The United Nations remains unyielding, the White House has jumped off the coalition bandwagon, war seems imminent, and all blame is on the veto-wielding French. While our diligent Congress decides on the latest finger foods to de-Frenchify and freedomize, Bush has issued an expiring 48-hour ultimatum based on groundless allegations and many Americans have unquestionably taken the bait.

Zac Peskowitz

Two weeks ago, U.N. inspectors revealed that the United States relied heavily on forged reports to attest to Iraq’s suspected nuclear weapons program – a charge that Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has dismissed as patently false. This, after Secretary of State Colin Powell utilized British “intelligence” as proof in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council that later turned out to be plagiarized, word for word, from a California graduate student’s thesis.

As if the Bush administration’s credibility couldn’t get worse, Powell is still convinced that he has “better information than the inspectors.” Whether this is part of a larger disinformation campaign is under scrutiny, but the White House has not ceased pushing the nuclear weapons lie.

Since that debacle, the administration has placed greater focus on diverting public attention to the supposed liberation of Iraq and the establishment of a democracy there. Now America dreams of a scenario where Iraq’s reconstruction takes first priority, but recent history proves otherwise. Shortly after Sept. 11, the Bush administration made a similar commitment to rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan in what turned out to be a deceptive PR move to legitimize the horrific bombing campaign that followed. The United States has since largely withdrawn and left the mess to a powerless leader who recently pleaded to Congress for help to reestablish some order there. But up until that point, according to Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), the bloated 2003 budget proposal had actually excluded any aid to Afghanistan. Sorry.

Though administration officials pledged it would not happen again, this is the kind of commitment to expect in postwar Iraq. It is a fantasy that this exercise in nation building will set a beacon for democracy in the Middle East when we have Guatemala, Chile, Vietnam and now Afghanistan (among others), to prove that this has never been the motive or the result. History, it seems, is bound to repeat itself – it is only a matter of months.

On a brighter note, the Dow Jones is up over 3 percent this week as investors anticipate a short and decisive war, and it’s sure to send more than a few stocks surging. American companies have been eager to bank in on the reconstruction, and according to The Wall Street Journal, a contract worth $900 million was up for bid well before the United States closed the diplomatic window. Among the players: Vice President Dick Cheney’s troubled oil construction firm – Halliburton – and Bechtel, an engineering giant with deep ties to the Reagan and Bush administrations. Each had a stake in Kuwait 10 years ago, and each will have priority in restoring Iraq’s oil industry. That American firms have been first in line has already outraged the U.K., our partner in this gamble, and only reaffirms to the international community what it sees as an American motive to profiteer in a post-Saddam era.

Meanwhile, the war on terror has long since taken a back seat to the war on Iraq, in a move that FBI whistleblower (and Time Magazine Woman of the Year) Coleen Rowley believes will bring about “an exponential increase in the terror threat.” So why is the terrorism excuse being used to justify war when the administration knows it will only exacerbate animosity towards the United States? Because after Sept. 11, the war on terror is a very persuasive front. But if Saddam’s despotic inhumanity is an issue, then why is he allowed to go into exile? Would Congress have authorized war if it had known that his nukes don’t exist? Were the forged documents on Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear program meant to deceive the public into supporting an otherwise unpopular war?

Mere hours from Bush’s deadline, the questions go unanswered. The push for war, despite all the loose ends, is enough to make one wonder whether the White House has been set on Iraq since the day they knew they might get away with it. At 8 p.m. tonight, Bush faces his own moment of truth. In the presence of real threats to peace and freedom, the White House must show some backbone or risk becoming irrelevant.

The drums of war grow more deafening by the hour. The Ides of March may have come and gone without incident but the oracles still foresee a bitter course for the future, while all around the world the sirens are blaring: BEWARE THE HEGEMON. On the brink of an unjustified war, it is the third-world ghosts of our government’s hubris and a complacent nation’s failure to act that will inevitably return to haunt us.

Sheikh can be reached at ksheikh@umich.edu.

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