April 25, 2004
By Raffique Shah
I DON'T know whether US ambassador Roy Austin is familiar with the Trini mollusc we natives call "mook". Being a Vincey by birth and an Yankee by choice, Austin may well be more familiar with lambie. "Mooks" are caught in the mangrove on our shoreline, and because, unlike crabs that would fend off their hunters, "mooks" lie waiting to be caught, they have added their name to our Trini lexicon. So when someone here refers to you as a "mook", they mean that you are supremely stupid.
With the greatest deference to his office, I shall not describe Austin as a "mook". But, as I am sorely tempted to so do. You see, when George Bush, who is both a "mook" and a crook, engaged in his misadventure in Iraq, Roy was busy parroting press releases from the Pentagon. He never bothered if they made sense or were deliberate lies. He was too busy counting articles in the local press that were anti-American. It did not matter if those columns or news stories were factual, or the opinions valid. Like his boss in the White House, one was either "for the US or for the terrorists". No room for independent thinking or freedom of expression.
Now that reputable American journalist and author Bob Woodward has released his newest book, Plan of Attack, I wonder what Roy has to say. Woodward is no Osama or Saddam. He is a patriotic American who rose to fame when he uncovered Richard Nixon's bungled break-in at the Watergate complex where documents from the office of the Democrats were stolen. His revelations led to a major scandal followed by the inquiry and Nixon's resignation that pre-empted his impeachment. In other words, Woodward's superb investigative journalism led to the fall of a powerful president, so this author of more than ten books ought not to be taken lightly.
The revelations in Plan of Attack are so shocking, the book is sure to become a centrepiece of the presidential campaign. Already, John Kerry has begun using it to show Bush and those around him for what they really are, a "Gestapo-type" group of warmongers who would lie, cheat, misinform, do anything evil to achieve their nefarious ends. Even before Woodward's book was published, several investigative writers had noted that while Osama and Al Qaeda were being blamed for the 9/11 attacks, Bush's focus was on annihilating Iraq and making "toast" of Saddam. In this obsession, he had the full support of super-hawk Vice-President Dick Cheney, the VP's adviser "Scooter" Libby, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Note well that Colin Powell's name is not mentioned in this inner circle. Powell, the Secretary for State and third in line only to Cheney, was the most experienced in Bush's Cabinet in things of a military nature. After all, he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 1989-93, the highest appointment any military person could aspire to. Besides, he'd seen active service in Vietnam and later in the 1991 Gulf War. So he was best positioned to advise Bush and his Cabinet on just how feasible or desirable a war with Iraq was. Yet, he was the last man at that level to be told by Bush of plans to fast-track a war with Iraq, whatever the UN arms inspectors may say to the contrary, or whatever the UN itself may decide.
Powell, who was always out on a limb in Bush's Cabinet, was asked for his inputs on possible war back in August 2002. He raised concerns about its potential to destabilise the entire region, its effects on oil prices, on the prospect of an American general running the country. He told Bush: "You will become the government until you get a new government." And later: "You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. It (the war and occupation) is going to suck the oxygen out of everything." As one who will have studied military history, more so occupations and liberation struggles against occupiers and colonisers, he knew well the consequences of such a campaign.
According to Woodward, Bush had briefed Rice in a one-on-one meeting in January 2003 of his decision to go to war with Iraq. She was all gung-ho. After all, like most other members of the Cabinet, she had never faced live fire in the line of duty, nor had she seen the sheer brutality of war.
Cheney, who had served in security positions under several previous presidents, had his own agenda for wanting the war, and his connections with Halliburton may not have been remote in his mind. Another interesting meeting Bush held was with Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar. Because he needed to use Saudi space, he did the unthinkable: he rolled out for Bandar a dossier that was classified "NORFORN", meaning "No Foreign". Bandar's biggest fear was that the Americans would move in and again leave Saddam in place. Cheney, who was present at the meeting, said: "Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast."
In return, Bandar promised low oil prices in the run-up to the presidential elections. Thus far he has not delivered!
As for evidence of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear capability or even links between Saddam and Osama, there was virtually none. The CIA told him as much. The FBI concurred. Even James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger, two former secretaries of state, asked: where's the evidence?
In the end, they took advice from none. Bush simply got Tony Blair to act as his poodle (and Blair's senior military advisor is also reported to have advised against war with Iraq) and went in, head first or missiles first, plunging America into what may well turn out to be its last hurrah. The entire world, the UN Security Council included, was deceived into believing that Saddam was a threat to America (?) and world peace. Taking a badly battered Iraq through war-by-remote-control was no problem. But taking it on the ground is a different ball game, as they have since found out. Now, the big question is how do they extricate themselves from a theatre of war that daily looks more like a slaughterhouse?
Maybe Roy can reread his notes and come up with an answer. He may even be able to sleep comfortably with the putrid propaganda he peddled, with the image of tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly women and children, dying from "liberation". Mook.