AUSTIN, Texas -- "We ought to be beating our chests every day.
We ought to look in a mirror and be proud, and stick out our chests and suck
in our bellies, and say, 'Damn, we're Americans!'" -- Jay Garner, retired
general and the man in charge of the American occupation of Iraq.
Thus it is with a sense of profound relief that one hears the
news that Garner is about to be replaced by a civilian with nation-building
experience. I realize we have all been too busy with the Laci Peterson
affair to notice that we're still sitting on a powder keg in Iraq, but there
it is. In case you missed it, a million Iraqi Shiites made pilgrimage to
Karbala, screaming, "No to America!"
Funny how media attention slips just at the diciest moments. I
doubt the United States was in this much danger at any point during the
actual war. Whether this endeavor in Iraq will turn out to be worth the
doing is now at a critical point, and the media have decided it's no longer
a story. Boy, are we not being served well by American journalism.
Anent the current difficulties, Newsweek's May 12 report on
Donald Rumsfeld's favorite Iraqi, Ahmad Chalabi, leaves one with the strong
impression we should not be putting all our eggs in that particular basket.
But the weirdest media reaction of all is to the ongoing
non-appearance of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. More and more stories
quoting ever-unnamed administration officials appear saying the
administration would be "amazed if we found weapons-grade plutonium or
uranium" and that finding large volumes of chemical or biological material
Look, if there are no WMDs in Iraq, it means either our
government lied us to us in order to get us into an unnecessary war or the
government itself was disastrously misinformed by an incompetent
intelligence apparatus. In either case, it's a terribly serious situation.
What I cannot believe is that respected journalists, most
notably Tom Friedman, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, would simply dismiss
the nonexistent WMDs as though it made no difference. Of course it matters
if our government lies to us.
Why do you think people were so angry at Lyndon Johnson over the
Gulf of Tonkin? At Richard Nixon over the "secret war" in Cambodia? Even at
Bill Clinton over the less-cosmic matter of whether he had sex with "that
woman." If it makes no difference whether the government lied, why is
Friedman a journalist? Why does journalism exist at all?
Nonexistent WMDs also present us with a huge international
credibility problem, particularly since the Bush administration now feels
entitled to "punish" those countries that did not join the "coalition of
willing," as we so preciously called those who caved in to our threats to
cut off foreign aid.
Come on, think about this. The Bush administration apparently
feels entitled to take actions punishing close old friends, including Mexico
and Canada -- not to mention the Europeans -- for not siding with us in a
war we may have lied about? This is not going to sit well with the rest of
the world. Sy Hersh's reportage in the current New Yorker should be read
The Friedman camp's reasoning on "lies don't matter" is that
Saddam Hussein was such a miserable bastard that taking him out was worthy
in and of itself. As a human rights supporter all these years, I made that
argument, too. I even made it when the Reagan administration was giving
But that was not the case made by President Bush. He said Saddam
Hussein was a clear and present danger who posed an imminent threat to the
United States because he had chemical and biological weapons he was prepared
to hand over to terrorists at any moment.
The administration detailed those weapons with excruciating
precision: 5,000 gallons of anthrax, several tons of VX nerve gas, between
100 and 500 tons of other toxins including botulinin, mustard gas, ricin and
Sarin, 15 to 20 Scud missiles, drones fitted with poison sprays and mobile
The reason Bush could not make the human rights case against
Saddam Hussein (as Tony Blair did) is because we're still supplying other
monsters with weaponry. (Algeria, anyone?) John Quincy Adams said, "We go
not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." We shouldn't help create them,
Maybe we can learn that much from Saddam Hussein.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web
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