I still think ya’ll are barking up the wrong tree if you really think this ever had anything to do with weapons of mass destruction. What happened were two significant events: Bush won (more or less) the election and brought in some pretty radical foreign policy folks (his dad called 'em The ‘B’ Team) who believe it’s in America’s interests to use its military power directly and frequently in the unipolar world. These folks were largely ignored, as was foreign policy in general, until 9/11. We freaked out. Understandibly Bush freaked out. And the alternatively ignored, feared and ridiculed guys who’ve been saying we need to wander the world like Kane in Kung Fu kicking ass suddenly pointed out they’ve had this little plan they’ve been working on. If you’ve been keeping up with events you know about the skirmishes between State and the civilian folks in the Pentagon. Powell is the only Bush, Sr. ‘A’ Team member in this administration while Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (along with their scarey sidekick Perle who recently called an investigative reporter that revealed his questionable profiteering from homeland defense ‘a terrorist’) are heart and soul signatories of the ‘B’ Team documents.
The B Team wants to remake the world, more or less, in our image or at least kick ass and take names to ensure nobody ever tries to surpass our might (this is pretty close to the exact language in our new official strategic defense documents. As a wise man said ‘Sure, no country in our position wants a global competitor. But you don’t go around saying that you’ll take preemptive action to keep it from happening - in public.’)
The administration knows where Al Qaida comes from. They know it’s not Iraq. They mopped up Afghanistan and, next, you have to look at Saudi Arabia - there’s no two ways about it. Any kind of overt attack would be too disruptive to the global economy and, besides, the Saudi royals are our boys. We supported them, and radical Sunni/Wahabi Islam, throughout the cold war as a proxy philosophy murderously opposed to aetheistic communism. This took most dramatic form in our cooperation with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service (later strong allies of the Taliban), Saudi Arabian moneymen and the Mujaheeden guerillas of Afghanistan as they took on the Soviets.
The problem is now that we’ve supported the Saudi Royals who are dependant on theocratic claims of purity to maintain their rule and now there are those who actually decided to take that religious shit seriously. They turned shining fanatical eyes back on the rulers that oppressed their brethren and saw pretty clearly a high level of hypocrasy between what the Saudi royals claimed to stand for and what they, in fact, did. The pure rulers were bed with Americans infidels whose godless culture and venal greed was taking over the world. At this point the Saudi Royal family is all split up. Ultimately, the country is a welfare state with the Royal’s doling out a percentage of oil revenue to keep the people happy and the imams well-fed. When oil prices crashed there was suddenly less money to go around. The Royals began to take sides. Some even started believing their own hype and aligned themselves with the religious fanatics in fact. Most simply pay lip service to both the fanatics and the U.S. in order to keep their skins intact, the oil revenues coming in, and their claims to rulership alive. Tricky ain’t it?
Clearly something has to be done and when in doubt, if you’re a freaked out Texan, that something has to involve kicking ass. While we can’t move directly against the Saudis or other countries contributing to the problem we can kick the tar out of Iraq because, on a technicality, we’re still at war according to a ten year old UN resolution and a creaky ceasefire agreement that was honored more in the breach than observance. Once you mop up there you’ll control the second largest reserves of oil in the world which should help focus the thinking of the less savory elements in the Gulf leadership. You also have a strategic position from which to launch attacks to protect ‘strategic interests’ around the region should rebellions or guerilla action threaten oil fields or ‘friendly’ governments in other countries or should other countries be revealed as supporters of terrorism or in a rush to develop nuclear weapons in the middle of the world’s gas station. (Hey, Iran. How’s it going?)
Largely, I see this as a pretty good plan. The problem is that it has never been revealed but obliquely to the American people. This thinking is really why Bush keeps confusing Saddam with Osama despite the fact they’ve got nothing in common and are, in fact, mortal enemies. It’s also why you keep hearing about a democratic Iraq. It’s poking at the autocratic Arab and Persian regimes in the region and letting the leaders know we’ve got causus belli any old time we want so they better play ball. None of them are democracies. All of them have special places in human rights hell waiting for them.
Aside from the lack of candor in presenting this operation to their own citizens, the Bush adminstration’s overreliance on the B Team has lead to a very scarey national security document and constant rhetoric that’s really freaked out the world. We’re the most powerful country that’s ever existed on this planet. We’re all but synonymous with economic development. And until now we’ve never launched a preemptive war of conquest without significant international understandings in a place of such huge global significance. Even those countries that are our allies have populations violently at odds with their leaderships.
And here I am still right in the middle. I want to believe we really do plan to bring democracy to a grateful Iraqi people. I want to believe that will, along with the economic benefits it brings to these people, force other governments to reform or face the ire of their publics. I want to believe our military presence will be a steadying hand to protect governments in transition.
And then I remember that the Victorian Empire was about bringing enlightenment to the savages until commerical interests took over and all but enslaved colonials to their own interests. I remember who backs this adminstration politically and why. I remember why Bush, Sr. considered the various policy directions of the B Team scarey and members of the A Team feared the appearance, and the reality, if arrogant imperialism in our bearing. We are a mighty nation and, amazingly, until now have avoided the usual alignment of powers one sees against the mighty. Why? Because we’re not seen as threatening. Well, beginning with ‘you’re with us or against us’ we suddenly became pretty damn scarey. We’ve invoked questionable evidence against Iraq, used rather brutal strongarm tactics in our diplomacy, ridiculed our allies and other friendly nations, spied on diplomats on a remarkable scale, and run roughshod through the Phillipines and Columbia. We’ve scorned international institutions when they became flighty precisely because of our intimidating, insufferable, comportment.
I really don’t know what to think. The die is cast. What we see in Iraq will tell us what is to come. If this administration is sincere in its claims about its goals for Iraq and the Iraqi people are genuinely glad we’ve come as liberators then we’ll have one future. If American logos start going up like medieval standards on occupied oil derricks patrolled by American soldiers and paramilitary ‘contractors’ and governed for an extended period by generals then we have an entirely different future.
Sidebar: A lesser known and unrelated fact is that the CIA helped the Iraqi Ba’ath party overthrow Iraq’s previous rulership when it started tilting to the Soviets. A young man named Saddam was a Ba’athist political leader in exile in Cairo, Egypt at the time and was known to visit the U.S. Embassy there. Later, in the 80’s we supported Saddam with intelligence, munitions and WMD ‘dual use’ items when he fought the radical Shiites of Iraq who themselves were rebels against the dictatorial regime of the Shah installed by the CIA when an elected Iranian leader tried to nationalize previously colonial British oil fields. And you wonder why folks don’t trust us…