John M. Phelan
Framing Terror



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Our Ironic President, Ironically Speaking

After the stupendous and horrific explosive collapse of the World Trade Center Towers and the accompanying destruction of part of the Pentagon, the editor of Vanity Fair famously declared that irony was dead. Irony will always be with us, of course, along with tragedy, comedy, parody, and, alas, melodrama. It is doubly ironic, then, that President Bush's leadership since 9/11 has pushed irony onto the domestic and international political stage to a preposterous degree. How could this be?

The man himself is a stranger to irony and indeed self-consciously so, presenting himself during his campaign and to this day as a plain direct straight-shooter from the West with no patience for the sissified wits of the East, the Democratic Party, Old Europe, and especially the dandified French, who he pointed out have no word for entrepreneur. Our president does not indulge in irony, he embodies it.

The president wants freedom restored to Iraq while presiding over a Justice Department that is systematically dismantling American civil liberties and seeking federal veto power over state initiatives on drugs and euthanasia. He wants democracy to spread over the globe behind his armada, while dismissing the unprecedented global megaprotest against his planned war as a trivial difference of opinion about the character of Saddam Hussein. The president is exercised, obsessed even, with the horror of weapons of mass destruction after his government has ignored and ridiculed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, our prior agreements with Russia on missile deployment, UN sponsored conventions against biological and chemical weapons, and bipartisan initiatives to help Russia secure its nuclear weapons and retrain its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons technicians and scientists.

The President, along with the now increasingly isolated Tony Blair, has been stridently insisting that Saddam and Iraq are the most pressing threat to the United States and the world. Yes, that's right, that Iraq - the crushed country, surrounded by militant and well-armed Kurds, rich and powerful Arab states with world class air forces, and a massive Iran. And, oh yes, a country that has been bombed regularly by the American and British air forces for the last six years.

Appparently Osama Bin Laden is not so much of a threat because he is not so easy a target. And those 8000 plus Al Qaeda terrorists we let escape from Kunduz a year ago with their Pakistani ISI and military mentors? Well they are certainly dispersed, but many thousand are in the wild west of the Afghan-Pakistan border, called by some Pushtunistan, backed by a divided Pakistan population with millions of Muslim supporters underneath the unsteady hand of General Musharaff (known locally as Busharaff). Now there is a place that could use some straight shooting no-nonsense Seventh Cavalry types, to back up the brave few hundreds of 82nd Airborne and other elite American troops on what amounts to guard duty with the occasional aggressive probe. And, oh yes, the Pakistani do have the atomic bomb and the means to deliver it.

Speaking of which, Mr. President, it seems that the missile technology the Pakistanis have was traded by the North Koreans in order to get some enriched uranium and nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan. Of course, North Korea has also been supplying Iran and others with missiles, as the Chinese have. Could be, as Seymour Hersh has surmised, Pakistan/Korea might have done some business with Indonesia, another Muslim land like Pakistan, along weapons of mass destruction lines. But we digress.

It seems the Koreans are hurt because they are being dismissed as insignificant threats, when they know they certainly put Saddam in the shade. They keep shouting how ready they are to use weapons of mass destruction unless we pay some attention.

The fact is, and it is no secret for the majority of the attentive public, that all these lands and people are truly threats and they already have access to nuclear weapons. And, irony again, our attacking Iraq and ignoring Korea is a powerful incentive for every nation on earth who can develop nuclear weapons to do so post haste, to deter American aggression.

Final irony. According to the chickenhawk ideologues, now that Russia has collapsed and while China is still working its way up from poverty, America is the unrivaled superpower and can do anything it wants. We will establish Democracy and Freedom no matter how many people we have to kill and imprison indefinitely to do so. It is true that we spend more on weapons and armed fighters by far than any other nation and any combination of nations even remotely liable to arise. But, alas, unrivaled power does not equal unlimited and perpetual power. Right now we are not able to go after Al-Qaeda and the North Koreans because we are loading up the Persian Gulf and Turkey with outrageous overkill. And of course it takes troops on the ground to secure whatever targets massive destructive weapons may have hammered into initial submission. And the standing survivors, who have seen their families and homes incinerated, might they be actually willing to die fighting us, with nothing to lose and honor to gain? Nah.

Let's see. Iraq, then maybe Iran, Syria is close, might as well do it. Maybe by then the Japanese and Chinese, those traditional allies, will have solved that North Korean distraction and perhaps India might hold off Pakistan with their nukes until we can get around to, what was it? Pushtunistan! right. Osama's bad liver will probably have done him in by then, anyway.

Cumulative irony: If we don't strike Saddam now, we might have even bigger troubles later. Er, but if we do go ahead with this elective war, we may well have a truly big war, with big armies and opposing nukes, forced upon us even sooner - with our resources depleted.

Only a chickenhawk would not bother to think of the cost in American lives (we know they have not a thought for non-American lives). How many body bags will we be willing to see coming off military planes all over America? Will we finally have to institute a draft? How will we pay for it? Dip into the Social Security Trust Fund?

Before 9/11 President Bush made no claims to foreign policy expertise and indeed reassured his heartland constituents that it was time to be humble and not try to change the world. After 9/11 the mainstream media, especially the television talk people, awarded the President 46 additional IQ points and now he is single-handedly taking on the reformation and salvation of the world.

But we are leaving irony behind and heading into tragedy. Besides, if we stay focused on that major baddie in all-threatening Baghdad, we won't have to think of these nasty nasty things. SUV shopping, anyone? It's the patriotic thing to do.




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