When Will Washington go to war?

jacdon at earthlink.net jacdon at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 15 06:56:33 MST 2003

The following article was published in the Jan. 15, 2003, issue of the
Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, N.Y., by the
Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign/IAC via jacdon at earthlink.net


Will the Bush administration bomb and invade Iraq within the next
several weeks?  In all probability, yes.  The subjugation of Iraq  and
the installation of a client regime in Baghdad is a long-held goal of
the U.S. far-right, which is now the most powerful faction in the
conservative White House.

Can a war still be prevented, or at least be delayed for a few more
months?  Yes, but the chances are quite slim.  The pro-war zealots in
the Bush administration, Congress, and the media --  encouraged by the
continuing silence or acquiescence of most Democratic politicians --
will be very difficult to block.

What will it take to stop or delay a new war?  Two things.  First, world
public opposition, as manifest not only in opinion polls but primarily
in mass antiwar movements and street protests -- most especially in the
United States.  Second, several of America's key allies, including one
or two permanent members of the UN Security Council and the entire Arab
world, must stand firmly against a U.S. war.

At this stage the Bush administration would prefer the support of the
Security Council and at least two or three important allies in addition
to the United Kingdom -- but it has repeatedly declared willingness to
act unilaterally in defiance of the UN and allies.

The ruling troika of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld asserts willingness to launch a war against Iraq even
if UN inspectors do not uncover weapons of mass destruction.  And they
make it clear that Baghdad's lack of complicity in the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks in the U.S. is not a mitigating factor.

In an interview Jan. 10, arch warhawk Richard Perle, chairman of the
Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and Rumsfeld's alter ego, told the
London Daily Telegraph that the administration will not tolerate more
than a brief delay and that it is prepared to invade without UN
authorization.   While UN support may be possible, he continued, "I'm
assuming that we will not get a consensus on the Security Council."
Even so, "It would be a great mistake to become dependent on it [the UN]
and take the view that we can't act separately.  That would be an
abrogation of the president's responsibility."

The U.S. right-wing has sought a second war against Iraq since the first
war ended in 1991 with the Baghdad government still intact.   During his
two terms in office, President Bill Clinton met the right-wing half-way
by ordering periodic bombings and enforcing draconian sanctions which
killed well over a million Iraqis out of a population of 23 million (by
UN and independent calculations).  Who can forget former Secretary of
State Madeline Albright's contention confessed casually on national TV
that the death of a half-million Iraqi children was not too high a price
for the continuation of sanctions?

When the right-wing was restored to executive power in 2000, one of its
first tasks was to search for a pretext for what used to be called
"regime change" -- a phrase banned in Bush administration circles for
the last several months.   The pretext materialized Sept. 11 when the
entire political establishment, Republican and Democrat alike, wrapped
itself in red, white and blue jingoism and quested for revenge.  Perle
and others immediately proposed attacking Iraq, but Afghanistan was
selected to be first on the administration's hit list because it
provided hospitality  to Al Qaeda, the right-wing fundamentalist terror
group.  The remaining members of the "Axis of Evil" --Iraq, Iran, North
Korea and Cuba, among others -- could come later.

The campaign against Iraq resumed when Afghanistan was defeated and
Washington installed a puppet regime in Kabul and client warlords in the
provinces.  At first it was a continuation of the old "regime-change"
option of defeating Iraq militarily and putting in a pro-U.S.
government.  But too many allies -- as well as the growing domestic
antiwar movement -- opposed this formulation as nothing but an
imperialist grab for the second largest oil reserves in the world and
total hegemony in the Middle East.

Of a sudden, "regime change" disappeared from the administration's
vocabulary, although the actual goal remained unchanged.  The term was
replaced by the threat of war to rid Iraq of "weapons of mass
destruction" (WMD).  President Saddam Hussain was  now accused of
concealing  enormous stores of chemical-biological weapons and of
maintaining  secret facilities for building nuclear weapons.  "[The]
Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world
with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons,"
President Bush told the nation in a TV speech Oct. 8.  "Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant.... The same
tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East...and holds an unrelenting
hostility toward the United States...."

Now, since the UN inspectors have failed to discover a trace of Iraq's
alleged WMD (just as former UN chief arms inspector Scott Ritter -- and
just about the entire U.S. left -- predicted), it is possible that
"weapons of mass destruction" may join "regime-change" in the obsolete
language category.

The U.S. has already mentioned several sites where WMD are supposed to
be hidden, but the UN inspectors searched the areas and came up with
nothing.  In his speech to the UN in September, President Bush presented
what was intended to be a clinching argument by revealing that "Iraq has
made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to
enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." After a thorough investigation,
however, Mohamed ElBaradei -- head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency -- announced Jan. 9 that the tubes were not being used for such
purposes.   Both the U.S. and the UK still hint that they know where
some of the alleged WMD are concealed but curiously refrain from
informing the UN inspectors.

Even though its spy satellites, secret agents, telephone intercepts, and
other sophisticated surveillance techniques have produced no supportable
evidence that the weapons actually exist,  the Bush administration
hasn't yet  given up on the WMD ploy.  Bush's main hope now is to coerce
an Iraqi weapons scientist -- no doubt through bribery, blackmail or
other means -- to confess having worked on WMD in recent years,
indicating that the project is advanced and now deeply hidden.  That's
all it will take to trigger Bush's war:  one eyewitness scientist, even
if  the weapons themselves are never found.

The probable replacement for  the WMD charge will be that Saddam Hussain
is "uncooperative with the UN and cannot be trusted." Although Hans
Blix, a chief UN weapons inspector, reported Jan. 9 that he found no
evidence so far that Iraq was concealing illegal weapons,  Bush's UN
ambassador, John Negroponte, responded by charging that "There is still
no evidence that Iraq has changed its approach from one of deceit to a
genuine attempt to be forthcoming" about the alleged hidden arms.
Administration officials have already been quoted as saying that all it
will mean if the weapons inspectors come up empty handed is that this
proves the duplicitous Iraqi has deceived the inspectors.  Some
administration officials, including Perle, have suggested that Blix is a
bumbler and a fool.

At this point, Washington insists that Baghdad prove an impossible
negative -- that it does not possess such weapons.  The Iraqis cannot
prove this other than to provide the inspectors with carte blanch to
look where they please.  They have done so, but now the Bush
administration insists that the lack of discovery does not prove the
weapons do not exist.

The New York Times reported Jan. 10 that "Rather than showing that Mr.
Hussein has been hiding secret weapons, American diplomats seemed to be
building a case that Baghdad has consistently failed to cooperate fully
with the inspections," noting that under the recent UN Security Council
Resolution 1441, "a pattern of noncooperation by Iraq is a grave breach
that can lead to war."

Blix and ElBaradei are returning to Baghdad to prepare an important
interim report by Jan. 27.  The Bush administration has stated that it
will decide whether to launch a preemptive war on the basis of its
interpretation of this report.  In the meantime, Washington has
transported some 150,000 service personnel to the Middle East along with
nearly all the heavy equipment needed to pound a small, poor country
with a relatively weak army into submission.  The Pentagon says that by
mid-February it will have a full invasion force of a quarter-million
soldiers, sailors and marines in the region.   The window of opportunity
for a war will close some time in March when high temperatures will make
it very difficult for U.S. soldiers to engage in combat.  This means
President bush must order an attack in the next several weeks or delay
until much later in the year, a notion he rejects because opposition to
his projected adventure is developing rapidly throughout the world.

Public opinion continues to turn against a war even in the only two
countries anxious to start one -- Britain and the U.S.  (Israel, of
course, is a fervent supporter of a preemptive war but has been
cautioned by Washington to keep silent.) The London government,
Washington's only declared combat partner, is under intense pressure to
pull back from the precipice.  Some 87% of British public opinion
opposes UK involvement in a war unless it is approved by the UN and
supported by other key allies.  Prime Minister Tony Blair is in trouble
with his own Labor Party as well as the voters.  The British press
reports that the superhawkish Blair might be forced to suggest to Bush
that the invasion be put off until late fall.  U.S. public opinion,
which a year ago was largely in favor of an attack on Iraq, is dubious
of Bush's plan to launch a preemptive war if no concrete evidence of WMD
is found and if the UN does not authorize an attack.  A new public
opinion poll in France, a voting member of the Security Council, reveals
that that 77% of the people oppose a war in Iraq.   Earlier polls show
that big majorities throughout Europe do not support a new war.

The critically important antiwar movement, at home and abroad, is
growing much faster than the decisive peace movement of the Vietnam
era.  The latest of the ANSWER coalition's huge demonstrations, Oct. 26,
drew over 200,000 people to Washington and San Francisco.  The peace
forces in Europe, the Middle East and other regions is likewise strong
and active.  The ANSWER protests  Jan. 18, followed by the
European-initiated demonstrations in mid-February are expected to be
large and militant.

War in the immediate future is quite probable but not inevitable.  The
U.S. and international peace movement,  combined with world public
opinion, allied disinclination to support Bush in his drive for oil and
empire, and a reluctant UN, just might be able to stop this unjust war
before its starts.  Even if the antiwar forces do not prevent this war,
they will be well positioned to respond emphatically when it begins.

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