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Shame on Us

Stephen Gowans

with each passing day, it becomes ever more apparent that Iraq never had the weapons of mass destruction George Bush said it had. And there never was any link to al-Qaeda.

This has prompted some people to awaken to the unpleasant truth that they've been had... again.

Presidents have a habit of doing that -- pulling the wool over Americans' eyes. The Washington Post calls it a "hoary tradition of presidential embroidery."

But few notice, and when they do, they find it hard to bring themselves to say what really should be said: Bush, like presidents before him, is more than a little careless with the truth. He is a bold liar.

Instead, we get something like the Washington Post's circumlocution.

Or we get a reluctance to question the administration's sincerity. Bush didn't lie. He was mistaken. Or he was misled by bad intelligence.

How about: He made it all up, knowingly and deliberately?

It's not as if planned deception hasn't happened before.

The last president ordered a cruise missile attack on an aspirin factory in Sudan, justifying the brazen shredding of international law with a deception: the factory was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction.

The President was embroiled at the time in the Lewinski affair, and the flexing of US military muscle promised to be a welcome distraction from his penis landing him in hot water.

As it turned out, the factory wasn't producing chemical or biological weapons. But, by then, it was too late. The factory was toast, and life moved on.

Undeterred, Clinton also moved on, stooping to that hoary presidential tradition to justify an attack on another target: Yugoslavia. There was a genocide going on, he said, and Captain Clinton, defender of truth, justice and the American Way--and a man with a hyperactive penis--had to stop it.

Problem was, Clinton's "there's a genocide going on" was as bogus as his claim that "I never had sex with that woman." Of 100,000 corpses said to be scattered across Kosovo, forensic pathologists--who came, saw and left complaining they'd been deceived--found only a few thousand.

There was, to be sure, a civil war, one it's now clear Western governments had a hand in fomenting. That's where the few thousand corpses came in. But there never was a genocide.

Spin, exaggeration, embroidery, or just plain, garden-variety, lying?

By the time teams of forensic pathologists were traipsing back home, muttering imprecations about being misled, it was too late. US forces were firmly ensconced in Kosovo, and the Milosevic government was on its way to being overthrown by Western-backed forces, the same friends of Bonn and Washington that have since delivered a dismembered federation into the hands of Western investors and their governments. Mission accomplished.

US forces are now firmly ensconced in Iraq, the UN Security Council has retrospectively legalized the conquest by giving Washington and London authority over the country sine die, (the mandate to end only if the Security Council, over which both Washington and London have a veto, says so), and Washington is working its way through the initial stages of a scam that will see the proceeds of Iraqi oil funneled into the coffers of American firms awarded reconstruction contracts. Another mission accomplished.

Which invites the question, On whose behalf were these mission undertaken? You'd have to say on behalf of Western, and particularly American, corporations, which, apart from having already bought and paid for the people who run the show in the capitals of the West, are finding that conquering other countries is good for business.

By now it's too late for anyone to do much about the deceptions -- and conquests -- Western governments have already engineered. Iraqis may, in time, drive their conquerors out.

But it's not too late to stop future aggressions, and to learn from the past. "Fool me once, shame on you," goes the old saying. "Fool me twice, shame on me." We've been deceived twice, three times, four times, and more. Shame on us.

Sadly, there's evidence we're about to be shamed again. Already, those who say they were stung by the administration's deceptions on Iraq, are showing depressingly little skepticism over the same claims being made about Iran, likely the next target of the Bush administration's preventive -- that is, Nazi-style -- wars of conquest.

Washington is openly talking of accomplishing the same mission in Tehran it has already accomplished in Belgrade, Kabul, and Baghdad: regime change. And it has hinted that after that it could be Cuba's and North Korea's turn.

The motive is profit. The pretext is self-defense. Iran, rich in oil, stands accused of harboring al-Qaeda operatives and of building nuclear weapons -- the same empty accusations hurled at Saddam Hussein.

It behooves us to be skeptical of these claims. But it also behooves us to think hard about whether the possibility of Iran's possessing nuclear weapons is justifiable grounds for a US attack.

Countries like Iran and North Korea, targets of virtual declarations of war by Washington (they've been called part of an "axis of evil" by a country that says it plans to wage war indefinitely), are justifiably worried. It would make sense for them to scramble to build a nuclear deterrent. And if the US can possess a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, why not other countries?

And what if al-Qaeda members are living in Iran (unlikely), or (more unlikely), what if Tehran is working in league with bin Laden's followers? Wouldn't it be a tad hypocritical for a country that harbors, sponsors, and supports anti-Cuban terrorists -- and which sponsored the Contras, a terrorist army -- to launch a war to stop terrorism?

What's more, even if Iran were working with al-Qaeda, the better way to deal with Islamic terrorism would be to redress the conditions that inflame it.

Attacking and occupying sovereign countries with large Muslim populations is hardly the answer. And neither is allowing Israel to wriggle out of its international law and human rights obligations to the Palestinians. On the contrary, both are the problem.

And so is this: Too many people in the West, and in the US in particular, haven't yet woke up to smell the deception. It's time we did, before another mission is accomplished.

Steve Gowans calls himself a radical, but others just call him contrary and a pain-in-the-ass. He can be reached at

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