Iraq: ‘A war waiting for a pretext’

By Harry Browne

For about a year, we’ve been hearing how intensely George W. Bush wants to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Mr. Bush has made all sorts of accusations against Hussein, but offered no public evidence to support his assertions.

Finally, this past Monday evening, we were to hear the full case for going to war against Iraq.

Unfortunately, all we heard Monday were more assertions – with no offer to make public any “evidence” the Bush administration claims to have.

I don’t expect George Bush to bore a room full of sycophants with photos and forensic evidence. But this long-awaited speech could have at least pointed to places where the administration’s evidence is available for inspection. Instead, it was simply the same old tired litany of horror stories.

And until George Bush presents some hard evidence to back up his lurid tales, no one should take him seriously. After all, the man is a politician, for crying out loud! Are we just supposed to accept his word for anything he tells us?

The president gave us the same old song and dance: “The Iraqi regime has violated all [its] obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people.”

Evidence? No, just take his word for it. He spoke of “surveillance photos,” but didn’t offer to show us any. He mentioned “intelligence” discoveries, but provided no details or proof.

Terrorist boogie-man

Naturally, he invoked Sept. 11 – the always-handy justification for anything he wants.

Worst of all, he trotted out the already discredited charge of “Hussein’s links to international terrorist groups.” Even the CIA has refuted that one.

Last month, presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice said, “There clearly are contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq that can be documented; there clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there’s a relationship here.” But don’t hold your breath waiting to see any of this documentation – it’s available only to the true believers inside the administration.

In fact, Hussein is actually a secular nationalist and socialist – and an enemy of the kind of religious fundamentalism represented by al-Qaida. Whatever ogre Saddam Hussein might be, he has nothing to do with the so-called War on Terrorism.

And to call Hussein’s support for Palestine an excuse for attacking innocent people in Iraq is to say that the U.S. should bomb every Muslim country – including Pakistan, whose dictator has George Bush’s full support.

So Bush is forced to support the “terrorist” excuse by saying, “We know that Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy – the United States of America.” Yeah, and so do a few billion other people around the world – people who are sick and tired of watching American presidents bully other countries, people who are scared to death of the terrible consequences George Bush’s reckless plans could unleash.

Who’s the threat?

In truth, every one of the assertions made against Saddam Hussein could easily be made against U.S. foreign policy. And, unlike George Bush, you or I could easily come up with evidence to support such charges against American presidents – who have invaded other countries without provocation, undermined foreign governments, blocked the delivery of food and medicines to people in need, and even gassed innocent civilians at Waco in 1993.

If we’re supposed to stop predators before they go too far (advice we hear over and over), why not start with the predators in Washington?

Those who know

During the Gulf War, RAF pilot John Nichol was shot down, captured and tortured in an Iraqi prison. Two weeks ago, Newsweek published an interview with him in which he pointed out that the Bush administration is jumping around from one argument to another, trying to find a reason for war that resonates. As he said, “Iraq is a war waiting for a pretext.”

He called attention to the U.S. government’s complicity in Hussein’s infamous “gassing of his own people,” about which the war-mongers never tire of reminding us. And there’s much more in that interview. I suggest you read it.

Perhaps his most important statement was:

I suppose what the Gulf War showed me – as it was my first war – was the brutal reality of war. That doesn’t mean war isn’t sometimes necessary, but when you see it at first hand, you view with suspicion politicians who are so ready to wield the military stick.


George Bush pointedly ignores the consequences of attacking Iraq – trying instead to stampede you by saying, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” But that “mushroom cloud” might come only if the U.S. attacks Iraq.

Even the CIA director has said that if Hussein really has dangerous weapons, he has no reason to use them unless he’s attacked by the U.S.

If George Bush truly believed that Saddam Hussein could harm the American people, he would be negotiating with him – just as U.S. presidents negotiated with the Soviet leaders who were in a position to destroy America with nuclear weapons. In the past 55 years, the American military hasn’t attacked a single country that had the capability of inflicting any damage on America.

Fasten your seat belt and stiffen your self-respect

Bush says he’ll leave Hussein alone if he complies with all the U.S. demands. But Bush has said over and over “Saddam must go” – and the White House is already drawing up a list of “war criminals” for prosecution. You can’t have war criminals until you’ve had a war – the war that’s currently searching for a pretext.

Some Democrats have spoken up against the madness that will mean the death of hundreds (or even thousands) of Americans – and the death of thousands (or even tens of thousands) of Iraqis. But one by one, those Democrats are caving. After all, they’re politicians, too.

You may not be able to stop this out-of-control freight train. But at least you can preserve your self-respect by not supporting the mass destruction that a megalomaniac in the White House is so determined to impose.