Strategic reasoning behind US’s apparently irrational determination to go to war against Iraq

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 13, 1423 2003-01-16

Special Reports

by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 22, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1423)

Iraqi president Saddam Hussain must be wondering what more he can do to get off George Bush’s list of “evildoers” who are marked for destruction. He has allowed unimpeded access, even to his palaces, to the UN weapons-inspectors, who have found nothing suspicious so far, although that is unlikely to prevent an American attack. North Korea, by contrast, has thrown out International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and announced the resumption of its nuclear programme, which was shut down in 1994, to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

On January 7 US officials said that they would negotiate with North Korea without preconditions (earlier demands had included the suspension of North Korea’s nuclear programme); the following day Tageszeitung, a German daily, reported that UN weapons-inspector Hans Blix will report to the UN on January 9 that the inspectors have found no proof that Iraq has acquired or is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Many people, including American commentators, have noticed that a regime that allowed weapons-inspectors in is being targeted and that one that threw them out is being courted, and they are wondering about the reasons for the discrepancy.

Despite American satirist Mark Russell’s quip (“We know he’s got those weapons of mass destruction, we’ve got the receipts!”), Iraq is militarily and economically devastated; Saddam may be a maniac, but he is not irrational like Kim Jong-Il of North Korea. The Iraqi dictator has survived for three decades in the cut-throat environment of Iraq and even managed to retain his post after the devastating US attack on it in 1991 that destroyed much of the country. Since then, Iraq’s military capability has deteriorated even further as a result of US-led sanctions and the destruction of its offensive capability by UN weapons-inspectors. According to Scott Ritter, a former inspector, the UN inspectors wiped out nearly all of Iraq’s weapons production capacity before they left.

Iraq, however, has enormous reserves of oil, a natural resource much coveted by the US. Another attack on Iraq will also create turmoil in the Middle East—an objective advocated by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon wants to rearrange the Middle East politically and geographically, but wants the US to do it for him, because he is not capable of doing it himself, as the intifada in Palestine has shown. An intellectual midget, in the celebrated words of Harper magazine (or moron, according to the Canadians’ description of him), Bush understands little of the world and has simplistic notions of right and wrong. He has convinced himself that Saddam is evil (which he no doubt is) and must be got rid of, ignoring the many other evil men with whom he and his coterie are quite happy to do business.

Western (especially American) hypocrisy is mindboggling. The wherewithal for all of Iraq’s WMD was provided by the US and other western governments and companies. Even American analysts now openly admit this (see, for instance, Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, December 30, 2002). Soon after Iraq released a 12,000-page document in early December, outlining its weapons programme, a German newspaper published the names of American companies that had supplied chemical and biological ingredients to Iraq for the manufacture of various weapons.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad in December 1983 and struck a political and military understanding with Saddam, leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations. It is important to note that Saddam had started to use these weapons against Iran in August 1983 (for details, see Crescent International, October 16-31, 1983, which carried several photographs of victims of Iraq’s chemical weapons attacks on Iran), in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. A US Congressional report confirmed in 1994 that until 1990 the US had supplied chemical and biological components and military weapons to Saddam. In 1985, after Rumsfeld’s visit to Baghdad, an Atlanta-based bank provided US$5 billion in economic aid to Iraq.

Britain’s record is even worse; until 1993 British companies supplied military equipment to Iraq, long after the UN had imposed sanctions against Iraq and five years after Saddam’s army had gassed more than 5,000 Kurdish villagers in Halabja (March 5, 1988).

Since 1991 an estimated 1.5 million people have died as a result of US sanctions, according to UN figures; other estimates are even higher. The dead include some 500,000 children, according to UN figures. Save the Children, a British charity, has reported that infant mortality in Iraq has increased by 160 percent; UNICEF says that more than 30 percent of all Iraqi children face starvation. When viewed against the backdrop of Iraq’s medical facilities, which were the best in the Middle East before 1991, these figures are truly staggering.

If another war is imposed on Iraq, the devastation will be even worse. A secret UN report, whose contents were leaked earlier this month, estimates that at least 10 million Iraqis will face starvation (Washington Post, January 7). Contingency plans of UN aid agencies are preparing for a massive refugee-problem and a potential disaster for all of Iraq’s 24 million people. In the face of these horrendous figures, Bush and his minions still have the audacity to talk about “bringing relief to the Iraqi people”. In American doublespeak, war means peace and occupation equals liberation.

The issue, however, is not Iraq’s people, for whom Bush and company do not care; both the US and Britain insist on maintaining sanctions that have devastated the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Part of the truth is that a bunch of cold warriors have hijacked the American government; they believe that they can impose America’s will on the rest of the world by military might. Iraq is an easy target because it cannot defend itself. When the UN inspectors submit their report on January 27, there is likely to be nothing of substance in it to hold against Iraq. That, however, is not likely to be good enough for Washington. As Rumsfeld put it: “The absence of proof is not proof of absence” [of weapons of mass destruction]. The US is determined to attack Iraq because it is a ‘soft target’ and, if the attack succeeds, it will achieve a number of American objectives, principal among which are total domination of the Middle East and breathing space for Israel.

Under the new order imposed by the US-zionist alliance, the tiresome Palestinians will be “ethnically cleansed” from the West Bank and Ghazzah and resettled in Jordan or even Iraq. Nor is that all; Saudi Arabia, which recently gave in under US pressure, and agreed to help the US assault on Iraq, may also undergo political ‘rearrangement’. The House of Saud is definitely headed for oblivion, although their replacements may be even worse. The Americans might even seize the Saudi oilfields to divide the kingdom and complete their stanglehold of Middle East oil. Seventy years after the British-French carve-up of the Middle East, another round of surgery is being contemplated.

It is often difficult to tell where American policy ends and Israeli policy begins; there is so much overlapping of personnel and policies that they are mostly indistinguishable. The defence department is a good example. The Defence Policy Review is headed by Richard Perle, who was advisor to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu until 1996, as was Douglas Feith, another Pentagon official. Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy, is the architect of the new militarist policy, which he first advocated after the second Gulf war (1991).

At that time it was dismissed as impractical; now it has become official dogma in Washington. Its contours have gradually emerged through statements made by Bush and other officials. For instance, Bush’s West Point speech on June 1, 2002, outlined some aspects of this policy. Its full version was revealed on September 19, 2002, and is now referred to as the “New Strategy”. This document outlines America’s role in the twenty-first century, stating clearly that no rival, friend or foe, will be permitted to emerge to challenge US hegemony. This is referred to as the doctrine of “preemptive strike”. Similarly, the first use of nuclear weapons has also been broached.

There is, however, some method to America’s madness: the intense belligerence and the threat of nuclear weapons is meant to frighten real or potential enemies into not crossing America’s path. Both are contrary to international law, but the US has little use for such niceties unless they can be used to advance its own agenda. Interestingly, the doctrine of preemptive strikes comes straight out of Nazi ideological textbooks of the second world war. It is augmented by officially-induced paranoia and mass hysteria, with frequent warning of terrorist threats to keep the populace in check and make them acquiesce in the erosion of their civil rights. An extreme right-wing agenda is being imposed on the American people, who are being led like sheep to the slaughter, with hardly any protest from any quarter. The only exception to this is the anti-war movement, which is deliberately being ignored by the corporate-controlled media.

Much the same sort of thing is going on in Canada, where there are major political forces speaking out against American militarism but finding little space in the media. The mainstream media’s acquiescence in support of the US military agenda is revealing.

Yet, although technically there is no country in the world that can match America’s military might, it would be wrong to assume that that alone determines the outcome of a conflict. Were that true, the French would still be in Algeria, the Americans in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan and the Israelis in Lebanon. In each of these cases, a much smaller and more slightly-armed people were able to overcome and defeat apparently more powerful enemies, because of superior motivation and the justness of their cause.

Both the US and Israel are terribly afraid of casualties. It is possible that America will suffer significant casualties in Iraq and may be forced to withdraw in disgrace, as it had to do from Somalia (1993). If Saddam and his army have learnt anything at all from the debacle of 1991, they will not sit in the desert and wait to be blown to pieces. If they draw American troops into urban centres and make a stand there, there may well be a different outcome. The result of this struggle may ultimately depend on how many casualties the Iraqis can take and what costs they can inflict on the Americans.

The US attack is likely to occur after February 13; that is after Hajj and Eid al-Adha. It is extremely “touching” that Americans are “sensitive” to Muslim beliefs and practices, and that they do not wish to start the slaughter of the Iraqis until after the Muslims have performed their sacred duty of Hajj! Bush and his colleagues would have us believe that they “respect” Islam and are truly “friends” of the Muslims, only we do not appreciate it properly.

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