Stalking Iraq

Unjust War in the Making

Revolutionary Worker #1166, September 15, 2002, posted at

On September 5, 100 U.S. and British war planes and support aircraft converged in 48 sorties over the town of al-Rutbah in southwestern Iraq.

There is an escalating campaign of such attacks. The skies over Iraq are being filled with shrieking American planes--in a "war of nerves" intended to accompany the rapid buildup of other U.S. attack forces in the region.

Over ten years ago, the U.S. send a vast invasion force to the Persian Gulf. These forces devastated Iraq, destroyed its bridges, burnt its telephone and communications centers, flattened its hospitals and roads and government centers. In thousands of sorties over 42 days, they dropped the equivalent of more than 7.5 Hiroshima bombs over that country's cities, industries, border regions and highways. And they never left.

A ring of U.S. military bases now encircles and threatens Iraq--in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait--with thousands of troops, tanks and a massive fleet of attack aircraft. For ten years, Iraq's people have literally lived in the crosshairs--with foreign warplanes attacking from the skies repeatedly--"routinely" according to the Pentagon. The U.S. government has enforced a brutal embargo on Iraq--cutting off the supplies and trade needed to rebuild the country and establish a normal life. UN reports have estimated that 500,000 children died from malnutrition and illness as a result of that embargo.

Now the White House is moving single-mindedly to launch a new full-scale war on Iraq.

CBS news recently documented that on September 11 itself, minutes after the plane attacks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told his aides to prepare war on Iraq--even though no evidence, then or now, has ever linked Iraq to 9/11. The notes of Rumsfeld's aide said: "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Last February, the New York Times reported that the White House had made two strategic decisions: "First, the Iraq problem has to be solved, not simply managed as it was during the two previous U.S. administrations.... Second, Washington is prepared to push beyond the limitations imposed by international sentiment, Arab public opinion and even the original UN resolutions that opened the way for Operation Desert Storm 11 years ago."

Now, the escalating U.S. buildup in the Persian Gulf shows how deadly serious these plans are.

Scotland's Herald newspaper wrote (August 16), "The Pentagon has moved 50,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines within striking distance of Iraq in the past 10 months under cover of deployments targeting global terrorism, according to senior UK military sources."

The U.S. is rapidly finishing its expansion of a new base at Qatar, so it can launch air and land attacks even without Saudi support. Several massive carrier Naval groups have been moved into the region. The USS Washington , in the Arabian Sea, was used to launch the latest wave of air attacks on Iraq.

In July, the U.S. carried out joint military maneuvers with Jordan, to the west of Iraq, practicing for war. In August and September, they unleashed this wave of air attacks. This coming fall, the Pentagon openly says it will concentrate thousands of troops and tanks along Iraq's southern border with Kuwait-- supposedly for more "maneuvers."

Ruling Class Debates
and Gambles

You get a sense of how reckless the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld moves are when you look at the controversies that have erupted within and between the ruling classes of the world.

Polemics have broken out within the U.S ruling class over this war. Policy disputes have emerged between the U.S. and its major European allies--including most prominently Germany. And differences have emerged between the U.S. government and its local Muslim allies in the Middle East-- including especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all of which loudly oppose (and fear) a new war on Iraq.

Within the U.S. ruling class, powerful and influential figures are complaining publicly that the Bush administration's war planners may be rushing into a historic disaster for U.S. imperialism. They include a number of generals, key newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post,and an influential squad of ruling class "wise men"--like James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Admiral Scowcroft--who have held top foreign policy posts in previous governments. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who can't publicly support their charges, is widely believed to be their silent partner.

James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State for George Bush Senior, wrote in the New York Times (August 25): "Regime change in Iraq is the policy of the current administration, just as it was the policy of its predecessor. That being the case, the issue for policymakers to resolve is not whether to use military force to achieve this, but how to go about it."

However, these critics are deeply worried that the Pentagon's war planners have convinced themselves they can knock off Iraq's government relatively easily and quickly--relying heavily on air attacks and high-tech bunker busters.

The critics charge that the Bush administration therefore assumes it can basically "do it alone"--without the military support or even political approval of other powers, perhaps without definite commitment from regional powers like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, or without the legal approval of international organizations like the United Nations.

They worry openly that the war would be more expensive, more protracted, more bloody and more difficult--than the Bush White House expects. They point out that most of the $60 billion costs of the last Gulf War were charged to others, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

And the critics express particular concern that the government has not "made its case" with the masses of people in the United States--and they fear that a difficult war with casualties, intense fighting and perhaps deep disruptions in oil production could give rise to powerful movements of resistance around the world and within the U.S. itself.

James A. Baker III wrote: "We would have to be extremely lucky to take out the top leadership through insertion into Iraq of a small rapid-strike force. And this last approach carries significant political risks for the administration, as President Jimmy Carter found out in April 1980." Carter's "disaster in the desert" of Iran contributed to his disgrace and replacement by Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior.

General Tommy Franks, speaking for the Bush administration, argues that Iraq can be beaten with as few as 80,000 soldiers--while experts from the Pentagon to Jerusalem argue that 200,000 or 300,000 troops would be required.

Pentagon generals went to the Washington Post (July 28) to air their concerns that U.S. forces might face heavy casualties if the Iraqi army dug itself into cities and forced invaders to fight house by house--in the so-called "Stalingrad" scenario--and they believe that the White House war plans greatly underestimate such dangers. General Jones, the commander of the Marine Corps and soon-to- be NATO Supreme Commander, said, "You better have Plan B in your hip pocket."

Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni (who was recently Bush's own representative in Palestine) was remarkably disrespectful to his president in an August 23 speech: "If you ask me my opinion, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Powell, Gen. Schwarztkopf, Gen. Zinni, maybe all see this the same way. It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger and are really hell-bent to go to war see it a different way."

If the war proves difficult, these imperialist spokesmen are particularly concerned that the U.S. does not find itself isolated. Baker argued that attacking Iraq without first making progress toward pacifying Palestine is especially risky.

And finally, the ruling class critics raise serious concerns about "the morning after"-- what happens after the war? Iraq is a large, complex country that would be difficult to occupy--and hard to hold together. There are no powerful pro-U.S. opposition forces ready to serve as a puppet government. The U.S. ally Turkey is desperately concerned that Iraq may fly apart and the northern Kurds might secede, deeply threatening Turkey's own bloody rule of Kurds within Turkey.

The fact that loyal, experienced, influential imperialist "wise men" are so rudely public about their concerns shows just how reckless a future attack on Iraq might be.

World class oppressors are moving steadily toward a major gamble. Their war plans will mean great suffering and injustice for millions of people. And at the same time, it may also turn out very badly for them--it may unleash forces they can't control, expose them in ways they didn't expect, and weaken them in ways that give openings for revolutionary people.


Consider this: The U.S. has a long history of "regime changes." The CIA helped murder Lumumba and installed Mobutu to rape the Congo for decades. They helped murder Allende in Chile and installed Pinochet in a nightmare of massacre and mass murder. They overthrew Mosadegh and installed the brutal Shah of Iran. The list is long--complete with military dictatorships in Greece and Brazil and the Marcos dictatorship in Philippines.

Why should anyone with a heart and a brain support U.S. plans for "regime change" anywhere?

Evidence and Pretexts

The Bush administration sent Vice President Cheney to answer these critics with a major speech in Nashville on August 26. Claiming that Iraq's government was close to nuclear capability, he spoke of great urgency and danger. "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action," he said.

From all sides, the U.S. government has been pressed for evidence that Iraq is a burning "threat" to its neighbors, to the U.S. or anyone else.

In response Cheney cited a seven-year-old report from an Iraqi defector--hardly credible grounds for sudden panic and action. The yapping lap dog Tony Blair promised to release the "dossier" of evidence--but so far, nothing. When a reporter asked Rumsfeld adviser Richard Perle for evidence that Iraq poses "immediate threat" he answered, "Trust me."

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported at the end of 1998: "There were no indications to suggest... that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material." The British Guardian wrote: "Most experts believe that President Saddam's lack of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium is the main obstacle to an Iraqi bomb."

As for evidence that Iraq is "seeking" bomb material, here is one example cited in the press: It is charged that in 1999 the Iraqi government bought six lithotripter machines (that shatter kidney stones without surgery)--it is claimed that the switches used in those medical machines "could also" be used in a nuclear device. Iraq is accused of buying "spare switches."

Hardly the basis for flattening a country, seizing its oilfields, installing some brutal puppet regime, and occupying it for years!

On July 28, the Washington Post reported on its front page: "Despite President Bush's repeated bellicose statements about Iraq, many senior U.S. military officers contend that President Saddam Hussein poses no immediate threat." These officers, reported to include members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, don't believe Cheney either.

Furthermore, the U.S. argument--that they would be decapitating, invading, and occupying a country to prevent a nuclear program--doesn't even make logical sense. The U.S. has been bombing Iraq for more than 10 years and, if they were only concerned about Iraq's nuclear capacity, they could bomb an Iraqi nuclear facility from the air, like Israel did in 1981.

Meanwhile, there are other armies in that region that do have nukes and repeatedly threaten to use them--specifically Israel and the U.S. (General Schwartzkopf recently repeated on TV that he personally threatened to use nukes against Iraq in 1991.)

The fact is that the official U.S. talk of "weapons of mass destruction" is a smokescreen- -a mix of lies, exaggerations and half-truths--designed to hide the real motives, goals and class interests motivating the plans for U.S. attack.

The Imperialism
Behind the War

For the U.S. ruling class, the risk is tempting because the prize is big. They are aiming for nothing less than recasting international relations and securing unchallenged control in the world.

A key part of this is unprecedented military superiority and the will to use it.

A second part of this is control over the energy reserves that make modern industry roll. Powerful economic rivals of the U.S., Germany and Japan, are heavily dependent on Persian Gulf oil. And tight, direct, U.S. military and political control over the Persian Gulf translates in many ways into greater dominance over the world economy, and over potential rivals.

At the same time the U.S. imperialists feel a real urgency: their hold over the Gulf is shaky. And Bush argues, "Time is not on our side."

None of the three major countries of the Gulf--Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia--are today stable reliable regimes for U.S. imperialist interests--despite two decades of intense U.S. intrigue and mounting military intervention in the region.

While the Iraqi regime has a history of brutality against the Kurdish people and progressive movements, Iraq's government has been a thorn in the U.S. side, a wild card, a defiant regime in a strategic area. It has shown its willingness to destabilize U.S. plans by directly attacking Israel. Saddam Hussein even reportedly sent assassins hunting Bush Senior. The new world order envisioned by U.S. imperialists has little room for such a role model. General Ehud Barak, the previous Prime Minister of Israel, said in a recent column that "Saddam Hussein has set an example of defiance, especially against the first President Bush, that other Arab leaders cannot and should not emulate."

And Iraq is at the heart of the world's energy sources, sitting on proven reserves of 112 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia's 256 billion barrels.

Meanwhile the events of September 11 unveiled how unstable and unreliable Saudi Arabia really is for imperialist interests. Despite Saudi Arabia's complete dependence on the U.S. (and international oil companies) and despite its status as "long-time ally," it is now known that a rift within the Saudi ruling class over the growing U.S. military presence in the Gulf played a role in creating and financing al-Qaida and pushing conservative Islamist forces toward attacks on the U.S. (In Washington circles, Saudi Arabia has now been jokingly called "the kernel of evil.")

The needs of capitalism in its imperialist stage are drawing the U.S. deeper into the Persian Gulf-- toward greater intervention--and possibly toward direct occupation of major oilfields and even more openly colonial imposition of subservient governments. The immediate target is Iraq, but tomorrow's target may be Saudi Arabia itself, and perhaps beyond it Iran (which already has been labeled part of an "axis of evil").

The logic of U.S. imperialist interests make other powers, like Germany and Japan far more reluctant. These countries are far more directly reliant on Persian Gulf oil. Even a temporary disruption of oil flow there would have a profound impact on their economies (and everyone remembers that the 1991 war set the Kuwaiti and Iraqi oilfields on fire!). If a future U.S. attack unleashes massive upsurges against the region's governments, the instability would be an especially dangerous crisis for countries like Germany.

Tony Blair has emerged as a lonely voice supporting the U.S. plans--and faced resignations in his cabinet over it.

Mo Mowlam, a former member of the Blair cabinet, wrote: "What is most chilling is that the hawks in the Bush administration must know the risks involved. They must be aware of the anti-American feeling throughout the Middle East. They must be aware of the fear in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that a war against Iraq could unleash revolutions, disposing of pro-western governments, and replacing them with populist anti-American Islamist fundamentalist regimes. We should all remember the Islamist revolution in Iran. The Shah was backed by the Americans, but he couldn't stand against the will of the people."

Even if the U.S. war goes easily, even if there are not disasters in oil supply and prices--U.S. victory over Iraq doesn't look so good from Berlin either: The European Union is not too thrilled with the idea that their oil jugular will be clenched even more firmly and directly in the hands of the U.S. military.

Germany is a close NATO ally that has supported the U.S. in every filthy war it has waged in 50 years. It is a major development in world relations, a major eruption of inter-imperialist conflict--that Germany, sitting at the heart of the European Union, rejects the U.S. war, rejecting U.S. pretexts as nonsense and calling their war a dangerous "adventure." Germany's major parties have all threatened to withdraw German military units from Kuwait if the U.S. presses ahead with plans to attack Iraq--and there is open talk that this may signal a break in alliance with an impact lasting decades.

Meanwhile Russia, another imperialist contender, is rushing to work out a $40 billion economic and trade cooperation package with Iraq.

The threat of "with us or against us" has not gotten the U.S. a blank check so far on this major new war.

The Mission Defines
the Coalition

"The problem is that he has or seems to have committed himself so strongly that it is hard to imagine how he can climb down. And that is the real problem, that not only I have, but that all of us in Europe have."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder commenting on
Vice President Cheney's speech

President Bush is now scheduled to "make his case" to the United Nations. The White House says it is on a full diplomatic offensive to marshal backing for its war. They are arm-twisting smaller states, dangling a $16 billion IMF loan in front of Turkey's government, sending envoys around the world. They will release "intelligence" and other "evidence" of supposed nuclear threats from Iraq.

The U.S government is being urged by Secretary of State Powell to endorse plans for new inspections in Iraq--which Cheney openly mocked a week ago. But the U.S. plan is to "refuse to take yes for an answer" from Iraq. Iraq is expected to cooperate with inspections, and the U.S. is expected to respond with new, provocative and escalating demands.

Cheney's Nashville speech made it clear that the ruling circles of the U.S. demand that everyone in the world expect and accept a whole sweeping campaign of attacks and war. Cheney said: "We are still closer to the beginning of this war than we are to its end. The United States has entered a struggle of years." And he repeated that his government has a list of 60 countries that may be targets next.

It is revealing that the U.S. warmakers simply declare their right to invade a sovereign country, without provocation, without the backing of their allies or international institutions like the UN.

The cold calculations of imperialist debate and negotiations so dominate the climate that the lives of millions of people disappear into the background.

But the truth is the U.S. imperialists are seeking to conquer things they have no right to rule. They accuse others of threats and aggression--while they plot threats and aggression. They rave about dictators and tyrants while they scheme to rule the world and dictate to everyone under the sun.

The people of Iraq, who have endured so much, are being placed, once again, at the ground zero of a heartless assault. Many will die, the cities they have so painstakingly rebuilt will be targeted again, their resources will be seized at gunpoint. And the war planners speak of sacrificing the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers.

Beyond that, the people of the Muslim and Arab world are being told to accept that the U.S. can grab and occupy key resources of the Middle East at will--after bombing Afghanistan to rubble and after supporting a savage spring of Israeli attacks in Palestine.

It is an intolerable situation.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)