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Sunday, February 23, 2003

Imperialist Stunt

I saw this the other night and I almost couldn’t believe it. If it were anyone but Sy Hersh making the claim I would have to say it was tin-foil time.

When the war began, even though this is-- again, you know, this is complicated. Musharraf asked, as a favor, to protect his position. If we suddenly seized, in in the field, a few dozen military soldiers, including generals, and put them in jail, and punished them, he would be under tremendous pressure from the fundamentalists at home.

So, to protect him, we perceive that it's important to protect him, he asked us-- this is why when I tell you it comes at the level of Don Rumsfeld, it has to. I mean, it does. He asked-- he said, "You've got to protect me. You've got to get my people out."

The initial plan was to take out the Pakistani military. What happened is that they took out al Qaeda with them. And we had no way of stopping it. We lost control. Once there planes began to go, the Pakistanis began-- thousands of al Qaeda got out. And so-- we weren't able to stop it and screen it. The intent wasn't to let al Qaeda out. It was to protect the Pakistani military.

But, when you think about it, it actually makes sense in Bush terms. In order to preserve Musharref’s tenuous hold on a nuclear nation that could easily be overwhelmed by Islamic fundamentalists like the Taliban, the US had to agree to evacuate the Pakistani military who were helping to train the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the process, we evacuated al Qaeda and Taliban to Pakistan. From the war we were waging in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The more we hear of things like this the more plausible it really is that the Bush administration doesn’t find the terrorist threat to be very serious and the war with Iraq is being waged as an easy, splashy “pageant” meant to put the world on notice that they should simply give up in the face of our awesome Death Star technology. To do this, it must be an easy win. Whatever the consequences, they’ll wing it.

Neal Gabler makes this case in his "A splendid little war"

The Spanish-America War, like the imminent war in Iraq, had its origins not in any direct threat to American security or in treaty obligations to allies or even in some affront to American honor, but in a desire to project a new sense of the country's power and responsibility -- in historian Frank Friedel's words, "to see the United States function like a great nation." Though the world of the late 19th century was not, like ours, dominated by a single superpower, America possessed an abiding faith in her own moral superiority to every other regnant nation, just as it does today. This was (and is) not entirely without justification. At the time, America was certainly more idealistic than Germany, France, England, Japan or Spain. She believed in the values of democracy and equality even if she didn't always believe in their actual exercise -- Third World nations would need a lot of help -- and she increasingly saw her role as international cop, enforcing what other nations were too craven to enforce.

It’s probably only a coincidence, but Karl Rove calls himself a “student” of the McKinley presidency. (This is mostly because McKinley was really a creature of his political handler Mark Hanna, I suspect; they were almost always pictured together, as partners, in political cartoons like the one below.)

There are many other parallels between the two Presidents, not the least of which is that the war was fully supported, if not created, by the press. War --- but most especially victory --- is very good for the media business.

It would be a good idea, considering all this, to keep in mind that the rallying cry of “Remember The Maine,” referring to the incident that precipitated our declaration of war, was very likely an engine explosion, not a Spanish bomb, as we contemplate the impending and inevitable “material breach.”

Gabler concludes with:

In the end, as much as doves may hate to say it, Bush may be right. Why not go to war? The Cuban portion of the Spanish-American War did last less than 90 days, and it resulted not only in Spain leaving Cuba but in America taking Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and thus asserting her power. But if Spain was quickly vanquished, the Philippine portion of the war dragged on for years as America tried to pacify insurgents there, resulting in 4,000 American dead and hundreds of thousands of Philippine civilian casualties. (Anyone looking for the analogy to Vietnam will find it here.) As the saying goes, watch what you wish for ...

Of course the assumption, in 2003 as in 1898, is that war will be quick and bloodless -- that it won't be hell but a piece of cake. At least, that is what the Bush administration is telling us and that is what many of us want to believe. We are going to war no matter what and no matter why. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it is. We have been here before. It is 1898 all over again.

But, there were no Pakistans with nukes or bin Laden’s with al Jazeera. The world is much smaller now and the stakes are much bigger. This kind of adventure is beyond risky in the nuclear age. It's reckless.

Thanks to Testify for the NPR link