Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 4:39 pm 
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Let's take a look at the US action in Iraq and its consequences.

The preemptive attack was condemned by much of the world. The Iraqi arms situation was tangled but the reports of Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei never justified stopping the UN inspections or starting unilateral action against Iraq. In fact Ray McGovern, with a group of former CIA men, sent the president a memorandum expressing alarm at the preponderance of "forgery, hyperbole, and half-truths" in so-called "intelligence" about Iraq put forth by the administration to justify its invasion.

Michael Kinsley described the illegality of Bush's declaring war on Iraq and the dangerous precedent it sets and said that he's "the closest thing in a long time to a dictator of the world." Bush "claims to see the future as clearly as the past," Kinsley went on. "Let's hope he's right."

Well, can an attack that's illegal and ill-justified lead to good results? The president says this war will liberate the Iraqi people, spread democracy in the Middle East, and protect the US against terrorism. Is this vision of the future valid?

The State Department itself doesn't seem to think so. A classified document leaked from that source just before the attack began has been described and analyzed in the Los Angeles Times. The report called "not credible" the "domino theory" that democracy in Iraq, in Paul D.Wolfowitz's ominous phrase, would "cast a large shadow" and lead to spreading freedom in the Middle East.

"Not credible." That means not likely.

What is likely in many experts' view is the following:

Fighting in Baghdad may come to look like the Somali capital Mogadishu in "Black Hawk Down." Smart bombs are no help in hand-to-hand street fighting. The terrain presents problems the land troops weren't prepared for. Despite American confidence in war technology, direct casualties are likely to be greater on both sides than in the Gulf War.

Post-attack Iraq could be in a state of chaos as ethnic and religious factions battle against each other for control. Iraq was never a stable country without a dictator; it may be impossible to stabilize now. There will probably be trouble with the Kurds on the Turkish-Iraqi border.

As FBI Director Mueller and other FBI personnel have warned, the war on Iraq will increase the likelihood of terrorist acts against the US. In the long term, the defeat of Iraq will be seen as a shared humiliation and inspire young men and women to become terrorists throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. If the war on Iraq is a part of the "war on terrorism," then "war on terrorism" must mean war to increase terrorism. It's Orwellian Doublespeak -- and a strange variation on the logic of Lewis Carroll.

A likely result of the US invasion of Iraq is that the Israelis will become more extreme; Palestinians may be forced by the US to submit to a humiliating cease-fire. Life in the occupied territories will become increasingly desperate, and Israel will be the scene of a full-scale civil war.

America's war may bring Egypt to the brink of economic collapse through the repatriation of 300,000 expatriate workers in Iraq, a decline in tourism, and a loss of Suez Canal revenue. The outcome will be political destabilization and a possible coup led by powerful Islamic fundamentalists.

Throughout the Middle East there will be increased hatred of the US and a tendency to regard America as waging a war against Islam, as imams are already declaring from their pulpits on Fridays. Now they have very credible evidence to point to when they preach their sermons.

Since the US has a history of protecting its territorial and oil interests by supporting dictatorial regimes, Bush's disapproval of Saddam Hussein was always suspicious, and many will believe -- as has been said all along -- that this war was about oil and power, not democracy or liberation.

On a larger scale, other nations, especially Iran, which may see itself as the next target, will feel more threatened by American belligerence and want to arm themselves more rapidly. The greater danger, North Korea, will always remain.

It is already evident that, as the New York Times editorial put it, Bush's war is being fought "in the ruins of diplomacy": that a whole system of worldwide alliances is in tatters, just as Bush had earlier torn up US allegiances to ecological standards and a world court.

For those growing numbers who see such war as the US is waging as nothing but terrorism with a bigger budget -- with "shock and awe" as synonyms for "terror," Bush has become the number one terrorist on the planet. Exactly what Osama bin Laden would like the Islamic world to think.

Ultimately, as The Nation's Jonathan Schell has written, America will have won Iraq, but lost the world.

These views are held by a wide spectrum of people all over the world, including members of the US intelligence community and political commentators in the Middle East.

But let's look at the positive side. In the wake of the destruction it is only natural to hope that something good may come out.

There are some hopes. There's hope that if Iraq's oil wells aren't destroyed and few civilians are killed, reconstruction can quickly begin. The US forces are going to be looking for weapons of mass destruction, and if they find them and thereby prove that Saddam still had them, there's hope that that will restore credibility to American policy. There's no doubt about the fact that Saddam had many enemies and few friends in Iraq. If the allied forces are greeted by Iraqis as liberators, the attack will seem more justified. If the UN sanctions so brutally imposed by the US and Britain have come to an end, the infrastructure is being rebuilt (even if at great profit to corporations headed by Bush's cronies), and the country is starting back toward becoming healthy and prosperous, that will benefit everybody. Iraq is, after all, perhaps a better candidate for democracy than many poorer, less educated Arab nations.

Above all, there's hope that if the US will not stay too long and can therefore be seen not as an occupying power but as the force of liberation American leaders claim it to be, this will help salvage the situation. There is no doubt that the Gulf War, the UN sanctions, and Saddam's despotic regime had made the situation in Iraq desperate. It needed rebuilding. The US has promised that rebuilding will occur.

All of these positive outcomes are possible. All of them are to be hoped for. But it isn't clear that they're extremely likely.

One thing that is clear is that the US's unjustified preemptive strike has politicized much of the world. There is an unprecedented global anti-war, pro-democracy movement fueled by economic fears and the truths that are passed by word of mouth and shared on the Internet. The corporate media in America is doing its best to minimize the extent of this movement, but it is there. And it will not go away.

There are many battles to be fought by this new coalition, to undo all the damage that the Bush administration's policies have caused at home and abroad, to counter the dangers of unilateralism, and to oppose the lies and imperialistic schemes of the neoconservatives with the truths and democratic dreams of the young.

┬ęChris Knipp. Blog:

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