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 alliesafter Israel, of coursein 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 anyI think the evidence thattalked 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, 20021:32 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 2002an "exclusive" that managed to get a brief item in the Associated Press before being quickly and conveniently forgottenit 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 Ladenhis 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 appearedand 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 emptypossibly 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: "9095 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 Turkeya strong US-NATO ally and recipient of a great deal of military aidhas 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, onethe American Type Culture Collection of Maryland and Virginiamade 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 Weaponsone 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 soldiersbut 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 Oregonthese 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 answeredthough 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.
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.
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 Congresswhich is essentially a single party with divisions over tactical meansis 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 groupand 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 Boschas 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.
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 placeto 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," apparentlythat 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 Actwhich deals solely with "hostilities" and "attack," not planning, authorizing, aid, or preventionis 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
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 opinioneven from allies not cowed by the "with us or against us" veiled threatwill 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.