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American public left in dark on US war aims in Iraq

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    American public left in dark on US war aims in Iraq By Patrick Martin 6 August 2002 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/aug2002/iraq-a06.shtml The discussion
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6, 2002
      American public left in dark on US war aims in Iraq

      By Patrick Martin

      6 August 2002


      The discussion that has broken out in official Washington over when and
      how to go to war with Iraq is in no sense a genuine public debate.
      Representatives of various factions of the ruling eliteBush administration
      officials, congressional leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties,
      the military-intelligence establishmentare weighing in. But the American
      people are excluded. There is no genuine democratic content in these
      discussions, which include, among other topics, intensive consideration of
      how to manipulate public opinion.

      The very terms of the debate at Senate hearings held July 31-August 1
      revealed the cynical and sinister character of the congressional
      proceedings. Speaker after speaker agreed that Saddam Hussein should be
      removed as Iraqi ruler and that the United States government had the right
      to carry out a policy of regime change in a country on the other side of
      the world. The only differences expressed were over the best methods for
      accomplishing this goaland the best means for selling such a war to the
      American people.

      The official US debate might be entitled, with apologies to Pirandello,
      Six Wars in Search of a Pretext. The entire political and media
      establishment agrees on the goal of war with Iraq. But different factions
      propose rival scenarios.

      Some advocate the Afghan model: the use of high-tech weaponry, CIA spies
      and a small force of US troops on the ground, combined with massive air
      power. Others, particularly in the Pentagon, see something more akin to
      the 1991 Persian Gulf War, with half as many troops, perhaps 250,000, to
      occupy the country. Another proposal is for tank columns to race from
      Kuwait to Baghdad, targeting only the Iraqi Republican Guards, in the
      belief that regular Iraqi army troops will not fight for Saddam Hussein. A
      fourth version is an airborne assault on the Iraqi capital, aimed at
      decapitating the regime by killing the Iraqi president. A scenario
      involving a military coup and the assassination of Hussein also has its

      The political pretext for hostilities with Iraq keeps shifting, as the
      Bush administration seeks, so far unsuccessfully, to find a pretext that
      can stampede the public behind its war plans.

      On one day war against Iraq is necessary because UN weapons inspectors
      have been absent from the country since 1998, and Baghdad has supposedly
      resumed the development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
      (However, when Iraq offered last week to readmit the inspectors, the Bush
      administration immediately rejected the proposal).

      The next day Husseins removal from power is declared a must because the
      Iraqi ruler already has weapons of mass destruction and may give them to
      Al Qaedaalthough the enmity between the Islamic fundamentalism of Al Qaeda
      and the secular nationalism of Husseins Baathist regime is well

      A day later it turns out that Hussein must be removed because he might use
      weapons of mass destruction against American targets himself (although
      that would be suicide for his regime) or against Israel (which possesses
      an estimated 200 nuclear bombs).

      On the morrow Hussein is declared a threat to his Arab neighbors and to
      the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf to world markets, despite the fact
      that Iraq signed a boundary agreement with Kuwait giving up all claims on
      the emirate, and that all of the Gulf states publicly oppose an American
      attack on Baghdad.

      By the end of the week, Saddam Hussein is declared responsible for the
      September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
      justifying a retaliatory war.

      This latestand most desperateattempt to manufacture a casus belli was
      reported by the Los Angeles Times August 2. The newspaper wrote that the
      White House and Pentagon had decided to endorse claims that suicide
      hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi official in the Czech Republic
      several months before September 11, although both the CIA and FBI have
      dismissed the Czech report as unproven and unfounded. As the front-page LA
      Times report made clear, the Bush administration made its decision not as
      a result of new intelligence information, but because it felt the need for
      a September 11 link to generate support for its war plans.

      The reason for this thrashing about in search of a pretext for war is the
      fact that the real motives cannot be revealed to the American people. The
      preparations for war have a twofold cause: the drive by the American
      ruling elite to establish unchallenged control over Persian Gulf oil, the
      most important strategic prize in the world, and the desire of the Bush
      administration to divert public attention from the mounting social and
      political crisis at home, expressed most clearly in the corporate scandals
      and the plunging stock market.

      At the Senate hearings, both Democrats and Republicans expressed concern
      that the Bush administration had failed to devise a workable plan for
      military operations, mobilize support internationally, or rally American
      public opinion behind an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Republican
      Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska asked, Would we further destabilize the
      entire Middle East if we took military action against him? Who would be
      our allies? And what kind of support would there be inside Iraq? These
      kinds of questions are critical. You could inflame the whole Middle East
      plus Iran.

      Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, voiced
      confidence in assurances from the Bush administration that there would be
      no overt military moves against Iraq until early in 2003. He said he would
      be very, very surprised, adding that President Bush is nowhere near making
      the hard decision as to when and how. But in a subsequent appearance on
      the NBC program Meet the Press August 4, Biden said that ultimately the
      decision would be for war, and that Bush would be able to make a case for
      it to Congress and the public.

      In his opening statement, the committees ranking Republican, Richard Lugar
      of Indiana, painted a somber picture of the consequences of war in the
      Persian Gulf. This is not an action that can be sprung on the American
      people, he said. We must estimate soberly the human and economic cost of
      war plans and postwar plans.

      The Senate hearings adjourned August 1 and will resume in September with
      testimony from administration officials. Similar hearings will begin
      before the House International Affairs Committee, chaired by conservative
      Republican Henry Hyde of Illinois, who headed the impeachment effort
      against President Clinton. Hyde said that a full-scale invasion of Iraq
      may not be the best course of action, and urged serious debate on whatever
      plan is eventually proposed by the White House.

      The American press continues to cite deep divisions within the Bush
      administration over the war plans. The Washington Post reported August 1
      that Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are
      pushing most forcefully for aggressively confronting Hussein, arguing that
      he presents a serious threat and that time is not on the side of the
      United States, while Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director
      George Tenet are asking skeptical questions about a military campaign,
      especially about the aftermath of what most in the administration assume
      would be a fairly swift victory.

      Much of the senior Army and Navy command has opposed an immediate strike
      at Iraq on practical grounds, lining up with Powell, the former chairman
      of the joint chiefs, in an unusual alliance between the State Department
      and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that
      more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.

      The Post account said that at a July 10 meeting of the Defense Policy
      Board, a civilian advisory group that has spearheaded the drive for war as
      soon as possible, officials voiced frustration with military opposition
      and called for a few heads to roll in the Army command.

      The criticism of Bushs policy towards Iraq voiced by Army generals,
      Democrats and liberals has nothing to do with opposition to American
      aggression. Rather, the concern is that the administration is proceeding
      recklessly, without making the preparations necessary for a protracted and
      bloody struggle and without sufficiently considering the international
      ramifications of such a war.

      There is particular concern over the vehement opposition to a US war
      expressed by most of the European countries and by longtime US allies and
      stooges in the Middle East itself. French President Jacques Chirac and
      German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, voicing the common view of the European
      governments, except for Great Britain, said July 30 they would support a
      US war against Iraq only if it was endorsed by the UN Security Councilan
      unlikely event given that France, Russia and China all have veto power

      King Abdullah of Jordan visited Washington August 1 and met with Bush at
      the White House. During a stop in London on his way to the talks, he gave
      press interviews declaring that US officials were making a tremendous
      mistake if they ignored international opposition to an invasion of Iraq.
      [E]verybody is saying this is a bad idea, he said. If it seems America
      says we want to hit Baghdad, thats not what Jordanians think, or the
      British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese and everybody else.

      Abdullah rebuffed claims by US officials that they would use Jordan as a
      staging area for troop movements into Iraq and air strikes on that
      country. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said, Jordan has made
      it clear it cannot be used as a launching pad, and added, we have not been

      In a column published August 1 in the Washington Post, Samuel Berger,
      national security adviser in the Clinton administration, warned against
      the danger of a Bay of Pigs in the Persian Gulfi.e., an ill-prepared
      attack that results in a military and political debacle.

      Berger wrote, [W]e must define the necessary objective more broadly than
      simply eliminating Husseins regime. We must achieve that in a way that
      enhancesnot diminishesAmericas overall security. The former Clinton aide
      expressed particular concern over the destabilization of other regimes in
      the region, concluding, It would be a Pyrrhic victory, for example, if we
      got rid of Saddam Hussein only to face a radical government in Pakistan
      with a ready-made nuclear arsenal.

      Similar concerns were voiced in an August 3 editorial in the New York
      Times, which appealed to Bush to talk candidly about why he feels military
      action against Iraq may soon be necessary, and what the goals, costs and
      potential consequences of a war would be. Expressing fear of the
      consequences of even a successful war, the Times noted, Military victory
      in Iraq would leave Washington temporarily responsible for guiding the
      future of a major Arab oil-producing country in the heart of the Middle
      East. The first challenge would be preventing Iraqs dissolution... A
      splintered Iraq would tempt Iran, frighten Turkey and perhaps lead to
      regional war.

      The Times concluded, with typical sanctimony, that a unilateral US attack
      on Iraq must be preceded by democratic deliberation and informed
      decision-making. However, there is no assurance that the Bush
      administration will even seek formal congressional sanction for military

      Both Biden and Lugar said they expected Bush to do so, as his father did
      in 1990 before the first US war in the Persian Gulf. Two Senate Democrats,
      Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, introduced a
      resolution July 30 calling on the administration not to initiate a war
      with Iraq without congressional consent. Republican Arlen Specter
      introduced a similar resolution two weeks earlier, but Republican Minority
      Leader Trent Lott said the White House could launch a war on Iraq on its
      own authority.

      The US Constitution explicitly reserves the power to declare war to
      Congress, but this provision has been largely ignored by American
      presidents throughout the Cold War and its aftermath. The last war
      declared by Congress was World War II, and US governments have waged wars
      in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan, and dispatched troops
      for lesser combat in dozens of other countries, either with no
      congressional vote at all or with resolutions that fell short of an
      outright declaration of war.

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