On January 16, 1991, a day which shall live in infamy, George Bush finally got his cherished shooting war. The United States launched an avalanche of mass murder and mass destruction upon a small, impoverished third-world country. Bush and the military finally got to uncork their high-tech devastation; and the military-industrial complex, secure in the vanishing of the short-lived "peace dividend," can stand tall once more. By personalizing the war and narrowing it to Saddam Hussein, Bush has managed to make Americans forget about the countless number of Iraqi civilians he is going to maim and murder. Or maybe there is nothing to forget: one reason why a U.S. war is always depressing to libertarians is because each new war is yet another demonstration that many Americans are only concerned about American lives and body bags, and care not a fig for the annihilation of citizens of other countries.
George Bush was, of course, able to maneuver us into a shooting war by aggressively and viciously, in barracks-room language, denying Saddam anyway out, any compromise, any avenue of negotiation. "Just get out, unconditionally...He doesn't need any face...I'm going to kick his ass." What head of State, ever, is going to submit under such terms? Every promising initiative by a third party was shot down brusquely by Bush; even the last-minute proposal by France that the U.N. simply implement its own resolutions by holding a Mideast conference (as suggested by Tariq Aziz) was shot down quickly by Bush as "linkage" and "rewarding the aggressor."
George Bush worked his evil will in the face of a sharply divided country and of an anti-war movement of unprecedented scope at this early stage of a US war. He was aided and abetted in this course by a supine Congress. The iniquity of Congress was bipartisan. What happened to the conservative Republicans, so defiant in opposition to Bush's tax increase? They folded totally in the face of the power of the president. As for the Democrats, led by George Mitchell and Tom Foley – they deliberately waited cravenly to debate until the last minute, when they could effectively be clobbered by the cry to support the president in his last hours of negotiation. And when they finally did allow a debate, they refused to use any muscle to rally the Democrats behind them. In that way, they could support the president, while keeping their voting records clear in case the war should eventually turn sour.
More from the irrepressible Murray N. Rothbard: MR. BUSH'S SHOOTING WAR