WASHINGTON—Ever since the United Nations was founded in 1945, conservatives have dreamed of ditching it. They hated the League of Nations, and they yearn for the day the UN is drummed out of New York. For them, the UN and the New Deal are peas in the pod—two liberal welfare-state institutions that need to be eliminated.
That is one powerful subliminal force in the so-called Iraq debate at the Security Council, and it was the unspoken message in Bush’s lazy-day press conference last night. The president’s performance—drifting sentences, long pauses, and quizzical looks—evoked the spaced-out feel of a blissful dopester. (Actually, you also got the feeling that senior members of the White House press corps had been doing a little weed before the ridiculous event began. They were really spaced!)
If only that were the case. What Bush is doing is to methodically widen and deepen his support among his conservative base, consolidating his bastion of wealthy supporters by promising them reduced taxes while thumbing his nose at the growing numbers of unemployed—more than ever, according to new figures. An attack on Iraq would enable the government to help these rich people even more by priming the pump in the defense sector of the economy and bolstering the service side by pouring money into companies (like Halliburton) that provide the military with logistical support. Both private armies and the logistics industry are rapidly growing aspects of our military preparedness.
And while many conservatives don’t much care for adventuring abroad, they can live with it if it results in the further erosion and eventual elimination of the UN.
Fundamentalist Christians are another part of Bush’s base. And last night he made sure these crusaders didn’t feel left out with his heartfelt meandering recitation of how he plies his faith.
As for the “debate” on Iraq, it doesn’t exist. There never was a debate in Congress. And Bush has used the UN solely for his own PR. No one ever suggested that the president took the place seriously. The Iraq debate is about as much of a debate as a show election in one of those old Iron Curtain countries the right wing is forever bitching about. Or in a banana republic. The U.S. long ago made up its mind to attack Iraq, perhaps as long ago as the afternoon of September 11, when Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was recorded musing about whether the administration could finally get Saddam. As for civilian casualties, the military commanders will probably try to keep them down. But war is war, and you can bet there will be plenty of them.
All anyone can hope for now is that the generals, not Bush or the cynical planners around him, are running the show. Putting your life in the hands of Tommy Franks is pretty scary, but he’s nowhere near as scary as Richard Perle.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 11, 2003