The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

War against Iraq:
Bush Backs Off—Or Does He?

Aug 26, 2002

After months of making it seem like a U.S. military attack against Iraq was imminent, after months of leaked war plans, leaked photos and videos showing the first stages of a military build-up in the countries surrounding Iraq, the Bush administration has suddenly back-tracked. This shift was marked by a Bush news conference on August 22 in which Bush coyly seemed to say: "War? What war?"

What war, indeed! Sure, for the moment, the Bush administration has put the massive invasion of Iraq, that according to leaked war plans, would have included carpet bombing and a U.S. expeditionary force of anywhere from a "modest" Afghan-style force of "only" 70,000 troops to a "more substantial and robust" force of 275,000 on the back burner.

But this just means that the regular U.S. bombing of the country and the murderous economic embargo that has gone on for the last 11 years will continue. The U.S. generals and policy makers even have a name for that policy: "containment." Over more than 10 years time, Iraq has been almost totally laid to waste, and over a million people have died. That is the price the Iraqi population has paid for the U.S. policy of "containment."

Certainly, there have been obvious signs of opposition from within the military and the U.S. government to a U.S. invasion of Iraq almost ever since Bush announced the possibility in the weeks following September 11. The fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell let it be known that he did not agree with this direction indicated the likelihood of persistent disagreements inside the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff as well. And in the last weeks, they became more pronounced, as many high officials and former officials, including House Majority leader Republican Dick Armey; U.S. Senator John McCain, also a Republican; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft; and even General Norman Schwartzkopf, of Gulf War fame, voiced their reservations.

The issue was brought to a head after articles critical of the Bush administration written by Scowcroft in the Wall Street Journal and Kissinger in the Washington Post appeared early in August. It didn’t take long before the Bush foreign policy team of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice backed off.

Much of the talk about whether or not to go to war was couched in terms of weapons of mass destruction, endless talk about whether Hussein had them, was about to get them, had buried them deep underground, put them on wheels, in suitcases, or was about to launch a missile somewhere. Of course, this was complete nonsense, it always was. As the former chief U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter pointed out time after time, not one shred of evidence was ever produced to support those claims. And, as others showed, finding that evidence would be highly unlikely since Hussein was not suicidal and about to hand Bush a pretext to invade the country. In fact, the only known time Hussein produced and used poison gas was with the permission and support of the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq War, both against Iran and also against a Kurdish minority that also happened to be opposed by such U.S. military allies as Turkey.

There was also all the talk about whether the U.S. would, supposedly for the first time, launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. As if the U.S. military supposedly only went to war after the U.S. was attacked. If that were true, then what was the U.S. doing going to war half way around the world against Korea, Viet Nam, Lebanon and the Dominican Republican in the 1940s, 50s and 60s? What was the U.S. military doing invading the tiny island of Grenada in the early 1980s, or the slightly larger country of Panama in the late 1980s–or Iraq in 1990-91? No, the U.S. government has never hesitated to unleash its military when it deemed necessary, and only created pretexts out of whole cloth to justify these brutal invasions. For example, recently published White House transcripts from the Johnson presidency during the Viet Nam War show that Johnson privately admitted that the attack by a Vietnamese PT boat on a U.S. destroyer that led to the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution never actually happened.

No, behind the disagreements inside the military and Republican Party with the Bush administration’s push to invade Iraq is the concern that the U.S. military could get bogged down in a very long and costly occupation of the country. If several thousand U.S. troops are already bogged down occupying a small corner of Afghanistan, how many tens of thousands of U.S. troops would be tied up in Iraq, a much larger and more central and strategic country, after a U.S. invasion?

This could have enormous consequences. First, it could destabilize some of the U.S.-sponsored military dictatorships, kingdoms and sheikdoms in the region, which are charged with holding the lid down on their impoverished populations for the benefit of a tiny minority of the region, and above all, for the oil companies, banks and military contractors in the U.S.

Second, it could also lead to growing opposition inside the U.S. The opposition to the war in Viet Nam was hardly a fluke. There has always been a substantial opposition in the population and distrust of foreign wars and military adventures. If a war and occupation of Iraq could last some time, entailing enormous and unending sacrifices by the working population, this could ignite social movements and crises.

All those officials who today have opposed the Bush administration’s plans for war against Iraq are simply questioning whether the risks are justified by what the U.S. ruling class can gain from it, in terms of oil, power and control. Currently, they are not convinced that it does. But that could change. And if it does, the U.S. government would very well plunge the people of both the Middle East and the U.S. into another slaughter.