September 2002 - VOLUME 23 - NUMBER 9
E D I T O R I A L
George Bush has already won a victory in Iraq, and we're not talking about weapons inspectors' access inside the country.
The administration's beating of the war drums has drowned out the dominant stories of a few months ago ó the corporate scandals and failing economy.
The scandals continue to unfold, in ever more gory detail. In recent weeks, Chainsaw Al Dunlap has settled charges of financial manipulation, former GE CEO Jack Welch has renounced his obscene retirement perks, and new information surfaces almost daily on the tens of millions of dollars of shady loans and perks that Tyco granted to its executives. Citigroup has agreed to a $200 million-plus settlement of predatory lending charges. Securities and Exchange Commission chief Harvey Pitt has come under renewed fire for reportedly succumbing to accounting industry lobbying against a tough appointment to head the new accounting board created by corporate reform legislation passed over the summer. New tax dodges and CEO excesses come to light almost daily.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to struggle. Unemployment remains high by recent standards. The stock market collapse has eaten away the retirement savings of tens of millions of people. Many experts believe the economy may return to recession, or already has.
The media still report on all of this, but not with the banner headlines of a few months ago. Front page news a few months ago, this startling parade of revelations is now confined to the business pages (but for the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times).
Now, the major media coverage is focused on Iraq. In advocating a dangerous and illegal doctrine of military unilateralism and preventative war, the administration has successfully changed the primary topic of political conversation in the United States.
From a subject that had the administration on the defensive ó especially as revelations continued of more and more improper or unethical actions at Dick Cheney's Halliburton ó the focus is now on a topic that plays to the administration's strengths and ability to control information.
Of course, external events might have forced such a shift. But they did not. Although it periodically renews claims that Iraq is involved with al Qaeda, the administration has effectively admitted there is no evidence to support such allegations.
And whatever the truth about Iraq's efforts to build nuclear weaponry, there is absolutely no evidence that there has been a step-up in the Iraqi nuclear program or that the country is anywhere near construction of a nuclear bomb. Indeed, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter categorically rules out such possibilities.
In short, not only is there no evidence of an imminent threat from Iraq against the United States, nothing has changed in the recent period to suggest Iraq is anywhere near being a threat to the United States.
It is the United States that has chosen to force the issue. The fanatical faction in the Bush Pentagon and White House wants to put the United States on permanent war footing, with Iraq and Afghanistan just the beginning.
One not-so-incidental impact of the permanent war society is that war talk permanently displaces debate over economic and social justice.
This is compatible with the wishes of the political operatives in the White House, who are just happy to have something to talk about other than corporate scandal, the state of the economy, prescription drug prices and Social Security.
The administration has already had its first victory in Iraq, simply by threatening to go to war.
If people in the United States permit the Bush team to launch a war, we can be sure of long-term defeat for the people on the U.S. homefront, irrespective of the outcome on the battlefield.