Monday, March 26, 2018

Retroblogging the Iraq War: March 12, 2003

Et Tu, Daddy? (March 12, 2003)

This blog post lived for many years on a Blosxom-generated page here, and still does. Blosxom is a great tool, but my workflow has changed; I now write everything in Markdown and generate HTML and other formats from that source. So to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the start of the war, I have converted the old text to Markdown and generated fresh HTML using pandoc, the Swiss Army knife of file formats. I found, however, that many of the original links have suffered from “link rot.”

Fortunately, I was able to find alternate sources for most of the links, as many of the original pages were preserved by the Internet Archive and could be found using the Wayback Machine. But despite my best efforts, some links remain broken. See the link notes below. If you are able to find an alternate online source for any of the broken links, please leave me a comment, and thank you!

¶ 1 I’m having a bad day: not enough sleep, a cranky son who didn’t want to get up to go to school. So you may notice that I’m giving up my pretense of civility today. It seems to me that politeness isn’t working; it’s time to get cranky. Howard Zinn writes of “the emergence of new voices, unheard before, speaking ‘inappropriately’ outside their professional boundaries… 1500 historians have signed an anti-war petition. Businessmen, clergy, have put full page ads in newspapers. All refusing to stick to their ‘profession’ and instead professing that they are human beings first.” It gives me some hope. Something else that will give me hope: major demonstrations in every city. Walkouts. A national strike. Anything but business as usual, because this isn’t.

¶ 2 One thing is making me feel a little better: I’m not alone. George W. Bush is probably having a pretty bad day too. His own father is warning him against the danger of completely alienating the international community: Times Online story. Bush Senior said “The Madrid conference would never have happened if the international coalition that fought together in Desert Storm had exceeded the UN mandate and gone on its own into Baghdad after Saddam and his forces.” And in 1996 he told the BBC “to occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero.” (See the Counterpunch essay.) Will Bush Jr. listen to his father and ease up on the cowboy rhetoric?

¶ 3 Maybe if we gave him a certificate signed by the world’s leaders acknowledging that yes, he’s the man with the biggest dick, and the French can’t take that away from him, he would breathe a sigh of relief and settle down to the business of running the country. He wouldn’t feel threatened by the existence of “french fries” and “french toast” (renamed at the House office building cafeterias by Republican lawmakers; see the CNN story here.

¶ 4 But I’m not very hopeful: according to a Reuters story the U.S. is already lining up contractors to reconstruct “health services, ports and airports, and schools and other educational institutions.” And, of course, how could these companies, which include a subsidiary of Cheney’s former company Haliburton, get on with the business of earning $900 million dollars for rebuilding, unless we get on with the business of demolition? And they’ve got just the thing to do the demolition: this 21,000 pound bomb, billed as “the mother of all bombs,” to be employed for “psychological operations.” Maybe this will change some minds in Iraq… or at least puree them. Of course, $900 million could do a lot of good here, repairing “schools and educational institutions,” such as… say… this one.

¶ 5 If you’re wondering whether I can possibly be cynical enough to suggest that the U.S. would deliberately spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and put Iraqui and American lives at risk, in order to provide a few hundred millions of dollars for its favored friends, let me be clear: yes, I am just that cynical, and sick at heart. (2018 addendum: from the perspective of the past 15 years, it’s much more clear how the weapons industry scams and the reconstruction industry scams get ’em coming and going.) These organizations probably did not even ask for this largesse. According to Reuters, “Sources at the companies said the invitation was unusual in that USAID did not ask them to set a price for defined services but rather asked them to say what they could do for $900 million.” Of course, this is a drop in the bucket, or rather the barrel, compared to the economic factor staring us in the face: the assurance of continued access to cheap oil. Is it so obvious we can’t believe it could be that simple?

¶ 6 Is there any limit to our duplicity? The Observer reports a leaked American plan to conduct “aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York.” See the article here. Haliburton already has the contract to put out the burning oil fields we set on fire. And there’s more forged and planted evidence of Iraq’s supposed attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

¶ 7 What is the goal, again, exactly? In other words, just what can Saddam do to avoid bombing, invasion, and massive casualties? Fred Kaplan in Slate points out that there are no clear steps Saddam can take; our American policy doesn’t even give him a standard to comply with. Lots of people are spouting off about how Iraq could have avoided all this and gotten out of the sanctions doghouse – but, in fact, this was never the plan. The U.S. had no intentions of lifting sanctions; Madeline Albright in 1997 said “We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted.” So we’ve never, in fact, given Saddam Hussein any real incentive to work hard to comply with U. N. resolutions. And now we’re giving him a serious incentive – the massive buildup to invasion and bombing – to comply – and we’ve raised the bar. Ari Fleischer said “To avoid war… Saddam must not only disarm totally but step down from power.” What kind of U.N. resolution mandated that?

¶ 8 What kind of a precedent does it set for one sovereign nation to demand that the leader of another, operating within its own borders, and arguably complying (albeit barely) with U.N. resolutions, must “step down?” Even Tony Blair believes that’s not something we can reasonably ask. See the Boston Globe’s Editorial:

Bush’s inconsistency on this point – disarmament or regime change? – undermined the early case for war. That it reappears now, obliterating Powell’s argument of a month ago, is fatal to the moral integrity of the prowar position.

It’s not surprise that our own allies are ready to veto us.

¶ 11 Of course, there are some credible threats out there: Iran is apparently close to nuclear capability. Then there’s the minor matter of North Korea, with whom we’re apparently not speaking. Perhaps we could just demand disarmament and regime change all over the goddamned place. Of course, we could consider getting our own house in order.

¶ 12 And happy fucking Easter.

I have provided additional information about the links, such as title, author, and source, when I could find it, in the hope that if a link breaks again in the future, it might be possible to hunt down alternate online sources. If you can help track down broken links to sources, please leave a comment.

¶ 1 “I’m having a bad day…”

¶ 2 “One thing is making me feel a little better…”

¶ 3 “Maybe if we gave him a certificate…”

¶ 4 “But I’m not very hopeful…”

¶ 5 “If you’re wondering…”

¶ 6 “Is there any limit…”

¶ 7 “What is the goal…”

¶ 8 “What kind of precedent…”

¶ 11 “Of course, there are some…”

¶ 12 “And happy…”

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