Thursday, September 11, 2003

LET AHAB BEWARE OF AHAB by Copeland Morris

"You said to me: "The greatness of my country is beyond price. Anything is good that contributes to its greatness. And in a world where everything has lost its meaning, those who, like us young Germans, are lucky enough to find a meaning in the destiny of our nation must sacrifice everything else." I loved you then, but at that point we diverged. "No," I told you, "I cannot believe that everything must be subordinated to a single end. There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don't want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive." You retorted: "Well, you don't love your country." (Albert Camus, "Letters to a German Friend", Resistance, Rebellion, And Death, p. 5)

A circumspect President George W. Bush stood hesitantly, arms at his side, and he seemed remarkably distant and a bit nervous. There were omissions in his September 7th speech and no surprises. The media seemed thoroughly prepared for the sagging emotion, the $87 billion added cost of the war, and the crestfallen air of a government that must present a face of contrition to the international community. The past arrogance and the go-it-alone melodrama had gone out of fashion. The disdain that Rumsfeld, the President's Defense Secretary had offered in previous months to selected allies, was clearly the embarrassment of the moment. The President did not bother to mention that U.S. Army Reservists in Iraq would have their tour of duty extended up to a year; and his oblique mention of sacrifice did not include vivid descriptions of American wounded, some 1200 soldiers with serious disabling injuries, and hundreds and hundreds more who have filled all available space at Walter Reed Hospital, and Bethesda, and a number of Washington area hospitals.

Lies were subsumed into lies, in such numbers as to create a tragic gravitas, an appalling and unbearable mass.

"The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism."

The President did not miss the opportunity to cross-up the separate issues of Afghanistan and Iraq. And the supposition of a linkage between the al Qaeda terrorists and Iraq was still the same lie, it was still the same propaganda that was whispered in the nation's ear, following the World Trade Center attack. Bush even shifted into ridiculous analogy mode, by comparing the present model of reconstruction to the Marshall Plan after World War II, which helped rebuild the infrastructure of post-war Germany and Japan. However, the victorious America of 1945 did not have profiteering in mind: its aims, by comparison, were more principled.

But from 2003 onward, George W. Bush has invited Haliburton, Bechtel, Kellogg Brown & Root, and others, to gorge themselves at the trough of public money and Iraqi resources. Rather than paying for these high-profile and politically-suspect corporations, it would be possible to utilize Iraqi labor, raw materials, engineering and construction expertise, at a fraction of the cost.

..."I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts and in many places. Iraq is now the central front."

But the President has never explained what warped calculation points to Iraq as the central front in the war on terrorism. The supreme illogic resides in the evidence that Iraq did not attack the United States and was not behind the destruction of 9/11. In the 12 years that preceded America's conquest and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. had contained that country in a military and economic stranglehold. The President's melodramatic appeals to urgency and imminent threat in the run-up to war are exposed as an agenda fueled by nothing but obsession and misrepresentations.

When the cloud of debris from the World Trade Center was still settling on South Manhattan, Bush and his senior officials began their whisperings and their leaks to the media about Iraqi connections to the crime. But while other aircraft were still grounded, special arrangements were made to fly disparate members of the Bin Laden clan back home to Saudi Arabia. George W. Bush wasted no time in appealing to Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle, urging him not to instigate an investigation of events surrounding the 9/11 attack. Many weeks later, when the 9/11 commission finally got underway, the Bush Administration stonewalled requests for information. They also sent "minders" to be present when department personnel were being interviewed. Commission members complained that tactics like these were delaying or obstructing the final publication of the report. And when the 9/11 Commission's report was finally made public, there were 28 pages redacted, withheld from the public. And though Commission members were forbidden to divulge the details, some did indicate the general scope of the information. This information ought to have been made public, since it pointed to Saudi Arabia and connections between some of its citizens and officials in the terrorist infrastructure and economic support of al Qaeda.

A lot of deception was crammed into the President's 18 minute speech:

"We are staying on the offensive, with a series of precise strikes against enemy targets increasingly guided by intelligence given to us by Iraqi citizens."

"Our military commanders in Iraq advise me that the current number of American troops--nearly 130,000--is appropriate to their mission."

..."we are encouraging the orderly transfer of sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people."

"Iraq is ready to take the next step to self government".

..."$87 billion"..."we will ...restore basic new schools, roads, and medical clinics."

"We are fighting that enemy in that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities."

..."all our men and women serving in the war on terror, are serving on the front lines of freedom."

The most discouraging deception is the one that presumes the sufficiency of our military presence, the high morale and confidence of our soldiers, and the effectiveness of the tactical raids the President mentioned. Combat troops are simply wrong for policing duties. Our soldiers have too often been caught up in tragic misunderstandings, which have led to civilian deaths, in just the kind of raids Bush was describing. It is understandable that morale would fall; these young soldiers are exhausted, burnt-out, nervous and skittish. And the secretive Bush&Co has not been at all forthcoming about the number of our wounded. And what of Bush's hyperbole about fighting in Iraq so we don't have to fight the enemy in our streets? This is nothing if not rehashed Vietnam War rhetoric.

And what freedom on the front lines can he possibly be talking about? Is the "freedom" all about sheltered corporations and their enrichment? Is he talking about the freedom to engage in preventative war and occupy weaker countries?

Veteran White House reporter, Helen Thomas, recently called George W. Bush "the worst President ever". Helen has been a kind of mother-figure through the years of Presidential Press Conferences, beginning with John Kennedy. Recently interviewed on Australian tv, she admitted to being presently relegated to the back row at a White House Press Conference and never being recognized for a question. Wouldn't it be great if Bush just forgot and recognized her by accident? Maybe she could jump to her feet and shout, "Let Ahab beware of Ahab!"


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