I think NY Times just blinked: "Right now, things don't look promising" for Iraq war

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 23 09:51:43 MST 2003

The immediate driving force behind the war drive on Iraq, leaving aside the
fundamental economic and social problems of imperialism which demand war
ever more insistently,  has not been a group of
ultrarightists around Bush, but a broad ruling class consensus expressed by
figures like Colin Powell, former President William Clinton, the New York
Times, and Washington Post,  Sen.
Joseph Lieberman, former Speaker of the House Richard Gephardt and others
that this war could be carried out at an acceptable cost, strengthen the
U.S. imperialist, and to that extent the world capitalist, economy, and
intimidate and silence  all of Washington's  and
Wall Street's  actual or potential foes.

The only major imperialist figure outside this consensus, in my opinion, has
been former President James Carter, and I am not convinced that he any
longer speaks for any section of the ruling class.  I suspect -- as Fidel
Castro suggested in his speech after Carter's visit to Cuba -- that he is
carrying out his own attempt at a pacifistic, humanistic course without at
all breaking out of the imperialist framework and thinking  in which his
entire life has been spent.

This Times editorial does seem to me to represent a break or at least a
major softening in the
ruling class consensus.  This consensus, now clearly weakened if not broken,
has up to now made it much easier, in my opinion, for  Bush, Rumsfeld,
Perle, Wolfowitz, et al. to
pursue their particular version -- rather more messianic and triumphalist --
of the ruling class course.

This break or softening, while important, does not mean that a war cannot
happen and very soon and does not lessen the importance of any of the
p-rotest efforts taking place today.

It is for that reason that I submit this item in full, so that everyone on
these lists can read it carefully and think about what it means for the
rulers course toward war and conquest -- which will not, of course, end in
Iraq, whether there is a war there in the immediate future or not.
Fred Feldman

NYT editorial 2-23-03
Power and Leadership: The Real Meaning of Iraq
The debate over Iraq has exhausted everybody. Many people now think an
American invasion is inevitable; many more are desperate just to get
whatever happens over. There's nothing less satisfying than calling for
still more discussion.
But that's right where this page is. More discussion is the only road that
will get the world to the right outcome - concerted effort by a wide
coalition of nations to force Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass
destruction. We need another debate. Another struggle to make this the
United Nations' leadership moment.

Right now, things don't look promising for those of us who believe this is a
war worth waging, but only with broad international support. The United
States has an invasion force in place, and the military's schedule seems to
demand that it attack within a few weeks before spring brings on withering
desert heat. Washington has some support among other nations, but many of
them are newcomers to the world of high-stakes diplomacy and few have much
to offer in the way of troops or financial support. Prime Minister Tony
Blair of Britain, America's only strong and consistent ally among the
world's other major military powers, is facing fierce opposition at home and
ridicule abroad for his allegiance to the Bush administration. Turkey,
another important ally, held out for more money as it considered whether to
allow American invasion forces on its soil. The size of the Turkish demands
made the anti-Iraq forces look less like a serious coalition than a
diplomatic version of

"Let's Make a Deal."

Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, has been skillful at providing the pretense of
progress to international inspectors without seriously cooperating. Iraq has
drawn the United Nations into a game of find the handkerchief, in which the
burden is on the inspectors to track down mobile laboratories or sniff out
hidden weapons. All this puts an enormous weight on what Iraqi behavior Hans
Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, chooses to stress - whether he dwells on
Iraqi resistance or points to areas of cooperation. In the United Nations,
the equivalent of a C-minus for effort on a Blix report can be taken as an
argument for peace, while a D-plus can be seen as a call to war. The
inspectors should never be put in the position of deciding international
foreign policy

 Case for Action

While the possibility of Mr. Hussein experiencing a last-minute conversion
seems minuscule, there is one quick way to test whether it's possible. Iraq
has Al Samoud 2 missiles, weapons it built at great expense and effort. Mr.
Blix has already stated that they are too powerful, able to travel too far
to fit under the limits the United Nations placed on Iraq after the Persian
Gulf war. On Friday, Mr. Blix told the Iraqis to destroy them.
This week the United Nations should tell Mr. Hussein he must let the
inspectors watch him get rid of his missiles immediately, or outside forces
will do it for him, with the support of the international community. That
clear message would resolve the most frustrating problem for those who want
the United Nations to nail down its position as the arbiter of world
crises - how to get France and its supporters to define their own bottom
line rather than simply criticizing Washington's.

Saddam Hussein is nobody's hero in this story. Although many Americans are
puzzled about why the Bush administration chose to pick this fight now, it's
not surprising that in the wake of Sept. 11, the president would want to
make the world safer, and that one of his top priorities would be
eliminating Iraq's ability to create biological, chemical and nuclear
weapons. Of all the military powers in the world, Iraq is the one that has
twice invaded its neighbors without provocation and that has used chemical
weapons both on its military foes and some of its own restive people. North
Korea may be a greater danger, but North Korea has not been told by the
United Nations to disarm and stay disarmed. And, although the administration
is careful to steer clear of this argument, the very fact that North Korea
has the international community in a bind is a cautionary tale for making
sure that no other despotic governments run by irrational adventurers get
hold of nuclear arms.

A Game of Chance

Many foreigners, and large numbers of Americans, wonder whether this
administration is capable of dispassionate judgment as it relentlessly
pushes for war. All too often, American officials have undermined their own
case by demonstrating reckless enthusiasm for a brawl, denigrating allies
who fail to fall in line or overstating their case against Iraq,
particularly when it comes to a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
But to his credit, President Bush worked hard to achieve the unanimous
support of the Security Council for Resolution 1441, and more broadly to
make his case before the United Nations and the world. This may be an
administration intent on making war, but so far it has also shown itself
willing to give the United Nations both time and space to make up its mind.

It seems clear to us that the United Nations should enforce its own orders
and make Iraq disarm, even if that requires force. But in the end, sometime
in March, the United States may have to decide whether it should do the job
on its own.
When that happens, the arguments on both sides are sure to be couched in the
highest moral principles. But the real calculations will be entirely about
the odds of succeeding. If military victory over Iraq is swift, and if it
can be accomplished without extensive casualties to American soldiers or
Iraqi civilians or damage to neighboring countries or the area's oil fields,
Mr. Bush's popularity will soar. If occupation forces unearth proof of a
large nuclear program, stockpiles of terrifying biological weapons and real
evidence of serious collusion between Saddam Hussein and international
terrorists, many of the international leaders who are riding the crest of
anti-Americanism now will start looking very foolish.

But things could go terribly wrong, very quickly. The war could be brutal
and protracted, especially if Mr. Hussein unleashes biological or chemical
weapons against Israel or American troops. He may also succeed in setting
fire to his oil wells, or disabling those in neighboring countries,
crippling the world economy. And if he is destroyed, there is every
possibility of a vicious struggle for the lucrative spoils among the
disparate clans and ethnic groups in Iraq, drawing in Turkey, Iran and
others. In the chaos, the weapons of mass destruction Americans went to war
to eliminate could wind up being ferried out of Iraq and sold to the highest
terrorist bidder. And just as the American military's presence in Saudi
Arabia during the gulf war precipitated the growth of Al Qaeda and Sept. 11,
the long-term occupation of Iraq will create resentment in the Muslim world
that could lead to more, not less, terrorism.

The Long Haul

All those risks, we repeat, are worth taking in the context of a broad
international coalition, and some might even be diminished if the world acts
together. The country is still traumatized by the discovery on Sept. 11,
2001, that we live in a world of unimaginable danger. Some of our
traditional allies knew that already, from long and terrible experience.
Some are still trying to face up to it. But the rational response is to work
together to make the world safer, not to ignore obvious dangers in hope that
the likely will not become inevitable.

Our own guess, when we calculate the odds in Iraq, is that the war is likely
to go well in the short run, but that the long run will be messy, difficult
and dangerous. If America acts virtually on its own, it is hard to imagine
either the Bush administration or the American people having the staying
power to make things right. Washington may be counting on Iraq's oil revenue
to pay for rebuilding the country after the war, but the oil wells could be
damaged in the fighting. It seems certain that an administration that will
not give up tax cuts to pay for the war itself is not going to inflict
economic pain at home to pay for the cleanup. And while Americans have
always shown themselves willing to risk anything, even their own children,
for a critical cause of high purpose, their support for this particular
fight is thin as a wafer and based on misapprehension that Iraq is clearly
linked to terrorism.

Our Bottom Line

When all the odds are calculated, people will have their own particular
critical concerns that add weight to one side of the scale or the other. For
some, it is the belief that rogue nations can be deterred - a certainty that
if they use their worst weapons, the United States and its allies will pay
them back, double. While the evidence that Saddam Hussein has used chemical
weapons in battle with Iran, and against his own Kurdish population, is
strong, the fact that he has not used similar weapons in other situations,
including the gulf war, suggests that deterrence should not be dismissed.
For others, the bottom line will come down to saving face. The United States
has assembled its forces for invasion, and to back down now, many argue,
will be to show a weakness that will encourage our enemies. We don't think
the world's only surviving superpower should be making war to avoid

Our own overriding concern runs in the other direction. The United States
is, and seems likely to remain, a nation whose military might and economic
power so outstrip any other country that much of the world has begun
comparing it to ancient Rome. The test now is whether we will find a new way
to exercise our power in which leadership, self-discipline and concern for
the common good will outweigh our smaller impulses. An invasion of Iraq that
is not supported by many traditional allies, or those powers that we need to
be allied with in the best possible future, will send a message that we can
do whatever we want. But it is not going to make the rest of the world want
to root for us to succeed. The real test of American leadership is only
incidentally about Iraq. It is whether we will further split the world into
squabbling camps, united only by their jealousy of our power, or use our
influence to unite it around a shared vision of progress, human rights and
mutual responsibility.

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