a/k/a Operation Iraqi Freedom

See Naming operations by sjoshi64

So deep is the fierce thirst to lay This ancient country waste
Which once gave laws to all of humankind,
That you are wholly blind
And don't see how your quarrels pave the way
For enemies who press you thick and fast.

--Nicolo Macchiavelli, Hymn of the Blessed Spirits


NB:

Noders have been writing about a second war with Iraq since at least February 11, 2001, when mrichich posted a humorous but prophetic writeup entitled The Gulf War II betting pool.

This metanode presents links to writeups about the threatened war on Iraq, and related topics, posted during the year 2003.

For writings posted prior to 2003, see War on Iraq 2002. For writings on the 1991 war, see Gulf War.

As events unfold, I will try to present contemporaneous writings together. If I miss anything, please drop me a /msg.


Current Debate (January 1, 2003 to the present)

Home Front

Facts and History

Documents

Nodeshells, remarks, and memes

Igloowhite


The now commenced War on Iraq has some interesting political and economic smokescreens behind it. "Nobody" wants the war, and fewer can find any justification in it. Possibly the only thing that war protagonists and opponents agree on is that its NOT about weapons of mass destruction.


The war rhetoric has proved very convenient for Tony Blair and his Labour Party. With all the media column inches devoted to the pre-war speculation, the anti-war lobby and the recent Labour Party revolt, there has been precious little space for the issues that matter to the folks at home.

The domestic live wires, which impact Britons more on a daily basis than anything Saddam Hussein and his government have in the past or will in the future do, can be summed up quite swiftly:

  • The healthcare system is abominable, and is a greater immediate threat to the lives of the majority of poor and aged Britons.
  • The decrepit transport infrastructure - rail particularly - is rapidly declining in the wake of escalating (rail) maintenance and renewal costs; and
  • The rather sensitive issue of asylum seekers.

This latter issue is arguably the most explosive: policy on asylum seekers is changeable much more quickly than a healthcare system or transport infrastructure can be put back on track. The number of people claiming asylum in Britain has escalated over the last decade, with 109,500 applicants in 2002. The asylum "industry" (housing, income support, expensive legal process) now costs British taxpayers billions each year.

The Labour government was elected in 1997 to replace 16 years of Tory conservative rule. Blair sang a public services song and the voters gave him a standing ovation. In 2001, Blair's tune was "You can't turn around 16 years of under-investment in 4 short years. Elect us and we will deliver in the coming term."

Midway to the next elections, voters find themselves with a healthcare and education system that are at best unchanged, a transport system that is arguably worse, rising taxes and now a war that "nobody" wants and the Chancellor says we can't afford.

Blair would have found himself constantly in hot water over the past 18 months, were it not for the golden opportunity presented by his transatlantic counterpart. Blair has been able to tug the moral heartstrings, instead of facing searching questions about things that matter to the people who elected him. "Saddam is a Bad Man™ and we're gonna make the world a Better Place®."


Economics

Britain has weathered the current economic black cloud better than the US and European economies. The downturn began long before the war rhetoric, but the months of uncertainty have dented consumer confidence and worsened an already bad situation.

All predictions are for the war to be a swift one, over in a matter of days. Practically, it’s easy to see the media appeal: no bloody carnage, just a quick march and a "Howdy doody Baghdad, we're in charge now." It's what the propaganda has led us to believe, but is it really likely? Last time Hussein tried to surrender to "Allied" forces, we wouldn't hear of it until we'd finished our fun. The same is likely this time around.

A war lasting but a few days would be a major anticlimax after months of heated debate. It would give Bush the "I told you so" card, and make him look good - though its a little far off electioneering time for that to be used to full effect.

A short, swift, clean war scores highest points on the economic indicators. Oxford Economics Forecasting predicts that for the "Benign" scenario, GDP will rise in the UK in 2003 by 2.4%, and in the US by 2.6%. This compares with the last 12 months' 2.1% and 2.9% respectively.

Under their "Intermediate" scenario, the figures change to 1.2% in both economies. This is comparable with the performance over the last quarter - 1.3% and 1.4% respectively. The worse-case scenario tested by the Oxford economists is if it all gets rather nasty - protracted war, lots of casualties, the folks starting to feel it back home. A "real" war, one that spills over the borders of the naughty country that needs a good spank. Under this scenario, UK growth is negative, -0.4%, and US growth even worse at -0.7%. Clearly these latter two scenarios are highly distasteful.


The recent shelving of diplomatic efforts and the rapid march to war has been a result of two things: Blix's declaration that inspections are working and should continue indefinitely, which would mean sustainment of the uncertainty and consequent economic downturn; and the imminent arrival of the Iraqi summer and the impracticalities this brings to weapons performance and troops' likelihood of donning those infernal Chemical Weapons Attack suits.

Clearly the point is not Weapons of Mass Destruction, or Weapons of Mass Effect, we're after economic recovery in time for the elections. Oh how different things might have been if these two countries' polling years had been a little more disjoint.

"Its all about Oil" has been the rallying cry of the anti-war lobby, but it has also been thrown back in their face by the hawks: they say France and Russia's disapproval is not morally grounded, but rather based on uncertainty over whether a US puppet government in Iraq will respect their pre-negotiated oil exploration and extraction contracts.

Oil is clearly a strong motivating factor - particularly for such an oil-dependent country, currently run by two seasoned oil men. But oil money is but a drop in a vast ocean. Bush has even pledged the Iraqi oil revenues for "the Iraqi people".

The cost of rebuilding Iraq after the B-52 bombers are done will be enormous. It will be funded by the oil revenues, and who better to carry it out than the predominantly US-owned construction companies of the Gulf region? It's a real coup-de-grace: cheap oil for the US, the revenues going to "the Iraqi people", but the cash going straight back into the US coffers via the construction companies. (Oh yes, and the grain producers who will feed the Iraqi people who didn't starve while the war raged on.)


Aftermath

There is much speculation amongst the anti-war clan about "who will be next?" But another war does not make sense. Political uncertainty is bad for an economy, as the last few months have shown. There can be nothing to be gained by ruffling more international feathers: Bush and Blair will have demonstrated strong leadership skills by having weathered the storm, and will celebrate the economic recovery that should see them through to the next election.

The EU economy will piggyback on the US and UK recoveries, and fences will be mended in no time at all. Reconstruction of Iraq will give the US economy the sustained boost that it requires, and trade will up between Europe, the UK and the US. We will be a happy little Free World once again.


The only hitch will be for Blair: his lingering problems with healthcare, education, transport and asylum seekers, now that the column inches are available again. But the Labour government has an ace up its sleeve: they promised a referendum on the Euro this term, and there's a contentious issue if ever there was one.

If there's one thing the British like, it’s their Pound. It’s not a currency, it’s an institution. They're big on tradition, and have a largely obsolete monarchy to prove it. With the majority of the population not skilled bankers and economists, few people understand the nuances of whether joining the Euro is a good or bad thing. I certainly don't. Public feeling on the issue will come down to what is printed in the press, and tradition. Hell, they still sell racehorses in Guineas.

Roll on early 2004!


Sources:

  • Various news sources
  • The Economist over several weeks
  • Presentation by Oxford Economics Forecasting in February 2003

20th March, 2003. Dry, sunny, quite warm. Nice weather for war.

Intro

I've written a lot of stuff on here about the impending - well, not impending any more - war in Iraq. I've sworn a lot. I've ranted and raved. I've got msgs congratulating me, and my fair share of pro war people telling me I'm deluded, I'm a fool, why don't I go and live with Saddam in his palace (because he's insane, and the commute to London is a bitch), the only way to stop him is force, what would you do, blah blah blah. I even got one telling me to stop doing so many writeups about the same thing - well, sorry, this is another one.

Today, the day actual war has broken out, I feel strangely subdued. Depressed, even. I could rant and rave again, telling you why this is wrong, but I'm not going to. I'm going to present some facts, undeniable facts, and I want you to think about them, make your own mind up. If you're pro war, this is for you - I'm not telling you you're wrong, I just want you to consider all these facts, and ask yourself: am I absolutely, positively sure that war in this situation is the good and right thing to do? Under each fact is a link to a relevant story, but I encourage you to search for other stories corroborating this, don't just believe one link. In all cases, there is plenty of evidence backing them up.

Okay, here goes:

Some Facts

Fact: Over the past 10 years, sanctions have been in place preventing Iraqi people from receiving proper medical aid, "in case" the medicines are used to create weapons. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died so far, thanks to these sanctions. At one time, the estimate was placed at (incorrectly) half a million children - when confronted with the figure, UN ambassador (and later Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright, said, "The price is worth it." Even if the figure is "only" hundreds of thousands instead of half a million, that's still a lot of dead kids.
(www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=11933)

Fact: Saddam is blamed for the continuing sanctions - if only he'd disarm, we'd give the dying kids food and medicine. Not so. The sanctions were always going to stay until Saddam was removed. Of course, that doesn't mean he's totally innocent, but in this case, we're the ones hurting those people.
(www.fair.org/activism/iraq-myths.html)

Fact: The US supported Saddam and helped him during his rise to power and afterwards. Both the US and UK gave him his weapons, chemical and otherwise, and supported him during his war against Iran. He was a dangerous tyrant back then, yet there was no worry that he might give weapons to terrorists.
(news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_iraq_timeline/html/western_support.stm)

Fact: There is still no evidence that Iraq possesses any weapons of blahblahsoundbites. In 2000, a former weapons inspector said that they had "eliminated Iraq's capabilities fundamentally". Although some "question marks" remained, these were being addressed by Hans Blix before his team were pulled out - nothing has yet been found. (Personal aside: Bush and Blair saying that "intelligence shows Iraq has weapons" is not evidence. That's like saying I can prove the moon is made of cheese, and then announcing that I have been told by a very good source that the moon is made of cheese. That's not evidence either.)
(www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html)

Fact: A major US company, Halliburton, is in line to win a half a billion dollar contract to rebuild Iraq after the war. Dick Cheney, US vice president, used to run Halliburton. These contracts were all being set up well before the war.
(www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,916508,00.html)

Fact: Rupert Murdoch owns a large percentage of the world media, publishing 175 papers on three continents, including The Sun. He is strongly in favour of war, and so, amazingly, are every single one of his editors. Murdoch goes along with the US and UK governments because he wants them to repeal or relax laws which prevent any one person owning too many newspapers or news channels.
(media.guardian.co.uk/rupertmurdoch/0,11136,590135,00.html)

Fact: During Gulf War 1, the media were kept at a distance from the fighting, and told what had happened, dutifully reporting only what they were given. This was a carefully stage managed pack of lies, with reporters terrified of upsetting those who gave them the information, in case they were left out of the loop. (struggle.ws/issues/war/gulf_media.html) Journalists were threatened, intimidated, arrested, and, in some cases, physically attacked. (www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,894708,00.html)

Fact: The US government also lied about the accuracy of their missiles, pretending to have a 100% success rate.
(www.wsws.org/articles/2003/feb2003/cbc-f07.shtml)

Fact: Disturbingly, it seems that the same old media show is going to be repeated for this war. Independent journalists may have their satellite uplink positions fired upon. When asked about the potential danger of this, a senior Pentagon officer replied: "Who cares... They've been warned." Charming. So again it looks like all we'll get from the front lines is exactly what the US military wants us to believe.
(www.dc.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=55089)

Fact: Iraqi troops withdrawing from Kuwait in 1991 were bombed in a series of ferocious airstrikes by US jets. Vehicles at the front and back of the 2000-strong convoy were disabled, and the rest were then systematically bombed. The troops had no way of defending themselves against airstrikes. A US pilot described it as "like shooting fish in a barrel". Read Highway of Death for more details, or go to www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,894708,00.html, where you can also read about the tanks with snowploughs that buried Iraqi troops alive in their trenches.

Fact: Whether you're for or against war, the government made its choice without you - you had no choice in the matter, your opinion didn't matter. For the pro war among you, imagine if Blair had refused entirely to get involved in this, refused to start a war - he would have dismissed you as effectively as he dismissed the anti war people. Think about that for a minute: the government isn't there because we think they know best, because they're cleverer than us, because they make the decisions we can't. They're there to represent us, to do what we, the people, want. Not to say "we know best, and we're doing this no matter what you think, so tough shit". For or against, you cannot deny that they have made this decision without consulting the people who elected them.


Analysis

So, taking all this into account, we have a large proportion of the world press repeating exactly what the government tells them, helping to change people's minds and opinions, making war more palatable to them by demonising everyone else. The government, the one we elected, that is supposed to represent us, is ignoring us and pressing on regardless. The reason that they say they want the war (to protect the Iraqi people and us) are clearly lies, otherwise we'd stop the sanctions, or would have done something ages ago, or would step in when other countries oppress their people. A lot of people are set to make a lot of money out of this war, even if you don't subscribe to the "oil war" point of view. Iraq is clearly not a threat, and the fear that their alleged weapons will be given to terrorists is misguided - terrorists do not shop exclusively in Baghdad, they are quite capable of sourcing weapons and bombs from anywhere else (for example, any other countries we sold them to). They don't even need these weapons, as the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 proved. This war will maim and kill innocent Iraqis, and make even more people angry at the US and the UK. Some people will get so angry, they will be willing to commit suicide in protest, taking some of us with them. Obviously Hussein is a despotic madman, and the world is a better place without him. But murdering thousands of innocent people doesn't achieve that aim. There has to be a better way of getting Saddam out of there - but then, where do we stop? Do we have the right to remove him? What should we be doing about this?

Sure, Saddam is a very bad man. But any war will simply mean lots of bombs and weapons fire, killing lots and lots of innocent people while Saddam goes into hiding. Those innocent people will be killed by our troops, whether it is intentional or not. If this was really about protecting the Iraqis from Saddam, why didn't we do it sooner? Why did we sell Hawk bombers to Suharto in Indonesia, the ones he used to bomb East Timor? If we're so concerned about the Iraqis, why do we still impose these sanctions that only hurt them? Why are we about to bomb them into oblivion? So Saddam should be removed, because he's a dictator - okay, but why was it okay for him to be a dictator back in the Iran/Iraq war? We didn't mind then, and we knew he was gassing his own people, hey, we sold him the gas! If this is really about the Iraqi people, then why aren't we doing something to help them properly? I want to help them - we've been trying to help them for years, but the government refuses. Understand, I want Saddam gone as much as anyone, he's a crazy dictator who rules his people with fear, torture and death. But bombing the people of Iraq is just playing into his hands. You want Saddam, fine, sneak in one night and catch him - can't be that difficult, can it? Surely? Catching one man, and bringing him to trial? It's not as if he has a network of caves, we even know more or less where he is. Why are we bombing civilians?

Don't believe everything the government or the media tell you. Question everything. Don't even believe me, look up all these facts for yourself, find out as much as you can before making your mind up. You're going to be fed a lot of propaganda during this war, but don't watch the TV to get your news, don't trust the newspapers to report objectively and accurately. Find other sources. There are a lot of independent media sites on the internet, none of which are owned by Murdoch, none of which rely on money from big corporations - www.indymedia.org (uk.indymedia.org for the UK version) is a good place to start. But remember that some of them have their own bias, usually to counteract the bias of the normal news media. Take everything with a pinch of salt, learn to read between the lines, think about stories - why is this happening now? Why is this person involved? What is the connection? Don't just blindly accept what you're told. Don't dismiss anti war people as cowards, or pro-Saddam, or anti-American, or unpatriotic, or deluded.

Just because the war has started, that doesn't mean we should get behind the troops and support them - it's not a football match, they'll do fine without us on the sidelines, cheering them on. If you join the army, you understand that you may be asked to go and shoot people, and possibly get shot yourself. If you don't understand that, you really shouldn't join up. I feel sympathy for them, having to go and fight a war, of course I do, but I have a lot more sympathy for the people who don't have heavy weaponry and superbombs, the unarmed men, women and children. I just want everyone to come home and be with their families, safe, and alive. Would you be willing to go and kill Iraqis and get killed yourself? Would you happily send your kids over there, let them shoot some innocent folk, then get their legs ripped off or their guts blown out? Would you stand over the coffin of your son or daughter, and proudly say "Hey, we did the right thing", and mean it? This is war, and a lot of innocent people are going to be murdered. Right now, people are already being murdered. Not killed, not "left dead", not victims of collateral damage - murdered. Whatever way you look at it, we are murdering innocent people. And so for that reason, and many others, I am totally against this war - I absolutely do not want one single person killed, not in my name, ever.

But I guess now I don't have any choice in the matter. And neither do you. Operation Enduring Bullshit is underway. Let the murdering begin.



Thanks to O Boy for correcting my appalling plural/singular errors - remember folks, "the government is", not "the government are"...

The reconstruction of Iraq

What bothers me most is not the fact that there is a war. It was pretty much unavoidable, ever since Bush decided that Iraq was a threat. And even more so when Bush set a 48 hour ultimatum for Saddam to get out of his own country (never mind the fact that that is in direct conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 13 and 15)

Did UK see a threat before bush said so? Indeed - did anyone in the western world feel threatened by Saddam before Bush went out and said "Saddam has some of the deadliest weapons in the world?" (Who invented those weapons in the first place? Not American corporations, by any chance?) France, Germany and a load of other countries have said that they don't see an immediate and specific threat. When that is said, even Blair has been unable to convince his own people, his own government and a large part of his own party, that this is the case.

But all of this doesn't bother me that much. The fact of the matter is, once the US started their war rhetoric, there was no turning back. You cannot swing a sword menacingly in the air and then back off - it makes you look like a wimp. And there are many things to be said about Bush, but he is not a wimp.

Hence, war.

Okay, so the rhetoric changed from weapons of mass destruction (Saddam: "We don't have any, but if you find some that breach the contract, we'll destroy them") to weapons inspections (Saddam: "come right this way, gentlemen") to "We suddenly care about the well-being of the Iraqi people under the horrible reign of that horrible Saddam, and we must rescue them", to Saddam, get the hell out of your own country (Saddam: "I don't think so!"). Getting more preposterous with every demand. Begging for an excuse to go to war.

But, as I said, it does not bother me.

What bothers me most is the reconstruction. We know a war has started, and that a large part of Iraq is going to be bombed to rubble. But who is going to pay for the rebuilding of the country?

It is only fair that the US and UK should do it. But - as those familiar with international and US domestic economics will be well aware of - the US has no such money. Strictly speaking, the US cannot afford the war, much less the reconstruction. Don't even get me started on the UK.

So the job of reconstruction will probably land on the UN.

Read that sentence again. The cheque for the rebuilding of Iraq will end on the UN writing desk. Whose security council have been working their asses off trying to get a diplomatic solution to the conflict. To avoid the war.

So who are the main contributors to the UN? All rich countries, pretty much. Which (to put it generalising and bluntly) means all of northern Europe, the US, Canada, etc. Which were the countries who opposed the war in the first place. Whose tax paying euros, kroner, dollars and pounds are now gong to have to rebuild a country devastated by a war they feel could have been avoided.

Whose national economies will suffer from a testosterone-laden Texas cowboy, who can't keep his six-shooter in his pocket, and his war rhetoric toned down: Both of which are mere tools in his constant flirting with the American people, an effort to keep the illusion that he is on top of the war on terror.

It really, really pisses me off.


A kind noder informs me that the US "began tendering for agencies to help in the reconstruction or Iraq last week. They are all, without exception, American agencies (No other agencies have US.Gov clearances), and they are all dealing directly with the US says Government. No UN involvement whatsoever."

The problem with this is that the reconstruction of the country is to be funded with oil money coming from Iraq.

Let us look at that one, shall we?

Iraq is a state that is blamed (without proof) for having weapons of mass destruction. USA wants to attack Iraq for reasons that keep changing (see above). A long standing theory has been that USA wants to attack Iraq because Iraq has oil, and lots of it. USA attacks Iraq, destroying a large portion of the country in the process. Because USA is responsible for the damages, they offer the kind gesture of rebuilding Iraq, using oil money from Iraq to fund it. The oil money goes to companies based in USA, who are contracted by the US government to rebuild Iraq.

Imagine living in Iraq. A foreign nation bombs your country, and then you have to pay that very same nation to rebuild your country.

I don't know about you, but to me - even leaving possible conspiracy theories about manipulation with the oil prices and the prices of the rebuilding of the country, offering a massive earning potential for the US companies, and - through taxes - the US government - this doesn't sound too fair.

My thoughts thus far. Probably more to come later. Take it as a point of view, agree or disagree. Below are my thoughts on a few things that haven't got much coverage elsewhere on this site yet. I'm writing on day three of the war, just after A-day (the start of the shock and awe bombardment.)

"America! America!" chant the Iraqis

Even in the South, where America so famously abandoned the Shia uprising against Saddam Hussein and left them to be slaughtered (anyone know why? It was because posters of Ayatollah Khomeini began appearing in Southern Iraqi towns, which was about the worse thing that could happen to the U.S. at that time, as it implied the rebels were puppets of Iran and would give this part of Iraq to them), the citizens chant "America! America!" as Marines tear down posters of the dictator. One man wearily warns his wife of what happened last time: the others are too overcome with jubilation. You may have your doubts about what will happen next, but so far it looks like the Iraqis in general have no such qualms. They are hardly fighting to the death to defend their homeland against the hated aggressor, and they wave as the armoured column speeds towards Baghdad.

Meanwhile, an entire division of the Iraqi army surrenders (that's 8000 men.) Here we see a very clever part of the American war strategy. There are many reasons not to want to slaughter the Iraqi army:

  • It just plain isn't nice. Most of these guys are conscripts, they have no love for their leader. No-one wants to be the last man to die for Saddam Hussein.
  • It's hard to convince the Iraqi people of our friendliness after decimating thousands of their countrymen in a cloud of aerosol.
  • When the war is over, these units can be used to keep order in their homeland. Many are even being returned home before the conflict is over -- after having the first decent meal they've enjoyed in a long time. This all helps spread good feeling.
  • The second wave of American troops that enters the country comes bearing food -- and money. The idea is to contract the locals to start rebuilding local infrastructure immediately, and pay them for a fair wage to do it. More good feeling is spread, and these (ex-)soldiers can help do it.

So we see an American strategy of firstly propaganda, followed up by trying to establish contact with high-up military leaders and negotiating terms of surrender with them. Leaflet drops say things such as "Do not fight and die for a man who despises you. Return home and watch your children grow and prosper." This has got to be pretty appealing to an Iraqi conscript, and it is honourable for a military leader not to subject his troops to a slaughter. As I write, Basra just capitulated: as I hoped, my Battle of Basra nodeshell need not be filled.

The grand American strategy

We need to step back and look at the bigger picture before we consider topics such as the democratization or reconstruction of Iraq. This really isn't done as often as it should be -- President Bush has been talking about "a war to last a generation" for a long time, it's time we started paying attention to what he means by this. The Middle East has been unstable for a long time. America could pretend that its disease would never afflict them -- the embassy bombings, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, these were all warning signs. The public wept, then they moved on. On September 11, 2001, it became impossible for the American public to accept moving on.

Afghanistan was duly liberated. As the bombing began on day one of Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Marines launched a new operation to rally the last remaining elements of Al-Qaeda in that country. Iraq will shortly follow. Iran and North Korea, aware of the threat from outside and terrified of the growing unrest on their streets, withdraw further into their paranoid shells and invoke nuclear weapons programs to try and scare the Americans into capitulation. What just happened wasn't an attempt to make the economy recover in time for the next elections, it was the start of the reshaping of the World Order. The United Nations demonstrably needs reforming. The Middle East cannot be left as it is. America and the West cannot sit idly by while police discover ricin factories in London and nightclubs in Bali are blown up (and to those who say America is causing this wave of terror, I ask you to consider the targets: many oppose American action vehemently.)

The United States of America views democratization as an essential ingredient of modernization. They value it above religious conformity, and they value it above the imperative to maintain societies as they are just because that's how they've always been, which is advanced by opponents to this war. This is the vision advanced by the neoconservative idealists: a free, democratic Middle East. Freedom, capitalism, emancipation. This is the only cure to the disease that struck us on September the eleventh.

United Nations

The United Nations will very likely be called on to reconstruct Iraq. This isn't immoral, or "United States strongarming" -- what power do they have to force nations to foot the bill? They don't. The fact is, nations like France and Russia like being involved in this sort of thing. It makes them feel important. Doesn't anyone remember Kosovo? After opposing the action vehemently, Russia tried to capture a huge swathe of Kosovo so they could look after it themselves. Having failed in facilitating the self-defence of nations and the disarming of dictators, the United Nations may become little more than a glorified aid agency.

French President Jacques Chirac has not just shown lack of principle and an unreasonable stance, he has been guilty of the cardinal sin of an international statesman: incompetence. He has shattered his country's relations with the World's only superpower. In a way, we should be greatful to him -- he has exposed the problems and weaknesses of our World Order. America was burnt, Europe is under threat, and still no action is to be taken according to the French. Meanwhile, Russia complains that the war in Iraq will lead to a rise in Islamic fundamentalism on its borders. The risk is there now, President Putin, this war has not begotten it. In the late 1930s, after Neville Chamberlain had made peace with Adolf Hitler, 61% of the British public supported him, and believed Hitler would go away. They were wrong. In matters of war and peace, public opinion is not as vaunted as some would like to pretend. The public of other countries - France, Chile, Mexico - are almost totally irrelevent. Alienating our sovereignty to these people through international institutions can never be a good thing. Whom would they expect to come to their rescue if they faced a grave threat to their security?

Turkey

To those who say America bullies other nations into doing exactly as she wishes, I present Turkey. 1,500 lightly-armed Turkish troops crossed the border into Iraq (UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said this was in line with the number that would be used for a border policing operation), with this number apparently set to be swelled to 10,000. Ostensibly, their purpose is to prevent an influx of refugees from the Kurdish zone in Northern Iraq.

But there's a problem: Kirkuk. Kirkuk was once a Kurdish majority city, but Saddam Hussein has driven them out of it into the North. They want it back -- they write poems about it. Their milita are known as the peshmerga, or "those who face death." They're an irregular fighting force, but they've sure got balls, and they've sure got motivation. They want to ally themselves with the United States as closely as possible because they hope for a greater share of the power in post-Hussein Iraq, and at the moment the U.S. is persuading peshmerga commanders to hold their forces back. Fearing an uprising of Kurds, if Kurdish forces storm Kirkuk, Turkey has said it will go to occupy the cities themselves. Clashes are almost inevitable, and we'll just have to see how this develops.

This is one of the "nightmare scenarios" surrounding the war. The above is background, I'll flesh out what actually happens at a later date.

Democratizing Iraq

Who knows what's to come. I certainly hope people aren't going to start bitching and moaning if Iraq doesn't accept a modern, federal democracy. The Bush administration has actually been pretty cautious about promising such - they use words such as "free Iraq", "liberated Iraq." There are a number of problems to a federal Iraq, and some things that need to be done to give democratic institutions a fighting chance. "The social contract of the Arab world" involves Sunnis giving the orders and Shiites obeying - Iraq has a population of 60% Shiites. They need to be emancipated - at the moment, they're not represented much in the ruling Ba'ath Party or in the higher echelons of the Army. When seeking competent administrators for the next government in Baghdad, it is going to be necessary to use some current high-ranking officials, maybe some Party members. These are overwhelmingly Sunnis, so Shiites will need to be given a fighting chance of taking part as well. The current officers corps could be stripped to give Shiites a chance of attaining high military rank - that way, you keep those units of Shiites soldiers in the South (the ones who capitulated around and before Basra) loyal.

The Kurds should accept a regime that limits the power of the Sunnis, who they despise. The Sunnis aren't going to be ecstatic about this reduction in their power, but with Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard gone, they're going to have little choice. It's going to be hard to figure all this out, and it's going to be hard to stop the whole shebang dissolving into chaos. This is not a reason not to try and do it. But, believe me, every effort is going to be put into making Iraq a stable, non-fundamentalist country. It suits the American strategy -- in fact, it's an integral part of it.

The last thing the Arab dictators want is a successful democratic Arabic nation on their doorstep. This especially goes for Iran, where unrest is growing against the current regime as it is. The people are growing uneasy, and the Shia majority might be encouraged to seek a democratic Iran. Good will towards America will grow (10,000 Shiites marched in favour of the war on Iraq in New York City recently. The media ignored it.) One interesting addition to this is so-called "hug of death" diplomacy: the idea that we can accelerate the collapse of a regime by normalizing relations with it and destroying the image of the "Great Satan." Imagine having people queueing five times round the block again in Tehran at an American embassy to gain access to the U.S.

For those following along at home, the following portion of this w/u was originally under the title "The United States might actually LOSE the war in Iraq" but it has since been moved to this more appropriate location. Enjoy!

In this media-soaked conflict, it's sometimes difficult to get a big picture of things. You have American and British reporters, most of whom have never seen combat, embedded within American and British units. You have daily televised briefings and press conferences at CENTCOM and the Pentagon. You hear about every attack the enemy mounts, whether it's a major ambush or an explosive-laden taxi. Every time a bomb goes off in Baghdad, it's posted on all the major news websites and appears on the news crawl on the TV.

The problem with all of this is that when you're inundated by breathless reports of how things are "more difficult than expected" or our forces are moving "slower than anticipated" or resistance is "heavier than normal", you start to lose your sense of perspective. Imagine, if you will, that this kind of coverage was available in World War II. German resistance was almost always tenacious, vicious, and determined. They killed our men in droves but we were able to win through, not because we had better fighters or better equipment, but mainly because we were able to out-produce our enemy. We were able to use the sheer might of our massive economy to out-gun the Germans and Italians and Japanese. The reports of the day could easily have said "We might LOSE" and it would have been believable. It would also have been immensely unpopular, of course, because people back then were much more enthusiastic about supporting and paying respect to the people fighting for our nation, but that's beside the point.

Now, for argument's sake, take away the Germans' top-of-the-line equipment. Give them tanks that can't even pierce our tanks' armor. Instead of APCs, give them white 1989 Dodge Dakotas. Take away most of the forest cover and give them inhospitable desert. Take away their food and water, their ability to communicate reliably with central command, and most importantly, take away their small unit autonomy, bringing all major military decisions up the ladder to at least colonel level. Give the allies the ability to fight effectively at night. Give the allies immediate, complete air-supremacy. Give them the ability to hit enemy targets with pinpoint accuracy. (The German military can keep its fanatical, Jew-hating resolve, because it seems that many of our enemy's fighters have the same.) Given all this, how believable would headlines saying "We might LOSE" have been then? Given all this, WWII would have been a rout.

And this is exactly what we've been seeing in Iraq. As much difficulty as US and British forces are having, they're still pushing forward at an astonishing rate. They're meeting resistance, and they're dealing with it harshly and effectively. CNN reports at the time of this writing that some of the Republican Guard units defending Baghdad are already at 50% effectiveness due to the withering bombing they're undergoing. That doesn't mean that they won't fight our troops when we choose to engage them, but it does mean that they will have much less equipment to fight us with.

If we decide to take Baghdad by force (we'll probably use siege tactics first, and try to force a popular revolt) it WILL be bloody. It'll be nasty and dangerous. But it is by no means impossible. The American and British militaries ARE trained, and trained well, for urban warfare, and even though they don't like to engage in it, they will be very good at it. Better than the Russians ever were. They have excellent equipment, excellent leadership at all levels, excellent logistical support, and excellent communication. The enemy has none of these things, and while being the defender is a distinct advantage, it does not make one invincible. If we decide to send men into Baghdad proper, the smart money is still on the Americans and Brits.

Opponents to the war often claim that the Iraqis would rather keep Saddam Hussein and his forces in power than accept American rule over their nation. I find this rather hard to believe after reading reports of what has been happening in the cities that are under siege by coalition forces. The average Iraqis in those cities cannot afford to be political, because they are starving. To the average Iraqi in these cities, coalition forces mean food and water, and Fedayeen forces mean execution, torture, and hunger. Here's a particularly nasty quote from the Times1:

More than 1,000 men, women and children from Iraq’s second city were caught up in deadly confrontations yesterday. The first incident involved small arms fire being trained on them.
The second came on the other side of the city when mortar rounds were fired from Basra as a crowd were halfway across a bridge separating them from the Black Watch. A young woman fell, hit by shrapnel. Then a pick-up truck broke cover, the machinegun mounted on its roof spewing bullets at the crowd.
On the British side, a tank lurched forward, the gunner training his sights on the truck a few hundred yards ahead. One shot and the truck was blown apart, the three people in it killed instantly.
This is what we are up against. Not millions of angry Iraqis speaking with one voice against the evil coalition aggressors. Not millions of potential suicide bombers enraged by the invading infidels. They are people in need of food, water, and medicine for themselves and their children. Read it again: a thousand people trying to get away from the city. Why would they do this if they knew Saddam's paramilitary would try to gun them down? What could make them so desperate?

Is this the strong resistance which the Iraqi government continually calls upon? If not, where is it? Why are the huge mobs in Umm Qasar, where humanitarian aid is finally starting to get through2, grabbing desperately at food and water instead of throwing rocks and firing guns? It's because in mighty Iraq you can't get food any more. In mighty Iraq the cities still harbor Fedayeen who will execute anyone who speaks out against Saddam, along with their families. The people there won't resist us much, but they won't help us much either until we can guaranatee their safety. But the point remains that this does NOT constitute strong resistance from the Iraqi populace.

I've seen mention of some possible scenarios, however unlikely, that might predicate a loss for coalition forces. Let me tell you how unlikely they are, and why they wouldn't cause us to lose, anyway:

  • Iraqi forces successfully cut coalition supply lines:
    To cut coalition supply lines, the Iraqis would need either a defensible position along the supply corridor from which they could stage effective attacks, or they would need a substantial, highly mobile, well-supplied force that could somehow evade air strikes. To seriously cripple our attack force, the Iraqis would have to take out literally hundreds and hundreds of trucks. They would need intelligence about where these trucks are, equipment and ammo with which to destroy them, and they would need to somehow remove the trucks' ability to communicate with nearby forces before they could call in air support. It is highly doubtful that these capabilities will somehow materialize. A hundred guys with AK-47s and hand grenades might be able to take out a few trucks (in fact, they have) but they wouldn't be allowed to just run off to attack again later. Upon hearing the call of a convoy under attack, helicopters and planes with FLIR systems would be on the case almost immediately, looking for any suspicious heat signatures in the area. It's very hard to hide from this kind of thing in the desert night. The fact of the matter is that once an Iraqi force makes itself known, it is hunted ruthlessly until it is destroyed completely or captured.
  • Coalition forces get stuck in a quagmire caused by fierce Iraqi urban resistance:
    "Quagmire" is a favorite word for opponents of this war. Last week I saw a CENTCOM briefing in which a reporter for a Middle Eastern paper asked if the commanders were seeing signs of this war turning into "a quagmire, another Vietnam" after 4 days of fighting. Won't he be surprised to learn that Vietnam actually lasted more than 10 Years! What many who hope the coalition will pack up and pull out before victory is achieved don't seem to realize is that capitulation will give the impression that the US and UK and friends are weak, empowering our enemies in Iraq and in the various terrorist organizations. This is a Bad Thing, and the Bush administration understands that. If this war were truly going to be a quagmire, we'd still be trying to cross the border of Kuwait. In a quagmire, you do not advance to within 50 miles of the enemy's capital city in 2 weeks. And even if the war effort does get bogged down somewhere, don't underestimate the conviction of the American people. I can't personally speak for the British or Australians, because I know that they don't have as strong of a pro-war majority in those countries. For all the opposition's use of the negative "cowboy" image, they sure don't seem to be taking into account the positive sides of America's "cowboy" spirit, i.e. their bravery, their honor, and their dedication. A majority of the American people understand that this war will bring down a major supporter of international terrorism who, as a bonus, is a murderous dictator who stands against everything we hold dear in life. There will be no backing down.
  • Arab allies bring their militaries to bear against coalition forces in defense of Saddam's regime, and/or they refuse to sell any more oil to the United States:
    Syria, as a fellow Ba'athist dictatorship, has been Iraq's staunchest supporter, and, according to the U.S. State Department, they have been quietly trying to funnel supplies and equipment to Saddam's military. Staunch allies that they are, though, they won't even admit to doing this.3 For these reinforcements to actually matter, they would have to be pretty huge, and, thusly, easily detectable. If they are detected, they will be destroyed, just as we have destroyed numerous large Iraqi battle formations. Iraq's neighbors know this, of course, and most likely they'd rather keep their militaries intact rather than spend them trying to save a doomed regime and attract the coalition's wrath. As for cutting off supplies of oil, why would they cripple their own economy for Saddam's sake? Depriving themselves of US oil money would be suicidal, and, no matter what many extreme and moderate-right mullahs say, not all Muslims are (or should be) willing to destroy themselves to hurt America. Saudi Arabia is still calling for Saddam to step down4, so it's unlikely that they're going to suddenly do an about-face and decide to snub their biggest buyer in order to protect him.
  • Iraq Uses WMD's:
    If it has them, it has missed the best opportunity to use them, i.e. before our troops had left their staging areas in Kuwait. The next best time would be when we have encircled Baghdad and, presumably, secured the rest of Iraq. Even then, they will not hurt us enough to gain victory, unless perhaps they have 10 or 20 nukes, reliable delivery methods for said nukes (notice how good our Patriot missiles are this time around?), and good intelligence as to the location of all of our forces. Given that they have not already launched such an attack, it is more likely that they do not have enough nuclear capability to stop us, if they have any at all. As for chem and bio attacks: they simply don't cover a wide enough area, and, just as important, our troops are equipped to handle those types of attacks. The real damage done by chem or bio attacks would be to the nearby civilian population, which does not have such protection. The use of such weaponry will be truly horrible from a humanitarian perspective, but it would not significantly affect our chances of winning the war unless it was mind bogglingly huge and amazingly accurate. Update! e-hadj writes: "If Iraq uses WMD's, ironically, isolated and ineffective use of them could be more silver lining than cloud. It would be the smoking gun in spades; Europe would rally to us, and it would make it easier for Arab governments to come out in support of us. Nevertheless, I hope Iraq doesn't use them, for the sake of the troops and civilians."
  • North Korea Steals the Show:
    We actually already have a sizeable force in and around South Korea. Along with the 2nd Infrantry Division which is permanently stationed there, we now have the USS Carl Vinson, several F-117 stealth fighters, and a wing of F-15 fighters 5 in the area under the pretense of joint war games with South Korea's military, which is substantial. Along with that, remember that other countries, particularly Japan, who has a sizeable air force (about 100 F-16's), will take a keen interest if North Korea decides to start acting funny, and will surely find a way to donate some forces to South Korea's cause. Update! wonko writes: "A quick bit of trivia re. American F-16s in Japan: Misawa Air Base , where many of the F-16s are stationed, is home to the 14th AMU, which I believe still holds the record for the highest operational readiness evaluation score in US Air Force history. If force becomes necessary in N. Korea, you can bet those guys will be on the ball. Right now we only have one third of our entire carrier force in the Persian Gulf, and many more military units are being held in reserve outside of the Iraqi theatre. Make no mistake; there's enough to go around. The forces in Iraq will stay in Iraq, whether the DPRK mobilizes or not. Need more convincing? Donald Sensing, who served with the 2nd Infantry in South Korea in the 70's, presents his own take on the issue in his blog at http://www.onehandclapping.blogspot.com/2002_12_29_onehandclapping_archive.html#86723527,
I'd like to address some more aspects of common opposition doom-sayers. First, the notion that, even if successful, we will always have to deal with guerilla insurgency in Iraq, much like the Soviets did (and we still do) in Afghanistan. I can't really argue with the core idea of this; insurgency will occur. Of course, the likely severity and effectiveness of that insurgency is debatable, but let's face facts: guerilla insurgency is what Middle Easterners DO. And not ALL Middle Easterners; don't be an idiot by thinking that's what I mean. But there's a nasty combination of things out there: hungry, angry, displaced people with bones to pick; a religion which, in its (frighteningly common) extreme manifestations, is very prone to hatred, zealotry, and militancy; lots of free-floating guns and ammunition; a smattering of very rich, very powerful, and often very corrupt royalty, military officers, and oil nobility with political agendas. Put all of that together in any place, and you're going to get tons and tons of guerilla insurgency. However, one has to believe that our planners have already thought of this, and that a major portion of the post-war plan for Iraq will deal with a number of those factors. The people will be fed and public works will be instituted to get them housing ASAP. Extreme religion (the kind espoused by the spittle-flecked mullah on the loudspeaker commanding passers-by to KILL the INFIDELS) will not be tolerated; the guy will be thrown in jail and the ACLU will be told to go suck a nut for a few years. The guns will be rounded up in exchange for lots of money and food. The corrupt government officials will be removed from power, and for a time Americans and approved Iraqis will be put in their place until such time as Iraq is deemed ready for popular elections. And remember: every person with a full belly and a home is a possible informant. The insurgents will have to tread very lightly, indeed, because our military is still going to be there, and they won't hesitate to hose down anybody who tries to bring back old Iraq.

Second, the opposition gleefuly observes that our forces have not been welcomed with songs and flowers. If you don't know why already, it's because they will be executed if they do so before the Fedayeen Saddam is dispersed. These paramilitaries hide within civilian populations, in civilian clothes (blatantly defying the Geneva Conventions) and promise swift retribution to anyone who so much as waves at passing coalition troops. American propaganda? Maybe; anything's possible. You can ignore these reports all you like (at the cost of your own credibility) but disgusting human rights abuses akin to this are well-documented in Iraq, and the reporters embedded within our forces have no reason to lie. When we finally root out the last of Saddam's zealots, the Iraqi people won't have to be afraid any more, and they'll be able to say what they please. How many do you truly think will have kind words for Saddam and his forces on their lips?

Third, in general I find that people who are against the war are much too casual about their use of the imagery of American and British casualties decomposing in the Iraqi desert. There are people on E2 who are even ecouraging Saddam to do whatever he can to kill our troops! They seem to be reveling in the idea of the death of our service people, the people who volunteer to put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedoms. This lack of respect for them and the sacrifice they freely make for us is execrable. In fact, that's the biggest under-statement I've made all year.

Fourth, I don't know how the Battle of Baghdad will turn out, but I know that the American people won't accept anything short of victory. If siege tactics don't work, then our men will have to go in and fight, but they won't be fighting against a determined populace. They'll be fighting against a force of civilian-clothed fanatics who know that if they lose their grip on the city, their own people will turn on them and tear them to ribbons with their bare hands. They'll also be fighting against conscripts who have been forced to fight under threats of violence to their families6. Those unfortunate men will have a few choices. They can fire upon coalition troops and face immediate death. They can give up, hopefully before they are gunned down by the Fedayeen. They can run away and try to blend back in with the populace, again at the risk of being killed by the Fedayeen. They can turn their weapons against the people who are threatening their family. It'll be the hardest choice they will ever have to make in their entire lives. Which would you do?

Fifth, there have been rumors about Donald Rumsfeld interfering with the war plans, trying to fight the war "on the cheap" as one anonymous colonel has been recently quoted. They say that this interference could end up costing us the war, but I have yet to see evidence of that. The only reason to bring this up would be to discredit our military as being micromanaged or "red-taped" to death, which is obviously not the case as it was in Vietnam. The people actually involved with the war planning have vehemently denied that this rumor is even true, and have publicly stated that spreading false statements like this can only harm our troops. Of course, this could be the intention, which, again, is absolutely dispicable.

Sixth, the United States will not insert a "puppet dictatorship" once the Ba'athists are removed. What part of "Establish a broadly representative government of the Iraqi people"7 do people not understand? The coalition has made a committment to the Iraqi people and to the world at large, and it can do no less than to live up to that committment. We're out to show that America and the UK and Australia and all the other 40-odd countries that support us care about the Iraqi people. We're out to show that the Iraqis can build a better life for themselves with the help of a government that actually cares about them.

Instead of saying nasty things about George W. Bush and calling upon the indomitable Iraqi spirit to rain down destruction on the unsuspecting Americans, perhaps, people should seriously start considering supporting the effort in the hopes of providing a better life for those 23 million people. You can hold the US and the UK up to the highest humanitarian standards if you like; you can make suggestions all you like and do your best to get them heard by those in control of the operation. I encourage you to scrutinize every decision made by the administration in post-war Iraq, because the way they handle that is going to decide how history judges our countries in the years to come. If they screw things up, the world will become even more enraged, terrorists will continue to successfully recruit, and the world will continue to go down the toilet. (And, among all that, they'll lose my vote in 2004.) If they do things correctly, popular support for terrorists in Iraq and the Middle East at large will start to dwindle as people see that America is finally giving a crap about the Middle East and is honestly trying to fix the damage done by years of colonialism and by years of the West trying to fight communism and the formation of Islamic fundamentalist governments.

What I'm saying is that maybe you're wasting your time if you have to quote The Guardian or the Los Angeles Times (which has recently admitted to doctoring a front-page photograph to make it appear as if a U.S. soldier is pointing a gun at civilians, when in fact his gun was pointed away from them and he was moving his hand in a "calm down" type of motion) as your primary source of information. Maybe you're wasting your time when you pray for the deaths of thousands of allied troops and the pullout of coalition forces and the subsequent empowerment of terrorist forces. Many people's words convince me that this is exactly what they are hoping for, whether they realize it or not. Lots of the rhetoric I've seen (especially in The Guardian and, shamefully, on E2) exudes an almost gleeful certainty that America and the UK will get bogged down, suffer horrendous casualties and, even if they do win, they will always have to deal with determined insurgency, apparently no matter how well post-war Iraq is administered.

Maybe you, like 1/3 of the French8, are wasting your time hoping that Saddam Hussein, one of the most despicable dictators in recent history, will win through.

If you are against this war, fine. But please be aware that your opinions on the matter have ceased to be of import. You can't stop what is happening no matter how many nodes you write or protests you attend or despicable "Bush = Hitler" signs you display. The best thing that you can do now is to think about what you want to see in post-war Iraq. Start thinking about how the administration should behave towards the Iraqi people, and how it should set up the new Iraqi government. Make it clear to your Congress people that you won't accept a "puppet dictatorship" and, even better, make clear what you WILL accept. Too many war protesters don't have alternatives; I've even seen footage of one guy saying "... that's the government's job to figure out... but, uh, war is not the answer."9 Give your Congress people alternatives. And, even better, give ME alternatives, because I'm tired of the lack of constructive critcism from the left.

Ohh look! Resources! I heartily advise you to visit #9. 1"Iraqis shoot at desperate crowds fleeing Basra" -- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5944-627270,00.html
2"U.K. Ship Stocked With Relief Docks at Umm Qasr" -- http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,82431,00.html
3"Syria backhands US for threats over Iraq" -- http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s823419.htm
4"Saudi Foreign Minister: Saddam Should Leave for Sake of Iraqi People" -- http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,82765,00.html
5"N. Korea may be easing stand: U.S." -- http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/03/26/nkorea.kelly/
6"Iraqi soldiers ragged, scared " -- http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-03-31-pow-usat_x.htm
7"Cheney Outlines Iraq War Objectives" -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,1282,-2484697,00.html
8"'Half of French' want US-UK victory" -- http://www.expatica.com/france.asp?pad=278,313,&item_id=30081
9"Protesting the Protesters" Video by Evan Coyne Maloney -- http://www.brain-terminal.com/video/nyc-2003-02-15/index.html

Why Iraq?

The current situation in Iraq is tenuous. Many different claims and counter claims have created a situation where the boundaries for right and wrong have become blurred. Iraq has been the center of conflict in the past, with the various gulf wars both with and against America. In my opinion, the reasons for war are varied and very diverse. To understand the situation and reasons for the most recent invasion of Iraq you must understand Iraq’s situation: politically and geographically. You must also understand the role America has taken globally and its relationship with the Middle East. I see the current situation as a combination of many different aspects and agendas.

The current leader of America is George Bush Jnr. If he is a good leader or not is hard to discern and I have no opinion as the media seems to have taken his career in a throat hold and the speculation that surrounds him is massive. I do believe he is a die hard Christian. Born into a rich Texan family, he grew up in as he states a "fast lifestyle" involved with drink, girls and parties. He claims he was "visited by God and given a mission", that it was God who saved him from "the drink" and since then he has been fiercely part of the Christian right. The Christian Right is aligned with Israel and is the most vocal group in America for the creation of a total Zionist state. Bush has stated his intention and relationship with this movement many times and famously 'The War on Terror' was in his words 'a crusade against Muslims'. This shows to me that Bush has made value judgments based on his religious alignment in how he deals with the political situation in Iraq and The War on Terror.

Israel holds a unique position in American Foreign Policy. George Bush is religiously aligned with the plight of Israel, his government is politically allied and in the past year Sharon and Bush have conversed and met in private a total of nine times – making him the most seen political leader by the US president. I would argue Israel is unofficially an extra US state – as American policies towards Israel are not listed on the Foreign Policy Association website http://www.fpa.org Israel does not have its own individual policy in the "Middle East" section yet it is mentioned in almost every policy for the region. Israel has a major effect on total US foreign policy, the policies are not always made with the benefit of the US on mind but also the benefit of Israel and so Israel has become a vital part of total American Foreign Policy.

The Muslim world has, since the creation of the Jewish homeland, launched attacks against Israel with the thought of invading and retaking the land although they have had very little success. These wars have included the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War and many others. The Muslims claim they are fighting oppression (a mandatory obligation of any Muslim and part of lesser Jihad), but I find that this is hard to believe. If the current condition of the Palestinian refugees is so bad, why does most of the Muslim world refuse them entry as refugees? I think this is because many of the Arab leaders are happy to continually use them as a terrorist weapon against Israel. By the definition of their religion they must only fight for restricted reasons and these include the fight against oppression. Nevertheless, if they accept the refugees suddenly these theocratical governments lack any justification for war against Isreal; they would no longer be fighting oppression and conducting lesser Jihad. To wage war in this situation would fundamentally go against the justifications for war according to Islam.

American politics are strongly supported fanatically by Jewish money and the Jewish lobby is a strong political force with high concentrations of swing voters. Bush has on many occasions moved to reinforce his links and ties with the Jewish voter and Jewish political groups:

It is clear that in some of these very close swing states — Florida, Pennsylvania, potentially Ohio, Nevada, New Jersey — that there is a significant enough percentage of the voting population that is Jewish that it could make a difference in a very close election.

Joseph Curl THE WASHINGTON TIMES http:/www.washtimes.com/

America’s political climate at home has helped to created a unique situation where the policies of Israel and America are very closely linked and now form part of the stand off that exists between Israel and the US government against several Arab nations such as Egypt, Iraq, and Iran.

America’s foreign policy has felt an especially strong incentive to maintain close relations with those petroleum-rich states which have proven willing to cooperate with the U.S.: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Yet this cooperation has created much discord within these nations borders, as the population generally does not support America’s involvement in Middle East affairs.

Mark N. Katz, Ph.D GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY http://www.gmu.edu/

These ties and obligations have continued to grow, supported from many different many different angles and viewpoints and I believe, America has moved into a position whether voluntarily or subconsciously so that they are now obliged to continue this support. The US has been in the past and still is today a supplier of weapons and aid. The US has provided Israel a qualitative military advantage

Benefits to Israel of U.S. Aid Since 1949 (As of November 1, 1997)

Foreign Aid Grants and Loans $74,157,600,000

Other U.S. Aid (12.2% of Foreign Aid) $9,047,227,200

Interest to Israel from Advanced Payments $1,650,000,000

Grand Total $84,854,827,200

Total Benefits per Israeli $14,630

Cost to U.S. Taxpayers of U.S. Aid to Israel

Grand Total $84,854,827,200

Interest Costs Borne by U.S. $49,936,680,000

Total Cost to U.S. Taxpayers $134,791,507,200

Total Taxpayer Cost per Israeli $23,240

These weapons include an infamous WMDthe atomic bomb for use as a last resort against invasion as well as, high tech rifles that effectively can be fired by a young boy accurately and modern tanks giving the Israeli’s a significant advantage against most the of the post soviet-era governments in the Middle East. In my opinion without these strong ties and obligations to the state of Israel, the invasion of Iraq would not have been so important and pressing.

The invasion of Iraq significantly changed the political climate of the Middle East. In my opinion several factors prompted the invasion of Iraq. September 11, a defining moment in US history has permanently changed the psyche of the current generations and future generations towards their foreign policy and terrorism. These attacks demanded a response and the American people wanted revenge and retaliation. The people of America were shocked – as their comfortable isolation from harm developed during WWI and WWII due to geographic isolation was shattered. War had been brought to American soil. This hugely changed the viewpoint on war; the people no longer could feign indifference and they were forced to deal with the remains and carnage from a war brought to their door. So when the American people were in "blood lust" mode, the Bush government snapped up the idea of America against Terrorism. Several high standing officials met with Bush, to blame 9/11 on Iraq, and in the State of the Union address (the most important speech by any president), Bush mentioned Terrorism, Al-Qaeda and Iraq in the first part of this speech; never linking them together directly yet to any incautious listeners they seemed woven together and interrelated. In my opinion the reasons they interwove these subjects were varied. Bush was floundering in his presidency, he lacked guidance and much public speculation flourished about his ability to govern at this time. Yet the war in Afghanistan gave Bush an objective and purpose, and he quickly developed a reputation as a wartime leader:

Had September 11 never happened, there is no telling what kind of presidency Bush would have had or what kind of deputy he would have needed. But in the national crisis, when all the bright lights came up on the White House stage, there was a chance to rewrite the rules, rewire the whole Executive Branch. Bush had the zeal to make the war on terrorism his mission

Nancy Gibbs TIME MAGAZINE http://www.time.com

Bush needed to continue the wave; it gave him purpose and saved his career as it united the people of America behind him. Blaming it on Iraq gave him reason to continue, but the question of "why Iraq?" cannot be fully explained in my opinion, but Bush has set forth with a number of influencing factors.

Security of the oil reserves is prominent. America is the highest consumer of oil in the world, Iraq contains a large oil reserves and in current times the value of oil is increasing as it becomes more rare and slowly the world is beginning to run out of oil

Geologists and analysts have been saying for some time that estimates of global oil reserves may be dangerously exaggerated. If you take oil prices currently at around US$37 a barrel, the highest for nearly 15 years, US petrol prices at record levels and you add terrorist attacks and diminishing supplies, you have a recipe for inflation and economic slowdown. The question of reserves becomes a much more important factor.

JANES INFORMATION GROUP http://www.janes.com

Obviously America, which is such a high consumer of oil would be concerned with this, they stand in a dangerous situation if a high level producer such as Iraq would stop producing, because they have a huge potential to lose massive amounts of money as a result of their dependency on oilthe securing of Iraq’s oil fields would be a contributing factor in the invasion of Iraq.

But in my opinion the relationship between America and Israel plays the most important role, because I believe that the US set out to change the balance of power in the Middle East. When you take the geopolitical location of Israel in the Middle East, you realise that Israel is in a dangerous situation; Located on religious holy ground for three religions, Israel has potential and real enemies on all sides, in the form of the Arab nations.

Although the US may wish for Israel to be its foothold in the Middle East, the only reason Israel has not been crushed with the combined weight of the Muslim world is that unification of Arab armies has been ragtag in the past when compared to the rigid Israeli army, many times in history it would have only taken a well planned strike to potentially cripple and oust the Jewish people from Israel. To maintain its interests in the Middle East I believe America has moved to create a new political climate and change the balance of power. When you take into account the nations that have in the past provided support to America and vocal praise, along with the creation of a pro-America state in Iraq, Israel no longer looks as weak and threatened.

Iraq was a major player in Middle East politics and without it the total weight of the "Muslim World’s" army is diminished. Iraq has been conquered, and with the inclusion of a pro-US government, the Muslim World is separated and America has created a stronger foothold in the Middle East. Any mass military strikes on Israel would have to account for the possible counter strike through Iraq by America forces and vice versa. Now that Iraq has been brought to relative heel and is under virtually American control, the Bush government has began to move its sights onto Iran:

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says it is time for the United Nations to take punitive action against Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program.

VOA NEWS (2nd September 04) http://www.voanews.com

This seems very similar to statement at the start of the war against Iraq. If Iran were to be invaded in the same way as Iraq, America would have succeeded in creating a new political climate in the Middle East and a safer surroundings for Israel.

In my opinion, the underlying principles and influencing factors for the war on Iraq have been America’s strong support and obligations towards Israel. The invasion of Iraq has changed, and I believe the US will continue to change the political balance of power in the Middle East with the aim of strengthening Israel’s and America’s position in the region. Oil has also played a role for the invasion as the world prices and availability of oil affect the financial security of America especially as the world moves towards the day the resource runs out. I don't believe the war in Iraq was a "do gooder" act of integrity but rather it serves America to have stable control of the country because of its vital role economically and politically in the region.

Well, today marks the official end of the war in Iraq. The United States flag of command was lowered in Baghdad and power was transferred to the Iraqi government. Here at home there doesn't seem to be any blaring of trumpets or people taking to the streets to celebrate. It seems what started with a bang has ended with a whimper.

At the highpoint of the war there were over 170,000 pairs of boots on the ground during the “surge “ in 2007.

As of today, approximately 5,500 remain and will soon be departing for Kuwait and eventually, home to American soil.

Here are some numbers that might put things in perspective.

Number of Americans killed – Approximately 4,500

Number of Americans wounded – Official numbers state over 30,000 but some estimates run much higher. I also don’t think that number reflects other soldiers who might suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder or other related illnesses or disease.

Total cost of the war - Over 800 billion.

As for the Iraqis themselves, nobody is quite sure how many have been killed or injured but according to http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/ the number of deaths is somewhere between 104,000 and 114,000. They estimate that four out of five of those deaths were civilians. Lord knows how many were injured.

I’d like to thank all who served in one way or another in a place so far from home. That is especially true for those who gave their lives or returned home damaged in one form or another.

We welcome you back with open arms and may we all find some degree of peace during the upcoming holiday season.

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