Bush to Saddam: Hand over your country, or I’ll take it

“When they say America first, they mean your country next.”

It would be easy enough to say US President George W. Bush wants war, but the claim wouldn’t hit the mark dead on. War is only a means. The end — what Bush really wants — is control of Iraq. For starters.

Bush, and the corporate grandees, oil men, and foreign policy hawks he represents, have long wanted Iraq, and have made no secret of it. Their aims, laid out in think tank documents, have been part of the public record since before September 11.

And in the richly textured tapestry of lies, half-truths and rhetorical flourishes that are Bush’s speeches, is acknowledgement: “We can’t let Saddam dominate the Middle East,” (this being the US role.) “We must maintain secure access to Persian Gulf oil,” (meaning Washington, not Iraq, must control Iraq’s oil fields.) “We can’t allow Saddam to hold us to ransom.” (Translation: Iraq must not be allowed to refuse our orders.)

But it was September 11 that, ultimately, provided the pretext to secure control of Iraq. Not directly, in the sense of, “Saddam engineered the attacks and now he’ll pay,” but indirectly, as in, “We mustn’t let monsters who are hostile to us be in a position to hurt us, as we were hurt on September 11.”

Sure, there were early attempts to implicate Saddam in the terrorist attacks. In the hours immediately after the collapse of the Twin Towers, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense and new American century advocate (the new century must be one dominated by the US) was demanding his aides find a link to the Iraqi bogeyman. There were rumors of a meeting between Mohammed Atta, the leader of the hijackers, and Iraqi intelligence in Prague. And it was darkly suggested the anthrax attacks could be the work of the Iraqi leader. “He’s evil enough to do something like this,” Bush commented. But in the end, the 9/11 angle was minimized. It wouldn’t be the only, or even the major, foundation of the case against Iraq. Preventing future 9/11s would be.

All the administration had to do was present Saddam Hussein as someone who might, maybe, someday, engineer another 9/11, and, well, you know, who wants to wait around for proof positive? Take him out, now.

They started making the case early. Last January, the administration’s chief Democrat “let’s get Saddam” advocate, Joseph Lieberman, said:

“For as long as Saddam Hussein is in Baghdad, he will seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We have no doubt that these deadly weapons will be intended for use against the US and its allies.”

And on the same day, the always reliable Henry Kissinger, war criminal and advocate of democracy abroad (so long as it produces pro-US leaders) weighed in with his own contribution. “Iraq’s policy is implacably hostile to the US,” observed Kissinger. “It possesses growing stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. It is working to develop a nuclear capability. If these capabilities remain intact, they could in time be used for terrorist goals.”

All Kissinger had to do was replace “working to develop a nuclear capability” with “already possessed of the world’s most formidable nuclear arsenal” and he would have provided a serviceable thumbnail sketch of his own country. But, alas, the rich hypocrisy of the US position is lost on Americans, as the UN’s former chief weapons inspector Richard Butler observed. “I flinch when I hear American, British and French fulminations against weapons of mass destruction,” Butler said. “[They] ignore the fact that they are the proud owners of massive quantities of these weapons, unapologetically insisting that they are essential for their national security, and will remain so.” What counts these days as a devastating rejoinder to criticism of this sort is to work yourself up into high dudgeon and thunder, “I’m astonished that anyone would think there’s a moral equivalence between the United States and Iraq.”

To be sure, Saddam’s hardly a good guy. And he’ll never win a humanitarian award (the real kind, that is, not the kind Henry Kissinger gives out to people like Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chretien for being loyal vassals of the US empire.) And this proves useful to the velociraptors who plot US foreign policy. As National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, it is because Saddam’s “irresponsible and cruel enough” that “this”–the occasion to seize control of Iraq–“is available.” And all those who are a little squeamish about war can always console themselves with, “Well, I regret it came to this, but at least we got rid of an evil monster. The consequences were ethical.”

At its root, then, that’s what the White House’s marketing campaign (so called by the White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card) is based on — fear of a bogeyman and what he might do, even if the threat is mild. “Okay, we missed the first attack,” the White House is saying. “But do you want us to be lax? You don’t want to find that Saddam is a threat only after a mushroom cloud rises over our heads.” Hence, all the stories about weapons of mass destruction, and gassing the Kurds, and attacking neighbors, and of course, Saddam is evil and hates America.

That Bush wants control of Iraq should be clear in the UN Security Council Resolution he’s proposing, one which — once deals are worked out among the permanent members of the Security Council as to which will get which Iraqi oil field — will probably be ratified. The resolution, which Bush talks about as if it’s reasonably limited to a demand for full and immediate compliance with inspections, is actually an ultimatum: hand over control of the country, or we’ll take it. The resolution says US forces can establish no fly and no drive zones, can go anywhere they want, can remove from the country anyone they want, and can establish bases whether they want. In other words, to comply with the resolution, and avoid military intervention, Iraq must allow military intervention. “I could never imagine Iraq agreeing to this,” says John Pike, head of the Washington military think tank, GlobalSecurity.com. “If you’re going to be invaded, you might as well make the invading force shoot their way in. It’s the sort of proposal meant to be rejected.”

For Bush, it’s a win-win proposal. Either way he gets what he wants: control.

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.