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
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
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 -
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 -
Blair and Bush Face Revolt Over Attack On Iraq - Philip Webster and Richard
Beeston in London Times Online UK Saturday, 7 September, 2002
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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