by  Michael Hammerschlag     Mar 17, 2003    WARBLOG
eve of war

Debate with Congressman Patrick Kennedy
(audio) about validity of Iraq Invasion (he voted to authorize force)- 12 min 3/30 NPR COMMENTARY2 (aud)- Coming Attractions re. Iraq Jan 31                 Smrk Chp version     Liberal Slant


As we plunge into the most reckless, unjustified, and immoral war since the Philippines and commit a blunder that may echo down through the decades; let's say it clearly, without shading or pretense, without genuflection or fig leaf: our President is a liar. A serial, repetitive, egregious liar. A man who lies not only in the service of his single minded crass policies, but who does so automatically- as a reflex. Mr. Bush isn’t just the most dishonest President I’ve seen in 4 decades of watching them, he’s the most consistently dishonest politician I’ve ever seen.


These lies have been aided and abetted by the press and the woeful ignorance of the public. For a year, they painted squeaky clean boy scout Al Gore as a liar, trumpeting minor transgressions into major perfidy, manufacturing “evidence”, while George the Second’s  blatant hypocrisies, contradictions, and stupidity were whitewashed. He was congenial; he had nicknames; he was available. Al Gore’s reluctance to cozy up to the press wasn’t seen in light of his exposure to the 6 year Clinton witchhunt and the radioactive right-wing hatreds that fueled it. No, mild-mannered dryly witty Al was cold. Despite wall to wall coverage of the 2000 election, the fact that Gore won by 540,000 votes was never presented as a moral claim to victory (never presented at all- the number never went above 330,000) and 3 incredible outrages of Florida vote theft simply weren’t reported- the public was tired of the story. After the flaying experience of losing when he won, Gore tossed it in- I don’t blame him- the game was fixed. And now, in a stunning violation of broadcasting ethics and flex of propaganda muscle, Clear Channel, the huge radio network that owns over 1200 stations in 50 states, is holding 20,000 person rallies to support Bush's war in many cities.


Bush pledged to bring us together- he appointed the dregs of the right-wing barrel: Ted Olson, John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich. He pledged to rule from the middle, but he’s appointed a chain of unqualified extremists to the federal bench who might well overturn abortion rights and crush constitutional rights. Even after the debacle of Trent Lott’s racist pandering, Bush showed his true feelings by trying to abolish affirmative action. After another proposed tax giveaway to the rich: $165 billion, 45% to the top 1 %, Ari Fleischer suggested that hospital emergency rooms didn’t really have to treat the poor. This was rescinded 2 weeks later when even Repubs went ballistic. Bush claimed he would protect the environment; he’s abolished auto mileage and smokestack emission standards that were 32 years in the making- through 6 Presidents. Under cover of the horrendous deficits that Bush has created, he plans to shred the social safety net: partially privatizing Social Security, starving Medicare, and winnowing welfare.


Again and again GB2 has tried to tie Saddam with Osama: Saddam supports him, he gives Al Qaida refuge, he’s about to finish a nuclear bomb. All lies. OBL hates Saddam, he is an unbeliever who’s annihilated Moslem leaders along with any others who could lift a finger in opposition. Worse, he’s done it in the heart of the Islamic world, at the very cradle of civilization. OBL would boil him in oil, if given his druthers. Trumped up evidence, repackaged long past its freshness date, till it stinks with the corruption of this regime. Saddam had aluminum tubes for nuclear fabrication: not really; Iraq was buying uranium from Niger: the papers were forged. ("Fine," said Colin.); prohibited missiles: not if loaded with a warhead (they destroyed the short range missiles anyway); dangerous drones: actually ramshackle junk (though this might be an Iraqi scam). The truth is- Bush planned to invade Iraq, to outdo and avenge his father, to kill a persistent irritant, to guarantee a stable source of oil, to cow the world… before he became President (new proof 10/2004) . All rationales, all reasons, all explanations, are window dressing on a clumsy thuggish foreign policy, one opposed by 98% of the world (not all their leaders, who can be bought and bullied). If Saddam was stripped naked and staked to the ground in the western Iraq desert, it wouldn’t be enough to stop Bush’s Wanton War. Two life long state department officials, and 2 British MP's have resigned in protest over Iraq policy.


The result of all this untruth is that 42% of our people think Saddam was involved in planning 9-11, 55% think he’s in league with Al Qaida,(and 55% think an Iraq invasion won't increase terrorism-uh huh). They believe this because the President told them so. Of course, only 13% of 18-24 year olds could identify Iraq on a map. Of some 1000 satellite phone calls that OBL made, not one went to Iraq, but our media has let this gem sink in the sands of Mr. Bush’s propaganda. Is there any doubt that our troops will find (concocted or not-we will never know) evidence of WMD's, and is there any doubt that our fully militarized "embedded" press corp will dutifully report what it is fed? The truth is 30-40% of our nation has been soaking up raw propaganda in the right-wing exhortations of Rush, Reagan, Ollie, O'Reilly, Fox News, and other hate radio schlockmeisters for over a decade- they believe anything- as long as it has a clear villain. To rally support for his policies, Mr. Bush has twice gone to military bases: Fort Hood and Mayport Naval Air Station. The contemptibility of this can’t be overstated: these are kids-18,19,20 years old; these are the cream of American youth whose job it is the President’s to protect!  This is like a pimp gleaning support and approval from the runaway girls at the bus station. And even on an aircraft carrier, where troops might be expected to be more worldly, only 30% could name the Secretary of State, according to the captain. Their job is to fight, and kill, and maybe die for their country- many want to trade their practice video games of death for the real ones, till they see the result. Being wounded or killed isn’t the only threat; one can be wounded by killing. The President does his best Clint Eastwood squinty-eyed rasp and dumbass macho clichés and gets great prime-time images. But the act is getting tired. At a delayed Gary Hart lecture at liberal Brown U. March 18, people were allowed to just speak their mind for 40 minutes: surprisingly more than half were pro-war or "be considerate of Bush", but they had a sad plaintive tone. They'd been fed poison for some time, and some part of them realized it- but they pleaded to be convinced otherwise.


To service his Oedipal obsession, Bush has corrupted the overrated but cinematically perfect Colin Powell, to sally forth and dispense the imperial truths to the heathens of the Security Council. When they balked at the massive arrogance, phantom evidence, and enormous risks of his plans, he tried again to bribe them (don’t forget, the first vote in Oct probably cost $50 billion in aid, loan guarantees, military booty). Then we bugged them. This time around, Turkey alone would get $26 billion and the right to annihilate Kurds (though even they aren’t getting rolled)- add it all up and it’s probably $100 bil in bribes, + $50 bil from last Oct. + $80 bil for a new war + $150 bil for a 3-5 year occupation and reconstruction: that’s $380 bil on top of the $320 bil deficit- now we’re talking $700 billion deficit and a massive military boot on the neck of the sputtering economy. But, our peerless reformed drunk CIC wants more tax cuts; “quiero más y más” like the promo song says for the NBC show (drug) Kingpin. To feed the maw of the corporate mavens who funded, nurtured, and created this tinpot turkey, till he was the de facto winner a year before any primary. This is the type of thing that Presidents should be impeached over.


But the monetary costs can be bourn; the other costs are far more crushing- shattering the Atlantic Pact and NATO, the most successful military-moral alliance in history; ignoring and deriding the recalcitrant UN (set up to prevent rash unjustified military actions); denigrating and disparaging France and Germany- the heart of Europe to scavenge for allies among the poor ex-Soviet satellites. Our new bulwark of freedom is Bulgaria? Everything Bush says he will prevent by invasion, he will actually cause. Stop use of WMD’s? Saddam is a fan of Hitler, who gladly sacrificed 300,000 Berliners against the furious tide of the Red Army, which lost 1 million in the Battle of Berlin. Saddam will use everything he has. End terrorism? An invasion will so inflame the 1.2 billion Muslims, that 1-2 million new terrorists will be generated, who will plague us for another decade or two1. And they won't be the homeless losers of Al Qaida (Richard Reed could have brought down a $150 million plane, but he forgot a 40 cent Bic lighter); they'll be middle class, doctors, professionals, some $50-100 million Saudi sheik- all off the radar. Eventually they will get their hands on a nuke and woe is us. Idiot Osama was fueled by outrage over the mere basing of US troops in Saudi Arabia, what rage will a conquest and 5 year occupation of  Iraq create? Cooperation by Islamic states against Al Qaida, against whom such strides were being taken, will evaporate. Even snubbed, ignored, and humiliated European states may cool the hunt. Create democracy in Iraq? Really? That’s got a long successful history in Arabia and N. Africa- and how fawning must it be- Bush hasn’t appreciated the democratic world’s opinion on his nation-building notions. Create peace in the Middle East? When Israel has momma bear right next door, think they will be more inclined to negotiate fairly with the Palestinians? Security Council in danger of irrelevance? That’s exactly what Bush would cause by an unauthorized invasion.


Saddam is a monster, and I have no problem with his assassination. I do have a problem with killing 100,000 already devastated people and trashing the Iraqi infrastructure yet again. I have a problem with blithe assurance of the armchair warriors of the Bush administration that we can subdue and colonize a harsh Moslem country and sit astride its oil throat without consequence. I have a problem with the world’s most powerful military crushing a country whose people now make $3 a month (before the Gulf War it was $400) and who haven't killed a single American for a decade. I have a problem with the amazing lie that we have to do this now, while looney-tune Kim Jong Il punches out nukes like doughnuts, nukes he has to sell to feed his starving country. Gee, I wonder who'll pay the most? I’ve supported almost every overt intervention my country has done (except Grenada)- I think we have a historic opportunity to overthrow the murderous mullahs of Iran who sent hundreds of thousands of children into machine guns, executed hundreds of thousands more, and killed 400-800 Americans- by applying slow military pressure and inviting the long-oppressed Iranian populace to rise up. I used to think Rumsfeld and Cheney were military geniuses: now I think they’re vicious pit-bulls. Great to maul a mugger, but they must be kept on a short strong chain and yanked back constantly. Bush has set them loose to ravage the neighborhood. And soon they might kill a child.


 But the yahoo nation in America is rising up it’s beer-soaked Rush-addled yell. Alterman and another liberal columnist have had to write I oppose the war and all it stands for, but when the troops land, I will support them “because I am a patriot.”  This comes from hate mail and death threats, not conviction. And MSNBC canceling its most popular program: Donahue, and replacing him with conservative clowns because ‘we all must speak with one voice’. I love the French, who are doing the job that our craven Congress failed to- they may be squirrelly and self-serving (and they financially benefit from Iraqi oil), but they’re the most freedom-loving people in the world. They eat well, sleep well, and ___ well. Every year or so they get furious about something and come to Paris to riot for a day- they burn some cars and go home… and the government lets them. C’est vie. Contrast this to America, where the largest protest rallies in human history must be kept out of view of the White House or the UN, participants must negotiate Christo-length barricades, and NYC cops beat and bully peaceful protesters, as if the right of assembly was a joke. Contrary to popular opinion, Americans are mostly liked or loved around the world- not just because of our wealth and cultural dominance, but because of our moral principles, an asset that Mr. Bush is about to squander. From Russian mobsters to Bedouin tribesmen, people would usually rather hang out with us, than prey on us. The loss of our moral capital, the righteousness of our beliefs, in the eyes of the world, could be the most costly and long-lasting result of our President’s wanton war.


But let’s run this out- an invasion will create so much hatred that American tourists, the softest targets, will be attacked and killed around the world. We won’t leave home much any more. Sooner or later the pool of new (or old) terrorists, forming new cells independent of Al Qaida (whom we were beating!) will succeed with a nuke or bioweapon and kill 30 or 50 or 200 thousand Americans. Then what???? I’ll tell you, with this President: Martial law. Suspension of the Bill of Rights. Round-ups of Muslims + enemies of the state. Detention camps. Silencing of administration critics. Oh, we won’t stand for that, you say? No, we will demand it. Such totalitarian steps worry Stephen Flynn, the author of the Hart-Rudman Report on America’s continuing vulnerability, and perhaps America’s foremost expert on homeland security. (After a major attack,) “If you think John Ashcroft’s going to sit down with the American Civil Liberties Association, you’re living in La La land.” To somewhat quote FDR,  The only thing we have to (really) fear.... is ourselves. And crazy Kim, will, as the war starts, commit provocative acts- by the time it ends, he will be frantic with paranoia that he is next on the Bush hit parade. This freak is not somebody we want to make frantic with fear.


The Communists' favorite tactic was to provoke a massive overreaction in their foe and use the resulting popular outrage and uprising for their own twisted purposes. Somewhere in a cave or dingy basement, a gaunt yellow tall sickly man is softly chuckling to himself: “I don’t have to do anything… they will do it to themselves.”

1- 2/23 BosGlobe from Jordanians:    ''I'm training to be an engineer,'' said Yousef Qannas, 23, a graduate student wearing blue jeans and a Red Sox jacket whose family had lived in Boston for six years. ''But now, I think, perhaps I should abandon any thought of a career to become a holy warrior against America.''
Qannas added: "I used to think these radical Taliban-style Muslims were absurd. Now I am coming to understand the mentality of Osama [bin Laden]. You Americans talking about a `quick war' against Saddam. But don't you understand you are really starting a war that could stretch for decades - even centuries?''

''No matter how bad [Hussein] may be, America's attacks are worse, the level of viciousness matches anything of his cruel regime,'' said Reem Yusuf, 22, a lawyer in Amman.
''I want a gun. If Jordan would only open its border, there would be a huge outrush of people to Iraq to join the jihad against our common enemy.''
Yusuf added: ''I would rather die a martyr than see another Islamic country forced to become an American state. It's the new age of colonialism. First Kuwait, then Afghanistan, now Iraq is about to become... a place for Bush to plant the hated flag.''

 In an incredible story, the NY Times claims America helped set up the Baath Party by orchestrating a 1963 coup.


Michael Hammerschlag has written commentaries + articles for Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Honolulu Advertiser, Columbia Journalism Review, Media Channel, & Moscow News, Tribune, and Guardian;  and spent 2 years in Russia. He’s not an enemy of the state because: L’état n’est pas Bush. He was scheduled to fly over Manhattan on 9-11, and just covered the RI nightclub fire. His website is e-mail: