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Cracks in the Egg
August 21, 2002
By Michael Shannon

Even by his extraordinarily inane standards the following Bushism is a real doozy, not just for its content but for the mind set behind it:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier.. .just as long as I'm the dictator..." - on his first trip to Washington as president-elect, Dec 18, 2000.

The irony is that Mr Bush, albeit in his own inimitable style, is actually on to something there. It is much easier to rule unencumbered by public opinion or within the guidelines of the law. Things are so much simpler if you can just do whatever it is you or your advisers please with the wave of a hand or the issuance of a decree. Things do tend to get so complicated when forced to consider the opinions of those with varying viewpoints.

Fortunately for Mr Bush, in a manner of speaking, his wish came true. In the months that followed September 11th he was granted a level of autonomous authority that did border on the dictatorial. However, with the passage of time the emotive reasoning for that has slowly but surely ebbed. And now I am sorry to rain on your parade Mr President, but all good things must come to an end.

The firestorm of criticism leveled at the Bush administration over the past several weeks vis-a-vis Iraq reached a remarkable crescendo last week. Suddenly those who were doing the criticizing could no longer be dismissed as unpatriotic, cowardly obstructionists. Suddenly it was coming not only from within the Republican party - Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam vet, asking head hawk Richard Perle if he would be willing to lead the assault into Baghdad was priceless - but - stop the presses! - from within the cozy confines of Bush Inc.

For a man like Brent Scowcroft - as politically close to Bush 41 as any man alive - to come out in the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of rock ribbed Republicanism, and say that invading Iraq is a lousy idea was more than any opponent of military action against Iraq could have possibly hoped for. While his voice has been an unexpected boon to the cause, that people are questioning the Bush administration's rush to war comes as no surprise at all. Particularly when you review how ineptly the whole process has been handled.

The lunacy began over the past several months as we have been inundated with so-called attack scenarios. One day we hear about massive waves of troops and heavy equipment launched from multiple directions, the next a beefed up Special Ops mission and the day after that, a completely different plan.

Are these "leaks" real? If so, is the administration really that porous that war plans can not be kept secret? Or are they trial balloons set aloft by the proponents of the differing strategies to see which plays out best? Or are they intended to keep Hussein guessing? Perhaps they are merely the products of over active imaginations. More likely they are indicative of an administration that has painted themselves into a rhetorical corner with all their macho chest thumping and is now flailing about for a way to make an idiotic idea a reality.

But whatever the reasoning behind all this nonsense the root question remains the same: why Mr Bush has made the overthrow of Hussein his job one. Particularly when last fall's primary objective - the capture or dismemberment of those responsible for perpetrating the worst crime against the people of the United States ever committed - hasn't come even close to being realized.

Are we really about to invade a sovereign state - run by a homicidal maniac to be sure - merely because the President doesn't like the guy? Yes, I know that the argument can be made that W is the dutiful son fulfilling the destiny denied to his beloved father. But that is a little too Shakespearean for my taste. Oh right I forgot; Mr Bush is doing it because Hussein poses a clear and present danger to the United States, ie., as the owner and developer of an ever expanding arsenal of WMD. But this is a very weak argument, for if we do have credible information that Hussein has these weapons and is prepared to use them against us, it completely undermines his own reasoning that to not act now is to wait too long. Mr President, if you have knowledge that he truly does have these horrible weapons and is preparing to use them than what the hell are you waiting for?

While there is little doubt that Hussein does have a few diabolical tricks up his sleeve, this is far from news. Samantha Powers, in her terrific book The Problem From Hell, spells out in great detail that the United States was well aware of Iraqi use of chemical weapons both against the Iranians during their eight year war in the 1980's as well as against the Iraqi Kurds who committed the unpardonable sin of wishing to have a say in how they lived their lives. He repeatedly used these vile weapons while the United States government, with a number of the men who now figure prominently in this Bush administration, not only stood by and did nothing but continued to actively support his larger efforts against the Iranians. That we are outraged by these truly despicable acts ten/twelve years after the fact rings more than a little hollow.

Team Bush continues though to play this card because they feel it is the only one that will carry any weight with the American people. They know that if they told the people that they wish to effect a "regime change" in Iraq as a way of dismantling the power structure of the Arabian OPEC states, they would immediately leave themselves open to a pan Arab/Islamic response - which nobody wants. They also know that if they come right out and state that we are going into Iraq to gain control over their enormous oil reserves that that would seem to say we are going to war so that Exxon et al, can continue business as usual. While both the above may be very supportable realpolitik positions, positions that within the confines of think tanks and ready rooms seem to make perfect sense, neither is going to play very well in Peoria.

So whether those who support the Iraqi war initiative like it or not, it is becoming increasingly apparent that they will need a much more sellable casus belli before America marches willingly off to war.

And in the meantime - if the policies emanating from the Bush White House/Pentagon seem confused, inarticulate, misleading, evasive and mendacious keep in mind that they are a direct reflection of the defining characteristics of the head man himself and his style of governing.

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