Shifting the Blame:
Now it’s Mr. Chirac’s Fault
by Kim Petersen

December 20, 2003

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“And if he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction?” asks ABC interviewer Diane Sawyer of President Bush.

“Diane, you can keep asking the question. I’m telling you -- I made the right decision for America because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait. But the fact that he is not there is, means America's a more secure country.” (George Bush)

The New York Times is attempting to turn reality on its head. Mr. Bush claims removing Mr. Hussein from power was justified even without the recovery of any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Mr. Bush still apparently clings to the hope that such weapons will turn up. Nonetheless, US weapons inspectors, with carte blanche to search as they please, have so far come up empty-handed. This is despite pre-invasion claims that the US government knows Mr. Hussein has WMD and furthermore knows where he has them.


Yet Mr. Bush equivocates. He enunciates a hypothetical that affirms the strong likelihood that Iraq didn’t have WMD at the time of the invasion and that his administration’s claims of certainty were in fact false. Said Mr. Bush revealingly to Ms. Sawyer: “If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.” Mr. Bush is using the grammatical construction known as the second conditional, which is used to talk about things that are untrue or defy probability in the present or the future. Why is Mr. Bush using such a grammatical construction following the capture of Mr. Hussein? Is this just an example of linguistic ineptitude?


The interview with Ms. Sawyer is really about backpedaling from his casus belli for the aggression of Iraq -- an aggression that has seen, according to some estimates, between 22,000 and 55,000 Iraqi civilians perish. [1]  Are the people of the world to understand, Mr. Bush, that your so-called coalition inflicted the ultimate price on tens-of-thousands of Iraqis based on a hypothetical?


Adds Mr. Bush: “That's what I'm trying to explain to you. A gathering threat, after 9-11, is a threat that needed to be dealt with, and it was done after 12 long years of the world saying the man’s a danger.”


Yes, that abject man was a danger but a danger only to his own people and his neighbors. That he became a danger was thanks to the western countries that helped arm him. The invasion only adduces that Mr. Hussein’s regime had already been disarmed and was no longer a danger even to little Kuwait. The only danger Mr. Hussein poses now is what he can reveal about the complicity of officials in the US government and other world governments but he is likely to be incarcerated incommunicado much like the CIA-backed ex-Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.


Those “12 long years” were a danger to the Iraqi people, a danger of the most lethal WMD known yet to humanity: the US-backed sanctions that saw hundreds-of-thousands of Iraqis die in a genocide that was termed by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as worthwhile.


Hero Worship


The New York Times’ own purveyor of absurdity, Thomas Friedman, has been elevating Mr. Bush to legendary presidential status of late and so it was time to go into damage control. In this Mr. Friedman pushes the envelope of absurdity even farther. Following Mr. Bush’s discomfiting time on the not-so-hot seat with Ms. Sawyer, it seemed like a good time to deflect the blame for the Iraqi debacle elsewhere. Why not blame it on the major country opposing the aggression? Now it is Mr Chirac’s fault. Mr. Friedman jumps to his warped perspective because France is prepared to consider debt relief for Iraq. [2]


It couldn’t be that France is sympathetic to Iraq’s debt situation? It couldn’t be that France is acting admirably as a host country for the international creditors of the Paris Club? Or more cynically, couldn’t it be that France is merely looking to protect contracts that French transnational corporations signed with the previous Iraqi administration or is seeking a piece of the Iraqi reconstruction pie for similar corporate interests?


No, it is far more sinister. Writes Mr. Friedman: “I believe it's an 11th-hour attempt by the French government to scramble onto the right side of history.”


It sounds, however, more like an attempt to arm-twist more money from opponents for a cash-strapped occupation.


Mr. Friedman is gracious enough though to admit that Mr. Bush and his confederate, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, had “stretched the truth about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.” He then argues tu quoque that Mr. Chirac had also stretched the truth. Even if Mr. Chirac was factually inaccurate that doesn’t absolve Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair from their spinning of the truth.


But, according to Mr. Friedman, there is “one big difference: George Bush and Tony Blair were stretching the truth in order to risk their own political careers to get rid of a really terrible dictator. And Jacques Chirac was stretching the truth to advance his own political career by protecting a really terrible dictator.”


Mr. Friedman has discombobulated the English language here. Surely he doesn’t mean that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair fibbed to risk their political fortunes but rather that they willingly risked their political selves to save Iraq from tyranny.


So in Mr. Friedman’s Wonderland we have the gallant risk-all heroes, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, and the dastardly Mr. Chirac, protector of evil dictators.


Mr. Friedman iterates his statement for legalistic posterity: “History will also record that while the U.S. and Britain chose to be Saddam’s prosecutors, France chose to be his defense lawyer.”


Alas, it seems that “the French are now offering conscience money” to expiate the alleged historical misdeed of protecting Mr. Hussein. Now if this line of criticism had been pursued against the US it would be incorrectly labeled as anti-Americanism.


This view ignores the CIA role in bringing to power the Ba’ath Party, which Mr. Hussein was to later lead. It denies the US role in providing Mr. Hussein with the intelligence and armaments to fight a US proxy war against Iran. US corporations helped supply many of the ingredients to speed along Iraq’s WMD program? There was a reason why the Iraqi report on its destruction of its WMD was presented to the UN Security Council bowdlerized of over 8,000 pages of its original 11,800 pages: namely, protecting western corporate interests. Western businesses built up the tyrant in Baghdad.


Washington was an ally of Mr. Hussein’s regime through the worst of his atrocities.


Racist Ideology


Now that Mr. Friedman has absolved the mendacious duo of Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair of wrongdoing, having pointed out that the true miscreant is Mr. Chirac, it is time to save the beleaguered occupation forces in Iraq. Maybe Mr. Hussein will be absolved as well. Asks Mr. Friedman: “Is Iraq the way it is because Saddam was the way he was? Or was Saddam the way he was because Iraq is the way it is -- ungovernable except by an iron fist?”


The sickening, twisted thought processes that could seriously suggest that the idiosyncrasies of the Iraqi people are responsible for spawning a tyrant to terrorize them is beyond logical or moral contemplation. The Iraqi people had no democratic input in the process. Many Americans cannot claim the same excuse for seeing the warmongering Mr. Bush assume power, albeit, in all fairness, the election outcome was rigged.


If it were the vagaries of Iraq that required an iron-fisted ruler …? Well, that would provide an excellent ruse for a heavy-handed occupation of Iraq, a justification for the get-tough US military approach. This is nothing new. Adolf Hitler resorted to the iron fist as well when resistance became troublesome. The anti-Nazi resistance didn’t abate, however.


Then Mr. Friedman clinches his ill-concealed racist slant. He asks whether there is “a good Iraqi national family that can and wants to live together, or will there just be more little godfathers competing with one another?”


Let’s see now, what Mr. Friedman is asking, in other words, is whether Iraqi families are Mafiosos or whether they can be a “good national family’ without defining what that is.


We can get a good gist of what this “good national family” is from his follow-up sentence: “From my own visits, I think the good family scenario for Iraq is very possible, if we [italics mine] can provide security -- but only Iraqis can tell us for sure by how they behave.”


One wonders how many visits and how much time spent in Iraq gave Mr. Friedman the expertise to comment on the Iraqi family structure? The contemptible paternalism with which Mr. Friedman views the Iraqis reeks through the noisomeness of his writing. It is clear from this stench that the designation “good national family” hinges on Iraqi acceptance of the US-led occupation. Iraqis cannot be charged with their own security, otherwise they will become “little godfathers.” This tendentious, light-on-facts, logically incoherent opinion is widely syndicated; yet, it epitomizes bottom-of-the gutter journalism.


It gets worse. Mr. Friedman continues: “The way to determine whether Iraqis are willing to form the good family is how they use and understand their newfound freedom.”


Imagine that: maybe there is a mental deficiency in these Arabs. Are the Iraqis able to correctly understand and use their “newfound freedom”? And this will determine their willingness to form a good family. This “newfound freedom” is about accepting occupation, something that history bears out as anathema to the notion of a “national family.” But this is precisely what Mr. Friedman is rabbiting on about. Mr. Friedman is equating a foreign occupation with freedom. The Nazis made similar claims when they occupied European countries.

Mr. Friedman further employs his Promethean powers of rationality to analyze what this gift of freedom to the ungrateful Iraqis really is. Well, according to Mr. Friedman “it is not the freedom to simply shout about what they oppose”; so freedom to dissent is out. “Freedom is about limits, compromise and accepting responsibility. Freedom is the opportunity to assert your interests and the obligation to hear and compromise with the interests of others.”

Sounds more like the antonym to freedom. If one clicks over to www.dictionary.com and looks up ‘freedom’ then a different definition emerges. It is a version that concurs with my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary:

1. The condition of being free of restraints.

2. Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.


a. Political independence.

b. Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.

4. Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.

5. The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon.

Mr. Friedman says, “Freedom is about limits” but Webster’s states that freedom is “the absence of … constraint.” What kind of dictionary is Mr. Friedman using?

The barbed wire of American-led occupation is about detention, killing, and oppression. It is about censoring or shutting down independent media. The parallels with the Nazi occupation in Europe are vivid.


Occupation is not about freedom but rather the denial of freedom. There is no political independence. Iraqis are wanting; they want electricity, food, functioning hospitals, and security; especially from those who occupy without the trust of the people. [3] They want the freedom of assembly and the freedom not to be killed by invaders. They want to be free of the occupiers.


While the right to openly express views is fundamental to a free society, it is condemnatory that the flagship of the US print media would serve as a pulpit of racist thought.

* Related article: No More Mr. Nice Guy: Bush Gets Serious About Killing Iraqis by Kurt Nimmo

Kim Petersen lives in Nova Scotia and is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk

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[1] Shaista Aziz, “War killed 55,000 Iraqi civilians,” Al Jazeera, 11 November 2003.

[2] Thomas Friedman, “Moment of Truth,” New York Times, 18 December 2003

[3] Erich Marquardt, "Iraqis Further Disillusioned With U.S.-led Coalition,” Power and Interest News Report, 16 December 2003.





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