Will Emperor Bush Invade Iraq Alone?
Just six months ago, George W. Bush had every nation in the world on his side, with only 3 notorious exceptions - North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.
Today, the whole world is against him. Two weeks ago, 10 million people in 600 cities marched in the largest global protest in history. They marched to oppose war in Iraq, but they marched just as fervently - if not more so - to oppose George Bush's global military and environmental policies, and to oppose Bush himself.
All Bush has left now are a few national leaders - Blair of Britain, Aznar of Spain, Berlusconi of Italy, Howard of Australia, some unpronounceable name from Bulgaria, the generals in Turkey, and the nameless scarf-draped billionaire sheiks of Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Each of these leaders is profoundly out of step with his people, and all of them could soon be thrown out of power, depending on what happens in Iraq.
The magnitude of Bush's loss of support is downright shocking. When Time's European readers were asked who is the biggest threat to world peace, 6% said North Korea, 7% said Iraq, and 88% said the U.S. (www.time.com/time/europe/gdml/peace2003.html).
In other words, Bush's diplomatic campaign to turn the world against Iraq has been a catastrophe: instead of uniting the world against Saddam, Bush has united the world against himself.
So what will Bush do now?
Everyone in the world thinks Bush will ignore his opposition and invade Iraq. Bush's administration has pounded the war drums every day for six full months. Bush himself has issued threat after threat, never once allowing a shade of gray into his black and white view of Iraq.
Bush has put his credibility on the line. Bush has not only jawboned for war, he has also moved 200,000 troops halfway around the world to put a noose around Saddam's neck. Every dispatch of ships, planes, and armored divisions has been headline news. If he doesn't use them, he will not only lose his credibility - he will become a joke.
None of his advisors are counseling peace. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Rice want war - period. Three weeks ago, Colin Powell joined the warmonger team.
Outside the administration, men like Brent Scowcroft and Norman Schwartzkopf once urged caution, but they are now silent. There is only one hesistant voice left - oddly enough, that is George H.W. Bush. On 2-26-03, Bush Sr. gave a speech at Tufts where he justified his own refusal to march into Baghdad to topple Saddam. He also said it was "totally false" that Bush Jr. wanted to "go it alone, rush into war" - a statement that struck most listeners as wishful thinking.
Why did Bush paint himself into a corner?
If Bush wanted Iraq disarmed, he could simply declare victory and walk away today. Iraq IS disarmed. It has been disarmed since 1991, when the weapons our bombers missed were dismantled by U.N. inspectors. How do we know this? Gen. Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, said so after he defected to Jordan in 1995. The painstacking work of Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei has proven Kamel correct.
But disarmament is not Bush's goal. Saddam has met every condition imposed by U.N. inspectors, but Bush has applied the Bush Doctrine to "pre-emptively attack" every cooperative Iraqi action. So it came as no surprise on 2-28-03 when Ari Fleischer finally declared that Bush would settle for nothing less than disarmament AND Saddam's departure.
Is Saddam's departure really Bush's bottom line? No. Prior to his "axis of evil" speech in January 2002, Bush had no personal beef with Saddam. The claim that Saddam sent assassins to try to kill Bush's father is not taken seriously by intelligence agencies. During the current run-up to war, Saddam has never answered Bush's trash talk and given Bush a reason to make this a "personal" war.
Bush would never accept Saddam's departure if Saddam was replaced by one of his sons. When Bush talks about "regime change," he means something more than a change of first names.
So what is Bush's true bottom line?
Bush wants to control Iraq. He wants Iraq's oil to become the property of U.S. oil companies, to put U.S. economic power beyond the influence of any foreign nation. He wants Iraq's water to become the property of the State Department, to let the U.S. reshape the politics of the Middle East. And he wants Iraq's soil to become the property of the Pentagon, to put U.S. generals in charge of sheiks and clerics.
Bush's imperial ambitions, while never stated publicly, are breathtaking. They are the only possible explanation for his willingness to alienate the entire world. Where do they come from?
Obviously not from Bush's own foreign policy "vision" - because no such "vision" exists. Until he ran for President, Bush had barely set foot outside the United States. As a presidential candidate, Bush was stumped when asked to name several foreign leaders. Bush tried to contrast his foreign policy views with Al Gore's by campaigning against "overextending" U.S. forces and using them for "nation building" rather than war. During the debates, he summed up his foreign policy in a single word: "humble."
But after his electoral defeat was overturned by a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court, Bush chose as his top appointees men and women whose views were anything but humble. Indeed, he turned his government over to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
PNAC was founded in 1997 by Bill Kristol, Dan Quayle's former Chief of Staff, who now serves as the head of Ruppert Murdoch's Washington office - which includes editing Murdoch's Weekly Standard magazine and selling Murdoch's poison on innumerable talk shows. PNAC's members include the most powerful people in the Bush administration: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, John Bolton, and Elliott Abrams - the invisible head of Bush's Middle East policy who was convicted of lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal.
PNAC does not advertise its true objective. Its carefully worded "statement of principles" embraces "American global leadership." But that vague phrase has a simple translation: Empire.
In September 2000, as the PNAC team poised to seize control of the White House, PNAC issued a major report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century"
(http://newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf). The report declares (p.26)
"The 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."
Until September 11 2001, Bush kept the PNAC agenda under the radar. Publicly, Bush focused all of his energies on a massive $1.6 trillion tax cut for the rich. But within minutes of the September 11 attack, PNAC members spotted their opportunity to move full speed ahead. On September 12 2001, Rumsfeld told an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, "Let's go after Iraq."
PNAC proceeded slowly and deliberately to consolidate its power. The first public sign of their victory was in Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, when he declared Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to be part of a previously-unknown "axis of evil." In June, Bush went to West Point to unveil the "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive war against any nation that might possibly threaten the U.S. Bush and PNAC quietly spent the summer in Crawford mapping out plans for the first application of the Bush Doctrine - the invasion and conquest of Iraq.
In Crawford, the PNAC team decided that international support was important for a successful invasion. In part, this was a military calculation - we needed bases in Arab countries to the south (which we got easily) and in Turkey to the north (which continues to be a struggle because of massive popular opposition).
But this was also a diplomatic and political calculation: U.S. forces could certainly topple Saddam by ourselves, but we could never rule Iraq without the support of our allies in the Arab world or without U.N. legitimacy and humanitarian aid. And while America's Fox-controlled public opinion could be counted on to support an invasion under any circumstances, the financial and human cost of a U.S. occupation would eventually come under fire at home.
So on September 12 2002, George Bush took the unexpected step of taking the Iraq issue to the United Nations, thus signaling Bush's hesitancy to proceed alone.
The U.N. was not pleased to have the Iraq issue thrust at the top of its agenda. Iraq was not on the top of anyone's list of priorities; Saddam had been crushed in 1991 and thoroughly inspected until 1998, and was not perceived as a threat by its neighbors or anyone else. But the U.N. could not ignore Bush's forceful demand, so they agreed to a resolution for complete Iraqi disarmament.
But that was as far as the U.N. was willing to go. Despite weeks of intense pressure, France and Russia refused to adopt a resolution that would give Bush "automatic" approval for war. They made it quite clear that after inspections resumed, it would be the Security Council - not the U.S. - that would decide whether war was needed.
Of course, Bush never agreed to this condition. At every step along the way, Bush insisted the U.S. had the right to unilaterally invade Iraq. But in order to get inspections underway, Security Council members agreed to simply "paper over" their differences.
When inspections resumed, the tension between these two positions was at the top of each day's news. Each demand from U.N. inspectors was accompanied by a U.S. threat to declare Iraq in "material breach" and demand immediate U.N. support for war. Each periodic report by U.N. inspectors was accompanied by a U.S. spin campaign to conclude that Iraq had failed to comply with the terms of U.N. Resolution 1441.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the battlefield: The people of the world said no, and "old Europe"- and Russia - fought back.
It is difficult to argue that public opinion - including 10 million protesters in the dead of winter in 600 cities around the world - represents a force that would deter Bush. Bush has never shown any interest in public opinion - after all, he lost the popular vote nationwide but still went to the Supreme Court to prevent the counting of 175,000 uncounted Florida votes so he could claim the White House as his prize.
Once in office, he never acknowledged his electoral defeat or reached out to the Democrats who had really won. Instead, he adopted a far-right agenda and dared anyone to stand in his way. One person did - Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT). After Bush betrayed his promise to significantly increase education spending, Jeffords left the Republican Party and gave Democrats control of the Senate. Bush never acknowledged his responsibility for this loss, and instead loosed his ideological attack dogs on Jeffords.
Bush operates by a simple political rule that he learned from his mentor Lee Atwater: never defend, always attack.
Thus, Bush brushed off the 10 million protesters who circled the world on February 15, saying he "respectfully disagreed."
But if global public opinion had little effect on Bush himself, it certainly strengthened his opponents. France's Chirac, Germany's Schroeder, and Russia's Putin defied Bush's threats and locked their arms together for continued inspections.
Suddenly, the foreign leaders who were isolated were those on Bush's side: Britain's Blair, Spain's Aznar, and Italy's Burlusconi.
No one knows what advice they have given Bush privately. Word has leaked out that Aznar told Bush in Crawford that he had to muzzle Rumsfeld in order to avoid further antagonizing France and Germany. Certainly, Rumsfeld has bit his tongue for the past week.
But much as warmongers deride France and Germany for their pacifism, Bush's strongest opponent appears to be a nation no one would call "soft" - Russia. Indeed, on Friday Russia became the first to threaten to use its veto in the U.N.
Bush is uneducated, inarticulate, and unread - but his "emotional intelligence" is extremely high. When Bush first met Putin, he declared him to be a soulmate. Bush's appraisal was astute - Putin has proved that he is as tough and determined as Bush himself.
France and Germany are concerned about U.S. "hyperpower," but they really cannot afford to antagonize the U.S. because of their economic dependence on exports of high-end consumer products like fancy cars and gourmet food to the wealthy U.S. market. But Russia is different: its principal export is oil, and the U.S. needs every drop we can get.
Certainly, Russia is concerned about U.S. "hyperpower." But Russia has a more immediate objection to Bush's war: it fears a wave of Islamic militancy would sweep from the Arabian peninsula into Central Asia - which borders on Russia - and Pakistan, which has nukes that could fall into Islamist hands. Russia is all too familiar with Islamic militancy in Chechnya, and it remembers that U.S.-backed Afghan mujahadeen were the force that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bush's diplomatic efforts are now focused entirely on Russia, using both carrots and sticks. As a carrot, Bush just designated three Chechen militant groups as terrorist organizations subject to American sanctions. Bush's stick is the threatened loss of the $8 billion in debt owed by Iraq, as well as oilfield contracts, following a U.S. conquest.
But Putin isn't budging. Putin has a peace plan of his own - one that would keep Saddam in power, but allow U.S. oil companies to play a major role. It's a clever ploy - Bush would find it hard to turn down a bribe to ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, two of his most important supporters. This plan isn't being discussed publicly, but the intelligence website Stratfor.com has reported it to its subscribers, and Rush Limbaugh has discussed it at length on his show.
Because it is willing to use its veto, Russia holds the trump card. Without Russia's support, Bush has no chance of getting a resolution through the U.N. The six "swing" nations were being pressured equally by both sides, leaving them paralyzed and in despair. Bush might ultimately purchase or coerce the votes of one or two, but he will never get the magic number of five - unless Russia, France, and Germany go along with Bush.
Without a U.N. resolution, Bush is effectively on his own. Tony Blair has repeatedly promised his nation that he would get a second resolution; if he wages war without it, his government will fall in a matter of weeks, months at the outside. Turkey's leaders are willing to be bribed, but its people are firmly opposed; without U.N. support, Turkey's government could fall. The only other nation that has committed troops to Bush's war is Australia, but its force is so small that U.S. forces would still be effectively alone.
Bush could ignore the world and simply invade Iraq. Certainly, he has the troops to do so. But outside the U.S., this would be viewed as direct defiance of the United Nations, and Bush would be declared a war criminal by people around the world.
Would that stop Bush? No, because Bush has no conscience - as he made clear when he mocked Carla Faye Tucker after he ordered her execution, and when he declared war, recession, and national emergency (the destruction of the World Trade Center) his lucky "trifecta." Bush wouldn't care if he couldn't leave the U.S. - at the end of the day, he'd rather be in Crawford.
The only scenario that could stop Bush for invading Iraq would for him to imagine the prospect of a world united against him from that moment on. That would have to include a solid majority of governments and a solid majority of the world's people.
The world is getting close to that scenario. The February 15 protests were a watershed in world history - never before have citizens around the world united for a single cause. And at the level of governments, the alliance of France, Germany, and Russia has proved suprisingly strong, and could provide the basis for a genuine diplomatic and economic counterweight to Bush's power.
Bush has global ambitions, and he wants to conquer Iraq as the first step towards remaking the world according to his will. Although he knows no history, he has at his disposal the means to join history's most selective pantheon of global conquerors: Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Hitler.
Will we, the people of the world, let him? The time has come for us to decide...