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Wagging the Dog

In the popular film Wag the Dog, an American President caught molesting a young girl seeks to divert attention away from the sex scandal; a mock "invasion" of Albania is staged, Hollywood-style, complete with faked film footage and bogus carnage, L'affaire Lewinsky debuted the same week, and federal officials—threatening military action against Iraq as news of presidential priapism hit the media—publicly scoffed at the idea that this may be a case of life imitating art. But privately— as even Clinton loyalists like Leon Panetta suggested the President may have to step down, and Washington's sharks smelled blood in the water—the confluence of art and reality must have given them pause. To have launched Gulf War II in that context would have been a public relations disaster. Better to wait a few weeks or even months: by that time, they figured, either Gore will be President or the whole affair will have blown over. In any event, the movie will soon be out of the theaters and out of the public consciousness, and perhaps then we can get on with the serious business of murdering the Iraqi people.

This has been an ongoing project of the United States government. While a military strike would be its crowning "success," the less cinematic form of mass murder carried out by American policymakers for the past seven years is not to be overlooked. Among the weapons in the arsenal of...

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