Iraq Around the Clock, Part 1

BEING THAT IT’S weeks before what by all indications is shaping up to be the closest and most hard-fought midterm election in decades, it’s not at all a surprise that the Iraq war is front and center in the spotlight as congressional candidates of both parties try to pull the rugs out from one another all across the nation.

It’s especially not surprising since we’re coming off some of the bloodiest months of the Iraq war so far in terms of U.S. casualties…

And of course, emotion, sensationalism, and flag-waving are ruling the dialogue. This disappoints me (but doesn’t surprise me). What I had hoped for was an advancement of the debate about Iraq beyond the tired rhetoric both parties have been spewing at each other for years in shameless attempts to garner votes or undermine their opponents.

Specifically, I wanted answers to some questions I’ve had about the Iraq War — some of which I’ve stewed over since before Saddam’s statue toppled in the spring of 2003. But since I’m not getting these answers from any of the candidates I’ve heard talking (or from anyone in the mainstream media), I’ve decided to voice these questions to the world, in hopes of learning something new on the topic. Or at least putting into the dialogue a few new debate points.

So here goes…

Why didn’t we (or the U.N. inspectors) “find” any
weapons of mass destruction?

Here’s something that has been gnawing at me since late 2004: If Bush were devious and unconscionable enough to lie to the citizens of this country and the leaders of the free world about the existence of WMDs in order to justify an invasion of Iraq, why didn’t we FIND any of them? What I mean is this: If the president and his minions were capable of deception on such a massive scale (I’m not saying they aren’t), why wouldn’t they simply complete the trickery by planting some weapons to unearth — perhaps as an “October surprise” before the 2004 presidential election? That would have made a lot of sense, from re-election, political, and presidential legacy standpoints…

Think about which would be harder to accomplish, to Fabricating persuasive enough evidence to convince both historically reluctant-to-invade Americans AND the leaders of 18 other U.N. nations to support a foreign war — or organizing a small “black ops” team to bury a few surplus Russian chemical weapons in the backyard of one of Saddam’s palaces so the U.N. inspectors could prove to the world how right we were by “finding” them?

In other words: If it were all a giant deception, why would there be ONE of these elements — the hardest one to pull off — without the other relatively easy component to seal the deal?

Bottom line: If Bush and company were willing to go to such lengths as some believe to invent justification for an unjust war, why wouldn’t they also simply manufacture the proof as well — especially since it would have been exactly the ticket to guarantee not only his 2004 re-election (far from a slam-dunk, remember), but also very likely the continuing control of Congress through 2006 and beyond?

This is Strategery 101, man.

But it didn’t happen that way at all. By all outward appearances with regard to Iraqi WMDs (the main stated justification for war), it seems like the Bush administration is willing to suffer the consequences of being seen as clueless and inept rather than falsify even a small amount of evidence to take some of the heat off. That’s a fairly strong indication of some integrity in the White House, blasphemous though it may be to say in intelligent company nowadays.
 
To be objective about it, we must at least consider the notion that perhaps Bush fabricated nothing at all (not that he didn’t OMIT some things) as he banged the drums of war. Of course, this doesn’t mean he had a valid justification for war — only that the bits and snippets of evidence the Bush administration cobbled together to sell the nation and the world on the Iraq invasion were real, but so far haven’t added up to much of anything now that we have “boots on the ground.”

I do know this much, however: If George Dubya were stupid enough to lead our nation to war under fabricated pretenses and NOT also fabricate some proof, he’s even dumber than Bill Maher and Al Franken think he is.

Mind you, I’m not defending Bush or the Iraq war — I’m just trying to figure out what’s really going on here. Which leads me to my second unanswered question…

Why would Bush risk the obvious appearance
of impropriety to wage a bogus war?

When I first heard that the U.S. was actually considering invading Iraq, my knee-jerk thought was, “Again? Wow, Bush has got some major daddy-envy issues.”

A lot of others saw it as a shameless play for oil resources. Still others thought it was to carve out a strategic staging point in the region from which to further prosecute the vaguely defined War on Terror — perhaps against Iran. A few bought the party line that it was a logical extension of said War on Terror, even though hard evidence of this seemed scarce. But until we heard Bush’s justification before the United Nations (as delivered by Colin Powell in February 2003), I doubt very many of us thought it was solely about stockpiled WMDs or broken U.N. resolutions. Even afterward, some of us still didn’t…

Which is exactly what bothers me. Here’s what I mean:

Even though he may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, it should have been obvious to Bush that invading the very same Mideast country that his father did — seemingly with far less (and far less immediate) reason — would open the door to all kinds of negative speculation about his motives.

And even if Bush didn’t care about this in the least, smarter people like Rove, Cheney, Rice, Powell, or other high-powered Republicans would surely have seen a few moves ahead and recognized how an ill-conceived, poorly justified, frivolous, and expensive war against Iraq would ultimately hurt their party, their agenda, and America’s image in the eyes of the world. Heck, a first-year political science student would’ve seen the angles…

Which begs the question: What’s the REAL reason (or reasons) behind the war in Iraq? What makes this foreign war worth it for Bush and the Republican Party to risk looking like liars, warmongers, and imperialists? It can’t be for domestic votes — because it’s likely about to cost them the election…

Of course, I’m not the first one to have asked why we chose to invade Iraq — a nation that, for all its other faults, was at least on paper not much of a threat to the U.S., and not even really inclined toward the kind of Islamic fundamentalism that posed a terrorism threat. Sure, there may have been rumblings that a training camp or two may have sprung up on Iraqi soil over the years, or that some meetings took place between Iraqi bigwigs and al-Qaida, but to my knowledge there has never been a “smoking gun” of any type linking Saddam’s and bin Laden’s regimes…

However, President Bush’s newly established doctrine of “pre-emptive war” justifies attacking Iraq (or any other country) under the auspices that an alliance between such a nation and al-Qaida — were it to spring up in the future — COULD result in an increased likelihood of an attack on American soil. Someday. Maybe.

But even as large and ominous an “umbrella concept” as this seems a poor justification (and more important to the point, one that looks bad politically) for spending hundreds of billions of dollars — and God knows how many thousands of American lives when it’s all said and done — to invade and occupy a country that may not have been anywhere near as big a threat to us as others. It just doesn’t add up to me, given the reasons we’ve been spoon-fed to justify the war…

And so we’re back to the Big Question everybody’s been asking for so long: Why Iraq?

Well, for a long time I’ve been nursing a pair of theories about why we’re REALLY at war in Iraq. I call the first of these “The Prison Yard Scenario.” Here it is. Bear with me while I set it up…

The Prison Yard Scenario

Let’s say you’re a new inmate in a small prison — only 12 inmates (13 now that you’re among them). Nobody has any real weapons, so no one can kill anyone else. The worst anyone can really do is beat up on someone to one degree or another. Before you arrived, the inmates would take turns beating up on each other, jockeying for supremacy in the prison yard pecking order…

But now that you are there, everyone else is more or less united in hating you — because you’re from a rich family, are a different color than they all are, believe in a different God than theirs, and because you are the largest and strongest of all the inmates.

One day, you’re out in the yard walking around. Some of your fellow inmates are within view, some aren’t. All of a sudden, an unseen assailant walks up behind you and cold-cocks you in the back of the head with a fist, a rock, or a bottle — something substantial enough to knock you down, but not out. You stumble to your feet, whirl around, and all 12 of your prison mates are standing in a bunch, hands in pockets, whistling into the air and kicking at the dirt. A month later, it happens again, more or less the same way. A week after that, you get hit hard enough to knock you out…

So what can you do to make any one of them think twice about attacking you again?

Clearly, you can’t keep an eye on all of them, all the time. And even though you may have an idea of who knocked you out (inmate No. 12 is always making threats), you can’t prove it, so you don’t know exactly who to target. But you COULD whip ass on whomever you wanted…

OK, in this scenario, it makes sense to pick someone you’re sure DIDN’T attack you (inmate No. 1, let’s say) and beat him to within an inch of his life — then make him your personal bitch-boy for the duration of his internment.

Here’s why:

If all your fellow inmates see that you’re not concerned with ferreting out and punishing only who’s guilty, but rather are a hellbent-for-vengeance loose cannon who’s not afraid to use every resource he’s got to pay back ANYBODY, wouldn’t that be a strong deterrent to future attacks? Think about it: If inmate No. 12 (the likely guilty party) starts planning another attack on you, inmates No. two-11 are going to put the kibosh on it themselves for fear of getting the smack-down once you recover from whatever assault he springs on you to make himself feel like a holy warrior…

In short, the first of my theories is that ONE of the reasons the U.S. invaded, gutted, and now occupies Iraq is to wage a terror campaign of our own — one that shows the leaders of the Islamic world, be they heads of state, clerics, or terrorists themselves, that our Western sensibilities of fair play and tit-for-tat are off the table once American blood has been spilled.

The upside of this approach: They’ll likely do a better job of either hunting down al-Qaida themselves (like Pakistan has seemingly tried to do) or foiling its ability to execute further attacks on the U.S. — either by direct intervention or the aggressive and timely deliverance of intelligence to the American military…

And all for fear of getting the “Iraq treatment.”

Machiavelli Behind the Tapestry

As you can see, the “Prison Yard Scenario” is the very definition of Machiavellianism. These are the kinds of brutal sensibilities the American people don’t usually like to embrace or think of their leaders as engaging in. We Americans like to think we’re nobler and fairer than to resort to intimidation tactics against other nations — even those that hate us…

However, these kinds of amoral stratagems are nevertheless those that have governed most international relations year in and year out ever since there have been nations to interrelate. The trick in the U.S. has been being able to sell these tactics to the American people under auspices they can palate. Things like giving aid to our terrorist enemies, defiance of U.N. resolutions, or the fear of WMDs.

These are ideas Americans can get behind, or at least be fearful of enough to sign off on a foreign war. The problems come when the reasons we’ve gone to war no longer seem so urgent or important — or even plausible. Or rational. For me, this has been since the very beginning of the Iraq war.

At this point, I want to reiterate something that I can’t afford for readers of this column to misunderstand: I intend this two-part essay series to be neither a defense nor a condemnation of the Iraq invasion. Whether or not that was the right play, only time will tell. The only thing that is for certain is that we’re embroiled in it — and that there’s really no turning back. However, I do wish to explore some possible reasons for the war that some people may not have considered, and that may add facets to the debate that heretofore have seemingly been sparsely discussed, if at all.

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll reveal the second of my two theories on the real reasons for the Iraq war — one that’s far less abstract and far more “real-world” than the Prison Yard Scenario. I’ll also flesh out a bit more about why I think these reasons haven’t been fully explained to the American parents who are losing their sons and daughters by the thousands in Iraq…

I’m also going to tell you what I believe is the only truly justifiable reason for arbitrarily invading ANY nation in the Middle East — and why no politician of either party would ever level with you about it. Stay tuned.

Hypothesizing, not proselytizing,

Jim Amrhein
Contributing editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
October 27, 2006

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