Spun through the gears of Bush's PR juggernaut, Saddam Hussein becomes the subhuman demon incarnate. Saddam will terrorize us—and not just our troops, but also our civilians. He, or the terrorists he shelters in Iraq, will wipe out our cities with nuclear bombs, poison our schools and subways with bioweapons, cut off our water supplies, threaten our hospitals, strangle our economy. We'd better get him before he gets us. Let's use any means short of nuclear attack, or maybe we'll resort to that, too.
But by Bush's own standards, America is the true global bully, with a record not just of perceived threats but also of action. During the Gulf War, we bombed Iraq's cities. We took out transportation, communication, water and power facilities. Our push for long-term sanctions rendered a generation unable to obtain basic vaccines and left a nation thirsting for clean water, a situation the UN says has resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 small children. And a decade earlier, in the 1980s, the U.S. government fully supported Iraq's use of chemical warfare against Muslim fundamentalists in Iran.
In the end, we haven't so much miscast Saddam as the bad guy as covered over our own heinous acts against innocent men, women and children.
Now a Bush-led White House is again preparing to use every effort against Saddam's military—and more generally against the civilian population. The average citizen of Iraq remains vulnerable, having never recovered from the Gulf War. The infrastructure is still in ruins. There are no seeds to grow crops, no fertilizer, no pesticides. This year's drought has made everything worse.
But all of this suits Vice President Dick Cheney real fine. He's stumping again for blowing away Saddam, showing the same bluster as when he trumpeted the American victory in 1991. Speaking to reporters in July of that year, then-secretary of defense Cheney addressed the issue of our bombing Iraq's civilian infrastructure. Every Iraqi target was "perfectly legitimate," he said, adding, "If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing."
The only real question for the U.S. military this time is what's left to hit in the upcoming turkey shoot. Much of the firing may end up taking place in the cities, putting Yankee soldiers in the position of carrying out their own urban jihad. But with production lines working overtime to convert old bombs into high-tech smart ones, America could always just flatten the entire nation.
Among the heavy weapons to consider:
•Fuel air explosives. Big, horrific bombs, these send out a volatile mist that spreads through any opening—a doorway into a building or underground bunker or, as at Tora Bora, a cave. The bomb then detonates, its explosion rocketing through underground passages.
•Daisy cutters. Used in Afghanistan last winter, these 15,000-pound monsters wipe out everything in a 300-feet radius. "You're not literally so close that the bomb is breaking you apart or you catch on fire or anything," explains Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, "but the shock wave is so powerful that it crushes internal organs."
•Microwave weapons. Supposedly nonlethal crowd controllers, these beam-blasting transmitters can cause third-degree burns. In combat, the weapons might be used to clear urban riots. But their power source is cumbersome, which might prohibit using them.
•Cluster bombs. Tossing these sweethearts around has been likened to laying a minefield from 15,000 feet. We used these as many as 1,500 times in Afghanistan. To prevent infantry from walking in front of the tanks and picking them up, anti-personnel explosives are mixed in. The cluster bombs wait on the ground to go off in predetermined sequences.
AS HE LAY DYING
In late April, on Hitler's birthday, William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and author of The Turner Diaries, brought his staff together for a deathbed meeting in his West Virginia headquarters. At 68, Pierce had discovered that his cancer and failing kidneys would soon kill him. Refusing to forestall the inevitable with dialysis, he plunged into planning the transition of leadership for his group, the most prominent far-right organization in the U.S.
Under Pierce the 1,500-member National Alliance became a smart business organization with an income of more than $1 million; a savvy staff of 17; and a revenue-producing record company called Resistance Records, which reportedly controls several other white-power music companies. Pierce honed Resistance Records into a nice little Nazi profit center, with a hit computer game called Ethnic Cleansing and shows on AM, FM, shortwave and the Internet.
"The aim of the Alliance, our ultimate goal, is to ensure the survival and the progress of our race and to guide that progress," Pierce told the deathbed gathering, almost exactly three months before breathing his last on July 23. "We want to set race-wide policies and then do whatever is necessary to ensure that those policies are carried out. And we want to do that permanently."
His remarks were gathered by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, which tracks the activities of white supremacists.
Pierce had quite a career. After publishing The Turner Diaries, which predicted the rise of a violent underground gang called the Order and an attack on FBI headquarters in Washington, he became firmly established as a far-right chieftain. His reign revitalized the movement, pulling together previously quarreling clans, patriot organizations and eventually militias into both an underground and aboveground movement aimed at overthrowing ZOG (the Zionist Occupation Government).
He saw the movement as a device to further the interests of his National Alliance, especially because it kept away from his wing "freaks and weaklings" who might otherwise have slipped in. He was a student of political terror and thought of the Alliance as a vanguard party that would lead the revolution.
"All of the homosexuals, racemixers and hard-case collaborators in the country who are too far gone to be re-educated can be rounded up, packed into 10,000 or so railroad cattle cars, and eventually double-timed into an abandoned coal mine in a few days' time," he wrote in a 1994 newsletter. "All of these people simply don't count, except as a mass of voters. . . . Those who speak against us now should be looked at as dead men, as men marching in lockstep toward their own graves." Like others on the far right, he held Jews, not blacks or gays, to be the main target. He had a special thing for race-mixing women, whom he pictured in The Turner Diaries hanging by the neck from telephone poles with their eyes bugged out.
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On Hitler's birthday, Pierce brought on his successor, Resistance Records manager and former professional boxer Erich Gliebe, who fought under the name "Aryan Barbarian." Gliebe is thought to be too abrasive to last long, but the Alliance leadership has pledged to continue in "Our Eternal Chairman's" footsteps.
"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people."
—Eugene Debs, Socialist candidate for president, June 16, 1918. The speech led to Debs' being stripped of his citizenship and sent to jail for 10 years. Research by Cassandra Lewis and Gabrielle Jackson.