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?