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Wednesday, March 19, 2003
The "war on terror" marches on
It should come as no surprise that the George W. Bush Administration has given up on getting the United Nations Security Council to approve escalating the current war with Iraq.
The underlying theme of Team Bush's over six month long courtship of the security council has been that the body, like the rest of the U.N., is only valuable because of what it could do for the United States.
Bush, the president of the U.S. explicitly made this point in his September 12 speech to the United Nations General Assembly. "We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable," said Bush. "And a regime," the president added in a section where it was clear that Iraq and the U.N. were receiving the same message, "that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power."
The Security Council has resolutions on Iraq that the U.S. would like to enforce. Support from the Security Council could have silenced critics who believe the Bush is not interested enough in coalitions and provide political cover for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch Bush supporter governing a country where such a stance is hardly universally popular. The Security Council could have made everything nice and proper and give greater legitimacy to both Bush's plans with regard to Iraq and his broader "war on terror."
Now that the U.N. is out of the picture, however, Bush is presenting himself as a brave and independent man who won't let a bunch of a foreign bureaucrats endanger the U.S. of A. "The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security," the president said Monday night. "That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep."
Such commitment would be admirable and honorable if Bush had more of a case for war. Rather than attempt to show Saddam to be an actual threat to the U.S., the Bush Administration has merely implied that "Saddam + at least the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction = threat." The logic is dubious since the government of Iraq appears to have no desire to attack the U.S. and many countries, including some that the U.S. doesn't get along with, already have WMD. Furthermore it is unclear if the Bush Administration actually believes Iraq is much of a threat since, as I pointed out in "Bush's Charade" and "Dominating the world," their public rhetoric about the Iraqi threat is not easily reconciled with their slow movement to remove the threat.
The Bush Administration has also given mixed signals about the benefits of this war. The explicit line, best exemplified by Bush's February 26 speech at the American Enterprise Institute's Annual Dinner, is that the U.S. military removing Saddam and occupying Iraq will not only liberate the Iraqis but also bring democracy, freedom, peace and presumably a cure to cancer to the entire Middle East. Given these suggested benefits, one could be excused for thinking the Bush Administration viewed war as the best possible option but Bush has not gone this far. "Across the world and in every part of America, people of goodwill are hoping and praying for peace," Bush said on March 6. And then this past Sunday the president said, "Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work," with the implication being that some method other than war was preferable despite all the advantages of war that his team has claimed.
Combine these logical problem with what Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank of The Washington Post have called the "Dubious Allegations" of the Bush Administrations case escalating the current war with Iraq and it should be clear that there is little, if any, reason to think that Bush's actions are admirable or honorable.
But facts apparently have little to do with support for the Iraqi mission of Bush's "war on terror" as a majority of people in the U.S. appear to support Bush's policy. So, barring some unforeseeable event, the "war on terror" will march on to Iraq with popular support at least in the U.S. and at least for now. The scenarios of events that could reasonably happen are numerous and range from being catastrophic to wonderful.
What is clear is that Bush Administration and its staunch supporter do not intend for the "war on terror" to end in Iraq. "Even as President Bush struggles against robust international opposition to launch a regime-toppling invasion of Iraq," writes David Westphal of The Sacramento Bee, some of the strongest and earliest supporters of military action against Saddam Hussein are already looking ahead to the next target." Fox News and The Weekly Standard are probably already licking their chops at the possibility of beginning to argue that some country like Iran, North Korea, Syria or perhaps even Saudi Arabia poses a threat to the U.S. that must be dealt with as soon as the Bush Administration gets around to doing so. This may in fact be, as many have said, a "historic moment" but only because it represents the likely beginning of the new status quo where the White House picks some government they don't like, says this government is a threat so many times that people assume there must be some truth to it and then moves in for the kill. While the costs could be high at just about every stage, this process will likely go on without end at least until the White House suffers a militarily defeat or a political defeat where the public says no to this war without end.
It is time for opponents of Bush's "war on terror" to start acting accordingly.