It was Alexis de Tocqueville who said that despotism can govern without faith, but liberty cannot. For Americans it has always been a matter of faith that their government's intentions were noble. But recent history has twice proven this to be delusional.
Ever since the trumped-up Gulf of Tonkin incident served as a pretext for a full-scale war in 1964, Americans should have learned a valuable lesson: Even though a little trust in a new administration is required at first, that trust should last for only a short period of time, and the sooner its motives are verified, the better.
Now history has repeated itself. Since the American public was not privy to any classified prewar government intelligence, it was prudent to believe the Bush administration's allegations that Iraq possessed huge stockpiles of banned weapons of mass destruction and that they were an imminent security threat to the U.S. But after ten months and $400 million being spent, not a single molecule of Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons has been found by our experts.
No thanks to a complicit corporate press, it's no longer a secret that George Bush's cabal of neo-conservatives intended to overthrow Saddam Hussein from the very beginning. The events of 9/11 provided the opportunity, and it became a no-brainer to sell their cynical rationale to a credulous public that was still in shock from being terrorized on an unprecedented scale.
But now that the shock of 9/11 has worn off, it's possible to see that the Bush administration's reasons were transparent. And after being caught without a viable casus belli, the Bush administration continues to rationalize what has become an illegal occupation of a sovereign country.
Pertaining to the missing WMD stockpiles, Colin Powell tried to turn things around by using circular logic. Ironically, Powell did this by restating the spurious allegations that he presented to the UN Security Council: "What we demanded of Iraq was that they account for all of this [tons of chemical and biological weapons] and they prove the negative of our hypothesis."
But it is important to understand that it is not possible to prove a negative hypothesis. It cannot be proven that something does not exist, and the correct logical approach to any investigation must be based upon a positive hypothesis with the evidence being either supportive or inconclusive. This is why in a court of law the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty based on the evidence. Iraq was caught in a catch-22 situation where they needed to either prove the impossible or be attacked if they couldn't.
With the U.S. now occupying Iraq, the burden of proof shifted back to the United States where it should have been in the first place. But the evidence has proven to be inconclusive, even though Donald Rumsfeld said on the eve of the war, "We know where they are."
On Feb. 3, Powell told The Washington Post: " there is no doubt in my mind that if Iraq had gotten free of the constraints and if we had gone through another year of desultory action on the part of the United Nations . . . there's no doubt in my mind that [if] intention and capability was married up . . . they would have gone to the next level and reproduced these weapons."
That is a prime example of a counterfactual statement, and everyone else in the administration -- including the President -- is still parroting this story to justify U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.
The only constant throughout this entire fiasco is the surreal certainty that's in the minds of this administration. Powell repeated what has been reverberating for months from the President on down: "There is no doubt in my mind." Well, there should be plenty of doubt by now. The American people are paying dearly for an irreversible and illegal foreign policy decision that resulted in massive human suffering and billions of dollars in damages to a sovereign country that was of no immediate threat to us.
There seems to be no end to the failures of the Bush administration, from a disastrous foreign policy to turning back the clock on economic, environmental, and social issues. And in spite of its arrogance and secrecy, it is no longer difficult to determine whether this is attributable to mere incompetence or a hidden agenda. It's both: In addition to the fact that bureaucracies seldom do anything well, we are witnessing the inevitable consequences of an insular neoconservative groupthink suffering from the absence of critical dissent.
The next orange alert is right around the corner, and it will be based on real threats from a real enemy. Meanwhile, America's resources will continue to be stretched to their limits fighting an ill-conceived war with the wrong enemy. And continuing to believe that the Bush administration's motives are noble requires nothing less than blind faith, a faith no less schizophrenic than the zealotry of radical Islam. We have also seen that this comes at a very high price, as Bruce Springsteen once observed: "Blind faith in your leaders will get you killed."
Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based independent scholar. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2004, Harold Williamson.
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