Smoke, Mirrors And Red Herrings

by Richard Macintosh

July 21, 2003


"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers."
--Thomas Pynchon

It's the Empire, stupid!

The recent wars in the Middle East -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- are about power, winning elections and a Wilsonian vision -- sometimes called "American hegemony." Within the Middle East, this hegemony also includes the American client state, Israel, who stands to gain the most. All other arguments are "Red Herrings," designed to deceive and send the opposition reeling off on some irrelevant track.

So far it has worked.

Framing the debate determines its outcome. Often framing the debate is centered on what is not. This is particularly so if the ones framing the debate are politicians, or their media stooges.

Rush Limbaugh is particularly good at this, even "with one arm tied behind his back." In all fairness, so was Bill Clinton -- with, or without the cigar.

Articles about finding (or not finding) weapons of mass destruction, or bringing "democracy" to Iraq are useful diversions -- smoke and mirrors if you will. These things are not what the Iraq war was about, nor will they be what the next serial war will be about. One would think that the feckless Democrats would see though this sham -- but with two or three exceptions, such as Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold and Dennis Kucinich, they don't (or won't). If I were a member of the Bush cabal, I would be laughing all day long. It's "full speed ahead" for the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), while the opposition sputters about non-issues.

It would be foolish to think that some members of the opposition do not see what is going on. They, people like John Kerry or Hillary Clinton aren't that dumb, are they? No, probably not. Then why do they go along with the charade? Why aren't they confronting the Bush II administration on the real issues? Could it be that they share the same imperial vision or a slightly modified version thereof?

Of course.

Barring some unforeseen weakness in the Bush camp, why not wait it out and challenge the Republicans in 2008? With luck (and money), he (she) might be the next elected (or non-elected) Caesar. The true power brokers, after all, sit behind and direct the two major political parties. What the majority of American people don't realize is that their president is a figurehead -- a "point man" (or woman), who takes orders and money from the powerful and stays bought. Step out of line, and he (she) will find the same fate as Julius Caesar -- or JFK, as the case may be.

What to do?

Stay focused. Look at the ongoing big picture that includes the machinations of the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, as well as what trans-national corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton are up to. Follow the money and forget the speeches.

Don't be fooled by things that are not central to the administration's agenda:

... The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a great boon for the Empire. It gave the Bush administration an ongoing excuse to wage war anywhere in the world and suppress dissent at home. There is a strong possibility that "War Against Terror" will not end anytime soon. Furthermore, the Bush Administration continues to "stonewall" the congressional investigation into the causes of the 9-11 attack. You would think that the American public would be outraged over this. Wrong! They don't seem to care.

... The bogey man du jour. There will always be one. Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosovic, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein and whoever is next. Unfortunately, a lot of innocent people get killed in these wars (or pseudo-wars), either by the "bad guys" or us. For the dead it probably doesn't make much difference.

... Islamic Fundamentalism. United States government entities (such as the CIA) have used Islamic Fundamentalists when it suits our policies. This was true in Indonesia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. It will be true again.

... Democracy. America has supported many dictators, including Hussein. The last thing the American government wants is self-determination in Iraq -- or perhaps anywhere else. Self-determination for Iraq, or any subsequently conquered country, will not be allowed to occur until the American government approves.

... Freedom (Liberty). Freedom to do what? Vote for whomsoever you wish? Being able to disagree with US policy, as did France, or the Dixie Chicks? Freedom to utilize your own natural resources without US meddling? Ha! When Hell freezes over.

... Protecting America from Terrorism. If our fearless leaders really wanted to protect us from terrorism, they would have to understand the difference between a cause and a result. Well, you can forget that happening. Furthermore, a government who cannot even make their own capitol city safe isn't going to make the country safe with "Patriot Acts," or by blowing the Hell out of a foreign country.

... Women's Rights. Like in, maybe, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or Kuwait?

... Oil. American interests may seek to control more petroleum reserves, but the imperial thrust far exceeds that. It is useful dodge, however, and it keeps the Left focused on an issue that is slightly off the mark.

... Weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We are the ones who have and are still developing weapons of mass destruction (mass murder, actually). Iraq has none. We are also the only country that ever used them (Hiroshima and Nagasaki). President Bush threatens to use them whenever he chooses, and get this: he wants to develop newer and better ones.

... Poison gas and biological weapons. We are the ones who have the poison gas and biological weapons. If Iraq had any -- which is unlikely -- they are old degraded ones that we gave them to use against Iran. We have tons of these lethal weapons stored at a US Army storage facility in Tooele, Utah. It ought to make the people in Salt Lake City nervous.

... The Hitler Look-alike Contest. Can you believe that? Every time our government confronts a bad guy (usually one we put into power), our fearless leaders compare him to Hitler. The fact is that none of the leaders of the Middle East resemble Hitler and not one of the countries in the area remotely resembles the Third Reich. The only country in the Middle East with a military capable of executing a "blitzkrieg" is the State of Israel. (That, by the way, is one of the most sublime ironies of our time.)

Other red herrings include, but are not limited to:

... Faux stories from "experts," never fully identified. Many of these fly around the internet. "An unnamed source claimed Iraq planned the 9/11 attack."

... Faux testimonials from military men, never fully identified. These also fly around the internet. "Gunnery Sergeant O' Toole says. . . Blah, blah, blah.

... Official warnings of impending disasters that turn out to be false (made up). "Orange Alert! Buy duct tape and plastic sheeting for your house!" There are fools who believe these things would protect them? Are you one of them?

... Crying "anti-Semitism" whenever neo-conservative policies are criticized.

... Crying "treason" when people criticize the Bush doctrine of aggressive war against states that have not attacked us, such as Iraq. In so doing, the propagandist links the war against terror to the war against Iraq. These are two separate issues.

Politicians, political analysts and TV talking heads who frame a debate on things that are not are using "smoke and mirror/red herrings" to avoid the real issues. In so doing, an adversary position is deflected into irrelevance. It's a neat trick.

There are neo-conservatives such as Donald Kagan, William Kristol and Richard Perle who frame the debate on real issues as stated in the Project for the New American Century. (1) However, the neo-conservatives chill debate by characterizing opposing viewpoints as Anti-Semitic, Un-American, possibly treasonous, or maybe just plain "wimpy." Such epithets are disingenuous attempts to deflect serious debate.

Example I:  Anti-Semitism. Disagreeing with the Likud policies of Ariel Sharon, or the neo-conservative vision expressed in the Project for the New American Century, does not make a person an Anti-Semite. Furthermore, it is possible to support Israel without endorsing George W. Bush's foreign policy.

Example II:  Treason. Protesting a governmental policy is not treasonous, unless Congress has declared war. Congress did not and has not declared war against Iraq. Furthermore, Congress has not declared war against another country since World War II. Note that.

Example III:  Wimps. General Norman Schwarzkopf, Anthony Zinni, Wesley Clark and Colonel David Hackworth -- men who were against attacking Iraq -- are hardly "wimps." And speaking of "wimps," the sole war veteran in the Bush cabal is Colin Powell. The rest avoided combat on one pretext or another, including George W. Bush, who was AWOL from his National Guard fighter wing for over a year.

Sounding somewhat like Dalton Trumbo, author of "Johnny Got His Gun," Fred Reed, who fought with the US Marines in Vietnam, put the "wimp" label in context:
Spend a year on a casualty ward. When the girlfriend of seventeen from Chattanooga finds that her Mikey is blind and doesn't precisely have a face, her expression is something to see. Or not to see. You can become disposed to ask: Is this war for anything? Or is it just a war?

Mostly they are just wars. Vietnam was just a war. We lost, and nothing happened. You might be surprised how many in the Disabled American Veterans quietly hate those who sent them.* Yes, I will get angry mail, from those fiercest of warriors, the 103rd Combat Virgins Division, grrr, bow-wow, woof, telling that that I am a commie and a coward and wear lace underwear. I'm impressed in advance.

I will be told I have a bad attitude. You bet I do. (2)
Reed's comment reminded me of watching former Chicago Bears' coach Mike Ditka, on TV, respond to a vociferous critic who threatened him over the phone. "Come on down!" he said. "I'm gonna kick your ass!" Needless to say, the guy declined to show up. Grrr, bow-wow, woof! I doubt if anyone from the 103rd Combat Virgins Division" would dare confront Fred Reed, either.

Ha! Wimps! Indeed!

So, what were the assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq all about and what will be behind the next invasion of a hapless Third World country? To recapitulate, there are three things:

   Money. Ruling others for our own economic benefit.

   Politics. Getting elected/keeping your party in power.

   Hegemony. Making sure that no other entity can challenge the U.S.A.

In conclusion, American foreign policy can be summed up in four words:

It's the Empire, stupid!

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References and Resources

1.  Pitt, William Rivers. "Project for the New American Century," The New York Times on line, February 25, 2003.  (back)

2.  Reed, Fred. "War. Maybe we could go bowling instead." February, 2003, Fred on Everything (http://www.fredoneverything.net/cambodia.shtml).  (back)

Iraq on Swans


Richard Macintosh was a Public High School Teacher in California (1956-1989). Ed.D, Educational Leadership, BYU, 1996. MA, Liberal Studies, Wesleyan University, 1982. BA, history, Stanford University, 1956... Macintosh is currently a part-time consultant on Personnel/Team matters in Washington State.

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Published July 21, 2003
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