Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater
 

 

"Terrorism" and Blowback: A Chronology of America's Descent into Fascism

March 17, 2003 -

 March 17, 2003    Robin Cook Resigns as Leader of the House of Commons, saying that he cannot "support a war without international agreement or domestic support…. Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner--- not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council. To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse…. Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules…. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will 'shock and awe' makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands. Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralized and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days. We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat…. I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted. Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply…. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops…. I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government." http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/2859431.stm

 March 17, 2003    Bush Gives Saddam a 48-Hour Ultimatum to Leave His Country--- or Else in a speech that completely distorts the truth.

  1. For starters, UN Resolution 1441 did not give the US (or any country) permission for unilateral military action against Iraq.
  2. M. Chirac did not say France would veto "any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq." He said, "France will vote no because it considers that there is no reason to go to war to achieve the objective we have set, that is, the disarmament of Iraq."
  3. Bush says with a straight face that a "broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world." Really? The US warmongers could not get the nine votes on the Security Council to pass their second resolution. Only UK and Australia are sending troops. That's "broad?"
  4. He repeats the lie that Iraq has "aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda" despite statements to the contrary by the CIA. This oft-repeated allegation is a sly way to make the American public believe that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

For Bush the possibility that Iraq might constitute a danger at some unspecified future date warrants pre-emptive unilateral military action. He declares that the United States has the "sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security." In other words, forget about international law and a finger to the nose at the United Nations. Just as Hitler and Mussolini brought about the demise of the League of Nations by their flagrant disregard of international law and the League's strictures, so is the Bush Cabal destroying the UN---- an organization fostered by the Allies after World War II in the hopes of a peaceful, just and orderly world.

The terror alert is raised again to orange in the anticipation of terrorist reprisals; the Iraqi people are promised food, medicine and "liberation" from the tyrant. (However, this 48-hour ultimatum shuts down the oil-for-food program and causes the withdrawal of all UN humanitarian aid workers!)

[The next day the UN inspectors left Iraq. The New York Times delivered a scathing condemnation of Bush's total foreign policy: "Once the fighting begins… it will not feel like the right time for complaints about how America got to this point. Today is the right time. This war crowns a period of terrible domestic failure, Washington's worst in at least a generation. The Bush administration now presides over unprecedented American military might. What it risks squandering is not America's power, but an essential part of its glory…. The result is a war for a legitimate international goal against an execrable tyranny, but one fought almost alone. At a time when America most needs the world to see its actions in the best possible light, they will probably be seen in the worst."

And so they were:--- Malaysia, the current chairman of the 116-nation Non-Aligned Movement condemned the planned attack as "an illegal act of aggression" and noted the "selectivity" with which the US has honored UN resolutions. Russia's parliamentary speaker, Gennady Seleznyov, said the proposed attack would cause the world to consider that "the US is a terrorist state that can only be dealt with at the Hague tribunal." "War in the Ruins of Democracy," New York Times, March 18, 2003; "War on Iraq Illegal, Says Pak Lah," www.malaysiakini.com, March 18, 2003; Gary Younge, "Russia and France angered by end of diplomacy," The Guardian, March 18, 2003.

March 19, 2003    Assault on Iraq Begins with "Decapitation" Effort: Two hours after the deadline he had imposed, Bush, acting on "very good intelligence," orders a strike on the compound where Saddam Hussein and his two sons are believed to be meeting with the Iraqi senior leadership. About three dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles are launched from cruisers, destroyers and submarines operating in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Two F-117A Stealth fighters each drop two one-ton satellite-guided bombs. The bombardment lasts for ten minutes. American marines enter southern Iraq from Kuwait; the invasion of Iraq begins.

Less than an hour after the strike begins, Bush gives a 4-minute television speech to the nation: "At this hour [10:15 PM EST], American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from great danger…. Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass destruction…. Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force, and I assure you this will not be a campaign of half-measures and we'll accept no outcome but victory."

Minutes before he gives his speech, an internal monitor records Bush pumping his fist into the air and saying, "Feels good!"   [Martin Merzer, Ron Hutcheson and Drew Brown, "War begins in Iraq with strikes aimed at 'leadership targets,'" Knight Ridder Newspapers, March 20, 2003.]

[Millions of people took to the streets the next day to protest the invasion--- in Athens, 100,000; in Italy there was a two-hour general strike with highways and railroads blocked to protest the prime minister's decision to allow US warplanes to use Italian air space; in Germany, 100,000 in Berlin and smaller protests in every city and university town. There was civil disobedience in Britain and large protests in the Netherlands and France. There were also protests in Egypt, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Bangladesh. In the US there were large protests in every major city and most college towns; more than 500 people were arrested in San Francisco.

According to UPI, the "very good intelligence" had been provided by Delta troops secretly in Iraq who had infiltrated a Baghdad communications center and tapped into a fiber optic telephone line from which they got the information that Saddam and his top leaders would be at Dora Farm. Working with Delta forces are CIA paramilitary teams with the names, addresses and cell phone numbers of 30 top Iraqi leaders and the orders to kill them.

A few hours after the bombardment, a defiant Saddam was seen on Iraqi TV. The Bush cabal and American TV pundits seemed reluctant to admit that the strike had not accomplished its purpose. Probably this was one of his doubles, they speculated. Later the British Foreign Office told reporters that Saddam had been injured in the blast and was seen being removed on a stretcher with oxygen mask and medicinal drips. David E. Sanger and John F. Burns, "Bush Orders an Assault and Says Americans Will Disarm Foe," New York Times, March 20, 2003; David Stout, "U.S. Uncertain Whether Air Strike on Baghdad Got Hussein," New York Times, March 20, 2003; Martin Merzer, Ron Hutcheson and Drew Brown, Knight-Ridder, March 20, 2003; David North, "The crisis of American capitalism and the war against Iraq," wsws.org, March 21, 2003; Patrick Martin, "Worldwide protests against US invasion of Iraq: millions take to the streets," wsws.org, March 21, 2003; Henry Michaels, "CIA death squads operating in Iraq," wsws.org, April 8, 2003; Nigel Morris, "Iraqi president 'left bunker in an ambulance,'" Independent, Mrach 24, 2003.

March 21, 2003    "Shock and Awe" Starts at 9 PM Iraqi Time with a Blitzkrieg Bombardment of Baghdad:  Large areas of the city are set ablaze; mushroom clouds of black smoke rise and soon cover the entire city like a deadly shroud. Robert Fisk writes: "Saddam's main palace, a great rampart of a building 20 storeys high, simply exploded in front of me, a cauldron of fire, a 100 ft sheet of flame and a sound that had my ears singing for an hour after. The entire, massively buttressed edifice shuddered under the impact. Then four more cruise missiles came in."  Reuters: "The earth is literally shaking in Baghdad…. The sky is totally lit." [In the first 24 hours 3000 bombs and cruise missiles were dropped onto this capital city of five million. At least 250 civilians were killed in the bombing and more than 200 wounded in an operation that supposedly targeted Saddam's palaces, the defense ministry and Republican Guard installations. Robert Fisk, "Minute after minute the missiles came, with devastating shrieks," Independent, March 22, 2003; "US blitzkrieg turns Baghdad into an inferno," wsws.org, March 22, 2003; Reuters, "U.S. Unleashes Blitz on Baghdad," ABC News, March 21, 2003; AFP, "Baghdad blitz kills 250: Iraq," The Age (Australia), March 22, 2003.]

March 21, 2003    Meanwhile, in the rest of the world….. A war resolution expressing "unequivocal support and appreciation to the president as commander in chief for his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing war against terrorism" passes the House 392-11 with 22 members voting "present." [Full text at www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/5446300.htm]  "I, for one, will not be forced to praise the president's reckless decision when what I want to do is praise the troops," said Rep. Jim McDermott (WA), one of the eleven Democratic nay-sayers. The Senate quickly passes a less objectionable resolution 99-0 that does, however, declare the invasion to be "lawful and fully authorized by Congress."   [There were demonstrations against the war around the globe. Following Friday prayers 30,000 people attempted to storm the American embassy in the Yemeni capital; several people died of gunshot wounds, including an 11-year-old Yemeni boy. Cairo, Bahrain, Amman, and Beirut had smaller demonstrations where the police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. In San Francisco over 1300 demonstrators were arrested; a few in the crowd had opened fire hydrants, burned hay bales and smashed police car windows. Traffic was blocked in Times Square, New York City; 36 arrests were made. Despite the police on horseback, several thousand protestors snarled traffic on Chicago's main streets. About 2000 people gathered outside the capitol in Jackson, Mississippi---- their hand-lettered signs read, "God bless our troops" and "Let's roll." Stephen Dinan, "11 Democrats vote 'no' on war resolution," The Washington Times, March 22, 2003; Brian Knowlton, "Antiwar protests at Home and Abroad," International Herald Tribune, March 21, 2003.

March 28, 2003    Kucinich: This is an Unjustified War and It Must End:
Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who chairs the progressive caucus in the House, issues the following statement:
"The Administration has never made its case for war against Iraq. It is an unjustified war, which the Administration continues to misrepresent and exaggerate. The most recent example is the Administration's characterization of international coalition support for the war. This morning, President Bush once again exaggerated the extent of support for the war stating that the coalition of countries supporting this war is larger than the 1991 Gulf War. What Bush failed to mention was that back in 1991, all of the 34 member countries offered military force, by contributing troops on the ground, aircraft, ships or medics.

"This war involves the troops of only the U.S., Britain, Australia, Poland and Albania. Not even the three members of the Security Council that support the war--- Spain, Italy and Bulgaria--- are committing military support. The Bush Administration has been adding coalition member to their list based on statements of "moral" support. As the Washington Post reported last week, if this type of criteria was used back in 1991, the size of the coalition would likely have topped 100 countries.

"Further, the total cost of the Gulf War to the United States was around $4 billion dollars. Thus time, the President has come to Congress requesting a $75 billion bill, all of which will be paid by U.S. taxpayers. Clearly, military and economic support from countries is far more important than statements of "well-wishes."

"This war must end now. It was unjust when it started last week, and is still unjust today. [Emphasis added.] The U.S. should get out now and try to save the lives of American troops and Iraqi citizens. Most importantly, ending the war now and returning weapons inspections could salvage world opinion of the United States, which has been deteriorating since the talk of war began. After all, the greatest threat to the United States at this time is terrorism, which is breeding from this war."

March 31, 2003    The European Union Takes Over Macedonian Peace Keeping Mission from NATO:  In what may turn out to be an historic event, although little noted in the American press, the fifteen-member European Union embarks on its first military responsibility. During the changing-of-the-guard ceremony, the secretary-general of NATO, Lord Robertson, observed: "The EU is demonstrating that its project of a European Security and Defense Policy has come of age." According to the Frankfurter Rundscau: "It is a small mission, but of great historical significance. With this, what has up to now been a purely civilian EU is advancing irreversibly into military territory." The Daily Statesman noted that "the low key mission, Operation Concordia, is a gentle start for the rapid reaction force, which is designed to draw on up to 60,000 men, 100 warships and 400 aircraft for world wide operations lasting up to a year."

[The EU RRF was first proposed at an EU summit meeting in June, 1999 during the crisis over Serbia and Kosovo. Not taking kindly to the idea of a militarized EU, the Bush administration tried unsuccessfully to delay or nullify the NATO-EU handover. In a report to the EU Parliament on the 26th, EU President Romano Prodi diplomatically alluded to this conflict: "We Europeans are not from Venus, as some would have us believe. The peoples of this old Europe have a long and bloodthirsty past behind us. A past that has taught us to base our Union in law and to work for an international order founded on right, not might…. We know the world will not take heed of us until we put an end to our divisions. Until we stop relying on the European Union for economic growth and the United States for security. And there is nothing anti-American in what I am saying… the choice is clear: do we want to be left out, all of us, from the management of world affairs? Or do we want to play a part, on an equal footing with our allies, in building a new world order?" Paul Stewart, "EU takes over NATO's mission in Macedonia," wsws.org, April 10, 2003; Paul Stewart, "European Rapid Reaction Force to deploy in Macedonia," wsws.org, February 1, 2003; European Union press release , March 26, 2003.]

April 21, 2003    Senatorial Gay-Bashing:  Rick Santorum (R-PA), in his comments on the legal challenge to the constitutionality of a Texas state law against sodomy that will soon be decided by the Supreme Court, essentially equates the gay life style with bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your own home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to do anything."

[These remarks drew criticism from newspaper editorials, gay rights groups, and Senate Democrats who demanded that he be censured (as Trent Lott was) and demoted from his #3 spot in the Republican Senate leadership. A few Senate Republicans joined the fray, but most Senate Republicans defended him. Majority leader Bill Frist denied that Santorum was a bigot, calling him "a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion."

The fundamentalist religious groups came aggressively to his defense: "Democratic politicians and the left-wing press should be ashamed for inhibiting freedom of speech," from the Christian Coalition. George Bush was criticized by the Family Research Council for not leaping to Santorum's defense, explaining that many "top GOP leaders cannot bring themselves to offer a spirited defense of marriage for fear of being accused of bigotry." Four days later Bush's mouthpiece, Ari Fleischer, said that "The president has confidence in Senator Santorum and thinks he's doing a good job as senator--- including in his leadership post."

Roman Catholic Santorum was dutifully following the dictates of his religion. To keep religious principles private and not try to translate them into government policy is a "corruption of freedom of conscience," he told a Catholic newspaper. On January 16, 2003 the Vatican declared that Catholic political office-holders may not disregard Church doctrine when making decisions on "faith and morals" questions such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. Since then the bishops have been cracking down on pro-choice Catholic officials such as California Governor Gray Davis and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The American Life League has been running ads condemning twelve Catholic senators who support abortion rights.

Interestingly, when the Holy Father expressed his opposition to the US invasion of Iraq, the US bishops declared that although the Pope had condemned the war, the Church did not condemn the warriors. So a freedom-of-choice vote will send you to Hell, but killing Iraqis is OK. Patrick Martin, "Bush defends Republican senator after attack on gays," wsws.org, April 29, 2003; Oliver Burkeman, "Rage at senator's attack on gay sex," The Guardian, April 28, 2003.

May 11, 2003    53 Democrats Abscond from the Texas Legislature to Oklahoma to prevent a quorum and the passage of a monstrous power grab engineered by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay--- who had flown to Austin to supervise the operation. He said: "I'm the majority leader and I want more seats."   [The proposal was a gerrymandering project to redistrict Texas and create 22 Republican congressional districts and 10 Democratic districts (as opposed to the current 17 Democratic and 15 Republican districts) by such tactics as breaking Austin's Travis County into four congressional districts with one stretching east to the Houston suburbs and another stretching south to the Mexican border. Another motive for the redistricting was clearly to punish Austin, the site of antiwar protests and other opposition to the Bush administration. As one Republican leader said, "Who gives a f---- for the People's Republic of Travis County?" In addition to the gerrymandering aspect, redistricting was completely unwarranted because the current district lines were established by a nonpartisan panel of federal judges only a year ago and based on the 2000 census figures, and therefore should remain in place until after the 2010 census. The Republicans gained a majority in the Texas legislature last year for the first time in 130 years. Possibly they wanted to play catch-up?

There were only minimum public hearings held by the redistricting committee (and none in the Spanish-speaking areas.) A new version with significant boundary changes over those previously discussed was brought to the floor for an immediate vote. So a sufficient number of democratic legislators walked out to prevent the necessary quorum of 100. Republican Governor Rick Perry then ordered the Department of Public Safety, including the Texas Rangers, the state troopers and the Special Crimes unit, to go to the legislators' homes to arrest them and return them to the legislature. Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick and Tom DeLay urged the FBI to get involved and have the arrest warrants federalized. Homeland Security was asked to track down the Piper Cheyenne of former House Speaker James E. Laney who was believed to be ferrying fellow legislators out of the state. (Actually most took the bus but it was the tracking by the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center in Riverside, California---- set up to track terrorists, ostensibly---- that revealed Ardmore, Oklahoma as the scene of the Democratic camp-out.  Homeland Security officials are now angry at being misled into joining the chase; it had been "an urgent plea for assistance from a law enforcement agency trying to locate a missing, lost or possibly crashed aircraft." How much did this extra-curricular exercise cost the taxpayers? We will never know; Homeland Security officials shredded all documents pertaining to the incident.)

Four Department of Public Safety officers went to the Holiday Inn in Ardmore in an attempt to "convince" some of the legislators to return to Texas with them in their plane. The Democratic governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry, ordered his state police not to cooperate with those from Texas. (Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico sounded regretful that the fugitive lawmakers had not chosen his state, as he offered them the same protection.) Harassment and intimidation continued even after the runaways went on TV to announce their location. The DPS invaded the neonatal unit of a hospital where a legislator's twins were in intensive care and then went to the home where the mother was recovering from the delivery. A teen-aged girl was interrogated by the police as to her father's whereabouts. Wives were followed; police cars were camped outside the home of their missing husbands. A pack of cards was printed with a missing legislator's face on each card, a ploy similar to the Pentagon's pack of cards of wanted Iraqi officials.

The legislators returned to Texas late in the day on the 15th after the deadline had passed for any new legislation. "We have proven the government is by the people, for the people. We had to go to Oklahoma to say the government is not for Tom Delay," said Jim Dunnam, one of the group's leaders. Several Democratic congressmen from Texas expressed their indignation at the Republicans' use of an anti-terrorist agency for political purposes. Martin Frost, from a Dallas suburb: "Not since Richard Nixon and Watergate 30 years ago has anyone tried to use law enforcement agencies of the federal government for domestic political purposes…. There should be a complete investigation." Jim Turner, east Texas: "We created the Department of Homeland Security to track down terrorists, not law-abiding citizens." Patrick Martin, "The issues in Texas redistricting," wsws.org, May 15, 2003; Jay Root, "Eyes of Texas, U.S. on truant legislators," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 14, 2003; Patrick Martin, "A provocation against democratic rights: Texas Republicans order state police to seize Democratic legislature," wsws.org, May 15, 2003; Reuters, "AWOL Democrats Return to Texas," Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2003; Philip Shenon, "Texas Legislative Dispute Goes National," New York Times, May 16, 2003; Patrick Martin, "Republicans enlisted Department of Homeland Security in Texas political fight," wsws.org, May 17, 2003; "A Texas-Size Power Grab," New York Times, May 17, 2003.]


Last modified May 23, 2003

 

 

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