The Manufactured And Real Iraq Crisis
by Edward S. Herman
January 20, 2003
With enough power and chutzpah it is possible for an aggressive and over-armed state to manufacture a crisis and pretend that the crisis lies with the threatened victim rather than with the aggressor state. Today, the United States has not only manufactured one crisis but two: The first is Saddam Hussein's alleged failure to disarm; the second is North Korea's attempt to acquire nuclear arms.
The first REAL crisis is the determination of the United States to attack
Iraq, depose Saddam Hussein, and establish a dependent regime in that
country, AND the failure of the "international community" to
oppose this blatant plan of aggression in violation of the UN Charter.
There is a third REAL threat attributable to the big bully, namely the ongoing serious ethnic cleansing being carried out by Israeli leaders in Palestine, in violation of international law and in opposition to a global consensus. This deadly process has intensifed under the protection of the Bush administration's carte blanche to "man of peace" Ariel Sharon and the diversion provided by the Iraq "crisis," and it may escalate further under the cover of the U.S. attack on Iraq. This third real threat is closely tied to the first, not only operationally but in terms of intent, as numerous high Bush administration officials have "dual loyalties" and are at least partially serving Likud-Israeli interests.
In the propaganda outpourings of the Bush administration, however, their
"patience" with Saddam Hussein has run out and, given his "growing
menace" (Bush), he must be removed by force. This "crisis"
has been completely contrived by Bush officials, just as the Guatemala
crisis of 1954--based on alleged Soviet proxy aggression!--was fabricated.
That Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) threaten U.S. national security is laughable--even if he has a few such weapons (unproven), he has no delivery systems that could reach the United States and he may not wish to commit suicide. On the other hand, U.S. WMD not only threaten Iraq but anybody else who crosses the administration, which has even announced an intention to preemptively attack enemies of choice and to ignore international law.
Saddam Hussein does pose a threat to his neighbors, but much less so
than Israel, which has more powerful armed forces and, even more important,
is under the protection of the United States, which has sanctioned numerous
Israeli attacks on neighbors, systematic ethnic cleansing in the occupied
territories, and Israel's acquisition of a large WMD arsenal.
Since the 1980s, and under the impact of war, sanctions and the inspections regime, Iraq's military capability and WMD have been drastically reduced, with high level inspectors claiming that at least 90-95 percent of Saddam's stocks of chemical weapons have been destroyed, and the IAEA contending in 1998--and as recently as January 27, 2003--that he has no nuclear weapons or meaningful nuclear weapons program (Bush's contention in his State of the Union Message that Saddam "had" such a program and "was working" on methods of enriching uranium is therefore misleading if not outright lying). Saddam's "threat" must therefore be much much smaller than in the period when he was using WMD with U.S. and British approval. That he now poses a "growing menace" justifying a war is therefore a misrepresentation of fact and a cover for a semi-hidden agenda.
There is also the claim that Saddam Hussein has produced a "crisis" by his failure to cooperate with the inspection system, disarm, and obey Security Council rulings. But the inspection system, like the "sanctions of mass destruction," has always been a U.S.-British mechanism for punishing Iraq until there was a "regime change." Numerous U.S. officials have said that the sanctions would not be lifted until Saddam is removed. This has been a violation of the original settlement agreement of 1991, which called for terminable inspections and made no mention of required regime change. All participants except the United States and Britain have felt that a 90-95 percent WMD removal sufficed; and it is worth repeating that the partners who have disagreed are the ones who most lavishly supplied Iraq with those weapons in the 1980s, and opposed any condemnations of Saddam for using them!
The legal basis of the charges against Iraq is therefore fatally compromised by the fact of multiple U.S. and British violations of the terms of Security Council Resolution 687--including, in addition to imposing the illict objective of regime change, the use of inspections for locating non-WMD miitary targets (recently acknowledged by longtime Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Rolf Ekeus), the unauthorized "no-fly zone" patrols and attacks, and the transformation of the sanctions system into a mode of punishment of an entire people, with enormous civilian casualties. The sanctimonious U.S.-British call for enforcement of Security Council resolutions also flies in the face of their double standard on this matter: Israel is not only permitted to acquire WMD, it can repeatedly ignore Security Council rulings without any penalty whatsoever.
The imminent war is therefore based on considerations that have nothing
to do with Saddam's dictatorship or military threat.
There has been a desperate Bush administration search for plausible reasons to "topple Saddam Hussein"--ties to Al Qaeda, aversion to dictatorship and concern for Iraqis, Saddam's growing menace, evasions of inspections and disrespect for Security Council resolutions, etc. But they are merely excuses, some false, some trivial, all profoundly hypocritical, designed to justify an aggression based entirely on other political and strategic considerations.
First published in Z Magazine / Znet
Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
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