Jay Bookman calls our attention to the cost of the Bush Regime's arrogance toward "Old Europe," as just now their help is being sought to clean up the disaster in Iraq ("Reality in Iraq Requires Help," Atlanta Journal- Constitution, 9/4/03, http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0904-12.htm). The disaster was created over a number of years by the US, under two Bushes and a Clinton. Nevertheless, enthused with their enhanced power after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and some early successes in overcoming the Taliban, the Bush team believed they could "go it alone" adainst Iraq. They rejected widespread opinions that the UN should have more time to search for prohibited weapons in Iraq and that war was not necessary. Considering the US record to date in Iraq, and the recent total rejection by the Bush administration of their pre-war advice, one can hardly blame European leaders for being less than eager to climb aboard, especially with US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Assistant Paul Wolfowitz in the driver's seat.
Looking back, some observers of the Bush administration's decisions on Iraq are reminded of the later stages of the Watergate story and the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Recall when we marvelled at the disconnect with common sense and the apparent isolation of the insiders in the White House. It was as if they saw a very different world than the one being shared across the country and on TV. One book about this lapse in contact was titled The Arrogance of Power:the Secret World of Richard Nixon, by Anthony Summers. Another relevant book on the subject of the distorting effects of arrogance on administrative policy is The Arrogance of Power by J. William Fulbright, which describes the mind-set which led the US into the Vietnam War.
In 1991, when the US had good if not sufficient reason for going to war (Iraq's invasion of Kuwiat) and some justification to push on to Bagdad and require a regime change, we stopped short. And for good reasons: then President (GWH) Bush yielded to the cautions about Iraq being a potential hornet's nest of diverse religious and ethnic rivalries - rivalries which, if freed from the restraints of our former ally Saddam Hussein, could destabilize the region. After the war, with the Iraqi infrastructure, water purification, electric power, sewage systems, all in ruin, the US and the UN devised a set of sanctions which prohibited the import of any dual purpose goods -that is materials which could also be used to aid the military. ( The US insisted the exclusions included Penicillin because it could be used to heal soldiers.) As interpreted by the US, the sanctions, prevented the repair of the damaged infrastructure; in particular, there was no chlorine to run water purification systems. According to UN studies, this effort, led by the US, to use strict sanctions and hardship to provoke popular revolt against Saddam Hussein caused the deaths of at least 500,000 infants and young children - plus many thousands of others. Generally however the Iraqis did not blame Saddam Hussein; they blamed the US - and there was no revolt. In fact there is evidence Saddam's power over the population was increased by the sanctions.
Most recently, justified by bogus reports of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) and immaginary connections to the terrorist organization al-Qaida, the US military destroyed what had been rebuilt of the country's infrastructure and succeeded in forcing "regime change". In doing so, as opponents of the war feared, we opened the can of worms that is Iraq's diversity - and now Bush is begging for UN help putting the toothpaste back in the tube.
It was arrogance which led Bush and Cheney and their advisors to discount and ignore people whose perspective did not agree with their favorite ideological interpretations. This began with the decision to treat the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as acts of war instead of crimes. The subsequent focus of suspicion on Muslims and Arab cultures reflected a mindset in place long before 9/11/2001. "The Clash of Civilizations" by Samuel P. Huntington ( Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993) exhibits much of the elitism of the Bush Regime, and the concepts in that paper were much in the minds of Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as they repackaged their plans for Bush II to invade Iraq (plans which they had developed years before for the then Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu).
Nothing short of absolute confidence in their ideology ruled in the early days of the Bush Regime. Without a popular mandate in the 2000 election and a questionable vote count in Florida and the decisive ruling of the election made by a divided Supreme Court, the White House nevertheless came out roaring. They started with huge tax cuts for the rich and unilateralist rejections of the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming and the International Criminal Court. Revolutionary changes in environmental regulations were also on the table from the beginning. In subsequent pages we will examine the results of arrogance on the Bush government's domestic policies, including the economic agenda that has led to record budget deficits and job losses; for now, the administration's foreign policy is our focus.
Taking full advantage of the patriotic fervor following the 911 attacks, the Regime's arrogance and ideology found expression in the "Patriot Act," wholesale revisions to civil rights protections that had stood for many years. The White House rushed a traumatized nation, transfixed by TV images of the World Trade Center collapse, into a war against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afganistan. This war was mounted with slight deference to the United Nations - which was treated as a silent partner. But, had the 911 attacks been investigated and prosecuted as crimes, the UN, international laws, and the International Criminal Court would have all been strengthened and the unilateralism by the US which has so alienated the world would have been unnecessary.
Then came the decision to implement the plan by Perle/Feith/Wolfowitz to go after Iraq. It could have only been extreme hubris which allowed the Bushies to place absolute faith in their conviction that one and only one thing could be behind Saddam Hussein's refusal to fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors and from 1998 - 2003 to refuse to allow them back into the country. The Bush Regime was absolutely convinced that Saddam's acceptance for over ten years of draconian sanctions rather than cooperate with weapons inspections could only be explained by the fact that he had hidden WMD and programs to develop WMD. It was this article of faith in their reasoning, and not the numerous items of bogus "evidence" of WMD, which led the administration to make its fateful error to go to war.
Was it not consumate arrogance that led the Regime, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, etc., to expect to be welcomed by the Iraqi people as liberators? Did they think the Iraqis had no awareness before the war that there was massive worldwide opposition to the invasion? And that this opposition was out of concern for the stability of the society and the safety of civilians? Were Cheney and Bush expecting to be forgiven for "going it alone", for disregarding all the warnings and protests, and killing and wounding and humiliating and displacing hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis? Could rational men have expected to be forgiven two wars and 12 years of brutal sanctions and welcomed, despite our coming as invaders and occupiers?
Without even getting into the rest of the long, dismal US record in the Middle East, and our precarious relationship to Arabs generally, does it not show monumental, even pathological, arrogance that they expected welcome in Iraq? Compounding the absurdity is their use of a whole list of faked evidence of WMD and terrorist connections to frighten the American people and secure approval from a poll-watching Congress for a discretionary, preventive war on Iraq. Do they have so little respect for the American people that they expect us to swallow such patently false claims as the crudely forged documents pretending to show an attempted purchase of Uranium from Niger? No, "pathological" is not too strong a word for such arrogance.