A Lose-Lose Prospect

The War Party seems particularly desperate these days.

For starters, our beggars for war seem just a little too eager for news of terrorism.

Now we learn that the captured al Qaeda "informant" failed a lie detector test, days after every hardware store in America sold out of plastic sheeting and duct tape with which Americans can seal themselves in latter-day sarcophagi, now they finally tell us the upgraded alert was based on false information. Well, partly, they say. They have other, verified, information as well, they assure us, so there are no plans to change the alert status.

And if their eagerness to find an excuse for war seems desperate, their interpretation of the bin Laden tape is pathetic. I happen to believe the tape is real, only because the administration’s explanation of it is so convoluted.

First, of course bin Laden would want to associate himself with Saddam Hussein. He hates the pagan "infidel" Hussein, and knows any linkage with him almost surely means a US invasion. He also knows that the chaos that will ensue will radically increase the probability that he’ll get his hands on all manner of ammunition, and if there are any to be found (doubtful), weapons far nastier.

Except, that’s not what he really said. He "urges u2018true Muslims’ in Iraq and elsewhere to u2018act, incite, mobilize … in order to break free from the slavery of these tyrannical and apostate regimes.’ Not in support of the u2018infidel’ Saddam but for Islam and the jihad."

And the Sunday Herald reports that,

Try as it might, the UK has been unable to produce any evidence clearly linking Saddam to bin Laden, and the French have positively ruled out any connection. Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France’s leading terrorist investigator, says years of investigation into radical Islamic terror groups have not produced a trace of evidence linking them to Iraq. … We have not found any link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Not a trace. There is no foundation to our investigations for the information given by the Americans.

CIA director George Tenet seems to agree, concluding that "the only reason Saddam would use WMDs against the United States was if he was backed into a corner — due to a strike by the American military — and realized he was about to fall." Some believe this is the reason why scores of thousands of body bags are being made ready.

Commenting on specious interpretation of CIA intelligence by Congress, Lee Hamilton, former chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, "added pointedly: u2018It’s an overwhelming temptation to manipulate intelligence to serve policy and, to some extent, I think that’s what’s happening here with Iraq.’"

Stop Doing What I Ask!

The Bush administration was already suffering badly from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN. It impressed the American War Press, but no one else.

One simply had to peruse the worldwide press to get the consensus opinion: more of the same "proof" that had already been refuted, plus cartoons. The day before, Powell had already admitted there was no "smoking gun" in the presentation.

But in the days following the Powell pitch, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, after talks with Iraqi officials on 9 February, said he saw signs of a "change of heart" from Baghdad over disarmament demands. "In two days of meetings with Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, Iraq officials handed over documents on anthrax, VX nerve gas and missile development." Later in the week, Iraq agreed to overflights by U-2 surveillance aircraft.

This news strengthened calls by France, Germany, and Russia to allow more time for inspections. In an interview with French television, Putin rejected "regime change" in Iraq, and stated that "there is nothing in the UN Charter that would allow the UN Security Council to make a decision to change the political regime of one country or another — whether we like that regime or not."

The Bush administration was not moved.

In an utterly dismissive tone, Bush replied in unintended irony, "It’s a moment of truth for the United Nations. The United Nations gets to decide shortly whether or not it is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything." He also said, "Given the fact that Saddam Hussein is not disarming, time is running out."

But the fact is, for all the world to see, the prospect for Iraq looks at least temporarily brighter, while the US looks all too enthusiastic to attack. But it’s also plain to see that even if Iraq instantaneously disarmed, it would still be in the position of trying to prove a negative, and the invasion would go on as has been planned from the very beginning. The United States would never be caught all dressed up with no place to go.


If the dictum "those who are not with us are against us" is taken to its logical conclusion, Europe had better gird itself — indeed, the Bush administration has already threatened it with economic sanction.

The frustration, paranoia, and recklessness of The War Party has fully manifested itself in Francophobia, Teutonophobia, perhaps we could just call it Europhobia — inasmuch as England is not Europe.

And why wouldn’t the little island be America’s best friend? We share common law and common language (sort of), and common love of imperialism. But to be fair, whether by choice or not, the little island seems to have outgrown its love for imperialism. Mr. Blair seems to be in the marked minority, an emperor with no clothes.

Perhaps Mr. Blair believes London is still the capital of a magnificent empire, and a great force to be reckoned with — he might even remember the old story (or old joke) of a turn of the (last) century London newspaper headline: "English Channel Still Shrouded in Fog: Europe Isolated." Or, maybe he lives vicariously through the exploits of Emperor Bush.

America, who vowed to escape the fate of Fortress Europe, is instead ruled by those who deride "Old Europe" because she won’t help them get what they want. So jealous of the power they need, they have adopted the hatred of England’s old enemies, the "Frogs" and the "Krauts."

But competitive Americans will not be outperformed by their English counterparts; and oddly, France, that early friend and savior of the American Republic, and more recent ally, seems to receive yet more bile than any other.

Even to the point that Richard Perle, former political advisor to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and, more recently, chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, recently blurted, "France is no longer our ally." The 10 February 2003 American Conservative editorial "Richard Perle Must Resign" adds, "Of the French, delicately courted by Powell in an effort to win Security Council support, Perle blustered, u2018I have seen diplomatic maneuver but not moral fiber.’"

The Guardian takes note of some of more virulent Francophobic (and generally Europhobic) statements:

The "petulant prima donna of realpolitik" is leading the "axis of weasels," in "a chorus of cowards." It is an unholy alliance of "wimps" and ingrates which includes one country that is little more than a "mini-me minion," another that is in league with Cuba and Libya, with a bunch of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" at the helm.

The last phrase was uttered by the great American philosopher Bart Simpson, but made "acceptable in official diplomatic channels around the globe by Jonah Goldberg." The poor souls that visit Goldberg’s columns know that he has made Francophobia a favorite pastime.

In The Washington Post, George Will described the French foreign affairs minister, Dominique de Villepin, as "oily," but that’s nothing compared to one of his diatribes during a Sunday broadcast of This Week, where Will mocked the entire history of France, sparing (or forgetting) only Jean d’Arc.

Charles Krauthammer added on Fox television: "I’m all in favor of gratuitous hits at France and Germany."

Even though they’re not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, let’s not forget Germany.

Responding to Germany’s lack of enthusiasm for a pre-emptive war against Iraq, Richard Perle replied, "Germany has been subsidized into a moral numbing pacifism," and called for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s resignation.

Not to be outdone was Richard Galen, who recently appeared on CNN’s Talkback Live. Galen was press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich, and also communications director for the latter. He casually referred to Gerhard Schroeder as "a German thug, which may be a redundancy," and that "the French have been, as usual, a bunch of weasels."

These are the sober minds to whom Americans are entrusting their fate?

Going it Alone?

So where do the friendless go? To church perhaps.

But the Bush administration seems to be a little confused as to the relationship between Man and Church.

As The Age notes,

the most intriguing, and most futile, part of the US diplomatic offensive is being directed at the oldest institution in Old Europe, the papacy. The Vatican has resolutely refused to endorse either the notion of preventive war in general or an invasion of Iraq in particular. From the Pope down, every significant official in the Vatican has insisted, in accordance with a long tradition of Christian teaching about a just war, that the conditions for such a war cannot be said to exist in the standoff with Iraq.

Instead, the Vatican "rolls out the red carpet for Christian Aziz," and strengthens her Chaldean faithful in Iraq. This must come as a great shock to our governing body.

But if the US government is not going to listen to "Old Europe," it’s certainly not going to listen to the "Old Church." The experience of thousands of years does not impress the boy wonders of our imperial government. It sends its emissaries to both Church and State not to converse, but to threaten.

It’s not that we should yield our sovereignty to any nation or entity on Earth, but that’s not really the point, is it?

When nearly the entire world sees our folly, doesn’t only a fool utterly disregard its counsel?

Bush is already seen as a "cowboy" president (an insult to cowboys) throughout the world. If America attacks a nation that has not attacked it, it will be morally discredited, not only in the eyes of the Islamic world, but in Europe and Asia. What credibility will America have then?

This has all the ingredients of a diplomatic and political disaster.

If it becomes impossible for the US to invade, it will appear that peace was accomplished despite American will. The administration knows that window is rapidly closing, which is why they have the propaganda machine working overtime, and are demanding immediate invasion. But it appears that they have already lost the momentum. And just what will Bush do if the UN inspectors refuse to leave? Bomb Iraq anyway?

And if the US does invade, in what will almost certainly appear to the rest of the world as naked aggression, the damage to foreign policy could be permanent. What the world will remember are the lies and dashed hope.

Is our government really willing to pit the whole world against us?

Who will be "irrelevant" in the future? It’s hard to imagine America’s prestige being compromised any time in the near future, but this may be the first irreversible step down the long road of imperialism, which inevitably ends in decline and fall.

This administration is rapidly turning this self-made crisis into a lose-lose situation for America.

February 15, 2003