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Alternative Culture Articles

September 8, 2002

The Beginnings of War
By Royce Carlson

In spite of the Bush administration’s claims that they will wait for Congressional support to begin a war on Iraq, American and British troops and equipment are already being moved to the Persian Gulf and bases in northern Turkey.

This past week thousands of tons of materiel have been moved in preparations for attacks on Iraq. Bases have been secured in Turkey, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, bases it did not have access to during the Gulf War 10 years ago. Quoting from a September 8th article in the London Observer, "Despite the assurances of President George Bush and Tony Blair that 'no decisions' had been made on how to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, compelling evidence has emerged in the past week that the US has begun a military build-up not seen since the last Gulf war. The slow but persistent build-up is reminiscent of the slow gathering of forces prior to the Gulf war, which was characterized by blanket official denials that the troop movements were related to preparations for war."

In the meantime, Bush’s efforts to raise a coalition of other nations to join it in action against Saddam Hussein have fallen flat. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told reporters, "We have used every opportunity to tell our friends in the U.S. administration we are opposed to military action against Iraq." Taku Yamasaki, leader of Japan’s ruling Democratic Party says that Tokyo has a duty to say no to a war on Iraq. The leaders of states in the Middle East are continually opposing Washington. Russia’s Vladimir Putin told Bush and Blair that their strategy was wrong and potentially disastrous. Even among traditional European allies, support is scarce for military action in Iraq. Only Italy and Britain have expressed support. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder is against military action as is French president Jacques Chirac.

In the U.S., approval for President Bush’s go-it-alone saber rattling is diminishing. In the most recent New York Times/CBS survey two-thirds said the nation should wait for support from its allies and a majority said that the president should get approval from congress before proceeding with preemptive attacks on Iraq. Bush’s approval rating for his handling of foreign affairs has dropped from 68% in July to 54% in this latest poll. Only one quarter of those participating in the survey thought that Iraq was such a threat that action should be taken now.

Conservative Republican Dick Armey, the House Majority Leader said that the U.S. "had no business" warring against Saddam. Former National Security Advisor under the first Bush presidency, Brent Scowcroft, is also advising against preemptive strikes on Saddam Hussein. Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter spoke to the Iraqi parliament yesterday saying, "My country seems to be on the verge of making a historical mistake." He went on to say, regarding a U.S. attack on Iraq, "The truth of the matter is that Iraq today is not a threat to its neighbors, and is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside of its own borders."

In spite of the lack of support, the Bush administration appears to be going ahead with preparations for an attack on Iraq. They tried to find a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but could find no evidence. Since the attempt to connect Iraq with the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 failed, Bush then began using the term "regime change," saying that Saddam Hussein was a serious threat to America. This choice of words has so much the ring of Imperialist aggression that even some of the most conservative in the U.S. began to question what was being proposed. The idea of sending the military into another country to change their government is against the tradition of American military action overseas, especially when there has been no attack by Iraq on the U.S. or any other country.

Lately, Bush has focused on the "weapons of mass destruction" argument as a reason to bomb Baghdad. Merely having and developing these weapons should not be enough to start a war. Plenty of other countries that are or have been unfriendly to the U.S. have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons yet we are not getting ready to attack them. The U.S. was able to contain the Soviet nuclear threat for 50 years without going to war. America maintains a friendly relationship with China, whose communist regime has a terrible human rights record and who continues to develop nukes. Even North Korea has nuclear capabilities but Bush is not threatening a preemptive attack against them. So why are Bush and Cheney so hot to bomb Iraq?

There is more than one reason, but one of them is surely oil. A Rand Corp. think tank presented its take on the Middle East a few months ago indicating that Saudi Arabia is becoming unstable and this instability is potentially the biggest threat to American security, not Iraq. The U.S. has been propping up the Saudi monarchy for years in order to maintain access to the world’s largest oil reserves. Saudi antagonism against the United States has been growing steadily over the past few years. Osama bin Laden is Saudi and so were most of the hijackers who crashed the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. If the U.S. were to lose access to Saudi oil, there would be serious consequences. Iraq, however, has the second largest oil reserves in the world. If the U.S. could oust Saddam and install a friendlier government, Iraq could be opened up to further oil development and thus provide a hedge against the possibility that Saudi Arabia would turn off the tap. Bush, Cheney, and much of their staff are all former oil executives. They must be thinking about this.

Removing Saddam Hussein from power is no guarantee that Iraq will become friendly to the U.S. or that there will then be free access to develop Iraqi oil resources. Once Saddam is out, then what? How long will America have to keep forces in Iraq? Who will lead the new Iraq? What other nations will take Iraq’s side? Will the whole region be destabilized? Will a unilateral U.S. attack on another Muslim nation galvanize other Muslim nations to stand against America? There is a chance that the U.S. will lose access to both Iraqi and Saudi Arabian oil as a result of a war on Iraq.

Troops are already moving to the Middle East. If I were Saddam Hussein, you bet I’d be trying to develop weapons as fast as I could. With the world’s most powerful country threatening to attack, an attack on the U.S. by Iraq could be seen as a justified preemptive strike against an invader. The "get them before they get us’ attitude works both ways. Even if Saddam was not planning an assault on America, if the U.S. attacks Iraq, we can be sure he will use his weapons of mass destruction in defense of his country. Imagine how the U.S. would respond if confronted by a similar threat.

Saddam Hussein is a real problem. His regime is oppressive. He does pose a potential danger to the region. However, Iraq has been under sanctions and observation for 10 years and Saddam has not tried to invade any other country during that time. There is no credible evidence that he is now mobilizing Iraqi troops and resources for military campaigns outside of Iraq. It appears that the efforts of the international community to contain Hussein are working. War should be the last resort and should only be carried out by an international coalition formed by the United Nations. The United States headed by G.W. Bush is far too dangerous a country to be allowed to act on its own. Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what is happening.

Sources and resources:

US pours arms into Gulf region - Dan Plesch, Peter Beaumont and Paul Beaver
Sunday September 8, 2002 - The Observer. http://www.observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,788217,00.html

Article on the latest New York Times/CBS Survey by Adam Clymer and Janet Elder - New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/08/politics/08POLL.html

Blair and Bush Face Revolt Over Attack On Iraq - Philip Webster and Richard Beeston in London Times Online UK Saturday, 7 September, 2002
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-406270,00.html

UN Weapons Inspector Speaks Out Against Attack on Iraq - Hassan Hafidh - Common Dreams http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0908-01.htm

 

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