As President Bush was putting the finishing touches on his State of the Union address, the Pentagon top brass were talking about "A-Day," short for "Air Strikes Day."
On A-Day the air force and navy will launch 300 to 400 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq, CBS reported Saturday. That's more missiles than were launched during the entire 40-day Persian Gulf war of 1991.
Then, on A-Day plus one, they'll bombard Iraq with 400 more missiles. "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," one Pentagon official told CBS. There are 4 million civilians in Baghdad, of whom 2 million are children.
The Pentagon likes A-Day because it supposedly concentrates on the psychological destruction of the enemy's will to fight, rather than on the physical destruction of his military forces. They won't admit it, but this is another horrible policy shift. This is what Hitler did to London in World War II. What Bush proposes is not collateral damage, but a level of civilian destruction not seen since the Second World War, with tens of thousands of intended civilian casualties.
Bush and his top officials get more loopy by the day. It might be amusing if they didn't hold the fate of the world and millions of lives in their hands. As Bush ramped up for the State of the Union message, the Bush men were raising another horrific possibility: the use of nuclear arms against Iraq if Saddam resorted to weapons of mass destruction.
On Meet the Press, Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, warned that Saddam Hussein "should anticipate that the United States will use whatever means necessary to protect us and the world from holocaust."
Does that include nuclear weapons? Tim Russert asked him.
"I'm not going to put anything on the table or off the table, but we have a responsibility to make sure Saddam Hussein and his generals do not use weapons of mass destruction," Card said. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times ran an article based on Pentagon leaks that said Bush was drawing up targets for a nuclear attack. "What is clear, and the message that President Bush has sent unequivocally," White House communications chief Dan Bartlett told CNN, "is that if the Iraqi regime, if Saddam Hussein and his generals, decide for one second to use weapons of mass destruction against allied forces of the United States of America and our allies, we will make sure it doesn't happen."
Last December, Rumsfeld signed a "classified nuclear posture review" allowing nuclear weapons to be used against countries including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, and North Korea.
Because weapons of mass destruction, as defined under U.S. laws, can run from a small container of anthrax to a nuclear bomb, Bush could rationalize pulling the nuclear trigger if American bombs were to unleash into the air any germ and biological warfare agents stored in underground Iraqi bunkers.
Some of the stuff sounds so outlandish, it's hard to believe. But then you never know what Bush is thinking. And as he told Bob Woodward in Bush at War, the president sees no reason to explain his actions: "I'm the commandersee, I don't need to explainI do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
As the week progressed, Bush and his top officials were acting crazier and crazier. A few examples:
Tuesday. Bush talks to reporters at the White House.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. The French are saying it would block the U.N. resolution authorizing force on Iraq. Are you frustrated by these comments? Can you still reach a consensus?
Bush: He's not disarming. This business about, you know, more time . . . this looks like a rerun of a bad movie. And I'm not interested in watching it.
Wednesday. The Washington Times, the Pravda of this administration, prints a Rumsfeld memo to an aide, running down the Joint Chiefs of Staffhis top commanders in the coming warfor preparing "vision strategies and all that stuff." The secretary of defense then says, "It is just a lot of people spinning their wheels, doing things we probably have to edit and improve."
Thursday. Rumsfeld is pissed at the French and Germans because they're dragging their feet on Iraq. But who cares, since they are the "old Europe," and NATO's expansion in recent years means "the center of gravity is shifting to the east."
NATO has 19 members, with Turkey, Hungary, and Poland among them. Most of the little countries in the shifting center of gravity either were part of the old Soviet Union or were satellites in its Eastern Bloc. They include such stalwart allies of the U.S. as: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Slovak Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the former Yugoslavia.
Some (the remnants of the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Ukraine) have supplied Saddam with weaponry. You're asking why? Because these small countries need revenue so they can buy advanced armaments to qualify for NATO membership.
Bush appointed Lawrence Lindsay as his chief economic adviser on January 3, 2001. On that day, the Dow stood at 10,646.15, and unemployment was 4 percent.
Lindsay bumbled along until being forced out on December 6, 2002. If you can believe Lindsay, Bush thanked him for a job well-done, saying: "You helped me with a tough election. You developed an economic plan that was needed and effective. You provided sound advice to me during very tough times. In short, you did your job with distinction and class, and I am most grateful."
Yeah, right. He helped Bush dodge his way through the Enron scandal, he helped turn a surplus into a deficit, and he said the recession was over when it was getting worse. The day Lindsay got the heave-ho, the Dow stood at 8513.51, and unemployment hit 6 percent.
Amid the Christmas merriment, Lindsay's wife Sue leaned over at a White House party to thank the president for dumping her husband. "Stalin would have shot him," she joked.
Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Josh Saltzman
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