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The reasons for war with Iraq
Doug Brugge, 1/19/03

I am increasingly frustrated by the lack of critical examination that the 
media and much of the public have applied to the stated reasons for the 
impending war with Iraq.  It seems to me that a child could deconstruct the 
relationship between the excuses emanating from Washington and the war 
effort.  The "reasons" put forth largely boil down to the war on terrorism, 
weapons of mass destruction and dictatorship.  Each is rather easily seen 
through.

Iraq has, as the Boston Globe finally acknowledged in a recent report (Page 
1, January 12, 2003), a third rate army at best that will likely be 
slaughtered by the vastly superior US forces.  This means that even if Iraq 
is hiding a stash of chemical or biological weapons, it is difficult to see 
how such a weakened state could deliver them beyond their boarders or inflict 
anything approaching "mass" death.  The words "weapons of mass destruction" 
have been cheapened to mean any chemical weapon, even if they are less deadly 
than conventional weapons.  Even if Iraq armed their much talked about SCUD 
missiles with biological or chemical warheads they would be very inaccurate.  
Further, as we saw with the anthrax scare, causing large numbers of 
casualties with biological weapons is not easy.  And now these bargain 
basement SCUDs face ultramodern missile defenses.

As for the second point, Iraq is a secular state that seems to me to be more 
threatened by Islamic extremism than a supporter of it.  Furthermore, I have 
yet to see evidence that Iraq had anything to do with recent terrorist 
attacks on the US.  Too much of the public appears to believe otherwise 
through irresponsible innuendo emanating from Washington and largely 
unchallenged in the press.  The public misperception that Iraq is a treat to 
the US mainland is completely unsupportable.  However crazy is the government 
of Iraq, I have to imagine that they know how swift and terrible the 
retaliation would be if they were so insane as to attack the US.  Israel may 
be more threatened by Iraq, at least through Iraq's support for the 
Palestinians, but I have not heard the US claim that the war is to defend 
Israel, which, by the way, has nuclear weapons, has been accused of war 
crimes against Palestinians and flaunts numerous UN resolutions itself.

Iraq certainly is a dictatorship, but since when has the US taken on deposing 
dictators?  The US has a long and troubled history of forming alliances with 
dictators, so long as they toed the US line and served US strategic and 
economic interests.  Indeed, today many of the closest US allies in the 
Middle East are dictatorships.  One of them, Pakistan, is not only a 
dictatorship, but has nuclear weapons, teeters on the brink of war with India 
- another nuclear power - abets terrorism today in Kashmir, and supported the 
Taliban in the past.  Saudi Arabia, an economic rather than military power, 
is also linked to the 9/11 attacks, yet its strategic alliance with the US - 
oil in exchange for preserving its dictatorship - largely protects it from 
pressure to be more democratic.

If the stated reasons for war with Iraq are not the real ones, two important 
conclusions seem evident.  First, US leaders, Democratic and Republican, are 
lying to us about the reasons for the war.  Second, there must be reasons 
other than those stated for the war effort.  I suspect that there are four 
mutually reinforcing factors at play.  The first is building on the US role 
as the sole superpower in the world.  By attacking and defeating Iraq, the US 
hopes to secure its dominance over the Middle East for the foreseeable future 
and gain a strategic position relative to two potential future rivals, Russia 
and China.  Second, by achieving greater power in the Middle East the US also 
hopes to secure access to cheap oil.  With the faltering US economy, US 
leaders must hope that they can use medium term (after the shock of the war 
wears off) lowering of oil prices to boost the economy.  Third, Iraq is a 
target of convenience.  By attacking Iraq the US can claim to have done 
something since the real terrorists are so hard to pin down.  Fourth, I 
believe that for many in the US Government, the long drawn out preparation 
for war is a welcome distraction from corporate scandals and other problems 
here at home. 

I wonder how many more would oppose the war if they understood the real 
reasons behind it?