March 29, 2003
Shadow of Vietnam

A web search

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:06 AM
March 28, 2003
First indications of WW III

From Iraq war worst crisis since Cold War: Putin (AFP)

"As we predicted, the consequences of the war in Iraq are going outside the framework of a regional conflict," a stern Putin said in televised remarks.

From US turns sights on Syria and Iran (Times of London)

THE war in Iraq threatened to spill over into neighbouring countries yesterday when Washington warned Syria and Iran to stay out of the fight.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 11:48 PM
Sorry, Hans, they never had "patience" with you

Hans Blix as quoted by the BBC:

... the Americans "lost patience some time at the end of January or the beginning of February," Mr Blix said.
He suggested that Washington was "doubtful from the beginning" about the process.

Let's never forget that the Washington Post was doing its best to discredit the inspections process, by casting the inspectors as perverted and incompetent, all the way back in November:

No Apologies: The Story of Jack McGeorge

Posted by Mike Doughney at 08:17 PM
March 26, 2003
Big Brother, live on your desktop

Screen capture of an ad appearing in the middle of articles at Ridge is not a still, but a video with sound.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 11:57 PM
Our federal government has become Operation Rescue

More, from alt.meditation.transcendental

From: (Mike Doughney)
Newsgroups: alt.meditation.transcendental
Subject: Re: OT: a war unlike any other
Date: 27 Mar 2003 04:27:11 GMT
Message-ID: <>

In article <>,
Shemp McGurk wrote:
> (Mike Doughney) wrote in message
>> While it might be tempting to try and throw facts at Shemp and others
>> like him - unfortunately, that seems to include much of the
>> U.S. administration at the moment - I think we all know that this
>> changes nothing. The only thing that changes such peoples' conceptual
>> systems of thought, en masse, is when real, live, physical
>> consequences result.
>You mean like 4,000,000 people being slaughtered after the U.S. left

It's disturbing to watch you, and many others like you, fall off the
edge, and basically turn the world upside down into something that
basically makes no sense with little factoids like this that stand the
direction of time and causation on its head.

It's a cultural phenomenon that I've been used to seeing, usually in
certain Christian subcultures, but in the past year or so it seems to
have become all the rage, everywhere, right on up to the White House
and the War Department.

You insist that 4 million were "slaughtered" because the U.S. didn't
do anything, as if anything anyone is doing, anywhere on the planet,
is now, retroactively the responsibility of the United
States. Retroactively, since I heard no one make the argument at the
time, and with the possible exception of a few fringe wingnuts, nor at
any time until recently when this little expedition into Iraq needed
to be justified.

I spent a few years observing a group called Operation Rescue. Ever
heard of them? They make exactly the same argument: that "baybees" are
dying by the millions, because America does nothing.

Well, guess what. We aren't responsible for what goes on after we
fail, turn tail and leave. In the same way we can't be responsible for
what happens to each and every fetus that's completely dependent on a
woman; indeed, no one should be responsible other than that woman.

Our federal government has become Operation Rescue, and that's because
the rescue metaphor becomes a very strong metaphor, for some, to take
action. Action is more important than the justification, which is in
both cases paper-thin to nonexistent.

>So, yes, I agree with you that the ONLY thing that will change people
>like me's minds is when real, live, physical consequences result...and
>I am trying to DIRECTLY deal with these proven realities within the
>context of the current debate.

The rescue metaphor is so strong that you can't see the point, you
dumbass. I was referring to physical consequences to yourself, not to
anybody else that you label from afar as "proven realities." At this
rate, the day will come when you go crawling on your belly back up to
Canada is not very far away, after the U.S. becomes unlivable as a
direct result of the consequences of this little "rescue mission"
which in even just the past few days is becoming, obviously, nothing
of the sort.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 11:49 PM
First comment: the same old supremacist themes

When you spend a few years observing a supremacist movement as we (Sabina and I) have, you tend to see the same themes over and over. Since the value, or myth, of supremacy has graduated, from various movements like that of Biblical America to the basis of current actions by the U.S. government, these same themes are now being played out on the national level, and can be heard from supporters of the war.

Perhaps it's more accurate to call, what I'm talking about, "the overextension of a myth of supremacy." Because, like many myths, it has a real and imaginary part. We are fortunate as Americans that there is a lot here to substantiate a myth of supremacy. It's when the myth gets extended, to realms where it doesn't apply, where people get themselves into real trouble. It's the imaginary part that is problematic, and the imaginary part is expressed in a few themes that show up over and over. These themes are:

  1. We can independently do whatever we want.
  2. We don't care what you think.
  3. It has always been this way.

It's fascinating, then, that the first comment posted here embodies exactly these themes.

Kevin Clayborn wrote:

I was in the USAF at the time of the Gulf War, and while I didn't have the pleasure of going to the Gulf, I do know a few things about why we where there and with whom.

And that information that you "know" came from where, and how is it different from what I experienced?

First of all, we were NOT there as UN forces. We were NOT there as NATO forces. We were there as US forces with a wide spectrum of allies who supported our cause to get Saddam out of Kuwait.

And U.N. Security Council resolution 678, giving Iraq one final opportunity to comply, or else "all necessary means" will be used against them, is simply a figment of my imagination?

Read the resolution, it clearly states, "Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait... to use all necessary means" to kick Iraq out of Kuwait. No such resolution exists this time around; Resolution 1441 authorizes nothing and only "requests all Member States to give full support to UNMOVIC and the IAEA."

Gulf I wasn't just "our cause." It was specifically authorized by U.N. resolution.

You are doing a not-so-subtle rewrite on history (theme #3) to support the idea that we can just go throwing our weight around all over the planet in pursuit of "our cause," whatever that happens to be this week (theme #1).

So, what's different this time? Saddam hasn't directly bullied any one, that's the number one reason our allies from the last war are not supporting us on this one.

There seems to be this problem of collective amnesia, when it comes to the incredible job both the U.N. and diplomats all over the world did last time in coming to a consensus that military action to throw the Iraqis out of Kuwait was necessary. This time, when the task is going to be much more difficult and the world's support is much more critical, the U.S. has squandered whatever opportunity it had after 9/11 to forge a similar consensus to deal with lingering dangerous situations such as Iraq, North Korea, and the India-Pakistan conflict.

The task was corrupted with a thinly disguised contempt for the rest of the planet (now coming out in its full glory), and this current state of affairs is what you end up with. This is because the highest levels of government have been populated with people who really do believe this overextended myth of supremacy; and the overextension of this kind of myth is a bad habit that people learn when they're involved with evangelical Christianity. The outcome is a predictable consequence of what can be expected to happen when goverment is populated by evangelicals, and as the Biblical America movement moves unimpeded into positions of real power in this country.

We have to ask ourselves a couple of questions. One is at what point does belonging to a treaty organization like the UN stop being of a benefit to us?

No longer "being of a benefit to us" doesn't equal "won't agree with every cause we want to shove down the world's collective throat." That's the supremacist paradigm talking.

When, the organization says that they will help the people of the planet, and then do nothing about it?

There is nothing that says that the U.S. must adopt some Messianic attitude and save the entire planet from itself at every possible moment. The list of examples you give is endless, and we cannot be everywhere; but there's this attitude that also comes along with the myth of supremacy that suggests that all of the world's problems are fixable by us, and our physical and financial resources are infinite. They aren't, and I fear that we're going to have to learn that (again) the hard way.

I would much rather live in a country where our government says what it does, and does what it says. I am proud to live in America where the government's morals are the same as my own.

Well, isn't that special. I'm sure you'd enjoy living in a moralistic, bankrupt, burned-out cinder of a country. I'd explicitly dump the moralizing; instead, I prefer to live in a place where there's some understanding that material concerns matter, and that they're often more important than these arbitrary "morals" you talk about. Such moralizing is just another way of saying "I don't care what you think."

A relevant article:
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning; An Interview With Author Chris Hedges and part 2

Posted by Mike Doughney at 08:30 PM
"Freedom toast?" You left out a word.

CNN: 'Freedom toast' served on Air Force One

'Freedom toast?' More like "your freedom IS toast..."

Posted by Mike Doughney at 02:48 PM
A conceptual system at work

From the Usenet newsgroup, alt.meditation.transcendental

From: (Mike Doughney)
Newsgroups: alt.meditation.transcendental
Subject: Re: OT: a war unlike any other
Date: 26 Mar 2003 04:07:00 GMT

In article <>, Judy Stein wrote:
> (Shemp McGurk) quoted some
>idiot on in message
>> One of the major issues of the addle-brained appeasement
>> protesters is civilian casualties.
>Let's examine the intellectual dishonesties in this piece.

I've long had a problem with your use of this term. Maybe it's because there's this implicit assumption that intellectualism actually counts for something with all people. Or, the implication that the speaker is consciously being dishonest in some way.

Your examples to me point up another cause, that being, that you're confronting someone whose conceptual system is something completely different from yours in this area. Shemp's system, based on his ranting and who he's quoting, is what I call the American supremacist conceptual system, and the things that you (Judy) are pointing up are just part of the fabric, the framework of thought inside that system.

The conceptual system starts with, "we can do whatever we want" and "we don't care what you think" (except for the interactions that serve to confirm and reinforce the system). Along with supremacy comes symmetry, a black-white polarization that dictates that all opponents must be lumped together into what I call the "homogeneous forces of darkness." There's also an element of "anything our opponents do or think is wrong" in this, as well as "everything that went wrong in the past can be blamed on our opponents."

>First, the term "appeasers" applied to those who oppose the
>war in Iraq. There may be a few among them who actually do
>wish to appease Saddam Hussein, but ...

The view represented by Shemp doesn't allow for any diversity among opponents, therefore the antiwar = appeasement equivalency is just part of the fabric and exists beyond (and in place of) any facts that disprove it. There is also a strong historical, cultural and massively discredited role model in the background that makes this equivalency effective as a discrediting method among some, but by no means all, people.

>The second dishonesty is the word "ignore." Note that the
>article provides no evidence of those who oppose the war
>having "ignored" the relatively low casualties that have
>been reported to this point. The term is used entirely

The value/concept of symmetry also provides for the assumption that one's opponents are just as compelled to disregard facts as oneself.

>The third dishonesty is the assumption that because the
>reported civilian casualties in Baghdad in the first five
>days of the war have thankfully been relatively low, they
>will remain so throughout the war and in its aftermath,
>not just in Baghdad but throughout Iraq.

The supremacist conceptual system provides for all of these assumptions that are contraindicated by, among many others, those who've had more recent experience dealing with such situations, and who aren't wallowing in this particular system of thought. That would probably include most of mainland Europe that hasn't willingly lived under fascist dictatorships for much of the century. (I'll skip the flamewar over what constitutes "willingly" given the current domestic situation, and the current inefficacy of protest, and the complete invisibility of any articulate, meaningful domestic political discussion, all of which reflect a whole set of American myths/concepts/assumptions biting the dust.)

While it might be tempting to try and throw facts at Shemp and others like him - unfortunately, that seems to include much of the U.S. administration at the moment - I think we all know that this changes nothing. The only thing that changes such peoples' conceptual systems of thought, en masse, is when real, live, physical consequences result. And it's an open question as to when or if that will ever happen here.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:27 AM
March 25, 2003
9-13-2001: a photo

To illustrate Sabina's letter (following). In front of a KFC, somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania, two days after 9/11.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 12:14 AM
March 24, 2003
Daring to give voice to some of my own convictions

The following was originally intended to be private correspondence to Senator Byrd.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sabina
Sent: Monday, March 24, 2003 1:32 PM
Subject: Thank you.

Dear Senator Byrd,

I just wanted to take a few minutes to thank you for your willingness to speak out about what is now happening in Iraq. Your courage, and daring to give voice to some of my own convictions and to be very honest, fears, has meant a great deal to me, and to my family in these very difficult days.

I'm not one of your constituents, not a West Virginia resident, but you are in some ways, one of the rare voices that represent me up on the Hill at the moment. I live in suburban Maryland, just a short drive from the Capitol, though much that I value feels to have been banished from our government's halls; I might just as well live thousands of miles away, as I no longer understand nor recognize the face of this America, nor much of this American government.

I grew up alongside Ohio's cornfields and finished high school at a Quaker boarding school in Barnesville, Ohio, just a few miles from the Ohio River, and from Wheeling. Growing up, we would come to Washington, to visit cousins. We would visit the Smithsonian, or Air and Space museums over holiday breaks. I regret that we never took the White House tour, The Peoples' House, but that was way back before even Pennsylvania Ave was closed to traffic.

Ah, but to even call the White House, "The Peoples' House" now seems to be viewed as pure naiveté and to some, begs the question; do I understand terrorism, and the realities of "homeland security"?

Well, I'll let you be a judge of that.

I've studied, and had very limited experience with many forms of terrorism, both foreign and domestic, long before that day in September, the one my hypothetical questioner perhaps bases their 'new understanding' upon. But purely by chance, I happened to be in the wrong, or more aptly since I'm still here to sit and write you, the right place on that particular September day.

My fiancée and I were driving up to New Jersey early in the morning of September 11th. We were driving up to pick up a friend from New York the next morning. Our friend is an independent filmmaker, who had done a short film during featuring the many faces of counter demonstrators to George W. Bush's inauguration here in Washington back in January. We were scheduled to pick her up and then head up to Toronto, Canada for the premier of her film.

Around 3am, we finally came up alongside the New York skyline. New York has always had good memories for me, and finally seeing the airport and the buildings, particularly the World Trade Center after miles of New Jersey always made me smile. In a sense, later I would feel fortunate that I got to see the skyline like that, one last time, without knowing it, in a sense I got to say goodbye.

We checked into our hotel, and tried to get some sleep before our big day tomorrow. Later, as we got up I happened to turn on the television, just in time to watch as the second tower collapse.

We spent the next several hours trying to find out if our filmmaker friend had been on the PATH trains running through the basement of the remains of the World Trade Center, as she had been scheduled to take the PATH trains out to meet us in Jersey that morning. For hours, we didn't know if she was alive or dead. I can't explain what that morning was like, there aren't words to explain it.

Finally we reached her, all three of us sobbing with relief. But she was on the opposite side of Manhattan to us, and there was no way to reach one another.

We left our hotel, and came outside to the sound of fighter jets flying overhead, the only air traffic. The lack of other planes was almost more strange than the presence of the new strange plane sounds. And we saw the plume of smoke rising from the fires and the collapse, and the jet fuel, and the people, and the World Trade Center itself; those towers, that I, like so many other people young tourists had stood atop one summer, astounded at how big the world was and how small I was, as the sun slowly set over the city.

So we stood, overlooking the river, staring at the smoldering remains, then drove away from the city, down highways, with no traffic headed toward the city other than the occasional fire truck from Pennsylvania, because the bridges and tunnels were closed and all access to the city was gone. And we drove out across the Delaware Water Gap, being diverted from the bridge due to a bomb threat. We disappeared into the mountains, to another hotel room where we spent the next few days, crying, glued to the television, and calling friends and relatives. And the people we spoke to, from Ohio, and from the DC area, which had endure the Pentagon crash, and elsewhere in the country, all had a completely different understanding of what had happened in New York, because all they could see were these crashes through the lens of the television coverage.

And we saw it differently, because we had been there ourselves, and we saw the local news coverage from Pennsylvania, of commuters who days later had not come home, and through the local radio coverage, and through just plain listening to people who had seen what to them, was the unimaginable, and part of their and our lives.

Days later, we drove back down to DC by back roads, looking at the sudden sprouting of American Flags, on pickup trucks, on houses, on businesses. And we also saw the anger, handwritten signs vowing revenge, and killing, and an "eye for an eye", and that single-minded rage and desperate need to take their helplessness and fury out on SOMEONE. Anger looking for a place to unload upon.

Finally we got home to the Washington area the evening most of the restrictions were lifted from the city. We drove past our home, without even discussing it, and drove to the Pentagon, a place I've had family ties to, and yes, even a place I have demonstrated at, concerning American policy in Central America under the Reagan administration. We saw the hole torn in the side, and wept again. No matter how deeply I may disagree with some of what takes place within that building, no one 'deserved' September 11th.

So now, I see September 11th, and all the bottled up rage and frustration it has meant to us as a people, the American people, and I see how it is being used as an 'ultimate justification' for anything. But most particularly how it is used as a 'trigger' for plans that have sat on many a think tank's shelf, waiting, until just the right 'go moment' could be found.

I disagreed with the first Gulf war. I worked in preparation with other non-violent activists, studying the works of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and other resisters to injustice. On the day the bombing began I was at an air force base risking arrest for the first and only time in my life.

Later, I lost a friend in that first gulf war. Not a soldier, just a friend from college whose student loan money had fallen to budget cutting, who had joined the army to try to finish college. It was senseless and stupid and sad. And the world lost a great painter that day.

This time around, I'm not in the streets. I oppose this war with every fiber of my being. Yet I recognize, organizers could put a million people in the streets of Washington and it would not do one thing to change the minds of those who control American involvement in this war. We are in what may later be called by historians a "post-protest era". Not that protests have stopped, but in that their effectiveness must be questioned. The world is currently witnessing what may be the largest anti-war movement(s) in history, but to what effect? And that concerns me greatly; because I wonder what effect that has on some increasingly desperate people who aren't being listened to? Let alone belief in democracy and peaceful mechanisms of social change?

Instead, this time, I watch, as every Internet group I'm a part of begins to pull itself apart at the seams. I watch, as any opposition to this sick, tragic, mistake playing out on television screens is falsely labeled "traitorous" and "un-American". As I'm sure you well know, to question is to receive rebuke.

In the black/white rationalization of "you're either for us or against us" American is pitted against American for nothing other than speaking honestly about our own experiences, hopes and aspirations, our desires, our vision of this country's past and future, and our feelings. This war, not just Afghanistan, or Iraq, this war to end all wars/war to bring 'world peace' / war to 'get the terrorists' is bad for the world, and is bad for our country. It's tearing us apart as a people.

I may be one of the few (if you give any credence to polls, and I don't), but I know only one single person in my entire circle of close friends and family who support what America is doing in Iraq. Our reasons for opposing this war are many and varied.

So here I am, reading news articles; as but one of many examples, I pause to contemplate one article which mentions a French woman whose home is spray painted with hateful graffiti. Yet how dare I expect some Americans to behave any differently, when some of the people 'up on the Hill' are busy renaming French fries (which are actually Belgian) to symbolically erase the French from our national midst?

These are sore winners, in need of a scapegoat, for let's face it, these folks "won," we are at war (despite the fact that the French and most of the rest of the world aren't with us). But they can't be satisfied with that, instead they still need someone to blame. For in this war, the "enemy" is too far away. There is little personal satisfaction in watching Iraqis die on TV, however indirectly. So personal means of satisfying this burning hatred are found, sometimes in a spray paint aisle, other times in arson, the stakes continue to rise from there. These people's anger insists on something within arm's reach to land upon, and the rhetoric coming from Bush himself only feeds that neighbor upon neighbor hatred, for if the French (or anyone else for that matter) are not 'for us' they are 'against us', and thus French neighbors become an 'enemy within' to be dealt with by all TRUE AMERICANS.

On the other end of all the "Freedom Fries" rhetorical blustering and noise are real people, who live in houses, whose neighbors help repaint over the filth, yet who end up individually and personally eating the consequences of this poison.

Which ultimately makes me as disappointed in my American neighbors as I am in some portions of my American government. Somewhere in here, both have lost track of the real people on the other end of their desperate search for a target de jour to unload their frustration and anger onto.

Ultimately, I'm not saying 9/11 was THE root cause, though. There are other 'other-ings' or us/them-ings that have been tearing us apart long before 9/11. Being queer, I know a few things about that personally, and have borne those individual consequences alone. This country has unfortunately, to my eye, at least, been headed down dangerous paths for quite some time now. No, September 11th just provided an ultimate 'go-moment' coupled with the examples being set from The Peoples' House on down to the individual level.

Even though I understand this completely, I am equally helpless, in that other than refusing to shut up, and trying to educate, I am in so many ways, truly helpless to do a damn thing about it. As, most likely are you.

And then there are the potential consequences each and every time we do speak out, that something as simple as this letter could somehow come back to bite me at some future date. But as you have often done, I guess some times, it's just more important to tell it like it is and not allow the threat or fear of possibilities to interfere. There are times when it's important to be on record, even if the individual consequences are great, and there is little hope of real change on the other end of such actions.

In light of that, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for not giving up.

There's so much more, but obviously, I've written more than enough. Likely more than the aide who may open the mail would read, anyway.

So again, thank you for giving whatever voice you can, to people like myself, who feel increasingly isolated, helpless, and silenced day by day.

- Sabina Kneisly

Posted by Lauren Sabina Kneisly at 11:17 PM
March 22, 2003
Domestic fallout: Daughter of French Resistance member targeted

LA Times: Rude Awakening to Xenophobia Comes After 23 Years in America

Posted by Mike Doughney at 05:28 AM
Saddam and France as villains: facts be damned

From the Teen Mania discussion board. Quoted text in bold.


Anyhow I can understand your disbelief of the proof for war. I think there is quite a bit of evidence that the government is not showing the public or the media due to it's sensitive nature.

This is a very poor excuse; it reminds me of the rationale given by some people of why the government hasn't confirmed that UFO's exist.

If such evidence existed, there is no excuse for it to be withheld from the U.N., since that is the body responsible for enforcing its own resolutions - not the US through unilateral action. Not to mention, that that would probably taken care of this little problem of few countries believing the US claims. Releasing that information (if it existed) would place our country at a great advantage compared to the current situation.

Mr. Hussein has already proven that he was in violation of UN mandates. He used 6 SCUD missles yesterday and today, which he already denied possession of.

Citation, please. Just so you know, I've been sitting in front of a TV running CNN for the past two days, sporadically watching MSNBC and BBC World, and scanning the wires and tens of news sources online. So let's go put "scud" in the Google news search engine, and see what references to the current war come out...

Apart from the few small-town papers that are making the same mistake that you are, there has been no mention of these 6 "Scud" missles. Despite the colloquial usage of the word I've heard of among Kuwaitis and soldiers, all missles used by Iraq are not "scud" missles, nor are all missiles banned by UN resolution. As was noted recently before the war began, Iraq is permitted to have missiles with a range of less than 150 km, leading to the destruction of some missles that violated that limit in tests. Television coverage of one of the missiles that landed in the Kuwaiti desert specifically showed and mentioned that it was a rather crude, short-range homegrown missile which Iraq is allowed to possess.

The Los Angeles Times also reported that the claim that a Scud was launched at Kuwait was withdrawn.

The fact is that the UN does not back up it's own resolutions leaving other countries to do the dirty work for them.

Gulf War I was one of many counterexamples. Perhaps you can be forgiven if you're too young to clearly remember that. I personally remember staying in a hotel full of French soldiers in Riyadh at the time, and bumping into personnel from a whole bunch of countries there, working closely with U.S. Central Command.

It's not like that this time; why not?

France is not just a 'fair-weather friend', they are absolutely set on counteracting ANYTHING the US does regardless of the resolution's actual merits.

I would be most interested in how you support this claim. To me, it's much more likely that the French are much more familiar with dealing with the Arab world, are understanding of the culture and the pitfalls of military involvement there, and are simply not willing to go along with an action without firm evidence both that the UN resolution is being violated and that going to war is a necessary and effective way of dealing with the situation.

This is exactly the time when our leaders should be listening to, and not condemning European leaders who just might know what they're talking about. Unfortunately what the Europeans say is inconvenient, and stands in the way of plans that have been cooking for years, as have the UN inspectors, to the point that they've been cast in the media, in one case, as incompetent perverts.

As for the theory of metaphor and it's applicability here, I'll say this: your insistence that "6 scud missiles" were launched and violate the agreement is an expression of the "Saddam as nefarious villain" metaphor, in which Saddam *must* be guilty of violating *every* agreement *all* the time. The facts will always diverge from this cartoonish image, and the assumptions based on that image will at times be wrong, since cartoons shouldn't be confused with real life.

As for Powell's speech and PowerPoint presentation before the Security Council, I saw it live, and it left me saying, "you gotta be kidding - is that all he's got to show?" That was supposed to be a justification for war, and it didn't stack up to that level.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 04:14 AM
March 21, 2003
The War's Unstated Assumptions

Every day or so, I get one of those Nigerian “419” e-mails, offering me my share of a stash of millions of dollars if I’d only team up with some African bureaucrat to transfer their stolen funds out of their country. You’d think that such an obvious fraud, delivered to my e-mailbox with such frequency, would be laughable to everyone. But the fact is that many people fall for this “advance fee fraud,” enough people, apparently, to make it worthwhile for people to send out letters, faxes, and now, bulk e-mail.

What’s not often commented on, is what these little notes say about the people who devised this scam. As some who’ve communicated with them have learned, they believe that Americans are gullible fools, and that we deserve to be taken. These little annoyances in my mailbox are someone’s expression of contempt for the U.S., and an understanding by them that, despite the fact that we live in an educated, wealthy, developed country, some, if not all of us can be easily manipulated, in certain circumstances, by people who have an understanding of our desires and fears.

As the war against Iraq proceeds, as usual I’m trying to explain my gut reaction to it. Having been in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of Gulf War I, I feel a real connection to events, but at the same time, it’s as if this sequel is running backwards, or upside down. Something feels terribly wrong, but what? Beyond the fact that the war proceeds without U.N. sanctions, beyond the possibility that the U.S. has now violated the U.N. Charter; these are all legalities, divorced from any real consequences. Something more basic seems to be missing here.

I had the radio on earlier today; some commentator was on CBS talking about Colin Powell’s testimony before the U.N. Security Council. He was reiterating what Powell presented: tapes of phone calls about unknown things that are to be hidden, facilities that appear to be being cleaned out just before inspectors arrive. As always the inspectors find nothing, but all the activity suggests that something was going on.

After all these months, there still exists nothing but words. The accusation that Al Qaeda was supported directly by Iraq; that caches of anthrax and chemical weapons were never destroyed, so they must be somewhere in Iraq, poised to be used against the rest of the world; that a “reconstituted” nuclear program exists in Iraq, somewhere. I keep waiting to see something concrete that actually supports these accusations; where is it?

In the middle of all this are a bunch of unstated assumptions, which we all might think are sensible assumptions. But we all make certain assumptions about people’s motivations; we often assume others are rational, with a rationality that we can understand. We may be wrong to believe that others, particularly in different cultures and in completely different circumstances, share our assumptions. And from those basic assumptions we form other assumptions about others’ behavior, and if those basic assumptions are wrong, so will be our expectations of behavior.

The prevalent assumptions about Saddam Hussein’s behavior include:

· That he aims to destroy us and other countries if given the opportunity and means.

· That if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, he’d do everything possible to communicate that to others, including inspection teams and the U.S.

I propose a set of counter-assumptions:

· That his primary aims are humiliation, disruption, and demonstrating that the U.S. and Western cultures cannot be trusted, in a way that will persist long after he’s gone.

· That, without the military resources to effectively defend or attack, the Iraqi strategy is to play upon the desires and fears of the United States and others, to accomplish other aims that express retribution for attacks on it during Gulf War I.

I offered the example of the Nigerian letters that play upon the desire for something unlikely to be true, as a means to manipulate and humiliate the mark while gaining something of value, and that’s not necessarily always money. There is a similar dynamic at work here, with the expectation of the existence of WMD underlying U.S. policy and the American cultural response to the call for action against Iraq. Any action against Iraq has been predicated upon the existence of weapons of mass destruction and/or Saddam’s willingness to use them; presumably, no war is necessary if those weapons don’t exist, or Saddam is removed, depending on when you were listening.

What if this war is the product of an elaborate ruse on the part of Saddam Hussein to make the world believe that he possesses weapons of mass destruction, and is prepared to use them, when he actually has none? What are the consequences if, after the invasion is over, no weapons of mass destruction are found?

These are questions that I don’t hear being asked. The impulse is to say that these are silly questions, that of course Saddam is dangerous and he’s not irrational like that, so what’s your problem?

But this war, so we’re told, isn’t based upon some vague idea of Saddam being a bad guy, a dangerous dictator who enjoys slaughtering his own people; there have been, and today are, plenty of leaders like that in the world. War was specifically predicated on the existence of WMD and his willingness to use them. Perhaps Russia, China, France and Germany were simply willing to quibble over this difference between assumption, and concrete evidence. If weapons of mass destruction don’t exist in Iraq – though we’ve been fooled to believe that they do – the United States’ credibility before the world will diminish; perhaps that’s Saddam Hussein’s ultimate goal. The United States will have proudly demonstrated that it’s willing to attack other countries without clear justification, on the basis of a flimsy assumption.

Posted by Mike Doughney at 07:46 PM