Iraq in the Crosshairs

U.S. Plans for Major War in Middle East

Revolutionary Worker #1159, July 21, 2002, posted at

"Tens of thousands of marines and soldiers [will invade Iraq] from Kuwait. Hundreds of warplanes based in as many as eight countries, possibly including Turkey and Qatar, would unleash a huge air assault against thousands of targets, including airfields, roadways and fiber-optics communications sites. Special operations forces or covert CIA operatives would strike at depots or laboratories storing or manufacturing Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to launch them."

New York Times , July 5, 2002

This isn't a fictional scenario from the latest Tom Clancy novel. It's a real scenario from "CentCom Courses of Action"--the latest U.S. plan for war on Iraq. (CentCom stands for the U.S. military's Central Command, which would be charged with carrying out the war.)

Leaked to the New York Times , the plan calls for attacks on Iraq by U.S. air, land, and sea- based forces from the north, south, and west, in coordination with covert operations inside Iraq by the CIA and various Iraqi groups. As many as 250,000 U.S. troops could be involved. The goal: to overthrow the Iraqi government and install a pro-U.S. regime.

In the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S.-led coalition killed between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqis. A new U.S. war could make the 1991 bloodshed pale in comparison.

The Central Command's extensive military plan reveals how set the U.S. rulers are on waging war against Iraq as well as how developed their war planning is. The government is preparing a massive new war. And the ruling class establishment treats the disclosure of these plans as routine--as if the U.S. has an undisputed right to openly plot wars on whomever, whenever.

No big outcry came from Congress. Leading Democrats say they support the Bush policy of "regime change"--code for a U.S.-organized coup or outright invasion of Iraq. Some senators called for hearings on the Bush plans--to assess the best way to achieve imperialist objectives. One Republican said that he'd back congressional hearings "as a way of building public support for potential military action." Editorial commentary in the capitalist media mainly focused on discussing the tactics and timing of a war on Iraq.

Military Buildups in the Region

Since September 11 there has been intense discussion within the ruling class over how to seize upon the attacks to advance U.S. global interests. Much of this discussion has focused on Iraq- -on its centrality to overall U.S. plans and on the best means to "take down" the Saddam Hussein regime.

Most of this discussion has taken place behind closed doors. The Bush administration has repeatedly declared its "regime change" policy for Iraq--while denying any specific plans and time-frame for war. During a trip to Germany in May, Bush claimed he had "no war plans on my desk." It turns out that the CentCom Courses of Action had been drawn up earlier that month.

The options reportedly being considered include a CIA-organized coup against the Hussein regime; a campaign--modeled after the U.S. war in Afghanistan--involving a combination of air strikes, a limited number of U.S. Special Forces, and anti-Hussein forces in Iraq; a full-scale U.S. invasion; and various combinations of all three.

According to the New York Times , the existence of the Courses of Action document indicates the war planners are tilting in the direction of a massive invasion: "Most military and administration officials believe that a coup in Iraq would be unlikely to succeed, and that a proxy battle using local forces would not be enough to drive the Iraqi leader from power."

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been actively preparing for battle on various fronts. The Washington Post (6/16) reports that earlier this year, Bush "signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president." The order instructs the CIA to step up financial, military and organizational support of anti-Hussein forces within Iraq; beef up intelligence gathering in Iraq; and plan for the possible use of CIA and Special Forces units to hunt down Hussein. One official told the Post that these plans were not a substitute for war but "should be viewed largely as `preparatory' to a military strike."

In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. built up an extensive network of military bases throughout the region. Today there are some 20,000 U.S. troops in Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait and another 5,000 in Saudi Arabia. These bases are being beefed up, expanded, and readied.

The New York Times reports, "Thousands of marines from the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the marine unit designated for the Gulf, have stepped up their mock assault drills," and that the "Air Force is stockpiling weapons, ammunition and spare parts, like airplane engines, at depots in the United States and in the Middle East."

The U.S. has significantly increased its military aid to Jordan. And, according to the Times,U.S. military planners might use bases in Jordan to stage air and commando strikes against Iraq. These bases "would also introduce American forces between Iraq and Israel." But, reports the Times, "Jordan has not been consulted specifically about the possible use of its bases."

Turkey would be a major base for U.S. war on Iraq--as it was in 1991. There are reports in the Turkish press that some 7,000 U.S. troops arrived in Turkey in June, and that another 30,000 plus are on the way.

U.S. officials have been touring the pro-U.S. regimes in the area to line up support--Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar in June. The State Department and CIA are meeting more frequently with Iraqi exile groups. In April the CIA brought officials from Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq to the U.S. for secret meetings. Some 70 former Iraqi military officers met in London during the week of July 8 to discuss their role in a U.S. war. And U.S. support for Israel's brutal assault in the West Bank and Gaza--as well as hypocritical and empty words about a Palestinian "state"--are aimed at extinguishing the fires of the Palestinian uprising in preparation for war against Iraq.

According to the New York Times , "Once a consensus is reached on the concept, the steps toward assembling a final war plan and the element of timing for ground deployments and launching an air war represent the final decisions for President Bush to make." The Times also reports that "senior administration officials continue to say that any offensive would probably be delayed until early next year, allowing time to create the right military, economic and diplomatic conditions." Of course, such timetables are speculative and subject to change by various contradictions around the world.

Preparing Pretexts

The U.S. imperialists are also preparing for war on the propaganda front. At his July 8 press conference, Bush declared, "The world would be safer, more peaceful if there is a regime change" in Iraq. The U.S. accuses Iraq of posing a grave danger to the world because it supposedly possesses or is developing "weapons of mass destruction." Yet a number of former UN arms inspectors say that Iraq has largely been disarmed, and even Pentagon officials admit that Iraq's current military is only one-third its size in 1990.

In reality, it's the U.S. that wields the world's biggest arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction" to threaten the lives of people around the world. The U.S. military recently updated its military doctrine to openly include possible first strike use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. has troops stationed in every corner of the globe and is at this very moment bombing people in Afghanistan, involved in counterinsurgency campaigns in the Philippines and many other countries, and backing Israel's murderous assaults on the Palestinian people.

The Bush administration demands that Iraq accept intrusive, U.S.-controlled arms inspections-- which basically means agreeing to let U.S. spies roam freely throughout the country. In the thinking of U.S. officials, an Iraqi refusal could be used to create an "inspection crisis" and justify war. (Others in the U.S. ruling class say the U.S. should just attack Iraq without worrying about pretexts.) Talks between Iraq and the UN on return of arms inspectors recently broke off. The U.S. State Department seized on this to declare that "Iraq is a threat to regional security, to the nations in the region."

The Iraqi government says that before they agree to further arms inspection, there should be a clear understanding about exactly what Iraq must do to comply with UN resolutions and have economic sanctions lifted. The U.S. has repeatedly claimed that Iraq is not meeting the terms of compliance--which have never been precisely defined. And this "non-compliance" has been used as an excuse to continue the killer sanctions.

This past May the U.S. forced through another extension of sanctions, which inflict great suffering on the Iraqi people. In 1999, UNICEF found that one Iraqi child in seven dies before the age of 5. This means that 5,000 more children in Iraq die each month today than before 1991, as a result of the U.S. war and sanctions. UNICEF also reported that 22 percent of Iraq's young children today are chronically malnourished.

The Imperialist Agenda

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. rulers have aggressively pushed forward their pre-existing agenda of recasting global relations to extend and solidify U.S. global dominance. And a new war on Iraq has been a central element in this whole vision.

The Wall Street Journal (6/14/02) revealed that within days of September 11, top Bush advisers "argued over whether to launch a strike on Iraq"--even though there was "no real evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had anything to do with the terror attacks."

In the view of the U.S. imperialists, Iraq's defiance undermines U.S. hegemony in the oil-rich Middle East and tarnishes their standing as the world's dominant superpower.

By toppling the current Iraqi government and installing a pro-U.S. regime, the U.S. imperialists hope to tighten their grip on Persian Gulf oil--and on all who depend on that oil. They are determined to demonstrate to potential rivals that the U.S. is willing and able to crush anyone that challenges them or stands in their way. For these global predators, Iraq is a key step in redrawing the political map of the Middle East and stomping out rising anti-U.S. resistance.

According to the New York Times , many top officials think that "an Iraq under new governance could become a new Western ally, helping to reduce American dependency on bases in Saudi Arabia, to secure Israel's eastern flank and act as a wedge between Iran and Syria."

Waging war on Iraq is also seen as a crucial test of the so-called "Bush doctrine" of pre- emptive "first strikes" against those the U.S. considers its enemies.

The U.S. war plans against Iraq--and the whole "Bush doctrine"--have nothing to do with "protecting the world" or "saving the lives of American people." It's about naked imperialist power politics--gangsterism on a global scale.

In 1991, on the eve of "Operation Desert Storm," George Bush Sr. declared, "We have no argument with the people of Iraq; indeed, we have only friendship for the people there." Eleven years later, over one million Iraqis have been murdered by U.S. bombs and sanctions.

Any new U.S. war on Iraq will be undertaken, once again, in the name of helping Iraq's people. But what is certain that such a war will once again inflict enormous destruction, suffering, and death on the ordinary people of Iraq.

People around the world--especially those who live within the U.S., in the belly of this bloody imperialist beast--must oppose such an unjust and cruel war with all our hearts.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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