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The Poodle and The Puppeteer
January 11, 2003
By Mike McArdle

Tony the Poodle is starting to get nervous. With a January 27 date for the UN weapons inspectors report looking more and more like it will pass without any evidence of those much talked about weapons of mass destruction turning up in Iraq, the Daily Telegram is reporting that the Brits may be wondering what the big hurry is after all. With Hans Blix now expected to ask for more time for inspections Blair may be finding it awfully hard to say no.

Blair appears to know that it's politically and logically untenable to threaten a war over weapons, demand the right to search for said weapons, perform the requisite search, find none of the aforementioned weapons and then fight the war anyway. Blair's Labor Party, none too happy with his planned military adventure to start with, would have a hard time sitting still for this one. So maybe if we just wait a few months, you know, put things off until Autumn maybe we can find some weapons and pull the trigger then.

But Blair's transatlantic counterpart, Presidential puppet master Karl Rove, knows that the war can't wait until there is some kind of defensible justification for it. It's this winter or never. Autumn is precariously close to the beginning of 2004, the only really important date on the Bush administration calendar. Wars are tricky things, they're not easy to control. The initial rush of patriotic enthusiasm that accompanies the idea that somebody is shooting at “our boys” even when “our boys” were sent to aggressively shoot their boys can dissipate quickly when the boys start to come home in bags. Approval ratings can take a real pounding and who can afford that in an election year ?

The sad difference between Rove, Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld et al and Mr. Blair appears to be that Blair knows he has to answer to the members of his party and the opposition and the Bushies thus far have gotten away with sneering at the patriotism of anybody who asks questions and thus silencing them.

David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter whose recollections of the Bush White House hit the book stores this week says that in last years State of the Union he was ordered to “provide a justification for war.” Notice the wording of that statement. Frum wasn't given intelligence briefings containing the justification and asked to come up with powerful phrases to rally the public behind the just cause. He was told to create the justification. The war decision had already been made and the target was to be Iraq.

So Frum came up with the “Axis of Evil” speech, an attempt to invoke the villains of World War II and a bit of theological certitude to brand their pre-determined villains. Iran and North Korea were added almost as afterthoughts, North Korea probably just to avoid the perception that only Muslims were being singled out as the evil ones.

But as the year wore on and the all-justifying memory of September 11 began to fade some people began to ask for more than justification by rhetoric alone. So for months we were treated to a steady diet of 10-year-old nuclear warnings, drones with very limited range that were going to make it across the Atlantic, and an Air Force pilot declared dead more than a decade earlier who might have somehow developed a new pulse in an Iraqi prison. Reptilian think-tanker Richard Perle even said that we had no choice but to go to war to Iraq simply because we had said we would and who would ever believe us again if we didn't.

But in view of the fact that the international community was asking that the Bushies actually find some kind of military threat in Iraq before they signed off on a “pile up the bodies and deal out the oil leases” excursion into Iraq the issue had to be framed as an effort to “disarm” Iraq. So the Presidential teleprompter was loaded with rhetoric about the effort to “disarm” Saddam. For weeks we heard about how “He will disarm or we will disarm him” but thus far they've uncovered no arm to dis.

And time is wasting. The Poodle's feet get colder every day that the smoking gun avoids discovery. Public support, always tenuous, may be waning and the opposition Presidential candidates are already gearing up for 2004. Rove wants his little man to run as a courageous conqueror of evil. The war has to start and be over before next year.

The Bushies need to find their smoking gun. Or they're going to have to invent one.

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