War at Any Price?

It appears that the Bush administration is willing to pay any price to make war on Iraq.

On August 21, 2002, the Washington Post reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asserted that there are members of al Qaeda in Iraq. Also on August 21, the Washington Times reported that the U.S. government is preparing for a propaganda blitzkrieg in advance of the military blitzkrieg.

Both articles reveal the Bush administration as positively desirous of war against Iraq.

If one reads to the end of the Post article concerning Rumsfeld’s "revelations," the al Qaeda members are not alleged to enjoy the protection of the Iraqi regime. In fact, they may be hiding in Kurdish areas of Iraq, i.e., in areas not controlled by Saddam Hussein. Would a foreign nation have been justified in attacking the United States prior to September 11 on the grounds that there were al Qaeda operatives in the United States?

The Post article had one purpose: to cause readers to clamor for war on Iraq. As the Post reported, Rumsfeld’s statement "could also give the Bush administration another rationale for possible military action against the Iraqi government."

The Washington Times article on the coming government "PR campaign" is another matter. One hopes that the average American will see the government "PR campaign," indeed any government advertising, for what it is, namely, propaganda and demagoguery.

Who is to engineer the "PR campaign?" Why, the "Iraq Public Diplomacy Group," an "interagency task force" composed of representatives from such disinterested outfits as the CIA, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Who founded this wonderful group? Why, that beloved American patriot, hero, and champion of truth — Bill Clinton.

Ah, yes, nothing like truth in advertising.

The Times reports that the various spy and military agencies will detail the horrors of civilian life under Saddam Hussein. This raises two questions. First, why is it in the national interests of the United States to defend Iraqi civilians against their own government? Second, how can the United States sensibly wage war on Iraq (and almost certainly kill Iraqi civilians) in the name of saving Iraqi civilians?

Worse, the federal propaganda campaign will reportedly seek to "massage" foreign opinion of what the Washington Times dubs the "Bush doctrine." (Yes, Dubya is now right up there with James Monroe). As the Times reports,

Under the Bush doctrine, the United States would reserve the right of a pre-emptive strike against countries that harbor international terrorists and seek weapons of mass destruction.

Leading hawks close to the administration, such as the chairman of Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle, argue that the doctrine of pre-emption is justified as self-defense after the attacks of September 11.

So let’s get this straight: tax dollars taken from American citizens will be used to convince foreign politicians of the wisdom of blowing up such foreign politicians if those foreign politicians seek to acquire powerful weapons.

This is a complete and utter waste of time and money. What are the odds that the United States will convince any foreign politicians to like the idea of living at the whim of the Pentagon?

Where Richard Perle is concerned, hawks will be hawks, one supposes. Mr. Perle, however, is not correct merely because he is a war hawk. There is a vast and clear difference between self-defense and pre-emption. This is especially true where the government is concerned, as one must not merely test the epistemological claims (the government’s claim to "know" that terrorists are harbored or weapons are sought); in doing so, one must recall that truthfulness and candor are not government’s strong suits.

Consider that the leading Neo-Nazi politician in Germany from 1967—71, for example, was a British agent. One must be cautious that the United States not be allowed to manufacture wars for political gain.

If this concept seems unthinkable, consider the Gulf of Tonkin, not to mention Mr. Clinton’s Balkan invasion. At the time, conservatives and Republicans attacked Clinton for bombing the Balkans to draw attention away from the Lewinsky affair. Poor Mr. Clinton, he didn’t have the "Bush doctrine" to soothe the press and foreign governments.

The rationalizations which the Bush administration has offered for its proposed war on Iraq, to say the least, are not compelling. It is not too late to change plans.