Archive for February, 2003

Attack Iraq?

Saturday, February 15th, 2003

Why no–The not-often-discussed basics




The popular bumper sticker says Attack Iraq? No! This is a good sentiment. I have one of these on my own car. But with the blizzard of pro-war propaganda being hurled at us from the president and media mouthpieces, it is easy to get sidetracked into a debate about presence of weapons in Iraq and lose sight of the real reasons to oppose this war.

Here are my top five reasons why this war is wrong and must be stopped:

1. Slaughter. War will mean death and destruction for hundreds of thousands of innocents, an outrageous number of poorly-armed Iraqi forces, and some




number of U.S. and allied troops. Leaked U.S. battle plans propose a mega-salvo designed to produce “Shock and Awe” amongst the stunned Iraqi populace in order to coerce them to renounce their military defenses and give up their country to the invading Americans. Even if the world situation eventually reaches the promised land of a democratic Iraq with benevolent long-term American support (a dubious prospect), the scars of this slaughter will haunt America, Iraq, indeed the world, forever.

2. This U.S. attack on Iraq will be a war of aggression, with or without U.N. approval. There is no chance the Iraqi regime is now a threat to anyone outside its borders. Iraq is a severely weakened country with military power and weaponry far inferior to the American forces surrounding it. It is many times weaker than it was when it invaded Kuwait in 1990 after its population has been assaulted by more than a decade of brutally drawn economic sanctions. The super-hyped dangers of hidden Iraqi weapons promulgated by U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are easy to sell to a fairly large portion American public because of lingering fear from the 9/11 attacks. But almost no one outside of heavily propagandized America has any unusual alarm about weapons Saddam Hussein may or may not have. Powell, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rice and Cheney themselves seem not really concerned about Iraqi weapons. If the weapons were of genuine concern to these administration figures, they would not have participated in allowing Hussein to get weapons during the 1980s (see chronology). Nor would they now have such confidence in a quick prosecution of a war.

What these U.S. officials rarely say in public but do really want is an opportunistic taking of the country in order to realign the region for American and Israeli advantage, insure basing and fuel supplies far into the future for the military itself, and to consolidate and increase U.S. power in the management the region’s energy riches and political landscape (see Why War? The role of oil).

No reasonable argument for self defense against an Iraqi attack on the U.S. exists because there is no such attack. America will create for itself a source of great shame if we ignore the fundamental precepts of international law by failing to recognize that we have no moral and legal right to invade and occupy another sovereign country. Americans recognize this and that accounts for enhanced anti-war sentiment in polls when they are asked if they would support a war without U.N. approval. But the U.N. cannot legalize the war. It still will be wrong, even if the U.S. can bribe and twist arms in order to force a war resolution through the Security Council.

“It is clear that launching a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify,” according U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson. Nazis convicted at Nuremberg were hung in part for planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression.

3. U.S. taking of Iraq will increase, not lessen, the chance of terrorism against Americans. Even Colin Powell admits that this war would elevate the threat, though he says the period of danger would be brief. I disagree. Bush is in the process of whipping up such strong anti-American sentiment throughout the world that pathetically weak Iraq is near the back of the line of potential attackers who will remain angry for a long, long time. In the run-up to the attack, the terrorism threat is being played like an accordion with the flood of alerts and news of bin Laden tapes and al-Qa’ida connections to Hussein. Listen to the din carefully and you will hear the dissonance: Powell tells the U.N about al-Qa’ida in Iraq, but there are disclaimers on the terror alerts that want to direct us away from thinking there is a link to the coming war. In reality, there is no proof of direct connection between al-Qa’ida and Iraq. Colin Powell’s exposition on the subject is highly suspect (see below and Robert Fisk, “You Wanted to Believe Him”). Still, the deep reasons for going to war do include a below-board strategy for throttling Saudi-based anti-Americanism. Cheney has spoken in public about the “regional advantages” in combating terrorism from a war on Iraq. He means that taking Iraq will demonstrate to the Saudis that they have less oil leverage and that they better pacify their more out-of-control elements. Unfortunately, the anger generated by this approach will leave America the target of terror for years to come.

4. U.S. taking of Iraq does not appear to be the end of the imperial designs of U.S. planners. An extended, dangerous period of escalation of application of U.S. power in an attempt to hold and control its expanding spoils of war can be expected. Despite their arrogance and hubris, Bush and his team should not have much confidence that the chaos of the post-invasion period can be kept benign.There is great uncertainty about the controllability of forces that could be unleashed as America commits to new global management requirements far beyond its present substantial deployments. Current U.S. planning envisions a three-phase transition of Iraq from American military administration to some form of American-style government led by current Iraqi exiles. This process will be highly problematic and will probably require considerable force to pacify the disparate populations within Iraq. Beyond Iraq, the U.S. intends to insure that the behavior of Saudi Arabia and other countries with strategic resources align with its hegemonic goals, thus inviting a radical anti-american response.

5. This war will perhaps be the worst cynical betrayal of the fighting men and women in the military in U.S. history. The American people need to know that it is only the peace movement that truly supports the troops. The only troop support that means a damn thing is stopping the war in the first place. This is a strong statement given the experience of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but I believe that this is true. Our troops will be thrown into a battlefield where they will be exposed to deadly toxins. The deleterious effects on our troops and the Iraqi population of extensive use of depleted uranium munitions in the first Gulf War is only now coming to light. The new war will feature a ten-fold increase in the release of these toxins. A great deal of information on the suffering of our own veterans may be found at this website: The imperialism of Bush and his lieutenants is a BETRAYAL of the troops and the American people, while they engender a false image that American troops do not care about human life. This image of our troops as storm troopers enforcing imperial policy, like it or not, will take a quantum leap in currency after an attack on Iraq. We will have lost any remaining legitimacy we have in using our military might against actual terrorists (not that I agree this has been the U.S. aim at any point, but post-9/11 legitimacy in the eyes of the world will have been squandered totally). None of this weight do I want our great country, our troops, and all of our people to have to bear.