Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alexander Cockburn Casts Cynical Eye on Bush's "Liberation" of Iraq

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Alexander Cockburn Casts Cynical Eye on Bush's "Liberation" of Iraq

Article excerpt

"Why has the Bush administration been so obsessed with Saddam Hussain?" was the rhetorical question journalist Alexander Cockburn posed to his audience April 9 at Chapman University.

"Was it to control Iraq's oil?

"Was it driven by the neocon coalition with the Likud to change the regimes of Iraq, Syria and Iran?

"Was it to prove the U.S. is the undisputed ruler of the world?

"Or was it to ensure the Middle East oil is paid for in dollars not the Euro?

"I would say it was for all of these reasons," commented the columnist for The Nation.

In reference to the neocon strategists guiding George W. Bush's foreign policy, Cockburn said this faction of extremists has been present for the past 34 years but only attained dominance in the national post-9/11 hysteria.

"We are in an extremely perilous position now," he warned. "North Korea believes it is next in line, and it has the nuclear capacity to destroy much of South Korea."

Noting that Americans thrive on the rhetoric of panic, Cockburn noted that they may be the richest people on earth, but they're also the most frightened.

"Elsewhere it is a struggle for most humans to have shelter and enough food," he pointed out. "The U.S. lives in a culture of threats: two million people are in prison and no one feels safe.

"Would this threat [of terrorism] have been alleviated if Bush had tried to cure the injustice done to the Palestinians?" Cockburn asked. "Instead, Bush gave [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon the green light to roll into the refugee camps.

"It is stupefying how much gasoline has been thrown on the tinder since 9/11," he observed.

Even though polls claim that 70 percent of Americans approve the war on Iraq, Cockburn said he senses that people are somewhat aware of the injustice of the 2000 presidential election and share unease over the intellect of George W. Bush.

"I believe if one looks across the Bush administration, one is looking at fanatics," he said. "The situation we are in would not be the same under Al Gore."

So what can be done?

"The solution lies with you and linking the Iraq war with the class war at home," Cockburn maintained. "U.S. wars have always been fought by the poor. Bush is cutting taxes for the rich at the same time as he is cutting veterans' health care benefits.

"Will weapons of mass destruction (WMD) be found?" the journalist wondered. "The U.S. has plenty to spare and could easily place some in an Iraqi bunker. Or Bush will say the war wasn't really about WMDs."

Stating that Congress is utterly cowed by the war protagonists, Cockburn predicted that fewer than 20 congressmen would speak for peace in the upcoming presidential primaries. He expressed admiration for Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and thought John Kerry might utter the word peace. Cockburn implied, however, that, along with Republican lawmakers, the Democrats have been bought by the corporations.

"The U.S. economy is fragile for reasons unconnected with the war. If the housing market collapses, the whole thing could fall apart," concluded the co-editor of the online newsletter CounterPunch.

When asked how important it is for Bush to be defeated in the 2004 election, Cockburn replied: "The defeat of Bush and Ashcroft is of extreme urgency. We are witnessing alarming and dangerous tendencies, including threats to the Bill of Rights."

Asked by another audience member if the war on Iraq was a cynical attempt to ensure Bush's reelection, Cockburn responded: "I'm sure the thought didn't escape his mind. His father was criticized for not taking Saddam out in 1991. Tub-thumping for war is a familiar scene in U.S. politics."

As for whether the Iraqi people would be grateful for their liberation from Saddam Hussain, Cockburn predicted: "It won't take long for unrest to set in when the Iraqis begin to ask if they are living the same as under the imposed sanctions. …

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