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Don't Let Bush Light Iraq Fire
Published on Sunday, December 15, 2002 by the Toronto Star
Don't Let Bush Light Iraq Fire
by Linda McQuaig

Shooting frogs with BB guns was apparently pretty standard entertainment for young boys in Texas in the 1950s. But for added amusement, George W. Bush and his friends used to tuck firecrackers into the mouths of frogs, throw them in the air, and watch them explode.

The story recounted with fondness by a Bush childhood friend in a long, flattering New York Times profile of Bush during the 2000 presidential election campaign never became an issue on the campaign trail.

Despite psychiatric evidence that children who are cruel to animals often go on to be abusive adults, the U.S. media apparently decided that the torture of frogs was nothing more than a charming little anecdote from Dubya's early years. (Imagine what the media would make of a charming little childhood anecdote like that, if it were in Saddam Hussein's background.)

It should have at least been a clue that Bush now the most powerful man in the world has a taste for blowing things up, not to mention an insensitivity to suffering.

If there's any lingering doubt about that, it will likely be dispelled shortly; the Bush administration seems barely able to contain its enthusiasm to begin blowing things up in Iraq. Last week Bush upped the level of bellicosity on that front, indicating that he has every intention of unleashing Washington's nuclear arsenal if Iraq responds to a U.S. assault with biological or chemical weapons. (Iraq is only permitted to respond to U.S. attacks with weapons that the U.S. can easily knock out; otherwise that wouldn't be fair, would it?)

As we brace for all-out war, we seem to have lost sight of how far we've drifted from the original rationale for war, which was supposed to have something to do with making the world safer, after the Al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11.

But, as even the CIA has pointed out, there's no reliable evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, nor does the impoverished, militarily weak nation seem to have much in the way of weapons of mass destruction a phrase now routinely used to describe devastatingly powerful weapons, when those weapons are held by people we don't like.

What Iraq does have is oil, and the installation of a pro-U.S. regime there would allow Washington to establish a new base for controlling the Middle East, just as Saudi Arabia becomes less reliable.

Of course, on any practical level, it's hard to imagine how an invasion could possibly make anyone safer least of all Americans as images of the U.S. bombardment of Iraq fill TV screens throughout the Muslim and Arab world.

But Bush clearly has his heart set on an invasion, and has complained that the U.N. weapons inspections are proceeding too slowly.

Don't those weapons inspectors realize there's a timetable to meet here the serious U.S. military legwork has to be done before it gets too hot over there for comfortable fighting, and postwar Iraq will have to be fixed up enough to be presented on CNN as some kind of foreign policy triumph, in time for Bush's 2004 re-election bid?

So war seems likely soon. Certainly, Washington has such definitive military superiority, it can do pretty much whatever it wants in the world.

But that doesn't mean the world community should offer support.

It's often argued that we must prevent Washington from acting unilaterally (or just with Britain's support). In line with this thinking, the world including Canada has bent over backwards to keep the U.S. operating within the bounds of the United Nations.

Getting the Bush cabinet to pay attention to the world community and to international law is a fine idea. But not if it simply means the rest of the world adjusts itself to accommodate Bush's war agenda, rather than bringing U.S. behavior into line with world disapproval of an unnecessary, provocative war.

If Bush is determined to take the U.S. Military on a rampage through Iraq, the rest of the world may be powerless to stop him.

But let's not allow him do so under the banner of the United Nations, thereby destroying whatever legitimacy that institution has in the eyes of the world. Let's not facilitate his efforts to dress up an imperialistic adventure as a contribution to world peace. Let's not give his war that figleaf of respectability.

Just because Bush had a taste for blowing up frogs, doesn't mean we have to pass him the firecrackers.

Linda McQuaig is a Toronto-based author and political commentator.

Copyright 1996-2002. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited


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