Are We Nearer To A Preemptive Strike?
– By Gary Girdhari

If we are to be guided by history and dialectical reflection,
the possibility weighs in favor of a Bush war. However..

I am not particularly grooved in among those folks who laboriously and daily deliberate on religious matters and their presumed and proclaimed virtues. I do not cogitate as some do as to what may befall me if I don’t follow the well-beaten track of the faiths. I have long lost the desire to ‘follow the leader’ in this regard, firstly because I am a thinking being and want to think for myself, and secondly because I have observed many of the ‘faithful’ and would certainly not want to be in the company of most since they assume postures and preach good virtues, but practice otherwise.

At the same time there are many who do a great job – if not in saving souls, by giving shelter, clothing, food, and solace to the needy; and they should be recognized for this. So I am not throwing away the baby with the bath water. These faithful servants for humanity commit themselves at great sacrifice and sometimes at personal risk. Their motivation is indeed altruistic. Such kinds of people come in all shades and espouse different religious beliefs.

But why is there always the needy – so many – in all parts of the globe? Human condition is deteriorating more than ever and the gap between those who have and those who don’t have is getting wider in spite of development. As noted by Arundhati Roy: “In the past 10 years, the world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top 100 biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries [my emphasis]. The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57%, and the disparity is growing.” This is by no means accidental. It is deliberate policy (and twisted greedy philosophy). Here in the US, we are observing the decline in the standard of living and quality of life for the majority. “In two years under Bush, a $3.5 billion federal budget surplus has turned into a $20 billion deficit; poverty rates have climbed and family income has gone down; people have lost trillions of dollars in value from their pension and 401-K plans; funding for Medicare, public education and Bush has yet to meet even once with the NAACP,” Jessie Jackson pointed out.

After the big war President Theodore Roosevelt challenged the world to think not only about Freedom from Fear but also Freedom from Want. Yet today the United States spends just 0.1% of its GNP on foreign aid to help the needy. Knowing this, how can we take President Bush seriously when he said at the UN that “our commitment to human dignity is challenged by persistent poverty and raging disease?” The Bush administration has not disclosed any program or made any statement outlining America's role to fight against AIDS globally. It is everybody’s business, America’s business, to plan and execute a frontal attack on disease and poverty. To be sure, the ease of communication and transportation in modern times makes us all connected in this world, and this should be an overriding reason for action in practical terms. The saying ‘no man is an island’ takes on real personal meaning. It is the reality of modern technological advancement. It is not light when I say that we will all be consumed if nothing positive is done….

Instead, American policy with Mr. Bush at the helm has become pre-occupied with war. At a gathering in January this year of Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and other religious leaders to pray for peace, Pope John Paul II urged the leaders to fight against “the dark clouds of terrorism, hatred, armed conflict, which in these last few months have grown particularly ominous on humanity’s horizon.” He said, “There is no religious goal which can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man. Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon the earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love.” (Quad-City Times January 25 2002). Yet President Bush (and Attorney General John Ashcroft), a man who proclaims his resolute faith, claims that the preemptive war against Iraq is “a great moral cause and a great strategic goal.”

America has had its war in Afghanistan against the Taliban. Is that war over? Bin Laden is probably still around. The Taliban have been decimated but likely only (temporarily?) dispersed. Al-Qaeda is operating around the globe. But the infrastructure of Afghanistan has collapsed, and human misery – starvation, disease and death – continues. The war is not yet ended for the inhabitants, especially the children. (Look at the PBS “NOW” Program)

Now America is on the verge of invading and attacking Iraq in what is described as “preemptive strike”. Mr. Bush and all of his close advisors and associates are constantly on the frontier to get domestic and international (via the UN) support and approval for the war, rather than going it alone. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld contended: “[The] war against terror [is] to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life.” Which is extremely energy-dependent, requiring oil from other nations. This should become obvious to the world as being the primary causa belli. The American author and critic Gore Vidal argues “that the real motive for the Afghanistan war was to control the gateway to Eurasia and Central Asia's energy riches.” And now again the “hawks” are creating the illusion of a “massive and widely perceived external threat” to justify preemptive attack on Iraq.

But there are many people in the US and around the globe who oppose such action by the US (and Britain). On Saturday October 26 2002 over 150,000 individuals from all walks of life gathered in Washing DC to protest this Bush administration doctrine. The protest coincided with anti-war demonstrations in Augusta, Maine and Vermont, San Francisco, Denver, Colorado, San Juan, Mexico City, Puerto Rico, Hamburg, Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Sweden, Copenhagen, Denmark, Tokyo and elsewhere.

Mirolav Volf who teaches at Yale Divinity School writes, “Such a war is likely to bring long-term instability to a sensitive and volatile region and inflame Islamic extremism. It would violate standards of international law and create a dangerous precedent for other nations (for example, China, India, Pakistan, Russia) that will decide to engage in preemptive wars that they believe are justified.” He continues, “A preemptive war is unjust for a very simple reason: it cannot be just to condemn masses of people to certain death in order to avert the potential death of an equal or lesser number of people. President Bush acts as if the entire population of Iraq consists of one single person…. But he never mentioned the horrible deaths that would be the inescapable consequence of the war. The death toll among the Iraqi population in the planned war is likely to exceed the 100,000 Iraqi casualties of the 1991 Gulf war… And … American casualties, estimated by some at 20,000 to 30,000.” (Christian Century September 25-October 8, 2002). Harsh V. Pant cautioned: “…[this] new doctrine for the world … may well define the next century of global politics. And that's the Bush doctrine – First-strike war to achieve peace. Like the Monroe doctrine and the Truman doctrine of the yesteryears, this doctrine also provides the US with a grand plan for the world.” (

The 1990-91 Gulf war on Iraq cost America $61 billion (~$80 billion today). The estimated cost for the current planned war is $100 billion (New York contribution is estimated at $6,780,000,000). Most of the money is expected to come from Social Security, yours and mine! This time it appears that the US will have to foot most of the bill, the UK making some input, because this war does not have international support.

According to Jeffrey Sachs: “The expected $100 billion cost of war against Iraq would therefore be enough to avert around 30 m[illion] premature deaths from disease, if channelled into a sustained and organised partnership with the poor countries.” Further, if “George Bush spent more time and money on mobilising Weapons of Mass Salvation (WMS) in addition to combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), we might actually get somewhere in making this planet a safer and more hospitable home. WMD can kill millions and their spread to dangerous hands needs to be opposed resolutely. WMS, in contrast, are the arsenal of life-saving vaccines, medicines and health interventions, emergency food aid and farming technologies that could avert literally millions of deaths each year in the wars against epidemic disease, drought and famine. Yet while the Bush administration is prepared to spend $100 billion to rid Iraq of WMD, it has been unwilling to spend more than 0.2% of that sum ($200m) this year on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” (Jeffrey Sachs, The Economist October 2002). The outstanding Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe echoes these sentiments: "There are many more important wars that need to be fought than against Iraq – the war against poverty; the war against AIDS; the war against illiteracy.”

Has the war in Afghanistan made America safer? And will a war on Iraq make America safer? Based on occurrences around the world, the answer in equivocal. Observe the Philippines and Bali, the Chechen hostage scenario in Russia. CIA Director George J. Tenet issued a warning to Congress that the terrorist threat is real now as it ever was. (NY Times October 9, 2002). John Mintz (Washington Post October 25, 2002) reports the finding of a taskforce chaired by former U.S. senators Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Warren Rudman (R-N.H.): “that the American transportation, water, food, power, communications and banking systems remain easy targets for terrorists despite the government's efforts at tightening the nation's domestic security in the past year…. A year after 9/11, America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil," the commission says. "In all likelihood, the next attack will result in even greater casualties and widespread disruption to our lives and economy." Reading the report makes one feel uncomfortable, insecure and vulnerable in a country with the best resources available. Do we not yet understand that might is not always right; that “terrorism” has, must, be re-defined? The fundamental cause – poverty, fear, disease, discrimination and injustice – has to be addressed. Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguistic scholar/professor/philosopher states succinctly: “the solution of the problem of terrorism – When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes."

Concurrent with the ‘war on terrorism’, many in the US are profiled and targeted (the Patriot Act refers), especially if they “look” like a Muslim or Arab. Certain First Amendment constitutional rights are being eroded, as noted by Howard Zinn: “It is ironic, but a historical truth, repeated again and again, that exactly at those moments when citizens need the greatest freedom to speak their minds, exactly when life and death issues are involved, that is, when the question is war or peace, it is then that our liberties are taken away. The juggernaut of war crushes democracy, just when the nation claims it is fighting for democracy.” (From the Forward in Silencing Political Dissent by Nancy Chang). Pope John Paul II referenced the “Encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, which called attention to the essential bond between human freedom and truth, so that freedom which refused to be bound to the truth would fall into arbitrariness and end up submitting itself to the vilest of passions, to the point of self-destruction.” (See Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus… Rerum Novarum)

The world’s greatest self-proclaimed democracy is at a crossroad, threatening civil liberties, deny habeas corpus of the ‘profiled’. Why? Because there seems to be an extremism in thinking that pervades the Bush administration and many self-proclaimed “defenders of freedom” (sic). Is there the creation of a paranoia of revenge in the name of ‘patriotism’? Note the words from different administration quarters denouncing some countries as “rogue states”, the assertion that there is a "campaign of hatred against us", and Bush’s lamentation: "Why do they hate us?" – those in the “axis of evil.” Let us beware of false zealots. Pope John Paul II warned: “[Our] traditional society [is] passing away and another [is] beginning to be formed — one which brought the hope of new freedoms but also the threat of new forms of injustice and servitude.” (Op cit)

The demonizing of others is a deliberate methodology. Many are fearful to speak out against these so-called advocates of “freedom”. Robert Jensen ponders: “More freedom, less democracy? Free speech is fragile and democracy is in danger of disappearing in the United States. This claim rests on two assertions:

1. Meaningful free speech is about more than the guarantee of a legal right to speak freely and the absence of governmental repression.
2. Meaningful democracy is about more than the existence of institutions that have democratic features.” (

Thurgood Marshall admonished us sagaciously: “History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in time of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure. The World War II relocation-camp cases, and the Red Scare and McCarthy-era internal subversion cases, are only the most extreme reminders that when we allow fundamental freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of real or perceived exigency, we invariably come to regret it.” (Quoted in Nancy Chang, op cit). The newfound Bush doctrine of preemptive strike (following the pattern of Ronald Reagan in Libya and Grenada) may eventually make new bedfellows of the McCarthys of this world.

Despite opposition from France, Russia and China, from many senior senators and congressmen and congresswomen, and from anti-war and pacifist groups worldwide, the UN Security Council is being pressured relentlessly to accept the "final" US draft and pass a resolution to approve Mr. Bush’s (and Tony Blair’s) war on Iraq. However, as publicly stated, even if the resolution is not passed the US is prepared to go to war “alone and take all necessary measures, including military action, in pursuit of its national security interest.” British Prime Minister who is having a difficult time with the British public for his alliance with Bush has tempered his voice somewhat after the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin called his dossier “propaganda”. Blair’s body language after Putin’s remarks was certainly not as buoyant as when he was selling his dossier to the House of Commons. Does this suggest that Tony Blair lied (“propaganda” is the diplomatic word for “lie”) to the House of Commons?

If there is unilateral declaration of war by the US then “A precedent will have been set, to all intents and purposes, that suggests that a member state, if it feels strongly enough about a given issue, can go ahead with pre-emptive military action without UN authority. That undermines the UN charter and international law and the system of collective responsibility and collective self-defence that has been in place (and fully supported by previous US administrations) since 1945. It is a recipe for chaos in international affairs.” (Simon Tisdall, Guardian Unlimited.)

Whatever way one looks at it a war has been going on (since the Gulf War sanctions have being applied) in Iraq, the consequence of which has resulted in varying kinds of deprivation, hunger, disease and deaths, estimates of which range from 500,000 to 1,000,000, most of whom are children. Today the life expectancy of the infants in Iraq is alarming – 1 in 5 do not reach the age of five, this being directly related to the sanctions. Also, undeclared war continues with regular flying of US and British warplanes and dropping of “thousands of missiles and bombs” (88,500 bombs) in the north and south, containing 300 tons of depleted uranium which gets in the soil and water, and hence consumed by animals and humans. Also, according to the NY Times October 15, 2002 “senior administration officials said they were trying to foment an uprising in Iraq…. Congressional officials said the Central Intelligence Agency had already begun covert operations in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. And military officials said the Pentagon planned to start a psychological operations campaign, which would probably include broadcasts and leaflet drops in coming weeks urging Iraqi military leaders to defect or rise up against Mr. Hussein.”

Through all of this “war on terrorism” President Bush remains very focused, like a religious zealot, about unilateral preemptive war on Iraq, and so too are his close administration staff. However, it is not simply “war on terrorism” as we are led to believe. Mr. Bush is obsessed. He is determined to secure a foothold in Iraq. Oil has been big in his entire life.

Imperialism. Capitalism. Globalism. These are faceless and brutal!

Not all Americans however share his vision of the war on Iraq. Many in and out of Congress and the Senate are bitterly opposed to preemptive war. Some are opposed to any war because “War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutal desecration of their memory.” It is good that people in high places (like Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Ron Paul and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Joseph Biden, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Ramsey Clark, former President and Nobel Laureate Jimmy Carter and others, including those of the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and Hollywood celebrities Susan Sarandon, Barbara Streisand, Woody Harrelson, Sean Penn, speak out, whatever views are taken. Many others are cowed into silence for being labeled anti-American since Bush’s famous words “either [you are] for me or against me”. We are reminded by Arundhati Roy that “The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in US government policy come from American citizens…. To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just racist, it's a failure of the imagination. An inability to see the world in terms other than those that the establishment has set out for you: If you don't love us, you hate us. If you're not good, you're evil. If you're not with us, you're with the terrorists.” (The Guardian September 27, 2002)

The more one contemplates the global scenario of wars and especially war conducted by the US, the more one becomes convinced of the US duplicity in its foreign policy. Officials use the language of double-speak; they use euphemism (like “collateral damages” and “soft targets”) to describe the most gruesome extreme violence – death. And they do so with a smile or smirk, with clinical detachment. Like Pontius Pilate, with clean hands and clean conscious! And then the parting invocation: God bless you. God bless America.

But then this is the methodology of the post-modern leaders of economic and cultural imperialism. Nowadays, the preferred sanitized term is globalism or globalization, but the concept and modus operandi are the same. So it is necessary to engage in prior propaganda and to demonize those who are “not with us”. As an example, when Rev. Jerry Falwell said on CBS ‘60 minutes’ that Prophet Muhammad "was a violent man, a man of war" and a “terrorist", it was not a slip of the tongue; it was intended. Recall that slaves and all exploited people during colonialism were told and made to believe that they were inferior, subhuman beings. They were ‘called names’. And told that their religion was false and that they were “pagans”. That their dress, food, music, dance, and thus their culture was backward and uncivilized. The leaders then as now had to find justification for their actions. And so they convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing, and that God was on their side. And that is why present-day leaders can go to their churches every Sunday, sing lustily, pray dutifully and come out smiling – all is well – assumedly without a pang or grief or regret!

The philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We need to learn history, the true lessons of history.

Well, this is another story – we’ll have to talk a lot of history, about philosophy, about belief systems and religion that condone, even advocate a world where there must be inequalities – those that have and those that do not have. Can you imagine that there were/are people who in this day and age literally believe that inequalities are genetically ordained? Just read about Sir Francis Galton who coined the word ‘eugenics’ and proposed that only the healthiest and ablest people should have children, thus improving humanity; and the eugenics movement in England and America during the early part of the last century, and even a couple years ago. These people are all cranks. One of the promoters of such thought was a Nobel Laureate for Physics, William Shockley. Similarly, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray of The Bell Curve notoriety more recently proposed that humans are pre-destined genetically to their social niche in society. All of the advocates used pseudo-scientific methods to buttress their ideas. They used term like social-Darwinism to gain (scientific) credibility. They used terms like "feeblemindedness" and talked about people with "bad" genes as "genetically unfit”, and discouraged these “inferior” individuals from having children, even by sterilization, while encouraging reproduction among those with "good" genes. The “new science” of eugenics was immersed in Eurocentrism, bigoted, racist, and was subject to political and social prejudices, rather than based on scientific facts. Indeed eugenics was a tool used for social legislation to separate racial and ethnic groups, to restrict immigration in parts of Europe and in America, and to subjugate those people considered “feebleminded”. The Nazis welcomed the eugenicists in their super-race ideology.

Social stratification and the furtherance of the philosophies of hierarchical placement of humans into categories because it “is their lot”, whether pre-destined genetically to be “fit” or “unfit” (as in the social Darwinist mold), or the God-given rights of kings and rulers, became the harsh reality, and an entire education system was built in America during the early part of the 20th century.

Thus the current methodology is not happenstance, but rather systematic, intentional, pragmatic, and used expediently depending on the exigency in time and place. This is how Winston Churchill put it in one instance regarding the Palestinians in 1937: “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” (Quoted from Arundhati Roy: Not Again. The Guardian, September 27, 2002)

Saddam Hussein? "Sure he has biological weapons," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York. "We gave them to him." And here is the duplicity: “Today, we know that that same year [1988] the US government provided him [Saddam Hussein] with $500m in subsidies to buy American farm products. The next year, after he had successfully completed his genocidal campaign [against the Kurds], the US government doubled its subsidy to $1bn. It also provided him with high-quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters and dual-use material that could be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

It turns out that while Saddam was carrying out his worst atrocities, the US and UK governments were his close allies. So what changed?” (Arundhati Roy, op cit). The then President Bush Sr. and Saddam Hussein were kissing buddies during the Iraqi/Iranian war. We have seen similar duplicitous policy in other countries like Sudan, Grenada, Panama and Afghanistan. The outspoken American writer and critic, Gore Vidal, said, “Americans have no idea of the extent of their government's mischief ... [T]he number of military strikes we have made unprovoked, against other countries, since 1947 is more than 250.” (Quoted from The Guardian)

The double standard is quite obvious and transparent: “The US has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It's the only country in the world to have actually used them on civilian populations. If the US is justified in launching a pre-emptive attack on Iraq, why, any nuclear power is justified in carrying out a pre-emptive attack on any other.” Will the US allow international inspectors to inspect its arsenal of nuclear and biological? Will the US have a preemptive strike on Russia now that Russia used the mystery gas in the Chechen hostage crisis that killed hundreds?

“Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They're usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then of course there's the business of war. Protecting its control of the world's oil is fundamental to US foreign policy. The US government's recent military interventions in the Balkans and Central Asia have to do with oil. Hamid Karzai, the puppet president of Afghanistan installed by the US, is said to be a former employee of Unocal, the American-based oil company. The US government's paranoid patrolling of the Middle East is because it has two-thirds of the world's oil reserves. Oil keeps America's engines purring sweetly. Oil keeps the free market rolling. Whoever controls the world's oil controls the world's market. And how do you control the oil?” (Arundhati Roy: Not Again, The Guardian, September 27, 2002)

So what is the real reason for the preemptive strike? 1. To maintain American and British militarism. The military-industrial complex is immense. Big corporations involved in the complex thrive on war. They become extremely rich, and they are blind to any adverse consequences. 2. To control the vast reserve of oil in the region so that we must be “allowed to continue [our] way of life.” 3. A third reason may be playing out: Mr. Bush may be advancing a personal war against Saddam Hussein – to finish what the senior Bush could not have done.

Are we going to have a preemptive strike? If we are to be guided by history and dialectical reflection, the possibility weighs in favor of a Bush war. However, if the people of America tell Mr. Bush that it is the people who put him there, then he must do as the people wish – No More War, Not Again! The American people must tell him so.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”

See also The Iraq Invasion
Gary Girdhari is the Editor of Guyana Journal. A scientist by training, he now writes mostly on social and political issues. He is a pacifist and environmentalist.


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