The Green Papers Commentary
 

COALITIONS OF THE WILLING AND THE UNWILLING
Random Musings about a possible War with Iraq

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
TheGreenPapers.com Staff

"But arms alone are not enough to keep the peace- it must be kept by men. Our instrument and our hope is the United Nations- and I see little merit in the impatience of those who would abandon this imperfect world instrument because they dislike our imperfect world. For the troubles of a world organization merely reflect the troubles of the world itself. And if the organization is weakened, these troubles can only increase. We may not always agree with every detailed action taken by every officer of the United Nations, or with every voting majority- but, as an institution, it should have in the future, as it has had in the past since its inception, no stronger or more faithful member than the United States of America."--

President JOHN F. KENNEDY in his Second Annual Message [i.e. 'State of the Union' Address] before a Joint Session of the 87th Congress of the United States, 11 January 1962


Before I go on to a handful of issues related to the growing potential of a war with Iraq which will be the primary focus of this Commentary, permit me to reiterate the basis of my contention- already stated in a Commentary of mine dated this past 11 October- that the Charter of the United Nations, insofar as it does not conflict with the Constitution of the United States of America, is part and parcel of "the supreme Law of the Land" of the United States in the letter, as well as the spirit, of Article VI, clause 2 of that Constitution, the first portion of which reads as follows:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land...

In order to most fully understand the concept of which I have just written, we have to clearly understand just what the Framers of the U.S. Constitution meant when they were speaking of this "supreme Law of the Land"-- to best discern this, we have to also understand that there were two trains of political thought which came together in the eventual language of Article VI, clause 2 as it relates to the Treaty-Making Power of the Federal Government:

The first train was the generality of the Framers' concept of just what might have been implied by the very term "constitution". We Americans, all these decades later, are rather used to the political theory of a written Constitution as the basic frame of government and most fundamental of laws in Republican Democracy: indeed, few countries in the world today(whether fully independent Nation-States or self-governing dependent territories)- comparably speaking- still operate under largely unwritten Constitutions. Thus, we so often tend to forget that- in the Framers' day- a written Constitution in the sense in which we might now understand it was still something of a novelty; pretty much the only written Constitutions in existence back in 1787 were those of the 11 of the 13 States (Connecticut and Rhode Island finding themselves able to still function under their colonial Charters for the time being) which suddenly found themselves having to draft such documents in the immediate wake of independence only a little over a decade earlier.

There is a basic element within statutory construction (that is, discerning the intent of a legal provision through analytical interpretation of its meaning) that is best expressed- insofar as the U.S. Constitution is concerned- by the following quote:

It is fair to conclude that if the men who framed the Constitution expected it to be done, then they intended it.-

David Hutchison, THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION [1928]

Likewise, as I myself noted in the aforementioned Commentary posted on this website back on 11 October 2002, "what did the Framers themselves know?... or, to be more accurate, what could the Framers have known?-- dismissing at once from a reasonable appraisal of their understanding of the words they were putting to parchment any concepts they could not have either considered or, at best, surmised as perhaps being a likely product of their very near future".

In the politicolegal system with which the Framers were most familiar- that of the Common Law inherited from England during the colonial period (the very system that most colored the semantics, nuance and syntax of the language that pervades the text of the U.S. Constitution), the "constitution" of a Nation-State was made up of the entire Law (both legislated [that is, statutory] and "judge-made" [that is, derived from the application of previously existing Law to a case or controversy heard in a court of Law]) and any Treaties negotiated with other Nation-States by the Ministers of the Sovereign Power in the name of that Sovereign Power; the "constitution"- that is, the "supreme Law of the Land" (that portion of the Law that was held to be superior to any other portions of the rest of that body of Law)- of a Nation-State was, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, perceived as being more than any single written instrument (and any such written instruments as had existed during the colonial period were mere statutes that could be altered or repealed by the law-makers or, in the case of the colonial charters [in effect, the written "Constitutions" of each self-governing colony of the British Empire], a written grant by the Crown that could be repealed, altered or replaced at any time by the Crown): in other words, back in the late 18th Century, the "constitution" of a state (whether independent or merely an autonomous dependency of another Nation-State) included- but was not exclusively limited to- the elements of what would be included in a written Constitution of today.

In effect, among all that Article VI, clause 2 was intended to do was the intention (based on the Framers' own knowledge and experience) to make sure that the "constitution" of the new Federal Union was not, in fact, perceived as being merely the words of the written instrument in which this particular clause happened to be contained. The U.S. Constitution itself was, therefore, to be merely one part of a larger "constitution" of the United States of America, which would also include Federal Law (statutes passed by Congress plus rules and regulations issued by executive Departments and, later, independent quasi-legislative Agencies authorized under such statutes) as well as any and all Treaties negotiated with other Nation-States by the President or his diplomatic representatives (so long as such Treaties would come to be ratified by at least 2/3 of the U.S. Senate).

It would be later generations of Americans who would come to claim that the real politicolegal revolution created by the Constitutional Convention was the establishment of a written document that alone was the Nation's "constitution" in and of itself. But that is not how the Framers would have seen it: to their minds, their "revolution" was more limited in its scope- being that of having come up with a written document that was to be paramount to the other portions of what, to them (as Article VI, clause 2 itself makes clear), was still- in essence- all part and parcel of "the supreme Law" of the United States of America: in other words- unlike the English "constitution" which was merely, in the end, just one part of Law in the then-still-young British Empire (and could thus be fundamentally altered by a statute passed by a bare majority of Parliament)- the American Constitution (that is, the document alone) was to be that part of the supreme Law of the Land which could not be altered by mere statute; nevertheless- as the Framers seemingly made clear in its Article VI, clause 2- it was still to be only one part of what constituted that very supreme Law of the Land! A written Constitution was, of course, paramount- supreme among the supreme: this was among the essential core of the political revolution the Framers here unleashed upon the world back in 1787; but Treaties were also- along with Law- made as much supreme as any other part of the new Federal Union's "constitution" (thus, the Framers were not being all that revolutionary).

Thus, the second train of political thought, involving the specifics behind the Treaty-making Power per se being accorded to the new Federal Government by the Framers' document: the Framers were quite concerned about the fact many of the States had passed laws (under the influence of the mostly Upcountry "localists" who would soon form much of the Antifederalist faction against ratification of the Constitution and, later, form much of the backbone of the 'old' Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson) that more or less nullified key portions of Treaties already negotiated by the nascent United States of America operating under the Articles of Confederation- particularly those portions of the Second Peace of Paris of 1783 which would, for instance, still allow British creditors to collect from American debtors (such debtors living largely in the very "localist" Upcountry that would become the engine behind Antifederalism). Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts the year before the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia was largely a revolt of debtor farmers against their creditors (foreign as well as domestic) and the "cosmopolitans" who dominated the Convention specifically wanted to make sure that the new Federal Government they were creating had the power to enforce Treaties- as well as its own laws- over the States.

There was no little argument, in the course of the debates over Ratification of the Constitution in the year following the adjournment of the Convention, regarding just how novel it- indeed- was for the Framers to have, thus, included Treaties among the Law (what, at the time, was referred to as the "Municipal Law" [in a sense broader than the current usage of the term "municipal", where it applies primarily to local self-government, where not also home rule, of non-sovereign Civil Divisions: at the time, the term "Municipal Law" much more implied the internal Law of an autonomous, if not wholly independent, sovereign State- as opposed to the "Law of Nations" (what we today call 'International Law'); Municipal Law was- by its very adjective (Latin, muni[a] "duties" + cipium "that which takes"-- hence, "that which takes [up] duties"-- "self-determination")- an assertion of political sovereignty (also already well addressed in my 11 October 2002 Commentary on this website), while the "Law of Nations"- even more so than today- was largely determined by mere custom and usage among and between competing sovereignties in those pre-Geneva/Hague Convention days]). The "localist" Antifederalists- seeing clearly the "game" their "cosmopolitan" Federalist adversaries had played in Article VI, clause 2 of the document- tried to use this novelty as an argument against the concept's implementation: Patrick Henry, the one-time Patriot firebrand now moved to speak for the Antifederalist cause on the floor of the Virginia Ratifying Convention of June 1788, saw this making of Treaties into Municipal Law on the Federal level (and, thus, superior to the Law of the several States) as "unprecedented"- opining that "Treaties were to have more force here than in any part of Christendom" (thereby making the claim that Article VI, clause 2- as applied to Treaties- went well beyond the then-current state of International Law).

James Madison, leading the Federalist charge in that same ratifying body, responded by referring to Blackstone's Commentaries [I, 257] where it was written that all due privileges accorded under the Law of Nations "are now held to be the law of the land, and are constantly allowed in the courts of common law": it was also noted that the Confederation [that is, Continental] Congress- frustrated, in the months immediately prior to the convening of the Philadelphia Convention, in its attempts at enforcing Article Nine of the Articles of Confederation (which read, in part: The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of... entering into treaties and alliances...) against the States- clearly intended that the Constitutional Convention it specifically authorized "for the purpose of revising the Articles" address this particular and rather intractable problem. After all, a year almost to the day earlier [19 June 1787], Madison himself had been the very one to complain- on the floor of the Constitutional Convention itself- that legislative enactments by the States in violation of Treaties negotiated and accepted by the Confederation Congress were beginning to weaken the very existence of American independence: "The files of Congress contain complaints already, from almost every nation with which treaties have been formed. Hitherto indulgence has been shown to us: this cannot be the permanent disposition of foreign powers. A rupture with other powers is among the greatest of national calamities: it ought, therefore, to be effectually provided that no part of the nation shall have it in its power to bring them on the whole."

History records that Patrick Henry and his fellow Antifederalists lost the argument, that James Madison and the Federalists prevailed in Virginia and, of course, the "Old Dominion" went on to become one of the constituent States of the new Federal Union (even providing it with 4 of its first 5 Presidents, including Madison himself). Thus, Treaties were- by the language of Article VI, clause 2 of the new Constitution- specifically to be given the same status as Federal Law (whether statutory, regulatory or judicial in origin): such Treaties were primarily intended to be superior to State Law, just as Federal Law was to be-- with the caveat that such Treaties, or specific provisions thereof, had to be constitutional per se: that is, not at all repugnant to the U.S. Constitution in and of itself, but such Treaties "made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States" were- so long as they were constitutional- to be as much a part of the larger Federal "constitution" (supreme Law of the Land) as any other portion of overall Federal Law. There appears to be no historical underpinning whatsoever for any claim that Treaties are somehow greatly inferior to Federal Law in the pyramid of American Jurisprudence.

Yet, in this country, there seems to have- over time since the Federal Government was first organized in 1789- developed a rather haughty attitude, both within the American political system in particular as well as the larger American culture in general, that the United States abides by Treaties primarily because it chooses to do so and, as a result, there often seems to be an air of moral superiority about the American approach to the enforcement of Treaties to which the United States is a party. In the American psyche, so it appears, we tend to see the "low-lifes" of History- political personages filled with abject moral turpitude (such as an Adolf Hitler... or a Saddam Hussein)- as the very types who would, if not outright violate- at least attempt to thwart- the implementation of the provisions of Treaties to which they are a party, something that the United States of America would never do-- but, of course, not at all because we might be required to do so by International Law but because we- being ethically above the Hitlers and Saddams of the world- choose to live by our promises.

This theory of choice in the matter of Treaty enforcement has allowed the United States of America to consistently advance its historical claim that it is the at least one shining beacon to the rest of the globe on behalf of the Rule of Law (which, by the way, presumably [given Article VI, clause 2] would also include "the Rule of Treaties") while, at the same time, all too often being- in practice- not all that much less arbitrary in its application and enforcement and obedience to Treaties than had been any other major "player" on the scene during the heyday of the so-called "Great Powers" a century or more ago. Being the sole surviving 20th Century Superpower, indeed, means never having to say you're sorry... unless, of course, you might actually choose to do so!

Of course, this idea of choice tends to so often unnecessarily complicate American Foreign Policy: for, if you come to feel you have chosen to do something, you can then- by definition- also choose not to do it. Further, politicians and diplomats acting on behalf of the We, the People of the United States have often invoked this concept of choice as a way to gain otherwise dicey support for a particular alliance or agreement between the USofA and one or more of its fellow Nation-States: there has quite often been, throughout American Diplomatic History, that wink and nod- perhaps even with fingers crossed behind the back- as Treaties are negotiated, signed and ratified on behalf of the United States, followed by the all too convenient political fiction that "we can, of course, always reinterpret its provisions in our favor" or that "in the end, it doesn't really mean what it seems to say" used to firm up the votes of lukewarm supporters of this or that American diplomatic initiative. We even see such things going on today as the United States pushes for a second resolution re: Iraqi disarmament from the Security Council, one that we hope can thereafter be read to justify an American military response to a violation of such a resolution- but one that will probably still be written in such terms so that, say, France won't be compelled to veto it. We chastise France for perceived diplomatic chicanery behind its refusal to be so gung-ho about a war in Iraq, yet is the United States really all that much better than France in this game? The Rule of Law- hence, again, "the Rule of Treaties"- should mean that Treaties- including the Charter of the United Nations, including any and all Resolutions adopted by any of that organization's organs, including the Security Council- mean what they say! To claim anything less is to undermine the very essence of the concept behind the words "Rule of Law".

It is true that the United Nations is a somewhat flawed organization (though it is certainly, by any reading of its history, a damn sight better than its predecessor, the League of Nations). One of its major flaws is inherent in its very aims: Article I of the UN Charter states- at the outset- that

The Purposes of the United Nations are: [among others] [t]o maintain international peace and security...

Problem is: 'peace' and 'security' are often widely conflicting goals; one could well argue that the predecessor League of Nations had actually floundered as a result of just such a conflict among its purposes.

Furthermore, while Article 51 of the Charter states that

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations...

this is only

until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security...

Under the language of Article 51 (by which the United States is, as already noted, bound by Article VI, clause 2 of its own Constitution), once we have gone to the UN Security Council we have- however temporarily (for as I already noted in the final paragraph of my 11 October Commentary, we do not [indeed, constitutionally, cannot!] do so permanently)- voluntarily surrendered our right to so unilaterally defend against an armed attack. There was no question (except among the governments of a very few Nation-States that could best be described as "unabashed malcontents"-- including, by the way, Iraq) that- even under the provisions of the UN Charter- the United States had every right to respond militarily (as it continues to respond) to the horrific events of 11 September 2001, on its own if need be; clearly, September 11th was an "armed attack" in the spirit of Article 51, even though it happened to be carried out by agents of the shadowy, "quasi-government" known as Al-Qa'eda rather than by a "Westphalian" Nation-State of the currently conventional form.

But where is the "armed attack" from Iraq against which we can currently claim self-defense? Instead, we would be so much the better served- if a war with Iraq is to be justified- to more firmly rely on the fact that what we will- likely as not- be doing militarily in Iraq in the very near term is going to much more be in the guise of enforcing the Peace for which Saddam Hussein himself once sued back at the end of February 1991. For Iraq has, no doubt, not only violated the terms of this Peace at every turn for the past dozen years but has also violated the very terms of the UN Charter, in which Article 105, paragraphs 1 and 2 read as follows:

1. The [UN] Organization shall enjoy in the territory of each of its Members such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfillment of its purposes.

2. Representatives of the Members of the United Nations and officials of the Organization shall similarly enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the independent exercise of their functions in connection with the Organization.

Iraq is not only a Member of the United Nations- like the United States- but, in addition, a Signatory State to the original UN Charter- as is the United States; I dare say Iraq has clearly violated both these paragraphs (unless one can consider being spied upon- as the UN weapons inspectors have been- a "privilege" and being regularly jerked around by Saddam's henchmen an "immunity"). These violations are a far more worthy source of justification for military action in Iraq than those but only half-gleaned and rather shadowy connections between mid-level Al-Qa'eda operatives and Saddam Hussein's regime outlined by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council last week!

And, as to such connections as there apparently are between Al-Qa'eda and Saddam's regime, let me here now address the idea (oft-stated among those opposed to war with Iraq) that these two could not ever be well working together- if only because of the religious bent of Al-Qa'eda and the secularism of the Ba'athists who rule Iraq. First of all, much has to be said of "marriages of convenience", not to mention "strange bedfellows", in the realm of Geopolitics. The Communism of what was then still wrongly (while, at the same time, still somewhat correctly) referred to as "Soviet Russia" did not keep the major Capitalist powers of the time, Great Britain and the United States, from allying with the Soviets against Nazi Germany during World War II; when the Cold War soon thereafter turned the USSR from "loyal wartime ally" to "potential adversary", we were not- where we perceived it to be in our national interests- at all above allying with abject Fascists (such as Generalissimo Francisco Franco's Spain [keep in mind that Franco, while neutral during World War II, had been aided by Hitler during the Spanish Civil War of which his regime was the eventual victor]- not to mention various rather unsavory military juntas or their equivalent in Latin America [what's the famous line (often attributed to FDR in an alleged musing of his re: the pre-Peron dictator of Argentina as that country so lately joined the Allied cause in early 1945 [or Nicaragua's Somoza or the Dominican's Trujillo]- although other sources attribute it to an oft-used phrase of then-Secretary of State Cordell Hull's about any number of then-"banana republic" despots [including, but apparently not exclusively, those already mentioned], itself a variant of lines used by politicians going back to at least Reconstruction-era Radical Republican House leader Thaddeus Stevens)? "He may be a son-of-a-bitch but at least he's OUR son-of-a-bitch!"]) Even today, in the War on International Terrorism primarily directed against Al-Qa'eda in and around Afghanistan, the "son-of-a-bitch du jour" is Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf: surely we are not talking here about an icon of Democracy! History- Ancient, Medieval and Modern- is replete with such "shotgun alliances" among those facing a commonly perceived enemy: thus, the notion that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein could never ever be allied against the West in general and the United States in particular would be something of a first and well strains credulity to the breaking point!!

Secondly, there is the competing- yet complementary- interest of the two leaders, as disparate as the respective visions of a possible future Pan-Islamic state each might possibly conceive might, in fact, be. To understand this, we have to go to the best definition of Fascism I can find. For the 1935 multi-author work, New Governments in Europe: The Trend Toward Dictatorship, one Vera Micheles Dean was charged with describing the then-Fascist government of Mussolini's Italy and started off with an essay entitled 'The Theory of Fascism', in which she wrote:

Fascism traces its intellectual origins to Machiavelli's The Prince, through Sorel, Hegel, Nietzsche and Vico. From Machiavelli it has learned that the preservation of the state justifies recourse to force, and that politics are distinct from ethics. In the syndicalism of Sorel it finds intuition and passion exalted above reason, and direct action advocated even where it involves violence. To Hegel it owes the conception of the state as a mystical entity, superior to individuals, who find realization only in acceptance of the law. Vico's theory that political institutions are not immutable, but undergo transformation in accordance with time and place, has proved of practical value in Fascist politics.

Now, of course, Niccolo Machiavelli, Giambattista Vico, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Nietzsche and Georges Sorel (in that order chronologically) are all by-products of Western Civilization and, as such, of no direct influence on the thinking of either of those two modern products of the Islamic World, Osama and Saddam (though Saddam and the Ba'ath Party in Iraq are sufficiently Westernized so as to be at least somewhat influenced by the European Fascism originating in the period between the two World Wars). Nevertheless, Dean's description of Fascism is rather apt in relation to each: Saddam certainly has been recorded as having preserved his state by force and one could clearly argue that his politics is devoid of ethics (at least as we in the West understand the term 'ethics'; a point well taken as- in Osama's case- there is something of an ethical base to Al-Qa'eda's political action evidenced as acts of terrorism, but the ethics here are those of a most narrow and quite literal [where not downright twisted] interpretation of centuries-old Islam); bin Laden certainly exalts intuition (in the form of the creativity of individual terrorist cells and their leaders as to how most effectively to rain down death and destruction) and passion (in this case religious passion) above reason (though such intuition and passion is here colored with the Islamist geopolitical cause du jour [terrorist acts long planned are, once carried out, then rationalized by much more recent events that Al-Qa'eda could not have known would take place at the time the planning was first being discussed-- the threat of American military intervention in Iraq is now, assuming the audio tape of Osama bin Laden that surfaced earlier this week is at all authentic, the latest rationale behind Al-Qa'eda's activities: it was not all that long ago that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was what was being cited]) and what could be more direct action involving violence than an act of terrorism itself?

But there is more to the symbiosis of the politics of Saddam's Iraq with the politicoreligious philosophy of Al-Qa'eda. In a prefaratory essay to the book entitled 'The Attack on Democracy', Dean attempts to explain the rise of Fascism in the mid-1930s Europe of which New Governments in Europe wrote; her words are often haunting, where not outright chilling, to the Western reader of nearly seven decades later:

The mystic aspects of Fascism make an especially powerful appeal to the young generation, adrift in a crumbling world without star or compass. It is consequently not surprising to find a predominance of youth in Fascist ranks. [This generation] knows little of democratic institutions or the spirit of liberalism. Its conscious years have been spent in an atmosphere of hopelessness and instability.

Might this not well describe the youth of today's Arab Palestine who so cheered when they first heard the news of the collapse of the Twin Towers and who have since sworn (with however much teenage bravado as opposed to a more serious commitment) fealty to Saddam Hussein in case the United States- with or without its "Coalition of the Willing"- should attack Iraq? How about the restless youth in Middle Eastern countries now ruled by many a "son-of-a-bitch" propped up by the West for so long that we now fear the establishment of Democracy in this region for fear of who might actually be chosen in free and fair elections?? Sometimes the Democratic powers themselves can be discerned as- however inadvertently- the worst enemies of Democracy itself: for why do we in the West so often seek to dissuade Democracy in one part of the globe in order to then presumably preserve it in our own?! Must we so 'destroy Liberty in order to save it'??!!

Dean went on to note that [w]hen the possibilities for individual development disappear, when economic difficulties apply a brake to individual initiative, the average man is less ready to challenge the world, and more willing to submit to authority as long as that authority undertakes to clothe and feed him. This tendency of the individual to become merged in a group, a collectivity, which offers him a modicum of protection against economic insecurity is not without danger... A mass movement seeks and finds its lowest level. The actions of a crowd may achieve supreme heroism. More often they result in shocking injustice or brutality.

Thus, we see those alleged "protestors" against the UN weapons inspectors in the streets of Baghdad, the minions of Saddam's regime enforcing "discipline" on the Iraqi families- so often the women and children- of those Saddam perceives as his internal enemies (real or imagined) or the young men so willing to sacrifice themselves for Al-Qa'eda in the name of Allah (though I would diverge from Dean on one key point on which the present climate in the Islamic World differs from that in the West about which she wrote some 70 years ago: more than a few average persons in the Middle East are more than ready to challenge the world in the face of perceived economic [as well as cultural and political] dislocation and they have, in the case of Islamic Extremism, merely re-channeled their challenge from the ordinary challenges of everyday life [they might be more or less saying to themselves: "I am a Muslim; I might be relatively poor in Western terms and, in addition, am witnessing the Westernization of my culture; I will challenge the forces that- so I am told- have put myself and my culture into this unwarranted and subordinate position; I will fight America and the West by killing Americans and other Westerners and causing still other Americans and Westerners to then fear me and my kind; I believe that, by doing this and no longer merely living a 'normal' existence, I am well and better serving the Will of God"]).

Dean went on to write that [t]he masses, however, do not act long without guidance- they crave leadership. Their selection is based on no process of rationalization. Most frequently it is determined by emotional factors. Not that the masses necessarily follow a worthless or inept figure- neither Hitler nor Mussolini could be described in these terms [keep in mind that this was written in 1935, well before deeper secrets hidden within the true biographies of these two men could be publicly known: REB-A]- but they demand from their leaders personal magnetism, glowing oratory, rather than demonstrated ability. This emotionalism of the masses, their desire to identify themselves with a man whom they can regard as a superior being, a symbol of their confused desires, has been capitalized by Mussolini and Hitler with striking success.

So it could be said of Saddam and Osama (although Osama has the added cache of having actually "demonstrated ability" during his days as a Mujaheddin fighter against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan back in the 1980s and Osama certainly has more charisma than Saddam has [Osama is largely loved by his followers voluntarily; Saddam has to run a full-blown police state in order to secure his power: then again, Saddam actually has to (albeit in his own way) govern a Nation-State; Osama hasn't really had to govern per se- he and his organization merely facilitate that which is the very bane of government!]).

Finally, Dean notes that [t]he political system of Fascism faithfully mirrors the various trends which go to make up the Fascist state of mind. Fascist philosophy conceives the state as a "totalitarian" entity , which absorbs the individual as well as all groups... and in which alone the individual can fulfill his destiny... Within the framework of the Fascist state all human activities and interests must be co-ordinated under government control. Individual liberty is entirely subordinated to the interests of the state, which are paramount. If it threatens to conflict with the aims of the state, it must be curtailed or destroyed.

Obviously so with Saddam... but, as per bin Laden, substitute the word "[Fascist] state" in the above passage with "Osama's interpretation of Islam" (which does, in fact, involve a re-establishment of the theocratic Pan-Islamic 'Caliphate' of Medieval Islam) and "government" with "Al-Qa'eda" and the analogies presented by Dean's words as I have quoted them herein, while less than perfect as applied to either Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden, should still be well taken by the early 21st Century observer of the current world scene.

So we have these two- Saddam and Osama- each affectuating a kind of Pan-Islamic neo-Fascism (though- again- the analogy is incomplete, not only because the Western concept of Fascism does not so well translate cross-culturally, but also because there are elements even within Dean's definitions of Fascism which apply that are lacking in either Saddam's regime or Al-Qa'eda) and each in utter contempt of the World at-Large (where that term describes that nucleus of Nation-States which pretty much molds and shapes international cooperation and global action) in general and the United States in America in particular. Osama's most recent tape (again, assuming its authenticity for the time being)- while distancing the ultra-religious Al-Qa'eda from the secularist Iraqi Ba'athists- is clear evidence of just which side Al-Qa'eda is on (just as Iraq's less-than-sympathetic behavior in the immediate wake of 11 September 2001, while no proof at all of Iraqi complicity in the terrorist attacks of that date, had already demonstrated the reverse). There is more than enough "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" going around in the Islamic World (or is Saddam merely Osama's "son-of-a-bitch"?)

Finally, I want to here take to task another premise lately advanced by those who oppose the potential war with Iraq and that is this rather silly notion that not going to war is going to result in a concomitant reduction in the threat of terrorism against the West in general and the United States in particular. Nothing could be further from the truth! Saddam may, in fact, be Osama bin Laden's "son-of-a-bitch" but Al-Qa'eda (whatever the actual connections in Baghdad might be) well operates independently of any government (it also has operatives in the anti-Saddam Kurdish north of Iraq, for example) and for its own purposes (one could even well argue that the latest Osama "release" does something of a disservice to Saddam by strengthening the Bush Administration's case for war [on the theory that it is now so clear that Al-Qa'eda supports Saddam] and could also be tied to Osama actually welcoming just such a conflict [one viewed by Al-Qa'eda as an inevitable clash between the Western and Islamic Civilizations, something of a renewal of the Medieval Crusades against which "Holy War" could be the more openly waged]). These people who follow Osama simply hate the West, America and just about everything for which America and the rest of the West stand... there is nothing else one can add to this attitude to explain their beliefs and activities! Iraqis, like the Palestinians, are merely the latest pawns in Osama bin Laden's politicoreligious chess match; unless the average Iraqi or Palestinian were to start dressing [women] and wearing their facial hair [men] differently virtually overnight, Al-Qa'eda would have little use for either were it to achieve its goals.

I have already noted the admittedly imperfect but, to my mind, at least thought-provoking analogies between Al-Qa'eda's contempt for Liberty and Democracy and that of the European Fascists of two generations back. Al-Qa'eda's theology is, after all, one based on accepting one's given status in life as being the Will of Allah-- how much this contrasts with the individual initiative and upward mobility at the core of Western society. Al-Qa'eda prescribes rules of dress and permissible entertainment (witness the Taliban's attitude toward Music, Art, the Theatre and Television while they were still in charge in Afghanistan)-- but we in the West can pretty much dress as we please and take in whatever entertainment we can afford. Al-Qa'eda demands the ultimate individual expression of the word muslim ("one who submits [to Allah]") by requiring absolute adherence to the Will of God as expressed in the Qur'an and other supplemental texts: in practice, this means unquestioning obedience to a leadership of men which interprets these religious texts in Al-Qa'eda's image-- we in the West promote (however imperfectly it might be practiced by individuals) religious pluralism and tolerance and, among others, Freedom of Speech and of the Press (freedoms I myself am currently enjoying as I type out this very piece!)

Therefore, whatever harm Al-Qa'eda terrorists might yet bring to us will have absolutely nothing to do with anything we do or don't do (least of all whether or not we become militarily engaged in Iraq!). Again, as I have already noted herein, the stated rationale (which may or may not have anything to do with the "real" reason) behind any terrorist attack here in the United States, elsewhere in the West or against American or other Western interests abroad will likely be the Al-Qa'eda geopolitical reason du jour. In the end, the rationale is so much background noise- recruitment propaganda and so forth- and means little, if anything, in the larger scheme of things. Any such attack could just as well be because there was much too much feminine leg showing on Fifth Avenue on a warm Spring day for a good ultra-Muslim to bear rather than about broader (and, admittedly, much more important) issues of the West's influence in the Middle East leading to military action in Iraq-- indeed, the very ultra-Wahabist theology to which Al-Qa'eda itself subscribes makes either reason virtually one and the same! You want the real reason Al-Qa'eda terrorists may yet kill or maim thousands, if not millions, here in the West? Because "it riles them to believe that we perceive the web they weave and keep on thinking free". That quote from the British 1960s-1970s Pop group the Moody Blues probably is a lot closer to the truth than anything that might be found on a bin Laden tape (or, for that matter, the various and sundry pronouncements of our own governments here in the West as they- however efficiently or no- seek to protect us from such an attack).

There may very well be some good reasons for not engaging militarily in Iraq (with or without UN Security Council "approval", with or without a "Coalition of the Willing") and thereby forcibly overthrowing Saddam Hussein-- after all, to paraphrase one-time Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, there are basically three reasons for attacking Iraq... and two of them are bad! But hoping to decrease the threat of Al-Qa'eda terrorism is not a valid reason to oppose this war, for stopping said war will not at all remove nor reduce that threat!! The last thing we need while on "Orange" alert here in the United States is to be kidding ourselves!!!

 


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