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CounterPunch Diary

48 Hours to War

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Monday night, denouncing the UN Security Council for inaction, Bush gave 48 hours for Saddam Hussein to get out of Iraq. If he doesn’t, the bombs will drop, the missiles will fly, the tanks will roll. Most certainly people will die.

Bush’s ultimatum concludes one of the most disastrous attempts to sell a war in the history of diplomacy. Seldom has one country (or 1.25 if you add in the rest of the US alliance) so rapidly become such a target of sarcasm and ridicule in the eyes of the world.

As Bush headed for the Azores his line was, Yup, America will seek a vote in the UN Security Council and then will be the time for nations to stand up and be counted. As he flew east aerial tankers dispatched by Secretary of State Colin Powell transmitted a new simile to Air Force One in mid flight. Powell alerted Bush that a vote in the Security Council would lead to public humiliation for the US. “Stand up and be counted” promptly became inoperative.

The new simile, released by Bush on the Azores, was from poker: Time to show the cards. The quest for a majority vote yielded to a card game, a fixed one at that.

Bush’s Monday speech was replete with all the claims that have been discredited by the UN Inspectors and by exposure of the frauds and deceits of US and British intelligence services: Iraq’s supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; its alliance with Al Qaeda; its threat to the United States. The nation returns to Condition Orange on the Terror Threat register.

There is something scary about the guy, (not Saddam, our commander in chief). We really do have one fanatical fellow sitting there in the Oval Office. You can sniff the anger stewing around in his psyche. Talk about slow cooking! Bush has been on a slow boil since childhood, probably since Pop was off gallivanting around Mexican oil towns and he listened to Mom seething in a hot kitchen in Midland, defiantly letting her hair go white.

So here we are at the festival of Purim. Back in 1994, on the eve of Purim, a son of Brooklyn, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque ( Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron. And if I recall rightly, Goldstein said or implied that the massacre was done for Purim. The larger context: the massacre was five months after the first Oslo accord, of Sept. ’93, and Yitzhak Rabin was PM at the time. For Goldstein and his followers (who built a monument to his “martyrdom” and still go to his grave to heap praises on him), it was an act of protest against the “betrayal” of Oslo.

A decade later, on the Eve of Purim an Israeli bulldozer crushes young Rachel Corrie of Seattle to death as she tries to defend Palestinians from having their homes destroyed in Gaza. America sends out fanatics like Goldstein and its wonderful, brave idealists like Rachel, whom I set in my mind beside the internationalist Ben Linder who gave his life in Nicaragua, or Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

These are upsetting times. You can sense the nervy dejection in the emails and calls we get here at CounterPunch. True, testing times loom, though not in such measure as for the people of Iraq, or for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza every day of the year. And how could one be entirely disheartened amid the amazing flowering of the anti-war movement, a movement that has produced the largest (almost entirely peaceful ) protests in the history of the world.

In my local northern California town of Eureka, there was a march over the weekend that brought out 3,500. Huge for Eureka. Only a handful of louts jeered from the courthouse at the marchers. There was a vigil here in tiny Petrolia, as there have been with growing numbers across the country. I wrote over the weekend here of Greenville, South Carolina, as being “not noted as a bastion of antiwar sentiment, at least when I was there a couple of months ago.” Dumb, because I should have remembered what I had written and said so often, that in every American town there are people of spirit and conscience. John Hanson, Secretary of the local Amnesty International chapter, promptly emailed me from Greenville, advising me that “You may be pleased to know we scheduled a small peace rally two weeks ago (@200 people) and a vigil just last night (@80). We also put on Lysistrata at Furman University March 3.”

Multiply that a thousand times over, and you have a huge movement, a new generation of young people inducted into the fun, boredom, fear, exhilaration and experience of popular protest. It was that movement, here and across the world that frightened Bush out of the Security Council and into the lawless cliches of a Hollywood Western. That’s something to exult over, as we brace for the next stage.

At Last: The Real Reason For War: “Dress for the Dream!”

Stylist-to-the-stars Philip Bloch–who will be dressing Halle Berry and Jim Carrey for the Oscars–says he would never advise his clients to dress down (as many celebs did for the Emmy Awards that were held not long after Sept. 11). “I think this is a time where people look for distraction and glamour,” Bloch says. “This is what the troops are fighting for–this way of life, this lifestyle. I think we should dress to the max in honor of people fighting for us, and for the American dream.” –NY Post, March 16, 2003

Britain’s Robin Cook Resigns: Blames War on “some hanging chads in Florida” CounterPuncher Roland Sheppard reports that he was watching British Labor MP Robin Cook’s resignation speech on CNN, and after he pointed out that the British did not enforce the UN resolutions that Israel withdraw–that the Arab world saw Britain’s actions as enforcement against those who are not allies of Britain or words to that effect–CNN abruptly cut off the live coverage claiming “technical difficulties” and just as suddenly CNN began showing Colin Powell’s press conference.

Cook was given a standing ovation by Labour MPs , Monday’s Guardian reports, when he announced that he would be voting against an attack on Iraq. The former leader of the Commons and former Foreign Secretary, resigned from the government because he opposed military action without UN authorization. Cook dismissed the argument that France’s President Chirac had alone stopped a resolution, saying that to think that was to “delude ourselves”. Neither NATO, nor the EU, nor the Security Council supported Britain and the US, he added. “Britain is not a super power,” he said. “Our interests are best protected not by unilateralism, but by multilateralism”. These interests, and the international alliances they depend upon, were an early “casualty of a war in which a shot has yet to fired”. He also defended the policy of containment, which the government dismissed as inadequate. Containment, he said, had led to the destruction of more weapons than had the last Gulf war.

War is only now contemplated “because Iraq’s forces are so weak,” Cook continued, saying that “Iraq probably had no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly-used sense of the term”–a device that could be exploded in a western city. Cook also asked why Britain and America were so impatient with Iraq when it “is over 30 years since the UN called on Israel to quit the occupied territories”. He attacked George Bush’s administration for greeting evidence of disarmament with “consternation”, because it undermines the case for war. In reference to Bush’s election victory, Cook claimed that Britain was only now going to war “because of some hanging chads in Florida”.

Dixie Chicks Bow to Pressure

Heat takes its toll. The Dixie Chicks, commended here over the weekend for standing tall against George Bush have felt the pain of their record label, their manager, their lawyers etc, and have said they’re sorry.

More than one CounterPuncher alerted us to the climb down. Writes John Farley, from Henderson, Nevada, “It turns out that the lead singer did apologize after all. And it didn’t help–they’re boycotted by some country stations.

AP Misrepresents Poll in Headline

Our friend Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies, examined a March 15 AP news story on a poll on pro and anti war sentiment among We the People and promptly dashed off the following letter to AP:

March 15, 2003 Dear Associated Press, Today, the AP filed a story with the following headline: “Poll: Bush Has Solid Support for War.” Many readers, of course, will read only that headline, taking with it the message that the U.S. public overwhelmingly supports the Bush Administration’s drive to war in Iraq. However, after wading through reporter Will Lester’s spin to actually read the poll results, one finds the exact opposite to be true.

Buried in paragraph six, we find the relevant numbers: “The poll found that about half of adults, 47 percent, say they support military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power and disarm Iraq, even without the support of the United Nations Security Council. Almost four in 10, 37 percent, said the United States should do that only with full support of the Security Council; 13 percent said the United States should not take military action even if the Security Council agrees.”

President Bush has resolutely stated he will prosecute a war against Iraq without the “full support of the [UN] Security Council” — and appears poised to do so.

This means that fully 50% (37% + 13%) of those polled OPPOSE the Bush Administration policy on Iraq, as compared to 47% in favor.

Why is the Associated Press afraid to honestly report the poll’s findings? What can justify such an astonishingly misleading headline, followed by reporting from Mr. Lester with a similarly suspect message — when the actual facts presented in the article point to precisely the opposite conclusion?

I await an explanation, and hopefully, a very public correction.

Sincerely,

Chris Kromm Director, Institute for Southern Studies Durham, NC