The campaign against Iraq now being mounted in Washington, D.C., is shameful to a government that purportedly respects international law and conventions — and the apathetic muteness of its reception by the American public is unbecoming to a population that fashions itself a beacon of liberty and democracy to the civilized world. Only a few questions suffice to deconstruct the bellicose fetish against Saddam Hussein that once again grips the White House.
The first is whether this initiative is against Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction. And notice that, this time, the response of the American “diplomatic” establishment is shamelessly clear: the goal is regime change. The anti-Saddam rhetoric is no longer couched under the pretense of enforcing compliance with U.N. resolutions on weapons-monitoring (invoking the United Nations when one is preparing an illegal unilateral action is not, alas, a good idea). Saddam needs to go, and that’s that. Why Saddam, though? And why now?
Why does America arrogate itself the right to depose a dictator of a Muslim regime with supposedly nuclear capacity and a history of aggression against its neighbors while concomitantly praising the statesmanship of another dictator of a Muslim country with confirmed nuclear capacity and a history of aggression against its neighbors, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf?
One might think that the sudden urge to oust Saddam is attributable to a recent inflection of his modus operandi, but evidence supporting such assumption is lacking. More than 20 years have passed since Israel destroyed Iraq’s first attempted nuclear reactor; thenceforth, nothing has changed. So much so that the dearth of new evidence against Saddam is telling — more than W.’s penchant for secrecy, the refusal to come to public (or to the appropriate forum: the U.N. Security Council) with convincing evidence against Iraq’s dictator should be understood as a tacit recognition that such evidence does not exist.
If it did, it would have been presented by the Defense Department or its communications arm, CNN.
So one should exercise the seemingly long-forgotten patriotic duty of questioning one’s government’s motives and pose the egregious, the unconscionable question: why is the United States preparing to attack Iraq now? There is, of course, the traditional economic rationale — guaranteeing oil stability and lending a hand to the armaments industry. There are some petty personal reasons (W. does Poppy’s unfinished work), but let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt on that one. One might even claim “the war against terrorism” as a valid excuse, if it weren’t for the fact that, except for the United Kingdom, all of the allies in that war have not only manifested their unequivocal opposition to an attack against Iraq but some — Germany included — have vowed to partially or totally withdraw from the war on terror should Hussein become the victim du jour.
So why do it? Because the Bush government, as any opinion poll can attest, is fueled by war.
In the absence of the temporary numbness and suspension of disbelief afforded to the commander in chief when he dons his warrior garb, the patriotic ethos would recede to its historic levels and the ensuing questioning might shed an unflattering light on Bush’s efforts on everything other than warmongering: from the sluggish economy to corporate “malfeasance”; from the Kyoto treaty to logging; from steel tariffs to airline bailouts; from budget deficits to Social Security; from stem cell research to Harken, Haliburton, Enron, et al.
Stability in the United States seems to come at the expense of stability in the Middle East. If the latter was the goal, anyway, it would seem more prudent to invest all resources in solving the quandary between Israelis and Palestinians. That, for one, is a conflict in which not only the American public but most of the world — including the aggrieved parties — defend a more forceful engagement by this administration. Such engagement is unlikely since, as W.’s predecessor will tell you, pacifying the Holy Land is a daunting task. Making war is always easier. Even Donald Rumsfeld can handle that.
Gustavo Ioschpe is a student in the master’s program in international and development economics.