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Its About Time
Published on Wednesday, April 28, 2004 by
Its About Time
by Virginia Hoffman

Once again we have an ultimatum: the coalition “certainly will not tolerate” the situation in Falluja and Najaf. “Insurgents” (anyone who challenges the coalition’s right to be there) must give up their weapons . . . immediately. Time is running out.

I remember similar pronouncements about time running out: either others must render what they ordinarily would not, or the US “must take decisive action” and attack/kill/level the target. Revisiting a past use of this threat may hold clues about what causes the urgency.

Look at the series of ultimata the Bush administration delivered as they moved toward their pre-decided invasion of Iraq: they couldn’t allow more time for inspections, there was no time for discussion, Iraq would destroy us all if someone didn’t act now, the UN must act immediately or the US would be obliged to do so—to avoid Armageddon.

How was that threat orchestrated? First, fear was the strongest sustained chord in the background. The movements flowed together—a pretended biblical series of who begat whom—Saddam’s ruthless past, Al Qaeda, the attacks of September 11, the oh-so-portable vial of white powder, and—big crescendo here—a chorus of Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld singing “Mushroom Cloud” loud enough to make listeners tremble. Time—doom, doom, doom—is running out.

Now that we know what the administration knew as they were making those dire predictions, we have to wonder about the time pressure. Iraq was so weakened by sanctions it could scarcely challenge the heaviest hardware in history. Iraq was not a threat to its neighbors, or to the US. There were no WMDs (when Saddam’s son-in-law told the US in the mid-90s of pre-1991 programs—widely broadcast here—he also said that everything was destroyed shortly after the first Gulf war—conveniently ignored here). And Saddam’s horrendous gassing of thousands of Iranians and Iraqi Kurds wasn’t a current threat either—it happened 20 years ago, with money and supplies from the Reagan administration.

So what was so urgent that the world was compelled to act immediately? If the US had not invaded Iraq in March 2003:

  • the level of fear would have subsided: it’s nearly impossible to sustain an emotional high of any kind for very long;
  • inspections would have revealed the truth: no WMDs;
  • the yellow-cake-from-Niger forgery and other misrepresentations would have been further investigated (nothing like a continuing state of crisis to sideline such inconveniences);
  • the voices of millions worldwide opposing the invasion would have grown even stronger;
  • the US general public might have grasped that the excuses for invasion were lies—aha!

With no hyped-up fear supporting immediate action, there would have been time to think, real diplomacy and the rule of law might have prevailed, and (the “bad news”) control of Iraqi oil and untold billions of dollars in defense contracts—the goals of the 2000 neo-conservative policy paper “Project for a New American Century”—would have been lost. For the Bush-Cheney team and its oil company and defense contractor contributors, time was truly running out.

So when it’s announced that the Bush-appointed Iraqi puppet government must be installed immediately—before it becomes clear how little control they really will have—and that there is no time to listen to the grievances of the people in Najaf and Falluja, question what we and the rest of the world might think about, what other solutions we might create, if we had—or took—more time.

Dr. Virginia Hoffman is a Senior Lecturer at Loyola University Chicago and a licensed Couple and Family therapist. She can be contacted at:


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