The Circular Logic of War

Looking to make the case for Operation Desert Shield in 1991, the administration of Bush No. 1 claimed that classified satellite images showed that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks had amassed on the border of Saudi Arabia, threatening a key U.S. oil supplier.

St. Petersburg Times reporter Jean Heller obtained two commercial satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, and guess what it showed? Empty desert.

"It was a pretty serious fib," Heller told the Christian Science Monitor last month.

When Heller called then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's office three times asking for refuting evidence, the offer was made to hold the story to allow enough time to prove it all wrong. The official response? "Trust us."

But as is the case with infidelity in marriage, when the trust has been broken it is not enough for the former conniver to say: "Take my word for it." Remember the Tonkin Gulf Resolution?

The debate in Congress is not whether we should invade Iraq, but whether Bush will be authorized to invade Iraq only, or invade Iraq plus whatever other Middle Eastern nation he damn well pleases. And this despite numerous important questions yet to be asked of King George.

For example, we didn't invade the Soviet Union during the Cold War because we knew they could retaliate. So, according to the logic of deterrence, isn't it true that we are ready, willing and able to attack Iraq because we know that Iraq cannot retaliate in kind, which means Iraq really isn't the threat the hawks assert it to be?

Some argue that even with inspections we can't be sure if Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction. So that means we can be surer of Saddam's military capabilities in the absence of inspections? Orwell would be impressed.

And now the Bush administration is playing the al-Qaeda-terrorists-are-in-Iraq card. But where? Northern Iraq? Isn't that the part of Iraq controlled by our Kurdish allies under the cover of the northern no-fly zone?

In the meantime, while the nation is focused on war planners dancing the jingoistic jig, other important issues like the present economic crisis don't get the attention they deserve.

Civil liberties? Lewis Lapham, longtime editor of Harper's Magazine, was recently added to the list of "internal threats" being compiled by Richard Bennett's McCarthyite group called Americans for Victory Over Terrorism.

Lapham's sin, like others on the list, which includes former President Jimmy Carter, is they have a "blame America first" agenda, which is a code word for those whose agenda isn't uncritically swallowing everything that comes out of the White House.

Unfortunately, Bennett's narrow siege mentality has support even outside the neocon egghead establishment. A reader wrote me last week, disparaging "peaceniks," globalization protesters and other assorted leftists, arguing that even "after all the mistakes and crimes are acknowledged, the matter on the international table is what to do now?"

But you see, the global peace and economic justice movement isn't just talking about past "mistakes." Activists are talking about present calculated policies and the need to change many of them for the sake of justice, without which there will be no peace.

Like what? According to Amenga-Etego of the Ghana National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water: "The 'cost recovery' policies of the (U.S.-dominated) World Bank in Ghana led to a 95 percent increase in water rates in 2001. Poor people have lost access and now Ghana is second only to Sudan in the incidence of guinea worm, thanks to the privatization policies of the World Bank."

What else? Jim Vallette, research director for the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network and the author of "Transnational Corporate Beneficiaries of World Bank Group Fossil Fuel Projects, 1992-2002," points to a new study.

"Our new study shows that many energy corporations facing government investigation here and abroad for alleged accounting irregularities, energy market manipulation, fraud, bribery and human rights abuses have leveraged billions of dollars in World Bank Group financing over the past decade.

"These include Halliburton (the No. 2 beneficiary of WBG fossil fuel financing at $1.97 billion), Enron (No. 11 with $967 million), El Paso Corp. (No. 5 with $1.5 billion), which has been found to have illegally manipulated the energy markets in California ... as well as Harken Energy (George W. Bush's old company) and UNOCAL, which a federal court this month ruled could be liable for human rights abuses associated with its Burma gas venture."

This is not about guilt or "blame America first." It's about the fundamental moral imperative to be responsible for our own actions. As the sage Rabbi Heschel used to say: "We are not all guilty. But we are all responsible."

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist. Email him at

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