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Why Iraq? Why Now? (english)
07 Apr 2003
Below is a talk delivered by a member of the Anarchist
Federation at an anti-war meeting in Belfast on 11.02.03 hosted by Organise-ASF
Why Iraq? Why Now?
I have been asked tonight to provide a talk on the imminent war with Iraq.
A lot of the information you are about to hear is no doubt already known to most of you, and normally the problem faced by people in the movement is to get across such information to wider circles. Consent is manufactured on a daily basis by the government lackeys in the media and to such an extent that information leaks out in dribs and drabs, never approaching the kind of levels required to initiate or sustain real and effective change amongst greater numbers of people across the country.
With Iraq, however, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have already taken to the streets of London and cities elsewhere to protest against a war that has yet to happen, which itself is part of another war -the so-called war against terrorism. So, in effect, the U.S. and their lapdogs in Britain and Ireland are facing a groundswell of reaction against governments that have taken people down the garden
path perhaps one too many times.
Of course, the war against Iraq is not going to break out suddenly in the next few weeks. It is merely going to escalate the aerial bombardment of a country that has been ongoing since the so-called end of the last Gulf War in 1991 -this bombardment being the most consistent bombardment of any country since the end of World War II.
So what is the escalation of hostilities about?
* Is it about the removal of Saddam Hussein, our latter-day Hitler-in-disguise, who must not be appeased and who strangely enough wasn't removed last time round?
* Is it about Saddam?s refusal to abide by the laws of
democracy, and this from a country, the U.S., which has set up puppet dictatorships throughout the third world and beyond?
* Is it about Saddam's supposed links with terrorist networks across the globe and in particular Al-Qaeda though these links have never been proved and there has yet to be produced a shred of evidence to suggest he is involved in any way?
* Is it about Saddam's hidden stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which no one seems able to find?
* Or is it about oil, meeting defence expenditure quotas, opportune diversions from catastrophic domestic problems and the effects of a neo-liberal agenda that seeks to extend itself in every corner of the world?
In answering these questions tonight, we also need to
consider our strategy for creating more awareness about the issues involved, the significance of the recent direct actions at Shannon, and the building up of a support network for those people who will ultimately fall foul of our so-called laws. We need to bear in mind that by the time I finish this talk another 170 children will have died of starvation in a world where a 1000m people "suffer from chronic hunger and 600m people are overweight"(1) - a world where Ecuador and El Salvador have already adopted the U.S.
dollar as their national currencies, and where in Argentina, a popular T.V. show has for it's top prize -a job!
Are we appeasing Saddam?
So Saddam Hussein is the modern equivalent of Adolf Hitler, Tony Blair is Winston Churchill, Vera Lynn is back at the top of the hit parade and Jim Davidson will no doubt be cracking the same jokes he did in the Falklands in 1982 (!). Rockwell Schnabel -the US ambassador to the European Union is quoted as saying in the last few weeks:
"You had Hitler in Europe and no one really did anything about him. We knew he could be dangerous but nothing was done. The same type of person (is in Baghdad) and it?s there that our concerns lie."
This from a citizen of a country that enjoyed a profitable period of neutrality in 1939 and 1940 and against a tyrant whose Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfield, only a few weeks ago offered "a suitcase full of cash" to get out of Baghdad (2). This also against a man who invaded Iran in September 1980 in an attempt to muster support from the U.S., the imperial powerhouse in the region and who received by the Reagan administration enough:
"for (the) development of biological weapons and the basic ingredients for the chemical agents he used" (3)
It's well known that Saddam remained a close ally of
Washington's right up to his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (Kuwait itself was legitimately a part of Iraq until 1920). His reason for doing so was:
"to punish Kuwait for its refusal to write-off debts incurred in a war that had arguably protected that nation's oil fields from Iranian conquest." (4)
But Saddam is not mad. Well, at least not mad enough to risk angering his patrons in Washington. After all, he had been given the green light by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Glaspie, that the U.S. "had no opinion in Arab-Arab conflicts" (5).
So this is the man who must not be appeased. Unlike Hitler who was appeased until it was too late. Well, maybe not. And why not? Maybe because it doesn't quite explain how U.S. investment by such companies as General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Texaco and I.B.M. continued investment in Germany even after the outbreak of the Second World War. (Standard Oil, being the most famous example since it maintained its contracts with I.G. Farben -the German chemical cartel that manufactured Zyklon-B. -the poison gas the Nazis used in the gas chambers up until 1942.) In fact, pilots were given instructions not to hit factories in Germany owned by U.S. firms.
"Thus Cologne was almost levelled by allied bombing but its Ford plant, providing military equipment for the Nazi party, was untouched..." (6)
Maybe this is one of the reasons why the anti-Semite Henry Ford, on his 75th birthday, received the Grand Cross of the German Order (the highest honour for a non-German) from Hitler himself. So we can expect similar non-attacks on the properties of Hewlett Packard, Dupont, International Computer Systems and the other twenty or so U.S. companies based in Iraq this time round.
So we're not "appeasing" Saddam. Britain, the U.S. and others collaborate with Iraq and this collaboration is based on economic greed. When the West becomes too greedy, then the troops set sail.
What about democracy?
Well, if the war is not about "appeasement", it must then be about "democracy" and "human rights". The problem with this is that this is the same democracy and human rights which the U.S. has rolled back both at home and in client regimes abroad. But it's not just the U.S. The E.U. is following suit by virtually criminalizing dissent. Democracy? This is a president who had his presidency stamped, sealed and
delivered in the governor's mansion of his brother Jeb in Florida. A president who has a mandate from only 25% of the American population!
But what about human rights? When Saddam gassed the 6,800 Kurds in Halabja in 1988, the U.S. propaganda machine later attempted to blame the massacre on Iran. When Iraqi soldiers refused to fight at the beginning of the last Gulf War, but instead joined the spontaneous outbreak of working class resistance in the Kurdish north and Shi'ite south of the country, Bush Sr. gave Saddam all the time and military
support he needed to crush the revolts.
In any case, even if the West got rid of Saddam this time round, it is not in their strategic or economic interests to set up a "unified, democratic state" (7).
The fact that brutal Afghan warlords are currently running that part of Afghanistan that remains after being pulverized by high altitude bombing militates against such kind of thinking. If the U.S. were really interested in democracy, it would not have set up military garrisons in Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, etc. If it believed in democratic protocol, it would not conduct daily
bombing raids into illegal No Fly Zones in northern and southern Iraq.
So quite obviously, the war is not about democracy and
Weapons of Mass Destruction and the war against terror
But then you have the WMD?
Immediately after the events of 9-11, a cabinet meeting took place at the Whitehouse at which Donald Rumsfield insisted that Iraq should be "the principle target of the first round in a war against terrorism" (8). Bush allegedly replied that "public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible". Afghanistan was chosen as a softer target, but the desire to find any pretext possible to invade Iraq was there for all to see at a time, remember,
when it had not even been determined that the suicide bombings had been conducted by Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network never mind any connection to Iraq.
A U.S. State department annual report at the time on 'Patterns of Global Terrorism' does not list any acts of global aggression linked to the regime in Baghdad. It was not until September 21st 2001 that Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor told CNN that the U.S. had:
"evidence, historical and otherwise, about the relationship of the al-Qaeda network to what happened on September 11".
No details have been forthcoming.
Years before in 1997, when the Republicans were out of office, a number of them organised themselves as the 'Project for the new American Century' (PNAC) and began the process of lobbying for regime change in Iraq. One of their members was, guess who, Donald Rumsfield who in the words of a PNAC document 'Rebuilding America's Defences' were waiting for a "catastrophic and catalysing event like a new Pearl Harbour" that would mobilise public opinion and put
theories into practice. On September 11th they got what they needed.
The argument today is that Saddam has in his possession WMD. This would seem to suggest, even if it were true, a need to disarm Iraq as opposed to a war to bring down Saddam. UN inspector Scott Ritter has said:
"I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapon's inspector in Iraq for the UN to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes and the effectiveness of UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them." (9)
The irony, of course, is that during the 80s Saddam's biological weapons programme provided him with American strains of anthrax, West Nile virus and botulinal toxin.
On October 7, 2002, President Bush contributed what was probably one the most extreme rationales for a war with Iraq. In a speech in Cincinnati, he first noted that "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction" and then warned that:
"Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions targeting the United States."
Presumably Bush was here referring to the Czech L-29 jet training aircraft, 169 of which Iraq bought in the 1960s and 1980s. The L-29 is a single-engine, dual-seat airplane meant to be a basic flight trainer for novices. It has a range of about 840 miles and a top speed of around 145 miles per hour. Bush did not explain how these slow-moving aircraft might reach Maine, the nearest point on the U.S. mainland, some 5,500 miles from Iraq, or why they would not be shot
down the moment they crossed Iraq's borders. The US's use of depleted uranium in 1991 while not only leading to babies being born without brains, has a shelf life of 4.5 billion years, essentially until the end of time.
The only case for Saddam's sponsorship of anti-US terrorism was his alleged attempt to have George Bush Sr. assassinated during a tour of Kuwait in April 1993. However, it is more likely that this had more to do with covering up the discovery of a smuggling ring on the Iraqi-Kuwait border.
The case for war against Iraq because of a build-up of WMD is particularly ridiculous given N. Korea's possession of nuclear missiles capable of flattening Seoul, Tokyo and reaching the western seaboard of the U.S. itself. But since N. Korea already has WMD, the U.S. has to play ball. The inconsistency though is worrying since it will probably lead to nuclear proliferation as possession of nuclear warheads is the only deterrent against U.S. aggression.
The fact that Turkey for most of the 1990s was the world's largest importer of WMD, arms and other military hardware bought from the U.S. is apparently of no value, nor is Turkey's continuing air bombing of the Kurds in Northern Iraq whom the U.S. and Britain are meant to be protecting through NFZs.
Al-Qaeda itself was armed with over $2 billion worth of light weapons funnelled to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 80s. Today, according to the U.N., one and a half month's diversion of finance normally reserved for U.S. military defence, would allow the entire world to be fed.
Meanwhile, the U.S./U.K. embargo of Iraq has been responsible for the deaths of approximately half a million children since 1991, with no evidence of the alleged divergence of foodstuffs to the Ba'athist party elite.
So if the war is not about WMD, then what is it about?
The U.S. Department of Energy announced at the beginning of this month that by 2025, U.S. oil imports will account for perhaps 70% of total US domestic demand (10). U.S. oil deposits are becoming progressively depleted and many other non-OPEC fields are beginning to run dry. "This really means that the bulk of future supplies will have to come from the
Gulf region" (11). Since Iraq has the second largest reserves of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia, it seems sensible to seize them particularly now that Bush and Cheney are in the Whitehouse - both are former oil company executives while Bush Sr. was founder, in 1954, of the Zapata Offshore Oil Company. Cheney, when president of the Halliburton Company of Houston, sold Saddam $23 billion dollars of oil field equipment.
In last April's New Yorker, the investigative reporter Nicholas Lemann wrote that Bush's most senior adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told him she had called together senior members of the National Security Council and asked them "to think about 'how do you capitalise on these opportunities'", which she compared with those of "1945 to 1947: the start of
the cold war." (John Pilger)
"The Bush administration, intimately entwined with the global oil industry, is keen to pounce on Iraq's massive untapped reserves, the second biggest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. But France and Russia, who hold a power of veto on the UN Security Council, have billion-dollar contracts with Baghdad, which they fear will disappear in 'an oil grab by Washington', if America installs a successor to Saddam." (The Observer)
There are a number of interrelated issues here: Firstly the profits of individual corporations are dependant on relations with the oil producing states. A diversification of oil production - opening up new sources of supply (such as that in Central Asia or by re-bringing Iraqi oil on to the open market) weakens the power of OPEC, - the consortium of oil producing states, thereby strengthening the bargaining position of the corporations who purchase from them.
Furthermore an increase in American military power in an area, naturally will be used to benefit American based corporations as opposed to, say, French ones. However, if it was just a matter of the interests of individual corporations or sectors of the economy, then market competition would compel them to, for short term reasons, do business with Iraq, irrespective of what regime is in power there; so secondly, and most importantly, the question is where does the profits which have been creamed off the backs
of the working class in oil producing areas end up. It can be re-invested in the world economic system dominated by elites in the West as we can see in this extract on Saudi Arabia from the Washington Post: "Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has shifted from its role as a large oil supplier to becoming the principal U.S. ally and economic partner in the region. In the 1970s and 1980s, it bolstered the international banking system with its oil revenue."
Since 1981, U.S. construction companies and arms suppliers have earned more than $50 billion in Saudi Arabia, according to the Congressional Research Service. "U.S. investments in the country reached $4.8 billion in 2000, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. recently was chosen by the Saudi government to lead two of three consortiums developing gas projects worth $20 billion
to $26 billion." (Washington Post 21/9/01)
However a nationalist government in power in an oil
producing area, aiming to build up a native industrial base, as did most of the rouges in the Middle East "the West" has fought against, from Nasser to Hussein, would make for lost profits as the wealth which could go to the coffers of the banks, arms companies, construction companies and what have you of the west, instead is invested developing local industry. This is bad news, not just because of that lost profit, but even more fundamentally given that we are talking about areas where lies one of the most valuable
commodities in the world - a resource which could form the building block for the development of an imperialist rival to "the West".
The oil industry, as well as being a source of capital, also produces an important resource. While 'America' is certainly not dependant upon imports of it from the Middle East, large parts of the world, included Europe and Japan, are, and thus the more power Washington has in the Middle East the more
influence it has over these potential rivals.
Thus in the second two cases the American state is representing the interests of not just oil corporations, but the overall interests of the corporate elite.
Furthermore, while today there is no American reliance on Middle Eastern oil, in the future this may be radically different, the U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that by 2025 70% of the oil consumed in the U.S. will be imported. It could be argued that this would place the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage, there is of course a way around this, not to mention the slightly more pressing problem of
global warming, and the rise in asthma due to exhaust fumes, - the development of sustainable transport alternatives to the petrol driven motor car. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that from a government of ex-oil executives whose election campaign was funded by big oil.
But it is not just about oil. The outbreak of war in Iraq will help to deflect real problems for the Bush camp at home. For example, their close ties to the corrupt Enron Corporation, the huge and growing budget deficit, tax cuts that massively favour the rich, a severe loss of civil liberties under Attorney-General Ashcroft, and Bush's dismantling of ballistic missile and global warming treaties.
In the long-term the war is about preserving and enhancing the economic interests of US capital; it is dictated by imperialist and militarist demands just as was the case in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and has been the case for most of the last hundred years.
The question is: what can we do about it?
From the Autumn of 2001 to now, there have been massive demonstrations in London, truly massive, there will be another this Saturday, we have to seriously consider what impact this strategy large demonstrations in city centres alone, exclusive of all other tactics, is having. Can we say that this strategy has impacted on British government policy? Can we when the British state is again about to go to war in Iraq? Nor will public opinion alone stop the
war machine - when even in the U.S. a large slice of the population is deeply suspicious of Washington's war, and when across Europe polls show massive oppositions, yet still the war machine plunders on.
For an alternative, let's take the example of Shannon
airport as a case study:
Back in August 70 people attended a demonstration there, and successfully defied police orders to stay outside the airport, and by merely entering the airport grounds cause re-fuelling U.S. military planes to leave.
Some weeks later one activist got into the airport in the dead of night and spray painted a U.S. transport plane, there was a media feeding frenzy and the Shannon issue was put on the agenda.
In the middle of October 700 people gathered to demonstrate there, and over one hundred took part in a mass trespass.
There was another demonstration on December the Eight,
followed by the establishment of a peace camp on January 4th.
January saw two demonstrations, one of several thousand, and one of around 800, at the first a roof top was occupied and an attempt made to enter the hangers.
By this time World Airways - a charter company which carries U.S. troops through Shannon began to pull out, the damage inflicted on one single U.S. transport plane in two different actions within a space of a few days was World Airway's death knell and now they have pulled out.
We have won a victory in the campaign to demilitarise
Shannon, we have done so because the fight was taken directly to the airport and because every action there directly effected its use as a pit-stop for war by creating a 'security threat'. In other words there was the cutting edge of direct action, rather than pleading with the government, people went out and made it happen.
Nor has direct action scared people away - as some doubters say, on the contrary the movement has grown larger as people see that it is prepared to act.
However, we don't just need a movement of direct actionists - many people have commitments, which prevent them from travelling to Shannon let alone participating in direct action. We need also to fight a battle of ideas, to ceaselessly counter the war propaganda put out by the government and it's lap dogs in the media.
Furthermore the anti-war movement cannot just rely on trips to Shannon, we must broaden the base of the struggle in an inclusive fashion and localise resistance. However Shannon is where we can win and are winning, so we would argue that the focus should remain on Shannon, and we should have local actions against commercial interests connected to military
re-fuelling in Shannon, such as Top Oil.
This does not mean we advocate an insular approach of
sticking on our own little island and forgetting about the rest of the world, the significance of Shannon is this - it is one part of the logistics supply that the war machine in the Middle East is dependant upon, it's the weakest link in those line of supply which run across Europe, if we decommission it, the rest of Europe will take heart and be given an example to follow, not one of pleading with the governments, but one of taking the battle direct to the enemy.
Of late the mailed fist of repression and the smear campaigns of the media have been thrown at the peace movement. This shows that we are getting effective. We would urge everybody here tonight to support the defendants and prisoners of the anti-war movement in any way, shape or form they can.
Finally while we would unreservedly defend the actions of the Ploughshares 5 and Mary Kelly, especially in the face of the condemnation their bravery has received, unfortunately a condemnation also issuing from some segments of the anti-war movement. It is all to easy for a situation to arise where direct action becomes the preserve of an elite and the rest of us are left to the category of spectators, this is why we
advocate mass direct action, in which the maximum number of people can participate in, on an equal and democratic basis.
contact (at) afireland.cjb.net
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(1)The USA is at War -Eduardo Galeano. Jan 14/03
(2)The Wartime Deceptions -Robert Fisk. The
Independent. Jan 27/03
(3)Iraq Wars - Chalmers Johnson Jan 24/03
(4)Big Brother Bush?-Paul Street Jan 22/03
(6)Michael Parenti in Mickey Z's The A Word. Jan 10/03
(7)Iraq Wars - Chalmers Johnson Jan 24/03
(8)CBS News as reported in NYT Sept 5/02
(9)Is Iraq a threat to the U.S.? - Scott Ritter:
Boston Globe, July 20/02
(10) The Looming war isn't about Chemical
Warheads, Robert Fisk Jan 18/03
(11)Michael Renner: Worldwatch Institute 01/03