What does it mean to overemphasize the presence of what is absent? That
Zen-like question arises from an interview the Associated Press recently published
with Douglas Feith, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's departing chief policy
advisor. Feith told the AP the Bush administration "overemphasized"
the matter of weapons of mass destruction as the rationale for invading Iraq and
overthrowing the government of Saddam Hussein.
That has to be the understatement not only of the young century, but of
the last several centuries.
Reality to Mr. Feith: There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Feith
seems to have a clue to the problem: "Anything we said at all about stockpiles
was overemphasis, given that we didn't find them." Yes, at the risk of sound
Zen-like again, any emphasis would have been overemphasis.
He added, "Our intelligence community made, apparently, an error, as to
the stockpiles." Considering that we taxpayers pay a good bit of change
for that intelligence "community," the mind boggles at the idea that
it could have made such an "error" innocently. Isn't it more likely
that it was accommodating the higher-ups who were spoiling for war even before
9/11? This suspicion is hardly undercut by the fact that other countries' intelligence
agencies and even the Clinton administration thought Saddam had WMDs.
In his interview with the AP, Feith said, "It would have been better had
we done a better job of communicating in all of its breadth the strategic rationale
for the war." Which was what? According to the AP summary, "The broader
rationale," Feith said, "included the danger posed by Iraq's potential
to resume building chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons - know-how
that the Iraqi regime developed before the 1991 Gulf War."
It is doubtful the American people would have supported an invasion of Iraq
on the grounds that Saddam might some day try to develop weapons. Why should
he use them against the United States? Without provocation he'd have no reason
to commit personal and national suicide.
The administration realized that people had to be panicked into supporting
the war. That's why, as former defense official Paul Wolfowitz conceded, the
various parts of the administration agreed to build its case on the alleged
WMDs rather than other issues. That case was spiced up with hints that Saddam
had something to do with 9/11, though he did not. Feith approved this strategy:
"Had Saddam Hussein not been a supporter of terrorism and a guy who developed
and used WMD, I don't think that simply saying he's a tyrant and we have a chance
to replace a tyrant would have motivated the war."
But Saddam had no record of supporting terrorism against the United States.
His efforts were confined to helping Palestinians who are under occupation.
(Not that this excuses his encouraging the murder of innocents.) As for Saddam's
development and use of WMDs (i.e., poison gas), that occurred during Iraq's
war with Iran, when he was a U.S. ally. Memories are fleeting: the Reagan administration
supplied Saddam with WMD materials back then. Rumsfeld was a special envoy in
Feith told the AP he is annoyed that people think the lack of weapons means
there was no reason to go to war. According to the AP, such people "ignore
the broader reasoning," he said, which included the dangers posed by Saddam's
record of aggression against Kuwait, hostility toward the United States, a "rhetorical
and financial support" for terrorism and a weakening of the world's resolve
to contain his ambitions.
But how could these have been good reasons for the American people to be forced
into a war of conquest, which, as predicted, has spawned violence not only in
Iraq but in Spain and England, with the United States perhaps next? America
cannot be a prosperous and peaceful place if its government insists on policing
Empire is expensive. Protecting far-flung "interests" costs
money and, inevitably, lives. Do you want to know the price of empire? It's
random searches of subway passengers in New York City. And that's just the beginning.