Joe Conason's Journal

Were Iraq hawks' feathers ruffled by Bush's U.N. speech? Plus: Discouraging words on Iraq from the other George Bush.

By Salon Staff

Published September 12, 2002 3:25PM (EDT)

A matter of time
Were the civilian hawks in the Pentagon quietly gnashing their beaks while the president spoke at the United Nations this morning? Or do they feel that he merely made a perfunctory gesture toward multilateralism while preparations for war continue? Leaving aside the factual assertions he made about the Iraqi threat, his words and demeanor were not quite so belligerent as the war faction might have wished. Indeed, much of the speech, with its acknowledgments of the U.N.'s importance, sounded as if it had been written by Colin Powell. Although Bush made allusions to "regime change" in Baghdad, he explicitly promised to cooperate with the Security Council. And he laid out no specific timetable for American military action while the UN debates what to do about Saddam. Yes, he warned that eventually the US would act if the UN doesn't. But he used two words  "deliberately" and "decisively"  that suggest a degree of patience his most bellicose advisors may not share. The question now is why Congress should act before the UN does - when that is the opposite of the sequence of events that preceded the Gulf war.
[3 p.m. PDT, Sept. 12, 2002]

Read that again, Condi
As George W. Bush prepared for his big speech at the United Nations, he might have considered the views of a pair of well-known statesmen when thinking about Iraq, unilateral action and the unsatisfying conclusion of the Gulf War. The following is an excerpt from Page 489 of "A World Transformed," by George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, which also appeared in the March 2, 1998, edition of Time magazine: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in 'mission creep,' and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different -- and perhaps barren -- outcome."

The president could skip the somewhat dull book and just listen to the abridged audio edition, with various parts read aloud by his father, that "appeaser" Scowcroft -- and also by Condoleezza Rice, his very own national security adviser.

Gen. Rove's war strategy Columnist (and former Clinton White House staffer) Matt Miller dares to lay out evidence for the "reprehensible" thought that Karl Rove's political calculations are behind the beating of those White House war drums. "A mere two months ago inquiries about Bush's past business practices, corporate scandals, the sagging economy and stock markets dominated the front page. A little Iraq invasion talk and -- presto! -- they're all gone, creating the 'positive issue environment' Rove wanted."
[8:17 a.m. PDT, Sept. 12, 2002]

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