NEWS FLASH: Saddam Hussein won the ballot tuesday in Iraq with 100 percent of the vote, according to this article in the New York Times. As the headline yesterday on ABCNews.com said: “U.S. skeptical.“
I should say so! Regular readers — both of you — will recall I reported on this last week and talked about the reasons for holding the referendum now. But what’s most interesting to me, for some odd reason, is that Saddam got 99.96 percent of the vote in 1995, and 100 percent now. Perhaps the war threat from America has rallied Iraqis around their leader?
But a better question is this: What happened to the 0.04 percent — about 3,600 people, according to the Times — who voted “no” in 1995? Were they suicidal or just stupid? No doubt they have paid for their mistake.
Of course this was hardly a free and fair ballot, and I should think that every person on the planet, except maybe those living under the North Korean régime, can see through this sham. But it’s an interesting phenomenon that Saddam feels the need to legitimize his rule of fear.
“With a leader such as this,” asked a Bedouin tribal elder at the end of the Times piece, “how could Iraqis want to say anything but yes?“
Woah. This firery deunciation of Bush comes from Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. (He represents Fremont, home of the largest population of Afghanis in the United States, interestingly enough.) His statement is full of red meat for leftists, calling Bush a lightweight National Guardsman in the 1960s, and questioning his tough-guy cred by quoting columnist Molly Ivins: "For an upper-class white boy, Bush comes on way too hard. At a guess, to make up for being an upper-class white boy."
I'm not one to take away from Mssr. Stark's statement. I agree with most of it, in that the people who will pick up the $200 billion (estimated) tab for Gulf War II: The Sequel will likely be people like my grandmother who depends on Medicare, but will see it cut to make way for Bush's tax cut and war costs. Others likely to pay include those who need unemployment insurance, students who don't get federal money to go to college and any number of natural Democratic constituencies.
And now that the House and Seanate have passed their respective war resolutions, we have politicians like Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who say things like, "The bottom line is . . . we want to move on." The impression one gets is that Democrats want to move on to economic issues that play well a month from now, that might give them back the House and cement their hold on the Senate. Understandible, true, but at what cost?
It seems the Democrats were outmaneuvered by Bush & Co. yet again, just as Republicans were constantly outmaneuvered by President Clinton through most of the 1990s. Bush cranked up the war rhetoric from September on, to force an early vote, knowing the Democrats would be forced to either delay the vote, and open themselves up to charges of treason and/or wimpism (the Bush family's least favorite slur!) or rush the vote and give the president what he wanted in the first place. Of course, this week's quickie vote on war will come back to haunt the Democrats, when their liberal, anti-war supporters get wooed by the Green Party charging that Democrats and Republicans are but two sides of the same coin. (Nader's party is active in many close races, potentially threatening Democrats from the left.)
So Mssr. Stark can afford to vote no and denounce Bush on the House floor. He’s in a safe district. The question is, now that he’s got his war on, will Bush’s action leave anywhere safe?
The Hastert-Gephardt proposal (H.J.R 114) passed the House today on a 296 – 113 vote. The Senate also voted 75 – 25 to limit debate, meaning its vote on the war resolution could come as early as tomorrow. This is disappointing as the Spratt amendment was a common-sense approach to this whole killin’ Iraqis business. (For a glimpse of alternatives, Here’s a PDF that compares the various House and Senate proposals.)
All of this may be moot, however because sources on Capital Hill are saying that Bush doesn’t want war at all! That come Nov. 5, Bush will suddently start talking about how the United Nations is a useful body after all, and that inspectors will be allowed to do their job. I’m told Bush doesn’t want to be looking at an occupied Iraq two years from now when we have guerilla fighting in Baghdad suburbs, a massive drain on the national economy and a stable oil supply only because United States occupation forces keep Kurds, Shi’ites and Sunni Arabs (not to mention Turkomen and Iranians) from each others’ throats. Add to that a daily trickle of body bags as one or two GIs die every couple of days. That wouldn’t be very fun to run on, would it? Especially since Bush avoided the horrors of a long, drawn out guerilla war once before!
This would be a fascinating example of dog-wagging. At least President Clinton actually tossed some cruise missles around when he was accused of doing it to distract the nation from him “doing it.” In Bush’s case, however war with Iraq will have been talked up, the Middle East destabilized, the UN insulted and our reputation trashed with allies — all for short-term election gains. (Well, not all for short-term gains. No doubt there are plenty of true believers who think that Saddam should be blowed up real good, but trying to divine the influence of people like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney et al., is akin to Kremlinology.) A post-election change in rhetoric would prove the influence of “General Rove.”