In 1935, Jimmy Durante starred in Billy Rose's spectacle, "Jumbo." In the show, the town constable catches him in the act of stealing a live elephant from the circus and asks, "What are you doing with that elephant?" Durante stopped the show by extending his arms, as if it were possible to conceal the elephant behind him, and saying, "Elephant? What elephant?"
The Iraq Survey Group confirmed this past week that the United Nations, that "ineffective, irrelevant debating society," had indeed brought about the destruction of Iraq's inventories of weapons of mass destruction as well as halting their production programs. Yet in spite of this clear verdict, and even though it appears that he was duped by bad intelligence, President Bush insists that he made the right decision. That's because the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had nothing to do with the decision to invade Iraq, and in just as many words, that is what George Bush has been saying. This issue has turned into a red herring that has covered up the real reason for this war that's as obvious as Durante's elephant -- establishing U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
And the corporate American press continues to play right into the hands of the Bush administration. The Washington Post's Oct. 7 editorial, "Weapons That Weren't There," focused on the wrong issue -- the non-hypothetical question of "how, or even whether, decisions about preemptive war can be made in the absence of unambiguous intelligence." Regardless, this issue is of no practical importance because the doctrine of preemptive war is self-defeating. As Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) so eloquently stated last year on the floor of the U.S. Senate, "Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S."
The conjecture that Saddam Hussein's regime might have become a "de facto or real ally of the Islamic extremist forces with which the United States is at war" is counterfactual because it completely ignores the history of Hussein's secular Ba'athist regime. The rest of the world smelled a red herring long before the invasion of Iraq, but that wasn't the case here in the United States. And it's no small wonder how this could have happened considering the recent disclosures of incestuous relationships between the White House and certain members of America's sorry fourth estate.
With the long-standing neoconservative vision of a Western-style democracy sitting atop some of the world's richest oil reserves, believing that the decision to invade Iraq was based on stockpiles of WMD is ludicrous. And it is equally absurd that the U.S. would have eagerly rushed to war without knowing that Saddam Hussein was completely defenseless. Iran and Syria are safe only because they are quite capable of defending themselves. Quite simply, the Bush strategists hit Iraq because they could, and in the aftermath of 9/11 they thought they could get away with ascribing it to the war on terrorism. And if they succeed in fooling enough people so that George Bush is reelected for another term, America will be led even further down the road toward the wrong side of history.
Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based independent scholar. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2004, Harold Williamson.
Other Articles by Harold Williamson
Darkness in America