What Happened to the War on Terrorism?
February 6, 2003
Notice what Colin Powell didnt say.
Addressing the United Nations Security Council, the meticulous secretary
of state the Bush administrations most credible spokesman
didnt say that Saddam Hussein had anything whatever to do
with the events of 9/11.
That was supposed to be the
whole point of the war on terrorism: to avenge and punish
the destruction of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, and to
prevent a recurrence of that horror. Its hard to see how war on Iraq
will achieve either purpose. What do Iraqs hidden weapons
of mass destruction, however terrible, have to do with a score of
terrorists armed only with box-cutters? Nothing.
Nor did Powell say that
conquering Iraq would amount to a victory. Or that it would defeat or
diminish terrorism. Or that Americans would be safer from terrorists if
the United States launches war on Iraq.
Have Americans already
forgotten that the war on terrorism is supposed to be about
The rest of the world seems to
remember. It wonders what the real purpose of this war is, when North
Korea is both far more evil and far more menacing.
Powell did allege nebulous links between Iraq and
al-Qaeda, but he gave no evidence of any operational conspiracy in the
events of 9/11. He didnt even try. He knew better. Instead he
offered horrifying descriptions of the weapons in question
particularly chemical weapons and made a plausible-sounding case
that Iraq has them and has deceived the UN inspectors. But his claims
were so technical that few of us can assess them, and we had to take his
word even for what the satellite photos showed.
In short, there was no
smoking gun or, more to the point, smoking
box-cutter. All this had nothing to do with 9/11. Powell, like the rest of
the administration for the last year or so, was talking about an entirely
different subject and hoping we wouldnt notice.
operandi is totally different from Husseins. If he had wanted (and
been invited) to help it stage the 9/11 attacks, he could have supplied the
20 terrorists with flight training, lodgings, money, and chemical weapons.
They obviously didnt rely on him at all. If they even asked him for
support, they may well have been refused. But more likely they are
entirely separate from him. In his eyes they would be fanatics and loose
cannons. He likes to be in control, and its hard to imagine him
sharing his precious weapons with them to do what they please with them.
For their part, they saw him as one of the many traitors to
Islam who rule the Arab world.
So why does the Bush
administration want this war so badly? Whats it all about? Oil?
Israel? There are plenty of rabid Zionists in the administration, and they
do want war with Iraq (for starters), but they arent in command.
The oil men are. Not that they need access to Middle Eastern oil; the free
market could take care of that well enough.
But whoever controls the Arab
world controls everyones access to oil. If the United States
conquers Iraq, then Iran, it will gain enormous leverage over the whole
industrialized world including a little country that has been
largely ignored during the recent discussions: China. No wonder China has
been resisting the American war plans.
Not too long ago, the United
States had virtual control of the region through compliant rulers in Iraq,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. But Iran overthrew the shah, Saudi Arabia
and Kuwait are also vulnerable to Islamic revolution, and Iraq acquired its
own ambitions. So if the United States wants global hegemony, it must
step in and take the reins in its own hands.
The purpose of the 1991 Gulf War
was to restore the status quo when Iraq seized Kuwait. Gulf War II has no
such pretext. The American people arent in the mood for yet
another war. So the trick was to convert the shock of 9/11 into war fever,
then to redirect it at Iraq by linking Saddam Hussein to
terrorism. This required some slippery semantics and a lot
of propaganda which is mostly sheer repetition of nonsense until
resistance is worn down, and logic surrenders.
Thats about where we are
now. Osama bin Laden may have started one war, but Saddam Hussein is
about to lose the other one it has morphed into.