War on Iraq and the Pregnant Chads Factor
by B.J. Sabri
February 23, 2003
On January of 2002, the Pentagon leaked to the press the Administration’s plan to invade Iraq. Since then, the proposed war and conquest of that country have become stable daily menus and an integral part of our circadian rhythms. The waltz of pronouncements is maddening: Powel said this, Rice said that; Bush uttered this, Cheney uttered that; and Rumsfeld theorized this, Wolfowitz theorized that. War mantras are abundant and keep changing according to their received public perception.
There is something Kafkaesque in the clamor for war, its causality, and its presumed ineluctability that make the leading actors in this play eager to appear as fearsome demigods, who, when they speak, expect the world to tremble from fear of their wrath. The irony is that the play, the actors, the extras, the producer, and the director are only maladroit simulators of subverted reality where the identifying elements of the war motives are either missing or diluted in disconnected sub-plots. Although millions of people around the world marched to challenge the warlords in Washington and London, the war play continues amidst militaristic fanfare, jingoistic machismo, and orchestrated fatalism.
The transition from the theme of war against Saddam to disarm him from his so-called “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), to the specific theme of occupying Iraq, controlling of its resources, and the building of its future geopolitical configuration to American and Israeli specifications, leaves no doubt about the exact nature of the Bush Administration’s ideological enterprise. One needs not to read between the lines to realize that the push for war is not related to WMD, “war on terrorism”, American security, or the sorrow for the plight of the Iraqi people living under Saddam’s rule. There are several not often debated arguments that decisively refute the claim according to which this war is about WMD, I shall mention only three:
* The façade of the so-called Iraqi Opposition to Saddam (partly a US creation, and partly legitimate) has collapsed, as Washington is not interested in a “democracy project” for Iraq. The talk about this opposition as a successor to Saddam has disappeared. A prospected occupation that could last many unknown years, together with the intention to appoint an American military ruler, accompanied by American functionaries on the top posts of all Iraqi ministries for an indefinite time, and without any “opposition” figures having any role, proves the point that the war project is about Iraq itself.
* Another argument is the partition of Iraq as an Israeli gift to Turkey, her main ally in the Middle East. Indeed, Washington’s plan to reward Turkey for her military involvement by allowing it to revive its claims on northern Iraq and by projecting the Turkish occupation of the Kurdish enclave all the way to Iraq’s northern oil fields in Kirkuk, is only the beginning of Iraq’s disintegration as a state, which is an Israeli objective. Otherwise, what is the meaning of Turkey occupying Kurdish areas that are already under American protection? Aside from that, the immediate result of this geopolitical maneuvering is the trashing of the Kurds’ hope for self-determination, and their direct placement under Turkish rule.
* If war happens, and Turkey occupies northern Iraq, then the rest of Iraq and its future political system will follow the objectives of Bush’s inner circle via Tel Aviv’s strategic design as detailed in “A Clean Break”, an Israeli strategic document aiming at reshaping the Middle East. It is fundamental to know that Richard Perle (Chairman of Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to the Pentagon), and Douglas Feith (current Undersecretary of Policy at the Department of Defense), who are staunch supporters of Israel’s and yield influence in foreign policy decision-making inside the Bush Administration, had authored this document in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
As all the pieces of American evidence on Iraq’s non-compliance and current possession of WMD are becoming rapidly worthless bricks in the edifice of American allegations, Hans Blix, despite reported expected difficulties in the inspection process, demolished it for good in his latest report to the Security Council. As a result, two pillars of the Anglo-American allegations were almost immediately sundered: 1) a fraudulent British “intelligence white paper” whose authors had filched, plagiarized, and copied from old material, internet sites, and a doctoral thesis, and 2) a Hollywood-style presentation by Powell where deceptive conclusions, speculative interpretations, and trite hyperboles failed to convince skeptics and doubters. By domestic American standards, if the prosecution brings this ludicrous evidence to a competent and unbiased court, the judge and the jury would dismiss the case permanently.
World governments, world powers, nations around the world, Arab states, UN relief agencies, religious authorities, anti-war movements, writers, activists, and people from all occupations and trends have expressed strong objection to this war, its justification, and its calamitous aftermath. This, however, is not relevant to a bellicose Administration that is so determined to pave our path to the future with blood and endless wars.
Based on the meandering and obscure US policy toward Iraq specifically after 9/11, it is now mandatory to question the true motives and finality of this policy. It is beyond any speculation that at the beginning, Saddam and his alleged WMD were the sole pretext in the promulgation of the wider scope of the policy. However, this has changed now; whether Saddam has or does not have WMD is no longer relevant to the policy makers. What is relevant, they may have concluded, is that after almost a year of war marketing and advertisement, the military conquest of Iraq requires no more rationales. The conquest itself is the rationale. That explains the US obstinacy to back down from its designated objective despite the solid continuing dismantling of all their claims and allegations.
The project aiming at reshaping a militarily bloated US into an Orwellian Military Empire that derives its existence from a dangerous ideological design preaching an American order imposed by force of guns and planned violence is not going to work. The revival of a colonialist armada guided by an oil posse, biblical zealots, and hyper-imperialists is an outdated mode of thinking that will not pass the test of elementary historical feasibility or acceptability.
Empires that are antithetical to, or above the laws of nations are a mummified historical relic that cannot find its own reflection in the mirror of present realities, nor are they natural alternatives to nation-states. The Empire Project, American or not, will not work for a very simple reason: no nation or individual would accept existential subjugation to any other nation or to any other individual as a basis for good life. Colonialism and looting of other nations will not work again, no matter what amount of fire is unleashed to impose it. Enslavement of nations will fail as slavery failed in the past. There is only one explanation why this is so: it is the infinitesimal essence of the human spirit that despite destruction and despair, it still opposes oppression, exploitation, and expropriation of its freedom.
What does all the preceding have to do with pregnant chads? Am I referring to Florida’s vote recount during the presidential election of the year 2000, where words like “pregnant chads,” “hanging chads”, etc., have gained fame. Yes. However, my interest in “pregnant chads” is of a different nature. I am borrowing the phrase to transform it into a critical device describing manufactured mentalities where the microscopic investigation of triviality is musing and entertaining, while the rigorous investigation of serious matters is irrelevant and boring. I am calling this device “Pregnant Chads Factor”.
Notorious events that enter in this category are the O.J. Simpson murder trial and Bill Clinton sexual tryst, where for months, American homes were inundated, day and night, by all kind of details that boggled our minds and ruptured all decent dendrites that we managed to create by hard work and honest intellectual endeavor. But all media events pale by comparison with the show of Florida’s vote recount, where counters raised electoral cards with one hand and a magnifying lens with the other, hoping to decipher the intention of the voter. Zillions of words were wasted on the description of chads, thousands of pictures popped out everywhere depicting how a chad would look if it were hanging, pregnant, or simply dented, and thousands of “experts” met at round tables to study the chad phenomena! If you have never seen an idiocy incarnate before, then that was your chance to see one in action.
Well. How many a brave journalist, analyst, commentator, or whoever from the official media sat down with a cup of coffee and invited others to analyze or at least minimally scrutinize what Bush and Rumsfeld are talking about? Where are all those “genius experts” who spent hours and hours blabbering about pregnant chads, and walked inside the crevices of Clinton and Simpson’s minds? Can any one of them take a tour in the minds of Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush, and tell the American people about it?
If they were ever to tour their minds, they may find identical copies of one original manifesto: We sell war; war is good for the economy, it is good for the Dow Jones, and the people must buy what we sell, otherwise how could we create markets? We are a democracy where the elected speak for the electors, but once you elect us we have nothing to do with you until the next election. We do not care if you protest between elections. We have the power to wash your brain with anti-truth detergents until the point of calcification. We give you all the news you need to know in just “eleven minutes”, and print all news that is “fit to print” without giving you the opportunity to dispute its veracity. We can do this and more; and you, in response, must appreciate our system where people can speak their mind without censorship. We make war to defend you; wars are imposed upon us; we love peace but we love war more, so give war a chance!
The production for the war show is a surrealistic gallery where the implied, the absurd, and the twisted rein supreme. Here is a sampling from this gallery:
* Bush who is about to unleash death and destruction on Iraq, declares: “Burden was on Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. If he [Saddam] refuses, then the United States will lead to disarm him and free the Iraqi people. (The Italics are mine).
* Bush who is about to obliterate Iraq and cause ecological and humanitarian catastrophes by military violence, declares: “Iraq poses catastrophic danger” and added that the fight “requires us to confront the danger of catastrophic violence posed by Iraq”. ( The italics are mine)
* Bush praises Powell’s performance at the Security Council. This confirms that the presentation was about acting and not substance.
* The charade continues: Powell praises and quotes from the discredited British “dossier” on Iraq’s WMD. At this point, Blair may re-confirm that his dossier is original and true because Powell quoted from it.
* Bush, in a theatrical posture and a melodramatic tone, asks why Saddam wants to have these terrible WMD; the only reason for that, he goes on, because he wants to intimidate and control the region. This comes from a President whose armed forces are spread over three quarters of the globe, who is toying with the most destructive arsenal in history, and who is intimidating the whole world on almost an hourly basis.
* Fleischer confirms that Powell’s truth is irrefutable because the President said so.
* The New York Times (2/15/2003) commenting on Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix accepting little of the presumed evidence presented by Powell reported “…Mr. Powell set aside his prepared remarks, speaking spontaneously, and throwing his personal; prestige behind his assertion that Iraq had failed to disarm…etc.” This implies the following: if an assertion made by a person who enjoys prestige and speaks spontaneously, then this assertion becomes truth. If this is the case, then we have to mourn the death of the truth and the ethical system that tries to establish it!
* The NYT editorial of 2/15/2003 states that its up to the five permanent members of the Security Council to decide whether Iraq is disarming; but then in the same breath, cancels the work of Hans Blix and his team and declares: “…In our judgment Iraq is not disarming…” We did not know that the NYT has scientific authority and disarmament expertise to decree their judgment on disarmament. Maybe the Security Council should fire Blix and hire the NYT!
* Rumsfeld declares that, as for the Iraqi WMD, “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Not even Descartes could have come up with such an erudite linguistic gem!
* Bill Clinton single-handedly subverts the eons-old ethical lexicon of human civilization. He lectures us that it is better to be strong and wrong rather than weak and right. Does that apply to Hitler, Stalin, Truman, Franco, Johnson, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Saddam, Begin, Sharon or Bush?
* Civilized Britain has been debating for months a legislation to outlaw the foxhunt; But Blair finds no reason to debate the killing of Iraqis. This same Britain had, through 1945, occupied twelve million square miles of the planet, and seeded with her colonial policy most of the strife and wars that is still consuming Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
* Tony Blair outlines his “moral case for war” as follows: the alternative to war is a sanctions regime that could result in the death of thousands of Iraqis. First, after many denials, this is a direct admission that sanctions kill. Second, there are two lethal alternatives laid out for the Iraqis: either to die by Anglo-American bombs, or to die by Anglo-American sanctions? I have a suggestion for him, why not ask the Iraqis to commit a collective suicide and thus spare them the agony of choice.
* Tony Blair wonders why Iraqi children under Saddam are dying from preventable diseases in what should be a wealthy country! Either this man is a mental derelict who cannot remember, or a cynical politician feigning ignorance. He just said sanctions could kill! As for the wealth of Iraq, Mr. Prime Minister: it is true that Saddam, a creation of yours, plundered Iraq’s wealth when you and the US encouraged his war against Iran, and sold him dangerous and expensive weapons that you then punished him for possessing. But most importantly with bogus “Kuwait war reparations”, and the systematic scourging of its cash for over a decade, Iraq has become poor. To prove this point, pre-Gulf War Iraqi child mortality was at the level of most advanced European countries; and pro capita income was one of the highest in the Middle East.
* Britain’s Jack Straw dubs the possible French veto to war as being ‘unreasonable”! So if it were in favor of war it becomes reasonable! Who can surpass Jack?
* The NY Times, 2/14/03, reports that “…the conservatives and neo-conservatives who make policy in the Bush Administration, nurture a strong distrust of international organizations like the United Nations, which, in their view, is afflicted by a kind of unrealistic piousness, the first principle of which is that war is never morally justified except in cases of self-defense” (Italics are mine.) In other words, the US wants to make war at will; and if people object, they are afflicted…etc! So, at least now we have a glimmer of the inner thinking and the moral currency of this Administration!
* Elie Wiesel says war is the only way to stop Saddam. Is this an action paradigm? Then would he suggest that a counter-war is the only way to stop Sharon, Blair, or Bush from making war?
* Fox News a warmongering concern invented the slogan: “we report, you decide”!
* The American and international voices of reason have been completely ignored by the official media. Who cares about these voices anyway? When you are “strong and wrong,” reasoning is futile.
* A few moralizing “thinkers” wonder whether this coming war is a just war. Why bother with such a dilemma, whether it is just or not, the US is going to call it an “operation” anyway.
* Turkey’s Abdullah Gul says that over ninety percent of Turks oppose war; however, he added that it is difficult to oppose America, as it is Turkey’s strongest ally. As appreciation, Wolfowitz hails the new Islamic democracy!
* Many right-wing liberals and converted leftists seem converged to accept the idea of war, if it is short, and Iraqi civilian casualties are reasonable! First: why is war an acceptable alternative to peace in the first place? Second, exactly who are they to decide, based on what ethical authority, and under whose eminent prerogative can they quantify what constitutes reasonable civilian causalities? Did any one ask the Iraqis inside Iraq about the reasonability of their own violent death, and the death of their children, spouses, or parents? Do these retrograde visionaries really believe that Bush’s coveted war is about tyranny, is it about politics, is it an egalitarian enterprise, or is it about WMD?
Therefore, the next time you hear the new breed of master orators of the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, Downing Street, and their ideological proselytes and sycophants speak, pay attention. If they speak briefly, monosyllabically, melodramatically, tergiversate your questions, digress from the question you asked, try to humor you, give you short answers as if their time is valuable, but never address the pertinent matters that you think deserve better explanation, evaluation, or analysis, think of the Pregnant Chads Factor!
B. J. Sabri
is an Iraqi-American peace activist. Email: email@example.com