Democratic Underground

The Daily War Watch
"Now Wolfowitz Lead. Bombs for Everyone!"
September 21, 2001
by J B

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The above quote is a tongue-in-cheek rendition of a line from a computer role-playing game character with a great deal of brawn, and the unfortunate sufferer of a blow to the head that left him not the sharpest blade in the armory. The full quote, from BioWare's "Baldur's Gate", an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons licensed game, is when the character is selected as the party leader. It goes something like, "Magic is impressive. But now, Minsc leads. Swords for EVERYONE!" This includes characters who aren't really cut out for it. The character, Minsc, simply is not bright enough to understand that swords, while handy, cannot solve everything.

Apparently the view that bombs cannot solve everything is not sinking in to "defense establishment" rejects who occupy positions of prominence in the Bush Administration. By this I mean people who make their careers by being extremist hawks and making hawks in Congress happy by providing them the intellectual (if it can be called that) cover to take up silly, extreme positions on national defense. Whatever their logic, it is usually used to cover other, more basic motivations.

Already, the Bush Administration is split among two main battle lines, which was, and is, and will be, quite predictable until someone, especially someone named Colin Powell, is forced out of the administration. While the forces to send him packing have been at work for some time, with Andrew Sullivan even calling him, for lack of a nicer way to put it, a naive black front man with delusions of self-importance who doesn't know his rightful place, Powell is, at least, a useful front man for a while longer. The Good Cop, so to speak. However, in this case, he is no cop at all: he is an enemy in the establishment of the desired hawkish policy.

The bottom line of their plan is this: It's time to get rid of Saddam. It matters not one tiny bit if he had absolutely nothing to do with the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and is completely innocent of this terrible crime. We need to finish what "41" started and get him out.

While seemingly proposed by Richard Perle, for reasons of appearance, the NY Times is pretending that he has nothing to do with the policy formulation; its article which is cited in references at the bottom of this article states only that Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, and hand-picked hawk by Rumsfeld to fight any influence Powell might have over defense, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to VP Dick Cheney, hand-picked hawk by Cheney to fight any influence Powell might have over defense, are the ones driving this policy push.

The policy itself is called the "earliest and broadest" military campaign, including not only going after Saddam, but hitting the Bekka Valley region hard. (You know, the one Reagan had hit after the Marines in Lebanon got car-bombed. The ones where E-6 Prowlers launched with as few as two to four laser guided bombs out of a maximum payload of 24 because the attack was rushed, a fact I read years ago in a paperback book of a journalist's time on an aircraft carrier.) Of course, Afghanistan is to also be hit, but it seems to be something of an afterthought. Saddam Hussein is obviously, by far, the main target. Unfinished business, it would seem.

Secretary Powell, one of the few men in the administration actually taken seriously abroad, is doing the dirty work of getting friends, or at least, aquaintances of the US involved in the "coalition against terror". Even if he was not personally involved, he could easily say that even back in the Gulf War, invading Iraq was a no-no, and so was "Ending states that support terror". Replacing governments, the US has been known to do. Actually breaking and shattering states so that they no longer exist would be unprecedented by the US in the era of nation states; the US has never actually killed a state before, as if it was a person.

With other distractions such as Pakistan's support for the US in this war against terrorism possibly being the death warrant of that nation's non-fanatical ruler and the regime he daily defends against extremism, and Russia's concern that Central Asia's rug will be pulled out from under it, the Bush administration seems consumed with issues like, if there is no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks, such a petty detail should be ignored in a campaign of hail and brimstone.

Powell obviously thinks that his carefully sewn and still-fragile coalition would be ripped apart quickly if action is taken against Iraq, let alone "ending the state". He made a public comment, rather impatiently, about the goal being "ending terrorism", not states, and that Wolfowitz can speak for himself.

Well, the problem here is twofold.

One, there is a split.

Two, since obviously I am reading about it in the New York Times, the world knows that there is a split.

So much for no leaks. So much for secrecy.

And what's CNN thinking? Loose lips sink ships, but one carrier's general movements has been noted by CNN. Also, numbers of aircraft deployment have hit the media. Guys, if we're going to have paranoid censorship, shouldn't we be taking this a little more seriously?

I don't take a position on either administration plan, by the way. The fact of the matter is, taking out Saddam would be a good idea. (On the other hand it might take down Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and secular Iran in the process. We just don't know. Heck, Jordan's king may not live to complain about our actions; remember, his father was assassinated before his eyes, and 50% of his subjects are disgruntled Palestinians.) If the US could get away with it, yes, taking Saddam is nice. But what's to be left in his place? Iraq is 20% Kurd, 40% Shiite (mostly in the south, meaning bordering Saudi Arabia, the heart of Sunni religion), and 40% Sunni Moslem. This is not a good formula for survival without some kind of secular, pound-them-into-square-holes leader. If Iraq is no more, then what? Will Iran just waltz in? No one knows.

I'll wait and see, but at least now you're aware of the public airing of the split (which is more important than the split itself in some ways). This bad blood goes back to the early days of the Bush Administration, and perhaps before, when Cheney made a sincere commitment to pack staffers and deputies with hawks and hard-line conservatives, with Powell being recruited by Bush to operate as a respectable face abroad. That respectability is being firmly tested by his short leash.

In other news, Andrew Sullivan is imploring the Left to give Bush a chance. Yeah yeah. Hey Andrew, you said the Left might yet pull a fifth column on the US. In this climate, that's calling them traitors and allies of terror. Before asking us to give Bush a chance, why not give the Left a chance? We have enough people referring to "Diaper heads" without your helping.

Apparently Congressional and Senate immunity to being prosecuted for speech only applies to what they say on the floor of the House or Senate, so Orin Hatch really is still in deep trouble, if not under existing laws, then under laws believed to be ready to be passed and signed soon.

ANWR drilling has been tacked on top of the Defense Authorization Bill. Gee. Thanks.

The chairman of Delta Air Lines has seriously proposed that Congress declare the terrorist actions as Acts of War, thus making them immune from lawsuits against airline companies. This would trigger Acts of War escape clauses by insurance companies and reinsurers in Switzerland, Bahrain, and other financial powerhouses, which could, if they acted to protect their shareholders as is expected of them, save them from paying out some $30 billion which would go, likely indirectly, to victims of the WTC bombings, possibly including the new owner of the World Trade Center, definitely including much of the loss borne from corporations who had headquarters in the WTC (who must pay death benefits to their employees among other things), which would lead directly to the financial crippling or outright ruin of many companies. I don't know how bad, but we could be talking banks, insurance companies, Dean Witter, J.P. Morgan, Merryll Lynch... it all depends on the contracts.

But let's be serious. I haven't even tried very hard, yet in the last couple of days, I have noticed talk in the media of these Act of War bailout clauses. Since Congress has NOT declared these to be Acts of War, but rather, they have been considered acts of terrorism until now, there was little question of foreign insurers claiming these clauses to save on payouts. (i.e. they insured against terror and not war.) There seems to be little way that the chairman of Delta Air Lines, a Mr. Leo Mullin, was not aware of the issue. Despite this, Mr. Mullin seems determined to have Congress protect his airline while cutting off at the neck dozens, perhaps hundreds, of companies, and thousands of bereaved families, from insurance because of the triggering of Act of War bailout clauses.

I find this to be beyond outrage and beyond shameful. Other things are going on, but none would have the dramatic and downright disastrous effects of giving foreign insurers a way out of paying for World Trade Center bombing damage. They would be neglectful to their duties to their shareholders (and employees, and nations) to pay if they didn't have to, regardless of their feelings for the people who died; waving such a huge red flag in front of a not yet active bull is the height of irresponsibility, and I pray Congress wakes up to the danger before it's too late.

Oh, and one last thing: Seems that Phil Gramm is working to obstruct anti-money laundering measures again. They just cost too much.

I presume the WTC bombing is an acceptable financial loss, then.

I wonder if it's really the Left that doesn't "get it" here.


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