Conventional wisdom informs us that “weapons of mass murder” in the hands of terrorists is the greatest danger facing the world today. Regrettably, people from both sides of the political aisle accept this pronouncement as though it was a fundamental law of physics. Leftists are just as apt to advocate ratcheting up surveillance, increasing covert operations and circumventing the law to make sure that, as Bush says, “the world’s most dangerous weapons don’t get into the hands of the world’s most dangerous people.”
This could be a mistake. At the very least we should challenge the perceived wisdom and analyze its meaning according to the same principles of justice and security we would apply elsewhere.
There’s no doubt that the highest ranking members of the Bush administration have thoroughly examined the issue of WMD. They have consistently isolated WMD as “the greatest threat facing civilization today.” That may be, but the more likely explanation is that WMD is the most serious obstacle facing the Bush administration’s skewed plan for world domination.
To begin with, these weapons are always developed by governments that claim they are vital to insuring the nations’ defense. By that logic, who would deny the Palestinians the means to defend themselves against the brutish assault of invaders who are now rampaging through their cities destroying anything and anyone who doesn’t fit into Israel’s security blueprint?
Who would deny the people of Samarra the means to defend themselves against a carefully calculated massacre by an occupying army trying to establish military rule over a civilian population?
By any standard, native people should be provided with the wherewithal to deter aggression. If anything, this suggests more widespread use of WMD.
Is this a solution that American liberals would advocate?
Of course not. Instead, they have cast their lot with the religious leaders, pacifists and “hand-wringers” of every stripe who have joined Bush’s campaign to rid the world of WMD.
This is nonsense. Justice must precede safety, and the right to self defense must precede anxiety over bloodier conflicts. The alternative is what we see taking place right now in both Iraq and Palestine. Given half a chance the superior powers have crushed the opposition, stealing land and resources and leaving them in a state of helpless subjugation. How well this matches up with George Orwell’s grim prediction for mankind: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face–forever.”
If Iran had WMD in the form of ballistic missiles, you can bet that the spirit of negotiation would be sweeping through Tel Aviv and Washington right now. Similarly, if Saddam had nuclear weapons, the administration never would have embarked on their murderous campaign. We shouldn’t ignore the implications of these observations. The administration is telegraphing to the world that WMD is the only real deterrent to their global onslaught. (Currently) There’s nothing we can do to change this fact. When public sentiment, democratic institutions and international condemnation fail; what’s left is force or the threat of force. Ignoring this dismal reality invites the brutality we are now seeing on a daily basis in Palestine and Iraq.
To a large extent, the war in Iraq has clarified this issue. The Bush team has abandoned the discretion that was the hallmark of previous administrations. Iraq was a candid display of unprovoked aggression. The intention was to send the world a message that the empire would henceforth be governed by an iron fist. To that end, Iraq’s wealth has been divided up among Bush supporters and cronies with scant attention to the watchful eyes of the world. Prisoners have been locked away and tortured without the slightest regard for conventions, treaties or international law. As the situation has steadily deteriorated, all pretense of “liberation” or “democratization” has been shorn and replaced with raw military might. The “pacification” of Samarra and Fallujah (with their attendant massacres) suggests that the war has entered a new phase that eschews all political solutions, opting instead for West Bank-style repression.
If this is the paradigm of “world order” we are being offered, we need to revisit our conclusions about WMD.
Is there really no greater threat to humanity then weapons in the hands of the wrong people?
Is it a greater threat than 50 or 100 years of Iraq-type interventions to secure the world’s resources and subdue the indigenous populations?
Is it a greater threat than the 1984 world of surveillance and circumscribed liberties that is being constructed for us brick-by-brick by the Bush team?
Is it a greater threat than a system that institutionalizes torture, war and deception to keep wealth and power in the hands of the few?
Most people would like to see a serious reduction, if not a total elimination of WMD. However, this “wishful thinking” does nothing to help us wrestle with the current dilemma. The real question is whether the US monopoly on force is making the world safer and more democratic or tilting the world inexorably towards tyranny. Again, we only need to observe Iraq to make our judgment.
There’s no question that WMD will fall into the hands of terrorists, guerrillas, insurgents, nationalists, liberation fighters or non-state actors. Their urgent need for such weapons will undoubtedly hasten their success in acquiring them. The question is whether that will signal the end of the “client-based” colonial system that currently reigns supreme or drive the species closer to extinction.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: [email protected]