Iraqi men search for their belongings in a house damaged during an air strike in Baghdad last Friday. Bombs and missiles crashed into Baghdad as the United States kept up a relentless pounding of the Iraqi capital.
Garwin Davis, Assistant News Editor
"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervour with the cry of grave national emergency. Always, there has been some terrible evil at home, or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it."
NO, THESE ARE not the words of an Iraqi defector lashing out at the Saddam Hussein regime nor from someone making a case for political asylum.
Far from it. These words were actually uttered in 1957 by no less an authority than the celebrated American, General Douglas MacArthur, in describing the policies of the United States Government in the post-World War II era.
And MacArthur should have known. Not only was he the commander of Allied troops in the Pacific during World War II, but he also supervised the postwar occupation of Japan and led United Nations forces during the Korean War.
But, has anything changed? The General could easily have been describing the U.S. Government of today.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. has been trying to convince the world community since last year that Iraq poses a major threat to world peace and has to be disarmed by the use of military force.
No matter that there was hardly anything by way of evidence to support the claim, the Bush administration was adamant that Iraq possessed what it described as weapons of mass destruction and was a part of "an axis of evil."
The military strikes at Iraq started last Wednesday but the planning has been a long time in the making...yes, even before any resolution was brought before the United Nations Security Council. President Bush, in his State of the Union address last year, couldn't have been any clearer:
"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility towards America and to support terror... The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
What President Bush did that night was to create the link between Iraq and terrorist groups, even as the American public was still traumatised by the events of September 11, 2001.
It reminded of an even more frightening speech he had given following the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States when he told the U.S. Congress:
"Every nation in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbour or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
By cleverly linking Saddam Hussein's name with terrorists, he knew he could easily make the case for a war with Iraq. He didn't need the UN as long as he continued to enjoy the vast support of the American people (polls consistently show that over 60 per cent of Americans support President Bush's decision to invade Iraq), he was safe politically.
Now we see, despite objections from most of the world community forget this stupid facade about having a coalition of the willing the bombs have been raining down on Iraq.
By the time it's all over, an untold sum of innocent civilians would have lost their lives. It's a cruel war that has been propagated on speculations, paranoia and self serving allegations.
And for what purpose? Some see oil as the motive but I hardly think so. There is a deeper underlying reason at work here- its called arrogance the big stick.
The terrible acts of September 11 only served to further shape how the American President looks at those he considers enemies. He makes known his contempt and distrust for countries which do not subscribe to his way of thinking.
Newsweek writer Fareed Zakaria, in a recent article entitled "The Arrogant Empire" said this about the Bush doctrine: "The notion is that the United States needs to intimidate countries with its power and assertiveness, always threatening, always denouncing, never showing weakness. Donald Rumsfeld (U.S. Defence Secretary) often quotes a line from Al Capone: You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone." Is it any wonder that other countries, even those that would be willing to endorse a war with Iraq, have felt that the diplomacy at the United Nations was a charade, pursued simply to allow time for military preparations."
This brings me to the so-called 'coalition of the willing'. If war wasn't such a serious matter, this could easily have been passed off as a sick joke.
Needing only nine votes, the U.S. and its chief ally Great Britain couldn't get their prized resolution, asking the U.N. Security Council to authorise war with Iraq, passed even after using veiled threats and strong-armed tactics to do so.
As a matter of fact, realising they couldn't muster the votes, they abandoned the resolution all together and has since taken matters into their own hands.
Yet we are now hearing that there is a strong coalition of the willing backing the military strikes against Iraq. A closer look at the coalition will reveal more of a gathering of the powerful and the needy.
Here is how one songwriter describes the coalition:
"Step right up and make a killing
Join...the Coalition of the willing
You won't have to do no shooting
You're just in it for the looting
All the hard stuff is done by Uncle Sam
You just nod on cue"
The U.S. State Department said 30 governments have agreed to be named in public as supporters of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, and about 15 others are cooperating behind the scenes.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said the basic criterion for inclusion in the published list was that the countries wanted to be publicly associated with the idea that Iraq has to be disarmed now.
The 30 countries named are Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Britain, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
Many, including elected U.S. officials, have been finding it difficult to refrain from ridiculing what can only be described as a laughable if not amateurish attempt at propaganda.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, had this to say: "While the President's directive to Saddam to 'Get out of Dodge by sundown' is tough, the posse announced today is mighty weak. It includes such military powerhouses as Eritrea and Estonia and pariahs like Uzbekistan with a human rights record as difficult to defend as Saddam Hussein's ... This list is an embarrassing indication of the Administration's foreign policy failure."
WHERE WILL IT ALL END?
So where do we go from here? Where will this all end? Is it conceivable that after the certain defeat of Iraq, the Americans will want to go after the other two countries, Iran and North Korea, named in the axis of evil?
It is worth noting that the U.S. Presidential elections are due next year. It's also worth noting that the American economy is not in the best of shape and could be the President's Achilles heel.
What Mr. Bush and his inner circle seem to be hoping for is a comprehensive and speedy victory in Iraq with as few casualties, American that is, as possible.
This they feel will greatly enhance the President's chance for re-election. It's a gamble probably never before seen in modern history... a roll of the dice reminiscent of a river boat gambler... some have called it high stakes poker.
What's sad though is how the President, by his seemingly might is right attitude, has managed to isolate the rest of the world. Just look at the demonstrations across the globe even in the U.S. where millions have been making their opposition to the war known.
As a betting man, I would be willing to bet that anti-American rhetoric across the world is probably higher today than at any time anybody can remember and it's not due to envy.
As the Newsweek writer puts it, "With the exception of Israel and Great Britain, every country the Bush adminstration has dealt with feels humiliated by it."
And this is precisely the point. All the goodwill that the U.S. had garnered after the September 11, terrorist attacks has been squandered by its insistence on being arrogant...it's 'if you are not with us, you are against us' policy.
Here in Jamaica, while it is obvious, based on public reaction so far, that most Jamaicans are greatly opposed to this war, our elected officials have not been saying much about the matter. Considering, however, the country's heavy reliance on trade with the U.S., our leaders might be forgiven for being a little gun shy.
To Prime Minister P. J. Patterson's credit, he is, albeit on a small scale, one of the few CARICOM leaders to have spoken out publicly against the war.
Speaking to journalists at Jamaica House recently, he noted that "Jamaica cannot change the world but we cannot remain detached, silent or indifferent when our way of life, our security, our traditional values and our economic prospects are being threatened by force and through military conflict that can be averted by collective diplomacy. Our voice must be heard in proclaiming that might is not always right."
Reacting to the Prime Minister's comments, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb, notes that "The United States hold Jamaica as a trusted friend, and we do not deem opposition to war in Iraq as some nasty, envious anti-Americanism as feared by some. Quite the contrary we value the diversity of opinion, and the freedoms of assembly and speech, which our two nations hold so dear."
Well said, but let's see how this plays out in the future.
This much is certain, the outcome of this war in Iraq will determine a lot of things.
Uncovering the suspected weapons of mass destruction and ending the war quickly will be a major bonanza for the U.S. and its allies.
Anything else, plus images of Iraqi women and children being slaughtered, would be a public relations disaster and perhaps signal the end of the political road for Mr. Bush.
It's still early days, but it bears mentioning that there has been no report of a single chemical or biological weapon yet aimed at American or British forces.
Is it that Saddam is just biding his time before unleashing the weapons the U.S. claim he has?
The entire world awaits the outcome.