HAMMERNEWS by Michael Hammerschlag Oct 12, 2002
Stephen Flynn lecture audio report- author of Hart-Rudman Report on continued US vulnerabilities to terrorists - Council on Foreign RelationsLiberal Slant Vers.
Psychopath Saddam isn’t right about many things, but he may be about the primary motivation behind Bush’s push for war: vengeance… specifically for Saddam’s plot to kill his father in Kuwait in ’93. The President finally let it slip in a chat: “He’s a bad man- he tried to kill my father.” Attempting to murder a President may in fact be justification for removal with extreme prejudice, and there are few people in the world more deserving of the honor than Saddam, but a decade is a long time to wait, and the results and reaction to a general attack on the devastated Iraqi people and economy might be far more costly than any supposed increase in security.
Punishing ones enemies is a central tenet of the Bush family philosophy- GW’s main political job for years was as an enforcer against administration officials who dared divert from the his father’s wishes. It’s no accident that family wise man Brent Scowcroft urged moderation on the hotheaded eldest son. For Schröeder’s crime of willful opposition, Bush plans to punish the Germans- but wasn’t our main purpose for a half century to teach them an aversion to war? In his first act as President, Bush cancelled the Clinton cap on exploding California energy prices (up to 100-fold increases, by criminal price fixing among generators)- as a result Enron’s revenues ballooned from $25 billion in first half 2000 to $100 billion in the same period 2001- even assuming a justified doubling in prices- still $30 to $40 billion in criminal windfall profits ripped from the pockets of voters who had given his opponent a 12 point victory and handed to his biggest contributor. This shockingly corrupt and unreported act is still the iceberg that might sink the Bush administration.
Saddam is a monster- he should have been killed after he set the Kuwait oil fields on fire and fouled the entire Persian Gulf*- if he could be removed directly, through commando actions or bombing his palaces, doubles, and refuges- fine; but what is contemplated is a general attack- devastating the Iraqi infrastructure and people yet again. Judging by our actions in Afghanistan, where we haven’t fixed one road, Bush won’t rebuild or rehabilitate Iraq after another war- leaving our occupying troops among a bitter hateful populace, a open sore to the billion Muslims of the world. Don’t we build anything anymore? Talk now is a military occupation lasting 5 years (costing up to $200 billion). Credible reports have upwards of half-million Iraqis dying from third world diseases like typhoid or dysentery over the last 11 years; because in ’91 we bombed Baghdad’s water purification and sewage treatment plants, covering the cradle of civilization with excrement, then embargoed chlorine for a decade (because it’s used in making poison gases). Reattaching Iraq to the world could result in a flood of fervent anti-American terrorists. We don’t even know how many were killed in the Gulf War, because the press was treated as the enemy, and our military never deigned to tell us.
After our tacit endorsement of Sharon’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians, an invasion of Iraq would convince the Moslem world that we are at war with them- and the pool of available terrorists would swell from a few thousand delusional lunatics to millions. Horrors like the Bali bombing could become routine. Our struggle against al Qaida would greatly suffer, as Islamic governments wouldn’t help or even allow us capture Bin Laden’s minions. Even European countries- virulently opposed to an invasion- would cool their cooperation in our struggle against the 9-11 killers, except for England- now the 51st state (even they had a ¼ million person demonstration against war). Major nations of the UN Security Council: Russia, France, China (which holds the Presidency of the UNSC for November)- are deadset against an invasion- if Bush ignores and defies the United Nations- there will be lasting damage to world stability and unity. We would become the Ugly Americans, heedlessly flaunting our arrogance and power. Bush has shown contempt for every international agreement- including ones, like the Non-proliferation, Biological weapon, + World Court- that are absolutely essential for American security- only because of the idiotic obsessions of the extreme right wing. He doesn’t have 1/10 of the foreign policy acumen of his father- who was a master of international consensus diplomacy. GB1 didn’t ‘finish the job’ in 1991 for some good reasons- the difficulty of occupying and rehabilitating a brutal Middle Eastern dictatorship, which isn’t being mentioned by the armchair warriors of the new Bush regime. At some point, we will have to attack enemies quickly, without notice or permission from the world community. This is not it. An unnecessary bullying war will lose us that good will and freedom of action, when it may be desperately required. Our greatest defense has always been our principles of fairness and justice; violating them would breach that wall.
Bush has provided no proof for any connection between Saddam and Al Qaida- the alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi diplomat in Prague had to be embarrassingly disavowed. Of the hundreds of Bin Laden’s satellite calls before the embassy bombings to London, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, USA, Pakistan, .. there wasn’t one to Iraq. Bush’s changing rationales remind me of Chevy Chase’s ‘land shark’. Saddam with nukes is a chilling prospect- but it still that- only a prospect. If he warrants an invasion, what of Iran, which has killed 400-700 Americans in their Hezbollah Beirut (Marine barracks and Embassy) and perhaps Lockerbie bombings. Russia is building a nuclear plant for them, presumably the Israelis can be counted on to annihilate it like they did the Iraqi reactor in 1981, but where’s our logic? Al Qaida members have reportedly taken refuge in Iran. We have far more to fear from diversion of nukes in Pakistan or Russia after an Islamic coup or attack than we do from isolated and sequestered Saddam. What of the paranoid freak on a permanent bad-hair day in North Korea, who has let up to 2 million of his people starve, rather than open his kingdom to the world? He is close to making nukes too.
As sad as it is, this conflict is largely driven by politics- the President’s popularity rests on his martial prowess- without a conflict, the electorate’s attention may turn towards the devastated economy, deficits, and corporate scandals lapping at the feet of the Bush administration. Indeed, without 9-11, his popularity percentage might now be in the 30’s. The tens of billions this war would cost and the instability would also crush the beaten down economy and stock market- Bin Laden’s last instruction. All Americans now suffer from Gulf War Syndrome, the idea- because of the spectacular success of wars in the Gulf, Bosnia, Serbia, and Afghanistan, that wars can be fought painlessly, with almost no casualties. But a cornered Saddam with a price on his head will use all weapons at his disposal, and we haven’t fought in a city in 34 years (Hue). A war now will damage American security in a dozen ways: it's the wrong war in the wrong place with the wrong person. Israel just blew up a dozen civilians in Gaza (the most densely populated place in the world) with our helicopters and missiles- making peace there should be a priority. Inexplicably, cravenly, Congress has sleepwalked into authorizing military force (against a majority of US opinion: 51% to 38% -Zogby†)- perhaps with the notion that Bush is bluffing, and Saddam will back down. But Saddam, who could have left Kuwait with all his booty on Jan 14, 1991 and emerged unscathed.. can be counted on to do the most self-destructive thing.
If we invade Iraq, it will be only because George Bush wants to… and that’s not a good enough reason.
*The reason we didn’t was because I believe GB1 made an explicit threat to Saddam that we would kill him if he used poison gas or bioweapons; conversely that meant we couldn’t kill him if he kept to the bargain. US sharpshooters literally had Saddam in the crosshairs during the gulf war from a spyhole, but didn’t fire (though their escape was dubious).
† Question- “If there were thousands of Iraqi casualties (which is inevitable-MH), support or oppose war against Iraq?” Poll conducted Sept 25-27. ± 3.2%. Zogby was consistently the most accurate in the 2000 Presidential race.
Michael Hammerschlag has written commentaries + articles for Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Honolulu Advertiser, Columbia Journalism Review, Media Channel, & Moscow News, Tribune, and Guardian. His website is http://mikehammer.tripod.com e-mail: email@example.com