It turned out that his questions are the same ones that countless Americans are asking:
Q: President Bush keeps saying that Iraq is a ”grave threat to the United States.” Why?
A: He no longer tries to explain. The hyperbole of his speechwriters has too often held him up to ridicule. Last fall they had him say, for example, that Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon within a year. The U.S. intelligence communitys judgment is that it cannot do so until the end of the decade — if then.
Q: But wont Iraq give terrorists chemical or biological agents to attack America?
A: The U.S. intelligence community says that Iraq is unlikely to do so, unless it is invaded.
Q: Could it be a personal thing? Didn’t Bush say that Saddam Hussein tried to kill his dad?
A: I’ll leave that one to the psychologists. There are more plausible reasons. One is Israel.
Q: Israel seems to be egging Bush on. Why?
A: As Israel demonstrated when it destroyed Iraqs Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, it simply will not allow Iraq to acquire nuclear weapons.
A: Because the Israelis fear that this could jeopardize their ability to work their will in the lands seized from the Arabs in 1967 and 1973. Hussein or his successor could easily brandish a nuclear weapon and restrict the freedom that Israel now enjoys to do what it pleases in the occupied territories.
Q: Are you suggesting that the Israelis are running U.S. policy toward Iraq?
A: Not ”running,” but certainly heavily influencing. U.S. domestic politics and campaign contributions play a key role here.
Of equal importance, Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon’s civilian leadership share a boy-like admiration for the Israeli generals who have made a career of preemptive attacks. (On Cheney’s office wall hangs an aerial photo of the destroyed reactor at Osirak. He has blessed that attack, even though it was unanimously condemned by the United Nations Security Council as a violation of international law.)
Q: But certainly the Israeli factor does not suffice to account for the Bush administrations policy on Iraq.
A: There is a factor of at least equal importance: oil. Even our 15-year-old grandson could point out how long Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfelds nose grew when he said, “This has nothing to do with oil!”
Consider this: According to the Department of Energy, the United States, with less than 3 percent of the worlds known oil reserves, will have to import 70 percent of its oil by 2025. And Israel is totally dependent on imports for oil. With ”regime change” in Baghdad, nearly a quarter of the worlds oil reserves would fall into the hands of U.S. oil companies.
Lust for this windfall is nothing new. In May 1998, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (now Deputy Defense Secretary), Richard Perle, chair of the Defense Policy Board, Elliot Abrams (a newly rehabilitated National Security Council official) and others with top positions in the current administration wrote this to congressional leaders: ”We should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf — and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power” (for ”vital interests” read oil).
Q: What will happen now?
A: Bushs press secretary has already issued a reminder that the Bush has said that U.N. opposition would not prevent him from leading ”a coalition of the willing” to attack Iraq and that U.S. and British forces are already in position to do so.
Q: Why the great rush?
A: Summer comes quickly to Iraq. The optimum time to attack is now.
Q: But the polls show diminishing support in the United States for war.
A: Public support is still higher than before the 1991 Gulf War. And Bush can count on Americans to rally around once U.S. forces are engaged. In this sense, the polls provide additional incentive to strike quickly to halt the erosion of popular support.
Q: Wont Bush have to justify such an attack to the American people?
A: No. Congress gave him carte blanche last fall. There will be speeches and ”intelligence” to support Bush’s case for war.
CIA analysts so far have resisted unrelenting pressure from Wolfowitz to cook the evidence to the recipe of administration policy. If they do not cave under the pressure, the conjuring up and presenting the desired intelligence will be left to Rumsfeld.
Ray McGovern, a former Army intelligence officer, co-directs the Servant Leadership School, an inner-city outreach ministry in Washington, D.C.