Invasion of Iraq
Gary Girdhari

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war
in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,
for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword.
It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.
And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch
and the blood boils with hate
and the mind has closed, the leader will have no
need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry,
infused with fear and blinded with patriotism, will offer up all of
their rights unto the leader, and gladly so.

How do I know?

For this is what I have done.

And I am Caesar."

I listened intently to President George W. Bush’s speech on television hoping that I may gather some new information to convince me that he is doing the right thing to kick off a war on Iraq. President Bush told the nation and the world that Iraq "stands alone" as a threat, armed with weapons of mass destruction controlled by a "murderous tyrant."

Post speech: I remain apprehensive and unconvinced not only because I am philosophically a pacifist and anti-war but also because the reasons advanced for war on Iraq are not compelling. I have followed the debate on C-Span, and Senator Robert C. Byrd, Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Ohio Dennis Kucinich, for example, are more persuasive advocates against any such war. Pointing that a ‘Rush to War Ignores U.S. Constitution’ Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-VA, October 3, 2002 says, “The principle of one government deciding to eliminate another government, using force to do so, and taking that action in spite of world disapproval, is a very disquieting thing. I am concerned that it has the effect of destabilizing the world community of nations. I am concerned that it fosters a climate of suspicion and mistrust in U.S. relations with other nations. The United States is not a rogue nation, given to unilateral action in the face of worldwide opprobrium.

Let us guard against the perils of haste, lest the Senate fall prey to the dangers of taking action that is both blind and improvident.”

Presidential Advisor Condaliza Rice has not been convincing but rather repeating the worn out Bush’s mantra. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is war man, a General, who can only stand for war as he does in also doing his boss’ bidding – which is fine for both Rice and Powell, except that they are mimicking argument with little variation that are merely circumspect vis-à-vis the President’s resolute and hyperactive pro-war plaudits.

Someone also felt that Bush is intoxicated with the thought of a Doctrine in his name (the preemption doctrine) for posterity.

As is known only the UK and the US are determined to launch an attack on Iraq, unilaterally if necessary; the big and powerful countries of Europe together with China and Russia have not given support for the intended war. (As an aside small countries generally do not matter in the equations; they simply do as they are told, with a little political arm-twisting and economic coercion.)

Personally I am very disturbed with the prospect of yet another war – just after Afghanistan. Did the war in Afghanistan achieve its objective? Probably so – for the select Afghans and wealthy US industrial military complex that always benefit from wars. The Taliban has been dispersed or minimized in numbers, but bin Laden is still at large, which was/should have been the primary objective. But for most it was a disaster. Afghanistan was reduced to ruin and rubble, near pre-historic conditions. The elite have taken control and the masses are suffering, in dire need for the mere basics to sustain life. Warlords run amok. An anachronistic return of a king is hailed. And of course the people can now watch American movies.

Since President Bush assumed office a couple years ago, his presidency has been consumed with conflicts which have brought peril and misery not only to the war torn areas but also domestically. The USA is going to the dogs, meaning that the economy is really terrible. Large-scale layoffs are occurring too often, and gainful employment is shrinking. The surplus that he gained from former president Bill Clinton is now reduced to a deficit in just two years. The stock market is dipping lower and lower and lower, and my (and others like me) paltry investment, like the widow’s mite, is dwindling, not to be compensated by the illusory pension. The picture is rather grim and depressing.

Who should I point my finger at – WorldCom, Enron, Global Crossing, Halliburton, (the firm headed by Dick Cheney before he became vice president, which is now supplying United States military bases near Afghanistan)? Sure, they are part of the deal, but it is all happening under President Bush’s watch. And the wars are not helping, except for the few in the military and quasi-military business, for example, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and TRW, and others.

Steven Rosenfeld from says, “Wealthy Americans Have Always Made Fortunes in War… Congress is now poised to pass the biggest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan's administration. The House and Senate versions of the defense budget, which have yet to be reconciled and adopted, authorize roughly $400 billion in spending for the federal 2003 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill also commits taxpayers to "additional outlays" of $400 billion between 2002 and 2007.

The defense budget increase is itself larger than any country's entire defense budget with the sole exception of Russia, as reported in The Washington Post and elsewhere. The U.S. defense budget is larger than the total defense budgets of next 25 nations combined. But it's not all U.S. military spending.
The defense budget doesn't include the entire Pentagon budget for Star Wars, which will militarize space with new nuclear weapons. It doesn't include unforeseen spending for the war on terrorism. It doesn't include the costs of a new war with Iraq. And it doesn't include yet another plum for American weapons-makers: what NATO allies may spend updating their militaries.”

Most Republicans are expected to support President Bush. Others also offer support not for conscionable reasons but for pragmatic political ends – election time – and they do not want to appear unpatriotic. But their premise is false and hypocritical! "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." So said Theodore Roosevelt.

Sen. Byrd chastised: "The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the more so because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems. Before risking the lives of American troops, all members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike – must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most serious issue." Byrd further admonished: "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict. The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the President's authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands the charter of the United Nations on its head."

Shame on Richard Gephardt and Senate majority leader Tom Daschle!

I pledge that as a democrat I shall never give my vote to any democrat who supports the war. And I shall try to influence as many as possible to follow me. I also urge others to take a similar stand on the issue. Too many of us are living in fear – scared to be labeled ‘unpatriotic’. But it is necessary to speak out against any form of injustice, and thus let our conscious be our guide.

Below are excerpts of statements about the proposed war in Iraq:

Despite the administration's push there are many voices of dissent and protests nationwide (and internationally). Many lawmakers (although in the minority) especially Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, in both House and Senate argue that it is a mistake to give President Bush such broad authority for force.

Regarding the debate on the resolution to authorize the president to use force against Iraq:

Senator James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent, said that he could not open the door to a unilateral military incursion by the United States. "I fear that this administration is, perhaps unwittingly, heading us into a miserable cycle of waging wars that isolate our nation internationally and stir up greater hatred of America."

Many House Democrats criticized the scope of the resolution and the latitude it would give the president.

Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia said, "War with Iraq will not bring peace to the Middle East. War is easy. But peace is hard. Peace is right, and it is just and it is true."

Representative David E. Bonior, a Michigan Democrat who was one of three lawmakers who traveled recently to Iraq asked, "By going it alone, what signal do we issue by tossing aside diplomacy?"

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas, "The debate we begin this week is really a question of life or death, the most serious debate we have had in this Congress since the Vietnam War, which saw 56,000 body bags come home to loved ones in America."

Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan said, "The outcome of this vote may be preordained, but the issue itself needs to be nailed down in public. What we're talking about this week isn't just about whether to use force now, but whether America now and in the future is going to use force by itself or as part of collective action. That matters. That needs to be debated."

Many commentators ventilated their objection to an invasion.
James Carroll from The Boston Globe, Oct. 8, 2002
“By asserting "preemption" President Bush is leading America to embrace a course of action it has long condemned in others.
The hubris of overwhelming power is corrupting the nation.” ‘America cannot write its own rules for the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run amok.’ Bush is undercutting the war on terrorism, destroying alliances, setting dangerous precedents, and eviscerating America's moral legitimacy.”

Nicholas D. Kristof The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2002
“American military strategy assumes popular support from Iraqis facilitating an invasion and occupation, the White House is making an error that could haunt us for years.

Still, while I found few people willing to fight for Saddam, I encountered plenty of nationalists willing to defend Iraq against Yankee invaders. And while ordinary Iraqis were very friendly toward me, they were enraged at the U.S. after 11 years of economic sanctions.”

The US is further alienating Muslims worldwide.

Molly Ivins, The Baltimore Sun, Sept. 26, 2002
This plan is guaranteed to produce more terrorists. Even if this country were to become some insane, 21st-century version of Sparta – armed to the teeth, guards on every foot of our borders – we still wouldn't be safe. Not only would we not be safe, we would not have a nickel left for schools or health care or roads or parks or zoos or gardens or universities or mass transit or senior centers or the arts or anything resembling civilization. This is nuts.”

The Albion Monitor states:
“America doesn't have many close friends in the Muslim world, and we really have no one to blame but ourselves. When you review the history of the last fifty years, a shameful picture of U.S. foreign policy emerges. In that time, we have repeatedly worked against the best interests of both the people of the other country and ourselves by propping up anti-democratic regimes.”

Seumas Milne, The Guardian, Sept. 27, 2002
“The planned U.S. invasion of Iraq will increase the threat of war throughout the world. By legitimising pre-emptive attacks, it will lower the threshold for the use of force and make aggression by powerful states more likely. It will encourage nuclear proliferation, as states rush to get hold of some protective deterrent. It will damage the fabric of international law and multilateral treaties. It will encourage terrorism by pouring oil on the flames of anti-western rage.”

Ivan Eland, Cato Institute, August 19, 2002
“Occupation of an Islamic country by the United States could be a recruiting poster for Islamic terrorists. An invasion of Iraq would play right into al Qaeda's hands. Terrorists hope for an excessive, intrusive response by their adversary so that they can recruit more supporters.”

Paul Starr, Robert Kuttner and Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, Sept. 25, 2002
“Indeed, war with Iraq is as likely to aggravate the problem of terrorism as it is to reduce it: It threatens to deflect our efforts from the struggle against terrorism, jeopardize cooperation from our allies, intensify hostility in the Arab world, and entangle us in further conflicts in the region.”

Arianna Huffington, Arianna Online, Sept. 26, 2002
“But taking unilateral action against Iraq will only solidify the fragmented opposition, pushing our enemies together (and many of our friends away), and leaving us to go it alone – not just against Iraq but in the much wider war on terror. ‘A uniquely American internationalism,’ indeed.”

Claude Salhani, United Press International, Sept. 19, 2002
“The way many see it, a U.S. war on Iraq could well pull Israel into the conflict, and as a result, unwillingly force other Arab countries into the battle… fuel the Islamist fundamentalists' anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western stance, and place Arab regimes currently friendly toward the United States in a very precarious situation… An American-led invasion of Iraq is likely to anger young people in the already explosive Arab-Islamic world, which instead of preventing future terrorist attacks, would only be adding fuel to the already ardent Mideast fire. It will inevitably lead to a backlash among politico-religious groups across Muslim countries and communities. This will surely increase terrorism globally...”

Salman Rushdie, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 10, 2002
“… if, in today's highly charged atmosphere, the U.S. embarks on the huge, risky military operation suggested by the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, then the result may well be the creation of that united Islamic force which was bin Laden's dream. The entire Arab world would be radicalized and destabilized. What a disastrous twist of fate it would be if the feared Islamic jihad were brought into being not by the al Qaeda gang but by the President of the United States and his close advisers.”

Tom Plate, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 23, 2002
“… a Western attack on Iraq would erect a wall of mistrust between the West and the Muslim world and create psychological conditions conducive to the growth of vicious terrorism. It would be a cure far worse than the disease of Hussein if the result were a renewed and seemingly permanent geopolitical plague of terrorism, especially against the United States and Israel.

[Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed]: "If America persists in removing Saddam Hussein by military means, it will only anger the Muslim world. The Muslim world is already angry enough for them to produce terrorists who carry out suicide attacks. If the attack on Saddam Hussein is mounted, there will be more willing recruits in the terrorist ranks."

An anti-Muslim crusade may be the furthest thing from Washington's mind, but the ‘perception is that Muslim countries seem to be the target everywhere,’ as Mahathir puts it. The growing perception is of one civilization gunning for another, rich against poor, light against dark. Hard facts are not always as memorable or enduring as gut impressions.”

Stephen Zunes, The Nation, Sept. 12, 2002
“A U.S. invasion of Iraq would likely lead to an outbreak of widespread anti-American protests throughout the Middle East, perhaps even attacks against American interests. Some pro-Western regimes could become vulnerable to internal radical forces. Passions are particularly high in light of strong U.S. support for the policies of Israel's rightist government and its ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The anger over U.S. double standards regarding Israeli and Iraqi violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions and possession of weapons of mass destruction could reach a boiling point. Recognizing that the United States cannot be defeated on the battlefield, more and more Arabs and Muslims resentful of American hegemony in their heartland may be prone to attack by unconventional means, as was so tragically demonstrated last September 11. The Arab foreign ministers, aware of such possibilities, warned at their meeting in Cairo that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would ‘open the gates of hell.’”

Kathryn Casa, The Brattleboro Reformer, Sept. 23, 2002
“In the Islamic world, much of which suffers from poverty and animosity institutionalized by years of lopsided U.S. foreign policy, this illogical war will burn hatred and a thirst for revenge into generations of Muslims. And because Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States, Americans will re-learn and re-live still more bigotry, prejudice and fear.”

Reason for War: No proof required according to Bush.

Arianna Huffington, Arianna Online, Sept. 30, 2002
“Instead of bothering to give the least defense of his sudden fusion of Saddam and Osama, Bush launched into a fantasy-fueled diatribe: "The danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that Al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

The president's regressed condition is spreading like the West Nile virus throughout the West Wing and beyond.

Witness the symptomatic blurring of fact and fantasy exhibited by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When asked at an Armed Services Committee hearing about what is now compelling us to ‘take precipitous actions’ against Iraq, Rumsfeld barked: ‘What's different? What's different is 3,000 people were killed.’ Yeah, by Mohammed Atta and company – not Saddam Hussein. But why quibble over details when there is a propaganda war to be won?’”

Note here that Ronald Reagan had cooperated with Saddam Hussein in the 1980's, sustaining Iraq’s biological weapons program, and so did Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former president George H. W. Bush. Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York said, "Sure he has biological weapons. We gave them to him." And we did it right here in the US when the United States military held open-air biological and chemical weapons tests using nerve agents sarin and VX in at least four states — Alaska, Hawaii, Maryland and Florida — during the 1960s.

Molly Ivins The Baltimore Sun, Sept. 26, 2002
"The National Security Strategy of the United States – 2002" is repellent, unnecessary and, above all, impractical ... All of the experts tell us anti-Americanism thrives on the perception that we are arrogant, that we care nothing for what the rest of the world thinks. Even our innocent mistakes are often blamed on obnoxious triumphalism. The announced plan of this administration for world domination reinforces every paranoid, anti-American prejudice on this Earth.

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Sept. 29, 2002
“The draft resolution Bush has presented to the Perm Five at the U.N. Security Council is clearly designed to prevent U.N. arms inspectors from beginning their work, to encourage Iraq to back away from its commitment to unfettered access for inspectors by significantly raising the bar of what would constitute compliance. It is crafted to make a U.S. or U.S.-British military attack inevitable and cloaked with some kind of United Nations imprimatur.

As one European diplomat described it, "This isn't a resolution for inspections. This is a declaration of war."

Nelson Mandela, The Guardian, September 13, 2002
"Neither Bush nor Tony Blair has provided any evidence that such weapons exist. But what we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white."

In an article: No Case for War, The Editors of The Nation wrote:
“Why, one year after September 11, is the Bush Administration attempting to overthrow decades of precedents and precepts of international law, along with the best traditions of US foreign policy, in a relentless push to war? … The arguments are debatable at best, spurious at worst – like the innuendo that Iraq is linked to Al Qaeda (in fact, Osama bin Laden regards Saddam Hussein as an apostate); that "containment has failed" (since the Gulf War, Iraq's military capabilities have weakened significantly and the regime poses little or no threat to its neighbors, who oppose invasion); or that inspection cannot adequately determine whether Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction (from 1991 to 1998, inspectors destroyed much of Iraq's stockpile of chemical and bioweapons). One could go on, but the point is that all along, this Administration has followed the Alice in Wonderland logic of the Queen: sentence first, verdict later.

The White House has sought to justify the right to mount an attack by the new Bush doctrine of pre-emption – or anticipatory self-defense. But this country is a member of the United Nations, which was founded to prevent wars of aggression. And under that body's charter, the United States can use force only in response to an attack on itself, or if approved by the Security Council. Otherwise, the Administration has no right to take this country into war – or even to threaten the use of force….

With the executive branch committed to war, those who morally oppose an invasion of Iraq – because of the suffering it would inflict on US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, because of its potential to destabilize the region, because it would distract this country from the brokering of an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, because a war in Iraq would detract from the campaign against Al Qaeda and from pressing domestic needs – have only Congress to turn to. That prospect doesn't offer much comfort, since the Democratic leadership in the Senate appears ready to write the Administration a resolution authorizing military action, albeit with some conditions….

The principle of Congressional oversight of the most fundamental decision government can make – whether to send its sons and daughters into danger – will have been entirely abandoned... A Congressional vote for pre-emptive assault would create a damaging precedent, abrogate the UN charter, imperil the Constitution and transform the President into an imperial overlord.”

In another article in The Nation “War on Iraq Is Wrong”, the Editors stated:
“If the Bush Administration has its way, Iraq will be the first test of its new doctrine of pre-emption, which calls for early unilateral action against enemies suspected of posing a threat to America.… Yet we hear no opposition from leading Democrats either regarding the new doctrine – which will alienate allies and makes us even more hated around the world, and will be used by other nations as a pretext for settling their own scores….

The Administration seems to recognize the weakness of its case and has begun to shift the rationale for a pre-emptive strike to the danger that Saddam may pass weapons of mass destruction on to terrorist groups that threaten the United States...

So the case for the pre-emptive use of force seems to boil down to conjecture at best... To establish order quickly, the United States would require the active support and participation of the European Union, Russia and other neighboring countries. But these countries are adamantly opposed to US pre-emptive action. Thus, if the United States proceeds alone or with only tacit support from others, Iraq's collapse into anarchy cannot be ruled out.”

Debora MacKenzie, The New Scientist, Sept. 18, 2002
“UNSCOM discovered that, even before the Gulf War, commanders in charge of chemical and biological weapons were authorised to use them if Baghdad was hit. ‘What would those people do after a regime change?’ asks Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. ‘Wait around to be taken prisoner?’

They might use their weapons on invading forces. But Cirincione thinks they would be more likely to smuggle them out through Iraq's suddenly uncontrolled borders, either to sell them or seek revenge on vulnerable targets. ‘A major biological attack on Tel Aviv could provoke a nuclear response from Israel,’ warns Cirincione. ‘That would open the gates of hell.’"

Probably the main reason

Some people have opined that President Bush is doing what his father failed to do. The senior Bush is quoted to say: “I hate Saddam.” So it seems that there is something personal… But oil is probably the main concern as observed below.

Michael T. Klare editorial Oiling the Wheels of War ( September 19, 2002) took a hard look at the harsh reality where the blood letting of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will satisfy the oil grabbers.

“Why is the Bush Administration so determined to topple a government that has been effectively contained by American power for eleven years?
… several reasons to justify an attack on Iraq – Saddam Hussein is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons; an invasion is needed to prevent the transfer of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to international terrorists. Another factor, however, is oil – the United States is becoming dangerously dependent on imported petroleum to meet its daily energy requirements and Iraq possesses the world's largest reserves of untapped petroleum after Saudi Arabia.

… the National Energy Policy Report, released by the White House in May 2001, known as "the [Vice President] Cheney report" … makes one thing clear: Most of America's future oil supplies will have to come from the Persian Gulf countries, which alone possess sufficient production potential to meet ever-growing US energy requirements. Thus, the report calls on the White House to place a high priority on increasing US access to Persian Gulf supplies.

… should future instability lead to a drop in Saudi oil production, which could trigger a global recession... only one country has the capacity to substantially increase oil production in the event of a Saudi collapse: Iraq.… control over Iraqi oil would allow US leaders to more easily ignore Saudi demands for US action on behalf of the Palestinians and would weaken OPEC's control over oil prices.

…. Iraq possesses vast areas of promising but unexplored hydrocarbon potential. These fields may harbor the world's largest remaining reservoir of unmapped and unclaimed petroleum – far exceeding the untapped fields in Alaska, Africa and the Caspian. Whoever gains possession of these fields will exercise enormous influence over the global energy markets of the twenty-first century.

Knowing this, and seeking allies for his confrontation with Washington, Saddam Hussein has begun to parcel out concessions to the most promising fields to oil firms in Europe, Russia and China.…

Iraqi dissidents chosen by Washington to lead the new regime in Baghdad have threatened to cancel all contracts awarded to firms in countries that fail to assist in the overthrow of Saddam. ‘We will review all of these agreements,’ said the head of the London office of the Iraqi National Congress (a dissident umbrella group backed by the United States), and those signed by Saddam Hussein will be considered invalid unless endorsed by the new government. Not surprisingly, US oil firms are expected to be awarded most of the Hussein-era contracts voided by the successor regime.”

There are many others who oppose the war. Rev. Jessie Jackson spoke out against any war. Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, called President George W. Bush a greater threat to world peace than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Harry Belafonte criticized the Bush administration and Powell in particular.

The question is: Is the US policy geared to “liberate” Iraq? Is it determined to replace a regime, to remove Saddam Hussein by any means necessary? Is it really concerned with democracy and human rights? Should the administration be more concerned with the problems in East Timor, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Palestine, and other countries where there is abject poverty, disease, misery and backwardness? And with the economy here in the US? The question is still haunting: What is the real reason for wanting to remove Saddam Hussein?

Gary Girdhari is the Editor of Guyana Journal.


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