I have listened to the discussions about Saddam Hussein and Iraq, some
disturbing questions have arisen. As an ordinary citizen with no special
expertise in foreign policy, I am unable to get to the bottom of them.
As a skeptic, however, who remembers how the Gulf of Tonkin incident
of 1964 was made the pretext for the horrific escalation of military
action in Vietnam, I think they are worth posing.
Saddam Hussein gas the Kurds? He is regularly accused of doing so,
but the story may not be true. A little-known Army War College study,
written by Stephen Pelletiere and Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Johnson,
came to the conclusion that he did not. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war,
Pelletiere served as the CIA’s senior political analyst on Iraq, and
Johnson has taught at the U.S. Military Academy. Their study investigated
what happened at Halabja, where gas was used by both sides.
the authors concluded, did not use poison gas against his people. While
hundreds of civilians died in the crossfire, what felled them was the
kind of gas used by Iranians. The Iranians, however, insisted that the
gas came from the Iraqis. Their story prevailed in the U.S.
Goldberg wrote damningly about Iraq’s role at Halabja (New Yorker,
March 25), but when asked by the Village Voice why he had ignored
the War College study, he explained that he trusted other sources. Why
ignore significant evidence to the contrary?
York Times has recently disclosed that the Reagan administration,
which supported Iraq against Iran, acquiesced in the use of gas (August
17). According to retired Colonel Walter P. Lang, who was senior defense
intelligence officer at the time, "The use of gas on the battlefield
by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern."
Hiro says that while Saddam may have gassed civilians, conclusive proof
was lacking at the time. "That is where the matter rested for 14
years – until ‘gassing his own people’ became a catchy slogan to demonize
Saddam in the popular American imagination" (Nation, August
Saddam attempt to assassinate former President Bush? U.S. intelligence
sources allege that Saddam attempted to assassinate the president in
April 1993 when he was visiting Kuwait. However, Seymour Hersh concluded
that this intelligence was "seriously flawed," and that the
administration’s "evidence" was "factually incorrect"
(New Yorker, November 1, 1993). A homemade bomb had been found
miles away in a van, not in the hotel where Bush was staying. Evidence
that remote-controlled devices were used was discredited by independent
U.S. experts. It was clearly against Saddam’s own interests, Hersh observed,
to involve himself in such a plot.
did the UN arms inspectors leave Iraq? From 1991 to 1998 UNSCOM
arms inspectors worked throughout Iraq. Did they leave because they
were kicked out by a ruthless tyrant who had something to hide, as we
are constantly told, or were there other reasons?
Post reported that the "United Nations arms inspectors helped
collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine
the Iraqi regime" (January 8, 1999). According to Swedish diplomat
Rolf Ekeus, who ran the UNSCOM operation, the inspections were "manipulated."
The U.S., he said, had spies posing as inspectors. They were keen, for
example, on tracking Saddam’s movements, which "could be of interest
if one were to target him personally."
took punitive measures against alleged Iraqi arms violations. Illegal
bombing forays in 1993 and 1996 were followed by a heavy four-day U.S.
bombing campaign in December 1998. Since early 1999, unauthorized air
strikes have occurred on an almost weekly basis. UNSCOM arms inspectors
withdrew, in part, because they did not want to be bombed by U.S. and
Ritter, the former UNSCOM inspector, has stated: "In terms of large-scale
weapons of mass destruction programs, these had been fundamentally destroyed
or dismantled by the weapons inspectors as early as 1996, so by 1998
we had under control the situation on the ground." In briefing
the incoming Bush administration, former Secretary of Defense William
Cohen said: "Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors."
would seem to be complex. First, by 1998, as a result of the arms inspections,
Iraq was virtually disarmed. Second, Saddam, who seeks weapons of mass
destruction, may still have a residual arsenal, though of doubtful reliability.
Finally, the arms inspections were tainted by Western intelligence abuses.
One need not whitewash Saddam to recognize the complicity of the U.S.
If new arms inspections are to be instituted (as seems desirable), credible
guarantees must be given to allay legitimate Iraqi fears about spying.
is responsible for the devastation wrought in Iraq by the economic sanctions?
"History’s biggest concentration camp" is what Jim Jennings,
president of Conscience International, a relief organization, has called
Iraq under the sanctions. The sanctions regime, he pleads, is "punishing
the people of Iraq in a way that I think most American people, if they
could see and understand what is really going on there, would find totally
unacceptable in a moral sense. It’s cruel, inhumane, it’s unconscionable."
fault is it that half a million children have died in Iraq since the
economic blockade was imposed? Whose fault that the water is contaminated,
the hospitals are desperate, the agriculture is ruined and the transportation
a shambles? Could Saddam help his people, if he cared, instead of using
his money to buy weapons?
smuggled oil, Iraq currently obtains a sizable income. Some of it undoubtedly
goes for weapons. But is that the whole story?
has blocked billions of dollars of imports needed for relief and rehabilitation.
According to Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck, both of whom resigned
in protest from the UN humanitarian program in Iraq: "The death
of 5,000 to 6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water,
lack of medicines and malnutrition. The U.S. and the UK governments’
delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this
tragedy, not Baghdad."
not easy to sort out the sanctions issue, it seems clear that Saddam
alone is not to blame. As Princeton University’s Richard Falk has stated:
the U.S. and the UK "bear a particularly heavy political, legal,
and moral responsibility for the harm inflicted on the people of Iraq."
important is oil as a motive for this war? It is one thing for the
U.S. to target Iraq because Saddam supposedly harbors weapons of mass
destruction (though according to just war principles and international
law that is by no means sufficient). It is quite another if the goal
is to seize control of Iraq’s oil.
one cautious administration supporter, Anthony H. Cordesman, senior
analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies,
is quite candid: "Regardless of whether we say so publicly,"
he admits, "we will go to war, because Saddam sits at the center
of a region with more than 60 percent of all the world’s oil reserves."
this mean? Are weapons of mass destruction the pretext while oil is
really the prize? Would Americans back this war if they believed it
was really about oil? Would they agree that the appalling military,
diplomatic and human costs are worth it?
oil industry, "regime change" in Baghdad will not be meaningful
unless it is followed by political stability. To develop the oil reserves,
according one analyst, "you need two to three billion dollars,
and you don’t invest that kind of money without stability." Even
if Saddam can be toppled easily (which is by no means certain), "stability"
would almost certainly require a puppet regime and a prolonged, costly
military occupation, not democracy for the Iraqi people. Again, is that
really what Americans want?
the outrage at Iraq now? Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
has recently conceded, perhaps unwittingly, that any plausible threat
from Iraq is perhaps a decade away. "It’s too dangerous to wait
ten years for them to hit us," he said. "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
waiting forever, it might be better to solve other problems first. The
"regime change" engineered in Afghanistan, for example, is
already coming back to haunt us. As former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale
Scott has pointed out, Afghan drugs, virtually eliminated under the
Taliban, are not only back, but will be used to fund worldwide terrorism.
"Thanks to the U.S. intervention," he writes, "Afghanistan
will again supply up to 70 percent of the world’s heroin this year.
. . . It is estimated that the 2002 crop will be about 85 percent of
the record-breaking 4,500 metric tons harvested in 1999." Besides
spreading misery to our society, this harvest will generate an increase
of funds for terrorists around the globe.
Morse (D., Ore.) was one of only two senators who voted against the
Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. He saw what was coming when few did. Three
years later he said: "We’re going to become guilty, in my judgment,
of being the greatest threat to the peace of the world. It’s an ugly
reality, and we Americans don’t like to face up to it. I hate to think
of the chapter of American history that’s going to be written in the
future in connection with our outlawry in Southeast Asia."
such chapter be written on Iraq?