May 3, 2002

Strakon Lights Up, No. 118

Next year’s war


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I wish someone out there would explain exactly what's afoot with this war plan that's not a war plan. Unfortunately, the only people who could do so are Mr. Morganfeller and his colleagues, ensconced in the teak-paneled private dining room of the Alexander Hamilton Club, sipping their 25-year-old Macallan to prepare their palate for a light lunch of sauteéd swan's pancreas. Those gents are not likely to offer any of us ordinary Americans the inside dope about the threatened invasion of Iraq — or about anything else.

You say you haven't heard about Washington's plan for a full-scale air and ground assault on Iraq next year? Judging from the deafening silence that obtains, a lot of other Americans probably haven't, either. That's despite the fact that the New York Times played the story at the top of its website (April 27), which means, I imagine, that it ran the print version on the front page, maybe even as the lead story. Only in America, I expect, could the ruling class's designated newspaper of record put a shocker on page one and rely on almost all the other movers and shakers to treat it like a rundown on the Muncie 4-H Fair buried on page 28. When you see this sort of thing happening, what you're seeing is the cultural mechanism of advanced Polite Totalitarianism at work. It's the final evolution of self-censorship. (At least I pray it is.)

If only we were living on a sane planet, somebody's eyebrows would surely have gone up. For according to the Times, "The Bush administration, in developing a potential approach for toppling President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, is concentrating its attention on a major air campaign and ground invasion, with initial estimates contemplating the use of 70,000 to 250,000 troops." (Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, "U.S. Blueprint to Topple Hussein Envisions Big Invasion Next Year") The Imperial legions are going to have to march because the Palace has decided it can't manipulate and bribe its way to power in Iraq. And it will be the legionaries themselves, plus a few native auxiliaries from the province of Britannia, who will fight and kill and die, because the Grand Alliance won't be quite so grand this time. The Continental Europeans and the divers nationalities of Arabs are going to stay home.

The regime won't try to spin up the war machine until early next year, Shanker and Sanger write. That will leave time "to create the right military, economic, and diplomatic conditions. These include avoiding summer combat in bulky chemical suits, preparing for a global oil price shock, and waiting until there is progress toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Right. And waiting, as may be, until there is progress toward pigs getting wings. (On May 2, the regime announced it would sponsor international talks on the war in Palestine this summer. It is unclear whether any Palestinians of the Muslim variety will be invited to attend, which is just as well, since it is uncertain whether any will still be alive.)

The Timesmen do their part in helping their story submerge to the Muncie level. They don't pretend that it proceeds from a Late-Breaking Super-secret Unauthorized Deep Throat-type leak. Instead, it's a carefully timed, carefully controlled release of Imperial intelligence, courtesy of "senior officials." This isn't investigative journalism, it's Tylenol Capsule journalism, complete with pain-killing agents. It's even buffered so as to prevent heartburn among those who consume it. Which is to say, it may or may not really be news, but in any case we're not supposed to think it's news. About the only part of it that's admitted to be news is that the Iraq Attack everyone has (supposedly) been breathlessly awaiting has been delayed for a few months: from "this fall" to "early next year." Move along, folks. A dog bit a man, that's all. Nothing to see here.

One piece of non-threatening non-news Shanker and Sanger want to pass along from their buddies, the "senior officials," is that this war plan is not a war plan: "Today there is no official 'war plan' .... Instead, policy makers and operational commanders are trying to sketch out the broad outlines of the confrontation they expect." Well, sure, didn't you catch the headline? It's only a "blueprint" that's being "envisioned," not a plan that's being made. Big, big difference.

Good thing it's not a plan. I mean, if it were a plan, some oldthinkers might question the wisdom of casually surrendering the element of surprise, which most military analysts think is pretty important. True, the invasion of Iraq was never destined to resemble Operation Barbarossa. The Empire, which tends to lumber a bit when it comes to heavy-duty murdering, would require months to laboriously "stage" its forces in the client states surrounding Iraq before they were ready to be "tasked" and were "good to go." (How I detest that jargon.) But strategic timetables — detailing when the laborious lumbering might begin — are valuable pieces of intelligence, too. Or so one would think, if one didn't have the strong feeling that one were being "gamed." That is also detestable jargon, but just now I find it irresistible.

Is anybody important taking the release of the "blueprint" seriously? Is anyone meant to? According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Senate leaders" Tom Daschle and Trent Lott immediately snapped to attention and saluted, but of course they're not important. When it comes to matters of war and peace, the insipid drones of the Imperial Senate receive the divine effusions of the Palace in a manner virtually indistinguishable from that of their hapless Roman predecessors. You'd think they were surrounded by glowering Prætorians, were it not for the plain fact that nothing so crude is necessary under our regime.

One might suspect the "envisioned blueprint" was released to nudge the Iraqis, who were about to come to New York to negotiate a possible new round of weapons inspections of their homeland by the World Authorities. According to Reuters, "No definitive breakthrough was expected, but the three-day talks, [beginning May 1,] were described by diplomats as serious in focusing on the core issues that have kept Iraq under UN sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in August 1990." Reuters pointed out that "the admission of the inspectors might be Iraq's best chance of putting off a military showdown with the United States."

The talks were to end, Reuters explained, "on Friday [May 3] when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan returns from Washington where he is attending a high-level Middle East policy meeting." Apparently Annan heard his master's voice and wasted no time boarding the shuttle for D.C., Iraqis or no Iraqis.

That would seem to undermine Annan's importance, and a follow-up by Reuters, filed the evening of May 2, would seem to undermine the UN inspection talks altogether: "Three experts" appeared at a Council on Foreign Relations confab on May 2 and "voiced serious doubts about whether the effort is worth it." The experts said that "Iraq worked to conceal its weapons of mass destruction before UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and Baghdad blocked their return, and would take similar steps if the monitoring regime was resumed."

The timing, of course, was perfect: the Iraqi negotiators had time to read and digest the news from the CFR before sitting down for their final session at the UN. And sure enough, shortly before posting this column (May 3) I saw that the AP was reporting that the UN talks had ended inconclusively. No doubt a breakthrough was unlikely ab initio, but there was no point in taking any unnecessary chances.

By the way, the CFR meeting was in Washington, like the "high-level Middle East policy meeting" that Annan had to attend, causing him to miss the first two days of the negotiations in New York; and I'd like to know whether they were one and the same meeting. Reuters doesn't say. This precious detail, though, was included: the chief expert brought in to recite his piece for the CFR was "Richard Spertzel, who headed the former UN group of inspectors in Iraq known as UNSCOM."

I'm tempted to say that's the way the Empire practices what passes for diplomacy these days, but of course the CFR is just an unofficial group of public-spirited private citizens who like to chew the fat about current events, and what happens there couldn't possibly have any influence on real diplomacy, which, as everyone knows, is conducted only in official forums.

To be serious, if Iraq is being nudged at all, it doesn't look as though she is being nudged toward peace. (Or even toward the nonviolent surrender of her sovereignty, which is how the Empire defines peace.)

The timing of these developments is provocative. According to an NYT story of May 2, even high officials of the empire have now been forced to admit they have no evidence that Iraq was involved in the events of September 11. The story, which bears no byline, is a short one — at least its electronic version is — and it is headlined, "U.S. Drops Last Link of Iraq to 9/11":

Federal authorities have concluded that there is no evidence that Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer before the hijackings.

Reports that Mr. Atta had met with an Iraqi agent in Prague in early 2001 circulated widely after the attacks, suggesting a possible connection with President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

For what it's worth, the headline is much more definitive than the story itself. Continuing for only three more paragraphs, the story nowhere stipulates that the bogus Atta link was the last link between Saddam and the terror of September. Nor does it describe any previously exploded links.

If we read between the lines of this grudging little dispatch, the Imperials' disappointment with the utter collapse of this casus belli is palpable.

Let us all hope that by sabotaging the arms-inspection talks, publicly threatening Iraq with invasion, and then advertising a delay of that invasion for some months, the Empire is not goading the Iraqis to create a true casus belli, on the scale of September 11. And that it is not offering some other entity more time to counterfeit one.

After doing my best to sow acres of doubt about the official line as delivered by the official media, I habitually close speculative columns such as this one by stating what little I can say for sure, as I scratch my pate and chew my cigar out here in the cornfields. I'm sorry if it's familiar, but I can guarantee nothing beyond this:

Our masters live by deceit, and they thrive on chaos. Ω

May 3, 2002

Published in 2002 by WTM Enterprises.

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