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A Nobel Peace Prize for George W. Bush?

By James Cumes - posted Tuesday, 27 August 2002

Howard Zinn, the author of A People's History of the United States, demolishes the arguments in favour of a United States attack on Iraq and then suggests that "We have a right to wonder if the motive for war is not stopping terrorism but expanding US power and controlling Mideast oil." It is fascinating to follow this speculation through.

President Bush is not going to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. He is said to be too busy enjoying his summer holiday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

That reason might appeal to such lazybones as you and I; but, for the leader of the free, democratic world, who is also our commander-in-chief for the war against terrorism, it seems curious.
So it is fair to reflect on one alternative tale - to wit, the Zinn scenario.


We know the Bush attachment to oil and other fossil fuels. He supports exploitation of Arctic oil, mountain-top mining of coal at high environmental cost, and the rest. He was an oilman himself. He was friendly with Enron, before its collapse, and other energy corporations. His Vice-President, Dick Cheney, boasts similar links and, in his hawkish speech of 26 August, worried about Saddam seeking to dominate the Middle East and its oil supplies through nuclear blackmail.

So, while we can understand the Bush reluctance to attend the World Summit with its emphasis on environmental issues, we should not imagine he is just "sleeping in the sun...[and] never getting a day's work done." On the contrary, he is clearly thinking about a range of issues, including Iraq.

Some months ago, an attack seemed imminent. Later, the signals were that it was not immediately on the agenda. Perhaps next year or, anyway, after the mid-term elections.

Bush recently called himself "a patient man."

Is that true - is any assault on Iraq postponed indefinitely, perhaps to the Greek kalends?

Or, as Cheney's speech of 26 August could now foreshadow, is "patience" no more than a cover for an imminent assault?


Is the reason for Bush's absence from Johannesburg the need to put some finishing touches to plans for an immediate, pre-emptive attack?

Such an attack would seek to limit American casualties and probably concentrate on Baghdad and key strategic points. Aircraft and missiles would keep the burden on ground forces to a minimum.

Iraqi casualties, including civilians, would probably be heavy.

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About the Author

James Cumes is a former Australian ambassador and author of America's Suicidal Statecraft: The Self-Destruction of a Superpower (2006).

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