Understanding US policy with Iraq.
By Joseph P. Diaferia
November 23, 2002
To any informed critic of United States foreign policy, the Bush administration’s intentions should be chillingly clear: the United States is going to invade Iraq, and its reasons have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), or that country’s despotic dictator.
The United Nations’ “resolutions” that have been set before Iraq are such that no sovereign nation could ever be expected to comply with them. Iraq must open itself to UN inspectors, and allow them unfettered access to factories, universities, hospitals, religious shrines and other historic sites. Iraq must also allow UN inspectors to randomly detain Iraqi civilians for questioning. However, the most ominous component of these resolutions is the requirement that Iraq furnish a manifest of its entire “weapons program”—a program, which according to many observers (including conservative Republicans and CIA members) has been destroyed. Simply put, the Bush administration is demanding that Iraq divulge the particulars of a weapons program that has not existed since 1991.
To name oil as the US’s chief concern in Iraq is to state the obvious. No serious observer of American politics could ever believe that US policy with Iraq is driven by anything else.
Less known to most Americans, however, is the 40-year history of US meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. In 1958, a revolution brought a popular nationalist government to power in Iraq. The CIA immediately plotted the assassination of the new Iraqi president, Abdel Karim Kassem. Simultaneously, US military leaders in central Asia devised a military plan for invading northern Iraq and seizing the oil fields there. Code-named Operation Cannonbone, the plan targeted the same areas designated as no-fly zones in 1991.
In 1963, President Kassem and thousands of his supporters were massacred in CIA orchestrated coup. Not long thereafter, Saddam Hussein was brought to power by US covert action.
What was it about the Kassem government that the United States found so insufferable? Was Kassem thought to be stockpiling nuclear weapons? Had Iraq shown any desire to invade its neighbors? Had Kassem ruled Iraq with and iron fist? No. None of these things held true. The government of Abdel Karim Kassem was brought down for the same reason the US now seeks Hussein’s ouster—to wit: control of oil. However, to that end, the Bush administration is seeking “regime change” by more decisive and conclusive means.
If the Bush strategy is successful, the US will invade and occupy Iraq, and then rule the Middle Eastern country by martial law. It is not again resorting to covert action to change the Iraqi leadership for the simple reason that coups d’etat have a tendency to backfire and bring other “uncooperative” leaders to power. Examples of this include Hussein’s own accession to power as well as the installation of Manuel Noriega, as ruler of Panama. It is also worth noting that when a CIA coup in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s failed to eliminate President Juan Bosch, the US invaded that country outright.
In the case of Iraq, not only have coups failed to bring about the desired regime change, but bombings and sanctions, which have resulted in the deaths of close to two million people, have also been inefficacious—for the United States’ purposes. Therefore, full-scale invasion and colonization will be the methods of choice this time around.
The US led offensive against Iraq in 1991 was abruptly shut down after it was discovered that an internal revolt against the Hussein government was taking place. Had the revolt in Iraq succeeded, it might have brought a legitimate revolutionary government to power—hence, an even bigger headache for the Western oil gangsters. Therefore, the Bush administration halted the offensive against Iraq in order that Hussein could use his military to crush the insurgent forces seeking to overthrow him. Since the end of the Gulf War, the US has relied solely on the use of sanctions to bring about the desired regime change in Iraq. Unfortunately, the sanctions (worth the price according to the ghastly Madeleine Albright) have brought mass immiseration to Iraq but not the replacement of the Iraqi leadership with a Washington/Wall Street friendly comprador regime.
At this point, the US oil oligarchy—of which the Bush family is very much a part—has reached the point of desperation, as evidenced by the gymnastic justifications by the administration for taking the US and its allies to war. Coups, sanctions and limited wars have failed to facilitate what will be the largest oil grab in history, and the Bush axis knows it must now act with impunity.
If the administration were seeking simply to incapacitate Iraq as a military power and nothing more, what would be its justification? It is difficult to ignore US hypocrisy in demanding the disarmament of Iraq on the one hand, while completely untroubled by Israel’s arsenal of WMDs. Israel, it should be noted, has shown itself to be a far more aggressive and sinister power—one that has expelled much of its native population, terrorizes those who have chosen to remain, has bombed and/or invaded its neighbors repeatedly, conducted commando raids into Britain and France to purloin military secrets, acted as a conduit for illegal arms sales, and resorted to nuclear extortion upon other countries. In addition, why does the administration not demand the nuclear disarmament of India and Pakistan—two countries that have threatened nuclear aggression against each other?
There cannot be any doubt that the government of Saddam Hussein is an oppressive one. From any sincere advocate for justice, the call to liberate Iraq from tyrannical autocratic rule is not flawed. However, can this be actual goal of the United States—a government that has either supported or brought to power the likes of the Somozas in Nicaragua, Battista in Cuba, the Shah of Iran, Salazar in Portugal, Marcos in the Philippines, Pinochet in Chile, Stroessner in Paraguay, the Duvaliers in Haiti, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Mobutu in The Congo, Suharto in Indonesia, and the government of South Africa during apartheid?
Moreover, what right does the United States have to demand that ANY country disarm itself, or in any other way, curb its means of defense? In order to impose its will on other countries, the United States slaughtered 3,000,000 North Koreans between 1950 and 1953; 3,000,000 Vietnamese; 500,000 Laotians and Cambodians; 1,500,000 million Angolans; over 1,000,000 in Mozambique; 500,000 in Afghanistan (prior to October, 2001); 1,000,000 Indonesians; 200,000 East Timorese; 100,000 Nicaraguans; over 140,000 Guatemalans; over 60,000 in El Salvador; 30,000 in Argentina; 35,000 in Taiwan in 1949; 20,000 in Chile; and thousands more in Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Brazil, South Africa, Zaire, Iran and Lebanon. Let us also not forget the most cowardly act of barbarism in history: the deployment of atomic weapons upon Japanese civilians in August of 1945.
In recent months, officials in Washington and at the United Nations have assured us that war with Iraq is “not inevitable”. They are correct. However, our leaders cannot be trusted to advance a plan for peace. From their point of view, the coming war MUST be prosecuted; peace is their worst-case scenario. It is up to the masses to make peace a reality. The working class must reject the fictional rationales proffered by those who seek to (further) enslave the world and plunder its limited resources. Those who can envision world peace do not harbor quixotic fantasies. The most vocal and most organized forces in our society are agitating for peace—not war!
Finally, in the context of 9/11/01, many Americans have found it difficult to believe that their government holds anything other than benevolent intentions. To many, the suggestion of US government mendacity is seditious treason (or, perhaps in the case of Bush and Co.—lese majeste). Unfortunately, lying is the US government’s modus operandi. They are acutely aware that the American people would never stand for what their government actually does. Therefore, part of the struggle for peace is the raising of public consciousness.
For our survival and for the survival of future generations, we must organize, agitate and EDUCATE!
Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time. 1992
Joseph P. Diaferia, Hands Off Iraq. Indymedia 2002
Covert Action Quarterly