The state of the union is utter confusion. President Bush’s address to the nation last month did little to quell uncertainty surrounding Iraq or the economy, but was instead candy coated with jingoism to bolster support for policies that will benefit either the wealthy or no one at all. With a quick update on the war on terror (“we’re winning”), stern warnings to potential rogue governments (“if they don’t act, America will”) and the firm resolve of the country (“free people will set the course of history”), he went on to cloud nearly every domestic concern within several levels of abstraction, leaving much to the cynic’s imagination.

Zac Peskowitz

Sure, there were bits about Washington’s reckless spending habits, hydrogen cars, corporate dishonesty and creating jobs, but the details were spread as thin as the effort we’d ever expect Bush to extend towards these issues. Instead, more pressing matters included those damned dividend taxes and details of the bloated defense budget, all of which he excitedly flaunted but poorly justified.

Yet almost half of this hour-long tirade was devoted solely to Iraq, as if half our union’s problems lay with some fat dictator who has, coincidentally, unlimited sums of that coveted, precious oil. In fact, Osama wasn’t even mentioned, nor was Palestine, which is the real cauldron in the Middle East and the prime source of anti-American sentiment there. With such slanted priorities, it comes as no surprise that it takes this flat black and white, good vs. evil reasoning to make, at best, an asinine case for war.

Fast-forward a week ahead to Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council, when the world was presented with audio intercepts, satellite images, and pure speculation attempting to prove Saddam’s ongoing deception. Sadly, we have a record of fabricating audio to win public support, and the use of hearsay from anonymous Iraqi defectors casts doubt over the reliability of some findings. On these grounds, this evidence alone would be insufficient to make the case in an American court of law; to apply a double standard on such a grander and more destructive scale is dangerous at the least. But even if we were to take the secretary’s word for all it’s worth, he only reinforced to the world that war is unnecessary and the inspections should continue, by force if needed.

After running out of cogent arguments, Powell desperately threw in a potential Iraq/al-Qaida link, despite senior FBI and CIA officials who still maintain there is no connection between them. He went on to detail Abu Musab Zarqawi and his network, – notorious individuals who are malicious enough to be absent from the FBI’s most wanted list. The secretary’s insistence on this issue aroused more skepticism after revealing a satellite image of an active al-Qaida training camp in northern Iraq, and why it would be left standing if it were such an imminent threat. More importantly, however, is why it is located in the U.S.-backed Kurdish region well outside Saddam’s control. Unfortunately, there was no question and answer session.

There was also the matter of integrity. A British intelligence report, described by Powell as “a fine paper” and used as a resource in his presentation, was exposed by the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News as being plagiarized from a graduate student’s paper and Jane’s Intelligence Review – grammatical errors and all. The stupidity of British intelligence is striking, but the incompetence of American officials to blindly reiterate whatever fits their agenda is deplorable. There goes their credibility.

What has resulted from Bush’s odd fixation is a country that can no longer distinguish Saddam from Osama, Iraq from al-Qaida, unjust from evil, terrorism from counter-terrorism. A survey by the Princeton Survey Research Associates shows that, out of 1,200 Americans, a pitiful 17 percent know how many Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. The answer is none, of course, which clearly illustrates America’s collective disorientation thanks to Dubya’s mess. So when Americans unanimously trust our Middle East with the secretary of state rather than the president, according to a recent Gallup poll, it should not be that surprising (or reassuring), though something is still amiss. But when former Secretary of State Madeline “1.2 million dead Iraqis ain’t so bad” Albright has qualms about Bush’s Middle East policy, prioritizing North Korea and the War on Terror instead, destroying Iraq might not be such a hot idea after all. When the case for war hasn’t yet been justified by an evident physical threat to the United States, its allies or Iraq’s neighbors (almost all of whom agree that Saddam poses no real danger to them), it’s high time that we put an end to this dishonesty.

Sheikh can be reached at ksheikh@umich.edu.

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