Last Friday Newt Gingrich, one of the founding fathers of the so-called Republican Revolution of the ’90s, made the shocking announcement that America is already “in World War III.” The idea that we are currently in a world war—or that we would enter such a war under the secretive and feckless leadership of the current White House and Congress in an election year—ought to give us all the big-time heebie-jeebies.
Perhaps someone recalls Congress voting to declare war recently. If so, it must have been done in the smoke-filled backrooms where they put together their energy policy, because it has yet to be made public. To be sure, the frightened and vengeful members of the post-9/11 Congress passed resolutions that President Bush leveraged into his ongoing invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. But despite the constitutional provision in Article I that “Congress shall have the power to declare war,” no formal Declaration of War was ever issued. Instead, what we had in Korea, Vietnam, the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the Persian Gulf (Desert Storm) and now Iraq and Afghanistan are “conflicts” being waged under a Congressional “authorization of force.”
Considerations of how war is (and is not) declared aside, Gingrich has no problem whatsoever with starting a third world war. In a published interview with Seattle Times reporter David Postman last week, Gingrich said President Bush should call a joint session of Congress in the first week of September and declare World War III underway. According to the article, Newt sees the ongoing “wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, last week’s bomb attacks in India, Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III.” What Bush needs to do, Gingrich says, is “connect all the dots” for Americans in a speech before Congress.
Pointing to Israel’s recent air and ground attacks in Lebanon, Gingrich says once Americans accept that “this is World War III,” criticism and calls for restraint would end. In his exact and chilling words: “Israel wouldn’t leave Lebanon as long as there was a single missile there. I would go in and clean them all out and I would announce that any Iranian airplane trying to bring missiles to re-supply them would be shot down. This idea that we have this one-sided war where the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk, is nuts.”
Somehow, Gingrich has lost count of who is doing most of the killing here, who is being killed and who is nuts. Not just in Lebanon but in Afghanistan and Iraq as well, the number of civilians being killed in these undeclared wars is appalling. In Iraq alone, Reuters reports that known civilian deaths are estimated at between 39,123 and 43,575, with the British medical journal Lancet claiming the death count could actually be as high as 100,000. The Associated Press reported this week that 527 civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first 17 days of July, bringing the toll to 1,585 Iraqi citizens killed since the “unity” government took over two months ago.
In Afghanistan, an estimated 3,000-4,000 noncombatant deaths occurred during the initial air strikes—to which you can add the growing number of civilian deaths since then, including an estimated 600 this year alone.
British newspaper The Guardian published an article from an on-site reporter in the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon this week that quotes Ahmed Mrouwe, the director of the local hospital, as saying: “We have received 196 wounded and 25 dead; the majority of them are children and women.” Shockingly, he estimates this is one out of every three people in the area’s population.
To be sure, not all the civilian deaths in these conflicts are being caused by the United States or Israeli militaries. But equally sure, there’s simply no denying the many published reports in which noncombatant deaths have been directly caused by military action. For Gingrich to posit that “the other team gets to plan how to kill us and we get to talk” is not only wildly inaccurate, it is, in his own words, “nuts.”
Which brings us to question the real motivation behind Gingrich’s plan to push Bush and his corrupt and failing Republican congressional majorities into World War III. Again, in Gingrich’s own words from the Seattle Times article, he believes Republicans are “sailing into the wind” in the upcoming election—in large part because the Iraq situation is spiraling into all-out civil war. But public opinion can “change the minute you use the language” of World War III, says Gingrich, because then the message becomes: “OK, if we’re in the third world war, which side do you think should win?”
The idea of Bush and Congress using wars for political advantage is nothing new. Didn’t we already hear Bush try to sell us this same snake oil with the threat of nonexistent WMDS? Didn’t Bush’s “message” (and our “mission”) then change to “bringing democracy to Iraq”? Weren’t we told by Vice President Dick Cheney that the “Iraq insurgency was on its last legs”? Didn’t this same cabal promise that the outrageous costs of these foolish adventures “would be paid for by oil revenues”? The lies just keep on coming, our world standing keeps on dropping, the deficit keeps on skyrocketing and the Middle East, far from heading toward a stable Democratic future, is increasingly going up in literal flames.
Gingrich says he plans to take his politically motivated plan to start WWIII to the White House in the coming months, where he may well find acceptance from his fellow Republicans—who are, after all, staring their own political mortality in the face. But given the dismal track record of Bush’s wars so far, I’m betting the general populace is going to be smart enough to tell these Republican warmongers “No Thanks!”—and then vote ’em out of office.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.