US: Bush prepares for war against Iraq

As the Bush administration seems increasingly set on launching a war against Iraq, the opposition of US "allies" and even a section of the American establishment are becoming more vocal.

Three articles on the impending war against Iraq from Justice (Issue 31, September/October), paper of Socialist Alternative (CWI section in the US)

Bush prepares for war against Iraq

While many ordinary people question the purpose of inflicting further devastation on the Iraqi people, the ruling class "opposition" is focused on the danger of further international "destabilization", i.e. the threat to their economic and political interests from a policy that is driven by the right-wing ideologues who dominate the Republican administration.

Publicly, Bush is keeping "all options open" in order to achieve "regime change", i.e. the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But a whole series of reports and leaks indicate that military planning is at a fairly advanced stage. Having excluded the idea of overthrowing Saddam through a CIA-sponsored coup, or simply relying on air power combined with an American-directed proxy as in Afghanistan, it has been decided to prepare for a frontal assault by the US military.

The rationale for all this, of course, is that Saddam is trying to develop "weapons of mass destruction" including nuclear weapons. But at recent hearings in the Senate, one expert after another was unable to answer when the Iraqi regime would have this capacity. It was left to Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, to explain the "logic" of the administration’s position to the Senators: "If people are looking for an excuse for inaction, they can say ‘We must have positive proof that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons or even nuclear weapons’. But the only real proof that we can really expect under this terminology is if we are attacked." (New York Times, 8/3/02)

The US government is therefore planning to launch a full-scale war against Iraq without any proof that the famed "weapons of mass destruction" exist or are even being built. They even have a new "doctrine" for this planned war based on "pre-emptive" action. Of course, there is no denying Baghdad’s willingness not only to make but to use chemical weapons – as they did, for example, in the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s against both Iranian troops and the Kurdish population. But as recent reports indicate, the Reagan administration — which was giving tactical support to the Iraqis at the time – knew about the use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and did not object because they saw this as necessary to win the war. This in itself shows the utter hypocrisy of Bush and Co. when they talk about the undoubtedly despicable Iraqi regime.

In fact, as with almost every US military campaign, the reason being given now has little to do with the government’s real motivation. Bush Sr. fought the Gulf War of 1991 allegedly to defend "poor, little Kuwait" which the Iraqis had invaded. But the real reason was that Washington decided that their former client Saddam Hussein now had bigger regional ambitions that needed to be checked. In particular, they believed that Iraq could wind up dominating the bulk of the Middle East’s oil supplies. The underlying reason therefore was oil.

But for the past 11 years the US, using the fig leaf of the United Nations, has run a vicious regime of sanctions against Iraq that have killed at least a million ordinary Iraqis. There are "no-fly zones" over much of the northern and southern parts of the country. Saddam Hussein is pretty well boxed in. So why are Bush and some of his cabinet, especially Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, so focused on "regime change"? The truth is that the right wing of the Republican Party, which dominates this administration, believes that it was a fundamental mistake not to "finish the job" in 1991 and enter Baghdad. They conveniently forget that Bush Sr. and Colin Powell’s assessment at the time was that to proceed further would risk significant American casualties, and that if Saddam was overthrown it was not clear who would replace him. Their conclusion was that it was better to leave a weakened Saddam in place than to have to occupy the country for a long period of time.

The obsession with going back and "finishing the job" is an extension of the desire to reassert American military and political domination on a global level. This is what is referred to as "American prestige". It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting ordinary Americans from terrorism.

As Michael O’Hanlon and Philip Gordon, senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, recently pointed out, "A military operation to remove Mr. Hussein…would be the most momentous use of force by the United States since the Vietnam War. If President Bush undertakes such a mission, it will dominate the remainder of his term, radically reshape the politics of the Persian Gulf and Middle East, and have major repercussions for the global economy." (New York Times, 7/25/02)

Up until very recently, there was little sign of dissent in the political establishment. Many leading Democrats had publicly endorsed the goal of "regime change". However, there are now clear indications that sections of the American ruling class may be getting cold feet. Some of these concerns were aired at the recent Senate hearings. It is also clear that the Pentagon brass has serious doubts. Secretary of State Powell and the State Department also fought this policy but they have been silenced. But the most dramatic public opposition to date was in a forceful article in the Wall Street Journal by Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser in the administration of Bush senior.

The basis of this "opposition" however is not disagreement with Bush’s aims per se, or certainly with the need to maintain US global domination. It is based first and foremost on a well-founded fear of the effect of a war on Iraq on the Middle East as a whole, whose population is already inflamed by Bush’s backing for Sharon. Regimes friendly to the US, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, could all be in danger from mass upheavals. Critics also point out that Iraq will not be Afghanistan. It will require a far greater commitment of American ground troops, with a far greater risk of significant American casualties. Furthermore, the US would likely be forced to occupy Iraq for a long period of time. In a war the US, because of its overwhelming military superiority, will likely succeed in ousting Saddam. But Bush could quickly find himself in a full-scale quagmire that will make this victory look a lot more like defeat.

As socialists we oppose the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein, but we also absolutely oppose this proposed war. The Iraqi people have suffered enough from a decade of US/UN sanctions. In reality, these sanctions have actually helped Saddam keep his murderous grip on power. The Western powers have absolutely no interest in the fate of Iraqi workers or peasants, or the national rights of the oppressed Kurdish people. It is the job of the Iraqi working class to throw out Saddam as part of the struggle for a socialist federation of the Middle East.

We also oppose the mobilization of thousands of young Americans to go fight and possibly die for the prestige of the American ruling class. If Bush launches this war — and it is still very possible that events will prevent him from doing so — he may have popular support at first. But from the outset, there will be a far more significant opposition to this war than to the war in Afghanistan. And as Bush’s policy leads the US into deeper difficulties, increasing numbers of workers and youth here in the US will draw the conclusion that the interests of US imperialism are not their interests, and that what is in their interests is kicking out the increasingly irrational gang of warmongers who run this country.

Bush’s right-wing war agenda

Once again, George W. Bush is beating the war drum in an attempt to whip up public support for his latest military bloodbath in Iraq. There’s just one inconvenient fact for Bush, though: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has absolutely nothing to do with the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks. Not a single shred of credible evidence has been produced demonstrating links between Hussein’s regime and the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist networks.

Moreover, virtually every government in the world except for Britain’s oppose a US invasion of Iraq to topple the dictator Saddam Hussein, but the right wing ideologues in control of the US government don’t care. They want to invade anyway.

Bush’s original justification for a war was Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam’s regime, however, is only one of several repressive dictatorships attempting to develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Iraq’s capacity to deploy such weapons militarily is doubtful, and Saddam does not pose a strategic military threat to the US.

Washington and Baghdad are both maneuvering over weapons inspections. But it has become crystal clear that the US is not really interested in verifying Iraq’s actual military capacity. "What started out as an ultimatum – ‘let UN inspectors return or we are going to attack you’ – seems to have been streamlined: ‘we are going to attack you.’" (Financial Times, 8/20/02)

Even in the event that Saddam did possess such weapons, backing him into a corner by invading Iraq would actually increase the likelihood of him resorting to their use. What’s even more hypocritical is that the US government supported, armed and financed Saddam in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war. The US government never objected to Iraq’s use of poison gas then, but rather looked the other way. Yesterday we were buddy, buddy. Today we are enemies!

Socialists have always opposed Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. However, we place no confidence in Bush’s corporate administration to liberate the Iraqi people. For them, this is a war to settle an old score. Neither the Gulf War nor 10 years of brutal economic sanctions (which have done nothing but starve the Iraqi people) have been able to get rid of Saddam.

His holding onto power has been a major embarrassment for US imperialism. Saddam continues to remain a thorn in the side of Bush and his hawkish cronies who want to reassert US economic and political domination over the globe and the region.

Bush’s claims to be acting on behalf of ordinary Iraqis are nonsense. The US-sponsored sanctions on Iraq have killed over a million Iraqis to date. Now Bush is prepared to kill another estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians to topple Saddam – three times the death toll of September 11th.

An attack on Iraq would not discourage further terrorist attacks on the US, but rather increase them. Another war in the Middle East will further destabilize the region and fuel anti-American sentiments, supplying terrorist organizations with more recruits.

Bush is trying to convince working class Americans, youth and the poor to accept being the latest casualties of his twisted foreign policy. It won’t be the sons or daughters of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, or any of the ruling elite that will be injured and killed, but American workers and youth. They are considering sending up to 250,000 troops into the region. This could mean hundreds, if not thousands of US troops could be killed.

And who will it be that pays for this war? This war will cost tens of billions of dollars. The previous war with Iraq cost $60 billion. We can expect this one to have a much higher price tag.

Just like the wars on Afghanistan and Vietnam, this war will likely be paid through raiding our Social Security funds and cutting education, healthcare and other social services.

With the economy heading back into recession and unemployment rising again, this money could be better used on a public works program to put the jobless back to work and to fund education.

The protests planned for the weekend of September 28 and 29 against the meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington DC will provide a perfect opportunity to also hold anti-war demonstration.

Organizing marches and rallies to coincide with the other protests against the IMF/WB would allow the anti-war and anti-globalization movements to link arms and numerically strengthen both movements.

Just like the April 20th demonstrations in DC, these protests can be a sounding board for hundreds of thousands to oppose Bush’s right-wing war agenda.

Greg Beiter

End the Sanctions Against Iraq

The economic sanctions imposed by the US and UN following the Gulf War were supposedly implemented to punish Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein. However, by starving the 22 million Iraqi people who depend upon imports of food, medicine, and other crucial supplies, the sanctions have actually strengthened Hussein’s rule.

US-led air campaigns against Iraq left its vital economic organs crippled, unable to produce potable water, electricity, or basic medication. The World Health Organization has estimated that 6-7,000 Iraqi children die every month. Since the start of the sanctions in 1990, over one million Iraqi people have died, over half of them children. In response to a question regarding the deaths of half a million children, former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright callously responded, "we think the price is worth it."

Even Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General, resigned from his post in disgust of the UN’s hypocrisy in relation to the appalling effects of the sanctions. "The civilian population, particularly infants and children, are being targeted, are being hit by United Nations sanctions with appalling consequences." (Denis Halliday, 1998)

These sanctions are a brutal attack against the Iraqi people. They are a carefully planted cancer that is destroying Iraq’s society, infrastructure and its people.

Chris Thomas

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August 2002