Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Tue Aug 6 11:05:22 MDT 2002

Phyllis Bennis was not called to testify at the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee hearing on Iraq (July 31-August 1 2002). However, Senator Paul
Wellstone did introduce her written statement as part of the official
record of the hearing.

Testimony Prepared for Hearings on Iraq Policy
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
31 July 2002
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

Nelson Mandela was right when he said that attacking
Iraq would be "a disaster." A U.S. invasion of Iraq would risk the lives
of U.S. military personnel and inevitably kill thousands of Iraqi
civilians; it is not surprising that many U.S. military officers,
including some within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are publicly opposed to a
new war against Iraq. Such an attack would violate international law and
the UN Charter, and isolate us from our friends and allies around the
world. An invasion would prevent the future return of UN arms inspectors,
and will cost billions of dollars urgently needed at home. And at the end
of the day, an invasion will not insure stability, let alone democracy, in
Iraq or the rest of the volatile Middle East region, and will put American
civilians at greater risk of hatred and perhaps terrorist attacks than
they are today.


It is now clear that (despite intensive investigative
efforts) there is simply no evidence of any Iraqi involvement in the
terror attacks of September 11. The most popular theory, of a Prague-based
collaboration between one of the 9/11 terrorists and an Iraqi official,
has now collapsed. Just two weeks ago, the Prague Post quoted the director
general of the Czech foreign intelligence service UZSI (Office of Foreign
Relations and Information), Frantisek Bublan, denying the much-touted
meeting between Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, and an
Iraqi agent.

More significantly, the Iraqi regime's brutal treatment
of its own population has generally not extended to international
terrorist attacks. The State Department's own compilation of terrorist
activity in its 2001 Patterns of Global Terrorism, released May 2002, does
not document a single serious act of international terrorism by Iraq.
Almost all references are either to political statements made or not made
or hosting virtually defunct militant organizations.

We are told that we must go to war preemptively against
Iraq because Baghdad might, some time in the future, succeed in crafting a
dangerous weapon and might, some time in the future, give that weapon to
some unknown terrorist group --maybe Osama bin Laden-- who might, some
time in the future, use that weapon against the U.S. The problem with this
analysis, aside from the fact that preemptive strikes are simply illegal
under international law, is that it ignores the widely known historic
antagonism between Iraq and bin Laden. According to the New York Times,
"shortly after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990, Osama bin Laden
approached Prince Sultan bin Abdelaziz al-Saud, the Saudi defense
minister, with an unusual proposition. Arriving with maps and many
diagrams, Mr. Bin Laden told Prince Sultan that the kingdom could avoid
the indignity of allowing an army of American unbelievers to enter the
kingdom to repel Iraq from Kuwait. He could lead the fight himself, he
said, at the head of a group of former mujahideen that he said could
number 100,000 men." Even if bin Laden's claim to be able to provide those
troops was clearly false, bin Laden's hostility towards the ruthlessly
secular Iraq remained evident. There is simply no evidence that that has

Ironically, an attack on Iraq would increase the threat
to U.S. citizens throughout the Middle East and perhaps beyond, as another
generation of young Iraqis come to identify Americans only as the pilots
of high-flying jet bombers and as troops occupying their country. While
today American citizens face no problems from ordinary people in the
streets of Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq, as I documented during my visit
to Iraq with five Congressional staffers in August 1999, that situation
would likely change in the wake of a U.S. attack on Iraq. In other
countries throughout the Middle East, already palpable anger directed at
U.S. threats would dramatically escalate and would provide a new
recruiting tool for extremist elements bent on harm to U.S. interests or
U.S. citizens. It would become far more risky for U.S. citizens to travel


While estimates of casualties among U.S.
servicepersonnel are not public, we can be certain they will be much
higher than in the current war in Afghanistan. We do know, from Pentagon
estimates of two years ago, the likely death toll among Iraqi civilians:
about 10,000 Iraqi civilians would be killed. And the destruction of
civilian infrastructure such as water, electrical and communications
equipment, would lead to tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of more
civilian deaths, particularly among children, the aged and others of the
most vulnerable sectors. We can anticipate that such targeted attacks
would be justified by claims of "dual use." But if we look back to the
last U.S. war with Iraq, we know that the Pentagon planned and carried out
knowing and documenting the likely impact on civilians. In one case,
Pentagon planners anticipated that striking Iraq's civilian infrastructure
would cause " Increased incidence of diseases [that] will be attributable
to degradation of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water
purification/ distribution, electricity, and decreased ability to control
disease outbreaks." The Defense Intelligence Agency document (from the
Pentagon's Gulflink website), "Disease Information -- Subject: Effects of
Bombing on Disease Occurrence in Baghdad" is dated 22 January 1991, just
six days after the war began. It itemized the likely outbreaks to include:
"acute diarrhea" brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and
salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardia, which will affect
"particularly children," or by rotavirus, which will also affect
"particularly children." And yet the bombing of the water treatment
systems proceeded, and indeed, according to UNICEF figures, hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis, "particularly children," died from the effects of
dirty water.

The most recent leaked military plan for invading Iraq,
the so-called "inside-out" plan based on a relatively small contingent of
U.S. ground troops with heavy reliance on air strikes, would focus first
and primarily on Baghdad. The Iraqi capital is described as being ringed
with Saddam Hussein's crack troops and studded with anti-aircraft
batteries. What is never mentioned in the report is the inconvenient fact
that Baghdad is also a crowded city of four to five million people;
a heavy air bombardment would cause the equivalent human catastrophe of
heavy air bombardment of Los Angeles.


There is no international support, at the governmental
or public level, for a U.S. attack on Iraq. Our closest allies throughout
Europe, in Canada, and elsewhere, have made clear their opposition to a
military invasion. While they recognize the Iraqi regime as a brutal,
undemocratic regime, they do not support a unilateral preemptive military
assault as an appropriate response to that regime. Yes, it is certain that
if the U.S. announces it is indeed going to war, that most of those
governments would grudgingly follow along. When President Bush repeats his
mantra that "you are either with us or with the terrorists," there is not
a government around the world prepared to stand defiant. But a foreign
policy based on international coercion and our allies' fear of retaliation
for noncompliance, is not a policy that will protect Americans and our
place in the world.

In the Middle East region, only Israel supports the
U.S. build-up to war in Iraq. The Arab states, including our closest
allies, have made unequivocal their opposition to an invasion of Iraq.
Even Kuwait, once the target of Iraqi military occupation and ostensibly
the most vulnerable to Iraqi threats, has moved to normalize its relations
with Baghdad. The Arab League-sponsored rapprochement between Iraq and
Kuwait at the March 2002 Arab Summit is now underway, including such
long-overdue moves as the return of Kuwait's national archives. Iraq has
now repaired its relations with every Arab country. Turkey has refused to
publicly announce its agreement to allow use of its air bases, and Jordan
and other Arab countries have made clear their urgent plea for the U.S. to
abjure a military attack on Iraq.

Again, it is certain that not a single government in
the region would ultimately stand against a U.S. demand for base rights,
use of airspace or overflight rights, or access to any other facilities.
The question we must answer therefore is not whether our allies will
ultimately accede to our wishes, but just how a price are we prepared to
exact from our allies? Virtually every Arab government, especially those
most closely tied to the U.S. (Jordan and Egypt, perhaps even Saudi
Arabia) will face dramatically escalated popular opposition. The existing
crisis of legitimacy faced by these undemocratic, repressive, and
non-representative regimes, monarchies and president-for-life style
democracies, will be seriously exacerbated by a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Region-wide instability will certain result, and some of those governments
might even face the possibility of being overthrown.


We claim to be a nation of laws. But too often we are
prepared to put aside the requirements of international law and the United
Nations Charter to which we hold other nations appropriately accountable.

When it comes to policy on Iraq, the U.S. has a history
of sidelining the central role that should be played by the United
Nations. This increasingly unilateralist trajectory is one of the main
reasons for the growing international antagonism towards the U.S. By
imposing its will on the Security Council -- insisting on the continuation
of economic sanctions when virtually every other country wants to lift
them, announcing its intention to ignore the UN in deciding whether to go
to war against Iraq -- the U.S. isolates us from our allies, antagonizes
our friends, and sets our nation apart from the international systems of
laws that govern the rest of the world. This does not help, but rather
undermines, our long-term security interests.

International law does not allow for preemptive
military strikes, except in the case of preventing an immediate attack. We
simply do not have the right -- no country does -- to launch a war against
another country that has not attacked us. If the Pentagon had been able to
scramble a jet to take down the second plane flying into the World Trade
Center last September, that would be a legal use of preemptive self
defense. An attack on Iraq -- which does not have the capacity, and has
not for a decade or more shown any specific intention or plan or effort to
attack the U.S. -- violates international law and the UN Charter.

The Charter, in Article 51, outlines the terms under
which a Member State of the United Nations may use force in self-defense.
That Article acknowledges a nation's "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." [Emphasis added.] The Charter
does not allow military force to be used absent an armed attack having

Some administration spokespeople are fond of a
sound-bite that says "the UN Charter is not a suicide pact." Others like
to remind us that Iraq (and other nations) routinely violate the Charter.
Both statements are true. But the United States has not been attacked by
Iraq, and there is simply no evidence that Iraq is anywhere close to being
able to carry out such an attack. The U.S. is the strongest international
power --in terms of global military reach, economic, cultural, diplomatic
and political power -- that has ever existed throughout history. If the
United States does not recognize the UN Charter and international law as
the foundation of global society, how can we expect others to do so?


Denying Iraq access to weapons is not sufficient, nor
can it be maintained as long as Iraq is surrounded by some of the most
over-armed states in the world. An immediate halt on all weapons shipments
to all countries in the region would be an important step towards
containing military threats.

We should expand our application of military sanctions
as defined in UN Resolution 687. Military sanctions against Iraq should be
tightened -- by expanding them to a system of regional military sanctions,
thus lowering the volatility of this already arms-glutted region. Article
14 of resolution 687 recognizes that the disarmament of Iraq should be
seen as a step towards "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone
free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery
and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons."


We are told we must attack Iraq preemptively so that it
can never obtain nuclear weapons. While we know from IAEA inspectors that
Iraq's nuclear program was destroyed by the end of 1998, we do not know
what has developed since. We do know, however, that Iraq does not have
access to fissile material, without which any nuclear program is a hollow
shell. And we know where fissile material is. Protection of all nuclear
material, including reinstatement of the funding for protection of Russian
nuclear material, must be a continuing priority.

We should note that U.S. officials are threatening a
war against Iraq, a country known not to possess nuclear weapons.
Simultaneously, the administration is continuing appropriate negotiations
with North Korea, which does have something much closer to nuclear weapons
inspections is exactly what the U.S. should be proposing for Iraq.


There has been no solid information regarding Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction since UNSCOM and IAEA arms inspectors left
Iraq in December 1998 in advance of the U.S. Desert Fox bombing operation.
Prior to their leaving, the inspectors' last report (November 1998) stated
that although they had been stymied by Iraqi non-compliance in carrying
out some inspections, "the majority of the inspections of facilities and
sites under the ongoing monitoring system were carried out with Iraq's
cooperation." The IAEA report was unequivocal that Iraq no longer had a
viable nuclear program. The UNSCOM report was less definitive, but months
earlier, in March 1998, UNSCOM chief Richard Butler said that his team was
satisfied there was no longer any nuclear or long-range missile capability
in Iraq, and that UNSCOM was "very close" to completing the chemical and
biological phases.

Since that time, there have been no verifiable reports
regarding Iraq's WMD programs. It is important to get inspectors back into
Iraq, but U.S. threats have made that virtually impossible by setting a
"negative incentive" in place. If Baghdad believes that a U.S. military
strike as well as the maintaining of crippling economic sanctions, will
take place regardless of their compliance with UN resolutions regarding
inspections, they have no reason to implement their own obligations. If
the United States refuses to abide by the rule of international law, why
are we surprised when an embattled and tyrannical government does so?

Throughout the 1980s Baghdad received from the U.S.
high-quality germ seed stock for anthrax, botulism, E.coli, and a host of
other deadly diseases. (The Commerce Department's decisions to license
those shipments, even after revelations of Iraq's 1988 use of illegal
chemical weapons, are documented in the 1994 hearings of the Banking
Sub-Committee.) It is certainly possible that scraps of Iraq's earlier
biological and chemical weapons programs remain in existence, but there is
no evidence Iraq has the ability or missile capacity to use them against
the U.S. or U.S. allies. The notion that the U.S. would go to war against
Iraq because of the existence of tiny amounts of biological material,
insufficient for use in missiles or other strategic weapons and which the
U.S. itself provided during the years of the U.S.-Iraq alliance in the
1980s, is simply unacceptable.


General Zinni has described an opposition-led attack on
Iraq as turning the country into a "Bay of Goats." Nothing has changed
since that time. Almost none of the exile-based opposition has a credible
base inside the country. There is no Iraqi equivalent to the Northern
Alliance in Afghanistan to serve as ground troops to bolster a U.S. force.
Some of the exile leaders closest to the U.S. have been wanted by Interpol
for crimes in Jordan and elsewhere. The claim that they represent a
democratic movement simply cannot be sustained.


There is no democratic opposition ready to take over.
Far more likely than the creation of an indigenous, popularly-supported
democratic Iraqi government, would be the replacement of the current
regime with one virtually indistinguishable from it except for the man at
the top. In February 2002 Newsweek magazine profiled the five leaders said
to be on Washington's short list of candidates to replace Saddam Hussein.
The Administration has not publicly issued such a list of its own (though
we should note they did not dispute the list), but it certainly typifies
the model the U.S. has in mind. All five of them were high-ranking
officials within the Iraqi military until the mid-1990s. All five have
been linked to the use of chemical weapons by the military; at least one,
General al-Shammari, admits it. Perhaps we should not be surprised by
Washington's embrace of military leaders potentially guilty of war crimes;
General al-Shammari told Newsweek he assessed the effect of his
howitzer-fired chemical weapons by relying on "information from American

But the legitimacy of going to war against a country to
replace a brutal military leader with another brutal military leader,
knowingly promoting as leaders of a "post-Saddam Iraq" a collection of
generals who have apparently committed heinous war crimes, must be

And whoever is installed in Baghdad by victorious U.S.
troops, it is certain that a long and likely bloody occupation would
follow. The price would be high; Iraqis know better than we do how their
government has systematically denied them civil and political rights. But
they hold us responsible for stripping them of economic and social rights
-- the right to sufficient food, clean water, education, medical care --
that together form the other side of the human rights equation. Economic
sanctions have devastated Iraqi society -- and among other effects, the
sanctions have made the U.S. responsible for the immiseration of most of
the entire Iraqi population. After twelve years, those in Washington who
believe that Iraqis accept the popular inside-the-Beltway mantra that
"sanctions aren't responsible, Saddam Hussein is responsible" for hunger
and deprivation in Iraq, are engaged in wishful thinking. The notion that
everyone in Iraq will welcome as "liberators" those whom most Iraqis hold
responsible for 12 years of crippling sanctions is simply naive. Basing a
military strategy on such wishful speculation becomes very dangerous -- in
particular for U.S. troops themselves.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy
Studies in Washington DC.

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