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Monday, February 10, 2003
Three thoughts on the Bushiest Empire
Over at Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log, in a post from Friday, Peter comes out in favor of the United States removing Saddam Hussein from power, which effectively means escalating the current war with Iraq. Peter doesn't reach this conclusion because he feels Iraq is a threat to the U.S. but rather only so that the U.S. can save face:
I'm anti-war in the general case, but I think we have to get rid of Saddam. Why? Because he's a dangerous scud-tossing menace? No. Because he's stock-piling WMDs and has used them? No. Because He gives to the Al-Qaeda boy's club? No.To repeat one of the arguments made in "The U.S. shouldn’t be preventing Iraq from possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction," the main problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes the U.S. is going to back away from future unprovoked interventions once it gets done conquering Iraq. Nothing could be further from the case as President George W. Bush and friends have a long list of additional targets they want to go after in the name of the "war on terror." Once they can focus on some country other than Iraq, there is every reason to think that they plan to conquer additional countries.
Although those who identify primarily with U.S. interests may find this idea to be the antithesis of comforting, it appears likely that the U.S. is going to have to be humbled in someway if it is ever going to back off from this "war on terror." I don't know what form exactly this humbling would have to take but there needs to be something that instructs people in the U.S. that trying to run the world is not just and/or smart. Just admitting that a terrible miscalculation about Iraq has been made and backing away might, as Peter says, creates a situation where "the world will laugh at us for years" but it sounds like a far better option to me than incurring the wrath of enraged people who want revenge against the U.S. because of what this country's military has done somewhere.
Another interesting element of Peter's entry is that he says he wasn’t impressed with Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations last Wednesday but that he likes Powell:
It upset my stomach watching Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Like Curtiss, I agree that the evidence was underwhelming, though it is enough IMHO to hold Iraq in material violation. Seemed to me that Powell has bent over to pick up the soap for the administration and his integrity is the first casualty of this war. Too bad - I always liked him.Leaving aside the perhaps homophobic comment on the part of Peter, it is notable how much he does speak for many who are at least somewhat skeptical of the Bush Administration's drive to escalate the war with Iraq. For reasons relating to political correctness -it would be nice to know that the highest ranking person of color in Team Bush doesn't go along with all of the white boys- and the sheer desire to think that there is some voice of reason in the White House, many opponents of at least some of the foreign goals of the "war on terror" have come to think that Powell is really on their [our] side. I don't claim to immune from wanting to believe this, hence a post like this one from September 2, but if you look at the situation honestly, it is clear that Powell is on the side the Bush Administration -of which he is a key member of-, even if things would be done differently if he were president. Wednesday was just the latest example of Powell going to bat for the Bushiest Empire. (Feel free to quote me on that.)
To transpose an argument that Michael Novick of People Against Racist Terror has often made, Powell gains his strength from being perceived, for the reasons described in the previous paragraph as well as his military background, as a "good cop" to the more bellicose “bad cops” like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He isn't seen as cowboy itching for a fight but rather as a deliberate warrior who will fight when a fight is necessary. In other words, and to borrow from a movie, he is closer to being Shane than Jack Wilson. As such, Powell serves as a great spokesperson for the most hawkish elements of the Bush Administration because he can put forward their policies while still looking like he wants peace. The result, at least so far, is that the Bush Administration has quite successfully used "September 11" as the justification for a period of open intentions to dominate the world. Because of his role in this, Powell is one of those most responsible for whatever results the imperial actions of the U.S. bring.
One element that I find striking about the "war on terror" is that U.S. citizens don't seem particularly worried about an attack on the U.S. I could make a joke out of this, as I did in December, but that would only distract from the oddity of the situation. Whatever Americans do or don't feel about the possibility of escalating the war with Iraq on the "terror alert" level being on "highest," very few are acting as if another terrorist attack is imminent. Now maybe this is because they don't feel they are likely to be effected by such an attack and/or they don't see anything they can do about it, but there is still something quite odd about it. The U.S. government is spending more resources on what it deems to be the threat than anything else and the public seems to see this as smart. Yet, when it comes to actually believing that a threat is forthcoming, the commitment just isn’t there.