By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It seems he did not mention North Korea, which has been the severest test for the consistency of White House policy at home and abroad. Why is this other charter member of the Axis of Evil, with a tyrannical and murderous regime and an actual nuclear weapons program, a state that can be cajoled and negotiated with, while the world must go to war immediately with Iraq, which has no currently working nukes, and little opportunity to build them?
It is no wonder that the desks of the world’s chancelleries are covered in drifts of dandruff as they scratch their heads wondering just what the Bush administration is on about. Even so, there are indeed double standards, and being the world‘s biggest military and economic power does have its privileges. So, for a time, despite other countries’ awareness of the inconsistencies in the American position, or rather positions, it looked like Bush had succeeded in putting Iraq on top of the world‘s agenda.
In September, when he told the United Nations that he was going to go the multilateral route, most of the world was deeply relieved that the U.S. was not going to rip up the U.N. Charter and mount a unilateral attack on Iraq. It does help that most of what he said about Iraq’s behavior was true, so even if they would not have put Baghdad at the top of their agendas, many nations were prepared to go along, although no one outside the U.S. bought seriously the suggestion that Iraq had anything to do with September 11.
But even at that stage there was a sort of quantum indeterminacy about the U.S. position. Other countries are never sure at any moment whether they are dealing with the caring Colin Powell, who shares their concerns for due process and consensus, or with the motley obsessive crew around Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld, whose fundamentalism and complete unconcern for the views of others rub even the closest allies the wrong way. Powell has had to do a lot of stroking to smooth the feathers the hawks have ruffled.
Thanks to Powell‘s diplomacy and flexibility, the U.S. managed a unanimous vote for Resolution 1441. Even until a month or so ago, if the White House had produced the conclusive evidence that it had told everyone it had, it would have had the support of the Security Council, even for military action. Even so, the hawks maintained an annoying background squawking about the failures of the inspectors.
The inspectors, who are no fans of Iraq, grumbled back about the lack of promised intelligence information from the U.S. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix made comments about librarians who refuse to lend books. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told the press that Bush and top U.S. officials “would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.”
Demetrius Perricos, chief inspector of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), commented, “What we’re getting and what President Bush may be getting is very different, to put it mildly.”
The events of the last weeks make it seem likely that in the best Texan death-row tradition of first deciding verdict and sentence, and only then looking for clues, the White House does not in fact have any substantive evidence.
As that became increasingly obvious, so did the change in what passes for American diplomacy. One sign of desperation was when both Brits and Americans began to say that instead of looking for the smoking gun or the bubbling vat of botulin, the Security Council should draw conclusions from the “cumulative” buildup of clues that Iraq was in flagrant material breach, and therefore the Security Council should attack.
However, even much of what has been brandished as part of this pattern has not held up under examination. The aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons materials were in fact for artillery rockets. Even people with UNMOVIC think that the empty chemical warheads discovered were in fact mislaid rather than concealed.
In the meantime, instead of showing the proof, the administration warned the U.N. that its relevance and survival depended on complete and prompt acquiescence to the American agenda and timetable.
Unnamed U.S. officials threatened “dire consequences” for Germany if it persisted in asking for evidence before a vote. France was accused of being anti-American. You would really expect guys who are so hot on American sovereignty to have a little more empathy with others‘ tender feelings about their independence.
A steady stream of leaks about the military deadline and the need to get the troops moving before the desert got too hot alarmed even the British, who warned against “climatic deadlines.” The “cumulative” evidence of White House threats and bluster is actually convincing other countries that the U.S. does not have the smoking gun that it has bluffed about all along, Ari Fleischer notwithstanding.