Loss of Innocence
David and Goliath
He Who Pays the Piper
Future of Colin Powell
Requiem for Broken Dream
Gifts from Paradise
War On Iraq
Bush One, Saddam One
Remember J. Merridith
State of In-Betweenity
Words Do Matter
The Lynching of Iraq
Before the Riots Begin
A Dog's Life
Passing of PM Charles
Fin. & Econ. Survival
In Walks 'Madam Hawke'
Impressions - 05 Elections
Deep Throat Revealed
Beyond The Pale
Gospel of Judas
Rise of Barack Obama
© J.B. Sampson
WAR ON IRAQ
There are moments in time when one feels a chill wind blowing, as if to give a warning of things to come. Something big is about to happen as war drums roll, the dice are cast and all we are left to discover is the why, the when and the how.
In case you have not yet figured it out, this commentary is on United States war plans on Iraq. Is it a good idea? Are the potential risks and consequences justified in view of the threat allegedly posed by Iraq? What's the true motive underlying the attack? What does the war say about US unilateralism and its relations with the rest of the world and the risks that an attack, when it happens, could produce a tidal wave of anti-Americanism around the world, and possibly, more terrorism?
A keen follower of the news this past few weeks cannot help but notice the steady rise in tempo of the debate in this pre-Iraq war environment. The high note was reached today in a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney in which the US second in command says that war with Iraq is an imperative and strongly criticized those who hold the opposite view and even those within his party who urge restraint.
Among those who urge restraint is Secretary of State Colin Powell. But it is clear to see that lately, he has undergone some self imposed silence and has fallen in line when it became clear that a policy option has been adopted. Powell appears to have reluctantly signed on, a victim of the fierce infighting between him and other moderates on the one hand, and right wing war hawks including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, Richard Pearl, etc. on the other. No matter how they try to dress this up, Powell suffered another major defeat as he was unable to stop that train packed with war mongers determined to satisfy their thirst in the wake of September 11 and the failure to capture Bin Laden who is still at large.
There is a growing concern among moderates who fear that a small cabal of right wing zealots have effectively high jacked US foreign policy and are about to precipitate the country into war without sufficient provocation or justification. Among those raising questions are Brent Scrowcroft , the former National Security Advisor, and Former Secretary of State James Baker, both former members of the cabinet of the first President Bush. In addition several senior legislators in the Republican Party have come out openly urging caution and national dialogue. But to what avail?
War with Iraq seems more and more inevitable, given all the saber rattling that has come out of Washington over the past few months. Can you imagine the consequences for US prestige and standing in the international community, should it choose, on sober reflection ( as I believe it should) take a deep breath, count to six, put its " only remaining superpower" pride aside, and reconsider its intended action? This is unfathomable only because the US has effectively limited itself to the war option, has painted itself in a corner, as it were. Meanwhile, Europeans bristle at the prospect of war, with or without them. The crisis is showing fault lines in British politics and the government of Tony Blair. Increasingly regarded as a poodle in his dealings with US presidents and US foreign policy in general, Blair is having a hard time keeping his troop loyal on this divisive issue. The Germans are openly critical, prompting the Bush administration to summon a German diplomat to listen to their displeasure over the German Chancellor's frank comments critical of Washington's war plans. Anti- American feelings are reportedly running high in France and numerous other European countries.
Is the United States deaf or is it just plain indifferent?
One gets the feeling that the "only super power" status of the United States has bred in it a sense of indifference to world opinion. The war contemplated on Iraq follows a familiar pattern that includes rejection of the treaty on global warming, refusal to recognize the World Court, refusal to join in the ban on land mines, an anti-Arab and pro-Israel bias in its dealings in the Middle East, etc. etc. So why bother to consult with any one when we control the levers of power in almost every imaginable sphere? You want access to funding? Mr. Big controls the IMF and the World Bank. You want military assistance, equipment and supplies? Where better to find it but in the United States? Your country faces a famine and there is no question where surplus food will be coming from. And to add a stick to the usual carrot, you may pay dearly to forget that you are dealing with not only the greatest economic superpower, but a military super power as well, one that spends more on defense than its first eight largest potential competitors combined. Is it likely that opponents to US policy positions are expected to be silent, lest they lose access to their supply lines?
On another level, one must seriously question the real motive behind this focus on Iraq. It's as if there is no merit to the point that Iraq has not attacked the United States, and in the view of the vast majority of military experts, Iraq does not pose a military threat to the United States. This business of preemptive strike is a dangerous proposition because it opens up the possibility of future wars when one nation can unilaterally declare another nation a threat and proceed to war on this assumption alone.
We have to be mindful of how this Iraq debate progressed. First it was a previously obscure group of conservatives who published an article in major newspapers in the US some ten months ago calling for an attack on Iraq. No one took them seriously. What at first appeared like a wild idea from the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, gradually took on the aura of respectability as the full dimensions of September 11 attack began to sink in. Never mind the fact that none has been able to tie Iraq to the September 11 attack despite the failed attempts of some to tie Iraq to the September 11 attack. But as one writer put it, September 11 was a major milestone in US history. There has always been a collective sense of security on these shores. With friendly neighbors to the north and south, the Pacific on one side, and the Atlantic on the other, this country has always felt invulnerable and impregnable. September 11 has changed all that. The country woke up feeling angry and revenge is what is on the minds of the war mongers. And when you examine the evidence, it is easy to understand why. The war on terrorism proceeds as the fear of terror grows. Bin Laden is at large. Who better to strike than Saddam, the man whom the US almost defeated in the 1991 Gulf War. And who were the captains of this war that turned out to be a draw? The same Dick Cheney who was then Defense Secretary and Colin Powel, the reluctant Warrior then, as he is now. Donald Rumsfeld has joined the pack as the uncompromising war hawk. The idea is to strike when the iron is hot. The iron, in this example, is the anger of the American people. Nothing will satisfy this anger except some big time blood and the head of an unfinished foe. Sorry, Saddam. You fit the bill.
This anger must be especially intense to cause ordinarily sober minds to abandon caution and to ignore the counsel of strategic allies. The what iffs are too numerous to mention. But the subject of OIL cannot be overlooked in any credible debate on both the motive and the dangers underlying an Iraq invasion. What if the oil fields of the Middle East become an inferno and the price of oil skyrockets to $50.00 a barrel and add further to the anxieties about the global economy? What if Israel is drawn into the war as it has indicated it might, if attacked, thereby unleashing a new round of violence involving the entire region? It seems clear that Washington's obsession with seeking revenge on Iraq is likely to backfire and produce costly consequences that are not justified by the present danger posed by Iraq, real and imagined. But going back a little to the OIL issue, there is even a strong sense among some analysts that the desire to control Iraq's oilfields may be partly behind the drive to war. Some even suggest that the US may not need the allies to help finance the war this time because if they seize the Iraqi oilfields, they could step up production, flood the oil markets, drive down the price of oil globally, and reap a substantial oil dividend that could offset the cost of the war, estimated to be some $70 billion. This is not a frivolous speculation if you consider the fact that the United States which comprises just five per cent of the world population, consumes 35 per cent of the 70 million barrel daily global oil production. You might call this " killing two birds with one stone". Getting rid of Saddam, the threat, and ensuring the oil security of the United States.
Only history will correctly assess the wisdom of pursuing war with Iraq. But one thing is clear in the present. The United States is conducting itself like a bull let loose without restraint, unaccountable to no one and seemingly deaf to world opinion. This does not encourage comfort in the belief that the world is any safer after the demise of the Soviet Union.