The president of the most powerful country, Mr. George W. Bush is boiling with rage. Having failed to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, or eliminate the al-Qaeda network despite carpet bombing of their hideouts in Afghanistan over the past one year, and in the process, after having killed more than 3,000 innocent Afghan people, he does not know how to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attack on WTC Towers and Pentagon. The only option before him to placate the nerves of the America people, and also to satisfy his cowboy (Texan style) ego is to find a scapegoat, and he has found one in Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Many American presidents have gained popularity at home by attacking a scapegoat in the foreign lands, but as the father of the president, Mr Bush senior, the ex-president of America, will tell him, that it is no easy task and he (the senior) himself had to abandon the idea in the mid-stream of operations.
Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, and in his opening address he talked of himself as a regional leader who could get rid of the menace of Israel. This statement he repeated in many of his initial addresses. Now Iraq was among the few countries that also had the military capability to match words with its might. This sent spine-chilling messages to the Jewish lobby, which acted with cool and speed to drastically reduce the potency level of Iraq. The American and the Jewish lobby came up with a fantastic idea to kill two birds with one stone. Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran was also talking very loudly of the supremacy of Islam, and the Americans strongly encouraged the emotional Saddam Hussein to increase his regional image by teaching Khomeini a lesson, and Saddam easily fell in the trap. For America it was a win-win situation, for if Iraq is the loser, the Jewish lobby is happy and if Iran is the loser, a rising Islamic power is defeated thus bringing happiness to the Jewish and American lobbies.
So, only one year later Saddam Hussein launched a full scale ground and air attack on Iran with American and Soviet backing to contain the avalanche of the Islamic fundamentalism under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini fast heading to the middle east oil. The Iran-Iraq war continued for the next nine years with some 367,000 getting killed and about 700,000 wounded. Iraq used modern ballistic missile technology provided by France to attack cities and economic targets. Economies of both countries were shattered, but the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism was stopped in its track and the vital waterway of Shatt-al-Arab was secured. Khomeini, who called America “Taghoot” or devil, was contained, bringing joy to Saddam Hussein as well as to America.
It is worth noting that when America was fully supporting Saddam Hussein in its fight with Iran, it also gave lots of practical help and information, so that Israel in August 1981, in the hot phases of Iran-Iraq war, through a combination of sabotage and direct attack by F-16 aircraft, destroyed Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, thus drastically reducing its capability and potential to attack Israel. The Saudi owned Airborne Warning System, which was piloted by an American pilot “Perchance” was grounded for maintenance on that particular day.
There is a very positive evidence available that, after the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was again encouraged by the US to attack Kuwait to capture its oil wells and thus improve his image as a regional leader heading a very strong country. Saddam Hussein again fell in the American trap, but this time he was in for real big troubles, for his capture of Kuwait in 1990, panicked Saudi Arabia and many Gulf states and was also a Jewish plan to ultimately reduce him to rubble. America had planned his annihilation because Iraq was the only country posing a real threat to the existence of Israel. Americans again acted very smartly, on one hand to reduce Saddam’s country by direct attack, and on the other realizing all the cost of war with lots of profits and benefits from the gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Thus, at the end of November 1990, UN under pressure from United States, issued resolution 678, which authorized member states to use all means necessary to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, if it had not done so by January 15, 1991. On January 17, 1991, the United States and its allies began to bomb what were claimed to be strategic targets in Iraq, causing countless civilian deaths and considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure. After about five weeks of bombing, a ground offensive was launched on February 23, 1991, which ended with the route and destruction of much of the regular Iraqi army and a ceasefire was declared.
After about 12 years, Iraq is again on the world’s centre stage with president Bush calling Saddam Hussein a “Grave and gathering danger” to the world although he clearly does not have any links with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda. The official line of the American administration being that Iraq has been reluctant to admit UN inspectors to check its weapons of mass destruction, the Americans fear that absence of inspectors (they went back in 1998, after seven years) has been used by Saddam to build more such weapons. And these might be transferred to terrorist groups and hence potentially be used against US (and Israel not stated as such). The US, therefore, should use its right of pre-emptive strike against Iraq in self-defense.
But then, there are serious flaws with this American thinking. Almost the whole world sees this war-talk as the talk of a cowboy mind, setting a dangerous precedent that international law does not hold in a world where “American might is always right”. Secondly, Iraq is not the only country that possess weapons of mass destruction (If at all it has any?). Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea also possess nuclear weapons. Hypothetically, these weapons can also be used against United States. The United Nations should also give the United States the right of pre-emptive strikes against all these countries. Likewise, should Iraq be given the right of pre-emptive strike against Israel or the US for they possess nuclear weapons that can be used against Iraq or any other country?
The US department of Defense and the CIA know perfectly well that today Iraq poses no threat to anyone in the region, let alone the United States. To argue otherwise is dishonest. They know, for example, that al-Dora, formerly a production centre for vaccine for foot and mouth diseases on the outskirts of Baghdad, and al-Fallujah, a pesticide and herbicide manufacturing unit in the western desert, are to-day defunct and beyond repair. The UN disarmament team has disabled all facilities in any way related to weapons of mass destruction, including the castor oil producing units. One does not need to be a specialist in weapons of mass destruction to conclude that these sites have been rendered harmless and have remained in this condition. The fact is that US Department of Defense has all this information, why then, one must ask, does the Bush administration want to include Iraq in its war against terrorism.
Some analysts feel that a guaranteed flow of oil might be the reason. They say that “Oil looms larger than democracy and human rights in American calculations”. According to them, The US president and vice president, both oilmen, are fully aware of these interests, and it is no accident that while American companies are competing for access to oil in Central Asia, the US is building up military bases around the region. The doubts about Saudi Arabia have also been compounded by an alarmist briefing to the Pentagon. But when most of the oil for west comes from places of Islam, they need to keep accommodating the Muslims. However, the question remains: Would an Iraq minus Saddam guarantee oil for the west? This has proved difficult to answer even for Bush senior and Clinton. They were apprehensive of the alternative, which could be a dangerous power vacuum. According to some, oil companies have never been the best judge of national interest. The American brought Shah of Iran in a coup but the Irani people never forgave that intervention.
The real truth is that Iraq has the potential to become a serious threat to Israel. Now, even the president of America, the most powerful man on the planet, who sees himself as Israel’s staunchest friend and ally, fears the American Jewish lobby, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which can easily set the US media against him. That is why Mr. Bush described Sharon as a “Man of Peace”, a statement that was met with universal derision. The Israeli president would not describe himself that way. In fact, he sees peace as a threat to the existence of Israel. So, it is under pressure, threat and fear of the Jewish lobby that Mr. Bush wants to act strongly against Iraq. How many innocent people will get killed in this process is not important for him. All he desires is to remain popular in his country so that voters do not boot him out just as they did to his father, after his first term in office.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Mr. Bush denounced Iraq’s disrespect to several UN resolutions. He said that US wants the resolutions of the world’s most important multilateral body to be enforced. As he was making his speech, a group of Kashmiris were demonstrating outside the UN building demanding Mr. Bush to call for the enforcement of several UN resolutions on Kashmir that have been subverted by India over the past fifty years. What about Israel and many other countries subverting UN resolutions with impunity for many years? But US has never called for any action against them. Why only Iraq?
The inspectors, which Mr. Bush is very keen that they should resume their job, since 1996 have been accused by the Iraqis as of working with Israelis. Major Scott Ritter, (the UN inspector) who clearly stated that Iraq did not have the mass destruction weapons or a capability for the same, was regularly traveling to Tel Aviv to consult Israeli intelligence. Then Saddam accused the UN inspectors of working for the CIA. The United States, was using the UN’s Baghdad offices to bug Iraq government’s communications. And once the inspectors were withdrawn in 1998, and the US launched “Operation Desert Fox”, it turned out that virtually every one of the bombing targets had been visited by UN inspectors over the past six months. Far from being an inspectorate, the UN inspectors were working as forward air controllers, drawing up an American hit list rather compliance with UN resolutions.
There is another serious dilemma for Mr. Bush, and this also happens to be the reason that his father had to abandon the operation in the mid-stream. That is the demography of Iraq. Major population of Iraq consists of Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Kurds. If the country becomes very weak, the Kurds might declare a separate “Kurdistan” of their own. There are a large number of Kurds in neighboring Turkey also. So the Turks (who are strong supporters of west and very anxious to be a part of European Union) could be seeing their Kurds demanding a similar freedom. Thus Turks see lots of problems in the split of Iraq. The majority of the Iraqi population are Shia Muslims who in case of a split would have all the sympathies for the neighboring Iran where Shia Muslims are in great majority. The thought of inadvertently strengthening Iran brings shivers to Mr Bush. (Recently Mr. Bush called Iran as part of “Axis of Evil”) So Mr Bush wants Saddam to go, but does not want that country to split or become very weak in the process. He wants to hit but does not want to hit that hard. And where to draw the line is a problem for him.
Preventing the Iraqi regime from rehabilitating its economy, infrastructure and society at large has been a consistent objective of Washington. The assumption has been that failure in doing so would generate social unrest, energies opposition to Saddam Hussein and deepen discontent within the ruling class. The entire strategy was hinged on the expectation that regime would be overthrown from within, which will be a low cost option. So far, it has not happened. The Ba’ath regime and its strongman are still alive, and there are no signs of their fading into history. All aspects of the American strategy have converged on economic strangulation, no matter what the social and human costs are. Economic sanctions, embargoes, no-fly zones over Kurdish areas and regular aerial attacks against selected military targets have constantly reminded the Iraqi regime that Americans want them to go. Having exhausted all possibilities of rebellion against Saddam, Bush administration is now preparing for an all out war against Iraq.
Since early this year, with his State of Union address, the American president has been talking tough and threatening Iraq, which he insists, has rebuilt its capacity to manufacture biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Iraq on the other hand argues that its country is clear of weapons and are willing to receive the UN inspectors back in the country, saying they would be free to do their work, visit any site, any scientific or military facility to ascertain the facts for themselves. The Iraqi offer has put the United States in a difficult diplomatic situation. But a glance back at George Bush’s UN speech shows that a free inspection of Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction was just one of the six conditions which Iraq would have to meet if it “wishes peace”. In other words stand by for further UN Security Council resolutions, which Saddam will find far more difficult to accept. Yet, even if Saddam was prepared to accede to all these demands with a sincerity he has not shown to other UN resolutions, the Americans have made clear that sanctions will only be lifted, and Iraq’s isolation will only end, with “regime change”. For Bush’s sudden passion for international adherence to UN Security Council resolutions, an enthusiasm which will not, of course, be extended to Israel’s flouting of UN resolutions of equal importance, is in reality a cynical maneuver to provide legitimacy for Washington’s planned invasion of Iraq.
This time, it appears almost the whole world is against supporting Mr Bush in his war on Iraq. The Arab world unanimously, China, Russia and European allies have expressed their concern of waging yet another war. Europe is increasingly uncomfortable with American unilateral insistence on solving the Iraqi conflict militarily. In varying degrees the same applies to countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has served notice that the Sultan Air Base near Riyadh will not be available for a new US offensive against Iraq. Under severe US pressure, Qatar has agreed to permit the transfer of logistics from Saudi Arabia to its territory. A political crisis is looming in Jordan as a result of the US demands to use Jordan as a possible staging area in a war against Iraq. A similar debacle will face the Turkish government once the prime minister; Bulent Ecevit succeeds to relinquish his post and fresh elections are scheduled. An entire region is being destabilized to suit American preference for a political change in Iraq.
The whole world is worried, concerned and bit frustrated by the political rhetoric of the Bush administration that president Saddam Hussein of Iraq must be dislodged to build foundation of stable peace in Middle East. They rightly wonder how would a war stabilise a very volatile region with anger and hostile against the west and local governments in certain countries for toeing an American line are running high. The social, political and security consequences of war against Iraq will be grave. Emotionally, the Middle Eastern and Muslim societies are already aflame both over real or perceived persecution, deprivation, injustices and current cycle of reactive violence between Israeli and the Palestinians. Another war will further fuel that anger and add explosive material to the view that American and Europeans are acting on the script of “Clash of Civilizations”. The Muslim leaders in the Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries are truly worried about the specter of this type of polarization. Because in the support of west, the local population would see them, as their enemies and agents of the foreign forces. War would undermine their political capacities, which are already low, to deal with the under current of the Muslim rage that is not without substance and is not just imaginary.
In spite of almost the whole world against this invasion, Mr Bush appears to be in a mood to “go alone”. Officials and commentators alike, argue that with the United States military might, the world must be set right by unilateral American action, and the international community can either like it or lump it. There is much to admire and respect about America today. Yet it could be that in this case the American attitude is resting on a fatally flawed analysis. The US may have 13 gigantic aircraft carrier fleets, and thousands of troops billeted in camps across half of Asia, but that does not mean it has been able to catch Osama bin Laden or pin down the numerous terrorist networks that coil in and out of each and almost every society. Equating military size with power has already been shown to be naive. The American option of “Going alone” backed by unconstrained American power, which is so freely talked in Washington, does not really exist. More than ever we all live in a single security network. For all its size, the US cannot operate around the world without the most intimate co-operation of European nations. Thus the best advice to Americans would be to go with the whole world or just forget it. Americans, who have already chalked up sufficient reasons for a variety of people to hate them, should not rush up for another reason, which will be fresh in memory and invite quick retaliation.
The clear lesson from history is that nations do not learn a lesson from history. The US has burnt its fingers in a ten-year war against Vietnam in which it was disgracefully defeated with tremendous loss of life and prestige. In the early sixties, it attacked Cuba to oust Fidel Castro, but this adventure also failed. After about forty years Mr Fidel Castro is still there. Americans are presently bogged down in Afghanistan, where after spending more than 235 billion dollars, their influence is still not beyond Kabul. The Americans most probably are stuck with Afghanistan for many more years. Now, they want to open another front in Iraq. What will happen if it does so? This remains to be a million dollars question.