US foreign policy seems to run in ten-year cycles, with the same bloody events repeating themselves once a generation in order to assure that at least a sizeable segment of the population remembers nothing from the last fiasco. Not even the country names change often enough.
Faced with the prospect of another US troop commitment in Haiti — to keep the place from (wait for it) “descending into chaos” — I looked for a piece I did on this topic from 1994. In that intervention, the US threw out a Hitler named Raoul Cedr to install the democratic St. Aristide. Now, it turns out that Aristide went bad and he too must go, in the name of human rights, etc.
I thought it might be useful to remember all the killing and destruction the US imposed on that country 10 years ago, but alas, this was preweb, and so the article has not turned up. However, I did find this little piece from 1990, entitled “The Emperor Bush Wages War.” That’s right, that last Bush, and the war was on…Iraq. The last attack on Iraq was followed by an attack on Haiti too.
So in lieu of the ironic reprinting of my attack on Haitian intervention, I hereby make the same point with an ironic reprinting of my attack on Bush Sr.’s war on Iraq. As to publication, so far as I can tell, nobody wanted to run it. This was, after all, before the web:
The Emperor Bush Wages War (1990)
War is to Washington what blood is to vampires. It engorges the government and drains the people. It turns the mountebanks of the legislature and the executive into statesmen. It suppresses dissent and legitimates censorship. It distracts from bank bailouts and other federal crimes. And it enables the state to gather into its ravening craw even more of the people’s wealth.
No wonder politicians love it, for war is the apotheosis of the state. The president’s approval rating goes to 86% and every two-bit congressman can say with Vishnu, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
One of my most vivid memories of 1989 was the stricken look on the faces of George Bush and James Baker when the Berlin Wall came down. Who would now serve as Official Enemy?
The collapse of Communism was a frightening event for the Feds: the budget might actually be cut. Not the phony cuts of the last budget summit, but real cuts. The American people might be allowed to keep more of their own money, and that would mean that the munitions manufacturers so beloved of retiring generals and bribe-happy congressmen would lose contracts. Official Washington pulled the covers over its head and shivered.
But no one need have worried. An unnamed Pentagon official said last August, "You’ve got to give the Devil his due. Saddam Hussein saved our budget.” And at an October conference of military contractors in Milwaukee, when a speaker said, “Thank you, Saddam Hussein,” he got cheers, whistles, and a standing ovation.
Was Saddam just a happy coincidence, or did Bush want a war with his old ally from the Reagan administration? In the 1980s, after all, the U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran, and supported his aggression with billions in subsidized food, weapons, and intelligence.
In those days, the Ayatollah Khomeini was Hitler, so the U.S. pressured the U.N. not to condemn Saddam’s poison gas attacks on Iranian troops. The U.S. even protected Iraqi oil tankers. When the U.S.S. Vincennes’ billion-dollar Aegis missile-aiming radar system shot down an Iranian jetliner, killing 290 civilians, it was on pro-Saddam duty.
On July 25th, after the massing of Iraqi troops on the Kuwaiti border, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam regarding a possible invasion of Kuwait, that “the United States has no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” “James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this.”
On July 26th, the Washington Post reported that “some officials” in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department “asserted yesterday that an Iraq attack on Kuwait would not draw a U.S. military response.”
On July 30th, assistant secretary of state John Kelly confirmed to the House Middle East subcommittee, in response to a question by Lee Hamilton (D-IN), that nothing obligated us to engage U.S. forces there.”
When Saddam, acting on the winks and nods, invaded Kuwait on August 2, he went from ally to Adolf overnight. Bush poured troops into Saudi Arabia, but to do so, he had to twist the Saudis’ arm with angry visits from Dick Cheney and others.
Unnamed Defense Department officials were quoted as complaining about Saudi “wimps who don’t want to defend themselves.” The pressure worked, of course, and now — as Baker crows — the U.S. will protect its kings and kinglets with a “new regional security arrangement,” courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.
Bush’s lying lips told us the troops were there for purely defensive purposes; meanwhile he and Baker worked busily, checkbooks in hand, getting U.N. members to authorize an attack. Then, right after the November election, Bush doubled the number of troops, forbade rotations, went on the offensive, and announced that he would attack if Saddam weren’t out unconditionally by January 15th.
For home consumption, Bush announced that Baker would go to Baghdad, and travel the “last mile for peace,” on “any date between now and the U.N. deadline of January 15th” that Iraq picked. But the offer was fraudulent. When Saddam said OK, and picked January 12th, Bush denounced him and cancelled the deal.
Advised by the psychological warfare branch of his old agency, the CIA, Bush set out to humiliate Saddam, to make sure that “Arab psychology” would prevent a pullout. That’s why Bush talked about “kicking his ass,” deliberately mispronounced his name (it’s SaDOM, not SADem), and always used contemptuous language.
Meanwhile, all peace overtures, including the harmless idea of a Middle Eastern peace conference (which an allegedly sacred U.N. resolution has long called for), were dismissed as “rewarding aggression.”
Yes, Saddam is a thug, like most of the Third World pals of the U.S. government. Yet there are real border questions between Iraq and Kuwait, as a result of British duplicity. And even the State Department admits that the Kuwaiti kleptocracy — the Bush-blessed “legitimate government" — was drilling diagonally underneath the border and stealing Iraq’s oil.
Kuwait had also, apparently at U.S. behest, broken the OPEC production agreement by massively increasing its oil production over the previous six months. This lowered the price at a time when Iraq needed more money for reconstruction after the Iranian war.
There would have been, in a less-bellicose administration, plenty of room for negotiation. In fact, Iraq privately expressed a willingness to leave Kuwait the weekend of August 4—5 — having, in its view, “taught Kuwait a lesson.” It asked, however, that it not be condemned by the Arab League and the U.S. Immediately, Bush gave a denunciatory speech, and Baker pressured the Arab League to condemn Iraq. We were off to the races.
Bush denounced Saddam again and again as “The Dictator” and “The Aggressor.” This is the same Bush who just gave himself, by executive fiat, dictatorial war powers over the American economy. His excuse? The despotic Defense Production Act had expired. This is also the same Bush who invaded Panama, causing a billion dollars in damage, and installing a regime kept in power by U.S. troops.
Speaking of aggressors, there are plenty among the so-called allies, including Turkey, which seized part of Cyprus and holds it to this day through massive U.S. foreign aid; Syria, which invaded Lebanon with U.S. approval and is even now massacring Christians; and Red China, which got $1.1 billion for its pro-war Security Council vote, despite its invasion and annexation of Tibet, and planned destruction of a free Hong Kong (also through British duplicity).
There are also plenty of dictators in the coalition: Assad of Syria, who makes Saddam look like Little Mary Sunshine; Mubarak of Egypt, who got a $7.1 billion tip for his support; the hereditary dictators of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; and the dictator of the Soviet Union.
When Bush talks in messianic language of the “whole world being united, for the first time in history,” behind “our” policy (world rule through the U.N.), he includes such murderous uniters as the U.S.S.R.
Yuri Maltsev and other Russian dissidents believe that Bush made a deal with Gorbachev at the Helsinki summit. He would support the U.S. war with Iraq. In return, he would get billions in aid and a free hand in the Baltics and other captive republics. Helping Gorby keep Stalin’s conquests doesn’t count as “rewarding aggression,” of course.
One of my rules is never trust a reporter in a safari jacket. And sure enough, the press — led by these types — has enlisted for the duration. It repeats, endlessly, the obvious guff that there are virtually no Iraqi civilian casualties, and that the weapons are working perfectly (so let’s further bloat the military budget).
This war will cost, says Sam Nunn, $86 billion, and I’ve never seen a congressional estimate that couldn’t be doubled and still be low. But that doesn’t count the estimated $100 billion to buy the “allied coalition,” nor the foreign aid they will demand afterwards. Israel is already insisting on an immediate $13 billion. And this, from a U.S. government that is running a $600 billion deficit this recessionary fiscal year.
More money for more weapons, in a world of no serious threats to America? To justify this, we’re shown footage of a few bombs accurately hitting what we’re told are their targets. But why isn’t the press allowed access to the thousands of other films? Some of these weapons systems don’t work in official Pentagon demonstrations, and we’re supposed to believe they’re faultless in combat?
The U.S. has, like Israel and Iraq, imposed heavy military censorship. We learn only what the government wants us to know, when they want us to know it. After all, notes a story in the pro-war New York Times, “if the press had more access to unfavorable information, evidence, say that equipment was malfunctioning or a particular tactic had gone awry [or that there were high Iraqi civilian casualties], the journalists would focus on it.”
It was months before we found out what really happened in Panama, where the Defense Department lied to us about the accuracy of its mega-billion stealth bombers and the number of civilian deaths. That is why, on every aspect of this war, I apply another one of my rules: never believe anything the government says; it is virtually always lying.
But isn’t this unpatriotic? Aren’t I, as a loyal American, required to support a federal war? No, true patriotism means love of America, her history, her people, her land, her culture, and her values — not love of their enemy, the U.S. government. But shouldn’t all the arguments stop until the shooting does? No, this is precisely the time for the debate to be turned on high, for this is when the state can most easily steal our freedoms and our money.
We have no business mixing in the ancient hatreds of the Middle East — not with our taxes, not with our weapons, not with our sons and daughters. There is only one way to “support our troops,” and that is to bring them home, and keep them out of foreign wars. As the Founding Fathers knew, we can’t have a constitutional republic at home and an empire abroad. Yet that seems like ancient history.
If Bush can galvanize the American people for war against a small, poor, low-tech country whose GNP is less than 1% of ours by portraying it as a nuclear-armed world threat, then he can get away with anything. When the Emperor George proclaims a war tax, a draft, or a Newer Deal, there will be hosannas. Fasten your economic seatbelt, as this Caesar Augustus wanna-be bombs and bribes his way towards the New World Order.