September 9, 2002
Marketing a War of Aggression
By Stephen Gowans
"British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush have agreed to topple Saddam Hussein by military means even if the United Nations does not pass a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force."
"The UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it," Blair says.
In other words, if the UN authorizes what Washington is going to do anyway, it's effective and a "muscular, robust moral force."
If the UN doesn't authorize Washington's war of aggression, (or "wars," since there will be more to follow), it's a way of avoiding pressing "moral" problems, and must be side-stepped.
In short, the UN's legitimacy is to be measured by whether it lines up with US foreign policy goals. The UN is to be subordinate to the United States; all other countries subordinate to the UN, except where exempted by Washington or a Security Council veto.
So it is that the White House has invoked Iraq's record in defying UN resolutions as further grounds to justify the ushering of thousands upon thousands of Iraqis into early graves (Iraqis collectively dubbed "Saddam Hussein," as journalist and filmmaker John Pilger puts it.)
It started with Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. "The fact is, there's a pretty abysmal relationship between Saddam Hussein and the United Nations," Bartlett commented, adding that Iraq has thumbed its nose at "everything the UN has stood for."
Next, George W. Bush weighed in. "A lot of people understand that this man has defied every United Nations resolution. Sixteen United Nations' resolutions he has ignored."
But sixteen is positively unimpressive against the dozens Israel has ignored over decades, and will continue to ignore, secure in the knowledge that Washington will provide shelter against penalty, including anything as mild as the stationing of UN observers in the occupied territories. And the flow of US taxpayer paid-for arms and subsidies to Israel won't be choked-off by Tel Aviv's flouting of human rights protocols, the Geneva Conventions or "everything the United Nations has stood for."
Washington's own contempt for the UN and international protocols is unrivalled, from its recent efforts to undermine the International Criminal Court, which it refused to sign on to without a blanket exemption for its nationals; to its flagrant defiance of the Geneva Conventions in its brutal and inhumane treatment of detainees at Guatanamo Bay ("abductees" would be a more fitting term); from its refusal to seek UN authorization for its war on Yugoslavia (because it knew authorization would not be forthcoming); to its continued defiance of UN resolutions demanding an end to the blockade of Cuba. The US knows no equal when it comes to having "a pretty abysmal record" with the international community or in flouting "everything the UN has stood for."
Most Americans haven't the faintest notion that the US is the world's greatest rogue state, owing to the efforts of people like Andrew H. Card Jr. These days Card, the White House chief of staff, is co-ordinating efforts to build support for the stepped-up mass murder of Iraqi civilians (sanctions are already killing them at an alarming rate), as part of what he calls a "marketing" campaign.
The administration, he explains, is "following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat of Saddam Hussein." That campaign was rolled out last week. "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," Card told the New York Times.
The chief of staff, however, didn't spell out what the new product is, the obliteration of civilian infrastructure and innocents, including children, hardly being a "product characteristic" you want prospective consumers to be aware of. Better to draw attention to the more unappealing aspects of Iraq, like Mr. Hussein. Think of it as marketing a bug spray (kills evil dictators dead and keeps those nasty cockroaches out of the oil fields.)
Card has support from the most unlikely of places: prominent dissident Noam Chomksy, who's pitching in with his own campaign of demonizing the enemy, the first step in any program of pro-war propaganda. Saddam Hussein, according to Chomsky, is a "monster" and a "major criminal" who is "as evil as they come." Who would have thought that when it comes to foreign affairs, MIT linguists and George W. Bush operate on the same elevated, Manichean plane, populated by so many "evil monsters"? Chomksy, who told interviewer Michael Albert on September 5 that, "The world would be better off if [Saddam] weren't there, no doubt about that," also seems to be operating on the same elevated plane as Tony Blair, who shares Chomsky's views on the benefit to mankind of Mr. Hussein's ouster. Unaddressed, however, are two questions: Who will replace Saddam Hussein, and will his replacement -- guaranteed to be a US puppet -- be any less a "monster"? And more significantly, will the world be a better place for the numberless Iraqi civilians who will die in the operation to remove the Iraqi leader? Chomsky, to be fair, isn't promoting war against Iraq -- although he did tell an interviewer in January that any serious proposal to oust Saddam Hussein should be considered -- but it's unlikely Card is tearing his hair out over Chomsky's semi-opposition.
Howard Zinn stands a bigger chance of getting under Card's skin (though to be clear-eyed about this, Zinn remains too much on the margins to be much of a concern to Washington.) Here's the dissident historian on what's behind the "war on terrorism" and how it's being sold:
"The real interests of the Bush administration--and the Democratic Party supporters of war--are what the interests of the U.S. have been for a very long time, long before September 11.
The long-term interest of American governments, from the end of the Revolutionary War down to the present day, has been the expansion of national power, first on the continent, then into the Caribbean and the Pacific, and since the Second World War, everywhere on the globe.
Each time there was a period of expansion, there was an explanation: "Manifest Destiny," the need to "save Spain," the need to "civilize" and bring Christianity to the Filipinos, the Germans are sinking our merchant vessels, North Korea has invaded South Korea, we've been fired on in the Gulf of Tonkin, we need to stop the spread of Communism.
But behind all those justifications was the urge to expand American economic and military power. The "war on terrorism" is the latest opportunity to expand U.S. political, economic and military power into other parts of the world."
Tony Blair, who has worked hard to earn the obloquy "Bush's poodle," says, "If we allow international terrorists and rogue states with appalling, brutual...regimes to acquire significant chemical, biological and nuclear capability, then at some point they will use that capability."
We have allowed an appalling, brutal regime to acquire a significant, chemical, biological and nuclear capability, the greatest in the world. It has already used it. And at some point, very soon, it's going to use its capability to kill on a massive scale again.
To expand its political, economic and military power
Former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter, an ex-Marine and a Republican says, "The truth of the matter is that Iraq today is not a threat to its neighbors, and is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside of its own borders."
That distinction goes to the United States, and its poodle, Tony Blair.
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