In 2003, the United States will spend about $400 billion on national
defense (more than the next 15 largest national militaries combined),
and its economy will be twice as large as its closest rival, Japan.
In the history of humanity, no other nation has exerted so much military
and economic power.
The Bush administration argues that as the worlds lone superpower,
the United States deserves special treatment. American soldiers should
be granted immunity from the International Criminal Court. Today, George
Bush threatens to proceed unilaterally with a large-scale invasion plan
in Iraq. Is the price of defeating Saddam Hussein worth the loss of
international prestige and good will? And does it make sense? To give
readers a side of the story that is largely absent from mainstream media,
City Pulse has sorted through case studies and interviewed experts,
to present a series of arguments against the war.
chants were loud and boisterous last Saturday, when over 200 people
gathered at Fountain Park in downtown East Lansing for a march and
rally against the war on Iraq. Numerous groups and individuals brought
drum, signs and banners. The event was sponsored by Direct Action,
Students for Peace and Justice, People for Positive Social Change,
FEMS, Radical Queers, ECO, Students for Economic Justice and Nightvision.
In August 1990, as the Soviet Unions superpower status reached
twilight, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded his small neighbor
Kuwait. Possessing a tremendous amount of oil unparalleled in
the world would make Iraq an ideal candidate for a new superpower,
he believed. Apparently, this was a provocative challenge. In 1991,
President George Bush, an old CIA hawk and cold warrior par excellence,
called the desert despots bluff with B-52 bombers and the ground
operation Desert Storm, with Iraqi casualties ranging from
50,000 to 300,000 dead. Miraculously, there were only 137 American casualties.
Had technology made the United States invincible?
Eleven years after his fathers Gulf War, and four months after
the terrorist attacks on 9/11, President George W. Bush blamed the axis
of evil, Iran, Iraq and North Korea, for sheltering terrorists
and fumbling with weapons of mass destruction. On Oct. 7, 2002, he raised
the possibility of a new war against Iraq. The danger is already
significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein
has dangerous weapons today and we do does it make any
sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger
and develops even more dangerous weapons? Members of Bushs
administration, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Collin
Powell, were Desert Storm veterans bred and weaned on the Cold War ideologies
of preemptive strike. With this preemptive strike in mind, the Cold
War warriors quickly capitalized on the U.S.s overwhelming military
power, to preserve Washingtons superpower status indefinitely.
The Americans have used 9/11 as an occasion to assert that they
are the only power in the world which can dominate. What they want to
achieve other than establish this assertion is by no means clear,
said the British historian Eric Hobsbawm recently in an interview in
The Observer, a British newspaper. The Iraq war has no rational
justification at all. The United States would have to learn that there
are limits even to its own power and I think with some luck this may
happen, but right now the learning process has only just begun.
There are five good reasons that speak against the War in Iraq:
1. The logic of imminent threat
In its draft resolution to Congress, the Bush administration invoked
its inherent right, as acknowledged in the UN Charter, to use
force in order to defend itself. Article 51 of the U.N. Charter
does authorize the use of military force in self-defense, but only if
a country has been attacked by another, or is under imminent threat
of attack. Given that Iraq has not attacked the United States, the Bush
administration took the strategy of referring to the high risk
that Iraq will employ [weapons of mass destruction] to launch a surprise
attack against the U.S.
lies the rub: According to Scott Ritter, an American U.N. Special Commission
weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years, no such capability exists.
In the 1990s, inspectors destroyed 38,500 prohibited chemical warheads,
and 817 of Iraqs 819 Soviet-build ballistic missiles. Iraq simply
does not have weapons of mass destruction or threatening ties to international
terrorism. Therefore, no premise for a war in Iraq exists. In Ritters
opinion, the threat to Iraq is about nothing more than domestic American
politics and is based upon speculation and rhetoric rather than fact.
The weapons inspector argues that the manufacture of nuclear weapons
would emit gamma rays that could be detected if they did, in fact, exist.
The Republican Scott Ritter is probably the Bush administrations
shrewdest critic. His book War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesnt
Want You To Know tells a different story than that of the president.
According to Ritter, in 1998 a Republican-controlled Congress passed
the Iraqi Liberation Act, adding legal weight to the administrations
decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It should be the
policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime
headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence
of a democratic government to replace that regime, the act states.
The U.S. military then used U.N. data to pinpoint possible areas of
investigation as a source for choosing bombing targets in Desert Fox,
a British-American bombing raid that took place Dec. 16-19, 1998, without
U.N. Security Council authorization. Confrontation rather than resolution
remained the rule.
On Oct. 1, 2002, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer even endorsed
Husseins assassination, saying regime change could be realized
at the cost of just one bullet. And George Bush said regime
change would be the only certain means of removing the threat
of Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction.
Dwyer, an adjunct professor in humanitarian law at Lansings Cooley
Law School, comments: Instead of trying to admit that we have
a good many of the same problems in the use of weapons of mass destruction
that were in fact the great masters we try to prove
that the United States controlling these weapons of mass destruction
is the solution. Since 1945, with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our weapons
of mass destruction are somehow good, whereas everybody elses
are somehow evil. This makes no sense. It is very seriously fascist.
Bush blamed Iraq for possessing and producing chemical and biological
weapons. But the United States has known this since it started supplying
Saddam with nerve gas and related technology in the late 1980s. When
the Amnesty International report listed countless Saddam atrocities,
including gassing and torturing Kurds, the Reagan administration blocked
a Senate resolution imposing sanctions on Iraq and continued to pursue
good relations with the regime. Both Bushes have even quoted the Amnesty
reports to garner support for their sanctions and wars.
James Jennings, president of the humanitarian aid organization Conscience
International, which has worked in Iraq since 1991, claims: The
evidence that Iraq gassed its own people is also not about a current
event, but one that happened 14 years ago. If that did not constitute
a good enough reason for going to war with Iraq in 1988 (which the U.S.
did not even contemplate at the time), it certainly is not a good enough
2. The ripple effect
Following Sept. 11, Bush declared a war on terrorism and asserted the
right to attack any country, organization or people without warning
and at his sole discretion as part of it. If you are not with
us, you are against us, he said. Many international critics have
pointed out concerns regarding a potential worldwide ripple effect.
In a letter sent to all members of the U.N. Security Council, former
U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark attacked Bushs strategy as
irresponsible. The letter reads, Heinrich Himmler, who instructed
the Nazi Gestapo Shoot first, ask questions later, and I will
protect you, is vindicated by George Bush. Like the Germany described
by Jorge Luis Borges in Deutsches Requiem, George Bush has
now proffered (the world) violence and faith in the sword,
as Nazi Germany did.
The former U.S. attorney general points out that since Bushs declaration,
other countries have claimed their own sovereign right to strike first
and oust terrorists. India and Pakistan brought the world closer to
nuclear conflict than it has been at any time since October 1962. The
United States claims of the unrestricted right to pursue and kill terrorists,
based on a unilateral decision and without consulting the United Nations,
or revealing any clear factual basis for claiming its targets are terrorists,
was wreaking world hatred.
International critics like the Indian writer Arundhati Roy have warned
of the escalating dynamic of terror and counter-terror, leading not
to peace, but more violence. Israels response to terrorism hasnt
brought Israelis more security. And retaliatory terrorism has yet to
make Americans feel more secure.
MSU anthropology instructor Rosina Hassoun says that it was likely that
the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack would like nothing more than to
induce a massive U.S. military response, possibly destabilizing the
entire region. It would increase support and followers of the
radical Islamic movements and Osama bin Laden. There would not necessarily
be an immediate mass response, but there would be a lag time and a slow
groundswell that would have consequences in the region and for Americans,
including terrorism at home and abroad against Americans.
Hassoun, who has conducted interviews with more than 600 Arabs living
in America, said the United States. had been particularly poor
in predicting blow backs from our policies for example, by supporting
and arming Saddam Hussein and Shah of Iran. Hassoun argues that
having Great Britain as its major ally increased anti-Western sentiments
in the Middle East. In the first half of the 20th century, the British
Empire brutally oppressed Arabs, as in 1936-37 when more than 3,000
Palestinian men were hanged in village squares in order to put down
a commercial strike. And the memory of colonialism is still fresh
in the minds of the Arab people.
City Pulse/Kathy Kuhn
area residents who went to Washington for the antiwar demonstration
over the weekend were (l-r) LCC student Mike McCurdy, MSU student
Michelle Allen and LCC student Nkechi Okeasor.
occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops is likely to spark an anti-western,
anti-American and anti-colonial response, Hassoun believes. This
will destabilize vulnerable regimes like the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian
monarchies, she said. In reflecting on the Bush administrations
military plans, she felt reminded of an old saying her Arab grandfather,
who saw the demise of both the Ottoman Turkish and the British empires,
told her: The Arab world buries its conquerors. If the United
States decides to take up direct residence in the region, it may
learn the hard way, not because the Arabs have some kind of superiority,
but because of the complications, tragedies, and general mess
of the region.
Early in October, CIA Director George Tenet issued a warning that it
might be a terrible mistake to attack Iraq, indicating a possibly negative
counter-effect. Despite White House claims, the intelligence report
concluded that Saddam Hussein was currently unlikely to initiate a chemical
or biological attack against the United States, but should Saddam
conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably
would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action.
In other words, there is more danger of an attack if the United States
launches a precipitous invasion. Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director
of the Western States Legal Foundation, shares this opinion: It
doesnt take a lot of imagination to predict that if Iraq is attacked
by the U.S., it might launch whatever it has at Israel itself
a nuclear power.
3. The Costs
Whatever we do will have implications locally, Lansing Mayor
David Hollister reflected in a late summer interview. Five years
ago we were in the process of de-escalating the Cold War, dismantling
missile systems. Redirecting the money towards urban areas and health
care seemed to be disengaging from a war mentality. In August,
Hollister still hoped for reimbursement for increased security costs
because of 9/11, but its more likely that local governments will
have to fork out much more.
According to the non-profit organization National Priorities Project,
in 2002 Lansing residents paid $96 million in federal taxes for the
military budget. The tax money is being used for military construction,
defense and for nuclear weapons. NPP Research Director Anita Dancs estimates
if the U.S. decided to go to war, Lansing residents will pay an additional
$27 million. This year, Michiganders paid roughly $10.3 billion in taxes
to the Pentagon. A war against Iraq would cost Michigan taxpayers $2.9
billion, with an estimated total spending of $100 billion.
and Republican careers are also heavily affected by donations from the
defense industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, beginning
with the Persian Gulf War in 1991, defense corporations have increasingly
lost interest in the Democratic Party.
Whereas donations were spread almost evenly midway through Bush term
in 1990 (54 percent/46 percent), in 1998 Republicans received 68 percent,
and they received 65 percent in the election cycle of 2000 a
trend undoubtedly also influenced by the Clintons administrations
decision to decrease military spending. In 2002 the Bush familys
political party received a whopping $6,920,708 in donations from defense
Concerned about the huge amount of military expenses, which already
climbed from $350 billion to $400 billion, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
said Oct. 9: At a time when this country has a $6 trillion national
debt and a growing deficit, we should be clear that a war and a long-term
American occupation of Iraq could be an extremely expensive proposition.
Unlike the cost of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which was shared among
the international community, the U.S. will have to pick up the entire
cost, which could run into hundreds of billions of dollars.
In his recent book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading
Iraq, Kenneth M. Pollack strengthened these economic concerns.
Pollack argues that the idea that Congress would be willing to finance
a long occupation of Iraq and to appropriate billions of dollars for
Iraqs reconstruction at a time of recession and rising budget
deficits was irresponsibly optimistic. The author, a former CIA officer,
still considers an invasion of Iraq to be the least risky of the options
available to the United States, but argues that it would require an
overwhelming force 200,000 to 300,000 troops, at least. Pollack
believes the operation would be irresponsible without the support of
key governments in the area (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and some states
of the Gulf Cooperation Council), from some European allies, and with
the express authority of the United Nations Security Council.
In his book Iraq: From Summer to Saddam the British author
Geoff Simons describes the process through which the United States managed
to get support from Iraqs neighbors. Prior to Operation Desert
Storm in 1991, Simons wrote, the United States managed to bribe
Egypt with $14 billion, Turkey with $8 billion and Syria with $1 billion
and to approve a $250 million loan to Iran from the World Bank. Simons
book documents the process through which anti-Iraq feeling was stimulated
in the Middle East and how George H.B. Bush, whose reputation had long
been bedeviled by the wimp factor, took the chance to turn
the affair to his political advantage.
4. Zombification of the American people?
Siegelbaum, a Russian historian and chairman of MSUs History Department,
says it would be naive to believe that by standing up to
Hussein, the United States will show the world that it means business.
This variant on the Cold War domino theory in fact is 100 percent
wrong, Siegelbaum said. By taking military action against
Iraq, the United States is sure to foment resentment throughout the
Arab and Islamic world (at least).
In an interview, Barry Romo, a national coordinator for Vietnam Veterans
Against the War, pointed out parallels with Vietnam. We keep changing
why were there. First were there for weapons of mass destruction,
then were there for the oil, for regime change, and now were
finally there for credibility. This is like Vietnam in the 60s!
He says the Bush administration uses moral excuses in an effort to cover
up its true agenda, which was a so-called New World Order to keep up
and extend U.S. hegemony.
But the Vietnam veteran says that the Iraqi military and Saddam Hussein
cannot be compared with the Vietcong or Ho Chi Ming. There is
no moral equivalent, there is no military equivalent and no political
equivalent. Romo, who served in the infantry in Vietnam, said
Arab solidarity was a real factor in U.S. politics, a tar baby
that you can get stuck on to. He believes that once the United
States goes to war with Iraq, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
will probably start an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and cover it
up as a respectable war against terrorism.
Money is spent and an avalanche of propaganda is fabricated in order
to keep the politicians in power, says Siegelbaum, and he points out
that propaganda is something an historian of Russia can analyze well.
[Its] an attempt by the neo-fascist and I dont
use that term lightly White House clique (e.g., Ashcroft, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz, Perle, Rice, and, yes, sadly now Powell too) to consolidate
its hold over American politics in the wake of the close call
election of Bush in 2000, the evident inability of the loyal opposition
(the Democrats) to provide any opposition, and the zombification of
the American public. Appalling and frightening.
5. Human Rights
a Rally for Justice and Peace in Lansing Friday (Oct. 25), Bob Edgar,
a former congressman who is general secretary of the National Council
of the Churches of Christ, spoke of hypocrisy. The president was
wrong in his selection of the axis of evil. The real axis
of evil is the endemic of poverty, the rape of planet Earth, and the
proliferation of weapons. If we really want to fight terrorism, we have
to address the systemic issues dealing with poverty. I think we have
to recognize that 80 percent of the worlds population lives in
substandard housing, 70 percent cant read or write, 50 percent
go to bed hungry, and only 30 percent of the worlds population
Edgar, whose ecumenical organization represents 50 million Christians
in the United States, said that unfortunately Bush has avoided meeting
with National Council of Churches representatives, whove recently
collected 110,000 signatures against the war. The president has
been quick to meet with evangelical conservatives and historic black
church urban leaders, but has been less willing to meet with the mainline
community. Robert Roth, director of the Shalom Center for Justice
and Peace in Okemos, added that he couldnt understand why Bush,
a United Methodist, wouldnt meet with the bishops of his own church,
and how he even turned down the South African peace icon Nelson Mandela.
Edgar criticized the media for its portrayal of Iraq. When TV
crews do a story on Iraq, they show a picture of Saddam Hussein holding
a rifle. I want them to show pictures of children holding up empty bowls,
in part due to our sanctions.
Mousa, president of the Islamic Center in East Lansing and originally
from Egypt, said: Children are dying because of lack of food and
medicine. There has been a strong movement to lift sanctions, but instead
of discussing this we discuss a war to create even more devastation.
Since 1990, the mortality rate for children in Iraq has risen 10 times
faster than Rwandas, even including those children killed in the
1994 Rwandan genocide. In 2000, the rate of Iraqi children dying under
the age of 5 was 160 percent higher than 1990, according to UNICEF.
Yet, individuals responsible for the Rwandan genocide are today facing
the war crimes tribunal, while those responsible for children dying
in Iraq are free from the judgement of courts.
Does the public support this war? Darren Davis, MSUs director
of Public Opinion and Political Participation in the Political Science
Department, conducted a national survey immediately after Sept. 11 funded
by the National Science Foundation. The terrorist attacks increased
trust in government, but at the same time created intense fear. One
of our most profound results is that when you expose people to this
type of fear, they tend to support policies that they wouldnt
a follow-up study, which he and his colleague Brian Silver have scheduled
for January 2003, Davis expects fear to decrease. This could mean support
for Bushs proposed military action against Iraq could crumble.
But Davis points out that there could also be a counter-effect to this,
which he calls the rally-around-the-flag effect. This means
that American citizens as well as members of Congress might continuously
be willing to set aside their differences in the case of a foreign threat.
He said whether the people supported war against Iraq depends entirely
on Bushs capability to keep this high level of trust and patriotism
Voices in the Wilderness
Many are skeptical of Bushs supposed concern for the Iraqi peoples
well-being. A massive bombing campaign against Iraqs capital of
Baghdad, a city with more than 5 million inhabitants, is unlikely to
secure human rights for those in the region.
Ramzi Kysia, a coordinator of the anti-war organization Voices
in the Wilderness, recently sent a letter from Baghdad, which
he describes as a truly green city with a striking blend
of architecture and with no tanks in the streets and no civil defense
drills. Kysia lives in Baghdad now with a handful of other Americans
who traveled there to learn the stories of the Iraqi people.
Ask an Iraqi about liberation and theyll laugh
at you. Its bitter mirth. If the U.S. doesnt bomb the civilian
infrastructure again then only a few thousand innocent people will be
killed when George Bush starts his war. But if Bush bombs the water
and power systems like his dad did in 91 tens of thousands
will die from the resulting epidemics. If the army falls apart, there
could be a civil war that makes past conflicts in Lebanon or Bosnia
look like schoolyard brawls. Kysias letter ends with the
question: This is the moment when we all must ask what
are we willing to risk for peace?
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