It has been apparent to all but the purblind--a defect in understanding assiduously cultivated by America's mass media--that the war United States is ready to wage against Iraq has almost nothing to do with its security.
In an age when the people believe that their voices must be heard, the United States must sell its wars the way corporations sell their products. In the past, the people were asked to lay down their lives for visions of glory; now, governments appeal to their self-interest. The first Gulf War had to be fought to protect American jobs. If Saddam Hussain stayed in Kuwait, he would raise the price of oil, and Americans would lose their jobs.
The argument this time is different. It had to be weightier than any fear of losing jobs. This new war seeks regime-change; it involves greater risks. American forces must invade Iraq, defeat the Iraqi army, occupy Baghdad, and stay around, even indefinitely. Americans understand that "regime-change" is serious business. They would not back this war unless Iraq threatened American lives. That explains why the war against Iraq had to supersede the war against terrorism, and why Saddam replaced Osama as the new icon of America's loathing.
This substitution was quite easily executed. Most Americans take the President at his word when he talks about foreign enemies; this trust comes more easily when a Republican occupies the White House. George Bush told Americans that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction, and he had to be stopped before he could transfer them to Al-Qaida. (Why hadn't he done this already?) For many Americans, it was an open and shut case. Saddam had to be removed.
The flaws in this argument did not matter. If Saddam hadn't used WMDs during the first Gulf War--when his army was being pummeled--why would he use them now? The CIA warned that a war, or the threat of it, would increase the risk of Iraq using WMDs. Others, like Scott Ritter, a former chief weapons inspector for the UN, pointed out that Iraq did not have any WMDs that mattered. More than 90 percent had been destroyed by inspectors; if any escaped, they would be past their shelf life. At least initially, few Americans gave any credence to these doubts, though that has been slowly changing.
Why then is United States straining to go to war against Iraq?