From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Oct. 6, 2003
Bush's Pre-Emptive War Doctrine Condemned as Related Scandals Erupt in White House
- Interview with Ian Williams, author of "United Nations for Beginners," conducted by Scott Harris
The U.S. corporate media predictably focused much attention on President Bush's poorly received Sept. 23 address at the
United Nations while virtually ignoring an important speech delivered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in which he
condemned Mr. Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine used to justify America's invasion and occupation of Iraq. The White House
doctrine, Annan said, "represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace
and stability have rested for the last 58 years."
Back in Washington, the Bush administration is reeling from growing criticism of their conduct in the Iraq war. The
Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee publicly criticized U.S. intelligence agencies' pre-war assessment of
Iraq's weapons programs, a primary rationale for the American invasion. This came on the heels of a preliminary report
issued by the administration's own chief investigator checking Iraq's weapons programs who found little evidence
supporting the White House line that Baghdad presented an imminent threat to the U.S.
Meanwhile, CIA Director George Tenet's request for a Justice Department investigation into allegations that White House
officials leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative to a conservative columnist has touched off a political
firestorm. The leak exposed the identity of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had openly refuted
President Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa with which to make nuclear weapons, a matter
the administration had earlier sent him to investigate. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Ian Williams, author
of the "United Nations for Beginners," who examines U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's condemnation of President Bush's
pre-emptive war doctrine and the unfolding scandals surrounding the White House conduct in the Iraq war.
Ian Williams: I thought it was interesting how most of the American media gave full space to the president's lackluster
speech and then ignored Kofi (Annan's speech) which, in some ways is lucky for Kofi, because otherwise he would have
been named an honorary Frenchman by now -- he would have been public enemy number 1.
Koffi Annan's speech was really, in diplomatic terms, very incisive and the strongest indictment that anyone --
including lots of heads of state who've made noises -- the strongest indictment that anyone has really made of the
unilateral invasion. It was coming not from the position of someone supporting total sovereignty, but Kofi Annan in 1999
had supported the idea of humanitarian intervention in issues like Kosovo, Somalia or Rwanda. But he said it's very
dangerous and we need to look at it, it's not something that can be done unilaterally.
To some extent he was criticizing Bush and (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair by implication for bringing humanitarian
intervention into disrepute. By doing this unilaterally you're really putting truth in all of the rumors that the
opponents of humanitarian intervention have said "that this is just an excuse for strong countries to beat up on poor
ones." As you went through that speech he was pointing out that this is a really dangerous precedent which the United
States had set. Of course, he's quite right, because within weeks of the U.S. making this argument the Indians were
saying, "Well, of course we agree with the Americans because we think that Pakistan is harboring terrorists and we want
to go in and sort them out and they have weapons of mass destruction as well."
So all across the world there are lots of smaller, less powerful countries -- but still pretty strong -- who could pick
up the U.S. precedent and say, "Well, you know there are terrorists there we don't need to wait for the United Nations
because we feel they're threatening us." That's what really worried Kofi, the U.N. secretariat and a lot of the other
speakers (at the U.N.) -- that basically the U.S. is inviting international lawlessness -- unless of course the rest of
the world accepts that there are two different rules, one for the United States and one for everyone else.
Between The Lines: Ian Williams how do you think growing criticism and loss of support for President Bush among citizens
in the United States is affecting how the international community treats Mr. Bush and his administration in their
initiatives on Iraq and in other areas?
Ian Williams: Most of these countries' delegations don't want to be seen as anti-American. They're much more balanced
about it. And of course, you've seen what happened to the French or the Germans whenever they gave the slightest
criticism of U.S. policy -- bottles of burgundy being poured down the gutter and French cheeses being thrown out the
window. That type of infantile response does scare them a little, but on the other hand when they can see there's a
growing majority -- is it a majority yet -- a sort of growing number of people in the U.S. who think that maybe the rest
of the world had a point after all.
You've got to look at the rest of the world, I mean really, they're in the position of having to humor a giant who is
sort of out of control and not entirely rational. So what do you do, do you argue? There's no one in a position to
actually militarily attack the United States unless it’s a suicidal nuclear attack by Russia or China. They're not
really in a position to mount economic sanctions against the United States either, so the best they can do is to hope to
To some of them, I think the British are the prime example, I know the people around Blair and not one of them think
very highly of George Bush's intellect and the way that American diplomacy is functioning, but they feel that it's for
the good of the world, it's their job to sort of pander and try and steer this somewhat pin-headed giant in the right
Between The Lines: One of the things that's got to be keeping political advisors in the White House up late at night is
the call by CIA Director George Tenet, who has asked the Justice Department to look into whether an administration
official or officials had leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative to the news media. Joseph Wilson, a former
ambassador to Gabon, it was Mr. Wilson who went to Niger to, in fact, disprove the whole idea that Saddam Hussein had
sought uranium there, justifying the Bush administration's claim that (Iraq) had revived its nuclear weapons program and
by extension justifying their war. Mr. Wilson was quite critical of the Bush Administration's drive for war, and its
manipulation as he saw it, of intelligence information. Not too long after that, his wife was "outed" as a CIA operative
and now there's this investigation. Are we seeing a major scandal erupt in Washington, D.C. that could take the Bush
Ian Williams: We're seeing a major scandal which should be something that would get people upset and take it down, but
you have to remember that this administration has more convicted felons in it than anything else. This administration is
filled with people who sold arms to Iran -- and it would be alleged by others had actually connived to keep American
hostages in there until Jimmy Carter was defeated in the election. These are the people who were illegally arming the
Contras, the people who had mined the harbors in Nicaragua. We're talking about a fairly desperate bunch of people who
don't think laws apply to them when it's for the cause.
It doesn't surprise me at all that they would decide that if it was necessary to score political points for the greater
cause of whatever they think it is - then outing one of their own secret agents and risking her life would be part of
it. These people don't think that rules apply to them.
"United Nations for Beginners," is published by Writers and Readers. Read Ian Williams' articles in the pages of the
Nation Magazine or online at http://www.thenation.com
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 30 radio stations. This interview
excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org
), for the week ending Oct. 10, 2003. Between The Lines Q is compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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