Revolutionary Worker #1170, October 13, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
President Bush's official spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked if he agreed that a war with Iraq would cost the U.S. government $9 billion a month. He answered, "I think it's impossible to speculate." Then he paused, and deliberately added: "I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that." A stunned look fell over the usually jaded press corps.
Calling for the shooting of foreign heads of state is a complete violation of international norms and of U.S. law. One CNN commentator wondered out loud if the White House was influenced by the opening of the Sopranos season.
Meanwhile, as Congress moves to give Bush authorization to attack and occupy Iraq, various Democrats in the Congress made speeches saying President Bush should not go to war without doing a better job of building support -- among European powers and the United Nations. To build such support they suggest pursuing other forms of pressure first -- including "give UN weapons inspections a chance" to disarm the Iraqi government.
In the current climate, the differences between the White House and these Democratic critics may be what stands out to some people. With President Bush ranting about unilateral war without limit -- it seems almost moderate and sane when politicians suggest going to war only after giving Iraq a little time to comply with disarmament threats.
But an important and defining fact here is an underlying unity between the White House and those politicians who say "give inspections a chance."
Senator Ted Kennedy's speech was a clear example. On the Senate floor, Kennedy said: "No one disputes that America has lasting and important interests in the Persian Gulf or that Iraq poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant. And that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed."
Kennedy added: "Our goal is to achieve this objective in a way that minimizes the risk to our country." And in his own perverse way, Ari Fleischer was making that same argument when he called for the assassination of Saddam Hussein. Fleischer later said his point had been that the White House is eager to avoid war, as long as U.S. demands for regime change and disarmament were met.
Liberal Democrat critics like Senators Kennedy, Kerry and Levin agree with Bush on four crucial areas:
First, they hold that the U.S. government has the right to impose its interests on the Persian Gulf and on foreign countries all over the world.
Second, they endorse the larger "war against terrorism"--including the U.S. war on Afghanistan, its imposition of a neocolonial pro-U.S. government there, its growing intervention in the Philippines, and the increase in police powers within the U.S.
Third, they accept and promote the pretext that Iraq's puny arsenal of modern weapons is threatening the U.S. and the world, while they consider the U.S. "weapons of mass destruction" an excellent way to solve problems.
And fourth, they agree that if Iraq does not disarm, the U.S. should go to war, conquer Iraq and impose its will in the Persian Gulf.
A resolution is being rushed through the U.S. Congress that gives President Bush the power to launch a war against Iraq whenever he decides. All bourgeois observers think it will pass overwhelmingly. And even those in the Senate who criticize the White House approach, who urge a slower pace in the confrontation and who have half-heartedly proposed alternative war resolutions, insist that they embrace the same larger imperialist goals.
How the U.S. Prepares to Launch an Unjust War
The U.S. ruling class has a problem it is seeking to solve: Its plan to attack Iraq does not have much support. It is opposed nervously by even the most slavish pro-U.S. governments in the Arab and Muslim world. It is opposed by the various allied imperialist governments of Europe -- by Germany's government which just waged a national election over the issue, and by France and Russia who have long- standing profitable ties to Iraq's current government. And decision-makers in Washington are well aware that there is little support within the U.S. for a unilateral war.
Launching such a war alone, especially when Iraq has obviously done little to provoke confrontation, could be a dangerous and expensive move for the U.S. ruling class -- especially if the war proves difficult, if things go wrong, and if the occupation of Iraq turns out to be a long, difficult affair.
President Bush insists that he helps solve all this by making his war intentions clear. If the U.S. is obviously going to make war, and if it is clear that the current government in Iraq has no chance of survival -- then the chances are higher that there might be a coup in Iraq (which was exactly what Fleischer was calling for).
In another startling and naked threat, James Woolsey (former head of the CIA and charter member of the Bush administration's "Wolfowitz cabal") said on TV that the French government should understand that if it does not join the war coalition against Iraq, the U.S. may simply decide to cut France off from any future access to Iraqi oil. The so-called "war on terrorism" emerges openly as a war to recast the world.
In other words, the White House believes that if the U.S. makes it clear it is going to war no matter what its allies think, then there is intense pressure on them to join the war coalition -- if only to be at the table when power and oil in the Persian Gulf are carved up again.
Meanwhile, even while it presses ahead for war, the U.S. government seeks to gather public support and allies for war by seeming to exhaust all available "alternative" diplomatic means.
On advice from Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Republican national security "wisemen" (Lawrence Eagleberger, Admiral Scowcroft and James Baker), President Bush went to the United Nations and demanded backing for his war -- even while insisting he didn't need that endorsement to go to war.
Inspections as War Preparation
"I could never imagine Iraq agreeing to this. If you're going to be invaded you might as well make the invading force shoot their way in. It's the sort of proposal meant to be rejected."
John Pike of Global Security, a Washington military think-tank
Vice President Cheney made his major speech in Nashville laying out that new UN weapons inspections in Iraq would never satisfy U.S. demands. The U.S. wanted "regime change" in Iraq--nothing less. Then just days later, President Bush went to the UN and announced that the U.S. would welcome a new round of UN inspections.
This was not an about-face--but a deliberate plan for aggression: The U.S. intends to use inspections to create for itself a casus belli (a formal justification for going to war).
The Iraqi government agreed to inspections on October 2, but the U.S. insists that no inspections teams may leave until the UN has rewritten the rules governing such inspections--to create what the British Guardian calls a "hardline blueprint for coercive weapons inspection" that "seems destined to be rejected by Iraq." The key U.S. demands are that Iraq make a full disclosure of where all its weapons are before inspectors go in, and that the UN tear up the 1998 agreement with Iraq that exempted Saddam Hussein's presidential sites from surprise visits.
The U.S. government insists that UN agents be allowed to spy throughout Saddam Hussein's own residences--it is the international equivalent of body cavity searches.
The White House spokesman openly calls for shooting Saddam Hussein. Pentagon spokesmen explain how they intend to kill him using targeted smart bombs designed to penetrate his presidential bunkers. U.S. intelligence explains it is working hard to track Hussein's specific location in order to carry out such assassination-by-bomb. And then, after all that , this same U.S. government insists that Iraq allow foreign inspectors to tour all through government bunkers to report how they are constructed and where Hussein might be.
Has any aggressor in history been so arrogant as to mobilize for war against a smaller country, and then during the build-up demand the right to inspect presidential bunkers and receive a list of where all weapons are located?
Can anyone imagine a government agreeing to this, while their enemies bomb them every day?
The U.S. has no other excuses handy: Their attempts to connect Iraq with al-Qaida are unproven. All experts doubt that Iraq has nuclear weapons. And no one can claim that Iraq, flat on its back after the 1991 war, has threatened anyone in the last ten years.
The U.S. intends to use these inspections to spy, manufacture provocations, and then announce that Iraq is "not cooperating." They intend to claim they have a justification for war, demand UN support and then attack.
And meanwhile, they are hoping, as Fleischer made clear, that the very approach of U.S. attack will convince powerful forces in Iraq's government to roll over, depose their current leadership, and agree to whatever the U.S. demands.
What Is Really "the Problem" in the World Today?
The liberal politicians of the Democratic Party basically say: "Yeah, Iraq is a big problem, and something must be done. But let's not rush into war, let's try something else first." It would be a dangerous mistake for the masses of people (and for the developing antiwar movement) to echo these sentiments.
Those who now say "give inspections a chance" will find themselves misleading the masses of people--and helping prepare the ground for the government's next argument which is likely to be "We gave inspections a chance. Iraq did not comply. Now war is necessary and justified." And those Democratic politicians who now say "give inspections a chance" are already promising to support war whenever it is announced that the inspections ran into obstacles--when this government an- nounces it is the time for the Pentagon's killers to "do something."
Iraq has a brutal and reactionary government with a history of oppressing its people, collaborating with foreign imperialists, and waging war on neighbors. But imagine the long list of countries that the U.S.has attacked and occupied (Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Kosovo, Haiti, now Afghanistan...and so on). And imagine the list of all the governments that were imposed by the U.S.to oppress their people.
From the bowels of the Pentagon, the war planner Wolfowitz is spinning fairy tales that a "post-Saddam" government in Iraq may emerge as a model for the people of the Arab world -- forward looking, democratic, tolerant, blah blah blah. A cold splash of reality is needed -- to remind everyone that U.S.-imposed "regime change" has filled history's thugs gallery with portraits of Chile's General Pinochet, Iran's murderous Shah, the Congo's kleptomaniac Mobutu, Nicaragua's dictator Somoza, Guatemala's genocidal General Rios Montt, and Afghanistan's suave Unocal puppet Karzai.
The real problem facing the people of the world right now, including the people of the Persian Gulf and the people of the United States, is that the government of the U.S. is making a massive and historic power grab--to recast world relations, to establish itself as the ruler of the planet, and to knock down anyone who opposes that. The fact that this is done in the name of September 11, in the name of fighting "terrorism," and in the name of the people of the United States, does not make this global crusade any less sinister and oppressive.
The U.S. has already brutalized the people of Iraq in one war, and has tortured them with a decade of embargo and bombing. In the last war, 42 days and nights of bombing left many thousands of civilians dead and destroyed water systems, power plants, hospitals, bridges, homes, roads, and schools. In 1997 the UN reported that over 1.2 million Iraqis had died as a result of sanctions and war, including 750,000 children below the age of five. Now the U.S. wants to come again, pound these people again, and "finish the job" of imposing complete political and military control over their country and its strategic oil.
This war is unjust, and its goals (even if somehow accomplished without war) would be unjust.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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