"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it..."

-- Mark Twain, The War Prayer


NB: I'm leaving this metanode frozen in 2002. Links to recent writeups are in War on Iraq 2003.

Current Debate


Documents


Remarks, Memes and Nodeshells


History


Saddam Hussein


Humor

It's mid 2002 and both hawks and alleged doves are scrambling to find justification to expand their War on Terror™ to include Iraq, that link in the "Axis of Evil" proclaimed by President George Bush (II). Congress, the administration, the military, and the media (for the most part) are all busy trying to manufacture consent within the population and with other countries in the region (something that has shown to be of little success) and elsewhere. This is the right thing to do, this is the patriotic thing to do, we must show a united front. And so on.

And if the tossing about of "evil" by the president et al., isn't ecclesiastical enough, there are no grey areas—"you are either with us or against us" (a phrase I have heard most commonly from evangelical and fundamentalist Christians). It is sure to inspire confidence in those who would rather remain neutral, wait for better options, or try different tactics. "We" must organize against "them" for being soft on terror (go back a few decades and replace that with "communism" to see the parallel). Besides, the generals are champing at the bit to use their toys and the oil companies are dying to get their hands on regimes more compliant to US corporate interests for both sales and land to lay pipelines through.

Not to say Saddam Hussein isn't "evil" (or pick your own epithet), he is a brutal, oppressive tyrant with little concern for his people. And he is dangerous. But is he as dangerous as those who make such determinations claim? Probably not.

An imminent threat?
Has Iraq ever attacked any American citizen or property that had nothing to do with America's attack on Iraq? No. Of the people who piloted the planes in September, the majority were Saudi or Egyptian (two of America's stronger allies—after Israel, of course—in the region: after Israel, Egypt gets more US military aid than any other country). Of this writing, the 22 men on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list, five are Saudi nationals and seven Egyptian (one has a dual citizenship with Kenya). In fact, only one is a national of a country on Washington's list of countries that sponsor terror (Libya; the others on the list are Iran, Iraq, Syria, and North Korea). Interestingly, one is a US citizen.

Perhaps, it's Iraq that is harboring these people. Well, not as known by the FBI. Seven are thought to be in Afghanistan (still) and three in Lebanon. Most have unknown whereabouts. Has there been any substantive evidence that Iraq is hiding, training, or supporting (beyond the ironic phrase "moral support") al-Qaeda? No. Not that such things stop those intent on going to war:

Q: Mr. Secretary, what global terrorist networks do you believe that Iraq has relationships with? Is al Qaeda one of those terrorist networks?

[Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: Could you elaborate on that, sir? (Laughter.) Because I don't think any—I think the evidence that—talked about in the press about that has been a bit murky. Could you—

Rumsfeld: Well, life's murky. I mean, we're not on the ground down there. But are there al Qaeda in Iraq? Yes. Are there al Qaeda in Iran? Yes. Are there al Qaeda in the United States? Yes.
(Press Conference, Tuesday, July 30, 2002—1:32 p.m. EDT)

This uncertainty, this possibly, turning into certainty is not uncommon in Rumsfeldspeak. In a 4 February interview for Newshour with Jim Lehrer, he does the same thing, going from probably to certain in the course of a sentence: "We know that Iran has been selling or giving, probably giving weapons to Afghan elements in the country, which we find notably unhelpful. So that's a fact. These are facts." "Probably" giving them weapons to "a fact."

Contrary to the widespread claims of the administration numbering al-Qaeda members at as many as 5,000, a recent Palm Beach Post article has two FBI agents stating that "Al-Qaeda itself, we know, is less than 200." The agents (under condition of anonymity) said that the count was the result of evidence found by the FBI and CIA. The number includes those "detained" at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But there is yet no evidence for a real connection between Iraq and the organization other than assertions by Rumsfeld and others. Nor has any surfaced concerning plans to attack the US, its citizens, possessions or territories.

In fact from the beginning, Rumsfeld was looking for a connection to justify an attack. In a news report on the CBS Evening News 4 September 2002—an "exclusive" that managed to get a brief item in the Associated Press before being quickly and conveniently forgotten—it was revealed that within hours of the September attacks he was asking aides to draw up plans for attacking Iraq.

Citing notes taken by an unnamed aide (the broadcast showed pictures of the notes), just over two hours after the plane hit the Pentagon, his intelligence information was not yet enough to implicate al-Qaeda or bin Laden (thus justifying military action). Rumsfeld was quoted as responding to information about an intercepted phone call with "vague," it "might not mean something," and that there was "no good basis for hanging hat."

Later intelligence seemed to confirm their culpability in the attacks and he "ordered the military to begin working on strike plans" (not that there was any certainty as to where either bin Laden or al-Qaeda were). By 2:40 in the afternoon, the notes had him asking for the "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." (Saddam Hussein) – "at same time. Not only UBL" (bin Laden—his first name is sometimes transliterated as Usama).

At the time there was no evidence of connection despite him clearly desiring one and there has yet no information suggesting one, especially one that would allow the US, according to the notes, to "go massive," and to "Sweep it all up. Things related and not." The impulse to attack Iraq was there from the beginning, evidence be damned.

The AP article quoted a Pentagon official downplaying it, saying Rumsfeld had merely "suggested privately the possibility of using military force against not only the al-Qaida terrorist network but also nations that harbor terrorists," and denied any knowledge of him mentioning Iraq (his personal spokesperson admitted she had not been with him all day).

Weapons of Mass Destruction As for the oft-mentioned Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD; another term that has probably been trademarked by the administration by now), the evidence remains "murky." In an interview on ABC-TV This Week and Sam Donaldson, he discusses Hussein's "enormous appetite for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons over a sustained period of time":

[Rumsfeld] ...reasonable people have to assume that this individual, Saddam Hussein, has continued his energetic efforts and we obviously have some information and there are things, obviously, we don't know because of the absence of inspectors.

Donaldson: You do have some information?

Rumsfeld: The United States certainly is able to determine some things with respect to what's taking place in the country.

Donaldson: Has he, in fact, built up his chemical, biological and maybe nuclear agents?

Rumsfeld: You can begin with the correct assumption that he has a very strong desire to have all of those capabilities. That existed prior to the Gulf War. It existed during the Gulf War. And it existed after the Gulf War. Indeed, we know he's had the continued effort with respect to the development of ballistic missiles.
(11 February 2001)

"Assumption." A year later and the evidence really hasn't appeared—and in the mad rush to get popular and diplomatic support for the endeavor, any hard evidence would certainly be shared.

What is often left unsaid was that one of the main reasons the inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) got into trouble and were asked to leave was that the US infiltrated the team with spies to gather information (which apparently included later targets of bombing). After it was exposed and Iraq balked at the violation of the terms of the agreement, American members were refused access to sites. The "agreement," while not part of any official resolution (it was an internal UNSCOM memo) provided that Iraq could declare certain sites of a political or security nature as "sensitive" and subject to limited inspection (mainly by fewer members of the team). This led to further breakdowns and the eventual end of weapons inspectors (in 1998, many of those sensitive places were found to be empty—possibly having had the so-called WMD, possibly not). As soon as the UNSCOM team left, the US began airstrikes.

Not to say that the team did not encounter delays, lies, cheating, and hiding of weapons, but they were largely successful in destroying the vast majority: "90—95 percent of Iraq's weapons capability was eliminated, all of the weapons factories were eliminated, all of the production equipment was eliminated" by 1998, according to a former team member. Since then, no one knows. And Iraq is going to be wary of allowing in inspectors after the way the UN team was compromised by US covert involvement. Unless, of course, it is felt to be the only way to avoid an attack by the US. Which seems to be behind the latest offer to allow the team's return.

Whence came the WMD?
Often Iraq's WMD are portrayed as having secretly shown up overnight, ignoring the actual history. A history, Rumsfeld certainly knows about unless he's tossed it into some Orwellian memory hole. It was well-publicized that Iraq used chemical/biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. Iraq was considered the "good" guy in the conflict and received the requisite weapons and support from the US. The Middle East envoy spent time in Iraq meeting with Hussein and officials during that period, which included 1984, when a United Press International report from the UN noted that "Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43-month Persian Gulf War." He was in Baghdad at the time.

In fact, most of Iraq's capability to manufacture those weapons came from the US. A 1994 Senate report found that American suppliers, licensed by the US Department of Commerce exported a vast array of chemicals and biological agents to Iraq, including: Bacillus Anthracis, Clostridium Botulinum, Histoplasma Capsulatam, Brucella Melitensis, Clostridium Perfringens, Clostridium tetani, Escherichia coli, and genetic material including human and bacterial DNA. According to the report, the agents were not in a weakened state and were capable of reproduction. It was later found that the microorganisms matched those found by UNSCOM in Iraq.

The exports continued until (at least) November 1989. Well after reports of gassing Kurds had been brought to the attention of the world. The people who Bush likes to refer to in his "gassed his own people" phrase. It should be noted that the Kurds are probably not considered "his own people" by Hussein. And that the US troops stood by and watched the Iraqi army massacre Kurds shortly after the Gulf War. According to the Director of the CIA at the time (James Woolsey), the US was concerned about stability in the region ("instability" is always contrary to "US interests") and the problems of them and/or other groups declaring separate independence. Meanwhile, the Kurds died. (The US also allowed the Iraqis to crush a Shi'i uprising in the south, using helicopters the US had let the Iraqis keep following the war.)

Another interesting thing is that Turkey—a strong US-NATO ally and recipient of a great deal of military aid—has probably killed as many or more Kurds than Hussein, a fact that seems to go unnoticed. Also of note: Turkey is not eager for a US invasion of Iraq, a feeling most likely related to its domestic Kurdish nationalism problem.

Over a dozen US companies profited by their sales of agents and equipment to Iraq during that time period, one—the American Type Culture Collection of Maryland and Virginia—made seventy shipments of the anthrax-causing germ and other agents. Another company built a chemical plant and before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, had been building a plant that could produce ethylene (a key ingredient of thiodiglycol, used to make mustard gas).

Other exports included hardware and computers that could be used for missile systems. Between 1985 and 1990, the US government approved 771 licenses for exports of agents, chemicals, and equipment (all with military applications) totaling about $1.5 billion. Only a handful of licenses were ever turned down. Another committee found that the Commerce Depart had actually altered 68 licenses to delete any reference to military application.

An investigation into the Department of Energy, made charges that the DOE was punishing workers who made raised alarm over a 1989 report on Iraq's nuclear program because of concerns there might be violations of the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons—one of its main goals being to "prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology" (from the UN site discussing the treaty). There were also charges that those who did not cause problems were rewarded.

Of course, this doesn't make the US directly responsible for any victims of Iraq's WMD, but the US has never admitted the culpability of which that it is guilty, in arming the tyrant. Nor does it acknowledge just how many of those weapons and equipment found its way into his hands. It was known that he was gassing Iranian soldiers—but that was okay, because they were the "bad" guys. And it was known that he was gassing the Kurds (likely using Huey helicopters purchased from the US). And the sales continued.

One guess which country has amassed more weapons of mass destruction than all others. A little hint: over 3,600 tons of chemical weapons (about 11.6% of the total) are stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in the state of Oregon—these agents include the deadly VX and GB (sarin). As per the 1982 Chemical Weapons Convention, these must be destroyed by 2004. Why its been over twenty years and little done has yet to be answered—though the planned method of disposal (incineration) poses dangers to the public. The population of the two counties it is located near is over 60,000.

"Legal" justification
In the Jim Lehrer interview, Rumsfeld invokes the UN Charter (something the US has a tendency to ignore or violate unless it serves some purpose of "national interest" or can be used against an official enemy) as a justification to attack Iraq (or other countries that are claimed to be harboring or supporting terrorists): this is "self-defense." He isn't the first to use this ploy. Of course, without any actual evidence that Iraq is planning to commit acts of terror against the US, then it cannot possibly be self-defense, even preemptively. Further, if the US does attack Iraq, that same part of the charter gives Iraq full right under international law to retaliate.

Of course, Rumsfeld's (as with the rest of the administration) reading of the Charter is incomplete. In Chapter VII, concerning "Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of Peace, and Acts of Aggression," and specifically addressing the "self-defense" line, it clearly states that

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
(Article 51)

It specifically describes the condition of "self-defense" as an action taken "if an armed attack occurs." Any other action is supposed to first go through the UN Security Council. And any act of self-defense must be reported to the council. Further, the UN Charter, like any ratified treaty is considered law ("all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land") under Article VI of the US Constitution.

Not that any of that stopped US armed intervention before. For instance, the 1983 invasion of Grenada which also managed to violate the equally ratified charter of the Organization of American States. The Security Council voted to condemn the action (11-1, Great Britain abstaining). Since the US is a permanent member of the council and carries an overriding "veto" (as all five permanent members possess), its single "no" vote killed the resolution.

It would seem that the real reason for the posturing for justification has more to do with drumming up domestic and international support for what the US seems bent on doing. Just like the trips by administration officials to countries in the region attempting to gather support for the invasion. This time, there is an actual debate in Congress over the options, but given the events of September 2001, the Congress—which is essentially a single party with divisions over tactical means—is even more of one mind in matters when words like "evil" and "self-defense" and WMD are brought up.

No one wants to have one's patriotism (whatever that is) called into question in front of the rest of the class. And certainly not within earshot or newsprint of the voting constituency. That would make one soft on terror. "Against us." It seems doubtful that Congress won't fall into line.

Another method is the expansion of definitions to include any country giving any support to terrorists is considered terrorist, itself. In Bush's words, "If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists." This gives anyone a blank check for armed intervention. While in the past, right wing regimes used anticommunism as an excuse to oppress their people (often violently), the new communism is terrorism. It can be used to justify anything.

Perhaps, the militant antiabortion group the Army of God (whose "cell" structure is similar to al-Qaeda and members connected to it have been convicted of vandalism, gassing, intimidation, bombings, attempted murder, and at least one assassination), were to cross the border into Canada and start taking actions there. Blowing up buildings, cars, damaging property, harassing patients, doctors, and staff. Maybe taking shots at them. People die. The Army of God is an American terror group—and one, it is notable, that is not on the list of terror groups according to the US government. Would not Canada be justified to demand the US to round up all members (probably near impossible, given the "cell" organizing principle wherein most members do not know other members) on threat of invasion?

Or victims of IRA bombings. Are they not justified in demanding the US arrest anyone and shut down any organization that ever gave any support to them? According the US justification, yes. This expanded definition of terrorist makes that analogous (sadly, it needs to be noted that I am not advocating such actions, but using them to demonstrate the absurdity of the concept). Or maybe Cuba could, given the numerous attempts to assassinate its leader or the harboring of the Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch—as in a Cuban who commits acts of terror against Cuba, including dozens of bombings (almost all of which were placed in the US). In rejecting his request for political asylum, the Acting Associate Attorney General wrote:

For 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has threatened and undertaken violent terrorist acts against numerous targets, including nations friendly toward the United States and their highest officials. He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death. His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.
(23 January 1989)

He was supposed to be deported but through lobbying by Miami's Cuban emigre population (and help from Jeb Bush, who would later become governor of Florida), he was allowed to stay. Apparently the expanding definition only applies to those who take terrorist action against certain people.

Results
It is clear that the US is planning to topple Hussein by any means necessary. It certainly would not be a bad thing to have him ousted, as he is doing nothing to help his people or his country through his actions. Though solely blaming him for deaths due to sanctions is another instance of passing along culpability, since responsibility must be shared when one takes part in an action or actions with foreseeable and predictable detrimental consequences. This is further exacerbated when those consequences take place and the actions continue. Hussein is certainly guilty in many ways of many things, but he is not alone in responsibility for the continuing misery of the Iraqi people.

The question should be by what means is best to get him out of power, rather than how best to go about it militarily. Diplomacy is something the US tends to avoid when it wants something bad enough. When there is a military way of accomplishing it. One of the reasons given for the need to take action is that Hussein remaining in power is bad for stability in the region. There may merit to that notion, but what is largely being ignored is that attacking Iraq will result in far greater instability in the region, as well as galvanizing opposition to the US presence there and elsewhere. It will generate hatred and turn even those who are considered allies against the US or, at the very least, severely cool relations.

If anything might provoke more attacks on the US, it would be the armed invasion of Iraq. The basically unilateral "war" would further demonstrate to a world already given the "with us or against us" ultimatum that the US will take action without any concern of international law or justice. With or without support or consent of the rest of the world. That diplomacy by the gun is preferred to negotiation. It should be no wonder the government is so concerned with its projected image at this time.

If one is swayed by the usually stated goal that the US is interested in spreading democracy throughout the world, one should consider its past in respect to Iraq (a look through the history of US intervention in the past century should divest one of such things, anyway). During the Gulf War, the only intention was to get rid of Hussein, not to put in a new government, not to "free" the citizens from the Iraqi military and elites. The US would have been perfectly happy with the current regime, only without its leader. All existing structures would have been left in place—to maintain "stability."

Still, Congress is debating. There may be hope to avoid the deaths of untold numbers of Iraqis and others (including any soldier in the conflict) as well as the very possible retaliation elsewhere. By Iraq or others. And if Hussein hesitated to use his WMD during the Gulf War, there would seem to be little to hold him back in the event of a US attack.

The president and his cabinet have no authority to declare war, the constitution specifically gives that power to Congress. Even under the War Powers Act, the president cannot commit troops into "hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances" without a declaration of war, "specific statutory authorization," or "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." As with the UN Charter, an "attack" must take place. If he does introduce troops without a declaration, he must (within 48 hours) report to Congress the "circumstances necessitating" the action, the "constitutional and legislative authority" under which it takes place, and the scope of the operation (followed by periodic reports subject to review before extension of the action can take place).

Then again, Congress has already passed legislation to get around those checks and balances ("specific statutory authorization," apparently—that is part of the act referred to in the bill) with the 18 Septmber 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force bill, in which the president is given authorization

to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

That it clearly violates the spirit of the War Powers Act—which deals solely with "hostilities" and "attack," not planning, authorizing, aid, or prevention—is ignored in the rush to appear patriotic and to appear to be engaging in action following the tragedy the week before. That the determination is left to the president should bring more than a little concern. And, as noted, since there is no evidence Iraq engaged in any of those actions (verbal and/or philosophical support aside), even the bill cannot be used as a pretext for war on Hussein.

One would hope that the march toward another undeclared war will be halted and cooler, more reasonable heads prevail. Nothing good will come of this and other options and paths toward resolution are being ignored or dismissed for the preferred method. International opinion—even from allies not cowed by the "with us or against us" veiled threat—will turn against the country, making for a great deal of that instability that the US is so fond of fighting against. Now is not a time to go to war.

Sources: many, many books and articles; more specifically,
Rumsfeld quotes from www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2002/t07302002_t0730sd.html (press briefing) and www.fas.org/news/iraq/2001/02/iraq-010212.htm (ABC interview)
Rumsfeld background and UPI quote www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2177
UNSCOM info (and quote) primarily from Extra! August 2002 issue, also special.fco.gov.uk/background/obstruct.shtml
Information on US selling the ingredients for WMD to Iraq www.progressive.org/0901/anth0498.html
Information and quote on Orlando Bosch from kto9's excellent WU under that title (thank you)
Palm Beach Post article can be found at www.gopbi.com/partners/pbpost/epaper/editions/saturday/news_d324f12b6139910500ad.html
The current FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list can be found at www.fbi.gov/mostwant/terrorists/fugitives.htm
The CBS Evening News story can be found at www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/09/04/september11/main520830.shtml
For information on Grenada, see my WU under that title
For information on US intentions in the Gulf War and the Kurd/Shi'i events refer to my WU under Saddam Hussein, particularly footnotes 1 and 3.

It seems that each new day brings word of another threat, or leaked war plan of a United States Invasion of Iraq. There have been so many that Anthony H. Cordesman joked that “If you report enough contingency plans, you can drive an adversary mad.” On July 30, 2002 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reported in a press conference that al-Quaeda operatives were in Iraq, though he deliberately stopped short of saying al-Quaeda was being sheltered by Saddam. On August 26 White House Lawyers used the 1991 Gulf War Resolution to assert that President George W. Bush had the unilateral right to conduct a war against Iraq. That Same day Vice President Cheney argued that Saddam's removal arguing that “time is not on our side”. On the 27th Rumsfeld argued that it was right for America to take action regardless of what the rest of the world thought. “Doing the right thing will become popular in time.”

September 4: Today I learned the Navy has leased transport ships of type used to in the Gulf War. I predict a September 11 announcement. That sentiment is not universally shared in America. The military opposes the war, understanding they are the people who will have to fight it. They learned in Vietnam that it makes little sense to make war when the country is not behind the war effort. Pentagon opposition has been pointed, repeatedly asking the President what comes after Saddam is defeated. How much will the war cost? George H.W. Bush’s National Security Adviser Brent Scrowcroft advised against war. So did Dad's Secretary of State. While Congressional Democrats have been cooler to the conflict than Republicans, reiterating the Military’s objections, even extremely conservative Republicans have spoken against the war. It seems that the invasion shall go on. All the signs speak not of an administration not weighing its alternatives, but one whose opinion is fixed in stone, and simply attempting to prepare the ground for an attack it feels necessary.

War seems inevitable, whether it makes sense or not.

Saddam Hussein is clearly one of, if not the, most brutal dictators currently on earth. He has used weapons of mass destruction against his own citizens. He was in power less than six months before invading Iran, and after that war Iraq only enjoyed a few months of peace before he ordered the invasion of Kuwait. The Saddam museum in Baghdad celebrates his early days as an assassin. Practically every atrocity the US accuses him of happened. He has shown a genius for applied paranoia that Adolf Hitler might envy. He is and always will be a threat to his neighbors. He is a mass murderer. Saddam’s removal from this earth would leave it no poorer.

But does that justify his removal by war? I believe it does not. Saddam is a threat to his neighbors, his citizens and his family. But he does not constitute a direct threat to the peace or security of the United States. And while his behavior since Iraq’s defeat in the Gulf War has been obnoxious and embarrassing for Western leaders, that alone does not justify an invasion.

A Brief Look Back

Americans often say “We should have finished Saddam when we had the chance.” In hindsight that seems correct. At the end of the Gulf War, the allied armies lead by the United States, Britain and France had won one of the most one-sided victories in history. The world’s seventh largest army had been reduced to panic and disarray. Iraq agreed to Allied terms because it was helpless.

So why did the US stop? In hindsight we often forget what else was going on at the time. The UN mandate was to liberate Kuwait, and only Kuwait. That had been accomplished in spectacular fashion. It was not to conquer Iraq, and continued combat would have led to problems with our Arab allies. The Arab world would have seen this as new crusade, and it would have caused problems down the road. Arab allies like Syria and Saudi Arabia called for an immediate cease fire. Many of our European allies would have abandoned us. China and Russia demanded an immediate cease fire. To go on would have alienated the US internationally.

Deposing Saddam would have posed other problems. If you conquer a country, you become responsible for governing it, and rebuilding it. That would have cost billions while the Bush Administration was still running immense budget deficits. Leave Saddam in place and the Iraqis have to fund their own reconstruction. And then there was Iran.

Khomeini had died in 1989, but extremist clerics of still retained total control over Iran. The US and Iran had exchanged potshots during the Gulf War as Iran attempted to close the Gulf oil traffic to gain leverage over Iraq. The democratic, secular movement that is growing in Iran was invisible. At the time Iran was rightly, seen as a state supporting terrorism and its native brand of Islamic nationalism seen as a major threat.

Iraq was the only country nearby, with the exception of Turkey, that had sufficient population and resources to match up on Iran. Iraq could not be divided or neutered without leaving Iran the dominant Gulf power. The Republican Guards were left alive in part to leave enough force intact to discourage Iranian adventurism.

Besides, taking Iraq hardly seemed necessary. Saddam was seen as a petty third world dictator, who had managed 12 months of peace in twelve years of rule, and the two wars he had started had both turned into disasters. How many third world dictators have you seen survive that? The feeling was that an angry Iraqi military would kill him for us in a coup d’etat.

That didn’t happen. Saddam is a genius in creating paranoia. He began his career as an assassin for the Ba'ath Party in Iraq, and the Saddam museum in Iraq celebrates both his first assassination, and the time he was nearly assassinated. His rise to power drips with blood. He set up three separate secret police organizations, all charged with spying on each other. To make a coup d’etat, you need conspirators. It’s hard to conspire with anyone, if you can’t be sure if the person telling you Saddam’s an idiot isn't testing your loyalty. An anecdote will serve. At a meeting of his associates in Baghdad, Saddam announced that three people there were traitors. He named them, then handed a pistol to their best friends, ordering them to perform the executions. They shot their friends, knowing their families would die if they did not.

Saddam wasn’t overthrown in a coup because everyone was too frightened to plot against him. When some Kurds rebelled in Northern Iraq before the Gulf War, he used poison gas on them, killing 20,000 civilians. When the southern Shi’ites rebelled in Southern Iraq, his army massacred them with the Allies standing by. America stood by so partly because intervening was not in their mandate, but the main reason was the fear that a Shi’ite victory would really turn into a victory for radical Iran. Bush Sr. wanted revolt, but only from the Iraqi establishment. The massacre of the Shi’ites further discouraged rebellious sentiment in Iraq.

Saddam is a bastard. But does he constitute a real security threat to the United States? The Bush Administration clearly thinks he does, arguing that Saddam is a threat to his neighbors, a supporter of terrorism, and already has weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons he does not now possess he will obtain in time. Rumsfeld asked “Does it make sense to wait, and gain credit for doing nothing, until it is too late?” Saddam has pursued the acquisition of nuclear weapons with single-minded persistence before and after the Gulf War. It is legitimate to ask why when Iraq has so many other pressing needs. It is also legitimate to ask if he constitutes a threat to his neighbors, supports terrorism, and represents a threat to peace in the region.

Saddam certainly would like to be a threat to his neighbors. He was in power less than a year before invading southern Iran. That attack may be seen as an opportunistic attempt to seize Iranian oil fields. Iran had recently purged it’s military leadership of all who were seen as too close to the Shah. Unfortunately, that also purged most professionals in the Iranian military. Iran’s military was also seen as technically weak, as it was dependent almost entirely on US Weapons, spare parts for which had been cut off after Iran seized the US Embassy and took hostages. Saddam must have seen an opportunity.

That war dragged on for years and Iraq was nearly defeated despite overwhelming firepower superiority. Iranian soldiers proved brave and clever, traits noticeably missing from Saddam’s troops. Anthony H. Cordesman wrote that Iraqi infantry would not fight outside their armored vehicles, even though that virtually guaranteed the failure of Iraqi attacks. Iran only agreed to swallow ‘that bitter pill’ as Ayatollah Khomeni called peacemaking after Iraqi chemical attacks decimated the poorly equipped Iranian regiments. The war also proved extremely costly for Iraq, both in lives and funds. Iraq suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties and wasted billions. Yet six months after the cease fire with Iraq, Saddam ordered an invasion of Kuwait.

Why? The simple reason seems money. Iran has a lot of oil, most of it located near southern Iraq. Kuwait has a lot of oil. Some say that Iraq sought that money to fund the Gulf War. Then why invade Iran? Oil represents income, and income allows you buy things, like planes and tanks without taxing your population into discontent. Controlling Kuwait or Iranian oil would have made Iraq a much bigger player in OPEC. Threatening oil cutoffs might be seen as a way to neutralize the West, allowing Saddam a free hand in the region, where he probably strove to become a power. Iran was first because it seeme possible. Kuwait was seen as easy.

Unfortunately for Saddam, Kuwait woke NATO, particularly the United States. Nobody says much about it, but the view inside the US military is that the current sanctions regime is working. US and British jets overfly Iraq at will. They bomb whatever they really want to. Iraqi control is limited to some extent in Northern Iraq.The sanctions have not completely stifled Iraqi re-armament but it is a shadow of what it would have been. And it makes absolutely clear that another ‘adventure’ will lead the US to invade and conquer Iraq, no matter who is President.

With regard to his neighbors, Saddam has, in effect, been neutered by the clear and present threat of overwhelming US power. He probes in small ways, but knows very well that any major move will lead to war with the United States. He is careful to probe slowly, and always retreats when confronted with real force. Everyone in Iraq knows that another fight would be catastrophic.

The question then becomes why the bellicose rhetoric and occasional attempts to shoot down an American plane? The smart thing to do would be to lie low, let the inspectors do their thing. Even America has a hard time sustaining anger and purpose in the absence of provocation. Particularly when a country has money to spend. Had Saddam been cool for the last ten years the US and Britain would have figured he learned his lesson and withdrawn. Oh, the CIA, DIA and MI-6 would be keeping an eye on him, but he’d be back in business.

One answer lies in the culture of political paranoia inside Iraqi politics. If your boss is a thug, giving unwanted advice is a good way to draw the wrong attention to yourself. To survive you anticipate what he wants, then be 10% tougher than the boss. Probably Saddam hears few voices counseling moderation, until he himself brings it up. Bellicose rhetoric keeps him visible in the Arab world, and grants him legitimacy among those who dislike the status quo. Like some other Arab leaders, he may harbor dreams of becoming the next Saladin. And frankly, moderation and passivity does not fit his brutal personality.

Does he support terrorism? The short answer seems to be ‘no’.The Bush Administration searched high and low for a link between al-Quaeda and Iraq and found none. There were some mentions of meetings between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi diplomat. That means nothing by itself. Intelligence officers meet all the time with strange malcontents who might prove useful. Saddam knows the US has him under a microscope, and that any terrorist acts linked to Iraq could prove fatal. To Saddam. Granted such links are difficult to prove, but all it takes is one piece of bad luck to bring the Wrath of God down on him. Saddam wants to live. No doubt he enjoyed September 11, 2001 but had nothing to do with it.

He also seeks weapons of mass destruction, and the Bush Administration has put these deadliest of weapons at the forefront of its campaign against Iraq. The president and others have argued that we cannot wait until it is too late. But does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ridder says no. Anthony H. Cordesman and UN Weapons Inspector Richard Butler disagree.

Saddam probably has chemical weapons. The Bhopal, India disaster in 1984 illustrated that the difference between a chemical weapons plant and a legitimate civilian chemical plant is subtle. Without on-site inspection it is impossible to verify that a plant is being used for legitimate purposes. But chemical weapons are not particularly easy to use, and are easy to trace. Particularly for terrorists. Aum Shinrikyo released nerve gas in a Tokyo Subway and killed eleven, a death toll easily reached with a bomb. While chemical weapons were effective against Iran, they proved a non factor in the Gulf War. US soldiers are trained and equipped to fight in a chemical environment. The US army is very fast and mobile, which makes chemical attacks less effective, even against unprepared troops. Attacking US soldiers is not the same as attacking poorly equipped Iranians. The likely result will simply be to make America really angry. And US military doctrine has always treated all weapons of mass destruction as the same. A chemical attack on the US could trigger a nuclear response.

But what about nuclear weapons? These are easier to use and could prove a devastating terror weapon. Saddam has pursued them with a singlemended determination. Why? One reason may simply be that he wants to be a player. He may see nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Western nations wishing to stop his expansionist plans. Nuclear weapons may represent a spite weapon, to be used in revenge for his fall. They may be used to intimidate his neighbors. Or he could see them as the ultimate terrorist weapon. Most likely, all of the above.

Nuclear weapons would grant Iraq a certain status. Saddam has a thug’s mentality, and acquisition of nuclear weapons he may see as a way of attaining international stature, like the street criminal who wants to show you his piece to gain respect. They might enhance his position in the Islamic world. More likely, Saddam sees a nuclear threat as a deterrent to NATO that might allow him a free hand in the Middle East.

Of course Iraqi nuclear weapons could be used to intimidate Saddam’s neighbors, and conceivably threaten the United States. A nuclear threat by Saddam would be taken seriously, because everyone knows feels no remorse. But the nuclear card must be played carefully, if you don’t want your neighbors to respond in kind. And any overt threat of that type would galvanize world opinion against him. It would push his neighbors closer to the United States, rather than far away. Saddam’s ability to threaten America with nuclear weapons in a crisis is low, because he has no delivery system capable of hitting the United States. And he ought to remember that the United States is a superpower.

It isn’t very smart to play nuclear chicken with a superpower. He may have a bomb or two, but if he uses even one, he is dead. The Ba’ath party is dead, the Republican guards are dead, and very possibly Iraq itself is dead. A single US submarine can carry 192 475 kiloton warheads (the Hiroshima bomb was 20 kilotons). Multiple targeting packages for Iraq have already been prepared, and the software already aboard the subs. If the order is given this second, within thirty minutes mushroom clouds will sprout all over Iraq.

If the Iraqi officials are thinking, that ought to terrify them. A nuclear war with the United States might very well leave everyone dead. That might undermine Saddam’s authority, which is derived from terror. After all, terror is effective only when nothing else scares you more. But Iraqis may not understand the true nature of nuclear war. The capabilities of nuclear forces tend to be wildly exaggerated or underplayed. I grew up watching films shot immediately after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Pakistan, such information is suppressed. Most Pakistanis think of nukes a simply a bigger bomb, not really understanding how much they change. Even in ruling circles, Iraq’s leadership might not understand what they are getting into.

This is probably the administration’s greatest fear, that a few nukes will make Saddam believe himself invincible, and set of a chain of events that would lead to a nuclear showdown with the United States. During a confrontation, the Iraqis may attempt the nuclear option without really understanding what they are in for. Saddam has shown little restraint when it comes to violence. His calculations of Western morale, determination and power have often proved wildly wrong. Baghdad may begin to believe its own boasts. Nuclear weapons may embolden Iraq to new adventures, and get it into a wider war which could enflame the region.

Bio weapons offer a more believable threat. Saddam Hussein had an active biological weapons program before the Gulf War. Every former weapons inspector believes this, including Scott Ridder, though up to know no conclusive proof has been found. Many specialists believe it still active, but no one knows anything much about. Expert opinion is divided on the subject,. Biological weapons, if contagious enough, can be used as terror weapons. Smallpox could cause casualties worldwide in the millions. Such weapons are also rather difficult to trace, so they might see to offer Iraq an untraceable way to attack America. Clearly the anthrax terrorist who struck in the aftermath of September 11 has not been caught, despite a huge and determined manhunt.

But Bio weapons like smallpox are had to keep in the cage. They can easily spread back to your own people, which is a good reason not to use them. And the US will treat a bio attack exactly as it would a nuclear attack, and might not require a smoking gun to act.

So if Saddam is a threat, he has shown himself not to be suicidal. Using a weapon of mass destruction is tantamount to suicide. He is a threat yes, but a containable threat. America is far older than the Ba’athist regime and will outlive Saddam Hussein. We can afford restraint.

There are other reasons not to attack. First of all, we would have no allies. Absolutely no one in the world, even the Brits, sees Saddam in the same light as George W. Bush. This is particularly true in the Middle East. While most Arabs hate Saddam, there is no way any government can grant the US such support. The Bush administration’s uncritical support for Israel has angered much of the Arab world. The average Arab does see the US as a nation that hates Islam and has it in for the Arab world. They will see an invasion as pure imperialism, and a deliberate attempt to weaken and intimidate the entire Arab World. No PR campaign can change that. To invade Iraq we will need large, heavy ground forces and that means land bases for logistical support. (See The Crusader and the New Army) America will NOT get basing rights for an attack on Iraq, without a prior Iraqi attack. Logistics may force W. to invade a country friendly to the US. Or attempt an amphibious invasion in the 20 miles of coastline Iraq actually controls, with no possibility of surprise whatsoever.

Even leaving those tactical difficulties behind, attacking will further isolate the United States in the world. Many Europeans, people who we count on as friends and generally share our world view, have begun calling the US a rogue state. I don’t think that bothers W. A bit. His foreign policy can be accurately described as “I’ll do what I want, and you do what I want too”. The Bush administration has said no on every major international initiative put forward since he took power. He said no to Kyoto global warming treaty, the Nuclear Test Ban treaty, and the ABM treaty He rejected the chemical weapons treaty after September 11. He ordered the US to veto UN peacekeeping resolutions, in order to torpedo a permanent International War Crimes Tribunal. This after the atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Apparently the court is okay as long as it applies to everyone but the United States, forgetting the hypocracy of that position. The Bush Administration has done almost everything it can to squander the good will won after September 11. Invading Iraq will make America look like a bully.

Second, an Iraqi invasion will be very expensive. Estimates start about $80 billion, which is about the cost of the Gulf War. Most of those costs were borne by allies like Japan, who need Gulf Oil even more than America. No one will help pay for this war, and the Bush administration has in two years moved from surplus to deficits in excess of $200 billion. That’s if the war goes as planned. One war plan that was leaked involved using on three US divisions. Given sufficient air power, that’s probably enough to defeat the Iraqi army. It’s nowhere near enough to occupy Iraq. Thing is, given the cost of war, those are the kind of numbers I expect the administration to commit initially. Overconfident from easy victories in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, I think Rumsfeld and Cheney think the US can win on air power alone. If they’re wrong, three divisions will be just the beginning. Yet the Army has only 10 regular divisions. Expect major “mission slippage” as events take their own form. The 80 billion cost estimate will probably prove shockingly low. Expect casualties in the tens of thousands, not the cakewalk that was the Gulf War. After all, we’re coming to take over the country, not eject them from someone else's home.

After victory, the US will have to rebuild Iraq. We will have to re-establish a new government in Iraq, and as the Saudi Ambassador recently pointed out, there aren’t a lot of Jeffersonian Democrats left alive in Iraq to reconstitute a new government. Not even half a Nelson Mandela, because Saddam doesn’t imprison dissidents, he kills them. The Iraqi opposition is useless, fragmented and parochial. There may not be anyone left to form a government. Which means America is in for a long and expensive period of occupation. And, of course, the inevitable guerilla and terrorist casualties during that time. Yet in Afghanistan the Bush Administration showed it has almost zero interest in nation building.

Invading Iraq may also touch off a constitutional crisis. According to the Constitution, War making powers are deliberately divided. The President is Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. This is appropriate. A committee cannot efficiently conduct a battle, or respond quickly to contingencies. But only the Congress may declare war. According to Army Col. Harry Summers (ret.) that is because the framers wanted a declaration of war to be declaration of the entire country. In essence, a Declaration of War commits America as a society to war. It must reflect the will of the people, not simply a narrow strip. To go two war without such a Declaration, is to admit that such support may not exist. Yet according to Summers, that support is essential when matters get tough for the troops in the field. If America cannot decide in unison to go to war, then it has no business sending its sons and daughters to die on the battlefield.

Some commentators have noted that a Declaration of War is outdated, noting that none has been used since World War II. That notion is wrong. A Declaration of War could have been obtained both for the Gulf War, and for the campaign in Afghanistan had the President asked. He did not, and Congress did not push the matter itself.

Part of the problem is that since World War II, a declaration of War has been seen as a matter of total war, requiring an unconditional surrender. But a bigger issue has been one of presidential prerogative. Presidents are loathe to ask for one, fearing that will commit them to total victory. And Congress has not pushed the issue itself, preferring to leave responsibility on the President’s shoulders, so it can assign blame or claim victory as events emerge. That attitude is dead wrong. If you are not willing to accept responsibility for war, then you should not make it. That was the primary lesson of Vietnam.

No example is clearer than that of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was used by the Johnson Administration to intervene and fight the war in South Vietnam. The resolution itself was passed in the aftermath of a perceived North Vietnamese torpedo boat attack on two US destroyers, the Maddox and Turner Joy. There had been a real attack days earlier, one fatal only to North Vietnamese and a sonarman on the Turner Joy though he heard torpedoes in the water. It later was established that what he had heard was water rushing over his sonar head during a sharp turn, that there had been no attack. But an outraged Congress passed the Resolution, authorizing the Johnson administration to retaliate and protect Americans in Vietnam. Ironically enough, only Al Gore’s father seems to have realized that a vote for the resolution was in fact a vote for War. His warning’s to the Senate proved prescient.

Events proved Al Gore Sr. right. Vietnam had grown far beyond what they had anticipated, becoming the ultimate example of “mission slippage” Congress passed the War Powers Act in an attempt to prevent that from happening again. Unfortunately, the Act has no teeth and is probably unconstitutional. It simply states that the President can use the military as he sees fit, but must report to Congress and seek authorization after thirty days. After sixty days the troops must be withdrawn unless Congress authorizes them to stay longer.

The War Powers Act, in essence, gives the President a free hand for sixty days. More than enough time to conquer Grenada. Congress did not cede that to weaken itself, but rather in respect for the fact that America could find itself in an unexpected crisis that required an immediate response. Representative Dante Fascelli (D-Fla) recalled that the Congress was very concerned about tying the President’s hand in a crisis. After all, everyone in the Congress at that time was alive on December 7, 1941. Yet the Congress sought to make sure that it would be consulted, and be a part of a long war.

Since the passage of the Act, both Presidents and Congress have complied in ways that did not push the other to the wall. Both the Executive and Legislative Branches realized that a constitutional challenge could bring the house down, and neither might like the results. But the Bush administration has insisted that it has the right to act on its own, without consulting Congress. The administration has made the argument on two points, the President’s role as Commander in Chief, and because the original Gulf War Resolution still applies. This view is wrong. The Gulf War resolution was fulfilled the moment Iraq was driven from Kuwait. Nowhere does it mention the removal of any Iraqi government, including Saddam Hussein’s.

Technically, as Commander-in-Chief the President can use his authority to send the military where he wants. Teddy Roosevelt used that power to dispatch the Great White Fleet on it’s around the world cruise to let the rest of the world know that America had arrived and needed to be taken seriously. But a cruise is one thing, "regime change" another. If the Bush Administration’s optimistic plans come to pass, and a quick nearly bloodless victory is won, the point will probably be moot. Congress and the people will rally round the flag, regardless of political stripe. While support for deposing Saddam Hussein is widespread, I do not think it strong enough for a protracted expensive conflict and a resolution.

But if that plan goes sour, or takes longer than expected, and leads to a long term and expensive American commitment both Congress and the President will have to settle accounts. Bush will have to answer to the American people and a skeptical Congress. The War Powers Act will face its constitutional test. If so, the outcome may be to tie the hands of all Presidents from then on. America will be further divided. Arab anger at the US will grow, increasing rather than decreasing the likelihood of terrorist strikes. In fact, many more neutral and reasonable nations may come to feel that the need nuclear arms to defend themselves from the United States. Europe and America will find itself further estranged. America may come to be seen as not a powerful force for good, but it’s greatest threat to peace.

Given all the reasons for avoiding war, and the weak reasons for entering it the decision to make peace seems obvious. Yet I believe the Administration made up its mind long ago, and is simply trying to convince the rest of us to go along. The Bush Administration came to power already fascinated with Iraq. To be sure, Saddam will represent an irritant to any American President, and will expose him or her to criticism. But that does not explain the Bush Administration’s single-minded focus on Iraq. After the September 11, every attempt was made to tie Saddam to the attacks, almost as if that tragic day was seen as an excuse to do something the Bush Administration wanted to do all along. To clear the biggest mistake on his Father’s name.

I believe the campaign has less to do with security than erasing a Bush family mistake. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have taken him out. But the mistake was neither stupid nor venal, but rather required the George H.W. Bush to peer into a future that no one else correctly saw. The future I clearly see is an expensive and unnecessary war to eliminate a marginal threat that will further isolate America in the world. I see a war against Iraq as a giant mistake. And if that is a mistake, then I prefer to err on the side of peace. If it is not, then there will be no doubt when America acts, and when she acts, it will not be alone.

America is a superpower, but it is not alone in this world. We have friends and allies as well as adversaries. If our case for war is so weak that we dare not approach the Congress, and cannot count on the support of our friends, then America has no business making war. I can only hope that in the end, George W. Bush realizes this as well. I fear he does not.

Onward Christian soldiers
Marching as to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

Christ the loyal Master
Leads against the foe
Forward into battle
See his banners go.


America's war with Iraq is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when1. No country forks out millions of dollars -- which ever currency -- not to recoup the investment. Certainly not a Capitalist country such as the United States.

Call him a man with a room temperature IQ if you will, but George W. Bush is no fool when it comes to Oil, and his advisors are not fools when it comes to economics. Tony Blair is under immense stick at the moment with his Labour government, the majority of whom do not support a war in Iraq, particularly not without the grace of the United Nations. And well they shouldn't, for the British public do not support the invasion.

Britain will support America in the Iraq war. Again, there is no if. Tony Blair may be deemed a lapdog of George Bush's, but in the two odd years leading up to the next elections in the United Kingdom, the British public will forgive the Labour Party. Partly, they will forgive the Labour Party because of the party members' speaking out against war, and partly they will forgive them because their lives will not materially change.

Ask any Canadian citizen, or anyone from an ironore producing nation about Bush's import tarrifs, and they'll have a lot to say. The logging tarrifs are crippling the Canadian logging industry, and the ironore tarrifs are hurting other countries. Bush is yet to impose huge import duties on the things that my country exports to the US, their biggest trade partner. I wonder why that is?

It seems to me a sick deal that has tacitly been struck.

Tony buys bombs from Dubya, drops them on Dubya's enemy, Dubya doesn't enforce hefty import duties on Tony's produce. Tony's and Dubya's economies grow, and a few damn A-rab terrorists get their wrists slapped. Works out good for all.


The atrocities of September 11, 2001 will never be repeated. Not on that scale. Why not? Because in a sick twist of fate, September 11th has been good (if that is at all possible) for America and bad for the muslim world. 2,801 people died in the Twin Towers, but many more died in Afghanistan and Palestine2 and throughout the rest of the world in official and unofficial revenge attacks. The US's War on Terror in Afghanistan prompted Israel to issue forth with their own War on Terror and we saw Gaza International Airport ripped up, the events at Jenin and heard George W. Bush yell

"Hang on there, Tiger! What's good for the Goose ain't good for the Gander!"

In the time since the attacks, however, the American population have pulled together, reaffirmed their patriotism, shown empathy for one another and become more tolerant. They have mourned and they have rebuilt. Muslims who had no involvement whatsoever in the attacks have been bombed, shelled, assasinated, exiled, had their homes destroyed, their livelihoods taken away, they have suffered.


Regime change in Iraq will not do anything to avert terrorism. While there is huge disparity between the haves and the havenots, there will always be terrorism. It is their only means of recourse. This does not mean I support terrorism.3

Regime change in Iraq will not facilitate the capture of Osama bin Laden. If he really is responsible for September 11, 2001, then try him in absentia. What are you afraid of? Your duty to provide a competent defence will prevent you from finding him guilty beyond a resonable doubt? The Taliban regime were the first to say that given adequate proof of guilt, they would produce the man. Thousands need not have died. Who has blood on their hands now?

Saddam Hussein is old and reports are that he's ailing. In a few years, he will either die or retire, facilitating a natural regime change4.


If Iraq really posed a threat to the United States, they would not be going to war against them. Cast your mind back to the Cold War. The USSR posed a serious and real threat, so no hostilities ever materialised. Simple fact. Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, was never going to trouble America, mostly because they had no idea that the attack was coming.

Iraq is a different kettle of fish. Since the Gulf War, the US has steadily built rather large bases in the Middle East. Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. There's also now Afghanistan (just as soon as those US construction firms repair all the runways) and Pakistan, maybe also Turkey and Jordan. Iraq is practically surrounded, with only one neighbour they can count on not forming allegiance with the US: their old foe Iran.

Since things got wrapped up in Afghanistan, however, the US has been increasing its showings of aggression towards Iraq. The former governer of Texas, who executed more death row prisoners than any before him, is obviously baying for blood once again. You will argue that Saddam Hussein does not have a right to defend his country and its citizens following the Kuwait incident a decade ago, and I will argue that he does. You will argue that he does not treat his citizens fairly, and I will argue Judge not lest yea be judged. I will further argue that Arab culture is not one of democracy, and that you can't change the world over night because you want to and you think your way is better.

As I said above, the US would not strike Iraq if it felt that Iraq posed a real threat. What if they have miscalculated? Are the United States of America and the United Kingdom ready and prepared to defend their mainlands? I don't think so.5


Arab Nationalism has been around for nearly a century. It has come in fits and starts, interrupted by the trappings of nouveau riche, thanks to the wealth generated by the oil dependency that has escalated throughout the world in the last century. Having saved up more money than they can ever spend, and developed big cities on their sandy landscapes, the sheikhs of the Gulf have realised that unity = strength. We have had OPEC for nearly half a century, and now have the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) with member states Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. The GCC are already talking about a single currency.

All the GCC states have spoken out against an attack on Iraq. It is unlikely that the states will join together and support Iraq in a counter-military operation6, but do not be surprised if they fight back and hit the US where it really hurts: with oil. George Bush has already warned Europe and the United Kingdom to stock up on their oil reserves, obviously confident that Texan and Alaskan supplies plus reserves will see the US through until the Gulf quietens down again.

Any miscalculation on OPEC greed would have devastating effects on US culture as we know it7.




Footnotes:

  1. a. My fatalist attitude does not overwrite my sense of hope, or my belief in the pen is mightier than the sword.
    b. This writeup was written as the datestamp on the node. In later weeks, the Labour government's annual conference came and went, and so did the rhetoric in the UK newspapers. Coincidentally, the US is leading up to the midterm elections on November 2, 2002. The DC Sniper is now hogging headlines and the war on Iraq has been cast to the backburner.
  2. Call the "occupied" territories what you will, I mean the place where the Palestinians live.
  3. Terrorism played a central role in tearing down apartheid. We all agree that the removal of apartheid was a good thing. How do you feel about terrorism now?
  4. His son is touted as his heir to the Iraqi throne (head of state).
  5. Selective advertising or bitter irony: you decide -- during a recent ad break while watching BBC British, probably ITV main evening news was a UK Air Force recruitment advertisement.
  6. 24/11/93 - MIDDLE EAST GULF: JOINT ARMY OR A "SHIELD"?
    The absence of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz, from a meeting of Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) defence ministers in Abu Dhabi between 10-12 November has confirmed the Saudi regime's opposition to any process leading to the creation of a unified, 100,000-strong Gulf army. -- http://www.intelligenceonline.com/dossiers/iof/p_Sawari.asp
  7. This is a best-case scenario. Ask your nearest Zimbabwean what life without oil is like for a worst-case scenario.


Sources:

  • Numerous newspaper articles over a long period of time. Including The Times, The Independent, The Guardian and METRO
  • BBC and ITV TV news reports
  • various articles at http://globalsecurity.org
  • http://www.cs.cf.ac.uk/User/O.F.Rana/aranib/index.html

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