by Stephen Gowans
While editorials supported last
week's Anglo-American bombing of the outskirts of Baghdad on grounds
that it was a necessary part of ongoing efforts to bottle up Saddam
Hussein, a man one editorial called "quite simply the most
dangerous man in the world," who could "threaten the
entire gulf region," it is the US that is far more dangerous.
More Iraqis have been killed by the Gulf War, sanctions, and the
incessant bombing of Iraq by American and British forces, than all
the Iraqis and Kuwaitis killed by Saddam Hussein. If you define
dangerous in terms of body count, the US and its junior partner,
Britain, have Iraq beat.
What about the potential to add
to the body count down the road, on a larger stage than the Middle
East alone? Washington's insistence on forging ahead with its
National Missile Defense, despite the ABM treaty it signed but now
denounces as archaic (while seeming to have an infinite patience for
truly archaic and undesirable institutions like the electoral
college or the Saudi and Kuwaiti monarchies), and notwithstanding
the threat of touching off a new arms race, puts the US in a class
all its own. As too does Washington's refusal to renounce the use of
a nuclear first strike, even against non-nuclear countries, to say
nothing of its readiness to ignore the UN, international law and the
wishes of international community whenever it feels the need to flex
its ample military muscles.
Iraq, it will be recalled, has,
over the last decade, been paying the price for trampling
international law by invading Kuwait. But over the same period, the
US, in its best "do as I say, not as I do" manner, has
been routinely flouting international law -- bombing Iraq on an
almost daily basis, pulverizing Yugoslavia, lobbing cruise missiles
at Sudan and Afghanistan. Few in the Western media have marveled at
the sheer hypocrisy.
As to destabilizing the Middle
East, Israel, a US client state, and a country with its own history
of invading and occupying its neighbors, has done more to stir up
tensions in the region through its ill-treatment of the Palestinian
population than Iraq has. Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Al
Aqsa mosque hardly cast a pacific calm over the gulf region. And
Israel is widely acknowledged to have its own weapons of mass
destruction -- in the form of 200 nuclear warheads, some aimed at
Which invites the question, why
demonize Iraq and Saddam Hussein, but not Israel and a man with his
own long record of atrocities, Ariel Sharon?
The difference, apparently, is
that Israel doesn't threaten Washington's control of the region, and
so its violations of international law, its atrocities, and its
barbarism are excused at worst, and overlooked at best. The Sabra
and Shatila massacres did nothing to undermine US dominance of
Middle East oil, and nor do Israeli bullets fired at the heads of
stone-throwing Palestinian youth. Indeed, they may help it along.
But Iraq's invasion of Kuwait struck at the heart of US imperial
ambitions in the region, so Iraq gets to play the goat, with Saddam
Hussein, along with Slobodan Milosevic and other assorted
"strongmen" and "terrorists", trotted out every
now and then to justify an obscenely bloated US defense budget --
larger than necessary to "keep Saddam in his cage" and to
punish weakling countries who aren't sufficiently keen on turning
over their natural resources and economic infrastructure to US
No doubt, secure access to the
Middle East's oil is a sine-qua-non of the smooth functioning of the
West's economy, but is it worth the effective dismantling of the
system of international law, the elevation of US might makes right
to the organizing principal of international relations, and the
contemptuous and arrogant disregard of the world community, to say
nothing of over a million Iraqi dead?
Sanctions, too, are an integral
part of the plan of keeping "Saddam in his cage", so that
he won't threaten "the West's access to the Middle East's
oil." Sanctions exact a hefty toll in human lives, but they're
Iraqi lives, and so, apparently, are expendable -- a price well
worth it, as Madleine Albright once remarked.
To the United States and Britain,
who arrogantly strut around the world as self-appointed cops, above
international law but demanding adherence to it by all but
themselves and their client states, to Canada and Poland, alone in
supporting last week's Anglo-American bombings, the deaths, the
terror, the violations of international law, are worth it. Access to
oil is vital, no matter what the cost.
To the rest of the world, and a
fair number of citizens who find themselves in the unenviable
position of watching their own countries put oil and its profits
above human life, before the rule of law and ahead of morality, it's
not Iraq that's the most dangerous country in the world -- it's the
It seemed to escape the notice of
one editorial writer who described Saddam Hussein as "unbound
by international law, vicious, with a huge appetite for weapons of
mass destruction," that the same description fits George W.
Bush, and a long line of American presidents, to a tee.
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.