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For a while, I had accepted the line that 100,000+ Iraqis were killed by the US military during the Iraq war. Recently however, a pundit claimed that the actual number killed by the US military is much lower. I've been trying to check this, and none of the sources I've found distinguish between those killed by US forces and those killed by other sources (such as sectarian violence).
Does anyone know of a study that makes this distinction?
Iraqi Body Count maintains an online database of incidents with analysis as to the cause of the deaths reported.
The link provided allows you to select the various actors who have been determined by their analysis to be responsible for the deaths. Selecting just those deaths directly determined to be due to the actions of the US-led coalition, the total from 2003 until 2016 is 14,338. This is out of a total of perhaps 181,337 total civilian deaths.
Note that most of the coalition related civilian deaths occurred during the active period of the war, the first two months: over 7,000 civilian deaths.
The incident database documents each incident recorded.
Their methodology is described here.
Iraq and Its Lessons
What went wrong in Iraq? Why? Who was to blame? Comfortably ensconced in my armchair on Monday morning, let me tell you what happened.
- March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom began with an air strike.
- April 9, 2003, Baghdad was liberated.
- April 16, 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), or interim government, was established under General Tommy Franks. In short, the regime was changed.
- May 1, 2003, President Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq.
- May 13, 2003, Paul Bremer became the head of the CPA.
- May 16, 2003, the CPA ordered De-Baathification.
- May 23, 2003, the CPA ordered dissolution of the Iraqi army.
- July 7, 2003, General Tommy Franks, Commander of the US Central Command, retired and was replaced by General John Abizaid.
- July 13, 2003 the Iraqi Governing Council was created, a sort of "shadow" government advising the US-run CPA.
- July 22, 2003, Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in Mosul by US troops.
- December 14, 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops. He had been hiding in a dirt hole on a farm near Tikrit.
- March 29, 2004, four US contractors were murdered in Fallujah.
- April 28, 2004, CBS News reported on the Abu Ghraib abuses.
- April 2004 saw the highest Coalition fatality rate of the war, 131 due to hostile action in one month. The next-highest would be 129 in November 2004.
- June 28, 2004, the CPA shut down and was replaced by an Iraqi Interim Government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (a former "exile").
- January 30, 2005, elections were held in Iraq resulting in a new Iraqi Interim Government.
- October 15, 2005, an election was held on a permanent Iraqi Constitution.
- December 14, 2005, elections were held to form the Iraqi National Assembly and Iraqi government, later to be headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (a former "exile"), the current Prime Minister.
- December 18, 2006, Donald Rumsfeld resigned as Secretary of Defense, and was replaced by Robert Gates.
- January 2007, President Bush announced the "surge."
- February 2007, General David Petraeus assumed command of all Coalition forces in Iraq.
- May 2007 saw the highest number of Coalition fatalities due to hostilities since 2004: 123 in one month.
- October 2007 was the peak of the surge in terms of Coalition troops, about 183,000 troops, or 13% above the pre-surge level.
- December 2007 saw the lowest number of Coalition fatalities since February 2004: 14 in one month. A similar large percentage drop in Iraqi civilian fatalities occurred in the latter half of 2007.
- July 2008 saw the lowest number of Coalition fatalities since Operation Iraqi Freedom began: 8 in one month. Iraqi civilian fatalities also appeared to be at all-time lows.
- Five of Iraq's provinces accounted for 87% of insurgent attacks, meaning 13 of its 18 provinces have been relatively peaceful throughout.
- Iraq now has its own democratically approved constitution and representative government, due to a series of honest and popular elections held in 2005. And it is working.
- Its economy has tripled. Oil production essentially matched pre-war levels by the end of 2003, and currently exceeds it. Electricity availability exceeded pre-war levels by 2004, and is now 50% to 200% above pre-war levels. Car ownership has doubled there are more than 10 times as many telephone subscribers and 100 times as many internet subscribers, with much of that growth occurring in the first two to three years after liberation.
- The people do not have to rely on getting all their information from Saddam Hussein and Baghdad Bob. Today they have dozens of commercial TV stations and hundreds radio stations, newspapers and magazines. Again, much of that growth was immediately after liberation.
- Iraq has achieved satisfactory progress on nearly all (if not all) of the 18 political criteria defined jointly by the Democrat-led Congress and President Bush. So much so, that you don't hear Democrats even talking about the criteria any more.
What went wrong in Iraq? Why? Who was to blame? Comfortably ensconced in my armchair on Monday morning, let me tell you what happened.
How many Iraqi civilians were killed directly by US military action? - History
The collapse of US World Trade Centre on September 2011 by Al-Qaida group hijacking the planes and hitting the world trade centre was resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths and many injuries, as well as devastated the US economy (CNN, 2009). By then, US has started to pursue what the world has known as “The War on Terror”. With the belief of President George W. Bush that Iraq was harboring Al-Qaida and was secretly planning the uranium process to create the Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) which the information was derived from the CIA intelligent services, in 2003 US started the invasion plan to remove Saddam Hussein regime, known as “The Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The operation was conducted with the support of US allies, such as Great Britain, Australia, Poland, Kuwait, and so on against the state sponsoring terrorism or rough states which described by the President Bush. Along with the breakdown of Saddam Hussein regime, this war caused many death and casualties on both sides, especially Iraqi soldiers and innocent people. Base on The Washington Post, the U.S government reported that 139 US. military personnel were killed before May 1, 2003 (Washington post, 2005) on the other hand, base on Iraq body count whose information relies on press report and NGO reports claims that there were about 7, 500 civilians killed during the invasion (Iraq body count, 2005). In this regard, this paper is trying to analyze two mains actors such as US and Iraq in the occasional decision making about the declaration of War under the president George W. Bush administration by utilizing the foreign policy arena, process and implementation in occasional of decision, respectively.
First of all, there are two main actors involving in this event: US and Iraq although there were many US allies conspiring in this war, they were just marginal players. In the course of the war, on March 19, 2003 United states under President George W. Bush acted as the leader of the coalition force, which consists of United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), against Iraq under Saddam Hussein regime. To legitimize the war, The Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution in 2002 was passed by congress with Republicans voting 98% in favor in the Senate, and 97% in favor in the House (Clerk House Government, 2002). Through this resolution, it authorized President Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States if he thought it was necessary to defend the national security of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq and to enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq. Moreover, in the First Gulf War in 1990, the resolution 660 and 678 stated about the submission of Iraq over weapons inspection and disarmament, and Iraq had failed to do so. Hence, translated by US, resolution 1441 authorized US to compel the Iraqi government to comply with the UN Resolution. Beside this legitimized reason, US had made several claims to back up. The first aim is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, the second aim is to end Saddam Hussein’s alleged support for terrorism, and the third aim is to free the Iraqi people from oppressive government (White House of President, 2003). However, if one thoroughly examines the real causes, there would other several reasons that the US had not mentioned. First of all, although the UN team proved that there were not any WMD in Iraq, US had lost faith in Iraqi government since the incident in 1998, “Operation Desert Fox”. In this operation, Iraqi government quelled the UN weapon inspector teams out of Iraq and shot down two allied aircrafts. Therefore, in 2003, US still had doubt when Iraq claimed that there were not any WMD at all. Beside, the US believed that Iraq government was supporting Al-Qaida troops against US. With WMD in the hand of Al-Qaida, United States would in jeopardy for sure. Another reason which many believe to be true is that US wanted to occupy the vast oil reserve of Iraq to back up its economic down turn which had happened since 2001.
On the other hand on Iraq, after getting the ultimatum from President Bush, Saddam Hussein still decided to pursue the last stand against America who he knew clearly about the gap of power between these two countries. There were several reasons why Iraq decided to stand against US. First of all, Saddam Hussein believed even though US was the only superpower in the world Iraq is one of the powerful state with strong military in the Middle East with the vast of oil reserve (BBC, 2010). Moreover, it had some friends such as Jordan and Syria as well. May be that would give him a better chance to win. Second, since Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq in communism style with oppressive policy, even though he could exile to the other countries as the US offered, there was no guarantee that he would still be safe after all what he had done. Third, Iraq could be a leader of all the Arab states against westernization that most Arab societies reproached if Iraq could win the war against the coalition force of the West, which Iraq claimed to be the dominion policy of the West.
Last but not least, there are several main events that should be noticed in the course of action of the actors in this conflict.
“Jan. 16, 2003: UN inspectors discover 11 undeclared empty chemical warheads in Iraq.
Jan. 27, 2003: The UN’s formal report on Iraqi inspections is highly critical, though not damning, with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix lamenting that ‘Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it’…
Feb. 14, 2003: In a February UN report, chief UN inspector Hans Blix indicated that slight progress had been made in Iraq’s cooperation. Both pro- and anti-war nations felt the report supported their point of view….
Feb. 22, 2003: Hans Blix orders Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles by March 1. The UN inspectors have determined that the missiles have an illegal range limit. Iraq can have missiles that reach neighboring countries, but not ones capable of reaching Israel.
Mar. 1, 2003: Iraq begins to destroy its Al Samoud missiles.”(Iraq Timeline, 2011).
“Mar. 7, 2003: Hans Blix gives another ambivalent report to the U.N. security council on Iraqi compliance, which is followed by a tense debate that further deepens the divide within the council. The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, proposes the U.N. sets an ultimatum that Iraq will be invaded unless the country demonstrates ‘full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation’ by March 17. France makes a clear threat that it will veto such a resolution.” (BBC News, 2011)
Mar. 17: “Bush will demand that Saddam yield power and leave the country, the White House said. A 72-hour ultimatum ‘is in the right ballpark,’ the administration official said…
With diplomatic efforts ending, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered all U.N. weapons inspectors, humanitarian staff and border monitors out of Iraq.” (CNN, 2003)
“February 24, 2003: France, Russia, and Germany propose a program of stepped-up weapons inspections to extend for 120 days.
March 19, 2003: Operation Iraqi Freedom begins, with U.S. and coalition forces striking a target in Baghdad where, intelligence reports indicated, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his top deputies had gathered in underground bunkers.
- I.Foreign Policy Arena of United State in the invasion on Iraq in 2003
In the wake of 9/11 event, there are many debates among scholars about the covert reasons of this invasion. Many have claimed the main motivation of this invasion was to fight against terrorism, the other suspect the main driving force behind this attack was the step to control the key oil reserve in the Middle East, and the other have claimed other reasons. Hence, this section aims to analyze the US foreign policy in this invasion by basing on the international context framework which focuses only on international, governmental, and domestic context, and on the three images to analyze foreign policy base on rational, political, and psychological image.
- 1.Foreign Policy Arena
- a.International Context
The international system has been pictured by the major changes dramatically since the end of the Iron Curtain and the alteration of the geo-politic and power features. Politically and ideologically, the US has become a sole remaining superpower country following by the dissolution of the Soviet Unions in the 1991, which 16 new states have emerged with the new international developmental agendas accompanying with the proliferation of the Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD). According to the Samuel Huntington, he noted that the next world conflict will be characterized by the clash of the civilization because of the major fault line between the civilizations due to the world’s becoming so diverse religiously and culturally and becoming shrunken by the force of globalization which would superseded the ideological and political confrontation (David P. Barash, 2010). This prediction became obvious when the terrorist attack caused from the over-exploitative of the western capitalism and the presence of the US troops in the Middle East regions. Moreover, in the post-cold war era, the international system had characterized as the ‘New World Order’ by the former US President George Bush as the victory on the ‘Operation Desert Storm’ in the Gulf War. Furthermore, the world politic had encountered a new global conflict in the intra-state rather than inter-state war which made the US become more headache in the Balkan, Rwanda, and elsewhere due to its own super-power status in securing the world security and order in the post cold war periods. On one hand, the international system has focused less on the national security as the demise of the ideological confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union. On the other hand, the US foreign policy has concentrated more on the economic issues since the former US president Bill Clinton. For instance, during his office, America started the trade initiative which led to the creation on the North America Free Trade Area whose members are Canada, Mexico and US. The increasing of production demand of US on the large energy supply became much more than ever hence, oil was very important for United State. Three Energy Policy Acts had been passed, in 1992, 2005, and 2007, which stressed on the important of energy supply in the US such as tax policy or incentive policy (The Library of Congress, 2007). Surprisingly, the US national security policy paradigm shift rested on 9 September event after the shocking attack on the US World Trade Centre and Pentagon which killed nearly 3,000 US innocent citizens lives (CNN, 2009). This attack had provoked the US and the international community’s interest to focus on the international security issue concerning over the rising threat of the terrorism. The terrorist groups have threatened the world security and destabilized the world order which leverages the world states to tackle this issue seriously (Camerons, 2005). This new emerging issue in the international arena gives more incentive to the US as the leading country against the terrorists-relating group like the Taliban and any states that support them, Iraq in particular. Therefore, the 9/11 2001 event triggered a significant change of US foreign policy in concentrating in national security.
The arrival of the President Bush from the Republican Party has altered the basic political ground and the direction of the US Foreign Policy abroad unimaginably. The neo-conservative ideology had exerted influences on the president to declare war against Iraq after the 9/11 symptom. Before the President Bush took office, his bureaucrats had advised him to take a coercive military approach to invade Iraq for ousting the aggressor Saddam Hussein due to the possession of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and strategic threat to the Middle East regions as well as to the world because of the revelation of Baghdad aggressive behaviors over Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1991 however, it is unfeasible to do so. For Neil Mackey (2002), he noted that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure regime change even before he took power in January 2001. This indicated the US intention to overthrow the Saddam Hussein and president Bush and his cabinet aggressive attitude to dominate the world and securing the American interest. In other word, shifting of the decision took place due to 9/11 event that has provided the opportunity to crystallize the decision that led to the declaration of war over Iraq as the failure of the Secretary Colin Power to persuade the UN to initiate the resolution, along the side with the manipulation of Saddam Hussein on IAEA and his disrespectful behaviors. The political clout on the decision could be traced from the Vice President Dick Cheney to the secretary of defense Rumsfeld who had pushed the President Bush to wage the war against the Iraq, specifically after the long waiting 18 months since 9/11 event. According to the research from the public opinions survey conducted by the K. Cramer and Trevor Thrall noted that Dick Cheney is very influential in the New American Century accompanying with the neo-conservative ideological influenced (Cramer K. and Thrall T., 2004). Despites the US foreign policy decision concentrates on the US President, the key adviser and other bureaucrats have the ideological clots to push and pull on the decision unit setting in the certain extent (Cramer K. and Thrall T., 2004). Hence, the Iraq war was inevitable.
Regarding to domestic context, there are two main reasons as the driving force of the United State’s deciding to go to war with Iraq the most priority reason was its national security. Then it accomplished by the demand of oil resources and the economic instability of US itself. First of all, related to the national security, after the terrorist attack in 2001 by the al-Qaeda group, which was led by Osama bin Laden, many American people were killed and injured because of this attack. This attack caused the US to perceive the terrorists and their supporter as the threat to the national security of the United States, so the US foreign policy was strongly concerned on fighting against terrorist groups. Then the US Special Forces found out Abu Abbas, the terrorist leader, lived in Baghdad since 1994, where he was living under protection of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. In addition, Iraqi government was suspected to have the nuclear weapon, so this would be another threat to the US security. The reasons for the invasion were to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end the alleged support for terrorism and to free the Iraqi people. In addition, US president George Bush got the absolute support from senate, congress and American civilian people to fight anti terrorism. To legitimize the war, The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution in 2002 was passed by congress with Republicans voting 98% in favor in the Senate, and 97% in favor in the House (United States Senate, 2010). Next, peak oil reserve drew the US interest Michael Ruppert also offered several articles on this issue as well about the interest of the US government over the oil reserve in Iraq (Harper’s Magazine, 2005). Furthermore, the U.S. government was making preparations for more unilateral wars in an effort to control the worlds’ hydrocarbons and the oil currency the Pentagon has contemplated a -year, 7-war plan.” (Harper’s Magazine, 2005). This proved that because of domestic demand over oil supply, oil was one of the reasons behind this attack. In addition, regarding to the public opinion, U.S had gained a big public support for the invasion (Frank Summer, 2009).
- 2.Foreign Policy Image
- a.Rational Image
Regarding to the rational image, the reasons behind this invasion are revealed more clearly. After seeing the atrocity at the World Trade Center in 2001, the president of the United State, George Bush decided to make war with Iraq on March 20, 2003 by accusing that Iraq had conspired with the Al-Qaida and had WMD, which is a danger to the human security to the United States in particular and to whole world in general. Hence, as the world super power, its foreign policy was to enhance the system of the international laws in preventing enemy from suing mass destructive weapons, which threatens human safety. As a result, US had to engage the pre-emptive war against Iraq first before it threatened the world, particularly the U.S and its allies by using the destructive weapons and by supporting the terrorist groups (Heyrsh Abdulrahman, 2011). However, in rational choice policy, the decision maker has to know about its state’s power and to weigh the ends and means, the benefit and cost in order to make choices that are rational (Ivaylo Iaydjiev, 2010). Similarly, U.S used the rationality policy under Bush administration to invade Iraq in 2003 based on its powerful military, the notion of greater good international reputation and economy. In term of military, according to the Global Firepower statistic of military rank, the U.S is ranked 1 while the Iraq was ranked 36 (Global Firepower, 2003). Next, the notion of greater good means that to sacrifice a small amount of people for the benefits of a large amount people is a greater deed. Because to wage this war, American could ensure the safety of millions of people in the world, so for the sake of peace, security and humanity in the world, it was the good rational choice to attack Iraq (Heyrsh Abdulrahman, 2011). Besides, Bush believed that Iraq would attack and threatened the U.S if he did not fight it first because according to the American hierarchy system the top level of foreign policy making is in the hands of the president and Saddam Hussein’s behavior was hostile (Ivaylo IAYDJIEV. 2010). Importantly, U. S had gained a big public support for the invasion with the arguments of WMD, World Trade Center Bombing, the relation between Hussein and Islamic group, and 64 percent of American public view of the strong connection between Hussein and Al-Qaeda (Frank Summer, 2009). Consequently, U.S would gain much benefit from this invasion both fame and interest. In doing so, it showed the world that U.S was the country that loved peace, would do every things in its power to combat the terrorist groups to ensure the safety of the world, would try hard to promote democracy, and would free people from Husain’s violating human right. Likewise, the US could get the respect from the world as well as could enable U.S to influence the world with its policy. In term of economy, the economy of the US was bigger than Iraq. Moreover, after the exhaustion in the Balkan War, Iraq was weakened in all sectors, militarily, economically, and the alliances.
Psychological image could be another framework to analyze the behaviors of the US toward Iraq in 2003. First of all, the characteristics of the US leaders at that time were importance in influencing foreign policy making, who was George W. Bush who was elected as the president of the US for the period 2001-2009. His tendency to war and religion minded were regarded as the essential momentum of Iraq war in 2003. Recall back to the early time, Bush was a kid who was born during the Second World War period whose father was also the president of US. He earned the bachelor’s degree in History and then in business administration (White House). However, two subtle events could prove his war tendency. Remarkably, two days before his graduation in Yale university (Bachelor’s degree in history), Bush applied the pilot course, and finally he was certified as a pilot fighter (Bio.True Stroy, 2003). On the other hand, he was rejected to apply for law school. In 1975, Bush gave up everything and started business on energy and oil. Surprisingly, he started his political life again in 1994 by selling all his stock for election campaign as the governor of Texas (University of Virginia, Miller Center). Moreover, during his presidency, Bush attempted to reform the two main fields- education and health. These two reforms made Bush famous and get support from people. Besides, military was also one target of being reformed. As can be seen, the expansionism of NATO’s alliance and the improvement of American defense force (On the Issue, 2011). Bush’s military reform appeared to be stronger after the 9/11 which (Union Country College, 2011). Essentially, this is regarded as the turning point of the US history: Bush declared the strengthening of security at the highest level to fight again terrorism and democratization is one effective way to combat the source of terrorist. Finally, regarding to religion, Bush is Christian, and he has deep faithfulness in this religion. One document has proved that Bush decided to give up alcohol (and may be also the illegal drugs) to show his deep respect in religion. Probably, this could be a small reason which could lead to war against Iraq who was an Islamic state (by taking the excuse as democratization is Middle East), and toke control over the Islamist states (On the Issue).
Final image is political image. Although in the US the decision-making could be described as the governmental or bureaucratic politics model (Allison, G.T), as mention in the governmental context, the power rests on the party that dominates the congress and the assembly. At that time, the Republican Party was the majority and Bush was the figure head of the party. Therefore, George W. Bush was the main influence on the US decision in invading Iraq. Moreover, after the incident at World Trade Center, the majority of the America hatred on the terrorist and they were living in fear. They supported the government to declare war on terror against the terrorist and the country that supports terrorist to secure their safety. Hence, taking this opportunity, the Republican Party was obsessed with the concept of “War against Terrors” to gain political support from the people.
United States had many reasons to invaded Iraq. For one, US wanted to usurp Saddam regime which US believed to be a supporter of the terrorist group and a dictatorship. Second, US wanted to destroy the WMD which the CIA claimed. To achieve these goals, the US used military tool to deal with Iraq government. With the strength of military forces, economic hegemony, and powerful allies, the US successfully ousted Saddam Husen regime and spread democracy in the country. Moreover, compare to Iraq, besides the death of the US armies which was much less than Iraqi soldiers and civilian, US had nothing to loss (Allawi. 2007).
III. Iraq Foreign Policy Arena in Responding to US Invasion
Before the war, the President of the United States offered the ultimate to the Saddam to leave the country immediately, yet Saddam refused the offer even though Iraq was weaker than the US in every aspects. Therefore, this section will try to explore the reasons behind this decision by using foreign policy arena and foreign policy image.
- 1.Foreign Policy Arena
- a.International Context
Cold war remained a distance memory since the unexpected collapsed of the Soviet Union’s and the broke down of the Berlin wall. The emergence of the 16 newly independent states has altered the nature of the international system structure after the dissolution of the Soviet Union’s. The international state system has characterized as the multi-polar world as many regions has undergone substantial change militarily, economically and socially, notably the Middle East regions due to the rising of the oil prices since the super-power rivalry ended which marked the end of the ideological influence from both super-power countries. During the cold war era, the Middle East structure was in the balance of system which Arab Israel conflict no longer provoked any anti-Israel sentiment, and in which Israel was at friendly relation with Egypt and Jordan and in an informal truce with Syria in the early 1970. At first in 1980, US conducted military engagement in escorting the oil tanker through the Middle East, and holding relation tie with Iraq as a buffer zone to counter-balance on the Iran, and in the latter stage US vis-a-vis relation with Iraq was symbolized as containment. Meanwhile, Iraq has connoted as a buffer and epicenter to contain other surrounding states namely Iran and Turkey. In this context, direct US engagement apparently was visible because of Iraq aggressive invasion in Kuwait that had led to the international coalition force ‘Operation Desert Storm’ to liberate the Kuwait out of Saddam Hussein power in August 1990. Simultaneously, the Iraq was facing the domestic economic turmoil with debt problem. Furthermore, the 9 September 2011 event, it had triggered the significant change of the whole geo-politic of the Middle East region as well as the global politic drastically. The US ‘Global Anti-Terrorism Policy’ followed by the declaration of the war on toppling the Taliban in the Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 accompanying with the strong word alignment from the US president G. Bush ‘With Us or Against US’ overthrown old regime by violence or election, which the US was the patron on the Middle East States and emergence of the pro-western elites. Hence, the collapsed of Soviet Union and the September 11 terrorist attack marks the watershed of the international system structure and global politic particularly it has broken the Middle East regional order utterly as the result of the US unilateralism foreign policy over the invasion in Iraq accordingly (Salem, 2008).
The civilian Iraqi Saddam Hussein had become the president of the Iraq after longtime in controlling the military services. The Iraqi political system had dominated by two ethnic groups, the Shiite and Sunnis Muslim group. The Ba’ada party dominated the political system in the Iraq led by the dictator Saddam Hussein who was from the Sunnis minority religious group. The repression and centralization of power in Baghdad falling into the Saddam Hussein which foreign policy decision was being made on any course of action rest in him with the secrecy as the mass media had been controlled by the state. Meanwhile, since the Iraq in the state of emergency, the US-led invasion of Iraq in the March 2003 is the slow responding one from the Saddam with no any political clout in defending the Baghdad with his informant network. Henceforth, the starting of the US-led operation in freeing Iraqi people and the grasp on the authoritarian state of Iraqi foreign policy machine was covert but one certainty is that the dictator style of Saddam leadership, he was the one who decided and authorized any course of action or affaire internally and externally in this regards (Dexter, 2007).
Besides the accusation of weapon of mass destruction and supporting the terrorist group from United State, Iraq also had many other domestic problems behind the war in 2003 that was considered as the important driving forces to encourage the war. There are two main aspects. The first factor emphasizes on the different cultural identity among the Iraqi population and weak management of resources. Disperse of cultural identities raised a strong division between the Arab and non-Arabs speaking groups it divided into three main different communities which were Sunni-Arabs, Shi’i-Arabs and Kurds (Shafeeq & Ghaba, 2001). Sunni-Arabs was a dominant group because Ba’th, the ruling party was under the control of Sunni tribe. Shiá was the majority group which was account for 65% of the total population and Kurds account for 15% to 20% which was the non-Arabic speaking groups. Kurd holds the Democratic Party in Iraq (Shafeeq & Ghaba, 2001). The conflict of interest between these three groups was not a new challenge but it had been a long lasting issue since Iraq got independence in 1932 and the solidarity among them was never reached (Anup, 2007). Among them, they fought against each other to gain the power because they fear that if they could not control the power, they would left the opportunity to the other group to devastate its community and would live in danger. Hence, to hold the power was the only one way to secure their survival. In addition, during the dictatorship regime of Saddam Husen, he failed to fulfill the harmony of these three groups which was in favor only to the ruling party and mistreating to other groups, like property arrested, family prosecution and execution and so on (Anup, 2007).
Second is related to economy. Regarding to economic issue, Iraq is one of the largest oil export countries. Approximately 61% of the economy depended on the oil export and the GDP gradually increased from $10.6 billion to $33 billion in 2000, yet many people still live in poverty and receive a low income because of the inequality of distribution and corruption (Tanweer, 2003). Furthermore, the government ignored other factors such as agriculture and industrial development. From 2002 Iraq has become the importer of agricultural products (Tanweer, 2003). Iraq has 12% of the arable land but during the Saddam’s regime, Iraq did not effectively use these land at all (CIA, 2004). Moreover, the unemployment rate also significantly increased for instance, in 2002 the unemployment rate was 30% (Anup, 2007). Iraq’s economy was controlled by the government entities, even though Saddam did encourage the privatization. However, this privatization was not success because of the continuing conflict and lack of support from the government. All in all, because of the poor methods and weak administration and management from the central government and clash of interest among their ethnic groups, Iraqi people did not really like their government (Shafeeq & Ghaba, 2001).
- 2.Foreign Policy Images
- a.Rational Image
As in the rational choice policy, the decision maker has to know about its state’s power and to weigh the ends and means, the benefit and cost in order to make choices that are rational (Ivaylo Iaydjiev, 2010). And, also the nation will make war only if there is the expectation of a net increase in utility, and if it will be better than maintaining the status quo (Bueno DeMesquita, 1983). So, being a strong leader for its nation, Iraq using its rationality policy under Saddam Hussein to stand against U.S’s invasion in 2003. Regarding to military forces, Iraq was one’s of the strong military in the Middle East with the vast of oil reserve, and more than this, Jordan and Syria were the good friends of Iraq as well (BBC, 2010). Based on its network with others countries in Middle East, and its strong military, Hussein believed that Iraq would have a better chance to win. Importantly, Saddam Hussein did not feel safe with what he had done because he ruled Iraq in communism style with oppressive policy hence, even he could be exiled to other countries as the U.S offered, there was no guarantee that he could move and live peacefully. Besides, Iraq wished to be a leader of all the Arab states to against the westernization, so if Iraq could win the war, it would bring the good opportunity for it as well (Allawi, 2007). According to these reasons, it will be better for Iraq to stand against United State rather than do nothing because it still has a chance to win based on its strong military, the vast of oil reserve, and good network in the Middle East. Particularly, even Saddam Hussein decided not to do so, still he couldn’t live in peace, and move freely because he was regarded as a bad guy for the public view with what he had done so far with other ethnic Iraqi people as well as the American people (Allawi, 2007). Moreover, the other neighborhood like Kuwait and Iran were Iraq’s nemesis as well. Therefore, Saddam Hussein was in the danger situation even he decided not to go to war, but to wage war against the US was gamble, he could win based on his rational policy, and he would bring Iraq the big fame as well if he had won the war the powerful state in the world like the United State.
Sadam Hussein was born in 1937, in a town, 20km from Bagdad city. He started his political life since he was 20, by joining the Ba’ath political party. During his political adventure, he was jailed and sentenced to death in absentia for many times (Coughlin C., 2002). Fortunately, he could survive by fleeing to the nearby countries. Thus, we can say that Sadam was an aggressive, war like and also a leftist leader. Moreover, he would use all means in order to get power, especially the use of force (Coughlin C., 2002). He preferred dictatorship to democracy and other free regime. Therefore, he was ambitious to control everything by himself, and he would struggle with the others who wanted to change this regime (Coughlin C., 2002). That was why Iraq and US always had opposite direction although Sadam used to be supported by US during Ronald Reagan’s administration. One more important remark on his behavior was he did become a president by committing a coup against his brother. Thus, it is not difficult to predict that Sadam would use the force against the US invasion.
On the other hand, Sadam was regarded as a war-liking leader. According to Sigmund Freud, 19 th century psychologist stated that one’s behavior depends on the way they view the other. During the childhood, the mental status of a child will develop well if he/she has no disappointment with their surrounding people or any upset events. However, if they meet a bad event which makes them disappointed, the sense of hatred will occur. Thus, there will be two groups of people inside the mind. They will develop a ‘’ better us’’ and a ‘’worse them’’ idea. This means that other people are always bad, only their groups of people are good. Progressively, they will do all good things to their group, and they will dare to all bad and cruel things to destroy the ones whom they view as the outsiders. This behavior was seen on Saddam Husen (Wood M. K. et al.2011).
As describe in the governmental context, the sole power of the government rested entirely on the shoulder of Saddam alone and his minority ethnic group. Every decision-making in the policy of Iraq was decided by Saddam and his henchmen alone. Base on Coughlin (2002), different from US, because the government was controlled by the minority group supporting Saddam Husen, there was no conflict of interests between each ministries or institution at all. The leader who was Saddam Husen was the only man to set the interests on those institutions. This caused the victim of group think, which the minority is gotten dominated by the majority group. Most of the decision in deciding to wage war against the US was determined by only the group of people who were close to Saddam (Coughlin, 2002).
Although Iraq was weaker than the US in term of every means necessary for waging war, Iraq decided to use military tool against the United States. The war was between Iraqi soldiers and the United States dragged on for several months. The result of the war was unfortunate. The death tolls in Iraq not only included the soldiers who participated in the war, but also most civilian lives as well (Anup, 2007). Moreover, along with the destruction of Iraq, the detector Saddam Husen was taken out by force and faced trail latter. Importantly, after the topple down of Saddam regime, Iraqi political groups have been divided more than ever, and the most active one is the Taliban who are causing turmoil in Iraq till the present time (Anup, 2007). Hence, base on these results, the foreign policy that was decided by Saddam government in Iraq war in 2003 was not successful at all.
Iraq war is an ideal war among other wars which set that stage between a superpower and a weaker state. Although just to take a glimpse of the situation of the two countries, by fighting war against someone who is not the same size seemed irrational, the decision would become more rational when those decisions have been deeply analyzed. In case of the US, it is reasonable because there was a high probability that the US would win the war. However, others factors contribute to the decisions that led to this cause of action. Base on the foreign policy arena and foreign policy image, ranging from the changing of the international context to domestic context helped pushing the decision. Likewise, standing on Iraq sides, by using the entire frameworks to examine the reasons, it is not unreasonable at all that Saddam decided to withstand the US although the gap between the two countries was large. The war-like character of the Saddam, the doubtful over Saddam future himself if he had accepted the US ultimatum, the dissatisfaction of Iraqi people in wealth distribution, the victim of group think and so on participated in Saddam decision over this war.
Media War: The Rise of a New Dictatorship in Iraq?
The forcible shutting down of the Al-Arabiya news channel in Baghdad is the first act of a new dictatorship shedding its teeth in the increasingly undemocratic Iraq.
What is a dictatorship? A classic definition clarifies that it is "a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc.)."
Let us examine the situation in Iraq.
There is a US-appointed government called the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). It is comprised of foreign-bred, foreign-educated, foreign-financed autocrats. Most do not carry Iraqi citizenship, but US, British and Australian passports. Most had never set foot in Iraq before April of this year.
All are protected by their local security guards and a heavy US security detail. Some of the council members have their own private little armies. Galal Talabani and Masoud Barazani, both rival Kurdish leaders, maintain highly-equipped armies of peshmerga who at one point fought Saddam’s armies, and at several junctions, one another. Ahmad Chalabi, who is wanted on charges of fraud and embezzlement in neighboring Jordan (he was sentenced to 20 years in absentia), has his own army of Iraqi opposition who were trained by the CIA and wear American-made uniforms and wield American-made weaponry.
They claim to represent the Iraqi people, but the average Iraqi had never heard of them before they arrived on US transport planes from Kuwait in April.
They are such a squabbling lot that they share a rotating presidency. They are not bound by laws or a constitution. Any opposition to the IGC is dealt with swiftly. In the wake of Saddam’s demise, some 300 newspapers and magazines sprouted in the "new, free" Iraq. Some focused on social issues, while others focused on the rights of Iraqi minorities, such as the Assyrians or the Sabaeans.
Some, however, took the courageous step of cherishing their new-found freedom and launched political newspapers. Almost immediately, they were warned not to criticize the IGC nor take a position calling on Iraqis to resist working with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
During the past summer, journalists coming out of Iraq spoke of harassed Iraqi editors and writers, the trashing of print shops, and the arresting of independent Iraqi writers. Threats of security were cited sounds eerily familiar to the classic version of Arab despotic regimes.
In September, an Iraqi editor who fiercely criticized the IGC, the US forces and Saddam’s former regime was shot dead while standing on his roof. No formal investigation was launched, no one detained. US forces simply blamed "former regime terrorist elements" and shrugged their shoulders. Mosul residents, however, painted a far more dire picture. They claimed that the murdered editor was killed because he was on the verge of detailing corruption charges against IGC members.
Since September, three newspapers in Mosul were shut down other newspaper editors feared for their lives and gave up their quest for a free press. Eleven newspapers have been shut down in Baghdad.
During the same period, 16 journalists have been killed in Iraq. Fourteen of those have been killed by direct US action.
The Al Jazeera all-news channel says its reporters and cameramen have been arrested 18 times while on assignment in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March. Imagine the outrage had Iran detained a CNN crew, or had Saudi Arabia interrogated a FOX reporter. Every editorial in North America would have screamed bloody murder and called for independent investigations and sanctions against those nations, and called for freedom of access and freedom of the press.
In Iraq, which is meant to be on its way to a pluralistic democracy, as President Bush has envisioned, the rules are different. No freedom of the press just yet, no dissent, no public outcry. Just behave like good little ragheads and we won’t hurt you.
On the 12th of November, The New Zealand Herald reported the following:
American soldiers handcuffed and firmly wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi man’s mouth as they arrested him today for speaking out against occupation troops.
Asked why the man had been arrested and put into the back of a Humvee vehicle on Tahrir Square, the commanding officer told Reuters at the scene: "This man has been detained for making anti-coalition statements."
In April, when US invading forces were poised on the outskirts of Baghdad, Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayyoub was gunned while standing outside the Baghdad Al Jazeera office by US troops. The same day, Spaniard Jose Couso for Spain’s Telecinco was killed when US tanks shelled the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad. Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian television cameraman for Reuters, was killed in the same incident.
US forces have not been held accountable, nor assumed responsibility, for the killing and detention of journalists in Iraq. It is worth mentioning that the US has signed no treaty that holds its military responsible for war crimes. While an Austrian army colonel may be held for a war crime if he tortures a Rwandan prisoner (let’s consider for the sake of argument), a US colonel torturing an Iraqi will not be handed over to an international court.
US military investigations concluded in the above attacks on journalists that "US forces reacted appropriately in a hostile environment" in all of the above cases. The findings have enraged human rights and international journalists’ groups.
Many within journalism circles have accused US forces of trying to thwart the unfettered access and broadcast of information pertaining to the situation in Iraq.
Also on November 12, Slobodan Lekic of the Associated Press news agency (AP) wrote:
With casualties mounting in Iraq (news – web sites), jumpy U.S. soldiers are becoming more aggressive in their treatment of journalists covering the conflict.
Media people have been detained, news equipment has been confiscated and some journalists have suffered verbal and physical abuse while trying to report on events Reuters television cameraman Mazen Dana was killed while videotaping near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad following a mortar attack.
The military later said the troops had mistaken Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. An investigation concluded the soldiers "acted within the rules of engagement," although the U.S. Army has never publicly announced those rules, citing security reasons.
The latest attack on press freedoms came when the IGC ordered the Al-Arabiya news station shut down, accusing it of promoting murder and chaos in Iraq. According to the (AP) "[the] State Department defended the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council’s banning of a major Arab television station, saying Monday that the aim was to try to avoid a situation where these media are used as a channel for incitement.’" Al-Arabiya aired an audio-tape of Saddam last week, which many feel is the real reason the move against the network was taken.
That’s funny. Consider the hatred and vitriol against all things Arab and Islamic on North American radio, talk-shows, the FOX network among others. No, American journalism is beyond compare and cannot be scrutinized.
But there is method to this madness. In 1931, a young Adolf Hitler learned the value of the media. A powerful media could control the people, move them when needed, silence them when needed. This is called propaganda.
Last month, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld charged that Arab media in Iraq was "violently anti-coalition." Apparently, showing images of girls being frisked by US soldiers, an affront to Muslims and Arabs, is anti-coalition. Apparently, giving voice to Iraqi civilians who complain that they were beaten, or showing old men being pushed around and forced to strip by anxious US soldiers is anti-coalition.[i]
Arab networks have been bringing audiences news that their North American counterparts have sensitized and censored. The burning of Iraqi farms as a measure of collective punishment, the razing of fields, the demolition of family homes, the humiliation of Iraqis are all stories North American viewers do not get to see. Now, the IGC and the CPA want to ensure that Arab audiences don’t see them either.
(Last month, the BBC criticized North American coverage of the war as being sensitized.)
A controlled media is the very first lesson in effective dictatorship. Have we all forgotten our Orwellian and Machiavellian lessons?
So, what’s Rumsfeld’s solution? According to AP, Rumsfeld "said a satellite channel controlled by the U.S. government would begin broadcasts next month."
Maybe Rumsfeld would do well to heed the Iraqi public’s tastes: "Two hundred Iraqis vented their anger in Baghdad on Wednesday against what they called immodest images’ on the coalition-run national television," said the BBC on November 19.[ii]
If outside control is acceptable to American conscience then I suggest the US public be given a television station controlled by Mauritania. By stating that Iraqis will have someone else determine their programming, Rumsfeld takes a racist and ethnocentric approach to the issue.
The above article is sure to incite fury and anger because it presents a side of the occupation most do not want to hear. Consequently, this writer receives death threats and various forms of hate mail. To those who find the above contrary to their inbred beliefs, consider an old Sioux adage which says walk a mile in a man’s moccasin before you learn to judge him. Would the average American citizen appreciate the silencing of a newspaper because it publishes articles critical of Congress? Or would a British citizen appreciate if Buckingham Palace ordered all stories of the royal family entirely removed from the public eye?
Censorship of the media in the West is intolerable. Why is it then acceptable for Iraqis who only seek to air their views and find alternate forms of information?
To make things worse, The New York Times reported on November 25th that the IGC is trying to wedge its way out of its commitment to relinquishing control to an elected Iraqi body.
But Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who is serving as president of the council this month, said in an interview Monday that a majority of the council members "want to keep the Governing Council as it is now." Some council members who oppose this idea say they believe that the proposal is being promoted by members who are afraid that they may not fare well in the coming elections. Opponents of the idea also say they fear that staying on will be a public relations disaster for the nascent rebuilt Iraqi state.
A new dictatorship is in the making in Iraq. History lessons are being tossed aside. The Iraq policy is going sour for both the CPA and IGC. A great crime is being committed against the Iraqi people. And they don’t want you to know.
What Are American Soldiers Actually Dying For?
September 7, 2017
US Marine Corps soldiers pay their respects during a memorial service in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2009. (AP Photo / Julie Jacobson)
EDITOR&rsquoS NOTE:  This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
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I used to command soldiers. Over the years, lots of them actually. In Iraq, Colorado, Afghanistan, and Kansas. And I’m still fixated on a few of them like this one private first class (PFC) in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011. All of 18, he was short, scrawny, and popular. Nine months after graduating from high school, he’d found himself chasing the Taliban with the rest of our gang. At five foot nothing, I once saw him step into an irrigation canal and disappear from sight—all but the two-foot antenna on his radio. In my daydreams, I always see the same scene, the moment his filthy, grizzled baby face reappeared above that ditch, a cigarette still dangling loosely from his lips. His name was Anderson and I can remember thinking at that moment: What will I tell his mother if he gets killed out here?
And then… poof… it’s 2017 again and I’m here in Kansas, pushing papers at Fort Leavenworth, those days in the field long gone. Anderson himself survived his tour of duty in Afghanistan, though I’ve no idea where he is today. A better commander might. Several of his buddies were less fortunate. They died, or found themselves short a limb or two, or emotionally and morally scarred for life.
From time to time I can’t help thinking of Anderson, and others like him, alive and dead. In fact, I wear two bracelets on my wrist engraved with the names of the young men who died under my command in Afghanistan and Iraq, six names in all. When I find a moment, I need to add another. It wasn’t too long ago that one of my soldiers took his own life. Sometimes the war doesn’t kill you until years later.
And of this much I’m certain: The moment our nation puts any PFC Anderson in harm’s way, thousands of miles and light years from Kansas, there had better be a damn good reason for it, a vital, tangible national interest at stake. At the very least, this country better be on the right side in the conflicts we’re fighting.
The Wrong Side
It’s long been an article of faith here: The United States is the greatest force for good in the world, the planet’s “indispensable nation.” But what if we’re wrong? After all, as far as I can tell, the view from the Arab or African “street” tells a different story altogether. Americans tend to loathe the judgments of foreigners, but sober strategy demands that once in a while we walk the proverbial mile in the global shoes of others. After all, almost 16 years into the war on terror it should be apparent that something isn’t working. Perhaps it’s time to ask whether the United States is really playing the role of the positive protagonist in a great global drama.
I know what you’re thinking: ISIS, the Islamic State, is a truly awful outfit. And so it is and the United States is indeed combatting it, though various allies and even adversaries (think: Iran) are doing most of the fighting. Still, with the broader war for the Greater Middle East in mind, wouldn’t it be appropriate to stop for a moment and ask: Just whose side is America really on?
Certainly, it’s not the side of the average Arab. That should be apparent. Take a good, hard look at the region and it’s obvious that Washington mainly supports the interests of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s military dictator, and various Gulf State autocracies. Or consider the actions and statements of the Trump administration and of the two administrations that preceded it and here’s what seems obvious: The United States is in many ways little more than an air force, military trainer, and weapons depot for assorted Sunni despots. Now, that’s not a point made too often—not in this context anyway—because it’s neither a comfortable thought for most Americans, nor a particularly convenient reality for establishment policymakers to broadcast, but it’s the truth.
Yes, we do fight ISIS, but it’s hardly that simple. Saudi Arabia, our main regional ally, may portray itself as the leader of a “moderate Sunni block” when it comes to both Iran and terrorism, but the reality is, at best, far grayer than that. The Saudis—with whom President Trump announced a $110 billion arms deal during the first stop on his inaugural foreign trip back in May—have spent the last few decades spreading their intolerant brand of Islam across the region. In the process, they’ve also supported Al Qaeda–linked groups in Syria.
Maybe you’re willing to argue that Al Qaeda spin-offs aren’t ISIS, but don’t forget who brought down those towers in New York. While President Trump enjoyed a traditional sword dance with his Saudi hosts—no doubt gratifying his martial tastes—the air forces of the Saudis and their Gulf state allies were bombing and missiling Yemeni civilians into the grimmest of situations, including a massive famine and a spreading cholera epidemic amid the ruins of their impoverished country. So much for the disastrous two-year Saudi war there, which goes by the grimly ironic moniker of Operation Restoring Hope and for which the US military provides midair refueling and advanced munitions, as well as intelligence.
If you’re a human rights enthusiast, it’s also worth asking just what kind of states we’re working with here. In Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive automobiles, “sorcery” is a capital offense, and people are beheaded in public. Hooray for American values! And newsflash: Iran’s leaders—whom the Trump administration and its generals are obsessed with demonizing—may be no angels, but the Islamic republic they preside over is a far more democratic country than Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy. Imagine Louis XIV in a kufiyah and you’ve just about nailed the nature of Saudi rule.
After Israel, Egypt is the number two recipient of direct US military aid, to the tune of $1.3 billion annually. And that bedrock of liberal values is led by US-trained General Abdul el-Sisi, a strongman who seized power in a coup and then, just for good measure, had his army gun down a crowd demonstrating in favor of the deposed democratically elected president. And how did the American beacon of hope respond? Well, Sisi’s still in power the Egyptian military is once again receiving aid from the Pentagon and, in April, President Trump paraded the general around the White House, assuring reporters, “in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President el-Sisi… he’s done a fantastic job!”
In Syria and Iraq, the US military is fighting a loathsome adversary in ISIS, but even so, the situation is far more complicated than usually imagined here. As a start, the US air offensive to support allied Syrian and Kurdish rebels fighting to take ISIS’s “capital,” Raqqa—grimly titled Operation Wrath of the Euphrates—killed more civilians this past May and June than the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. In addition, America’s brutal air campaign appears unhinged from any coherent long-term strategy. No one in charge seems to have the faintest clue what exactly will follow ISIS’s rule in eastern Syria. A Kurdish mini-state? A three-way civil war between Kurds, Sunni tribes, and Assad’s forces (with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic Turkey as the wild card in the situation)? Which begs the question: Are American bombs actually helping?
Similarly, in Iraq it’s not clear that the future rule of Shia-dominated militia groups and others in the rubble left by the last years of grim battle in areas ISIS previously controlled will actually prove measurably superior to the nightmare that preceded them. The present Shia-dominated government might even slip back into the sectarian chauvinism that helped empower ISIS in the first place. That way, the United States can fight its fourth war in Iraq since 1991!
And keep in mind that the war for the Greater Middle East—and I fought in it myself both in Iraq and Afghanistan—is just the latest venture in the depressing annals of Washington’s geo-strategic thinking since President Ronald Reagan’s administration, along with the Saudis and Pakistanis, armed, funded, and supported extreme fundamentalist Afghan mujahedeen rebels in a Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union that eventually led to the 9/11 attacks. His administration also threw money, guns, and training—sometimes illegally—at the brutal Nicaraguan Contras in another Cold War covert conflict in which about 100,000 civilians died.
In those years, the United States also stood by apartheid South Africa—long after the rest of the world shunned that racist state—not even removing Nelson Mandela’s name from its terrorist watch list until 2008! And don’t forget Washington’s support for Jonas Savimbi’s National Movement for the Total Independence of Angola that would contribute to the death of some 500,000 Angolans. And that’s just to begin a list that would roll on and on.
That, of course, is the relatively distant past, but the history of US military action in the 21st century suggests that Washington seems destined to repeat the process of choosing the wrong, or one of the wrong, sides into the foreseeable future. Today’s Middle East is but a single exhibit in a prolonged tour of hypocrisy.
Maybe it’s because most Americans just aren’t paying attention or maybe we’re a nation of true believers, but it’s clear that most of us still cling to the idea that our country is a beacon of hope for the planet. Never known for our collective self-awareness, we’re eternally aghast to discover that so many elsewhere find little but insincerity in the promise of US foreign policy. “Why do they hate us,” Americans have asked, with evident disbelief, for much of this century. Here are just a few hints related to the Greater Middle East:
*Post-9/11, the United States unleashed chaos in the region, destabilized it in stunning ways, and via an invasion launched on false premises created the conditions for ISIS’s rise. (That terror group quite literally formed in an American prison in post-invasion Iraq.) Later, with failing or failed states dotting the region, the US response to the worst refugee crisis since World War II has been to admit—to choose but a single devastated country—a paltry 18,000 Syrians since 2011. Canada took in three times that number last year Sweden more than 50,000 in 2015 alone and Turkey hosts three million displaced Syrians.
*Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s attempts to put in place a Muslim travel ban haven’t won this country any friends in the region either nor will the president’s—or White House aide Stephen Miller’s—proposed “reform” of US immigration policy, which would prioritize English-speakers, cut in half legal migration within a decade, and limit the ability of citizens and legal residents to sponsor relatives. How do you think that’s going to play in the global war for hearts and minds? As much as Miller would love to change Emma Lazarus’s inscription on the Statue of Liberty to “give me your well educated, your highly skilled, your English-speaking masses yearning to be free,” count on one thing: World opinion won’t miss the duplicity and hypocrisy of such an approach.
*Guantánamo—perhaps the single best Islamist recruiting tool on Earth—is still open. And, says President Trump, we’re “keeping it open… and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.” On this, he’s likely to be a man of his word. A new executive order is expected soon, preparing the way for an expansion of that prison’s population, while the Pentagon is already planning to put almost half a billion dollars into the construction of new facilities there in the coming years. No matter how upset the world gets at any of this, no matter how ISIS and other terror groups use it for their brand of advertising, no American officials will be held to account, because the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court. Hypocritical? Nope, just utterly all-American.
*And speaking of prisons, thanks to nearly unqualified—sometimes almost irrational—US support for Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank increasingly resemble walled off penal complexes. You almost have to admire President Trump for not even pretending to play the honest broker in the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He typically told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “One state, two state… I like whichever you like.” The safe money says Netanyahu will choose neither, opting instead to keep the Palestinians in political limbo without civil rights or a sovereign state, while Israel embarks on a settlement bonanza in the occupied territories. And speaking of American exceptionalism, we’re almost alone on the world stage when it comes to our support for the Israeli occupation.
Given the nature of contemporary American war-fighting (far away and generally lightly covered by the media, which has an endless stream of Trump tweets to fawn over), it’s easy to forget that American troops are still dying in modest numbers in the Greater Middle East, in Syria, Iraq,Somalia, and—almost 16 years after the American invasion of that country—Afghanistan.
As for myself, from time to time (too often for comfort) I can’t help thinking of PFC Anderson and those I led who were so much less fortunate than him: Rios, Hensley, Clark, Hockenberry (a triple amputee), Fuller, Balsley, and Smith. Sometimes, when I can bear it, I even think about the war’s countless Afghan victims. And then I wish I could truly believe that we were indisputably the “good guys” in our unending wars across the Greater Middle East because that’s what we owed those soldiers.
And it pains me no less that Americans tend to blindly venerate the PFC Andersons of our world, to put them on such a pedestal (as the president did in his Afghan address to the nation recently), offering them eternal thanks, and so making them and their heroism the reason for fighting on, while most of the rest of us don’t waste a moment thinking about what (and whom) they’re truly fighting for.
If ever you have the urge to do just that, ask yourself the following question: Would I be able to confidently explain to someone’s mother what (besides his mates) her child actually died for?
What would you tell her? That he (or she) died to ensure Saudi hegemony in the Persian Gulf, or to facilitate the rise of ISIS, or an eternal Guantanamo, or the spread of terror groups, or the creation of yet more refugees for us to fear, or the further bombing of Yemen to ensure a famine of epic proportions?
Maybe you could do that, but I couldn’t and can’t. Not anymore, anyway. There have already been too many mothers, too many widows, for whom those explanations couldn’t be lamer. And so many dead—American, Afghan, Iraqi, and all the rest—that eventually I find myself sitting on a bar stool staring at the six names on those bracelets of mine, the wreckage of two wars reflecting back at me, knowing I’ll never be able to articulate a coherent explanation for their loved ones, should I ever have the courage to try.
Fear, guilt, embarrassment… my crosses to bear, as the war Anderson and I fought only expands further and undoubtedly more disastrously. My choices, my shame. No excuses.
Here’s the truth of it, if you just stop to think about America’s wars for a moment: It’s only going to get harder to look a widow or mother in the eye and justify them in the years to come. Maybe a good soldier doesn’t bother to worry about that… but I now know one thing at least: I’m not that.
As Trump Strikes Syria, We Should Revisit the History Lessons of US Intervention in Central America
Since it began nearly six years ago, the Syrian civil war has prompted difficult foreign policy debates about US interventionism and what our role in the region – and more broadly, in the world – should be. Could the use of direct US military force in Syria help stop the unfolding humanitarian crisis there? Or does military action, (even if we assume the best of intentions), do more harm than good?
While Obama took the latter position during his presidency, Donald Trump has adopted a more hawkish stance, authorizing the launch of 59 cruise Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria last week. The strike, which constitutes the first direct US military action against the President Bashar al-Assad regime, was a response to Assad’s suspected involvement in a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 70 Syrian civilians. In its wake, the world is left wondering how US intervention in Syria and beyond will look under the Trump administration – particularly given that this move directly contradicts Trump’s isolationist campaign rhetoric.
As we look ahead to what Trump may plan for the future, it helps to look back at lessons from the long history of US military intervention. When I first heard about the situation in Syria, it echoed the Salvadoran Civil War my parents and siblings fled in the 1980s. The US was heavily involved in funding that conflict, providing weapons, money and political support to El Salvador’s right-wing government. Today, El Salvador remains the deadliest country in the world after Syria, despite the fact that the war officially ended 25 years ago.
As many try to assuage their fears about Trump’s election by suggesting that the US has survived worse – “we survived Reagan” is a common refrain – we’d do well to remember that hundreds of thousands of people didn’t survive Reagan’s intervention and proxy wars in Central America. If we want more people to survive this new administration, we need to learn from the serious ramifications and unintended consequences that our military interventions have wrought in the past.
With that in mind, here are some of the repercussions of the US’s involvement in Central America that are still relevant in our current political context:
The Trump administration has garnered criticism for the hypocrisy of its Syria position – bombing the Assad regime, supposedly in the name of protecting innocent Syrian civilians, while simultaneously refusing to take in refugees. This, however, is not an unprecedented move.
The United States government was instrumental in funding right-wing militaries during the Guatemalan and Salvadoran civil wars that cost hundred of thousand of lives between them. Under the Reagan administration, the innocent people fleeing this warfare weren’t considered refugees, but rather were labeled “economic migrants.” As a result, fewer than three percent of Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum cases were approved. This moral failing to protect human life led to the rise of a religious-backed, anti-imperial grassroots movement known as the Sanctuary Movement, which sought to defy the US government and shelter Central American refugees.
We’re in desperate need of second coming of the Sanctuary Movement, as there over 60 million refugees worldwide, more than in any point in history according to the UN Refugee Agency.
The development of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, dates back to before World War I, but has become synonymous with the Obama administration’s interventions in the Middle East. It is a little-known fact that Central America was a testing ground for drone technology in the 1980s. According to the Salvadoran digital newspaper El Faro, drone spy planes were part of the United States’ counterinsurgency strategy in the region between 1979 and 1992. The drones likely took off from US bases in Honduras and Panama to surveil the movement of guerrilla rebels in El Salvador. A bit later on during the Iraq War, US military strategists employed tactics tested in El Salvador’s civil war – it was dubbed the “Salvador Option.” The plan involved re-creating Salvadoran-style death squads, which were paramilitary groups designed to commit extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances for the purpose of political repression.
The 2009 Honduran Coup became a talking point during the 2016 campaign season, after the assassination of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres grabbed international headlines. Before her death, Cáceres condemned Hillary Clinton’s support of the right-wing coup in Honduras, one that led to a surge in violence and the targeting of activists like herself.
The Central American isthmus has had too many coups to list, but one notable example is the 1954 Guatemalan coup that was staged to protect the financial interests of the United Fruit Company. Abrupt regime changes in countries where the US expresses political interests has become a standard practice.
Some of the earliest examples of the US flexing its interventionist muscle were the Banana Wars, a series of conflicts from the 1880s to 1930s that spanned the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. One of those conflicts was the United States invasion of Nicaragua, which led to an occupation from 1912 to 1938. These events would inspire Augusto Nicolás Sandino to stage a rebellion, and solidify him as the international symbol for the Nicaraguan left.
Fast forward to 1989, when failed coup attempts brought 27,000 US troops to invade and bomb Panama in “Operation Just Cause” under George H.W. Bush. The invasion claimed over 2,000 civilian lives according to conservative estimates, and was widely regarded as a move to secure US interests in the Panama Canal. Given the US’s very recent experience with invasion and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, seeing this history repeat itself is a fear in the minds of many.
Arms TradeOliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings in Washington, D.C., 1987.
It seems that US intervention begets more intervention. When a conflict ends in one part of the world, the weapons that were put down have a way of cropping up as hot commodities elsewhere. Israel, the largest recipient of US military aid for several decades, has been unsurprisingly a major supplier of weapons to all the right-wing militaries in every single Central American country, but especially during the dirty wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We also cannot forget the Iran-Contra Affair that rocked the Reagan administration, when it was discovered that the US was selling arms to Iran and funneling the profits to fund the counter-insurgency Contra army in Nicaragua. It comes as no surprise that the US has already funded several rebel groups in Syria, and the potential escalation of this involvement is an increasing pressure point under the current administration.
The legacy of warThe Monument of Memory and Truth in San Salvador.
The Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992), the Guatemalan Civil War (1960 – 1996) and the Contra War in Nicaragua (1981 – 1990) were some of the last stages in the Cold War. The United States funded anti-communist right-wing groups in all three of these conflicts coincidentally these were also the groups that committed the vast majority of the human rights violations during the wars. The recent memory of these violent wars still reverberates in Central America and the respective diasporas’ collective traumas to this day. Even when the Syrian conflict comes to an end, I predict Syrians will be reeling from it for generations to come.
Trump may have bombed Yemen more than all previous US presidents combined, new report finds
Within days of taking office, President Donald Trump, who had campaigned on killing the families of alleged terrorists — and essentially doing the opposite of whatever President Barack Obama had done — ordered US commandos to carry out an early-morning raid in Yemen that had been vetoed by his predecessor.
"Almost everything went wrong," one US official told NBC News. The attack, intended to take out a suspected group of al-Qaeda militants, began with a botched landing and ended with a Navy Seal dead. An eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, a US citizen and the daughter of an extremist preacher who was assassinated-by-drone in the Obama years, was also killed, as were more than a dozen others.
Civilians were "likely killed," the US military conceded.
Since 2017, the US has admitted to killing between 4 to 12 civilians, although the real number could be as high as 154 — and 86, at a minimum — according to a new report, "Eroding Transparency," from the monitoring group Airwars. A disproportionate number of those killed died as a result of on-the-ground raids ordered by the Trump administration, the group found: despite accounting for less than 3% of US actions documented by Airwars, such attacks accounted for some 40% of all civilian casualties.
In a statement, US Central Command, which oversees operations in Yemen, told Business Insider it is "reviewing information provided by Airwars."
Trump is not the first president to bring the US-led war on terror to Yemen — American cluster bombs killed 35 women and children during Obama's presidency — but data collected by Airwars and the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggest he is a more prolific bombardier than his predecessor.
In 2017, the US admitted to carrying out 133 attacks in Yemen, the vast majority airstrikes, compared to just 150 confirmed strikes between all of 2002 and 2017. Clandestine strikes by the Central Intelligence Agency mean all figures come with an asterisk, but there was undeniable intensity to the attacks ordered in Trump's first year, most likely a product of a new president and his "considerable loosening of the rules of engagement," Airwars said in its report.
US strikes in Yemen have dropped off since then, to less than 40 in 2019 to less than 20 thus far this year. Does that mean, then, that President Trump is backing up his rhetoric against "forever wars" with measurable actions?
Not so fast, Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told Business Insider. It may just be that, from the perspective of US national security officials, record-breaking airstrikes before have lessened the need for more airstrikes now. There is, also, a pandemic.
At the same time, the US government, under Trump, is being less transparent about who and what is bombing. In response to criticism of its campaign of extrajudicial killings, the Obama administration published, just hours before Trump's inauguration, a report detailing both the number of US airstrikes abroad and the reported civilian harm they caused. The current administration has never published such a report since, transparency only coming in piecemeal form as a result of congressional action demanding it.
In 2019, the Department of Defense stopped even saying how many airstrikes it had carried out in Yemen, granted a lack of transparency usually reserved for the CIA.
"Donald Trump's wars represent a paradox," Woods said. "While currently we're seeing some of the lowest numbers of US airstrikes in years across major theaters, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria … this is a pretty recent phenomenon. Earlier on in his presidency, we saw record numbers of both airstrikes and reported civilian harm in multiple theaters, fueled by Trump's stated intent to 'take the gloves off' against terror groups."
The spread of COVID-19 has also meant the slowing, if not freezing, of conflicts elsewhere, Woods said. In Somalia, for example, the Trump administration was on pace, right as the pandemic hit, to more than double last year's record-breaking number of airstrikes. "Assad regime, Russian and Turkish strikes in Syria have all dropped steeply," he noted.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for ending US support for the Saudi war in Yemen, which has killed far more civilians — thousands each year, and 100,000 since 2015 — than direct US counter-terrorism operations. Democrats in Congress, joined by a few Republicans, have also pressed for an end to that support, which began under Obama and increased under Trump.
But there is a bipartisan consensus on counter-terrorism. A Senate resolution offered by US Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, called for a prohibition on US support for the Saudi war in Yemen but carved out an exemption for direct US airstrikes on al-Qaeda and related extremists.
In 2019, the Trump administration targeted and killed an individual, Jamal al-Badawi, who a US grand jury indicted for his alleged role in planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole which had been stationed at the port in Aden, Yemen, killing 17 US sailors.
On Twitter, the US president celebrated the strike.
Al-Badawi purportedly left extremism behind more than a decade ago no reports since had indicated he had rejoined a terrorist organization, and there is no evidence that attempts were made to arrest him before he was assinated.
"A targeted attack on a reportedly reformed al-Qaeda fighter would seem to constitute new and troubling territory for the US armed drone program," Airwars' report states, potentially violating the 2001 congressional authorization for the use of force against perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
That is only one aspect of US involvement in Yemen that may violate the law. As The New York Times reported in September, the State Department in 2016 determined that "American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners."
As with the global war on terror, those sales have only increased since the US experienced regime change.
American defeat: an anti-state communist perspective on the war in Iraq, 2003 - Kevin Keating
Keating's analysis of the US-UK war in Iraq, which we disagree with and which contains numerous flaws, including casual anti-semitism. We reproduce it for reference only.
American defeat: an anti-state communist perspective on the Iraq war
As I write this, in early March 2003, the rulers of the United States are about to attack Iraq. If the prevalent guesses are correct, the American empire will rapidly defeat and destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime, seize Iraqi oil fields, and occupy major urban centers. This will probably be accomplished with an initially low number of US military casualties, and a very high number of deaths among Iraqi civilians and military personnel. The United States will attempt to cobble together a client regime analogous to that of Karzai’s in Afghanistan, and it will be at this point, the high-point of an apparently overwhelming and inexpensive US military victory, that a real, enduring defeat for the United States may begin.
Thirty years after the US defeat in Indochina, America’s main imperialist rival of the day, the Soviet Union, is no more American companies have completely recolonized Vietnam the United States is now unchallenged as the world’s dominant economic, military, and cultural power. With the possible exception of Israel, no other government on Earth is as promiscuous in the use of large-scale violence in the pursuit of its foreign policy goals. On the surface, it appears that the US. has gotten over its post-Vietnam hangover, that nothing keeps the rulers of the US from lashing out wherever they choose, and that we are seeing an example of this against former US asset Saddam Hussein. The conquest of Iraq is intended to be the first episode in a new period of unlimited aggressive global warfare by the United States. But the American empire is much more vulnerable, and American society itself more fragile, than either its friends or enemies think. A bloody, incoherent “victory” over Saddam Hussein may have the same devastating impact on the interests of the US ruling class as an outright military defeat.
One motivation behind the Bush Administrations’ launching of a major war is to get Bush re-elected in 2004 -- but that’s just the small tip of a very big iceberg. Bush wants to ape his father’s high popularity ratings after the episode of mass murder committed by the US and its allies in Iraq in January 1991. Bush needs to get the American public’s mind off the deepening economic crisis, the disappearance of several million jobs and an ever-increasing atmosphere of domestic US hardship. The people who own Bush will try to boost the US out of a major economic downturn with the massive increase in military spending that a big war and subsequent occupation will entail.
Bush also needs to divert attention from his failure to locate or kill Osama Bin Laden, to dismantle al Qaeda, capture or destroy its top leadership, or even account for the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. Afghanistan also propels Bush into a new war, because the Afghan campaign otherwise had the surface appearance of a quick cheap victory, with the Taliban collapsing more rapidly than American projections had forecast.
Bush’s response to the rapid taking of Kabul by the Northern Alliance is recounted this way in Bush At War, by Bob Woodward:
"(Bush) did not conceal his astonishment at the shift of events. “It’s a stunner, isn’t it?” Everyone agreed. It was almost too good to be true."
Bush and company seek a mechanical replay in Iraq a military victory occurring close enough to the November 2004 elections to propel him into a second presidential term.
Iraq has never attacked the United States. No credible links have been established between Saddam Hussein and any significant anti-US. action. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, America’s second-most significant ally in the region, is the birthplace of al Qaeda, the organization behind the most devastating military blow inflicted on the United States since Pearl Harbor.
Fifteen out of nineteen of the September 11th hijackers were Saudis. Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been financed with funds from backers in Saudi Arabia. Even the wife of the Saudi Ambassador to Washington was found to have contributed money through a charitable organization to men associated with the Sept. 11th hijackers.
A classified intelligence briefing to the Pentagon’s defense advisory board from the Rand Corporation, a national security think-tank, leaked to the US news media, had this to say about America’s Saudi allies:
"The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader."
The report went on to describe the kingdom as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent,” that the US faces in the Middle East.
Faced with a pattern of major anti-US military action backed from elements in the Saudi elite, the perpetually bellicose US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denied that the intelligence assessment quoted above reflected US government policy. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said that George Bush was “pleased with the kingdom’s contributions” to the war against al Qaeda. During a visit to Mexico in November 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed his desire to avoid a crisis in relations with “a country that has been a good friend."
Elements of the Saudi elite have backed and continue to back significant actions against the United States. In response the world's only superpower can't even offer something as benign and symbolic as a public formal diplomatic complaint.
The US has to keep the Saudi elite happy for the time being, they have no choice in the matter. A UK Guardian article notes:
"Despite attempts to diversify US sources of oil, US dependence on Persian Gulf oil is projected to increase, not decrease, over the next 20 years. All major oil production increases in that period are also projected to take place in and around the (Persian) Gulf Saudi Arabia is the only producer with enough spare capacity to keep the world market stable and prevent price “spikes” in times of crisis. Without Saudi Arabia, it is no exaggeration to say that the US economic motor could quickly conk out."
("Sleeping With the Enemy." Simon Tisdale, Guardian, Nov. 28, 2002)
Saudi Arabia supplies 17% of daily US oil needs. Saudi Arabia controls 25% of the world’s known oil reserves. In literal terms, Saudi Arabia has the world’s only superpower over a barrel. US oil dependency is a central part of the Bush Administrations’ need to placate to the House of Saud, and a real measure of American weakness in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is also the world’s largest purchaser of US weapons’ systems, and the source of roughly $600 billion in investments in the US economy.
In the near future, elements in the US elite aspire to be in a position to place major pressure on the Saudis, or even topple the House of Saud and replace them with more pliant allies. The US cannot do this now, but the conquest of Iraq is a stepping stone in this process, a move toward a permanent US military occupation of Western Asia, and a bid for direct US control of the world’s major oil supplies. “The road to the entire Middle East goes through Baghdad,” said a Bush Administration official in the Washington Post on August 8 of last year.
The journal Aspects of India's Economy notes:
“Direct control over West Asian oil resources -- the world’s richest and most cheaply accessible -- would allow the US to manipulate oil supplies and prices according to its strategic interests, and thereby consolidate American global supremacy against any future challenger." (1)
The future of the United States as the world’s leading economic and military power hinges on the US dollar continuing to be the currency used in international oil market transactions:
"Over the past year. the euro has started to challenge the dollars’ position as the international means of payment for oil. The dollars’ dominance of world trade, particularly the oil market, is all that permits the US Treasury to sustain the nation’s massive deficit, as it can print inflation-free money for global circulation. If the global demand for dollars falls, the value of the currency will fall with it, and speculators will shift their assets into euros or yen or even yuan, with the result that the US economy will begin to totter. "
("Out of the Wreckage." George Monbiot, Guardian, Feb. 25, '03)
The US economy is already tottering the US is stuck in a recession, a crisis of overproduction where corporate profits and business investments have suffered their steepest declines since the 1930’s “this is no normal business cycle, but the bursting of the biggest bubble in America’s history.” (Economist, Sept. 28, 2002) And now major oil suppliers like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Chavez regime in Venezuela have expressed interest in switching to the new European currency for their oil transactions. If they do this, others will follow, with significant negative effects on the dollar and on an already weakened US economy. The US must try at all costs to stop this from happening. This in part accounts for the frantic drive to conquer Iraq by the Bush Administration.
The United States imports roughly half its oil supply this percentage is projected to increase in coming years. But Japan, Germany and France each import almost 100% of their oil. China is also projected to become more reliant on imported oil in coming years. American domination of the world’s oil supplies is key to keeping all these rivals in a weakened position. If the US controls Iraq, the US will control the world’s second-largest oil reserves. The US will use this to dominate the global oil market.
The conquest of Iraq is intended to maintain the position of the dollar in the international oil trade, provide a stepping stone for future US aggression against Iran and Saudi Arabia, keep major rivals (Europe, Japan and China) in a weakened position, and guarantee the US long-term access to oil as its domestic production declines and its consumption needs increase. This is central to understanding the humanitarian noises against US aggression made by major European Union nations. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld responded to this opposition by dismissing France and Germany as being insignificant on the world scene when compared to Poland and the Czech Republic. This doesn’t discredit the Bush Administration in the eyes of the American public, since most American citizens don’t own passports, can’t say what century the American Civil War took place in, think Mexico is in South America, and have trouble locating Canada on a map of the world. Rumsfeld’s comments make him sound like an All-American provincial dolt, but they underscore the fact that the war is about the United States keeping the European Union and America’s Asian economic rivals at bay.
The war with Iraq is the high point of a series of recent unilateral actions by the United States, most notably the refusal of the Bush Administration to cooperate with the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, but also its refusal to sign the treaty banning anti-personnel mines, its unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic missile treaty, and its stated intention of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, including nukes for battlefield use against non-nuclear foes. Other examples abound. These actions, and an increasing penchant for resolving economic questions by military means are examples of the growing vulnerability of the United States as a world power. What they could once achieve by diplomacy or trade must now be acquired by force.
Significantly, the rulers of the US have also made it clear that they will not cooperate with the recently-established International Criminal Court, which is supposed to try future defendants accused of genocide and war crimes.
Another facet of the US’s weakness as a world power is it’s relationship with Israel. Israel is something like a Northern European social democracy with apartheid and nukes, but that still makes it a virtual 51st state when compared to Syria, or Egypt, or Iraq. Israel is the fulcrum of US strategic requirements in its part of the world. And because of this, Israel is also the love-object of a 50-year-long, out-of-control unrequited crush on the part of the US political elite. Among the US political class, some are pro-Israel, some are fanatically pro-Israel, and some are wildly, fanatically pro-Israel. This unanimity of thought extends from the right-wing establishment leftward to irrelevant feeble liberals of the Nation magazine stripe. The United States is at the beck and call of the Israeli ruling class, and will endlessly cater to Israel’s military and economic needs. This includes allowing Israel to spy on the US and attack the US militarily during time of war. All factions of the US political elite have made it clear that the US will also back any action the Zionist state takes against the original inhabitants of the territory it occupies, no matter how much this damages long-term US imperial interests in predominantly Arab and Muslim regions of the world.
For example, the constant expansion of Jewish settlements into territory supposedly conceded to a Palestinian authority is an American tax-dollar subsidized large-scale public housing program for Israel. This housing program is taking place during a major domestic housing crisis in the United States, where subsidized housing projects have suffered massive funding cuts or been closed down. The US buys social peace for Israeli society with this poorer, dark-skinned Jews, who are near the bottom of the class hierarchy in Israeli society, are fronted off into the settlements, where they bear the brunt of anti-settler Palestinian guerrilla violence. This in turn drives these settlers to form part of the most recalcitrant and reactionary element of Israeli society. The constant expansion of the settlements over Arab lands would be impossible without the decades-long infusion of an average of three million US tax dollars per day into the ever-floundering Israeli economy.
The US is effectively a pawn of its client state in Jerusalem. This is a comically absurd situation try to imagine the late 19th century British Empire being perpetually on its knees before the King of Nepal. In return for US sponsorship, Israel has carte blanche do whatever it wants to its Palestinian subjects and to anyone living within striking distance of the Israeli Air Force.
In the Middle East, America must do what Israel needs before America can do what America needs. The current rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt give the US the cover it needs to be the tool of its favorite client, and the US must keep all of them happy. Powerless to act against the Saudis for the time being, the US now uses Iraq as a punching bag to convince the rest of the world, especially Saudi Arabia, that the US isn’t a declining world power. Bush and Company cannot yet jeopardize their relationship with the House of Saud, but they would like to scare them back into line while plotting their next big move. They will do this with an extremely bloody US armaments industry trade show next door in Iraq, a sequel to Bush’s father’s unsuccessful reelection campaign of ‘91.
A weak power can attempt to hide its weakness by fighting and defeating a much weaker enemy. Iraq is ideal for this. Iraq was flattened by the 1991 war, and by the subsequent twelve years of widespread starvation, disease and economic ruin imposed by US-backed UN sanctions. In theory Iraq should provide Bush with a massacre that can get him re-elected a year and a half later, when the memory of easy victory will still be fresh in voters minds.
As the world’s only superpower, the United States cannot publicly threaten military action, and then back down if the pretext for action disappears. Once the threat is offered, it absolutely must be followed by force the principle is identical to what’s found with a schoolyard bully or a jailhouse sexual predator. Anything short of a rapid conquest of Iraq will be universally perceived as a defeat for the United States.
The goal in the first Bush war against Saddam Hussein was limited to expelling the Iraqi Army from an extremely small territory, and consequently liberating the flow of $60 billion in Kuwaiti investments in the US banking system. Now the US must destroy the government of a large territory with an unruly and ethnically divided populace, occupy its main urban centers, and assume sole responsibility for keeping the country together until a puppet regime is securely in place. This will include spending many billions of dollars to rebuild at least some of the infrastructure that the US has spent the last twelve years assiduously destroying. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of a military occupation of Iraq at anywhere from $17 billion to $45 billion a year that’s an up to $45 billion annual gift to US oil companies from US taxpayers. The war itself may run anywhere from $44 billion to $80 billion. (2)
Bush and company hope for a repeat of their quick war in Afghanistan, but the sequel won’t be as satisfying as the first version was. Reuters ran an article on Feb. 11th announcing that the Bush plan for a post-Saddam Iraq involves a projected US occupation of Iraq lasting two years. That’s twenty-four months’ worth of American service personnel trickling home in plastic bags during a major economic downturn.
It might prove to be a very, very long twenty-four months. In a document titled, “Planning for a Self-Inflicted Wound: US Policy to Reshape a Post-Saddam Iraq,” Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Pentagon-connected Washington DC think tank, offers a gloomy assessment of the prospects for successfully remaking Iraq in the image of shopping-mall-land, instead of a post-breakup Yugoslavia with camels:
"We may or may not be perceived as liberators. We may well face a much more hostile population than in Afghanistan. We badly need to consider the Lebanon model: Hero to enemy in less than a year. We also need to consider the Bosnia/Kosovo model where internal divisions leave no options other than stay and police or leave and watch civil conflict emerge.
"We cannot hope to get an Iraqi, regional, or world mandate to act as occupiers. if we act this way, we are certain to encounter massive problems.
"We must realize that one day after our forces enter any area, the world will hold us to blame for every bit of Iraqi suffering that follows, as well as for much of Saddam's legacy of economic mistakes and neglect. we cannot pass our problems on to a non-existent international community. We have to stay as long as it takes, or at least until we can hand a mission over to the Iraqis. "
Another work by Cordesman at CSIS gives more background for his prognosis. ‘Iraq’s Military Capabilities in 2002: A Dynamic Net Assessment,’ estimates that even after losing 40% of its forces in the 1991 war, as of July 2002 the Iraqi military still had at least 424,000 men in arms. Some estimates including reserve forces push the potential number of Iraqi combatants as high as 700,000. The United States is openly committed to decapitating the regime commanding this vast army. Even if the United States kills as many as 200,000 Iraqi troops, that still leaves at least a quarter of a million, and possibly as many as half a million individuals, who will be desperate, impoverished, and have little to lose in a shattered society after Saddam’s government has collapsed.
The United States will be able to wipe out Saddam’s Air Force, his tanks and other armored vehicles, his anti-aircraft sites and major artillery weapons. But cruise missiles and B-52 sorties will still leave several million assault rifles with billions of rounds of ammunition, and comparable quantities of heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, light artillery and ordnance to spare. There is no way that US forces will be able to locate, confiscate or destroy all those weapons. It adds up to a huge potential armory for the former conscripts of what was one of the largest armies on earth, the soldiers of a state that will no longer exist. They might not fight hard for Saddam, but that doesn’t mean that some of them won’t want to kill Americans. The Iraqis will be hungry. They will be angry, they will be armed to the teeth, and they will have all the good reason in the world to ambush the soldiers of an occupying army from a empire that has butchered one out of every twenty-three Iraqis, more than a million people, and most of them infants and small children, since Bush’s dads’ war in 1991.
Even if US forces take Baghdad without sustaining major casualties, the best scenario they can then hope for will be near total social collapse and large-scale banditry, a Kalashnikov and RPG-7 equipped crime wave bigger and badder than the one that hit Central America after the US victory there at the end of the 1980’s. Millions of people will need to be fed and housed. The rulers of the US aren’t doing such a great job of that with the poor and unemployed in America will they be any better at it in a predominantly Arabic-speaking country on the other side of the globe? Maybe the US can buy off some of Saddam’s former soldiers by refraining from killing them, offering to feed them, and then slapping them into shape as the constabulary of a puppet regime. The resulting Mad-Max style police force will make the thuggish cops of the Palestinian Authority look like a comparative model of Quaker rectitude. America’s allies in Ankara won’t sit on their hands when things explode on their southern border, so the pacification of Kurdistan will be fobbed off on the obsequious Brits. The Special Air Service will be happy to eat shrapnel in a former UK colonial possession for a former governor of Texas. They will later return to the Sceptered Isle minus their limbs and lower jaws, forever proud of their sacrifice in the sublime cause of defending the UK’s status as a combination Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and US air base off the coast of France.
The British can take on the sustained anti-bandit and anti-guerrilla fighting. Or Bush can try to unload it on the awe-inspiring Czech infantry, the vanguard of a burgher class that’s always eager to lick the shoes of the dominant power of the day. The Americans won’t want to do it, and that’s where the big problem for Uncle Sam begins.
In October 1983 in Beirut, one suicide driver in a truck carrying 300 kilos of explosives killed 241 US Marines and chased Ronald Reagan out of Lebanon. To get American minds off this embarrassment, Reagan immediately invaded Grenada, a tiny island ruled by a regime that was too busy self-destructing to offer resistance to American forces. Reagan’s successor George Bush invaded Panama, a very small country, with the very small goal of grabbing the very small former US asset General Noriega. The mission was a success, ending quickly with the massacre of a few thousand slum-dwellers and with Noriega safely tucked away in a Federal Prison. Bush also quickly accomplished a similar, very limited goal in expelling Saddam from another very small country. He did this in record time with extraordinarily favorable circumstances on his side Bush waged war against a regional power already weakened by a ten-year long war, and Bush’s war was supported by numerous other governments providing military wherewithal and most of the financial backing for the attack. When Bush later invaded Somalia, US forces were unable to impose their version of order, they couldn’t locate and grab a local warlord as part of their plan for imposing order, and they ended up being humiliated in combat with the hostile locals. In the face of urban warfare similar to what the US may find when it occupies Iraq, the US ran away. Clinton oversaw this rout, as well as the later US intervention and rapid retreat from Kosovo. Vietnam is the shadow looming over all these engagements.
The lesson of Vietnam, the enduring impact of the Vietnam defeat on US foreign policy, is that the United States can no longer afford to fight a protracted ground war -- anywhere in the world. The political expense for American politicians is too high, and, more importantly, the impact on American society is potentially too destructive. The preferred post-Vietnam US method of warfare is to bankroll proxies like the Nicaraguan Contras, or Savimbi in Angola, or Saddam against Iran, or guys like Bin Laden against the Russians in Afghanistan. If the US military has to become more intimately involved, then vast quantities of high explosives are dumped on civilians from the safe distance of an aircraft carrier group. But the world’s only superpower can’t fight all its wars with the airborne equivalent of a drive-by shooting, or by always paying others to do their fighting for them. Somewhere and soon, the United States will have to engage in a major protracted war on the ground, with US forces taking on the brunt of the fighting. There is no technological escape from this dilemma.
We need to go back in time to see what the future might offer to an American occupation force in Iraq.
On July 14, 1958, the monarchy of Iraq was deposed in the “Free Officers” coup, led by Abdul Karim Qasim. The royal family were executed. Crowds took to the streets. A number of US businessmen staying at the Baghdad Hotel were killed. People took food from shops without paying, thinking that money would now be obsolete. Although Islamic influence remained strong, there were outbreaks of anti-clericalism, including public burnings of the Koran.
Peasants in the south of the country looted landlords’ property, burned down their homes and destroyed debt accounts and registers of land ownership. Fearing the spread of rebellion throughout the rest of the Middle East, the US sent 14,000 marines to Lebanon. Plans for a join US/UK invasion of Iraq went nowhere, because no reliable collaborators among the Iraqis could be found.
In another uprising in the town of Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan the following year, 90 generals, landlords and capitalists were taken to a road, had ropes tied around their necks, and were dragged around behind cars until they were dead. From an early point in the capitalist modernization process, the working people of Iraq demonstrated a consistent propensity for mass violence against their oppressors.
The Ba’ath Party toppled Qasim and seized power for the first time in 1963. The Ba’athists suppressed demonstrations by running over protesters with tanks and by burying people alive. The Ba’athists also assassinated roughly 300 labor activists and members of the Moscow-Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party with the help of a hit-list provided by the CIA. This marked the beginning of the blood marriage between the United States government and the Ba’ath Party of Iraq.
After being overthrown, the Ba’athist seized power again in 1968. As in the case of Iran, oil wealth provided a basis for rapid industrialization of a predominantly rural nation. Land reform propelled the development of a fully capitalist economy. Iraqi society became more urbanized and secular, with increasing levels of literacy, access to medical care, and a higher percentage of people attending college than in most other Middle Eastern countries. The status of women improved markedly, especially when compared to places like Saudi Arabia. A more modern society meant more modern social conflicts. Strikes and rebellions by wage workers and impoverished peasants often tended to become explosive, and the Ba'athists response was always brutal. In Iraq a secular, rapidly modernizing police state with a national socialist ideology found itself up against intractable class conflicts like those generated by the modernization program of the monarchy in Iran next door.
The fate of the Shah’s regime must have given the butcher Saddam reason to pause. In spite of its grim end in the establishment of the Islamic republic, the 1979 Iranian revolution was one of the most significant revolutionary upheavals of the 20th century. In Iran, the world’s second-largest oil exporter, a government with a large modern military and a sophisticated police and intelligence apparatus was overthrown by a mass rebellion. The rebellion involved street demonstrations with millions of marchers, and culminated in a long-term general strike and an armed insurrection. The revolt against the Shah also saw a widespread organization of wage workers’ struggles in the form of ‘shoras,’ which translates as ‘committee’ or ‘council’ the word means something akin to soviet. The councils movement was particularly powerful among oil industry workers:
"We do not mean to contribute to a myth of 'Iranian workers councils'. autonomous proletarian interests. remained subordinated to the limited and even reactionary elements of the Iranian revolt. Nevertheless they bear witness to an important phenomenon. In Iran, a highly religious Islamic country, the working class played a key role in a popular movement of rebellion with a six-month general strike, organized in the absence of trade unions and powerful left parties, with a continuously high level of mass action and mass organization. This was made possible, as in revolutionary movements in more capitalistically developed countries, by the formation of workers' committees and councils, confirming again that this is a 'natural' organizational form for workers' struggles.
". It is an experience which will gain new meaning when the struggle resumes on a new, more truly revolutionary basis."
(Babak Varamini, "The Shah is Dead: Long Live the Caliph," Root and Branch #8, 1980. Root and Branch was a council communist magazine produced in the Boston, Massachusetts area.)
With the excuse provided by a border dispute, and fear of an Islamic revolution spreading throughout the Persian Gulf, Saddam, now the undisputed ruler of Iraq, launched a war with Iran in September 1980. The first Gulf War lasted more than eight years, killing more than a million people. It was the longest major war of the 20th century.
The Iran-Iraq war also saw the biggest, longest and most violent anti-war movement anywhere in the world since the Russian Revolution and the wave of insurrections that ended World War One violent strikes, mass fraternization between soldiers of the contending armies, mass desertion, widespread killings of officers and regime functionaries, and armed mutinies. The unrest occurred in both countries, but it appears to have been more widespread in Iraq. By 1983, Iraqi commanders were attacking Iraqi troops suspected of fraternizing with or failing to fight Iranian troops with artillery barrages, air strikes and ground-to-ground missile attacks. Kurdish nationalist peshmergas (guerrillas) served as military police for Saddam, seizing deserters and turning them over to Saddam loyalists for execution. Saddam’s generals launched numerous air strikes against battalion-sized concentrations of armed deserters in the marshland region near the Iranian border. Armed deserters retaliated by ambushing loyal troops and blowing up ammunition depots. Saddam’s poison gas attack against the town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988 appears to have been motivated by the presence of large numbers of Iraqi Army deserters in the town. The deaths of thousands in Halabja was followed by the looting of the dead and injured by Kurdish nationalist peshmergas.
The US backed Saddam in the war against Iran. One month after the Halabja massacre US forces attacked an Iranian frigate in the Persian Gulf. The Reagan Administration provided “crop-spraying” helicopters for use in chemical warfare attacks, and approved sales by Dow Chemical of components for chemical weapons. The US attacked two Iranian oil platforms in the Gulf, killing around 200 people, and even shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing almost 300 civilians. In an article in the New York Times (August 18, 2002) former US Defense Intelligence Agency officers discussed US preparation of detailed battle planning for Saddam’s forces:
"The Pentagon 'wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas," said one veteran of the program. 'It was just another way of killing people -- whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference.' " (3)
Uncle Sam was up to his eyeballs in Saddam's chemical and biological warfare program:
"A US Senate inquiry in 1995 accidentally revealed that during the Iran-Iraq war the US had sent Iraq samples of all the strains of germs used by the latter to make biological weapons. The strains were sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (sic!) and the American Type Culture Collection to the same sites in Iraq that UN inspectors later determined were part of Iraq's biological weapons program."
(Times of India, Oct. 2, 2002) (4)
After the war with Iran, in the summer of 1990, before Saddam moved to annex Kuwait, he’d consulted with the US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, and Glaspie gave Saddam the apparent go-ahead. But the potential damage to Kuwaiti investments in US banks meant that America’s ally against Iran was suddenly transformed into what President Bush frantically described at the time as “another Hitler.” Concerns about Saddam’s spotty human rights record became audible from US journalists and elected officials at this point.
The second Gulf war in January 1991, with the US and its allies driving Saddam out of Kuwait, resulted in 131 deaths among the US and allied forces. Roughly 250,000 Iraqi were killed, and the civilian infrastructure of the country was completely devastated by the allies bombing and cruise missile campaigns.
As the first phase of the older Bush’s massacre of the Iraqis ended an uprising began in Basra, in the south, near Kuwait, with rebels using a tank to shell a huge Stalinesque portrait of Saddam. Soon the revolt became general throughout Iraq. All the tendencies toward large-scale armed revolt that had broken out during the war with Iran came into full force nationwide in the days after the defeat.
In Hawlir in Iraqi Kurdistan the revolt began when a woman who was enraged at the murder of her son by a cop disarmed the cop, killed him with his own weapon, then headed to a police station to kill more cops, followed by a snowballing crowd of angry people. In Sulliemania, a center of the movement, students took to the streets. Some were killed by the secret police, and a bloody fight commenced, ending on March 9th with insurgents overrunning the secret police headquarters and killing 800 of Saddam’s security forces. Fifty shoras formed all over the city. Throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, police stations, government buildings, Ba’ath Party headquarters, and army bases were overrun, wrecked and burned. More than in the south, in Kurdistan a perspective for a far-going revolutionary transformation of society was clearly present, as can be seen by the egalitarian slogans of the rebels “Make the shoras your base for long term struggle!” “Class consciousness is the arm of liberation!” “Victory to the popular workers uprising!” “Down with capitalism, long live socialism!” (5)
With the general arming of the working populace, the rapid violent destruction of the regime’s functionaries and the symbols of its power, and the replacement of the state by the shoras, the revolt in Kurdistan appears to have been a real proletarian revolution, the beginning of a profound overturning of the old order. With time, the revolt might even have spread to Iran. But by March, after the service provided to Saddam by the US and UK air forces in the massacre of deserters on the Basra road, the uprising in the south was put down by Saddam’s Republican Guard units. They then turned their attention to Kurdistan. As the revolt in the north became isolated, Kurdish nationalists gained the upper hand against the shoras movement. Better armed and better organized than the rebellious working people, the peshmergas succeeded in encouraging large numbers of people to flee across the border to Turkey. The revolution collapsed, and Saddam remained in power.
As it was with the truce between Versailles and the Prussians at the time of the Paris Commune, and the blockade of the Republican-held zone during the Spanish Civil War, the revolution in Iraq had compelled a unanimity of interests to rapidly assert itself among all the otherwise contending government forces. The US, the UK, the Kurdish nationalists and Saddam had, in effect, acted together to crush the uprising and save Saddam’s regime.
The United States and the UK performed a spectacular counter-insurgency service for their apparent foe Saddam, with American and British fighter pilots immolating roughly three infantry divisions of Iraqi army deserters fleeing Kuwait on the road to Basra. US pilots gleefully referred to this war crime of massacring forces no longer opposing them as a “duck shoot.’ This carpet bombing of Iraqi Army deserters wiped out men who could have provided the extra muscle to overwhelm Saddam’s Republican Guards and finish off his regime.
From the perspective of the worlds’ major democracies, “another Hitler” is always better than another working class revolution, especially one taking off in one of the world’s major oil producing regions, where an insurgent power could do real, enduring damage to the global capitalist system.
Now, twelve years later, the rulers of the United States and their gurkhas in Whitehall are assuming that their 1991 war, the UN-backed starvation blockade, and the resulting 1.2 to 1.5 million deaths will have beaten all resistance out of the vast majority of the populace in Iraq. The United States, the UK, and their former allies in the Ba’ath Party have perpetrated a phenomenal amount of death and suffering against wage earners and poor peasants in Iraq this is only a subset of the violence committed by the United States and its allies all over the world, including in the US itself, and of the ever-more murderous essence of commodity relations in their dictatorship over life on earth today. But a violent social order repeatedly gives rise to a violent proletarian response, and nowhere has this been more true than in Iraq. Our rulers may be galloping into an abattoir the mayhem American democracy has inflicted on millions of people may now be about to spill all over Uncle Sam’s lap.
Maybe the US will take Baghdad without a fight. Or maybe the new war will only take six months, and five thousand US dead. After the initial conquest, the entire population of Iraq, including possibly one million refugees and several hundred thousand unemployed former soldiers, may place all the blame for their suffering on Saddam. Maybe the Iraqis will forget about all those dead babies. They’ll forget about the military and intelligence aid the US gave Saddam, and the two conventional wars the United States waged against the populace Saddam brutalized. They’ll forget about the systematic destruction of water pumping and sewage treatment facilities and the resulting epidemics of dysentery, typhoid and cholera the destruction of the Amiriya air-raid shelter in Western Baghdad, filled with children and their mothers they’ll forgive the blockade against food and medical supplies and the hundred-thousand-plus cancer deaths produced by the spent radioactive munitions the US used against Iraqis in Bush’s fathers’ war. Maybe the survivors of a twelve year long campaign of mass murder committed by the United States will be nice and play the game George’s way. Maybe they just won’t feel up to shooting, killing and maiming American soldiers.
Or maybe they will. To compound the tragedy, the Americans who will be killed and wounded will mostly be the conscripts of the poverty draft, instead of Norman Schwarzkopf, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, and the adult males of the Bush family.
In the late 1970’s, when President Jimmy Carter began funneling weapons and money to men like Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski gloated that the Carter Administration would soon deliver the Russians into their own version of the Vietnam war in Afghanistan. Maybe the US is in turn about to get its own Afghan war in Iraq a long slow bleeding wound that can have a catastrophic impact on the world power waging it.
Iraqis who kill Americans after the fall of Saddam won’t have to defeat the American military, or even fight for a politically coherent objective. All they have to do is create a steady stream of dead Americans. They only have to inflict enough damage on the occupiers to make it clear to the world that the US hasn’t prevailed in Iraq. This can be conceptualized as a form of obscene primitive math X equals the number of American soldiers getting killed and wounded every month in Iraq, times Y as the number of months that Americans occupy Iraq, factoring out to Z: the point at which an inconclusive long-running war can trigger civil unrest in the United States.
Nothing brings the internal weaknesses of a society to the surface like an unsuccessful war. A long-term bloody occupation of Iraq could bring this home with a vengeance to the ever-more repressive, impoverished, incarcerated, overworked, underpaid, United States domestic front. The home front has never been more potentially volatile. Under the right circumstances even the quiescent US wage earning class may reach its breaking point, and violently shear away from the patriotic consensus. If a big war goes badly for the US, it could mark the beginning of the end for bigger things than the government of Saddam Hussein. (6)
Maybe all of what I’ve written here is a mistake, an exercise in wishful thinking. Maybe the US is going to have a quick cheap victory in Iraq. Maybe the US will only suffer four or five hundred military personnel killed in combat and accidents. Maybe the US media apparatus will do an adequate job of sweeping anything else under the rug, the way they have with one hundred thousand-plus US veterans affected by Gulf War Syndrome, the post-combat domestic victims of Bush’s fathers’ war. Maybe the enormous expense of the war will be covered by a looting of Iraq’s 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves during the period of US “trusteeship.” Maybe the war will be a stepping stone to successful moves against the Mullahs in Iran and the Saudis. Maybe the only people who will pay will be Iraqis.
But it’s much more likely that major problems will begin for the American empire soon after the downfall of Saddam, during the post-war occupation, when the US finds itself alone in the mess it has created, within a larger context of spreading global chaos that is also a US creation. A bloody two-year long “low-intensity” conflict is likely -- like what the Israelis get with the Palestinians, but on a much larger scale, the humiliation experienced by US Army Rangers in Mogadishu magnified many times over. A large-scale popular uprising isn’t impossible, either. At that point, the rulers of the US will be forced to chose between running away again, like they did in Lebanon, and Somalia, and Kosovo -- or condemning US troops to be bled white in a conflict they can’t win.
And that’s not even beginning to imagine what can go wrong for the owners of America if they get the US into a second or third major ground war in another part of the world while still attempting to impose their version of order in Iraq.
This article can also be found on the "Love and Treason" web page at the Mid-Atlantic Anarchist Infoshop: http://www.infoshop.org/myep/defeat.html
(1) “The Torment of Iraq.” Aspects of India’s Economy, Nos. 33 & 34, December 2002. Available on-line, at: http://www.rupe-india.org/34/torment.html
(2) “Military Solution to an Economic Crisis.” Aspects of India’s Economy, op. cit.
(3) “The Iran-Iraq War: Serving American Interests.” Aspects of India’s Economy, op. cit.
Qasem Soleimani: Why kill him now and what happens next?
The killing of Gen Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds force, represents a dramatic escalation in the low-level conflict between the US and Iran and one whose consequences could be considerable.
Retaliation is to be expected. A chain of action and reprisal could ensue bringing the two countries closer to a direct confrontation. Washington's future in Iraq could well be called into question. And President Trump's strategy for the region - if there is one - will be tested like never before.
Philip Gordon, who was White House co-ordinator for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in the Obama administration, described the killing as little short of a "declaration of war" by the Americans against Iran.
The Quds Force is the branch of Iran's security forces responsible for operations abroad. For years, whether it be in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria or elsewhere, Soleimani has been a key instigator in expanding and extending Iran's influence through planning attacks or bolstering Tehran's local allies.
For Washington, he was a man with US blood on his hands. But he was popular in Iran itself. And in practical terms, he led Tehran's fightback against the broad campaign of pressure and US-imposed sanctions.
What is most surprising is not that Soleimani was in President Trump's sights but quite why the US should strike him now.
A series of low-level rocket attacks against US bases in Iraq were blamed on Tehran. One US civilian contractor was killed. But earlier Iranian operations - against tankers in the Gulf the shooting down of a US unmanned aerial vehicle even the major attack against a Saudi oil facility - all went without a direct US response.
As for the rocket attacks against the US bases in Iraq, the Pentagon has already hit back against the pro-Iranian militia believed to be behind them. That prompted a potential assault on the US embassy compound in Baghdad.
In explaining the decision to kill Soleimani, the Pentagon focused not just on his past actions, but also insisted that the strike was meant as a deterrent. The general, the Pentagon statement reads, was "actively developing plans to attack US diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region".
Quite what happens next is the big question. President Trump will hope that in one dramatic action he has both cowed Iran and proven to his increasingly uneasy allies in the region like Israel and Saudi Arabia that US deterrence still has teeth. However it is almost unthinkable that there will not be a robust Iranian response, even if it is not immediate.
The 5,000 US troops in Iraq are an obvious potential target. So too are the sorts of targets hit by Iran or its proxies in the past. Tensions will be higher in the Gulf. No wonder the initial impact was to see a surge in oil prices.
The US and its allies will be looking to their defences. Washington has already despatched a small number of reinforcements to its embassy in Baghdad. It will have plans to increase its military footprint in the region quickly if needed.
But it is equally possible that Iran's response will be in some sense asymmetric - in other words not just a strike for a strike. It may seek to play on the widespread support it has in the region - through the very proxies that Soleimani built up and funded.
It could for example renew the siege on the US embassy in Baghdad, putting the Iraqi government in a difficult position, and call into question the US deployment there. It could prompt demonstrations elsewhere as cover for other attacks.
The strike against the Quds force commander was a clear demonstration of US military intelligence and capabilities. Many in the region will not mourn his passing. But was this the wisest thing for President Trump to do?
How well is the Pentagon prepared for the inevitable aftermath? And just what does this strike tell us about Mr Trump's overall strategy in the region? Has this changed in any way? Is there a new zero-tolerance towards Iranian operations?
Or was this just the president taking out an Iranian commander he would no doubt regard as "a very bad man".
Status of residents [ edit | edit source ]
Camp Ashraf is the base in Iraq of the Iranian opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
After 2003, the coalition forces designated the MEK at Camp Ashraf as protected persons under the Geneva Convention. The UK government no longer holds the view that residents of Camp Ashraf are "protected people," according to a written reply to a question from an MP by Ivan Lewis, Minister of state at the Foreign Office on November 25, 2009 ⎵]
In his quarterly report to the Security Council of 14 May 2010 pursuant to resolution 1883, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the rights of residents of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, to protection against arbitrary displacement in Iraq or forced extradition to Iran. ⎶] [ not in citation given ] In order to better the humanitarian situation in the camp, EUHR Catherine Ashton appointed Jean De Ruyt, a senior Belgian diplomat, to advise on the EU's response to Camp Ashraf ⎷]
Brian Binley, a Member of Parliament from the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, in a big gathering asked for protection of Ashraf. ⎸]
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