Now, the face that I see in my mirror
More and more is a stranger to me.
More and more I can see there’s a danger
In becoming what I never thought I’d be.
--from a John Denver song
With broomstick rifles and saucepan helmets, American boys growing up during World War II imitated, in their back yards, the battlefield fighting. I was one of those boys, and we told each other with great pride and patriotism, “America has never started a war and we’ve never lost one.”
Twenty five years after that we lost our first war, and now we’re about to start our first, cheered on by President Bush and by Kenneth Pollack’s new book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq
Mr. Pollack’s habitat is wholly inside the Beltway. He is a product and a denizen of what Kevin Phillips called, in the title of a book, The Arrogant Capital. Governance in Washington DC has become a self-perpetuating permanent structure of self-serving lifetime professionals, elected and otherwise, and it is dominated by corporate campaign money and corporate lobbying. It has suffered a near-total disconnect from the American people at large, as a result.
Mr. Pollack’s book serves the Arrogant Capital well. The Gulf War in 1991, as Senator Robert Dole said, was about o-i-l. Clearly the pending invasion is, too. Direct American control of Iraqi oil reserves—second in magnitude only to Saudi Arabia’s—will bring pleasure and profit to our Petro-Administration and its client corporations. No informed, thinking citizen will deny this, but Mr. Pollack avoids it, speaking only to Saddam’s threat to our physical security.
Saddam Hussein is a psychopathic tinpot with no significant air power or navy, a decimated army, questionable inventories of chemical and biological weapons with no capability for intercontinental delivery, and five years away from his first nuclear device. By what conceivable means can he realistically threaten America, the most heavily armed nation on earth? This is left utterly unexplained in Mr. Pollack’s book.
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The book’s case for invading Iraq is no better than President Bush’s, who hasn’t explained, either, but Pollack’s attempt is detailed and sophisticated. He demonizes Saddam in poetry (two stanzas) and prose (424 pages, and 44 more of footnotes), and shows that 3 presidents were so persuaded. Both Bush I and Clinton favored “regime change,” but they lacked popular support for an invasion. 9/11 changed all that, Pollack argues. (Awkwardly: he admits there is no linkage between Saddam and 9/11.) Bush II now has the people with him, the polling indicates (because of successful propagandizing?), and hence faces a choice:
- Rebuild “containment.” With President Bush frantic to discredit it, this option is underway. It had not begun when Pollack wrote, but he had reasons to reject it, and recently called the current inspections a “trap.”
- “Deterrence.” Drop the sanctions, pull back the troops, and count on Saddam’s fear of the U.S. (This would abandon the Kurds and the Shi’ites.)
- “Covert action.” Assassination. (Saddam’s security system is too effective to make this possible.)
- The “Afghan Approach.” With massive air strikes, encourage a factional revolt. (There is no effective counterforce in Iraq.)
- Invasion. The “least best,” but the only alternative, really.
Pollack’s options are tactical alternatives to attain the strategic objective designed in the Arrogant Capital: U.S. corporate imperialism will triumph—by malevolent violence if necessary. We need desperately to formulate other, peaceful, humane strategic objectives for our nation, but such rigorous discussion has been deflected. Instead the invasion of Iraq, wrapped in a fraudulent veil of physical security, has been sold to a decent and trusting public by the Bush Administration. An impolite term for this is propaganda, and Pollack’s book contributes to the effort.
He works hard at it. Pollack compares Iraq to Germany in 1938. Hitler was building the most fearsome war machine in history, and appeasement only made more costly his eventual defeat. Pollack sees Saddam as today’s Hitler.
It is not Saddam Hussein, however, who now commands the world’s mightiest military. George W. Bush does. And the threatening storm is not Saddam, either. It is America becoming what we never thought we’d be: a self-serving tyrant on a global scale, willing to unleash its colossus of armed might to advance its parochial, commercial interests. America is becoming on the world stage what Saddam has been in the Middle East.
The subtitle of Mr. Pollack’s book is a monstrous insult to the ideals of American people, and to our history. There is NO case to be made for invading Iraq, or anyone else. We don’t start wars, and American people are justifiably proud of that. Only a government disconnected from its people could propose doing so now—and only a heavily propagandized citizen could find this book appealing.