Sunday, January 26, 2003

Marching Up the Hill

O, the grand Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

-- Old nursery rhyme

We have well over ten thousand men on the way to Iraq, for no good reason. Georgie Bush claims that Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction, and that he is preparing to do Awful Things with them. Problem is, he hasn't been able to convince anybody else on the international scene of this. Tomorrow, the inspectors will present their report to the UN. Almost ceratinly, it will be inconclusive. Almost certainly, they will ask for more time.

And almost certainly, Georgie Bush will take this as a mandate to invade.

Frankly, with the troop buildup, the full-court press in the media, the howling of the right-wingers, and the dissing of our so-called allies, if Georgie marches his troops down the hill, he will look pretty stupid, by his own standards (he already looks pretty stupid by most other standards).

So Why Is Georgie Doing This?

I don't really know. The people inside things at the Republican National Committee probably do, but they aren't talking. Some ideas:

Imminent Danger

This is the "official" reason. Unfortunately, it simply doesn't wash. Why is Saddam more dangerous this year than last year? Why will he be any more dangerous next year?

If Georgie had any real information on WMD, why doesn't he give it to the UN inspectors, who have carte blanche to go anywhere, look at everything, and ask anybody anything? Either he is using the UN inspectors as catspaws or he doesn't have any real information to give. Neither conclusion is particularly reassuring.

My personal opinion is that Saddam has no nuclear program and that his biowarfare program hasn't produced anything that would do more than make a large mess. He still undoubtedly has poison gas, but if he used it for anything at all, he'd be committing quick suicide. Where is it? Nobody knows.

Feed the Starving Children?

This is the other "official" excuse. Again, doesn't wash. Yes, Saddam is one of the world's worst tyrants. Yes, he has used poison gas, both on Iranian soldiers and on his own people. So? The US has a long and dishonorable history of dealing with tyrants. The "forced repatriations" after WWII were particularly nasty, as we shipped tens of thousands of European refugees back to their "homelands", where their new Communist rulers promptly murdered them. As to the "starving children" so beloved of the Lefty press, I'll just note two things, both of which are quite well known: First, the shortages are the direct result of the "oil for food" campaign, supported by the US and nobody else. Second, in every picture of the Republican Guard, they all look suspiciously well-fed. If there's a a shortage of food, it's a distribution problem -- not necessarily fixable by relaxing sanctions. Our own media are Georgie's lapdogs; in other countries, this is not the case. If you want to know what's really going on in the world, you won't find it in the US press.

A thought: What do Algeria, Belarus, Burma, China, Chad, Cuba, North Korea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Zimbabwe have in common? Answer -- worse governments than Iraq. So when do we start the Wars of Liberation for them?

Fixing Poppy's Mistake?

In the first Gulf War, there was a lot of talk about throwing Saddam out, once we found out just how bad his "elite" troops really were. Unfortunately, the only way we were able to put the "coalition" together was to promise not to do that. The thought of the US as "kingmaker" in the Middle East scared the snot out of the other Arab rulers in the area. Only way they would sign on is if we promised not to.

In my opinion, the only things we did that were really wrong was to stop the war before we had completely destroyed the Republican Guards. The rebels in Basara who answered our call to revolt were promptly crushed.

So Georgie want to finish the job that Poppy didn't.

Unfortunately, Georgie hero-worships his father. The suggestion that Poppy Bush screwed up is not something I'd care to mention to Georgie.

Where's Osama?

OK, so Osama bin Laden was the guy behind 9/11. He directed it and al Qaeda carried it out.

So where is he?

We don't know. He may be dead. He may be incommunicado in Pakistan, a "guest" of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service.

Georgie has a broad mandate to dig him out, wherever he may be. But he can't. Worse, as essentially everybody predicted, we're losing interest in Afghanistan. The government is a mess. Pakistan won't let us cross the border in pursuit of the remaining Taliban.

So this idea is that, if Georgie makes a big enough noise in Iraq, people will forget about the reason we got into this fracas in the first place. It may be working; an oft-quoted poll shows that an awful lot of Americans think the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi. In case you're counting, 14 Saudis, 3 from the United Arab Emirates, and one each from Lebanon and Egypt.

Follow the Money

Another reason for a diversion might be that every money trail leads straight to Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda is basically rich Saudi kids. And the Bush clan is really buddy-buddy with the Saudis. You want repressive dictators? Try the House of Saud. But nobody wants to think about the fact that Saudi money finances all those "religious" schools that teach nothing but hatred for non Fundie-Muslim types, along with such vital modern concepts as the "real" meaning of the Koran (Kill infidels. Destroy Israel.)

This one's a possibility, except that it assumes 'way too much subtlety on everybody's part.

Weaken Radical Islam?

The invasion will put the Fear of God (our God) into the Heathen. I've actually heard this suggested; it is ridiculous. Iraq is one of the most thouroughly secular states in the Middle East. Whatever Saddam is, he's not a Muslim fundie. An invasion would seriously strengthen the position of the Fundies -- Saddam has them on a pretty short lesh.

$$$ for Georgie's Buddies?

Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia. If we take over Iraq, goes the argument, Georgie's pals in the oil business will make fortunes that would impress even the likes of Bush and Cheney. Sounds logical, except for one little fact, not reported in the US press. Originally, Pravda flogged this idea heavily, and gave it as the reason that Russia wouldn't go along with ousting Saddam. Turns out that a number of Russian oil companies have long-term deals with Iraq that would presumably be invalidated by a new government. However, recently, it seems that Putin, at least, is satisfied that we won't do that. Presumably, Halliburton would have to bid for new business; they'd probably make a lot of money, but in the normal way. Unless, of course, US troops were to be used as goons against non-US outfits. That'd be kind of raw, even for people of Georgie's (lack of) morals.

Note -- while Pravda has a lot of good information and a viewpoint that you don't find in the US media, they do have a tendancy to go for "black helicopter" kind of explanations.

So What's the Real Answer?

Beats me. Maybe he just likes playing wargames and doesn't have a PlayStation 2. Maybe he's paying off debts to the Chriatian Coalition by making Iraq safe for Christian Fundie doorknockers.

We'll probably never find out, even if he does march down the hill again.

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