Weapons of Mass Distr(a)ction: "Disarming" Public Debate

Those who control our language, control the parameters within which public discourse, debate, and indeed, our own thinking can operate.

Referring to virtually every head of state -- including the most brutal and repressive regimes and dictatorships, particularly those our tax-dollars finance as "allies" -- by their full name or last name, while referring to one head of state by their first name, is a rather obvious example.

Probably Manuel Noriega, (formerly on the CIA-payroll until he became too independent and refused -- for his own reasons, not due to moral ones -- to continue helping the US secret arming of health clinic bombing, literacy volunteer murdering and raping terrorists in Nicaragua) would have been "Manuel" had it not been for the fact that "Noriega" has a much more sinister sound while "Manuel" sounds almost too everyday.

The phrase repeated ten thousand times, "Weapons of Mass Destruction," (WMD) is another interesting case of language control since it contains some magical properties. For example, tautologies and syllogisms do not apply to this term. After all, if all men are mortal, and Aristotle is a man, then Aristotle is mortal. Yet, while WMD normally refers to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and while Washington possesses such weapons, particularly the world's most potent arsenal of nuclear weapons, it does not follow, nor can one utter, or even think, that Washington possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, let alone that it is the world's leader in Weapons of Mass Destruction. Nor does the UK nor France seem to possess "Weapons of Mass Destruction" though in fact they do, in official Reality they do not.

The aforementioned however are far from the most potent verbal Weapons of Mass Distraction (vWMD). To truly distract the masses -- and indeed all of us -- from being able to think clearly, much more is necessary.

The more often a phrase or notion is repeated, and the more it is stated with the confidence normally reserved only for the most self-evident proclamations or strings of logic, the more it merits a careful look. This is particularly true of the phrase: "Iraq must be disarmed"

Certainly, Oscar awards are due to both the Bush circle and media anchors for repeating that they had "certainly not decided" on whether to attack Iraq, although, incidentally, every step is part of a "heads I win, tails the Iraqi people lose" game plan and, incidentally, "regime change" is the admitted objective.

However the phrase that is repeated over and over again is: "Iraq must disarm" or "Iraq must be disarmed" or best of all, "If Iraq does not disarm, then we will act to disarm Iraq"

But wait a minute.

If Iraq "does not disarm" -- whatever that means -- is Bush's plan to use UN resolutions or military force to enter Iraq's plants, factories, and facilities and confiscate, take over, or destroy any materials related to WMD? Of course, that is not what he means.

If it was what he meant, that is, going in to take away and destroy existing or potential WMD materials, then it could be honestly referred to as a policy of "if Iraq does not disarm, then we will disarm Iraq ourselves". Plainly that is not what is meant, and the often-repeated phrase is far from honest.

What, exactly, is meant then?

Well, Bush is going to bomb. An honest phrase would be a little less palatable then: "If Iraq does not disarm, we will bomb Iraq". That is even more unpalatable than "Iraq must disarm," after all.

"Iraq must disarm" already raises some questions: why do other countries (which happen to either not possess oil, or already be "allies" or ExxonMobil) -- why do they not have to disarm? Why do Pakistan and India not have to disarm -- while Iraq does?

But "Iraq must disarm, or we will bomb Iraq" is even less easy to sell to the American public, for then the question is: if a country does not disarm, is it ok to bomb it? Do we ever apply that logic to other countries (let alone to allies, let alone to ourselves)?

But wait. Although "We will disarm Iraq" is a euphemism for bombing Iraq, "bombing Iraq" is itself a sort of a euphemism, as it hides more.

Is Bush planning to merely Bomb Iraq? After all, US and UK planes have been bombing Iraq on and off regularly since right after the Gulf War of 1991.

What everyone knows is that George W "Regime Change" Bush is planning to do is to bomb the country to smitherines -- killing untold thousands of civilians from a safe distance to avoid Vietnam "body bag" Syndrome -- and then to do more. Namely, to invade.

And not just to invade, but to overthrow the current government. The current government is certainly a brutal one -- but despite a well orchestrated media blitz to portray "Saddam" as a grave threat to the very existence of the entire galaxy -- his regime is one of many brutal dictatorships in the middle east, let alone in the world -- and a far, far weaker one than the much better armed, much better financed, and much more economically powerful Iraq of pre-1991 which for some reason Bush Sr. felt was fine and dandy to support militarily, economically, and diplomatically, even sending Rumsfeld over with a message of "friendship" despite knowing of the "Beast of Bagdad's" record.

Thus a more honest phrase would be, "Iraq must disarm, or else, we will bomb, invade, and overthrow the government" -- an even less palatable phrase which the American public could probably notice is quite the non-sequitor, on top of being not only lawless but strangely incongruent with a lack of a similar policy towards Kurd-slaughtering Turkey, the main source of the 9/11 terrorists (Saudi Arabia), the killer of countless Palestinian civilians (Israel) among others.

Thus, "Iraq must disarm, or else we bomb, invade, and overthrow it" doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as "Iraq must disarm, or we will disarm Iraq ourselves", the latter on the surface sounding so logical.

But hold on. Is Bush "merely" planning to bomb, invade, overthrow, and then let free elections and democracy come to Iraq? As reviewed in Chomsky's 1991 "Deterring Democracy" and "What We Say Goes," Bush Sr. slammed the door quite hard in the face of the Iraq democratic opposition groups over and over again before and after the Gulf War. Unlike puppets which can be paraded before the public, the real anti-Saddam democratic opposition could not be counted on to ask "how high?" when Washington said "jump", so as the New York Times reported, "an iron-fisted dictator" ruling Iraq, but one who is obedient the way Bush Sr's x-pal Saddam used to be, is preferable for Washington than true democracy in Iraq. Furthermore, key "ally" Turkey will not play Washington's games if it leads to democracy in Iraq given that independence if not autonomy that Kurds in Iraq, and hence in Turkey, would then demand and perhaps get. So democracy is out.

What is planned is a military dictator, probably with a stronger veneer of democracy than Saddam, and one who will go along with Washington's wishes to control the oil in Iraq -- the world's second largest reserves after Saudi Arabia's.

Therefore "If Iraq does not disarm, we will disarm it" must be revisited again, and alas it become still less palatable: "If Iraq does not disarm, we will bomb it, invade it, overthrow it, and put in an undemocratic regime which will bend to Washington's and Texas' oil interests"

One must have serious doubts as to whether Bush would be able to sell this far more honest, and far more unpalatable phrase to the American public -- notwithstanding the incredible feats of the US corporate media is capable of.

Yet, having corrected its facts, even this unsavory phrase needs at least one more correction concerning its hidden illogic. Before turning that this matter, it's worthwhile noting how the above verbal Weapon of Mass Distraction (vWMD) has been remarkablely effective. It has, indeed, succeeded in shifting the very terms of the debate to the point where the official doves and even many in the anti-war movement have adopted implicitly if not explicitly a stance that is worthy of a true war-monger:

One such dove wrote that "Arguing that unless overwhelming evidence of a secret Iraqi weapons programme emerges, an American-led military campaign would be hard to justify. "Without proof", he told the French newspaper Le Monde, "it would be very difficult to begin a war"" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2649863.stm "Greece Steers EU down path of Peace")

How did we arrive at the point where the doves implicitly concede that, should "proof" be found that Iraq possesses WMD, then it must be bombed, invaded, overthrown, and an US-oil-friendly dictator installed? The answer again is vWMD; since this non sequitor is merely the unraveling of the euphemistic "If Iraq does not disarm, then it must be disarmed", and since this euphemism has been swallowed wholesale by anti-war leaders and even many citizens, Bush has succeeded in reaching the point where ANTI-war folks concede in this case what even the biggest war-mongers normally do not dare declare: "if a country possesses WMD, then we get to bomb, in fact, overthrow, and puppet-install"

Has that ever been applies as "the "logic" to any country?

Admittedly the hawks take this even further: if Iraq did not perform the impossible feat of accounting for every last pound, indeed, every last ounce of material, then according to them, it is in "material breach" ; if it is in "material breach" then "Iraq did not disarm, so it must be disarmed" ; "it must be disarmed' in turn reads, "we bomb, invade, overthrow, and put in a dictator we like"

Thus admittedly the hawks go further: if Iraq did not perform the impossible feat of accounting for every last half-ounce in the country (let's remember the Pentagon has several Billion dollars unaccounted for..), then the only alternative is to bomb, invade, overthrow, and put in a dictator we like"

Thus Bush and and co. have already won the debate to the extent they have successfully shifted it to whether or not there is the impossible "full" disclosure to determine whether we disarm (bomb, invade, overthrow, and install) rather than how Iraq could really be disarmed, which is simply to continue the inspections. The inspections after all have been more successful than the Gulf War in disarming Iraq, with 90% of the programs dismantled according to the former head of military inspections, so the obvious solution is to continue on-going inspections which (like in any other country) can never find every last half-ounce a scientist might chose to keep in his home, but could take the 90% success to ever higher levels and reach a level of safety and confidence by the international community that it rarely has anywhere else.

Thus the vWMD allows Blair to declare that the UN "will disarm Iraq" and that he is convinced the UN will back "military action" against Iraq if Baghdad fails to give up WMD" (BBC). The plan again is not for the UN to allow the use of force to confiscate and destroy, or even bombing of some factories. All of this is euphemism for a UN "ok" for US-UK "disarming" that is, for massive bombing, invasion, overthrow, and "installation of a "friendly" but iron-fisted "ruler" over Iraq.

There is one last important revision which must be made the the phrase they love to use, "if Iraq doesn't' disarm, it must be disarmed [read: bombed, invaded, overthrown, and a puppet installed]", namely about the underlying (il)logic.

One Hawk tells us that "I don't see how the inspectors have a reasonable chance of finding a small object in a large space," he said. "We are talking about stocks of chemical and biological weapons - possibly work on nuclear weapons - and this can all be done in any one of several million structures in Iraq. Unless the inspectors know exactly where to go, the chance that they will find anything is practically zero" a tacit admission that Iraq's chances are practically zero of "proving" it has no WMD since it can't "prove" some tiny amount does not exist "in any one of several million structures" any more than inspectors can prove the non-existence. You can only prove existence. (he adds, "It seems to me that either Saddam will turn over these weapons at the very last minute or there will be military action.")

This impossibility of proving innocence does not stop the hawks from insisting that this impossibility be carried out however: "The Washington Post article quoted the senior US figure as saying that Iraq would not be in the clear even if inspectors failed to find banned material. 'What we're saying is that with the Iraqi record, there is a presumption of guilt and not innocence,' the official said. 'The idea that the inspectors have to find something, or that we have to show them where to go to find something, is incorrect.'"

One wonders whether BBC Online failed to notice the nearly back to back juxtaposition of these two statements -- that it's practically impossible to prove innocence, and that the burden of proof (in this unique case) is on Iraq to prove its innocence. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2654335.stm)

Another BBC commentator was at least honest enough to notice the "head I win, tails you lose" nature of the ultimatum: If Iraq does NOT add to its 12,000 page declaration, then the Bush regime has already determined that "we have proof, which we won't share" and that that declaration isn't good enough and is in "material breach" (read: "we get to bomb, invade, overthrow, and install..(BIOI)") If on the other hand Iraq adds to the declaration, then that is proof that it was "hiding" something, thus we must "disarm" Iraq (read:...)

Understanding this says nothing about what you think of Saddam and his brutal regime, but speaks loudly about the incentives being given to Saddam. These are insane incentives to give if one truly wants to find WMDs and to really disarm Iraq. They are the incentives you give if you want an excuse to "disarm" (BIOI) Iraq..

The real aim of course is to try to squeeze as much "admission" out of Iraq so as to eliminate as much as possible Iraq's only deterrence against being overthrown (anything powerful enough to be a deterrence, whether or not its biochemical or nuclear, would be called WMD) -- and furthermore, to maximize the intelligence for Bush's war machine to make the bombing, invasion, overthrow, and running the country afterwards, as easy as possible.

In other words, the very moment Bush is 100% sure that Iraq has no WMD or other such deterrence, or as close to 100% as he thinks he can get -- is precisely the moment that Bush will want to go ahead, and is thus precisely the moment that Bush will insist that they must "disarm" Iraq. Thus the moment Bush is most sure that Saddam poses the least threat, is precisely the moment that Bush will insist to the world that Saddam is the biggest threat. This incredible level of dishonesty would not be so grotesque, of course, it if were merely Bush and Saddam -- rather than thousands to tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian women, men, and children whose blood would be spilled by this lie.

Having addressed the factual euphemisms, what then of the logical euphemisms of "Iraq must be disarmed"?

The CIA itself admitted that Iraq does not pose a significant threat,a nd is very unlikely to use WMD. And the CIA itself added furthermore that, if attacked in the way Bush intends, it would be much more likely to use WMD. Furthermore, ugly and brutal as Saddam's regime is, it has been tested like few other countries have been. These tests show very clearly that while brutal, they are not suicidal. They have not used WMD since 1991 despite the constant bombing raids by the US and UK, and more dramatically, they haven't used WMD during the Gulf War itself when under massive bombing by the U.S.

Bush's "disarm Iraq" option however, means something else: an overthrow of Saddam Hussein. More to the point, unlike 1991, this would be "going for broke" by Bush to not just force Iraq out of a country it invaded, but to utterly destroy the government. What then would Saddam have to lose? More than that, Bush would not just destroy Saddam's government and overthrow it, but the idea as we all know would be to lead to Saddam's personal death, or if miraculously he is captured alive, to subject him to either the death penalty or at best life in prison following a "show" trial making Slobodan's seem like a picnic by comparison. What then would Saddam have to lose?

Supposing that some WMD are found then. The only rational course of action is to cite this as evidence that inspections WORK and should be continued. It is an irrational non sequitor to say that Iraq must be "disarmed", read: bomb/invade/overthrow/install.

But it's worse than irrational. It's madness. The existence of any so called WMD would mean that Bush's "answer" would be to corner Saddam's back against the wall: "we are going to overthrow you, get rid of you, personally kill you, that's why we're coming in, not to expel you from Kuwait, this time" -- so Saddam literally would have nothing to lose, and every reason to "go for broke" in response to Bush's "go for broke". (even if Saddam has ZERO WMD, "go for broke" can include nasty things that only a person about to be have their regime and their life annihilated will do; even brutal dictators have restraint when it's less than their life, which is why Saddam didn't use WMD during 1991 when the US attacked to expel Iraq from Kuwait -- a very different kind of war. Use your imagination as to what even a Saddam without any WMD would do if this was "the end" and he had any last moves he could make to respond to the US attack during or after it and he were "over")

It is immoral to put oneself in Saddam's shoes, when he is such a brutal man? No, it is not immoral to ask, "What are the likely consequences of what Bush plans? What position would Saddam be put in and what does that tell us about the likely outcome of what Bush plans?" Indeed, if we care about lives, about the lives of Iraqis, Americans, others in the region, and of avoiding an environmental disaster, it is immoral *not* to put oneself in Saddam's shoes intellectually, not out of any sympathy for him as a person, but to think rationally about the Bush regime's plans and the grave danger to the region (and perhaps the world) which they pose.

[As for whether one can "trust" Iraq, the old, "You can't trust them" nonesense we remember from the Cold War, of course; the peace movement rightly resonded: "Trust" has nothing to do with it. We are not now, nor have, nor ever will want a US-USSR treaty based on pure trust alone, since that would be useless. Mutual verification is the point. So "Trust" was a red herring ("you can't trust the Reds!") by those who wanted more military might to be able to continue the tradition of the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala, the CIA overthrow of Allende, military aid to dictatorships, and more]

For the answer to "If you're against Bombing Iraq, what are you for?", see http://economicdemocracy.org/wtc/goodbye-saddam.html but we hasten to add that even had we NOT had the solutions outlined there, that would not be a reason to bomb Iraq. The mortal burden of proof is on those who advocate bombing; it's not that one bombs the Us or bombs Iraq or some other country "unless" another way is found. On top of that, as outlined above, the present "bombs away" course not only promises more anti-US terrorism if followed, but leads to a very dangerous "go for broke" situation that threatens the entire region, which has still not recovered from the environmental (let alone human) devastation of 1991, let alone being "ready" for something potentially far more destructive. -HB