A few comments on President Bush's speech tonight.
The Bush administration continues to use the
blunt instrument of repetition to attempt to convince the
American public that the fighting in Iraq falls under the
rubric of the War on Terror.
The evidence that Iraq ever had anything to do with any
terrorist attacks anywhere has been laughable. Can you
remember any of it? It is easier to remember the fact that
Osama bin Laden called Saddam Hussein an infidel. It is
easier to remember that Hussein's political party was
Not that Iraq has never been involved in interstate
violence. They have certainly fought wars. If you believe
the Bush administration, they were planning to use
devastating weapons against the United States.
This would have been an act of war by another state, not an
act of terrorism. The snafu pulled by the administration is
to convince us that this is all part of a broader cause —
the war against an amorphous evil known as terrorism.
Things going on in Iraq now could be called terrorism, like
the recent bombing of a mosque. However, these terrorists
did not exist until we made them. We have defeated the
organized forces of resistance, the army and regime, so now
it has become disorganized and like a terrorist group. What
did you expect? But this was an after-the-fact consequence,
not a part of the justification for the original military
action. The fighting in Iraq has nothing to do with the War
This is more than a quibble about words and
definitions. These particular words and definitions have
political impact. If we consider something terrorism, it is
automatically evil. Terrorism can never be good, by
definition. It is therefore very difficult to mount a
rational and effective opposition to anything that is
successfully portrayed as a way to fight terrorism.
It also makes the threat feel very personal and direct,
since terrorism, also by definition, targets civilians. If
President Bush can offer a plan to protect us from this
fear, it makes him very appealing.
More importantly, the War on Terrorism can never be
won. More importantly, we will never be allowed to think
that it has been won. The targets of this war live in the
murky cloak-and-dagger world of our intelligence
services. We have to trust the government to tell us when
and where a threat exists. We can never be right about the
existence or nonexistence of a threat because we do not have
access to their special information.
Such blind trust enables the government to pursue any agenda
at will, as long as they can cloak it in the War on
Terrorism. If we don't question whether an action is really
part of the War on Terrorism, we will continually be led
into conflicts around the globe that actually may be
motivated by far different interests.
Don't you remember saying President Bush saying something
about Weapons of Mass Destruction a few months ago? There
was virtually no mention of them in the speech tonight. The
only mention of them was a statement that Iraq had possessed
and used such weapons in the past. This is true. They used
them in their war with Iran. Perhaps, in fact, they used
them all up. Where are they now? Still no answer.
We can't just pull out of Iraq, given the state we have put
it in. I do hope that the international community gets more
involved. The important thing for me is to believe that we
really are there for humanitarian reasons, to prevent
suffering and loss of life. The more countries involved, the
less any of them can pursue any other particular
agenda. However, we should treat this military action as its
own case, not as part of a larger war. Otherwise, we will
end up supporting not only this single humanitarian action,
but countless more actions in the future.