Feb 18, 2002
Has the Bush administration decided to target the Iraqi government and overthrow Saddam Hussein?
Certainly, officials from President Bush on down have made these kinds of threats before, especially in the weeks after September 11. But they didn’t seem particularly serious until Bush’s secretary of state, Colin Powell, let it be known that he opposed a new war against Iraq. Given Powell’s former position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, undoubtedly he was voicing not just his personal opposition, but the opposition of many top military officials.
But in mid-February, Powell began to make public statements indicating that he too supported some kind of action by the U.S. government to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This was taken to mean that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had come on board, that plans for some kind of new U.S. offensive against Iraq and Saddam Hussein are in the works.
It was one thing for President Bush to mouth off against Iraq, including in his State of the Union speech about “the axis of evil.” But when Powell came on board, this made it seem that the U.S. could be planning some new round of violence against the people of Iraq, over and above what they had already done during the Persian Gulf War, and what they are still doing with the deadly trade embargo.
One of the big questions that came out of the Persian Gulf War was why the U.S. left Hussein in power, why it decided not to finish him and his army off when they had them on the run, when there was nothing standing in the way on the road to Baghdad. Was this a mistake, as many commentators and politicians have said?
The U.S. had gone to war against Hussein, not out of any humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq and the Middle East, as they tried to claim, but simply because Hussein had defied them. Hussein had dared to invade Kuwait. This was not a question of starting a war. Hussein had already carried out a bloody war against Iran for the U.S. The problem was he invaded Kuwait on his own.
The U.S. may be the major superpower in the world with by far the biggest military force. But since its military can’t be everywhere, it must still depend on governments and dictators to keep order in their countries so that the big corporations can “peacefully” expropriate the wealth of those countries. Those dictators may get money and arms from the U.S., but they have to toe the line. The U.S. carried out the Persian Gulf War to show what happens to dictators when they try to carry out an independent move.
So, why did the U.S. then leave Hussein in place and even return most of his army, especially the elite forces of the Republican Guard and their attack helicopters? Because the U.S. feared the consequences of destroying an apparatus that could keep order in Iraq: the Iraqi military and police apparatus that Hussein headed. At the time of the Persian Gulf war, an incipient civil war had been spreading in Iraq. In the north, the Kurds were revolting against Hussein. In the south, the Shiite minority. If the U.S. had finished destroying the Iraqi military apparatus, it would have opened up the possibility for the revolts to destabilize Iraq and to spread into Iraq’s neighboring countries.
Rather than sending in its own forces to put down those revolts, carrying out a potentially long and costly occupation, the U.S. interrupted its war against Hussein, and allowed him to do the job instead. Despite the war against Hussein, they needed his dictatorship to keep order.
But once order was established, the U.S. still needed to demonstrate who was boss: it carried out the devastating trade embargo, and continued to bomb the country. The Iraqi population was made to pay for what the Iraqi dictator had done.
Why is the U.S. targeting Hussein now? Certainly, it has nothing to do with “weapons of mass destruction” as the U.S. says. How could Hussein, at the head of a tiny, impoverished country, ever compete with the U.S. in this regard? No, there are other reasons – which U.S. spokespersons are not mentioning, and which can only be guessed at.
Could the U.S. be trying to shift attention away from the war in Afghanistan? Bush may have declared victory in Afghanistan, because the Taliban regime crumbled, but the U.S. was not able to achieve any of its main goals, such as capturing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, or curbing the influence of the different terrorist groups. If anything, the war in Afghanistan increased the influence of these groups, since it stirred the anger and resentment of millions of people all over the world. The U.S. war didn’t even prevent most of the Taliban militias from rejoining the armies of the various warlords, with weapons intact.
Certainly, it’s possible that the U.S. will simply carry on another intensive bombing campaign against Iraq to show that it still has muscles and knows how to flex them. But there are other possibilities.
Perhaps U.S. officials have reason to believe that Hussein’s own military is getting ready to overthrow him. In that case, it could make sense that U.S. statements are meant to encourage a coup which sees the Iraqi army handle the problem. And Bush would certainly like to take credit for it.
U.S. officials may now believe that the Iraqi army and the population are weakened enough by the combined toll from the Persian Gulf war and the 11-year trade embargo so that U.S. troops could waltz into Baghdad.
Of course, a march into Baghdad is only the first step. Then comes the long-term occupation of the country.
Obviously, if there was strong opposition inside the U.S. military to a new U.S. military offensive in Iraq it is precisely because the military recognizes the enormous risk that it could get bogged down in such an undertaking.
The leaders of most governments in the world including most of Europe and the Middle East have openly opposed the idea of a new war on Iraq. They fear that they will get stuck with having to cope with the consequences. All they have to do is look at what happened in Afghanistan. The U.S. chose Afghanistan as the target, it bombed the country, it sent in a few special forces. But it is the other governments that are now stuck with providing the forces to carry out “peacekeeping” duty in a country that is now wracked by medieval gang warfare.
In any case, whatever happens will not serve the interests of the people of the world, including first of all in Iraq and then here. One thing is sure, the last people to know what is really going on will be the population in this country – fed a diet of lies and deceit.