2003: The Year In Hypocrisy
2003 was such a banner year for hypocrites that I scarcely know where to begin! In the interest of space, I've limited myself to hypocrisies related to the Iraq invasion and occupation. Many of those fruits are deliciously low lying, so to avoid making my job too easy, I've avoided the most glaring hypocrisies in order to ferret out the more insidious cases that might otherwise seldom see the light of day.
It must be hard to be a moderate in the Bush government, but that hasn't stopped Colin Powell from twisting himself inside out to toe the party line. In 2001, Powell dismissed a taped message broadcast on al Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden claimed to be helping Iraq's people, saying that bin Laden "doesn't care one whit about them. He has never given a dollar toward them. He has never spoken out for them." Then, less than a year and a half later, in response to another taped message, Powell condemned how bin Laden "is in partnership with Iraq. This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored." As if this piece needed further irony, the bin Laden speech in question heaped aspersions on the "socialists" and "infidels" running Iraq, and pledged solidarity with Iraq's downtrodden citizens.
Perles of Wisdom
Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, has long supported regime change in Iraq. He insisted that Iraq had WMD despite the absence of proof, claiming that intelligence analysts shouldn't "limit ourselves...to what we’re able to prove and demonstrate." Finding myself in any kind of agreement with the Prince of Darkness produces a nauseating cognitive dissonance, but before the invasion, Perle said, "Democracies do not wage aggressive wars" (hard to argue with that one on the basis of evidence). Then, this past November, Perle admitted that the invasion was illegal (although he defended it by saying, "in this case, international law stood in the way of doing the right thing").
President George W. Bush qualified Perle's remarks on democracies and aggressive wars by saying, "See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction." Again, for once I'm hard pressed to disagree with the man.
Geneva Convention? Is that a New Tech Conference?
The US reacted with outrage when captured US soldiers were paraded on Iraqi TV, claiming this violated the Geneva Convention on the rights of captured prisoners. Apparently, no one took Iraq seriously when they tried to label the POWs as "enemy combatants."
Anybody Got a Mirror?
During a July 21, 2003 press conference, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said, "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq" (I swear I'm not making this up). He was, of course, referring to the "foreign terrorists" who were trying to remake Iraq in their own image.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do
In the buildup to the invasion, President Bush slammed Iraq for not obeying the UN, and then announced that if the UN voted not to support an invasion, the US would ignore the UN and invade anyway. Ironically, Iraq actually was obeying the UN. It had granted unconditional access for the inspectors even as it suffered weekly air raids, surrounded by a force of 100,000 soldiers and a government that promised to invade it regardless of what the inspectors found. It even agreed to allow American U-2 spy planes unrestricted access to Iraqi airspace. Apparently, Bush was livid that Saddam wouldn't play nice and kick out the inspectors.
The Infamous Handshake
By now, nearly everyone has seen the grainy 1983 photo of a younger Donald Rumsfeld shaking a younger Saddam Hussein's hand. Rumsfeld went to Iraq in 1984 and again in 1984 as President Reagan's Special Envoy to open diplomatic ties and, more importantly, to talk business. Rumsfeld didn't waste any time complaining about Iraq's use of chemical weapons against its enemies, preferring to focus on peddling yet more chemical weapons to keep Saddam happy while Iraq contained Iran.
In addition to the weapons deal, Rumsfeld pitched an idea to build an oil pipeline to Jordan. The scheme was crafted by then Secretary of State George Schultz, formerly CEO of Bechtel Corporation, and Bechtel was slated to be the big beneficiary. The deal eventually went sour, as Hussein went with a cheaper competitor. But the last laugh is on Bechtel, which in 2003 received a billion dollar contract to rebuild Iraq in a closed bidding process. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld defends his visits, saying, "It struck us as useful to have a relationship, given that we were interested in solving the Mideast problems."
Draping the Flag Over Our Eyes
The most repeated image from the fall of Baghdad was the toppling of the Saddam Statue, framed by jubilant Iraqis. What the mainstream media didn't show was that 1) the "cheering crowd" was actually quite tiny, as long shots of the otherwise empty square reveal, 2) the bystanders had obviously been approved by the soldiers present, since they were standing inside the security perimeter (some were even sitting on top of tanks), and 3) even so, the crowd became visibly upset when an overzealous soldier draped an American flag over Saddam's head.
Driving a Hard Bargain
Bribery: America offered $1 billion in aid to Jordan in exchange for troop location and overflight rights, as well as billions of dollars in military aid to such democratic luminaries as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The US also offered Turkey - which has a long and ugly history of suppressing its Kurdish population - billions of dollars in grants and loans and the right to occupy the Kurdish Region of Iraq. (So much for protecting the Kurds.) Amazingly, Turkey actually followed the will of 90 percent of its citizens and refused the bribe.
Blackmail: America threatened to block Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization if that country refused to support the Iraq invasion (though the stick sounds better than the carrot in this case). America also warned that any country refusing to support the invasion would be cut out of any reconstruction contracts, and later made good on this threat for, as Paul Wolfowitz explained, "the protection of the essential security interests."
The Terrorist Lottery
Honestly, this stuff writes itself. Working on the principal that the market is a better predictor than the world's best funded intelligence apparatus, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), headed by professional liar, felon, and co-conspirator Admiral John Poindexter (Retired), decided it would be a good idea to start up a futures market for terrorist acts. Hey, since the market was such a good predictor of the multibillion dollar dot.com collapse, why not? After developing what Paul Wolfowitz called the "brilliantly imaginative" Total Information Awareness database, it only made sense to take data mining to the next level. Terrorists were reportedly disappointed when the idea was scrapped, because they had hoped that insider trading on their own planned attacks would help to underwrite their expenses.
Humility Doesn't Become You
Vice President Dick Cheney came out of hiding to muse over the $87 billion that the US government needs "liberate" from American taxpayers in order to pay for "liberating" Iraq. Asked if $87 billion would be enough, Cheney said, "I don't know. I can't say. I don't think anybody can say with absolute certainty at this point." Absolutists everywhere long for the certainty Cheney and company cheerily expressed before the war.
Just What Were You Planning To Do With That Placard?
Speaking of terrorist threats, Mike Van Winkle, the spokesperson for the California Anti-Terrorism Center, did us a service by explaining the difference between dissent and terrorism in a free country: "You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that [protest]. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act." Almost? I wish these government agents would stop pussyfooting around.
Helping Iraqis Help Themselves
The US military stood by and allowed looters to ransack Baghdad's public buildings (in violation of that darned Geneva Convention, no less!), with two notable exceptions. The US military placed tight protection around two key ministries. Can you guess what they are? The Ministry of Interior, with its massive intelligence archive, and the Ministry of Oil. Let freedom flow!
That Was Then, This Is Now
America encourages democracy in Iraq - admitting that it hasn't always done the right thing in the past - even while courting dictators elsewhere, like allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Doubtless, when these regimes have served their purpose, America will "liberate" them as well, scoffing at any killjoys who try to bring up the "ancient history" of our erstwhile allegiance.
Criticism = Terrorism
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained the equation thus: "The United States is not going to [acquiesce to the terrorists]; President Bush is not going to do that. To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult." That is, if you criticize the president, that only encourages the terrorists - so don't do it. Your patriotic duty is to shut up and toe the line.
The important thing to remember is that being attacked by one group of people in 2001 means America was justified to retaliate against a completely unrelated group of people in 2003. President Bush attempted to explain his new foreign policy by quoting an old Texas saw: "Fool me Once...shame on...shame on you...Folmuah can’t get fooled again" (apparently he was interrupted by a mushroom cloud over America's cities during this speech). Always happy to explain the US government's more complex motivations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells us that: "Any time an act of terrorism is rewarded, a lesson is learned by the terrorists. There are going to be losses if you do nothing, as we learned on Sept. 11, and there are going to be losses if you do something." Ah, that's much clearer now.
Amid all the talk about ridding the Middle East of WMD, in accordance with UNSCR 687 and broad international agreement, the United States has somehow overlooked Israel, which possesses nuclear weapons and other WMD. Israel is, of course, the one peaceful country in the region, so perhaps the oversight is forgivable. Indeed, if Israel was oppressing its people and threatening its neighbours, doubtless America would have brought regime change and liberation to that benighted land as well.
Topics Not Covered
There's only room for so much hypocrisy. Sadly, I had to omit the following examples:
- When people criticized the Bush tax cut, which overwhelmingly benefits the super rich, President Bush countered by accusing the critics of "class warfare."
- After beating antiwar protesters with the "support the troops" stick, Bush proceeded to cut Veterans' Affairs budget, soldiers' health care, schools for soldiers' children, and tax cuts for soldiers.
- "Liberating" Afghanistan amid thundering denunciations of Taliban human rights violations, and then letting it fall back into the clutches of the Taliban less than two years later.
- Pretending to be "fiscally conservative" and then racking up the largest deficit in US history.
- After a lot of big talk about liberation™, Bush refuses to support Taiwan's "unilateral" bid for independence from China.
- Bush's No Rich Child Left Behind act - the less said, the better. Oh yeah; it turns out that Bush's much-touted low dropout rates during his Texas governorship were fraudulent after all.
- Over 2003, al-Qaeda managed to regroup and actually step up their terrorist attacks on targets around the world. Thank goodness we took the War on Terror™ to Iraq, that hotbed of religious extremism.
- The University of Maryland study that found a strong correlation between which news agencies Americans watch and how badly disinformed they are about Iraq. Guess where Fox News placed.
- Ari Fleischer pompously telling North Korea that, instead of spending so much money on the military, they should "put their people first, to feed their people, to get health care to their people."
- President Bush's big talk about America's "plenty tough force," actually encouraging attacks against American soldiers by saying "bring 'em on!"
- The nauseatingly pro-war New Republic sheepishly admitting that the war was a big selling job - three months too late.
- The Bush administration leaning hard on the CIA to massage its intelligence until it fit the government's war plans - and then blaming the CIA when the intelligence was later debunked.
- House Majority Leader Tom Delay, that Evangelical Christian and card-carrying conservative, wants to make Palestine an American protectorate.
- The Bush Administration censoring 28 pages out of the 9-11 investigation that dealt with the ties between US ally Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda. Ironically, they didn't have to censor anything about the ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda - because they couldn't find any.
- America celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran's democratically elected leader, Mohamed Mossadegh, and installed the brutal Shah in his place. Or not.
- Everything to do with Bush and the environment. That's another whole essay.
- America plastering Baghdad with billboards that read, "Baghdad is Getting Better."
- Former Secretary of State Madeline "We Think It's Worth It" Albright criticizing the Bush Administration's role in Iraq.
- Fox News reporting that "a majority of Americans continues to support the military action taken to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein", and then admitting deep inside the article that approval for the military action has fallen to 46 percent, with 48 percent disapproving.
- America drafting and sponsoring an Iraqi war crimes tribunal and blowing up nine children in Afghanistan in the same week.
- WMD in Iraq? I have no idea what you're talking about.
This was such a banner year, I'm quite sure I missed some great hypocrisies. If you know of any not listed, please send them to me at email@example.com, and I'll post them at the bottom of this page.
Have a wonderful new year!
January 5, 2004