by Susan Abulhawa
If we are to believe the polls, well over half of this country wants to go to war with Iraq. Ask ‘why?’ and you’re likely to get a regurgitation of Rumsfeld’s mendacious rant.
The arguments made for war are emotional, appealing not to the logical sensibilities, but to the post September wave of insecurity and patriotic fervor.
Of course Sadaam is a bad man. He has been the same wicked dictator since the CIA helped bring him to power after the overthrow of Abdel Kareem Qassem. We were there by his side, with money and weapons, when he gassed Iranian soldiers then turned his poison on the Kurds. (Anyway, making that argument is embarrassing in light of the recently declassified documents revealing our own gassing of our own soldiers in the 1960’s).
The question is: Is he really a threat to US? The answer lies in our willingness to attack Baghdad. At the height of the Cold War tensions, we never attacked the Soviet Union. Why? Because they really WERE a threat to us. But we know Sadaam can’t retaliate. He simply doesn’t have the ability. Thirteen years of crippling sanctions and continuous bombing of military
and civilian infrastructure (water and electric facilities) have devastated Iraq and brought untold tragedy and death to Babylon. Bush, of course, knows this.
So when a reporter asked what suddenly makes Sadaam a grave threat, Rumsfeld retorted: “3000 American lives, that’s what!”
But it is precisely the tragedy of 9-11 that ought to give us pause before this question. Those who wish to inflict harm on the most powerful nation apparently will not use conventional weapons of mass destruction.
With that, this administration worked overtime to come up with something, anything, to link Sadaam to Al-Qaeda. The best they could offer was that some Al-Qaeda members were in Iraq and “may’ have trained there. Does this mean we should bomb Florida, too?
There are many scenarios that could play out if we attack Iraq. But there are a few sure bets. For starters, the only nation that will truly benefit from this war is Israel. Destabilization of Jordan after massive ethnic cleaning of Palestinians into that country from the West Bank has been predicted and, according to Hebrew media, planned. It is from no love for America that Israeli leaders are salivating at the prospect of war. The world knows well the homicidal mind of Ariel Sharon, the way it dances with visions of “Greater Israel…from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.” Is it not enough that we send billions of dollars to that rouge nation? Must we also engage our own troops to fight the battles of its imperial appetite?
Of course, Israel isn’t the only beneficiary. Some U.S. corporations, namely oil and defense, will also benefit and surely some of that gain will trickle into more than a few reelection campaign funds.
This war will require spending gargantuan sums of money from and already fragile economy. The economic consequence is likely to be compounded by escalating oil prices. At a time of rising unemployment, a falling stock market and an aging class that often must choose between buying food or prescription medications, is it wise to initiate a war against a sovereign nation without evidence of an imminent threat to our country?
The financial costs will be dwarfed only by the cost in human life: hundreds of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And you can be sure that those who will send our sons and daughters to the front lines of what Rumsfeld predicts will be “house to house combat” (sounds eerily like an Israeli speech) will keep their own sons at a safe distance--like college. Those Midwestern farm boys and inner city youth, recruited with the promise of “opportunity,” will be the ones called upon “to serve their country” in the danger zones. These are the sons of American’s poor whose education and social services, already neglected by Congress, will be cut further by Bush’s 2003 budget plan.
Osama will also be pleased. He’ll get new recruits form the Arab masses that seethe with anger and helplessness before intolerable images of Israel’s daily crimes. We might understand, if only our media would show these images like they do the 24-hour coverage of suicide bombs. The Israeli occupation is depraved and beset with inhumanity most in this
country would not believe. Nightly, on their televisions, ordinary Arabs watch footage of children killed or arrested (I have on my website footage of two soldiers beating an eight year old boy). They watch the endless funeral march, the starvation, home
demolitions, mass arrests and other medieval tactics of subjugation used by Israel with our blessings. Is it any wonder that more and more individuals just ‘snap’ because they “can’t take it anymore,” like the man in Kuwait this week who went out and shot at American troops there after watching those images?
I think we can expect more such “isolated incidences” against American interests since President Bush has, brilliantly, managed to convince Congress and the American public that Sadaam Hussein is about to wipe us off the face of the Earth!
War is no child’s play. Shouldn’t we at least pause to wonder why the rest f the world is not on board despite great behind-the-scenes diplomacy and arm-twisting? Shouldn’t we listen to what Scott Ritter, Hans Von Sponeck and Dennis Halliday (three people intimately familiar with Iraq’s military and civil situation) have to say?
We are increasingly isolated by the international community, especially when it comes to Middle East policy. Just take a look at how many General Assembly resolutions pass with unanimous (the whole world!) votes, save two countries: the US and Israel.
I think this is a seminal time and what we choose will greatly affect international order. Will we choose the path of war, international isolation and increased world resentment—all translating to a less secure United States? Or will we be a nation whose greatest import and export commodities are not material, but sacred? Not oil or Nike shoes, but freedom and justice. Will we choose to be The Empire that usurps international order or the Light onto Nations that navigates our affairs with principles enshrined in law and human rights?
Like Ralph Nader once said: “[F]or God’s sake, when are we going to wage peace?”
Susan Abulhawa is a Palestinian living in Pennsylvania. She is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization dedicated to building playgrounds and recreation areas for Palestinian children living under military occupation.