WAR SEEMS ON THE WAY

Jack A. Smith jacdon at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 16 05:51:12 MDT 2002


The following article appeared in the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of the email
Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, N.Y., by the
Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign/IAC at jacdon at earthlink.net
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WAR SEEMS ON THE WAY

By Jack A. Smith

Committed for the last year to violent "regime change" in Baghdad, the
Bush administration recently has been engaging in a strenuous campaign
to scuttle a potential obstacle to its plan to launch a "preemptive" war
against Iraq, probably within the next few months.   The gathering
impediment was widespread antipathy to Washington's unilateral intention
to attack the beleaguered Middle Eastern country even though it is
innocent of involvement in last year's terror raids.

The main purpose of President Bush's relatively measured speech to the
General Assembly Sept. 12 was to eliminate these political potholes on
the road to war  -- the product of increasingly belligerent anti-Iraq
rhetoric and unsubstantiated allegations by top government leaders that
alarmed the United Nations, alienated allies in the so-called war on
terrorism, confused Congress, and created contradictions within the
conservative camp.

Bush's main maneuver was to invite the UN to participate in the
beginning stages of a process ultimately designed by the White House to
result in an invasion of Iraq and the installation of a government
responsive to Washington's dictates in Baghdad.  He combined this tactic
with a recent announcement that he desired to "consult" Congress about
the impending conflict.   In so doing, the Bush administration obviously
aspires to neutralize the two principal objections to its bellicose
ambitions.  To a certain extent the ploy has succeeded.

Another element of Bush's appeal to the world body was to finally
provide the semblance of a comprehensive explanation to justify
Washington's goal of destroying the government of Saddam Hussein even
though Iraq has been quiescent and essentially preoccupied with
surviving the wreckage to its infrastructure by U.S. warplanes 11 years
ago and vicious economic sanctions.

A number of countries responded positively to Bush's assignment of
limited responsibilities to the UN to restore weapons inspectors to
Iraq.  They hope this will be followed up with an agreement to permit
the Security Council to decide whether to invade Iraq, as opposed to
Bush's evident intention to strike unilaterally.

Two days after his UN talk, Bush insisted that the world body swiftly
pass a resolution demanding that Iraq immediately agree to the return of
arms inspectors with virtually unlimited powers of investigation.  He
also stipulated that the Security Council resolve beforehand to support
a U.S. war should the Baghdad government violate the resolution in any
way.

At the same time, it remains probable that the U.S. will fabricate some
means for "justifying" a war if the Iraqi government permits the return
of UN arms inspectors.  The White House has repeatedly stipulated in
recent months that even if Iraq received the inspectors, the U.S. would
still wage a war because Baghdad inevitably would cheat.  And while the
Bush regime is certainly desirous of obtaining UN backing for its
invasion plans, it has not signaled the slightest intention of obeying
any Security Council resolution opposing a war.

Many members of Congress expressed relief that Bush sought UN
involvement, and that the imperial presidency at last deigned to engage
the legislative branch of govenment in its war plans.  Conservative
critics within the Republican Party are pleased that the Bush
administration is taking initial steps to prevent the disintegration of
the coalition supporting the war on terrorism by conveying the
impression that it is adopting a more multilateral approach to the
question of Iraq.

It is likely Congress will approve the administration's invasion plans
when they are presented, whether backed by the Security Council or not.
Virtually the entire House and Senate are composed of politicians
committed to the notion of toppling the Iraqi government.   The national
leadership and all the known presidential candidates of the "opposition"
Democratic party have indicated they would support a new war if Bush
decides to attack.  As long as the majority of U.S. public opinion
remains captive to pro-war propaganda from the government and mass
media, only a small minority in Congress will risk taking a principled
antiwar position. Clearly, those responsible for organizing today's
growing peace movement repose almost entirely outside the ranks of the
organized two-party system.

Top administration warhawks appear optimistic that Bush's painless
public relations gestures toward the UN and Congress constitute an
elegant solution to the political problems generated by White House
saber-rattling  coupled with an apparent inability to produce an
unassailable argument for the war. The somewhat less belligerent faction
led by Secretary of State Colin Powell is satisfied that the
administration's new maneuvers may prevent a split in the allied
coalition supporting the war on terrorism, its prime worry.  It appears
that the Powell caucus also prefers to obtain Security Council backing
before launching a new war, but it is doubtful this group would contest
a decision by the leading faction of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney,
and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to go it alone if necessary.  The
differences between the two groups are not between hawk and dove but how
best to gain control of the Iraqi government and its enormous oil
resources without compromising other U.S. interests.

Bush's UN speech was "comprehensive" only to the extent that it was a
lengthy compendium of all the charges against the demonized Saddam
Hussein and his administration that have long been circulated by the
White House, from the question of human rights violations to preventing
the return of arms inspectors.  Some of the charges are true, including
not fulfilling UN resolutions (although Iraq cannot compete with Israel
in this regard)  -- but never before in international affairs, or
according to the UN Charter and the entire body of international law,
have they been considered justifications for war against a small country
by a military superpower.

Other charges, including the three most important, are only
half-true-with-an-explanation or are completely without verification.

1. On weapons inspections, for instance, Washington never mentions that
it was the U.S. which decided to withdraw the UN inspectors from Iraq in
December 1998 days before President Clinton ordered a massive bombing
campaign.  And it is never recalled that just weeks later it was proven
that American members of the inspection teams were spying for the U.S.
government.  Iraq has refused to allow the inspectors back since that
time for several reasons, including a promise that no U.S. spies will be
on the teams and a statement from the UN as to when the sanctions would
be removed.  In response to Bush's UN speech, Deputy Prime Minister
Tariq Aziz  Sept. 14 that Iraq would readmit the arms inspectors on the
basis of a comprehensive agreement "that would prevent an attack by the
U.S. and lift sanctions." It is doubtful the U.S. will approve of such
an agreement.

2. Although Bush continually mentioned Iraq's alleged possession of
weapons of mass destruction, demonstrating that "Hussein's regime is a
grave and gathering danger [to] the lives of millions of people," his
speech offered not a modicum of proof to corroborate his innuendos.
Bush's top aides, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, have been gallivanting
around the U.S. for several weeks claiming that they possess the
knowledge that Iraq has such weapons and is planning to use them, but
like their Commander-in-Chief they refuse to take the elementary step of
proving their allegations.   Knowledgeable critics, such as former UN
chief weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter, claim Washington is lying
to justify a war.

3.  For nearly a year, the White House has been attempting to connect
Hussein with the Sept. 11 events in order to rationalize making Iraq
the next target in the war on terrorism.    Bush did so once again in
his UN address, by indirection.  "Our greatest fear," he intoned, "is
that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an
outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive
scale."  Also, "Al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan are known
to be in Iraq."  The first quote was intended to suggest that Iraq would
reach into its vast storehouse of weapons of mass destruction and supply
a few choice items to Al Qaeda.  The second was to imply that members of
Al Qaeda reside in Iraq with Baghdad's permission.  Both quotes are
distortions to link Iraq to mass terrorism.  This may fool the American
people, but most foreign governments are well aware that Hussein's
secular Ba'ath Party with its vaguely socialist rhetoric and the
fundamentalist Islamic terror group are staunch ideological opponents.
If Iraq harbored such weapons it would hardly transfer them to an
organization that shared George Bush's desire to remove Saddam Hussein.

It should further be noted that Bush used his speech to wash the blood
from Washington's hands for the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqis as a direct
result of  sanctions.  By refusing to respect certain UN resolutions, he
said, Hussein "bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent
Iraqi civilians."  So much for that.

While many of the allied governments in the war on terrorism coalition
have expressed support for those aspects of Bush's speech relating to a
role for the United Nations and the Security Council, and for the return
of weapons inspectors, the great majority remain opposed to Washington's
intention to invade Iraq and install a puppet government.  The U.S. will
attempt to pressure, coerce or buy-off some of these countries to obtain
their support.  Administration leaders have several times stated that
the U.S. has no objection to creating different coalitions to pursue
other objectives than the overall war on terrorism -- and, for that
matter, that it is willing to fight without allies.

 Some members of the terrorism coalition, especially from the Arab
countries, are concerned that a violent "regime-change" will utterly
destabilize the Middle East, particularly because the new client
government in Iraq will be composed of figureheads transparently
dependent on orders from the White House.   This could vastly expand the
growing anti-Americanism coursing throughout the region,  strengthen
terrorist movements, and threaten a few of the regimes dependent on the
U.S. to remain in power.  Also, a Washington-installed Baghdad
administration will find it difficult to prevent Iraq from splitting
into two or three separate entities or even separate states, with Kurds
in the North, Sunnis in the Center, and Shiites in the South.   Such a
development would require an ever greater U.S. presence in the country
to prevent a Syria or Iran from filling the regional power vacuum.

Other problems include the nature of the war Bush decides to wage and
the drain on the economy that will result. The White House seems to
think a military adventure in Iraq would approximate that just waged
against helpless Afghanistan or resemble Iraq War I in 1991, when the
U.S. contented itself with destroying the Iraqi infrastructure from the
air while booting Iraqi troops out of Kuwait but not following them into
Iraq.  A ground war in Iraq might be an entirely different matter, for
which American public opinion is not prepared.  Some 40,000 U.S. troops
are already in the region, bases have been readied, supplies are stored
in various countries, ships and planes are offshore awaiting
instructions, the command center is shifting from Florida to the Middle
East, and the rest of an invasion force is en route or ready to move on
command.  But none of this, even with the Pentagon's technological and
weapons supremacy, assures the kind of easy victory the American people
have come to expect.  Economically, the war is taking place at a time of
downturn and increasing debt and, as opposed to 1991, the allies have no
intention of paying for this conflict.

Despite these concerns, the Bush administration is transfixed upon its
aggressive "regime-change" plan and, while recognizing there may be
further political problems ahead in the next weeks and months, feels
strengthened by its current maneuvers in the UN and Congress.   It seems
that the administration is closer to its long-desired war than ever
before.  It wouldn't be surprising to learn that some White House and
Pentagon strategists are already at work figuring out what country to
hit next, after Iraq.

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