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Bush's Illogical War Speech

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Bush's Leaps of Illogic Don't Answer People's Questions About War

by ROBERT JENSEN

George Bush got one thing right in his speech Monday night --

that "many Americans have raised legitimate questions" about his mad

rush to war with Iraq.

But he continues to misunderstand what the American people and the

rest of the world want in this debate over war -- credible evidence,

not speculation and lies; defensible claims, not leaps of illogic;

and a response to the growing skepticism about his administration's

motivations.

Take Bush's assertion that if Iraq could "produce, buy, or steal an

amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single

softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." Yes,

that's likely true, but it is the equivalent of saying, "If Iraq had

a nuclear weapon, it would have a nuclear weapon." Creating the

other components of a nuclear bomb would be relatively easy; it is

the fissile material that is the issue.

Or consider Bush's claim that "Iraq could decide on any given day to

provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or

individual terrorists." Yes, he could. But if for the sake of

argument we accept the claim that Hussein has stocks of usable

weapons, would he give them away? Bush reminded us that Saddam

Hussein is a power-hungry dictator who seeks total control. Is it

likely such a fellow is going to turn over powerful weapons to an

outside group that he can't control? Especially given that Saddam is

a secular nationalist and the outside group is rooted in a fanatical

theology? Is that how someone trying to hold onto power is likely to

act?

Bush at least acknowledged that we know little about Saddam's

nuclear capability, but he lied about why. Bush claimed that Iraq

barred the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in

1998. In fact, the inspectors, along with those from the U.N.

Special Commission, were withdrawn by their agencies -- not expelled

by Iraq -- in December 1998 when it became clear the Clinton

administration was going to bomb Iraq (as it did) and the safety of

the inspectors couldn't be guaranteed.

When Bush needed to answer people's legitimate questions, he

sidestepped them with cynical attempts to manipulate emotion. To

explain why a war is necessary now, he cited the horror of 9/11. "We

have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes

into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less

willing -- in fact, they would be eager -- to use biological or

chemical, or a nuclear weapon."

Yes, but the people who committed the atrocities of 9/11 were not

agents of Saddam Hussein. The fact that one U.S. enemy used such

terrorism does not mean that eveyone who dislikes the United States

and its policies is going to do it. In fact, the only two times

Hussein has dared to use chemical weapons -- in the war with Iran

and against Iraqi Kurds -- occurred in the 1980s when he was an ally

of the United States and had our implicit support.

Bush's argument reduces to this: No one can prove that Saddam

Hussein is not planning to attack us. And if he had a nuclear

weapon, no one can prove he wouldn't use it. And if he used it, it

is possible he could destroy us. So, to stop this unknown, unproven,

unquantifiable, logic-defying "threat gathering against us," we must

go to war or risk seeing a mushroom cloud rise over the United

States.

For this, Bush is willing to risk massive civilian casualties, the

complete destruction of a people already devastated and impoverished

by one war and nearly a dozen years of economic embargo, and a

dangerously chaotic postwar world. I cannot prove those events would

come to pass, but given the brutal way in which the United States

fights wars -- with high-altitude bombing and indiscriminate

weapons, the direct targeting of civilian infrastructure, and a

consistent lack of concern for civilian deaths -- those results are

far more plausible than any of Bush's fearmongering claims.

Bush's tactics won't stop people from raising the obvious: It seems

clear that the war plans are not about protecting people, but about

projecting power. The transparent goal of a Bush war is to extend

and deepen U.S. control over the strategically crucial oil resources

of the Middle East. A compliant puppet government in Baghdad will

solidify U.S. power in the region, through influence over the flow

of oil and the establishment of what would almost certainly become a

permanent U.S. base and staging area for other military actions in

the area.

Although the TV pundits and political sycophants were quick to gush

over Bush's alleged statesmanlike demeanor and careful arguments,

the legitimate questions remain. People continue to ask them. And

Bush and his administration continue to try to paper over them with

emotion, not evidence, and rhetoric, not reason.

Bush has over the past months made clear his contempt for the United

Nations and the rest of the world. Monday night he made crystal

clear his contempt for the intelligence of the American people as

well.

Robert Jensen is an associate professor of journalism at the

University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective, and

author of the book Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the

Margins to the Mainstream and the pamphlet "Citizens of the Empire."

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