Bait and Switch
   by Gene Lyons

           Many people say the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed everything.
Americans realized that the oceans can no longer protect us in a hostile,
dangerous world. Alas, the Bush administration ideologues fondest of saying
that haven't changed their thinking at all. They've been gung-ho to invade
Iraq at least since 1997, and their motives have little to do with any genuine
threat from Saddam Hussein.

           To many patriotic Americans, attacking Iraq has the two-fisted
appeal of an Arnold Schwarzennegar or Bruce Willis action/adventure film.
They imagine something like the Reagan administration's adventures in
Grenada or Panama. U.S. soldiers go in, kick some cowardly Arab butt,
crush an evil villain, hand out candy bars to grateful children, and, tranquility
restored, return home to a peaceful and prosperous America.

           Although our feckless commander-in-chief has been calculatedly
deceptive about it, disarming Iraq has never been what Bush administration
holy warriors really wanted. Even "regime change" isn't the primary goal of
America's first "preemptive" war, although White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer's use of the phrase in connection with U.N. arms inspections
recently produced an angry, incredulous outburst from that traditional
American foe, the Prime Minister of Canada.

           Whether or not Saddam destroyed missiles, Fleischer said, was of
no consequence, since U.S.policy was "disarmament and regime change."
Prime Minister Jean Chretien erupted. "If it is a changing of regime, it's
not what is [U.N. resolution] 1441," he said. "And if you start changing
regimes, where do you stop? This is the problem, who is next? Give me
the list, the priority list."

           Evidently Chretien, who spoke in French, after all, hasn't grasped
the characteristic bait and switch tactics of the Bush administration. Going
to the U.N. was a tactical feint. The idea was to trick Congress, appease
Democratic critics like Sen. John Kerry, mislead foreign policy thinkers
like Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brezsinski, Gen. Anthony
Zinni, and Gen. Wesley Clark, and fool voters into thinking that a Republican
vote wasn't necessarily a war vote. Feckless Democrats, including this
column, took the bait.

           But no, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 calling upon Iraq
to disarm or face "serious consequences" says nothing about regime change.
It would have stood no chance of passing, much less of passing unanimously,
if it had. The U.N. wouldn't last six months if the Security Council started
handing out DIKTATS about the legitimacy of member governments.
(Although come to think of it, the U.N. might have done a fairer job refereeing
the disputed 2000 presidential election than the U.S. Supreme Court.)

           Anyhow, that was then. This is now. The Little King must have his
dynastic holy war. Regardless of how cunningly Saddam Hussein plays out
his hand, how many missiles he destroys, or caches of abandoned nerve gas
or anthrax he digs up--mostly sold to him by the Reagan administration, in
the person of Donald Rumsfeld, of course--Bush cannot afford to take yes
for an answer.

           To do so would be to abandon the messianic schemes of the Project
for the New American Century, a close-knit clique of visionaries who see war
in Iraq as beginning of a worldwide American empire. If the name sounds like
something from the third voyage of "Gulliver's Travels," its acolytes--among
them Rumsfeld, Asst. Secy. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President
Cheney, and Richard Perle--spelled out their goals in an extraordinary Sept.
2000 report called "Rebuilding America's Defenses."

           Here are two characteristic passages excerpted on the "Liberal
Oasis" website: "The American peace has proven itself peaceful, stable and
durable...Yet no moment in international politics can be frozen in time; even
a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself...If an American peace is to
be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned
U.S. military preeminence."

           "[T]he United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent
role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides
the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence
in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

           Pardon me, but I'm not awed by the brainpower of people capable
of writing that "peace has proven itself peaceful." But I can translate the
last bit into simple English. It says "regime change" means turning Iraq
into an American West Bank, a conquered province from which to launch
further "preemptive" strikes against Syria, Iran and other impediments
to U.S. and Israeli dominance in the region.

           Meanwhile, Bush, who promised a "humble" foreign policy and
sneered at "nation building" during the 2000 campaign, has morphed into an
apostle of Wilsonian idealism. "A new regime in Iraq," he said last week
"would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other
nations in the region."

      More bait and switch.

      This isn't conservatism; it's utopian folly and a prescription for endless war.

  back to

Privacy Policy
. .