Hawks demand attack on Iraq, troops in Afghanistan
Hawks demand attack on Iraq, troops in Afghanistan
Political war rages over Bush military strategy
By Patrick Martin
1 November 2001
While US bombs and cruise missiles rain down on Afghanistan, another kind
of warfare is taking place in Washington: a bitter internal struggle
within the Bush administration and the political and foreign policy
establishment over the direction and methods to be employed in the
American military onslaught in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The last week has seen a media barrage by those favoring a radical US
escalation of the war. Demands have been raised for the rapid deployment
of ground troops in Afghanistan and for publicly identifying Iraq as a
target for imminent military action.
The conflict over war policy cuts across party lines, with sections of the
Bush administration and some congressional Democrats and Republicans
adopting the more hawkish position, opposed by others, headed within the
administration by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who favor limiting the
war to Afghanistan, at least for now.
These issues are not being broached in open political appeals to the
American people, who have never been consulted in any serious way and are
largely unaware of the active consideration of a second or expanded war.
Rather, the struggle is conducted by means of selected leaks and planted
commentaries in the media, aimed at influencing the narrow circle of elite
opinion-makers in Washington.
The attack-Iraq-now faction wants to find Saddam Hussein responsible for
the anthrax mailings in the United States and use the anthrax scare as the
pretext for a wider war. The Wall Street Journal led off with an editorial
October 18, and a week later the campaign had spread to the television
networks and other daily newspapers.
That anthrax is only a pretext is proven by the fact that many right-wing
commentators were on record favoring war with Iraq before the US bombing
of Afghanistan began and before any anthrax infections were discovered.
The October 1 issue of the journal Weekly Standard carried an open letter
signed by William Kristol, Gary Bauer, William Bennett, Midge Decter,
Francis Fukuyama, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Martin Peretz,
Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, among others. This pronouncement called
for punishing Iraq for the September 11 suicide hijackings, regardless of
whether Saddam Hussein was responsible: It may be that the Iraqi
government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the
United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the
attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its
sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from
Now the same principle is being applied to the anthrax attacks: regardless
of whether Saddam Hussein had anything to do with them, the war on
terrorism requires a war on Iraq.
On October 26, ABC News ran a special investigative report by Brian Ross,
declaring that Iraq had been conclusively linked to the anthrax in a
letter sent to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Ross
reported that the spores found on the Daschle letter were nearly identical
to those discovered in Iraq in 1994. ABC NEWS also has learned that at
least two labs have concluded the anthrax was coated with additives linked
to the Iraqi biological weapons program.
Ross claimed that five well-placed and separate sources have told ABC NEWS
that initial tests have detected traces of bentonite and silica,
substances that keep tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by
preventing them from sticking togethermaking them more easily inhaled....
As far as is known, only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce
Ross has produced more than one television exclusive which served US
interests in relation to Iraq. When he worked as an investigative reporter
for NBC News, he filed a report in April 1990 on alleged Iraqi attempts to
obtain nuclear triggers from Western high-tech firms, a story which
clearly required the tacit or active collaboration of American
Also significant is the identity of one of the reports producers: Chris
Vlasto. He was last in the news when he was identified as a media agent of
the right-wing operatives who engineered the Clinton impeachment. Vlasto
picked up the tab for a celebratory dinner for Paula Jones and her
Christian fundamentalist attorneys the day they succeeded in hauling
Clinton before a grand jury and compelling him to testify under oath about
his sexual history, including answering questions about Monica Lewinsky.
The morning after Rosss ABC News report, the go-slow-for-now faction in
the Bush administration fired back in the Washington Post. A front-page
lead article, co-authored by Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen, began: Top FBI
and CIA officials believe that the anthrax attacks on Washington, New York
and Florida are likely the work of one or more extremists in the United
States who are probably not connected with Osama bin Ladens al Qaeda
organization, government officials said yesterday.
The Post quoted an unnamed senior official to the effect that everything
seems to lean toward a domestic source. Nothing seems to fit with an
overseas terrorist type operation. Investigators probing the anthrax
mailings for the FBI and the US Postal Service were considering associates
of right-wing hate groups among the likely suspects. Some links exist
between fascist anti-Semitic groups in the United States and Islamic
fundamentalists in the Middle East, they said, and at least one white
supremacist group publicly praised the September 11 attack as a blow
against the Jews.
A second Washington Post article on October 30 debunked the anthrax
additive claim. Federal officials said yesterday that the anthrax spores
that infected workers at the New York Post and in the office of Senate
Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) were not mixed with bentonite,
a mineral compound used by the Iraqi biological weapons program to make
the spores more infectious, the newspaper reported.
The chemical findings appeared to support recent hints by various US
officials that Iraq is not a prime suspect in the recent anthrax attacks,
which have killed three and wreaked havoc with the postal system.
As it did throughout the impeachment crisis, the Wall Street Journal
responded to the discrediting of its case by escalating its demands for
action. In rapid succession the Journal published columns by Republican
Senator John McCain calling for the introduction of ground troops into
Afghanistan, by Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman declaring Saddam
Hussein Target No. 2 in the US war effort, and by editorial page editor
Robert Bartley maintaining that Iraq was the only logical suspect for the
The column by Lieberman, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate last
year, was particularly significant in giving a bipartisan coloration to
the campaign for immediate war with Iraq. Lieberman quoted and praised
Bushs historic address to Congress on September 20 and called on the
administration to hold firm to the Bush Doctrine of attacking not only the
terrorists responsible for the World Trade Center attack, but any country
or regime which could be said to harbor them.
Lieberman called on the government to be unflinching in our determination
to remove a uniquely implacable enemy and terrorist, Saddam Hussein, from
power before he strikes at us with weapons of mass destruction, adding,
whether or not Saddam is implicated directly in the anthrax attacks or the
horrors of Sept. 11, he is, by any common definition, a terrorist who must
The same themedamn the facts, full speed ahead against Iraqwas the tenor
of Bartleys column, which criticized bureaucracies at State, Defense and
the CIA for holding back the Bush administration through a pettifogging
concern for evidence on the source of the anthrax attacks. Bartley ended
with the worry that our troops may be bogged down in the snows of
Afghanistan while the main enemy goes untouched.
A day later two prominent neo-conservatives, Charles Krauthammer and
William Kristol, penned columns appearing in the Washington Post that
bewailed the Bush administrations war policy as feckless and
Krauthammer compared the Bush administrations methods in Afghanistan to
those of the United States in Vietnam, repeating the right-wing canard
that the US was defeated in Vietnam because Johnson and Nixon used
insufficient military force. The war in Afghanistan was proceeding with
half-measures, he declared. It has been fought to satisfy the diplomats
rather than the generals.
The United States should ride roughshod over popular opposition in the
Arab and Muslim countries, abandon the pretense of concern over civilian
casualties, and move ahead with maximum force: carpet-bombing of Taliban
troops and Afghan cities with B-52s and B-2s, followed by full-scale
Kristol denounced what he called three self-imposed constraints on the
war: the failure to send ground troops immediately to Afghanistan, the
failure to seek an immediate confrontation with Iraq, and the failure to
capitalize on the anthrax scare for a full-scale war mobilization at home.
He denounced the notion that the anthrax attacks had a domestic source,
criticizing the FBI and CIA officials cited in the Posts own October 27
article. He asked rhetorically, And what signal do we send when our law
enforcement and intelligence agencies desperately try to convince the
press that the anthrax attacks might have no relation to the Middle East?
Brokaw and Rumsfeld
The political significance of such attacks on Bush was underscored the
same evening on NBC Nightly News, when anchorman Tom Brokaw interviewed
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and cited the criticism by Krauthammer
and Kristol. Isnt that the beginning of an unraveling of the political
coalition here at home, if these conservatives are saying that as publicly
as they are? Brokaw asked.
Brokaw made clear his own view of the proper military strategy in the
following extraordinary exchange:
Brokaw: Military analysts that Ive talked to say that we really wont be
successful there until we, the United States, puts in a division-size
force, seize [sic] an airport, make [sic] that the base of operations,
somewhere in Afghanistan, probably in the south would be the first place
to do that.
Rumsfeld : Of course, theres military experts that are on every side of
these issues. And you cite one, but theresfor every one you cite like
that, there are some who have another opinion. That is a perfectly
legitimate position that youve outlined. It is certainly something that
people consider and discuss and has happened in other venues.
The right-wing attacks on the Bush administration are characterized by a
note of panic, bordering on hysteria. Kristol, for instance, wrote, Now,
we face the threat of the Talibans continuing in power through the winter.
This would be something close to a disaster. It would convey an impression
of American weakness.
Underlying this desperation is a recognition that domestic public support
for the Bush administrations intervention in Central Asia, while
superficially broad-based, is very thin. The onset of a full-fledged
recession in the United States, or serious military reverses, could
rapidly reveal the isolation of this government, whose origins lie in a
stolen election, and whose social policies are deeply unpopular.
Bush aides push war with Iraq
FBI says none of 80 daily threats linked to al-Qaeda
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