declaring that "the majority of the council is in favor of disarming Iraq by peaceful means, and the majority of the council is in favor of giving the inspectors more time."
Nevertheless, even though European leaders have rejected the flimsy evidence (that we're not allowed to see) offered by the president time and time again, Bush achieved a small coup by virtue of the letter signed by eight European leaders in support of the United States that appeared this last Thursday (30 January). The letter was signed by England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
According to the letter, the reason behind the "support" of America is because the values of "democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law … crossed the Atlantic" to America from … Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic?
Probably not. It's not likely that any European nation is any more convinced than they ever were that there is evidence sufficient to warrant immediate invasion of Iraq. Truly, they just want an end to the prolonged instability that this "crisis" has had on the European economy. They're hoping beyond hope that an end to this most immediate crisis will at least bring temporary stability to their respective economies. Regardless of what small and insignificant states such as England and Hungary say they believe, their current primary concern is economic security. England doesn't want any more "fuel protests" (except that the last panic sprang from overtaxation of fuel).
But since the U.S. has made it clear it intends to invade, why not get on board? Why be on the wrong side of America, especially since it's brash enough to spend blood and treasure to get rid of a nasty character? At least these foreign leaders are looking out for the interests of their own nations, which is certainly more than can be said for ours.
But the powerful economies of France and Germany still beg to differ.
The premier Pentagon advisor, "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle, frustrated by France's status as permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, blathers "France is no longer our ally." This is what passes for intelligent persuasion and diplomacy in latter-day D.C.: whether Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or France, instead of discourse and trade, isolation is the mantra of the Beltway Elite.
But to be sure, foreign markets have not been fooled — they all tanked the day after the State of the Union Address.
Just what has this self-induced obsession with Iraq done to the already ailing world economy? Gold is soaring, busting through years-old resistance levels, bonds are benefiting from safe-haven buying, and no government stimulus package nor interest rate cut by any Fed wizard will be able to help it.
February 8, 2003
Brian Dunaway [send him mail] is a chemical engineer and a native Texan.
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com