War On Terror Little To Do With Terror
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On Terror Little To Do With Terror
THE MOST peculiar aspect of George W. Bush's war on terrorism is how little
it has to do with terrorism.
Certainly, it has much to do with Iraq. According to the Washington Post, the
U.S. president has authorized his Central Intelligence Agency to send armed teams
into Iraq to capture and if necessary kill that country's leader, Saddam Hussein.
Many otherwise neutral observers might think this just fine. Who likes Saddam
But given that Iraq appears to have had nothing to do with either Al Qaeda or
the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S., the Bush regime's fixation with Saddam seems,
at the very least, odd.
Bush's explanation is that Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Scott
Ritter, a former member of the United Nations inspection team charged with looking
at these matters, insists this isn't true.
But even if it were, one might be tempted to ask why Iraq is being singled out.
The U.S. itself has weapons of mass destruction. So do Russia, China, France,
Britain, India, Pakistan and Israel.
Yet so far, the only nation that has allowed such weaponry to fall into the hands
of terrorists seems to be the United States. American officials acknowledge that
the fatal toxin used in last fall's anthrax letter attacks probably came from
one of their own military labs.
Then there is the war on Afghanistan. That, we were told, was the first victory
in the battle against terrorism.
But now, according to the New York Times, both the CIA and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation have concluded that the U.S.-led war did not diminish the terrorist
In fact, the Times reports, the Afghan war made matters worse by scattering potential
hostiles to other countries and inflaming anti-American sentiment among Islamic
Here the CIA and FBI are echoing a wisdom first articulated last fall by those
skeptical of the Bush war, including (to their great credit) Alexa McDonough's
New Democratic Party caucus.
At the time, such critics were dismissed by some in the North American media as
professional anti-Americans and pusillanimous twerps. Now it seems, the twerps
were on to something.
This is not to say that the bombing of several hundred Afghan civilians might
not have an upside. The war could result in a government that does more for that
sad country than the misogynists of the now departed Taliban.
But that, as we say in the war biz, would be a collateral benefit. The U.S., Canada,
Britain and their assorted friends didn't invade Afghanistan to help women. They
invaded to demolish what was at the time called the "terrorist infrastructure"
behind the attack on the World Trade Center. And in this, they seem to have failed
So what is the war on terrorism about, if not terror?
Cynics would say it is about oil. Bush's main targets are intimately linked to
the politics of oil production. Iraq is one of the world's largest producers.
Afghanistan is strategically placed next to the rich oil and gas fields of Central
All of this is true.
My own view, though, is that the war is about opportunity in the larger sense.
Americans are notoriously entrepreneurial; the Bush regime is no exception.
Even beyond oil, the attacks on New York and Washington opened up rich new possibilities
for a president whose very legitimacy was under question until Sept. 11.
In effect, they gave him and his administration carte blanche.
Does Attorney-General John Ashcroft object to the U.S. Constitution's Bill of
Rights? Bingo, it's gone.
Witness the case of Jose Padilla, a.k.a. Abdullah al Muhajir, the one-time New
York gang banger accused of plotting to release a radioactive, or "dirty" bomb
in his own country. Padilla, who is being held indefinitely in a military prison,
has not been charged — for the simple reason that there is not a whit of evidence
of his alleged crime.
Yet most of his fellow citizens seem to think that's just fine. A country that
doesn't trust its government to run a health system becomes remarkably credulous
whenever the word terrorism is mentioned.
Does the president want to settle scores with Iraq, the enemy his father never
quite beat? No problem. All he has to do is mention the T-word and Congress falls
into line. Troops to the Philippines? Why not.
If, during these grand adventures, the Bush warriors happen to run across terrorists,
well, that's fine too. But it is clearly not a priority.
that doesn't trust its government to run a health system becomes remarkably credulous
whenever the word terrorism is mentioned.
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