Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 2:54 pm 
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If only there were a bloodless way to do it, a takeover of the regime of Saddam Hussein might be justifiable under the requirements of UN Resolution 1441. But the prospects have never been bloodless, and this is one reason why there is so much visible worldwide opposition to the Bush war plans. We have heard that there will be 3,000 "precision weapons" in the first two days, ten times as many bombs as at the start of the Gulf War. We have heard about a new, untested bomb, the MOAB or massive ordnance air burst bomb, 21,000 pounds and equivalent to a small nuclear weapon. The MOAB, by the way, is a weapon of mass destruction. It's a much larger cookie cutter bomb-- the kind that randomly tears off people's limbs-- and it can be dropped from much higher up, thus protecting the safety of American pilots.

And this time it isn't the desert that's to be struck, but a capital city, Baghdad, with five million inhabitants. Baghdad, fabled city of the 1001 Nights, of Sheherazade, Ali Baba, Sindbad the Sailor, and Aladdin. We have heard that this massive attack is to engender "shock and awe," and that means quite simply killing thousands and thousands of innocent civilians, in a country 41% of whose population is under the age of sixteen. And then President Bush gives an address outlining the plan for humanitarian aid in Iraq.

This war is an act of enormous brutality and inhumanity. It is also a very bad idea.

We must bomb them, so that we can set them free. And we must bomb them, so that we can offer them humanitarian aid. Once again the last thing that the Bush administration will mention is that many civilians will die, more people, and for less justifiable reasons, than in the Gulf War.

Bush's first suggestion for the Afghan invasion was to drop food; now the US is abandoning Afghanistan because it is in chaos and Hamid Karzai has been begging Bush not to. The suggestion that Gen. Tommy Franks will run Iraq after an invasion the way Gen. MacArthur ran Japan after WWII is fanciful: Iraq will be a lot more like Afghanistan than Japan. The difference is that this time the attack is on dense urban areas, and many more people will die. We will set them free; but they will be dead.

Another objection to the attack on Iraq is that in the big picture, Iraq is not the main threat. Iraq was the hobbyhorse of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other Bush cronies well before September 11. Then, Iraq was their next priority after Afghanistan. This had nothing to do with September 11 and everything to do with protecting Israel, cornering the world's oil, and controlling the Middle East. Cheney et al. are setting the timetable, and the UN inspectors and the various nations the US is pressuring and bribing and threatening are falling into place to suit that timetable.

A look at North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel destroys the feeble logic of making an attack on Iraq a strategic priority in a rational, global effort to limit weapons of mass destruction. Various analysts, notably Jonathan Schell in his "Case Against the War" in The Nation, have shown the illogic of making Iraq the linchpin of an anti-proliferation plan. The thinking behind this plan for Iraq is akin to madness. At worst, a bloodbath in Iraq could lead to an international Armageddon; at best, it is a formula for destabilization in the Middle East. Above all, it will provide a further stimulus for anti-western, anti-American Islamic terrorist activity.

Iraq is not only not the main threat; it is a defeated nation. Its children, 41% of the population, die by the thousands every month because of the UN sanctions brought about after the Gulf War. The UN is responsible for an ongoing decade-long human rights disaster of vast proportions. The infrastructure is still shaky, the economy crumbling. A country that had made enormous progress since the Fifties was severely damaged in the war with Iran in the Eighties, and then when the Gulf War came was virtually set back forty years in forty days.

Saddam Hussein is a despicable tyrant. But there are many others like him who are not under threat. The US has often supported such tyrants, as it once supported Saddam himself; as it once supported Osama bin Laden. The US didn't eliminate Saddam in the Gulf War. It didn't catch Osama. What certainty is there that they will eliminate Saddam now? Who will be put in to replace Saddam? The US is preparing a vague plan for a puppet regime, partly stocked with Iraqi dissidents to be brought in from outside. There is no reason to think they will be any more successful than Hamid Karzai has been in Afghanistan. And it won't be easy to buy Iraqis as the Afghan warlords were temporarily bought.

Iraq, a defeated nation, will be further destroyed by a massive US attack. But in the end, such an attack will be futile politically. American leaders have not shown any stomach in recent decades, if they ever had one, for the follow-through of political reconstruction. And American military campaigns have never succeeded in a battle for "hearts and minds." In Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, as in Vietnam, sophisticated weaponry and military superiority are powerless against ingenuity, determination, and simple, improvised methods. A war by bombing --terrorism with a big budget-- is not a way to reach people. You do not make a people democratic by conquering them. You do not destroy a country in order to rebuild it. You cannot defeat terrorism by bombs; you further motivate it. All it takes is total dedication and a box cutter and you can bring down a skyscraper in the biggest city of the world's richest nation.

It has always been the American error to think that power lies in money and size, and that influence can be foisted upon people by sheer force of will. Our ugly Americans and quiet Americans have always blundered this way.

But all these arguments against the stated aims of the US assault on Iraq are really a waste of time, because the stated aims are not the real ones. The Bush administration has become increasingly baldfaced in its deceptions. The State of the Union Address was well delivered but utterly unconvincing to anyone who analyzed it. Colin Powell's appearance at the United Nations was worse than that: it was a humiliation to see such shabby evidence and such unconvincing proofs; student paste-up jobs presented as high quality intelligence. Given Powell's earlier objections to Bush's war moves, the sight was doubly humiliating -- for us, and for him. UN inspectors following up on US "tips" in Iraq in the days after Powell's appearance found them to be "garbage after garbage after garbage." Americans deserve better of their leaders.

Worldwide opposition to the assault on Iraq is far stronger than during the Gulf War, stronger than anything even during the Vietnam era. (Again, Jonathan Schell has written an admirable summary). Many Americans see that there is nothing patriotic about this new war drive. The future it provides is bright only for American corporations. Bush has already been planning "reconstruction" with leading members of his oligarchy, and things look very profitable for those who invest in companies like Bechtel Corporation and Dick Cheney's Halliburton. To the victor go the spoils, and the spoils are already in view. The contracts are being dealt out. In the minds of the US administration, under a leader who avoided military service, the body count is of no significance and the war on Iraq was already over before it had begun.

And let us not forget that weapons of mass destruction are only a pretext, Saddam's former atrocities only spice added for further flavor, and the real main dish is oil, with regional control and further protection for the USA's number one client state, Israel, as major bonuses. This time what looks very appetizing to George W. Bush is not only a distressing prospect for the average American, but for the whole rest of the world.

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