RW ONLINE: Stalking Iraq
Unjust War in the Making
Revolutionary Worker #1166, September 15, 2002, posted at rwor.org
On September 5, 100 U.S. and British war planes and support aircraft
converged in 48 sorties over the town of al-Rutbah in southwestern Iraq.
There is an escalating campaign of such attacks. The skies over Iraq are
being filled with shrieking American planes--in a "war of nerves" intended to
accompany the rapid buildup of other U.S. attack forces in the region.
Over ten years ago, the U.S. send a vast invasion force to the Persian Gulf.
These forces devastated Iraq, destroyed its bridges, burnt its telephone and
communications centers, flattened its hospitals and roads and government
centers. In thousands of sorties over 42 days, they dropped the equivalent of
more than 7.5 Hiroshima bombs over that country's cities, industries, border
regions and highways. And they never left.
A ring of U.S. military bases now encircles and threatens Iraq--in Turkey,
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait--with thousands of troops, tanks and a
massive fleet of attack aircraft. For ten years, Iraq's people have literally
lived in the crosshairs--with foreign warplanes attacking from the skies
repeatedly--"routinely" according to the Pentagon. The U.S. government has
enforced a brutal embargo on Iraq--cutting off the supplies and trade needed to
rebuild the country and establish a normal life. UN reports have estimated that
500,000 children died from malnutrition and illness as a result of that
Now the White House is moving single-mindedly to launch a new full-scale war
CBS news recently documented that on September 11 itself, minutes after the
plane attacks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told his aides to
prepare war on Iraq--even though no evidence, then or now, has ever linked Iraq
to 9/11. The notes of Rumsfeld's aide said: "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things
related and not."
Last February, the New York Times reported that the White House had
made two strategic decisions: "First, the Iraq problem has to be solved, not
simply managed as it was during the two previous U.S. administrations....
Second, Washington is prepared to push beyond the limitations imposed by
international sentiment, Arab public opinion and even the original UN
resolutions that opened the way for Operation Desert Storm 11 years ago."
Now, the escalating U.S. buildup in the Persian Gulf shows how deadly serious
these plans are.
Scotland's Herald newspaper wrote (August 16), "The Pentagon has moved
50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines within striking distance of Iraq in
the past 10 months under cover of deployments targeting global terrorism,
according to senior UK military sources."
The U.S. is rapidly finishing its expansion of a new base at Qatar, so it can
launch air and land attacks even without Saudi support. Several massive carrier
Naval groups have been moved into the region. The USS Washington , in the
Arabian Sea, was used to launch the latest wave of air attacks on Iraq.
In July, the U.S. carried out joint military maneuvers with Jordan, to the
west of Iraq, practicing for war. In August and September, they unleashed this
wave of air attacks. This coming fall, the Pentagon openly says it will
concentrate thousands of troops and tanks along Iraq's southern border with
Kuwait-- supposedly for more "maneuvers."
Ruling Class Debates
You get a sense of how reckless the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld moves are when you
look at the controversies that have erupted within and between the ruling
classes of the world.
Polemics have broken out within the U.S ruling class over this war.
Policy disputes have emerged between the U.S. and its major European
allies--including most prominently Germany. And differences have emerged between
the U.S. government and its local Muslim allies in the Middle East-- including
especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all of which loudly oppose (and fear)
a new war on Iraq.
Within the U.S. ruling class, powerful and influential figures are
complaining publicly that the Bush administration's war planners may be rushing
into a historic disaster for U.S. imperialism. They include a number of
generals, key newspapers like the New York Times and Washington
Post,and an influential squad of ruling class "wise men"--like James Baker,
Lawrence Eagleburger and Admiral Scowcroft--who have held top foreign policy
posts in previous governments. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who can't
publicly support their charges, is widely believed to be their silent
James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State for George Bush Senior, wrote
in the New York Times (August 25): "Regime change in Iraq is the policy
of the current administration, just as it was the policy of its predecessor.
That being the case, the issue for policymakers to resolve is not whether to use
military force to achieve this, but how to go about it."
However, these critics are deeply worried that the Pentagon's war planners
have convinced themselves they can knock off Iraq's government relatively easily
and quickly--relying heavily on air attacks and high-tech bunker busters.
The critics charge that the Bush administration therefore assumes it can
basically "do it alone"--without the military support or even political approval
of other powers, perhaps without definite commitment from regional powers like
Turkey and Saudi Arabia, or without the legal approval of international
organizations like the United Nations.
They worry openly that the war would be more expensive, more protracted, more
bloody and more difficult--than the Bush White House expects. They point out
that most of the billion costs of the last Gulf War were charged to
others, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
And the critics express particular concern that the government has not "made
its case" with the masses of people in the United States--and they fear that a
difficult war with casualties, intense fighting and perhaps deep disruptions in
oil production could give rise to powerful movements of resistance around the
world and within the U.S. itself.
James A. Baker III wrote: "We would have to be extremely lucky to take out
the top leadership through insertion into Iraq of a small rapid-strike force.
And this last approach carries significant political risks for the
administration, as President Jimmy Carter found out in April 1980." Carter's
"disaster in the desert" of Iran contributed to his disgrace and replacement by
Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior.
General Tommy Franks, speaking for the Bush administration, argues that Iraq
can be beaten with as few as 80,000 soldiers--while experts from the Pentagon to
Jerusalem argue that 200,000 or 300,000 troops would be required.
Pentagon generals went to the Washington Post (July 28) to air their
concerns that U.S. forces might face heavy casualties if the Iraqi army dug
itself into cities and forced invaders to fight house by house--in the so-called
"Stalingrad" scenario--and they believe that the White House war plans greatly
underestimate such dangers. General Jones, the commander of the Marine Corps and
soon-to- be NATO Supreme Commander, said, "You better have Plan B in your hip
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni (who was recently Bush's own representative in
Palestine) was remarkably disrespectful to his president in an August 23 speech:
"If you ask me my opinion, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Powell, Gen. Schwarztkopf, Gen.
Zinni, maybe all see this the same way. It might be interesting to wonder why
all the generals see it the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in
anger and are really hell-bent to go to war see it a different way."
If the war proves difficult, these imperialist spokesmen are particularly
concerned that the U.S. does not find itself isolated. Baker argued that
attacking Iraq without first making progress toward pacifying Palestine is
And finally, the ruling class critics raise serious concerns about "the
morning after"-- what happens after the war? Iraq is a large, complex country
that would be difficult to occupy--and hard to hold together. There are no
powerful pro-U.S. opposition forces ready to serve as a puppet government. The
U.S. ally Turkey is desperately concerned that Iraq may fly apart and the
northern Kurds might secede, deeply threatening Turkey's own bloody rule of
Kurds within Turkey.
The fact that loyal, experienced, influential imperialist "wise men" are so
rudely public about their concerns shows just how reckless a future attack on
Iraq might be.
World class oppressors are moving steadily toward a major gamble. Their war
plans will mean great suffering and injustice for millions of people. And at the
same time, it may also turn out very badly for them--it may unleash forces they
can't control, expose them in ways they didn't expect, and weaken them in ways
that give openings for revolutionary people.
Consider this: The U.S. has a long history of "regime changes." The CIA
helped murder Lumumba and installed Mobutu to rape the Congo for decades. They
helped murder Allende in Chile and installed Pinochet in a nightmare of massacre
and mass murder. They overthrew Mosadegh and installed the brutal Shah of Iran.
The list is long--complete with military dictatorships in Greece and Brazil and
the Marcos dictatorship in Philippines.
Why should anyone with a heart and a brain support U.S. plans for "regime
Evidence and Pretexts
The Bush administration sent Vice President Cheney to answer these critics
with a major speech in Nashville on August 26. Claiming that Iraq's government
was close to nuclear capability, he spoke of great urgency and danger. "The
risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action," he said.
From all sides, the U.S. government has been pressed for evidence that Iraq
is a burning "threat" to its neighbors, to the U.S. or anyone else.
In response Cheney cited a seven-year-old report from an Iraqi
defector--hardly credible grounds for sudden panic and action. The yapping lap
dog Tony Blair promised to release the "dossier" of evidence--but so far,
nothing. When a reporter asked Rumsfeld adviser Richard Perle for evidence that
Iraq poses "immediate threat" he answered, "Trust me."
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported at the end of 1998: "There
were no indications to suggest... that Iraq had produced more than a few grams
of weapons-grade nuclear material." The British Guardian wrote: "Most
experts believe that President Saddam's lack of weapons-grade uranium or
plutonium is the main obstacle to an Iraqi bomb."
As for evidence that Iraq is "seeking" bomb material, here is one example
cited in the press: It is charged that in 1999 the Iraqi government bought six
lithotripter machines (that shatter kidney stones without surgery)--it is
claimed that the switches used in those medical machines "could also" be used in
a nuclear device. Iraq is accused of buying "spare switches."
Hardly the basis for flattening a country, seizing its oilfields, installing
some brutal puppet regime, and occupying it for years!
On July 28, the Washington Post reported on its front page: "Despite
President Bush's repeated bellicose statements about Iraq, many senior U.S.
military officers contend that President Saddam Hussein poses no immediate
threat." These officers, reported to include members of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, don't believe Cheney either.
Furthermore, the U.S. argument--that they would be decapitating, invading,
and occupying a country to prevent a nuclear program--doesn't even make logical
sense. The U.S. has been bombing Iraq for more than 10 years and, if they were
only concerned about Iraq's nuclear capacity, they could bomb an Iraqi nuclear
facility from the air, like Israel did in 1981.
Meanwhile, there are other armies in that region that do have nukes and
repeatedly threaten to use them--specifically Israel and the U.S. (General
Schwartzkopf recently repeated on TV that he personally threatened to use nukes
against Iraq in 1991.)
The fact is that the official U.S. talk of "weapons of mass destruction" is a
smokescreen- -a mix of lies, exaggerations and half-truths--designed to hide the
real motives, goals and class interests motivating the plans for U.S.
Behind the War
For the U.S. ruling class, the risk is tempting because the prize is big.
They are aiming for nothing less than recasting international relations and
securing unchallenged control in the world.
A key part of this is unprecedented military superiority and the will to use
A second part of this is control over the energy reserves that make modern
industry roll. Powerful economic rivals of the U.S., Germany and Japan, are
heavily dependent on Persian Gulf oil. And tight, direct, U.S. military and
political control over the Persian Gulf translates in many ways into greater
dominance over the world economy, and over potential rivals.
At the same time the U.S. imperialists feel a real urgency: their hold over
the Gulf is shaky. And Bush argues, "Time is not on our side."
None of the three major countries of the Gulf--Iraq, Iran and Saudi
Arabia--are today stable reliable regimes for U.S. imperialist
interests--despite two decades of intense U.S. intrigue and mounting military
intervention in the region.
While the Iraqi regime has a history of brutality against the Kurdish people
and progressive movements, Iraq's government has been a thorn in the U.S. side,
a wild card, a defiant regime in a strategic area. It has shown its willingness
to destabilize U.S. plans by directly attacking Israel. Saddam Hussein even
reportedly sent assassins hunting Bush Senior. The new world order envisioned by
U.S. imperialists has little room for such a role model. General Ehud Barak, the
previous Prime Minister of Israel, said in a recent column that "Saddam Hussein
has set an example of defiance, especially against the first President Bush,
that other Arab leaders cannot and should not emulate."
And Iraq is at the heart of the world's energy sources, sitting on proven
reserves of 112 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia's 256 billion
Meanwhile the events of September 11 unveiled how unstable and unreliable
Saudi Arabia really is for imperialist interests. Despite Saudi Arabia's
complete dependence on the U.S. (and international oil companies) and despite
its status as "long-time ally," it is now known that a rift within the Saudi
ruling class over the growing U.S. military presence in the Gulf played a role
in creating and financing al-Qaida and pushing conservative Islamist forces
toward attacks on the U.S. (In Washington circles, Saudi Arabia has now been
jokingly called "the kernel of evil.")
The needs of capitalism in its imperialist stage are drawing the U.S. deeper
into the Persian Gulf-- toward greater intervention--and possibly toward direct
occupation of major oilfields and even more openly colonial imposition of
subservient governments. The immediate target is Iraq, but tomorrow's target may
be Saudi Arabia itself, and perhaps beyond it Iran (which already has been
labeled part of an "axis of evil").
The logic of U.S. imperialist interests make other powers, like
Germany and Japan far more reluctant. These countries are far more directly
reliant on Persian Gulf oil. Even a temporary disruption of oil flow there would
have a profound impact on their economies (and everyone remembers that the 1991
war set the Kuwaiti and Iraqi oilfields on fire!). If a future U.S. attack
unleashes massive upsurges against the region's governments, the instability
would be an especially dangerous crisis for countries like Germany.
Tony Blair has emerged as a lonely voice supporting the U.S. plans--and faced
resignations in his cabinet over it.
Mo Mowlam, a former member of the Blair cabinet, wrote: "What is most
chilling is that the hawks in the Bush administration must know the risks
involved. They must be aware of the anti-American feeling throughout the Middle
East. They must be aware of the fear in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that a war
against Iraq could unleash revolutions, disposing of pro-western governments,
and replacing them with populist anti-American Islamist fundamentalist regimes.
We should all remember the Islamist revolution in Iran. The Shah was backed by
the Americans, but he couldn't stand against the will of the people."
Even if the U.S. war goes easily, even if there are not disasters in oil
supply and prices--U.S. victory over Iraq doesn't look so good from Berlin
either: The European Union is not too thrilled with the idea that their oil
jugular will be clenched even more firmly and directly in the hands of the U.S.
Germany is a close NATO ally that has supported the U.S. in every filthy war
it has waged in 50 years. It is a major development in world relations, a major
eruption of inter-imperialist conflict--that Germany, sitting at the heart of
the European Union, rejects the U.S. war, rejecting U.S. pretexts as nonsense
and calling their war a dangerous "adventure." Germany's major parties have all
threatened to withdraw German military units from Kuwait if the U.S. presses
ahead with plans to attack Iraq--and there is open talk that this may signal a
break in alliance with an impact lasting decades.
Meanwhile Russia, another imperialist contender, is rushing to work out a
billion economic and trade cooperation package with Iraq.
The threat of "with us or against us" has not gotten the U.S. a blank check
so far on this major new war.
The Mission Defines
"The problem is that he has or seems to have committed himself so strongly
that it is hard to imagine how he can climb down. And that is the real problem,
that not only I have, but that all of us in Europe have."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schrer commenting on
President Cheney's speech
President Bush is now scheduled to "make his case" to the United Nations. The
White House says it is on a full diplomatic offensive to marshal backing for its
war. They are arm-twisting smaller states, dangling a billion IMF loan in
front of Turkey's government, sending envoys around the world. They will release
"intelligence" and other "evidence" of supposed nuclear threats from Iraq.
The U.S government is being urged by Secretary of State Powell to endorse
plans for new inspections in Iraq--which Cheney openly mocked a week ago. But
the U.S. plan is to "refuse to take yes for an answer" from Iraq. Iraq is
expected to cooperate with inspections, and the U.S. is expected to respond with
new, provocative and escalating demands.
Cheney's Nashville speech made it clear that the ruling circles of the U.S.
demand that everyone in the world expect and accept a whole sweeping campaign of
attacks and war. Cheney said: "We are still closer to the beginning of this war
than we are to its end. The United States has entered a struggle of years." And
he repeated that his government has a list of 60 countries that may be targets
It is revealing that the U.S. warmakers simply declare their right to invade
a sovereign country, without provocation, without the backing of their allies or
international institutions like the UN.
The cold calculations of imperialist debate and negotiations so dominate the
climate that the lives of millions of people disappear into the background.
But the truth is the U.S. imperialists are seeking to conquer things they
have no right to rule. They accuse others of threats and aggression--while they
plot threats and aggression. They rave about dictators and tyrants while they
scheme to rule the world and dictate to everyone under the sun.
The people of Iraq, who have endured so much, are being placed, once again,
at the ground zero of a heartless assault. Many will die, the cities they have
so painstakingly rebuilt will be targeted again, their resources will be seized
at gunpoint. And the war planners speak of sacrificing the lives of thousands of
Beyond that, the people of the Muslim and Arab world are being told to accept
that the U.S. can grab and occupy key resources of the Middle East at
will--after bombing Afghanistan to rubble and after supporting a savage spring
of Israeli attacks in Palestine.
It is an intolerable situation.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker
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