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Home > War On Terror

Never mind the quality, feel the fear

9 February 2004

President Bush has set up an “Independent Commission” to examine “American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.”

The commission has already been accused of being biased in the government's favour by some Democrats. House Democrat leader, Nancy Pelosi said:

"We had an opportunity to have a truly independent commission that could have brought fresh eyes to the subject. Instead, we have a commission wholly owned by the executive branch investigating the executive branch."

But what is most worrying about the investigation is not that it will simply provide the executive branch with a whitewash (which of course it will) - what's most worry is the language used by Bush when announcing the setting up of the commission.

When reading this announcement, note the shift in focus away from actual present threats (the kind of threat which could - or should - be determinable by intelligence), towards a hazier, indeterminable future threat: namely the threat of proliferation...

We're also determined to make sure that American intelligence is as accurate as possible for every challenge in the future. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses the most serious of dangers to the peace of the world. Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist or terror regimes could bring catastrophic harm to America and to our friends. It is the policy of the United States government to oppose that threat by any means necessary. Our efforts against proliferation begin with and depend upon accurate and thorough intelligence.

The future holds challenges. Invasions. Bombing raids. Pre-emptive strikes. Foreign policy can become entirely pre-emptive because it is the "proliferation" of weapons that is the threat, not the actual existence of the weapons themselves.

Therefore, a weapons programme can be justification enough for a war. Or the idea that a country might, at some point, develop a weapons programme. Or that they talk funny and wave rifles in the street and shout things about the bitch whore America.

The point is that "intelligence" is being systematically downgraded in importance. The Bush (and Blair) adminstration has learned an important lesson from Iraq: that if you try and justify a war on the basis of hard intelligence, you risk having that intelligence come back and bite you on the arse. By shifting the goalposts into the future - and placing the emphasis on "proliferation" you get rid of the need for actual evidence. And you can focus on intent: the intent to cause "catastrophic harm". The kind of intent that "evil-doers" have.

So instead of poring over satellite photos, you just have to go back to the axis of evil and start ticking off the evil-doers.

Nip the proliferation in the bud.

Speaking of "catastrophic harm" - it's worth noting that the President's language, as usual, is shot through with fear. A brilliant analysis of governmental fear-mongering has been made by Democratic congressman Jim McDermott. In it, he chillingly quotes the words of Hermann Goering:

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

Has President Bush got these fine words hanging on an embroidery on his kitchen wall?

If not, then you know what to get him for Christmas.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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