The Dogs of War
By Sam Husseini
Is the White House moving towards bombing Iraq to distract from the Lewinsky matter, following the script of the film Wag the Dog? Or does the media's fervent pursuit over Lewinsky illustrate how servile the media are on Iraq?
As journalists parse every utterance by administration officials regarding President Clinton's alleged promiscuity - and then flog themselves for their own compulsiveness - rationales for the US's Iraq policy go unchallenged. The administration's claim that it is working tirelessly for "Mideast peace" even as it revs up the missiles elicits few queries.
While the President is hounded about his personal affairs, little scrutiny is given to the effects of the sanctions on millions of innocent Iraqis.
Just as the Lewinsky story was breaking, 54 US Bishops sent a letter to Clinton voicing their "profound moral concerns about the US-led sanctions against the people of Iraq. In conscience, we urge you to call for the immediate lifting of the sanctions by the UN Security Council, to end all US support for these sanctions, and to refrain from any military action in the current dispute."
Such critics of US government policy are rendered all but invisible on TV, as we are told that there is American unanimity here. Clinton and Gingirch agree -- could there be a debate? At least in Wag the Dog, there was an actual opposition party.
The media are watchdogs - or attack dogs - on Clinton when it comes to his personal life, but they are lapdogs on Iraq.
Assaults on Iraq during and since "Desert Storm" were much less accurate than claimed. Still, reporters like John McWethy of ABC News, who falsely fingered Arabs for both the Oklahoma City bombing and the TWA 800 crash, are devouring stories of glorious new missiles that will destroy chemical facilities without harming civilians. No questions asked.
And UNSCOM head Richard Butler is treated with a deference Ken Starr must envy despite his provocative comments about the prospect of Iraq blowing away Tel Aviv as well as bigoted statements about Arabs being devious.
Some of us did not have to wait for George Bush to discover in 1990 that Saddam Hussein was a rabid dictator. Crimes now cited by politicians and pundits as reason for war - gassing the Kurds and Iranians - were committed by Hussein while he was in many ways a US ally. Hussein did not use weapons of mass destruction during the Gulf War, though he clearly had the opportunity.
Most everyone agrees that the President is not above the law. Yet, even as the US demands that Iraq abide by every twist and turn of UN dictates, the US undermines the UN consensus, avoiding negotiations, pushing for war and insisting on the economic sanctions even as the international community seeks to ease them.
Will the US lose credibility if it does not strike? That is already occurring, as the US turns a blind eye to Israel's 200 nuclear weapons and Israel and Turkey's violations of UN Security Council resolutions. A dwindling few leaders worldwide take statements of US principle seriously. Rather, deals are likely being cut with other nations so the US military can have its way in Iraq.
Jobs at Revlon are small potatoes.
Any inconsistency in the intern scandal is quickly highlighted, but can anyone keep up with the administration signals on when it will lift the economic sanctions? Will it be when the inspectors are allowed back into Iraq? Or when they are allowed into "the palaces"? Or when Iraq abides by all UN resolutions, including paying hundreds of billions in reparations? Or when Hussein is overthrown? Or never?
In the narrow media debate, some pundits advise slaying Hussein. Others, ignoring the current sanctions policy, a cruelly blunt instrument which has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, argue that assassination would be "immoral." A journalistic pack howls for war as cruise missile bombings are dubbed "pinpricks." One wonders how that would sound if one of our cities were struck by one. And the meager "oil for food" deal does more to make policy makers feel good than ordinary Iraqis.
If President Clinton does decide to attack Iraq to divert from the allegations regarding Lewinsky, it will in fact bear no resemblance to the movie Wag the Dog where a war is faked. The missiles will be quite deadly, the blood will be all too real.
Sam Husseini is Media Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.