Signals on Iraq?
is important to remember, as quaint as such concerns might seem
in many quarters, that so far Saddam Hussein has failed to give
the United States a clear-cut casus belli to justify what is beginning
to look like an almost-certain U.S. attack on his regime in Iraq.
The last time – perhaps encouraged by a wink-and-nod from then U.S.
Ambassador April Glaspie – Saddam actually invaded neighboring Kuwait.
Whether that really justified war or not, at least it was a case
of overt aggression against a titular U.S. ally that was a significant
source of oil.
officials, having tried mightily and generally failed to find a
direct link between Saddam and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, now
hardly talk about any need for justification due to Iraqi aggression.
It is virtually commonplace now to note that the Bush administration
policy is to seek "regime change" – a marvelously flexible
formulation – in Iraq, and the only question seems to be how it
is to be accomplished.
a policy, however, is not one that arises from either an attack,
a threatened attack or even a clear and present danger of an imminent
attack, either on the United States or on any of its titular allies
or multifarious "interests" in the region. As National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said as long ago as December at
an American Enterprise Institute forum, "We do not need the
events of Sept. 11 to tell us that [Saddam] is a very dangerous
man who is a threat to his own people, a threat to the region, and
a threat to us."
as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said to a town hall meeting
with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, according to
Reuters, "It's too dangerous to wait 10 years for them to hit
us. September 11 was nothing compared to what an attack with chemical
and biological weapons would be. We have a problem. We're not going
to wait forever to solve it."
this kind of attitude is not even that of a peace-loving state facing
a danger of attack or disruption and seeking to deal with it preemptively.
The desire to attack Iraq and oust Saddam is a mission of imperial
maintenance of power against a regime whose very existence is viewed
not so much as a threat as an affront.
old enough to remember that in the bad old days before the fall
of the Soviet Union, it was precisely that kind of aggressive thinking
that most Americans found so obnoxious about the Soviet empire.
While it was possible to disagree about motives and methods in individual
cases, the Soviets clearly sought to increase their influence around
the world and to do so through opportunistic aggression or subversion.
Whether they really sought world domination or not, they focused
forces on countries or areas where there might be a payoff in increased
power, regardless of whether those countries posed an imminent threat
to their base in the Soviet Union or not. That drive to enhance
power through military activity most Americans found more than offensive.
however, it is the United States in the position of a dominant world
power seeking to pick a fight with a smaller country because that
country's leader is offensive. To be sure, Saddam Hussein is offensive
in numerous ways. But the desire to take him out is more the result
of an imperial mindset than a legitimate fear that he poses more
than a long-term, distant threat to the United States. The imperial
power seeks mainly to punish dissidents, building up the idea that
he poses a threat, but not even making a case that the threat is
DISAGREEMENT ABOUT MEANS?
as U.S. officials seem determined to oust Saddam, there seems to
be considerable confusion, within and outside official circles,
about just how to accomplish this. Leaking from various sources
seems to have increased in the last few days, leading to confusing
speculation about just what might happen and when.
– and again, this might seem quaint in what is increasingly coming
to look like a post-democratic country – it is time for our leaders
to put everything on the table and seek the opinion of the American
Thursday USA Today published a story
on Iraqi war plans that led with this: "A full-scale U.S. invasion
of Iraq will require significant provocation by Saddam Hussein's
regime – such as invading a neighbor, fielding a nuclear weapon
or attacking its minority population, top Bush administration officials
Associated Press and United Press International stories the same
day stressed different aspects of war planning. The AP story suggested
that the United States is considering "marshaling 50,000 troops
at the Kuwaiti border in roughly a week" so as to be able to
pull a swift, surprise attack on Iraq. The UPI story said that current
plans call for a total of 250,000 troops attacking from three directions,
with Great Britain expected to supply 25,000 of those troops and
significant special forces expertise. Neither spoke of a perceived
need for provocation.
on Friday the London Telegraph ran a story saying British
and U.S. agents are already in Iraq trying to foment a coup, although
anonymous officials didn't expect that effort to topple Saddam by
itself. The London Times said plans
are already underway for British special forces to sabotage Saddam's
chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction plants "in
the planned invasion of Iraq next year."
what might or might not have been a related story, the Financial
Times reported that Britain
is pulling most of the 2,400 troops in now has in Kosovo, "fuelling
talk it is preparing to provide support to any US military attack
the weekend about 70 former Iraqi military officers and perhaps
150 others opposed to Saddam held a meeting in London to discuss
ways and means of toppling Saddam. According to the AP, the meeting
was coordinated not by the Iraqi National Congress, which has received
some $97 million in aid from U.S. taxpayers, but by something called
the Iraqi National Coalition Military Alliance. Among the groups
represented were the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
the Iraqi National Accord and the Iraqi National Coalition. Clearly
the United States participated in and may have funding the gathering
of rag-tag groups.
Wafiq al-Sammarrai, a former Iraqi intelligence chief who defected,
told a Kuwaiti newspaper Sunday that a large-scale military attack
or depending on an internal rebellion would be likely to fail. "Considering
wrong options such as in internal revolt or a comprehensive war
of liberation is not acceptable at present," he told al-Rai
al-Alam newspaper. He prefers a swift coup d'etat. He is said
to be close to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabai.
fascinating aspect of all this is that the American people are the
only ones who do not seem to be fully engaged in the ongoing debate?
is time to put the matter of ousting Saddam Hussein on the table
and engage the public (rather just than a tight coterie of policymakers)
in a full discussion leading to a request to Congress for a declaration
to many the idea of a declaration of war is viewed as a quaint anachronism.
But a full-scale attack on a sovereign country that has not attacked
its neighbors recently or been conclusively linked to the September
11 attacks is different than retaliating against the Taliban or
chasing scattered al Qaida fighters. It raises questions that would
seem to require public input.
evidence of trying to develop certain weapons enough justification
for such an attack? What kind of casualties are the American people
prepared to tolerate? Does the U.S. seek a military coup or a democratic
government in Iraq? Will an attack be followed by occupation? If
so, for how long? What if other countries are destabilized?
would think that these and similar questions should be aired in
public, with all sides weighing in, before the administration commits
us to a full-scale war with Iraq. But that doesn't seem to be the
imperial way in post-democratic America.
all this discussion is going on, there are developments in other
countries that are likely to be important either in an attack on
Iraq or in the ongoing struggle against terrorism. In Turkey, which
is providing titular leadership for the international occupation
forces in Afghanistan and is generally considered to be the most
likely mostly-Muslim country to be a key ally in any effort against
Saddam Hussein, there's something close to a regime crisis underway.
Ecevit, the 77-year-old premier who has been ill enough to keep
him away from day-to-day duties for several months now, has seen
at least seven ministers and 37 deputies resign from his party or
government and urge him to resign. He refuses, and has brushed off
calls from some of his own allies for early elections in November.
All this has both the United States and the European Union (which
has been considering a membership application from NATO member Turkey)
a lot more upset and concerned even than they have been letting
on. Paul Wolfowitz visited Turkey on Sunday before flying to Afghanistan,
but claimed the visit wasn't related to the current instability.
instability does not bode well for a U.S.-led coalition that includes
Turkey as a key member. And although most news reports remain mum
about the possibility, U.S. planning for an invasion of Iraq – about
which Turkey has to have mixed feelings considering it includes
a sizeable and sometimes restive Kurdish minority the government
has fairly systematically mistreated – may have done something to
precipitate the current crisis. Although U.S. intervention is often
done in the name of promoting stability, often enough it leads to
in Pakistan, where four people implicated in the abduction and murder
of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl were just convicted,
instability is becoming almost endemic. Pakistani dictator Pervez
Musharraf bet his political future on siding with the United States
after September 11, and it doesn't necessarily look like a good
bet these days. He still seems to have effective control of the
army and the brutal intelligence service (which virtually set the
Taliban up in power in Afghanistan back when that seemed to Pakistani
operatives like a good idea) but his popular support is shaky at
talking about new elections to give him a shred of legitimacy, but
he's working hard to rig them. He's promulgated rules that forbid
former prime ministers who served two terms from running, which
eliminates two possibly formidable allies. And last week he saw
to it that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was indicted for
corruption in absentia, just to put the icing on the no-strong-challenger
the conviction of those involved in Daniel Pearl's death (who may
not be the ones who actually wielded the knife that slit his throat)
leads to overt or covert intensified Islamist activity or violence,
his regime could be on even shakier ground.
U.S. planning continues even as those we consider our allies and
supporters run into serious regime trouble. Maybe we've misunderstood
U.S. policy. Maybe it isn't to effect regime-change in Iraq, but
to do so in countries that seek to be our allies.
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