by Kim Petersen
March 5, 2003
You cannot prevent and prepare for war at the same time.
-- Albert Einstein
Einstein’s admonition aside, the US and UK continue their military buildup while maintaining that war is not inevitable. Troop numbers are swelling and the attacks in the illegal no-fly zones have increased. A few days ago American and British war planes targeted missile installations in the no-fly zones with more civilian fatalities – all this while inspections continue. Iraq is disarming; scientists are being interviewed without minders; overhead U2 reconnaissance flights are happening. It is truly an absurd scenario: while a nation is being compelled to disarm it is simultaneously being attacked.
Simon Carr writing in The Independent suggested that the war has started. (1) But the war hasn’t started because it has never ended. Bombing has never ceased in the no-fly zones. The world is witnessing a re-escalation of the Persian Gulf War on a nation that has never recovered from the first onslaught. Now the people of Iraq are faced with the devastating scenario of “Shock and Awe” -- a bombardment never before unleashed in the history of warfare. Humanitarian agencies warn of millions of Iraqis, especially children, being imperiled in the case of a re-intensification of war. Apparently there is no plan in Washington to deal with a humanitarian catastrophe. Similarly Washington has been criticized for not having an exit strategy.
Some of Iraq’s neighbors, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have already conceded that another invasion is inevitable. Indeed even if UNMOVIC determines that Iraq is unequivocally disarmed of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) the attacks will happen. The leading hawks have demanded more than just disarmament. Prime Minister Blair has pinned himself in a corner; for him, not to attack would be immoral. It must be really difficult for Mr. Blair to back down now, with his Labour Party members in barely concealed revolt, since doing so would appear quite ridiculous after trumpeting that the party was at its best because of its boldness. That would provide a field day for the press. But then on the other hand, Mr. Blair has been able to pontificate on the British case relatively undisturbed by his having, not so long ago, passed off a plagiarized graduate student article as the latest intelligence. The compliant media quickly confined this indiscretion to the dustbins of memory. For President Bush, not to attack would leave the US continually exposed to the menace of an untrustworthy rearming President Saddam. Iraq under Mr. Hussein must remain disarmed of WMD even though its arch nemesis Israel, also bound by UN Security Council Resolution 687 to dismantle its WMD, will probably never be forced to disarm. It would seem that there is only one scenario now that could avert a re-conflagration of the war and that is for Mr. Hussein to be removed. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have staked so much on regime change that it is one demand they cannot back down on. The political repercussions of Mr. Hussein still being in power would signal the demise of both leaders.
Several effete war pretexts have been proffered but were refuted with discomfiting ease. (2) Former CIA analyst Bill Christison delineated the true pretexts for an attack as being equally control of oil, geostrategic considerations, and colluding with Israel in the reshaping the Middle East. (3) Of course, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair cannot justify war on these shameless pretexts so they are left with regime change, which they have pushed harder recently. UN Security Council Resolution 1441 does not provide for regime change and its legality is highly questionable. Whether or not Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are granted their second resolution at this stage is unclear but it is unlikely to sanction regime change. Both the US and UK have mandated that Mr. Hussein must be removed even if there is no second resolution. As such, Washington and London have made it clear that the second resolution is merely a fig leaf to shield their intentions and propitiate the anti-war movement.
There is nothing that Mr. Hussein can do avert an invasion. The fustian rhetoric emanating from Washington and London is ominous: The game is over; He is not co-operating; Saddam had his last chance; It is too little, too late; Saddam is a threat. Former Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton stated that the end of the genocidal UN sanctions required a regime change. Leaving Mr. Hussein as Iraqi leader would undermine US foreign policy.
The implications for failing to change the Iraqi leadership are many. The downfall of Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair is one highly possible outcome. Other governments considered rogue by the US administration would be emboldened. The Muslim world will view the US in a more skeptical light and that could have a profound effect on the occupation of the territories. It will be difficult to continue the War on Terrorism (if al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain silent in the US). A future threat to use US force might face a degree of scorn. The US currency would be at risk. Iraqi oil sales are now denominated in Euros. If other OPEC members should decide to carry out transactions in Euros it would have wider implications for the dollar and the sagging US economy, something that the spectre of war has averted public attention from. It will still be hard to shake the view of the US as unilateralist even though the US didn’t attack. The governments of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush have bribed, blamed, and threatened the international community in an unseemly manner. The UN, NATO, and the EU have all been challenged by this debacle.
Mr. Blair will especially be in a tight spot if there is no second resolution forthcoming from the UN Security Council. The Americans have always ingenuously held that Resolution 1441 gave them license to attack Iraq without further UN resolutions and the British have concurred. Both nations have questioned the relevance of the UN if it doesn’t bow to their will. Mr. Blair is now in a haste to force the issue on the Iraqis. His lead partner has run out of patience.
Mr. Bush in the event of no Persian Gulf War would return home to face the ignominy of the backsliding US economy, rising unemployment, corporate scandals, and the elite making out like bandits. Mr. Bush would be in an even more untenable position than his father; at least Mr. Bush Sr. liberated Kuwait. Mr. Bush Jr. will be seen as having bluffed and being called. It may very well augur a renewed outbreak of Vietnam Syndrome.
The anti-war movement has done all they can to throw wrenches into the war machine. It has gone head-to-head with the antithetical, dismissive governments and their sycophantic mainstream media. The demonstrations were historical in magnitude. Turkish activists gave courage to their parliamentarians, who defeated a proposal for the US to use Turkey as a northern front in war. The peace mongers won’t concede that a renewed war is ineluctable. Public sentiment is against the war, particularly if there is no second resolution. Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Blair is prepared to entertain such a scenario. Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair’s duplicity has made them prisoners of a tangled web of their own weaving. So there must be regime change at great cost.
Mr. Bush and his lead poodle Mr. Blair, likely with co-poodles Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Aznar (who face enormous public antipathy to war) in tow, will have their war. No one can really know the outcome of war. Surely Iraq is in no shape to withstand an aggression from the world superpower and its poodles. However, the nightmarish scenarios are myriad: a UN gone the way of the League of Nations, NATO rife with dissension, an EU driven to find its own way outside the shadow of the American eagle, the US an iconoclast in the world, an opportunistic Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Occupied territories, Arab uprising, Turkish adventurism in Northern Iraq, Kurdish rebellion, and, of course, the obliterated landscape of Iraq are all possible outcomes of a non-UN sanctioned invasion. It might very well be a pyrrhic victory.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Simon Carr, The Sketch: Don't panic. The war has started but nothing significant has changed, The Independent, 4 March 2003: http://argument.independent.co.uk/regular_columnists/simon_carr/story.jsp?story=383680
(2) Kim Petersen, Grasping at Straws: The search for a War Pretext, Dissident Voice, 4 March 2003: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles2/Petersen_Iraq-Pretext.htm
(3) Bill Christison, “Categories of war: The US Gameplan for Iraq,” CounterPunch, 8 February 2003: http://www.counterpunch.org/christison02082003.html