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UQ Wire: Don't Do It, George

Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
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Don't Do It, George

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 23 January 2003

With the suddenness of an earthquake in Mexico, the ground under George W. Bush's feet has heaved, cracked and shattered.

In his push for war in Iraq, Mr. Bush has at least pretended to attempt the formation of an international coalition to face the challenge. Such a gathering of support was necessary to paint a veneer of legitimacy over what is seen by many as a hasty and poorly justified advance towards battle. Bush grudgingly presented his case before the UN Security Council, shepherding the passage of Resolution 1441 through that body. British PM Tony Blair has been, since the summer, a totally dependable mouthpiece for the Bush administration. A deal with Turkey to ensure that the Iraqi Kurds do not form an independent state in the aftermath of war locked down a much-needed strategic jump-off point into the region. Back-channel support from Saudi Arabia was present and accounted for, despite nebulous public comments to the contrary.

And then the wheels came off.

The trouble began in earnest with the passage of UN Resolution 1441. The Bush administration crafted the resolution in a manner sure, they believed, to be refused by the Iraqi regime. Such a refusal would have been a neat premise for the opening of hostilities against Iraq. The administration was stunned and momentarily stilled when Iraq accepted the terms of the resolution. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz discussed this with Norman Solomon, founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, during a delegation trip to Iraq in December of 2002. "You know, sometimes you make an offer and you are planning to get a refusal," said Aziz. "We surprised them by saying, 'OK, we can live with it. We'll be patient enough to live with it.'" This exchange is recounted in Solomon's essential new book, 'Target Iraq.'

Iraq's acceptance of Resolution 1441 opened the door for the return of weapons inspectors to that nation. Those inspectors, and the process they have been engaged in, are now at the center of a stunning collapse of support for the Bush administration's plans. Once the administration became forced to live with the resolution it had created, it waited in eager anticipation for the inspectors to find something.

Days, and then weeks, passed with no evidence of weapons programs revealed. The Iraqis cooperated with the inspection teams, allowing them access to Presidential palaces and to Iraqi scientists. The discovery of several empty artillery munitions, termed "chemical warheads" by the media, fizzled when it was revealed that no chemicals had ever been present in these weapons, and that they had been sealed in a box since 1988. Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix prepared to deliver a report on the process on January 27th, but set off the current imbroglio by stating bluntly that this report was not the end of the process, and that the inspectors would need several months more to finish the job.

The Bush administration needs nine votes from the UN Security Council to win a resolution for war. In the last several days, France has come forward in vehement opposition to the seemingly imminent attack upon Iraq, demanding that the inspectors be allowed to continue their work to its conclusion. Germany, slated to take over the rotating presidency of the Security Council on February 1st, has joined France in its opposition. German Chancellor Schroeder has stated, "Don't expect Germany to approve a resolution which would give legitimacy to war."

China and Russia have likewise voiced a desire to see the inspectors finish the job. Turkey, an important NATO partner, has told the Bush administration to listen to the concerns of the anti-war protesters who gathered in Washington DC on January 18th. Representatives from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran are gathering in Istanbul to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Even Blair, the stalwart, has recently voiced a desire to see the process towards war slowed.

In short, a remarkable diplomatic revolution has taken place. Approximately 500 days since the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by terrorists, the international good will lavished upon the Bush administration and America has vanished, replaced with a wary combativeness and a unified desire to see the biggest dog in the yard securely chained.

Resistance from France and Germany caused Mr. Bush to growl his frustration to reporters on January 21st. "Surely our friends have learned lessons from the past," said Bush, a clear shot at the Nazi past of those two nations. "This looks like a rerun of a bad movie," continued Bush, "and I'm not interested in watching."

On the home front, Bush is facing a similar dissolution of support from the American people. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll states that seven out of ten Americans want to give the inspectors more months to work. Simultaneously, less than half of those polled approve of Bush's handling of the economy, with an equal majority disapproving of his newest tax cut plans. Bush's approval ratings still stand at 59%, but this is a steep and sudden drop from the astronomical ratings he enjoyed a year ago.

It has been said that this Bush administration is staffed with awesome political mechanics who have the ability to turn virtually any situation to the President's advantage. This bad movie Bush is not interested in watching, however, will test them to the furthest extremes of their abilities. Mr. Bush will be forced to watch, whether he likes it or not. His administration is skating along the edge of a very keen blade, and the time to make some very hard decisions is at hand.

The last card to play is the January 27th inspectors report from Blix. Unless they have been keeping damnable data close to the vest - an unlikely event when considering how quickly the "chemical warheads" story blazed up - there will be nothing in this report to justify a war. Unless this international opposition folds as quickly as it has risen, Mr. Bush will be forced to go to war in Iraq with a "coalition of the willing" that includes a reluctant Britain and very little else. Should he embark upon this course - an action that appears likely, given the bombastic language he and his representatives have offered in the last few days - the results will be catastrophic.

America's standing in the international community will be annihilated. NATO, The UN and the European Union will no longer play slavish heed to our desires, eviscerating our global and economic influence and causing us to be driven into a dangerous isolation we can neither accept nor afford. The Muslim nations and peoples who repudiated Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks will band together in fury against us. Saddam Hussein, a wretch by any standard, will find support across the globe, unacceptably elevating his standing. Worse, Hussein will find new allies from groups that previously repudiated him.

Hussein, a secular dictator, has spent the last 30 years crushing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq, earning him death threats and hatred from al Qaeda, bin Laden and the rest of the terrorist world. A war on Iraq, a nation that is 97% Muslim, will bring those previous enemies of Hussein to his side, initiating a wave of terrorist attacks upon America that will put 9/11 in deep shade by comparison. The further restriction of our constitutional rights that will result from this will end, most bitterly, the dream that was America.

Politically, Bush will face a cratering of his domestic support. The common knowledge bandied about today suggests Americans will throw off their doubts and stand with the President should we go to war. The millions who have taken to the streets to protest this yet-to-begun war suggests a nascent anti-war movement waiting to explode into mainstream legitimacy. The automatic support expected by the Bush administration will be offset by skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices, causing a further breakdown of this already-weakened economy.

Finally, and worst of all, this war will not be the antiseptic video game the Gulf War was. Saddam Hussein has geared his defenses towards urban combat in the streets of Baghdad, a city of five million civilians. Any edge we may enjoy due to our superior technology will be lost in house-to-house warfare, a fact vividly displayed in the catastrophe in Somalia. Beyond the civilian casualties, which will number in the tens of thousands and which will be broadcast around an outraged world via the Al Jazeera news network out of Qatar, America will almost certainly be forced to face troop casualty rates not endured here since the days of Vietnam.

Allowing the inspections to continue, acquiescing to the desires of the Security Council, and resheathing the drawn sword for the time being will undoubtedly raise more than a few political bruises for the Bush administration. The rhetoric they have poured over this conflict will come back to haunt them in a most pernicious manner. Furthermore, a ratcheting-down of the noise level in this matter will cause domestic economic issues to creep back onto the political forefront. Those White House political mechanics, however, will have to deal with that as best they can. The alternative is worse by orders of magnitude.

Mr. Bush has enjoyed a remarkable amount of privilege in his life. His substandard grades in high school did not thwart his family-connections-enhanced entry into Yale. The "Gentleman's C" grades he earned there did not keep him out of Harvard Business School, for the same familial reasons. A variety of spectacular business failures were always mended by powerful family connections. His entry into politics, from a life of little true experience, was facilitated by all the family and business connections that pushed him through school and work.

In short, Mr. Bush has always gotten everything he wants. His recent angry remarks suggest he does not cotton to being resisted or thwarted. He must overcome this and do the wise thing, both for his presidency and for the nation he is responsible for.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times bestselling author of two books - - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in May 2003 from Pluto Press. He teaches high school in Boston, MA. Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER FROM UQ.ORG: does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the above article. We present this in the interests of research -for the relevant information we believe it contains. We hope that the reader finds in it inspiration to work with us further, in helping to build bridges between our various investigative communities, towards a greater, common understanding of the unanswered questions which now lie before us.

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