Sep 182002
Authors: Becky Waddingham

President Bush was none too pleased the other day with Iraq’s announcement that it would discuss allowing United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country. Neither was Donald Rumsfeld.

Pardon me, but I thought that was good news.

While it is true that Iraq’s offer is not perfect, at least it is a step in the right direction. Instead of acknowledging that, instead of recognizing the positive implications of Iraq’s letter to the U.N., the Bush war hawks have taken it as an affront.

It seems as though the president – and a large part of his cabinet – are deliberately leading us into a very unnecessary and potentially very dangerous war. Why?

Democrats have floated several theories. One of my favorites involves election year politics.

Why start the drumbeat on this war now? Why September, a mere two months from the very election that could give the House of Representatives back to the Democrats or the Senate back to the Republicans?

It’s really very simple. The White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, said last week, “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” Read: you don’t draw attention to a major policy or international conflict when a) the president is vacationing on his ranch, and b) when it leaves enough time for voters to tire of the issue. You wait until Congress is back in session and the president is back in the Oval Office.

Pollsters, pundits and politicians all know that traditionally, Republicans fare better in elections during wartime or when there is a chance of war. They also know Democrats are usually favored when the economy is suffering.

This is evident throughout history: look at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s immense popularity after the Depression and look at the widespread support for General Dwight Eisenhower at the beginning of the Cold War.

The economy has not been this sluggish since the early 1990s. The Dow Jones industrial average keeps falling, as do all other major economic indices. Despite this crippling recession, the news continues to be dominated by the seemingly imminent war.

It’s like a smokescreen. The president’s advisers know his party won’t knock ’em dead at the polls if the markets remain this weak, and they likely will for at least a few months. So they divert public attention by calling on the dogs of war.

Or perhaps that isn’t it and I’m just not being cynical enough. Maybe attacking Iraq has nothing to do with election year distractions and everything to do with revenge and some form of neo-imperialism.

Maybe the president is hoping to clean up the mess left by Bush the Elder in 1991, to erase that black mark from his father’s legacy.

Anyone who heard Bush’s speech from Ellis Island on Sept. 11 could not help but marvel at the jingoism that permeated his words.

“Our cause is even larger than our country,” Bush said. “Ours is the cause of human dignity; freedom guided by conscience and guarded by peace. This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind.”

Who are we to proclaim that? It recalls Manifest Destiny, the warped but wildly effective doctrine that justified colonial expansion to the West and the mass murder of American Indians. Imperialism is over; someone remind Mr. Bush.

But I digress. Maybe that isn’t the rationale at all. Maybe Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Bush know something that Colin Powell, Tom Daschle and I don’t. If that is the case, then tell us. The public has a right to know the reasons for sending our technology, our money and our troops back to the Persian Gulf. Right now, I can’t think of any.

Becky is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column appears every Thursday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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