George W. Bush’s “State of the Union” Address, January 28, 2003

 Part V


The US’ “War on Terror” and Iraq

American imperial desire for political, military and economic preeminence is the cause of violence unleashed against those considered to be evil and enemies of the American system of peace and freedom. The new “imperial grand strategy” presents the US as “a revisionist state seeking to parlay its momentary advantages into a world order in which it runs the show,” a “unipolar world” where “no state or coalition could ever challenge” the US as global leader, protector and enforcer of its form of peace and freedom. The US violence against evil and enemies of this system, masqueraded as sacred violence, has been carried out either by itself, or through its faithful agents such as dictators and terrorist organizations. As a consequence, death and destruction have always been suffered on foreign lands. However, this trend shifted on September 11, 2001, when, for the first time since the British burned down Washington in 1814, the US experienced death and destruction on its land through an enemy attack. G.W. Bush, in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003 recognized this: “In two years, America has gone from a sense of invulnerability to an awareness of peril.” This challenge to its dominance and attack on its land resulted in a sacrificial crisis, which in turn generated scapegoat mechanism. In order to exterminate or subjugate the enemies of the American system of peace and freedom, G.W. Bush started the “war on terror”. Therefore, the US’ “war on terror” is nothing but a sacrificial violence against enemies of the American imperial system of peace and freedom.  

Since the “war on terror” is a sacrificial violence, enemy of the imperial peace and freedom is to be marked as a sacrificial victim in order to unify people for the sacrificial violence, and also to prevent any reprisals. The proper function of the sacrificial process requires a complete separation of the sacrificial victim from the world community. As the gulf between the victim and the world community is increased, the victim will not be able to draw violent reprisal, the repetition of mimetic violence. That is why G.W. Bush in his State of the Union speech, by concealing the “real intentions” of the war on Iraq, portrayed Saddam Hussein not only as a threat to the MiddleEast and the world, but also as an enemy to the people of Iraq: “A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States.” The essential marks of Saddam as a sacrificial victim were: an outlaw regime and a brutal dictator with a history of reckless aggression, a tyrant comparable to Hitler and Stalin, whose ambitions of cruelty and murder have no limit, links with the al-Qaeda, and possession of weapons of mass destruction. Bush wondered, “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.” He reminded God’s chosen people (Americans) about their divine mission against such a dictator and his evil regime: “we are called to defend the safety of our people, and the hopes of all mankind.” Bush presents American invasion of Iraq as an act of liberation for the Iraqis: “Tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: your enemy is not surrounding your country; your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.” Here Bush is trying to create a wedge between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis, thus safeguarding against any reprisals. He poses the conflict as a struggle between good and evil. In order to purge Iraq of evil, it requires lethal violence. Bush invokes God to justify US use of lethal violence.

Saddam’s portrayal as evil and enemy of the world community and the people of Iraq breaks social link between Saddam, and the Iraqis and the world community. This delinking of the sacrificial victim from the wider world would expose him to sacred violence without any fear of reprisal. Violence against the world enemy is a “good” violence because it brings peace, security and freedom not only to the people of Iraq, but also to the entire world.

The “distinguishable marks” of Saddam Hussein as evil, enemy and threat to the world peace, security and freedom were reiterated again and again to the public by political leaders and pundits, and the corporate media. Since September of 2002 there has been a massive, conscious effort to convince not only the Americans, but also the world community about Saddam Hussein. The US government, political leaders and pundits, and the corporate media have been engaged in a campaign of demonization of Saddam Hussein. They have bombarded the American public with a stream of propaganda designed to prey on fears fostered by the bombings on September 11, 2001. They magnified the threat of Saddam. Initially the propaganda was focused on the “stockpiles” of chemical and biological weapons that Iraq was allegedly possessing. On August 22, 2002 Dick Cheney said, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction”; September 12, 2002 Bush reiterated, “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons”; and October 5, 2002 Bush repeated: “Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons…We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons – the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”

G.W. Bush in the State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003 declared: “The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people…The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure…Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands…U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents…From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors.”

What is evident in all these statements was the certainty of allegations. There was no room for any doubt about or debate on the allegations. Bush, Cheney and others were certain of what they were saying, because it was the US that supplied these weapons of mass destruction to Saddam during the 1980s. So the question for the Bush administration was how to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destructions that the US has supplied.

The combined voice of the government and the corporate media drowned dissenting voices, and programmed the public mind to go along with the state agenda. The corporate media played as the chief instrument of state propaganda. It created the momentum for the invasion of Iraq. On September 8, 2002 The New York Times published a front-page article by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller entitled “US Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts.” They alleged that Iraq attempted to purchase aluminum tubes for developing nuclear weapons. This article was used by the Bush administration to help make the case for invading Iraq. On that same day a host of higher government officials appeared on the media using the article to make a public relations campaign. Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, hosted by Tim Russert and said: “There’s a story in the New York Times this morning. This is — and I want to attribute the Times. I don’t want to talk about, obviously, specific intelligence sources… It’s now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire, and we have been able to intercept and prevent him from acquiring, through this particular channel, the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge. And the centrifuge is required to take low-grade uranium and enhance it into highly enriched uranium, which is what you have to have in order to build a bomb.”

Condoleezza Rice said on CNN: “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he (Saddam) can acquire a nuclear weapon. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Bob Scheiffer, former CBS 6.30 p.m. News host, on Face the Nation reiterated: “We read in the New York Times today a story that says that Saddam Hussein is closer to acquiring nuclear weapons. Does he have nuclear weapons? Is there a smoking gun here?” Thus, the government and the corporate media joined together in one voice to convince the public to join the US’ sacrificial violence against Iraq. 

The New York Times story had initiated a more serious allegation of nuclear weapons. G.W. Bush had pointed out this allegation in his State of the Union address: “The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. “ 

During a Pentagon press briefing on January 29, 2003 Donald H. Rumsfeld, former US Defense Secretary, said that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. The United Nations inspections teams found the proof of those following the Persian Gulf War. Iraq had a working plan for nuclear weapons and was within six months of developing an atomic device. Rumsfeld also accused Saddam Hussein of using chemical weapons against his neighbors and his own people.

Thus, the Bush administration and the corporate media heightened the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in order to rally public support with gripping fear about their own existence. The administration was actually rallying support for “preventive war” against Iraq. To justify targeting Iraq and to dress up their motives in the language of terrorism prevention, the Bush Administration devised the principle of “preventive war”. According to the National Security Strategy published in September of 2002, the US should strike against hostile states and terrorist groups, acting “against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.” Commenting on this new US doctrine,

Noam Chomsky said: “It presented a novel and extreme doctrine on the use of force in the world. The new doctrine was not one of preemptive war, which arguably falls within some stretching of the U.N. Charter, but rather of something that doesn’t even begin to have any grounds in international law, namely, preventive war. The doctrine, you recall, was that the United States would rule the world by force, and that if there is any challenge perceived to its domination, a challenge perceived in the distance, invented, imagined, whatever, then the U.S. will have the right to destroy that challenge before it becomes a threat. That’s preventive war, not preemptive war.”

G.W. Bush had categorically expressed the US doctrine of “preventive war” in his State of the Union speech: “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”

Two weeks before American “preventive war” against Iraq began, Bush called a press conference and said, “Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It’s a country that trains terrorists. It’s a country that could arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country.” About a dozen times during this press conference, Bush invoked the bombings in New York and Washington and al-Qaeda to justify a preventive attack on Iraq.

As a result of the continuous bombardment of the same message about Saddam Hussein by a coordinated campaign of the Bush administration and the corporate media, a majority of Americans came to regard Saddam as an imminent threat to the US. Josef Goebbels had this dictum: “If you say something often enough, the people will believe it.” Soon almost half of the American public believed that Iraq was behind the bombings in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. When the US invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42% of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. According to the ABC News poll, 55% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported al-Qaeda. All of it was based on insinuation, falsehood and deceit circulated by the US government and the corporate media. Herman Goering, a Nazi, said, “People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders…All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

The American public, in general, never questioned the authenticity of the story about Saddam Hussein and Iraq circulated by the US government and the corporate media. Before the bombings on September 11, 2001, the story of the Bush administration about the Iraqi former president was different. Both Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, and Condoleezza Rice, then Adviser of President G.W. Bush, made clear that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to America, Europe or the MiddleEast. On February 24, 2001 in Cairo, Powell said that “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.” On May 15, 2001 Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to “build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction (for) the last 10 years.” America, he said, had been successful in keeping him “in a box”. Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenseless Iraq: “Saddam does not control the northern part of the country. We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.” This reveals that the Bush administration knew all along that Saddam Hussein did not pose any threat to the US and the world. But they turned this weak and defenseless target, for the sake of the US self-interests, into an awesome threat to the US, MiddleEast and the world. Consciously and purposefully the US (and its allies) had selected someone who was weak and defenseless to be a sacrificial victim for American sacred violence.

The participation of the public mimetically in the sacred violence of “preventive war” against Saddam Hussein and Iraq was expressed by the public frenzy and euphoria at the sight of death and destruction in Iraq. The media embedded with the American troops brought into American homes scenes of American bombs exploding on Iraqi public and private property causing deaths and destruction. These were shown as the signs of victory over evil. Bush in his State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003 clearly stated that military victory would bring peace in Iraq: “Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces…the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and American believes in you.”

The victorious signs were paraded by the corporate media throughout America to the cheering American public. The climax of this victorious parade was the American media coverage of the hanging of Saddam Hussein. This celebration of Triumph was a sacrificial ceremony, a metonymy of war and victory, where the entire American populace participated mimetically in the killing of sacrificial victims. Thus, the American public has partaken mimetically not only in the US military violence, but also in the victory over enemy, thus in bringing peace.


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