The Inevitability of the War Against Iraq, and the Gospel of George W.

Bush is planning to launch a major invasion of Iraq – despite the fact that almost all of the European and Arab countries have expressed disapproval of this action and that his Administration’s vigorous efforts to recruit allies in Europe – in an effort to create at least the appearance of a “coalition” – has failed; only England has agreed to participate in the war. For the Bush Administration the attack on Iraq represents an opportunity to implement for the first time Bush’s new doctrine of preemptive war – “preemptively” attacking countries the President has identified as “threats” to American security. Preemptive strikes are the foundation of the new national security strategy as outlined by Bush and Senior Administration officials.

The determination of the Bush and Company to oust Saddam has not been attenuated by their lack of support – in fact opposition seems only to make them more insistent. In Europe, French and German officials have expressed fears that an attack on Iraq would de-stabilize the entire Middle East. (New York Times, July 22, 2002) The European Union’s top security official, Javier Solana, warned in an interview that it would be “very very difficult” to sustain allied support for an assault on Iraq unless progress is first made towards creating a Palestinian state. Germany foreign minister Joschka Fischer expressed disappointment at the Bush Administration’s abandonment of a “multilateral” approach to foreign affairs, and stated that the greatest threat to European security was not Hussein but “a new war in the region that might further inflame the passions of Arabs” who want to see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. However Bush undoubtedly realizes that, “[t]he panicked incredulity of a few months ago is turning into nervous resignation. Europeans increasingly consider an American invasion all but inevitable, whether they like it or not. And if the United States stubbornly insists on going forward, European officials privately acknowledge, their governments probably won’t protest much.” (Washington Post, July 21)

In the Arab world the opposition to the war is intense – probably because many of the Arab governments realize a war may jeopardize their survival. When Vice President Dick Cheney visited the Middle East in March, the Arab leaders all expressed their desire to see a settlement with Iraq. At the Beirut summit of the Arab League at the end of the month, all of the 22 Arab nations unanimously endorsed a resolution opposing an attack against Iraq. This is a very different situation from 1991, when most of the region supported – or contributed to – the US-led war effort, or were at least neutral. Mustapha Alani, a Middle East specialist with the Royal United Services Institute in London noted that “This is a very sensitive issue for them. Liberating Kuwait is a legitimate objective, but toppling regimes is completely different.” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on his arrival in Tehran on Saturday, August 3 for a day of talks, “We have a common position with Iran. We oppose any military attack against Islamic and regional countries and we are both opposed to any American military attack against Iraq.” (Reuters, August 3, 2002) Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has warned that the US “should not strike Iraq, because such an attack would only raise animosity in the region against the United States.” “Just open a map,” said a member of the Kuwaiti royal family in close consultation with Washington. “Afghanistan is in turmoil, the Middle East is in flames, and you want to open a third front in the region? That would truly turn into a war of civilizations,” he added. (New York Times, July 30)

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 combination of the economic carrot and the stick may convince a couple countries – who are not too threatened by popular revolts – to allow the US to use their countries for launching strikes. A political crisis had been looming in Jordan as a result of US demands to use Jordan as a possible staging area in a war against Iraq. On July 29, the government finally said, “Jordan will not be used as a launching pad.” The Bush Administration will face similar obstacles with the Turkish government once the prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, decides to relinquish his post and fresh elections are scheduled.

”America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge, thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace,” Bush declared in a an important recent address at the US Military Academy at West Point. In other words, American power will make it invulnerable to the risks of attack by other countries or forces – an assertion that is surreal after the events of September 11. This is a strategy for international anarchy, for global self destruction, based on a complete repudiation of all the principles that have been the foundation for international order since the conclusion of WW2.

There are virtually no restraints that the US is willing to accept – a fact that must give other countries cause for consternation. As Iranian President Mohammad Khatami (curiously this Islamic fundamentalist displays a better understanding of international law than the leader of the free world) said, “If such dangerous phenomena (use of force) become an ordinary occurrence, then no government and nation will feel safe from powerful countries.”

Instead of relying upon treaties, diplomacy, conflict negotiations and adherence to international law in order to maintain international stability, Bush thinks he can achieve both American dominion and national security through the power and ingenuity of American military technology. This is the new Bush doctrine (present in nascent forms in previous Administrations). To put it more precisely this is the George W. Bush Gospel – forget that Jesus stuff – that allows his Administration to completely disregard the views and positions of other countries, as well as the potential threat others pose to the US.

Since he has been in office Bush has repudiated the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the International Criminal Court, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), an international convention to regulate the trade in small arms, the treaty banning land mines, a verification Protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention, an international convention to regulate and reduce smoking, the World Conference Against Racism, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems Treaty, inter alia. As international lawyer Francis Boyle puts it, “To date the Bush Jr Leaguers have not found an international convention that they like.”

The Bush Gospel relies upon force not law, and as we will see, it is based on a religious faith in American military power that is not even shared by most of the top generals in the military establishment, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are opposed to a war with Iraq on the grounds that it entails unacceptable risks and costs to the lives of Americans and others. The Bush Gospel explains his “unilateralism,” his insistence that America constitutes a law unto itself. It explains his willingness to plunge Americans into a war that will result in the death of hundreds, if not thousands of American soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and, as Pat Buchanan has pointed out, may very well bring about the very war between the West and Islam that Bin Laden was praying for when he sent those airliners into the World Trade Center.

Bush’s belief in security through superiority of brute force not only explains his refusal to ratify or his decision to withdraw from virtually all of the significant weapons control treaties that had been negotiated within the last 30 years but it also explains his threat to resort to the first use of nuclear weapons (even upon non-nuclear countries), and his substitution of threats and preemptive wars for the decades old strategy of deterrence.

The revelations of the classified US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which was first released in partially unclassified form in January 2002, indicated contingency plans for the potential use of nuclear weapons against at least seven named states. These revelations are sure to have alarmed these governments, and created an atmosphere of mounting risk. The Bush Administration’s policy toward nuclear weapons use, combined with its plans to develop and deploy missile defenses – the weaponization of space – is almost certain to encourage the expansion of nuclear weapons programs by Russia and China as well as the development of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction by other countries. It is also likely to give rise to destructive new arms races. But according to the Gospel of Bush, America’s military strengths are “beyond challenge” – thus presumably we are invulnerable, as if protected from nuclear attacks by the grace of God, or the NMD. (Is there a difference in Bush’s mind?)

The Bush Gospel explains his “unilateralism” – his insistence that America will determine its own policies without consultations with other countries or without regard to the decisions of the United Nations. This unilateralism is antithetical to the principle of multilateralism upon which the United Nations was founded, and which has prevented the outbreak of a major world since the end of World War 2. Albert Einstein, the great 20th century scientist and humanitarian, described well the costs and the invaluable rewards of the multilateral approach, “Anybody who really wants to abolish war must resolutely declare himself in favor of his own country’s resigning a portion of its sovereignty in favor of international institutions: he must be ready to make his own country amenable, in case of a dispute, to the award of an international court. He must in the most uncompromising fashion support disarmament all around….” Einstein and Bush – the two men stand at opposite poles in their approach to peace and world order.

Bush’s Gospel did not spring into his mind by divine revelation after September 11. It is based upon planning that began in the early 1990s by many of the men now in Bush Jr’s Cabinet, or close advisers – Cheney; Rumsfeld; Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense; Richard N. Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory group, among others (see New Yorker, The Next World Order by Nicholas Lemann, April 1, 2002). A defense strategy was incorporated into a report signed in January, 1993 by Dick Cheney. The primary premise of this strategy is that the United States can attain and maintain permanent global dominance. The power of the men who have been developing these ideas and Bush (who has embraced their strategy) has been enhanced by the events of September 11. (Colin Powell’s moderate position has been marginalized.)

As Nicholas Lemann put it, “It is only now, six months after the attacks, that we are truly entering the realm of Presidential choice, and all indications are that Bush is going to use September 11th as the occasion to launch a new, aggressive American foreign policy that would represent a broad change in direction rather than a specific war on terrorism. All his rhetoric, especially in the two addresses he has given to joint sessions of Congress since September 11th, and all the information about his state of mind which his aides have leaked, indicate that he sees this as the nation’s moment of destiny – a perception that the people around him seem to be encouraging, because it enhances Bush’s stature and opens the way to more assertive policymaking.”

One of the senior officials Lehmann met with told him that the main reason September 11 represents such an opportunity is because it drastically reduced the public’s usual resistance to American military involvement overseas. In other words it represents an opportunity to finally overcome the “Vietnam Syndrome.” A “preemptive” war on Hussein represents the prize for the Bush Administration – the opportunity to implement a strategic and epochal shift in foreign policy and to impose their new strategy upon America and the world. This official approvingly mentioned to Lehmann a 1999 study by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, which claimed that the public would tolerate 30,000 American deaths in an effort to prevent Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. On the basis of his research Lemann concluded in March of 2002 (when the New Yorker went to press) that the Bush Administration was wholly committed to a war to topple Hussein, and he predicted it would take place sometime in early 2003 and require the deployment of a hundred to three hundred thousand American ground troops .

Lemann made this prediction several weeks before the New York Times revealed on April 28 that the Bush Administration had a blueprint for an air campaign and an invasion of Iraq involving the use of 70,000 to 250,000 troops. Several months later on July 5 the Times reported that the military had prepared a document containing a “highly evolved” plan of attacking Iraq from land, sea and air involving as many as 250,000 troops. According to this grandiose plan, which was based on the highly improbable assumption that eight Arab countries will cooperate with them, “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.”

In an interview with Richard Haas, Director of Policy Planning for the State Department (a more “moderate” Bush appointee), Haas dismissed doubts about the American public’s readiness to tolerate a war of this scope and expressed faith in the power of propaganda to convince them that this is preemptive war fought for the purpose of protecting them from an attack by Hussein. “I don’t think the American public needs a lot of persuading about the evil that is Saddam Hussein,” he said. “Also, I’d fully expect the President and his chief lieutenants to make the case. Public opinion can be changed. We’d be able to make the case that this isn’t a discretionary action but one done in self-defense.”

Indeed the US and the international public are being inundated daily with propaganda from every medium about the threat Iraq poses to America in 2002. In the forefront of those advocating war against Iraq has been the US deputy secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who sees a military solution as the only option. On July 14 he stated in Istanbul: “President Bush has made it clear how dangerous the current Iraqi regime is to the United States and that it represents a danger we cannot live with indefinitely.”

One person who is not persuaded is Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, and a conservative Republican. (See July 26 Znet for summary of Ritter’s recent speech.) According to Scott Ritter, who spent seven years in Iraq with the UNSCOM weapons inspection teams performing “acidly detailed” investigations into Iraq’s weapons program, no such capability exists. Fearing military retaliation if they hid anything, the Iraqis instituted a policy of full disclosure. Still, Ritter believed nothing they said and tracked everything down. By the time he was finished, Ritter says, he was sure that he and his UNSCOM investigators had stripped Iraq of 90–95% of all their weapons of mass destruction, leaving them with not enough to constitute a significant threat to the US. Therefore, no rationale for a war against Iraq exists. Considering the lives of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians that would be lost in such an endeavor, not to mention the deadly regional destabilization that will ensue, Ritter argues that such a baseless war must be avoided at all costs.

However Ritter also strongly believes that it is imperative to prevent Hussein from reconstituting his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction. This requires a reinstitution of a UN led regime of weapons inspections. Ritter said, “Diplomatically, politically, Saddam’s a little bit of a threat. In terms of a real national security threat to the United States, no, none … We should be trying to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq, so that we can ascertain exactly what’s transpiring in Iraq today instead of guessing about it.” But the problem is that Bush is dead set against that prospect. The Bush Administration has done everything possible to make sure that Hussein will NOT let weapons inspectors back in.

In June 2002 it was leaked that the CIA had been directed to capture or kill Saddam Hussein. Ritter remarked at the time, ‘Now that Bush has specifically authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Hussein, however, the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq, regardless of any assurances the UN secretary-general might give.’ (Los Angeles Times, 19 June, 2002) (In the past US weapons inspectors illegally used their positions as a cover for gathering intelligence information about Iraq – a fact widely reported at the time.) As Ritter put it, ‘The leaked CIA covert operations plan effectively kills any chance of inspectors returning to Iraq’. It closes ‘the last opportunity for shedding light on the true state of affairs regarding any threat in the form of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.’ (Los Angeles Times, 19 June, 2002) However Hussein DID attempt to give the US several more chances. These efforts at conciliation began in late June. According to reports in the Financial Times: ‘Iraqi officials have sought assurances that the US would call off its planned military campaign if Baghdad co-operated on weapons inspectors.’ (FT, July 6, 2002, p. 1) The US refused to respond.

Other sources corroborate that the concern of the Bush Administration is NOT preventing the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). According to the London Times, “Key figures in the White House believe that demands on Saddam to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors should be set so high that he would fail to meet them unless he provided officials with total freedom.” (Times, 16 February 2002, p. 19) A US intelligence official has said the White House ‘will not take yes for an answer’ (Guardian, 14 February 2002, p. 1). Seymour Hersh, the noted US investigative reporter wrote in December 2001: “Inside the Administration, there is general consensus on one issue, officials told me: There will be no further effort to revive the UN inspection regime withdrawn in late 1998.” (New Yorker, 24 December 2001, p. 63) Even “moderate” US Secretary of State Colin Powell has made it clear that the US is intent on war, whatever happens with the inspectors: “US policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad. The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change.”

Even more definitive proof that the war on Iraq has nothing to do with its possession of WMD was provided on August 3. Bush contemptuously dismissed on August 3 Iraq’s offer to begin talks with UN weapons inspectors with the goal of permitting them to return, and refused to even negotiate. As Reuters reported on August 3, President George W. Bush said that “nothing’s changed” regarding the US determination to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Bush made this statement hours after Baghdad said its invitation for talks with UN inspectors was genuine (contrary to allegations a few days earlier by Bush spokesmen). Bush added, “I can assure you I understand history has called us into action and this country will defend freedom no matter what the cost.” Needless to say, the cost he is willing to pay will not be borne by him, but by the thousands of less privileged Americans and Iraqis who will die in his crusade to “defend freedom,” in his attempt to leave his mark on history.

Although the Bush Administration has revived, from time to time over the last few months, the idea that Hussein could be overthrown without a large invasion, it is likely that this prospect is invoked only to appease international critics. Thus plans continue to be implemented for a large scale invasion. Aware of the need to manage PR in an international climate hostile to an all out war, Rumsfeld speaks out of both sides of his mouth depending on the audience. Thus on July 30 he said the Administration was considering all options, including diplomatic pressure to force Hussein to allow UN inspectors to return. (New York Times, July 31). But as the Times noted, Rumsfeld and his deputy Wolfowitz have “repeatedly scorned” the idea of resuming international inspections. Rumsfeld also invoked on July 30 the idea of overthrowing Hussein with special operations and an air war alone (New York Times, July 31). But on July 29 he said to a reporter who asked whether bombs and missiles alone could do the job that only a ground war would enable the US to be effective. “So the idea that it’s easy to simply go do what you suggest ought to be done from the air – the implication being from the air – is a misunderstanding of the situation,” (USA Today, July 29, 2002).

In fact most military experts agree with this assessment – although many are opposed to the war for precisely that reason. In a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 31 (New York Times, August 1) there was “a broad consensus” among varied experts, including senior military officers, that if President Bush decided to use military force to remove Mr. Hussein – as many in Congress expect – “the Pentagon could not assume that the Iraqi military would collapse without a fight or that Iraqi opposition forces could carry on the fight alone….Rather, the experts said, the military would need to deploy tens of thousands of ground troops as well as many aircraft, ships and armored vehicles to ensure victory. And the administration should plan on keeping forces in Iraq for many years to help rebuild it, the experts added.”

Common sense alone – not to mention international law – would lead most statesmen to refuse to initiate a war against Iraq since by almost all reckonings it would result in ten of thousands of casualties (on both sides) – unless all other options for containing Iraq had been tried and exhausted. Common sense would lead most people to avoid a war that – following upon the war on Afghanistan, and the Bush’s evident partiality towards Israel – will inevitably be seen “on the streets” in the Islamic countries as a war on the Islamic world itself. This common sense view was expressed by the numerous experts who testified at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. As the New York Times journalist James Dao put it, “an array of experts warned a Senate committee today that an invasion of Iraq would carry significant risks ranging from more terrorist attacks against American targets to higher oil prices.” Morton H. Halperin, a senior fellow with the conservative Council on Foreign Relations, told the Committee, “Especially if there is no progress on the Palestinian issue, it is likely that an American military conquest of Iraq will lead many more people in the Arab and Muslim world to choose the path of terror.” (New York Times, August 1, 2002)

In other words thousands, if not millions, of Muslims will be recruited to the ranks of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, courtesy of George W. Bush. But Bush and the members of his Administration seem untroubled by the predictions of the experts and indifferent to the counsel of common sense and thus they are prepared to take all Americans on a walk through the valley of the shadow of death – and THEY will fear no evil because our unchallengeable military strengths will protect and comfort them.

Of course it is also quite possible that the prospect of a firm stranglehold over the bountiful oil reserves of Iraq has led Bush and Company (particularly considering their oil industry associations and backgrounds) to overlook or drastically underestimate, in the mania of their lust for oil and profits, the risks involved in a war on Iraq. (The inability to realistically assess danger is a characteristic feature of mania.) Iraq has oil reserves of 112 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia, which has some 265 billion barrels. Industry experts say that provided the US can assure stability in a post- Saddam Iraq, oil fields could be developed and production could be raised from 3 million barrels a day to 8 million a day within a mere five years. Gerald Butt, Gulf editor of the Middle East Economic Survey, said: “The removal of Saddam is, in effect, the removal of the last threat to the free flow of oil from the Gulf as a whole.” Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the issue for the US was as much the security of the Gulf as access to particular oil fields, “You are looking down the line to a world in 2020 when reliance on Gulf oil will have more than doubled. The security of the Gulf is an absolutely critical issue.” (Quoted in The Times, London, July 20, 2002) The “security of the Gulf” is obviously a coded phrase for the political subordination of this region to US corporate interests, which also fits serendipitously into Rumsfeld’s grand vision of the global political dominance of the United States.

One would have expected that powerful elements within the Democratic Party would have challenged the Stranglovian policies of Bush and Co. But evidently our elected representatives – those who are not themselves true believers in the Bush Gospel – are more disturbed by the prospect of being accused of being unAmerican (as Tom Daschle was by Bush when he made a tepid criticism of his foreign policy) – or losing office – than they are of actually being unAmerican: of supporting actively or by their silence a war that will almost certainly lead to the death of thousands of American soldiers and increase the frequency of terrorist acts upon American citizens. Except for comments made by a few mavericks without much influence (like Ron Paul and Cynthia McKinney) the only salient complaint of our legislators is that they have been snubbed by our Commander in Chief and deprived of the opportunity to contribute to the war effort. Thus the New York Times reported on July 18 that “Democrats and Republicans said there was broad bipartisan support for ousting Mr. Hussein, even if that requires a military invasion if other options fail. But many said they were concerned that the administration was moving toward a major commitment of American troops under a veil of secrecy, with too little consultation with Congress. Members complain that much of what they know comes from news leaks.”

Even after the military and other experts argued in leaked statements (see below) and before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that a war on Iraq would be a disastrous mistake, our representatives continued to assure the Bush Administration that they only want to help it prepare the American people for the slaughter. Thus, after hearing powerful testimony about the dangers and costs of a war from various experts, Senate majority leader Thomas Daschle promised Bush (to quote James Dao’s paraphrase) that “Congressional support for an invasion would help the administration build broader support for its Iraqi policies.” (New York Times, August 1) There is a glaring disparity between the excoriating criticisms of an Iraqi war presented by the US military, experts on Iraq, leaders of European and Arab countries on the one hand, and the support (occasionally mildly qualified) for the Bush Administration expressed by almost the entire legislative branch of our government.

A closer analysis reveals a whole host of doomsday scenarios that might very well unfold as a result of a war upon Iraq. For example many of US allies in the Arab or Islamic world are totalitarian regimes that are unpopular and unsteady and could easily be toppled by Islamic fundamentalists exploiting the anti-American imperialist sentiment of the masses. An Iranian style Islamic revolution could take place in any number of countries. The military and the ISI (intelligence) in Pakistan, as is well known, is filled with Islamic fundamentalists and Al Qaeda sympathizers. A war against Iraq could shift popular opinion in their favor and they might overthrow General Musharaff, thus becoming the first nuclear power ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. As Pat Buchanan has pointed out (World Net Daily, July 22, 2002) a war against Iraq could trigger coups in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Egypt and create new enemies for the US and new allies to help Iraq fight the Western infidels.

According to Lev Grinberg, Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, Bush’s postponement of the creation of a Palestinian state – against the advice and urgings of all the Arab leaders – is intended to buy Sharon’s full cooperation in the war against Iraq. Bush wants a strong determined Israel, first because Saddam might bomb Tel-Aviv, as he did in 1991, and then Sharon will join the war. But more importantly the Bush Administration realizes that “US’s enemies throughout the Arab world might awaken during such a war. Israel’s job would then be to deter, and eventually fight, the US’s enemies within its “area of influence”: the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.” (Lev Grinberg, Counterpunch) Considering all the warnings that the Bush team has heard – particularly from Arab leaders – it is not likely that they have not considered and planned for a war of this scope. Obviously this doomsday scenario does not frighten Bush and Co. because America’s military strengths are “beyond challenge” – and besides surely God and Jesus are on our side in our crusade against the evildoers.

There are many who believe that Bush is just bluffing and that he really has no intention of going to war. But how then does one explain the preparations (see below) that are already being made? How does one explain the intransigent statements of the policymakers in the Bush Administration, including the Boss himself? How does one explain the fact that they have been planning for such a war for over ten years? And above all – given their adamantine will to power and their sense of invulnerability – what is there to restrain them? Certainly not the pusillanimous representatives of the American people.

If there is one single factor that one would expect to give Bush and Company pause about attacking Iraq, it is the fact that – as noted above – top generals among the Joint Chiefs of Staff have argued that the war would be a colossal military debacle, according to an article in the Washington Post on July 27. However even this has left Bush and his apostles undaunted. More than one officer interviewed questioned the president’s motivation for repeatedly calling for the ouster of Hussein. “I’m not aware of any linkage to al Qaeda or terrorism,” one general involved in the Afghanistan war said, “so I have to wonder if this has something to do with his father being targeted by Saddam.”

They present a number of arguments for opposing a war. First, while Iraq possesses chemical and biological weapons “the current US intelligence assessment is that it has few, if any, operational long-range missiles that could be used to deliver those weapons to attack Israel or other US allies in the region.” Retired Col. Richard Dunn III, a former Army strategist said, “I’d argue that containment is certainly a better approach than either marching on Baghdad or destabilizing the Iraqi government by killing Saddam.” Opponents of the war among the military point to the danger – the likelihood – that Hussein, with nothing to lose since the US is attempting to destroy him, would unleash his chemical weapons upon American troops. They also believe that in order to topple Hussein, urban warfare in Bagdad would be necessary – this would result in large numbers of civilian and military casualties. Furthermore, they estimate the costs of a post-victory occupation, would be high. Tens of thousands of US troops would be required to keep the peace and to prevent Iraq from breaking up into warring factions. Finally, officials worry, a large US presence might antagonize Arab public opinion as well as impose heavy financial and human costs on the US military, which already feels stretched by the war on terrorism and peacekeeping commitments in the Balkans.

Richard Perle disparaged the scruples of the military, and said that, ultimately, US policy on Iraq will be set by civilians, and that it will be based on a different set of assumptions than those of the uniformed armed services. “Whether he is contained or not, that’s a political question,” Perle said. “What to do about Iraq essentially boils down to how much risk the US government is willing to take," he said, and “that’s a political judgment that these guys aren’t competent to make.” (Evidently Perle, like Bush, does not think the American people, including those who will lose their lives or loved ones in the war, should have the right to make this judgment – that belongs to our Emperor.) He added, “I assume that if the president decides this is going to happen, they’ll go along with it.” King Abdullah II of Jordan said on July 29 (New York Times, July 30) that he had despaired of trying to talk Administration hawks out of attacking Iraq. They are “fixated,” he said. “You can talk until your blue in the face and they’re not going to get it.”

Thus the preparations for war continue. The New York Times reported on July 5, “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 the “Air Force is stockpiling weapons, ammunition and spare parts, like airplane engines, at depots in the United States and in the Middle East. Troops are reportedly arriving in Turkey, and military aid to Jordan is being increased.”

On July 21 it was reported in the Guardian, “President George Bush has told US troops to be ready for ‘pre-emptive military action’ against Iraq, as security sources warned that a massive assault against President Saddam Hussein could be likely at ‘short notice.’… ‘President Bush has already made up his mind. This is going to happen. It is a given,’ said one Whitehall source. ‘What we are waiting for is to be told the details of how and when and where.’ Although Britain has not decided on its level of commitment, defense sources say planners have been told to expect to send 20,000–30,000 British troops. The sources added that British Challenger II main battle tanks and other key armoured fighting vehicles were being pushed through a crash servicing and refit programme. The Ministry of Defense has explained the crash repairs programme by saying it is for a military exercise planned for Scotland. Jonathan Powers wrote for the Transnational Institute on July 29, “The juggernaught appears unstoppable. Last week there were reports that the British were withdrawing their troops from Bosnia so that they can be readied for re-deployment in an Iraqi war.”

There is another variable contributing to the likelihood of a war against Iraq: the credibility factor. James R. Schlesinger, a member of the Defense Policy Board that advises the Pentagon who held senior cabinet posts in Republican and Democratic administrations told the New York Times (July 30, 2002) that he believed that the president, after taking into account the risks and costs would opt for a significant ground presence in Iraq. “My view is that given all we have said as a leading world power about the necessity of regime change in Iraq,” Mr.Schlesinger said, “means that our credibility would be badly damaged if that regime change did not take place.” Credibility is one the primary motives for US foreign policy as analyzed by Noam Chomsky, who frequently explains, “If you want to know what credibility means, ask any Mafia Don.” In Gabriel Kolko’s book Century of War, he wrote, “Perhaps the single most recurrent justification that leaders of major powers have evoked for risking wars evolved from their belief that their credibility, which allegedly created fear among potential enemies and thereby constrained their actions, depended on their readiness to use force even when the short-term rationality for violence was very much in doubt,” he writes. This led to disastrous results for Austria in World War I, Japan in World War II, and the United States in Vietnam, he noted.

The threat America and the world faces now is similar but greater than that faced in 1981 after Reagan first assumed office as President and began repeatedly denouncing the Soviet Union as “the evil empire.” Reagan was convinced that we must be prepared to fight and win a “limited” nuclear war. Reagan and his policy advisers were secretly seeking to achieve “superiority” over the Soviet Union in nuclear capability and to jettison the policy of mutually assured destruction (known as MAD) that had been the basis of US defense policy since the end of World War 2. MAD was actually a saner policy than the alternative because it was based on two fundamental common sense premises: One, that a nuclear war must be avoided at all costs. And two, neither great power was mad enough to launch a first strike nuclear attack as long as the other side had sufficient nuclear capacity to retaliate. But the policy of preparing to fight a limited nuclear war – a strategy first designed by Herman Kahn, author of Thinking the Unthinkable – was based on a denial of these two premises. Thus within its framework, seeking to attain superiority in nuclear capacity was the only rational course of action.

Immediately after Reagan’s election a number of anti-war activists gathered together and launched a popular campaign to demand a bilateral “freeze” on the development of nuclear weapons. The popular appeal of this strategy consisted in its acceptance of the conservative bi-partisan strategy of deterrence. It rejected both the radical Reaganite policy and the left pacifist policy. Thus unlike other left-wing organizations the Nuclear Freeze Campaign did not insist upon unilateral disarmament on the part of the US – it called upon both the US and the Soviet Union to freeze the development of nuclear weapons (a prospect that the SU probably favored anyway). Thus the Freeze Campaign surprisingly rapidly gained popular appeal among an electorate who was scared to death by Reagan’s rhetoric and nuclear policy. It was supported by many Republicans, including Reagan supporters. All over the country Nuclear Freeze chapters sprang up and succeeded in getting weapons freeze initiatives on the ballot in many states. By Reagan’s second year in office, in the fall of 1982, 30% of the electorate voted on a bilateral nuclear freeze – it won by a 60 to 40 margin. The initiative shifted the drift of Reagan’s policies.

The stakes are greater today. After all the Soviet Union was far more predictable than the Islamic fundamentalists whom Bush seems intent upon antagonizing. And the obstacles we face are greater. During the early 1980s there were many Congresspersons and Senators who backed the Nuclear Freeze. Today the left stands alone with only the American public to appeal to for assistance in its effort to stop the Bush drive to war. Furthermore unlike the Nuclear Freeze activists, the anti-war movement today is mired in a identifiably left “peace and justice” rhetoric that however noble only insulates it from the American population. Popular sentiment is against a war on Iraq because most people realize that Bush’s policies threaten our survival – even people who voted for Bush and otherwise support him.

According to interviews the New York Times conducted in Scottsdale, Arizona, a upscale Phoenix suburb and Bush stronghold, “Democrats and political independents interviewed were nearly unanimous in their opposition to an invasion, and most Republicans felt the same way. “These are the people in whose name the Emperor claims to be acting when he says “this country will defend freedom no matter what the cost.” It turns out they don’t want to pay with their lives or that of their children to defend Bush’s concept of freedom. Cindy Morrow, manager of a shoe store here and a Republican, expressed a common fear among the interviewees that a war with Iraq could widen anti-American sentiment and incite further attacks against the United States. “To me, it’s really scary,” said Ms. Morrow. “War really opens up a can of worms for us. You don’t know where it will go next, whether it could lead to a third world war or what. My son is 13, my daughter is 8. It worries me to think about what’s ahead for them. I don’t know how you solve these things, but there have to be other ways than war, fighting and all this craziness.”

Many questioned whether Bush’s motives really had to do with eradicating terrorism. Tom Meaker, a lifelong Republican, supporter of George W. Bush, and former Marine officer in Vietnam said, “I’ve got to believe that George [W.] Bush, like everybody else, is the sum of a lot of parts. He is his father’s son, and like any son, he wants to make his dad proud. Sept. 11 gave him the excuse to focus on something….How many dictators are there? How many terrible places are there? There are so many places to go, so why are we going to commit ourselves to this one?” Patricia Giordano, an elementary school teacher and a Republican, who recently moved to Scottsdale from Rutherford, NJ, agreed. “We have a million other things to think about,” Ms. Giordano said. “Why stir this up again? Besides, no matter what we do, nothing is going to change. I don’t know what the solution is, but we can’t just bomb places and think that’s going to take care of everything.”

The antiwar forces must put aside for special occasions for the next few months their favorite anti-imperialist anti-racist slogans and appeal directly to Americans’ instinct for survival. The anti-war coalitions that exist at present are too self-consciously “leftist,” whereas they need to become survivalist – just like the Nuclear Freeze Movement was in its day. It is probably too late to stop a war on Iraq given the absence of any significant legislative opposition – and the absence of a mass movement prepared to take to the streets. But if we begin building now on the basis of survivalist slogans we should be able to mobilize enough people to get several millions to demonstrate in Washington, DC, by the time the bombs start dropping, we should be able to get anti-war candidates elected to the legislature this November, and we should be able to get Bush out of office and an anti-war candidate elected as President by 2004 – hopefully in time to prevent a third world war.

August 9, 2002

Seth Farber, PhD [send him mail], a psychologist, is author of several books, including Madness, Heresy and the Rumor of Angels, which contains a foreword by Thomas Szasz.

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