Who is the More Credible Villain?

After the Middle East has been labelled as, ‘The Axis of Evil’, Iraq cannot seem to escape their fate through America’s eyes. Here is a look at the various reasons why America wants to wage war with their enemy.

As the American invasion of Iraq inches ever closer it is important to know what this war entails and what it does not. Let us begin first by exploring what this war is not about.

Despite the Bush administration’s attempts to argue that Iraq represents an immediate threat to the US, it is a fact of general knowledge that Iraq does not have the military capabilities to attack the United States. It has also been acknowledged that even if Saddam Hussein could attack the US, the likelihood of him committing to what would amount to an instant suicide and destruction of Iraq, is virtually nil. Take for example the CIA’s testimony before the US Senate last October, where senior intelligence officials stated that “that the probability of him [Saddam] initiating an attack…would be low.”

More importantly, the CIA went on to report that while “Baghdad appears, for now, to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical and biological weapons against the United States,” should the US attack Saddam, “he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.” In other words, the threat of terrorist attacks against the US will actually increase, not decrease, as a result of invading Iraq.

Faced with this reality, those in favor of war have argued that although Saddam’s regime neither has the ability to present a credible threat to the US and its allies, nor is it likely to initiate an attack, if Iraq developed nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) this would leave Saddam free to attack his neighbors and anyone else. The Bush administration has echoed these sentiments, having presented the disarmament of Iraq as one of the key reasons for war.

However there is every reason to believe that Saddam will not be capable of retaining and developing WMD as long as weapon inspections continue. Saddam’s attempts will be further hampered by the presence of UN troops in the country if the White House is willing to back the current French and German proposals. Even in the highly unlikely event that Saddam gained nuclear weapons, there is absolutely no reason to believe that he would use these weapons against the US or on his neighbors when faced with the threat of instant US nuclear retaliation. Surely if the US could force the former Soviet Union to pull its missiles from Cuba, it can use its overwhelming military superiority to contain Saddam, armed with WMD or not, as it has done up to now.

In fact various US administrations have long implicitly acted upon this belief by helping to arm Iraq with WMD, right up to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In 1992 the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, under which export related issues are dealt with in the US, “learned that UN inspectors identified many US-manufactured items exported pursuant to licenses issued by the US Department of Commerce that were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and missile delivery system programs.”

The same US Senate committee reported in 1994 that “the US provided the Government of Iraq with ‘dual-use’ license materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-system programs including chemical warfare agent precursors…and missile guidance equipment.” The reason for this aid was that Iraq had attacked Iran, demonstrating not only the US government’s lack of concern about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but also the extent of its concern for Iraq’s neighbors.

However Saddam remains a very real threat to the Iraqi people. Accordingly the Bush administration has argued that its mission is to liberate and end the suffering of Iraqis. In reality, the US government has done the exact opposite for decades.

First the previously mentioned fact that the US government supported Saddam until his invasion of Kuwait, including during his worst atrocities such as the slaughter (using chemical weapons) of Kurdish civilians at Halabja in 1988. Furthermore, during the Gulf War the US military devastated Iraq’s civilian infrastructure deliberately by targeting water purification plants, sewage treatment facilities, food depots and hydro facilities with “devastating consequences for the civilian population.”

The strictest economic sanctions have since prevented Iraq from rebuilding these vital facilities, leading to a situation that has been described as “near-catastrophic.” According to various international agencies, such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization, more than one million civilians (mostly young children) have died as a result of the sanctions, and another 500,000 are expected to be killed or injured during the immediate stages of any future war. The people of Iraq can surely be forgiven if they fail to see the benign intentions of the White House.

It is not surprising, then, that the Bush administration’s commitment to democracy in Iraq lacks just as much credibility. From what is known right now, the White House plans to occupy Iraq militarily for at least two years, although many officials within the US government believe the occupation is likely to last much longer. Further, the US is committed to retaining Iraq’s current borders regardless of the Iraq’s wishes, many of which, such as the Kurds in northern Iraq, might prefer to seek autonomy or independence.

Is the US prepared to use military force against Iraq’s ethnic groups if they seek independence? A recent article in the New York Times has revealed that the White House plans to allow Turkish troops to occupy parts if not all of northern Iraq, with the goal of, according to the Turkish PM Abdullah Gul, preventing “the establishment of a new Kurdish state.”

The fact that the White House is prepared to allow the Turkish army, the very same army that has been massacring its own Kurdish population for decades in a manner not unlike Saddam, to occupy the only part of Iraq that has even begun to establish some democratic institutions, should be enough to demonstrate the Bush administration’s commitment to democracy in this region.

All of this then begs the question of what this latest American attack is really about. Certainly Iraqi oil, second in size only to Saudi Arabia, is a major factor and it is no surprise that members of the Bush administration have already met with oil industry officials to discuss how this oil will be divided.

The war may also be among the first stages of a future war against Iran, the second member of Bush’s “axis of evil.” With US troops in Iraq they will have completely surrounded Iran after installing bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the Afghan war.

The war could also be part of a strategy to bring the Middle East under greater US control with the help of key allies in the region, Turkey and Israel – the other “axis of evil” according to the Egyptian press. We have already mentioned Turkish plans for Northern Iraq. As for possible Israeli actions, senior members of the Bush administration Richard Perle and Douglas Feith wrote a policy paper in 1996 for Benjamin Netanyahu, the in-coming Israeli PM at the time, calling on Israel to “shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan [by] removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq”

More recently Aluf Benn, correspondent for Haaretz (major Israeli daily) reports that the Israeli “military and political leadership yearns for war in Iraq, seeing it as an opportunity to win the war of attrition with the Palestinians” and that “they envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel’s other enemies: Arafat, Hassan Nasrallah [Lebanon], Bashar Assad [Syria], the Ayatollah in Iran and maybe even Muhammar Gadaffi [Libya].”

Whatever the true reasons for war are, the intentions are clearly not benign. One can only hope that the millions of anti-war Americans and their friends around the world will be able to use the current anti-war momentum to prevent further aggression for imperial and economic gain. Given America’s overwhelming military superiority, domestic opposition, in solidarity such with international opposition including Canadians, may be the world’s only hope that the coming war against Iraq and its horrific consequences will not be a preview of further things to come, but an end to a tragic re-run that has gone on for far too long.