Iraq on the Verge of War
With kind permission, the following article, originally posted on ZMagazine is reproduced here. It provides a number of questions and answers on the issues of the war on terror, and the increasing threats of war on Iraq. This article can be found at its original location, http://www.zmag.org/45qairaq.htm.
45 Questions and Answers
By Stephen R. Shalom and Michael Albert
9 October 2002
Part C. Iraq
C1. Are U.S. leaders correct in their characterization of Saddam Hussein as a monster?
There are two possible meanings of the word "monster." What most people mean by the term is a leader who pursues policies that grotesquely violate every norm of morality and international human rights law. By this definition, Saddam Hussein is certainly a monster: he has murdered thousands of political opponents and tens of thousands of members of ethnic minorities, repressed the population, and waged wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait. A second, hypocritical definition is that any one whom the U.S. government considers an enemy and insufficiently pliant, is for those reasons a monster. And using this second definition, Saddam Hussein is indeed a monster, at least since his invasion of Kuwait.
How can we tell which definition U.S. leaders use? There are two simple tests. First, look at instances of leaders in other countries who are gross violators of human rights but who serve U.S. interests. Are they branded by the U.S. government as monsters, which they would be by the first definition, but not by the second? To take a single example: Suharto of Indonesia presided over killing at least half a million Indonesians and some two hundred thousand East Timorese, but not only did Washington not denounce him as a monster, it provided him with arms and diplomatic support (and even provided his army with names of communists to wipe out).
The second test is to look at how the United States characterized and treated Saddam Hussein himself, before August 1990, when he was serving U.S. interests. It was in this period that his worst atrocities took place -- his invasion of Iran, his use of chemical weapons against both Iran and Iraqi Kurds, his Anfal campaign of slaughter against the Kurdish population. Again, not only did Washington refrain from denouncing him as a monster, it provided him with economic aid, military intelligence, diplomatic support, and equipment that could be (and presumably was) used for his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Indeed, when the Ba'ath party (later to be headed by Saddam Hussein) first came to power in a bloody coup back in 1963, the coup had U.S. backing and, reportedly, the United States provided the Ba'athists with names of leftists to murder (see Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, New York: HarperPerennial. 1999, p. 74).
Two of Hussein's atrocities deserve special mention. In 1975, the United States which, together with Iran and Israel, had been aiding a Kurdish revolt in Iraq, abruptly cut off its support for the Kurds when the Shah of Iran, Washington's close ally, struck a deal with Iraq. As Baghdad turned its full wrath on the Kurds, many of the latter sought U.S. assistance in obtaining asylum. In closed-session testimony, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger explained why the U.S. rejected their appeal for help: "covert action," he declared, "should not be confused with missionary work" (Select Committee on Intelligence, 1/19/76 [Pike Report] in Village Voice, 2/16/76, pp. 85, 87n465, 88n471; William Safire, Safire's Washington, New York: Times Books, 1980, p. 333).
In 1991, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, Hussein ruthlessly suppressed uprisings -- encouraged by U.S. propaganda broadcasts -- by Kurds in the north and Shi'ites in the south. U.S. officials permitted Hussein to use helicopters (in fact, U.S. warplanes flew overhead watching the Iraqi helicopters carry out their slaughter) and refused to allow the rebels access to the vast store of Iraqi weapons that the U.S. military had captured.
So, yes, Saddam Hussein is a monster in moral terms. But that is not his crime in the eyes of U.S. officials, for many of Hussein's most monstrous deeds were committed with U.S. backing. For the U.S. he only became a monster when he would not follow orders.
C2. Are U.S. leaders correct in their characterization of Saddam Hussein as a threat to world peace and security?
Broadly, yes, of course they are. That is to say, Saddam Hussein, given no obstacles, could probably be relied on to hurt many more people by his actions than he already has. But he doesn't confront a situation of no obstacles. Instead, he well knows that if Iraq does anything to seriously endanger much less harm people outside its borders, it will simply be annihilated.
Hussein's military position is far weaker today than it was before the 1991 Gulf War, a war in which his forces were decisively defeated. As conservative analyst Anthony Cordesman noted, "Iraq's military machine may retain a massive order of battle, but Iraq's lack of arms imports means that its military readiness and sustainability is only a fraction of what it was in 1990" (The Military Balance in the Gulf, Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 2001, p. 79). And, whatever Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (discussed below in question C4), surely his nuclear, chemical, and missile capabilities are less today than in 1990. At the same time, the regular over flights of his country subject Iraq to far more intense and intrusive surveillance than was the case prior to the Gulf War.
If one had to predict which country in the world was most likely to deploy its troops outside its borders, Iraq is hardly the most dangerous prospect -- not because Saddam Hussein is a peace-loving man, but because he has neither the means nor prospects for gain from any such aggression in the present context. Yes, if an attack is unleashed on Iraq, Hussein in desperation might launch missiles at Israel or Saudi Arabia, but this is a very different matter from his launching an attack out of the blue. Far more likely to wage war on their neighbors than is Iraq are Israel or India, nations that are regionally dominant military powers. But of course, only one nation in the world has actually proclaimed its right to preemptively attack others, with or without UN authorization -- and that is the United States. So, yes, Saddam Hussein is a threat to world peace and security. But in that regard he doesn't hold a candle to George Bush.
And what motivates George Bush is not the threat to the peace that Saddam Hussein represents, but other considerations which we discuss below (see question C18).
C3. What are the connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?
Obviously, one cannot prove the absence of connections. There are, however, good reasons for doubting any serious ties between the two.
Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime has been ruthlessly secular and has had no love for fundamentalist groups. Al Qaeda, for its part, considers its task the overthrow of all governments in the region that are insufficiently Islamic, and certainly Hussein's regime counts as such. (One might note that Iraq did not have diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime -- in fact, the only countries that did have diplomatic relations with the Taliban were the U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Pakistan.)
Of course, hostile parties can sometimes be useful to one another against a common enemy, but no evidence has come to light of cooperation between al Qaeda and Iraq. Ever since September 11, U.S. officials have been frantically looking for some connection between the two. War hawks leapt on the report that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11 hijackers, met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent in April 2001. The Czech government, basing itself on the evidence of one informant -- a student who said he recognized Atta's photograph as someone he had seen with the Iraqi agent five months earlier -- said it was 70 percent sure the story was accurate, but the former director of Czech intelligence noted that "These informants tend to tell you what you want to believe" and the head of Czech foreign intelligence was skeptical. The FBI (which ran down "hundreds of thousands of leads") and the CIA concluded that the report was inaccurate; they found no evidence that Atta was in Prague on the relevant date and some evidence that he was in the United States (Washington Times, 6/19/02; Prague Post, 7/17/02; Washington Post, 5/1/02; Newsweek, 4/28/02 web exclusive; Newsweek, 8/19/02, p. 10; LA Times, 8/2/02).
On September 24, 2002, the British government released a 55 page dossier laying out its case against Iraq. The evidence was said to come from British intelligence and analysis agencies, but also from "access to intelligence from close allies" (p. 9). Surely this includes the United States and surely whatever hesitancy the United States government might have about revealing intelligence information publicly would not prevent it from sharing such information with its closest ally. The dossier presented zero evidence of any al Qaeda-Iraq links
In the last week of September -- in the face of international and domestic hesitancy regarding the rush to war -- U.S. officials again raised the specter of al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein links. Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof" evidence tying the two together, but, significantly, he did not present any of that evidence and admits that it wouldn't hold up in a U.S. court of law.
There was one report, charged Rumsfeld, that Iraq provided "unspecified training relating to chemical and/or biological matters." The report apparently came from Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking al Qaeda prisoner who, according to an intelligence source cited by Newsday, "often has lied or provided deliberately misleading information." As one U.S. official told USA Today, "detainees have a motive to lie to U.S. interrogators: to encourage a U.S. invasion of Iraq, the better to make the case that the United States is the mortal enemy of Muslim countries."
The head of the Senate intelligence committee, Bob Graham, said he had seen nothing connecting al Qaeda and Iraq. Sen. Joseph Biden, who heard a classified CIA briefing on the matter, disputes Rumsfeld's summary. Nebraska Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel, commented that "To say, 'Yes, I know there is evidence there, but I don't want to tell you any more about it,' that does not encourage any of us. Nor does it give the American public a heck of a lot of faith that, in fact, what anyone is saying is true." Intelligence experts inside and outside the U.S. government expressed skepticism, and a Pentagon official called the new claims an "exaggeration." And French intelligence has found not a "trace" of evidence of any link. (NYT, 9/28/02; Newsday, 9/27/02; USA Today, 9/27/02; Washington Post, 9/27/02; Financial Times, 10/6/02.)
This said, there is one connection between Iraq and al Qaeda: namely, that an attack on Iraq may well play into al Qaeda's hands by destabilizing much of the Middle East and, in the words of former General Wesley Clark, possibly "supercharge" recruiting for the terrorist network (NYT, 9/24/02).
C4. Does Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction?
No one knows what weapons Saddam Hussein has. Most analysts assume that he has biological and chemical weapons. No one believes he has nuclear weapons.
We can presume that the most damning claims about the extent of his arsenal are contained in two recent documents: the September 24, 2002 dossier issued by the British government and an October 4, 2002 report by the CIA. There is good reason for thinking these documents exaggerated. For example, the British dossier identifies several once destroyed sites that it says have been rebuilt by the Iraqis. But Hans Von Sponeck, the former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, visited two of these sites and found that in fact they were still destroyed (http://www.irak.be/ned/bivv/iraq4questions4answers.htm ). Other British reporters visited some of the sites listed in the dossier (chosen by them) and found nothing suspicious (Guardian, 9/25/02).
Even if these documents were not exaggerated, however, they would make a good case for inspections, not war.
C5. Is it true that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and against his own people?
Yes. And such use is most certainly a despicable and heinous crime. And such use is one reason, among others, why it would be appropriate to call Saddam Hussein a "monster" on moral grounds (see question C1). The British dossier and the Oct. 4, 2002 CIA report give details of these horrible actions by Hussein, but they omit one small fact: that the U.S. and British governments were backing Hussein when he committed these atrocities.
One should also note that Hussein's chemical munitions are not the only weapons of mass destruction that have been used in Iraq. Far more people have died -- and are still dying -- from the diseases attributable to the U.S.-British sanctions than from Hussein's mustard gas or tabun. Indeed, as Karl and John Mueller noted in the mainstream journal Foreign Affairs (May-June 1999), "economic sanctions may well have been a necessary cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history."
C6. How would you deal with Iraq's WMD?
Security Council resolution 687, the resolution calling for the post-Gulf War destruction of Iraq's WMD systems, noted in paragraph 14 that the disarmament actions "represent steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons." The acquisition of WMD by one state generally encourages, rather than discourages, their acquisition by others. Thus, Anthony Cordesman notes that "Given the other major proliferators in the region -- which include India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Syria -- even a[n Iraqi] regime that is not actively hostile to the U.S. might continue to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles in spite of its agreements not to do so." (The Military Balance in the Gulf, CSIS, July 2001, p. 107) So the best method for dealing with Iraqi WMD -- both from the point of view of justice and efficacy -- is in the context of global or, barring that, regional disarmament.
To the United States and many other WMD states, however, serious disarmament is not on the agenda. The United States is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which sets up a class of "have" and "have-not" nations, with the U.S. in the privileged "have" category, but Washington has refused to meet its obligation under the treaty to move towards disarmament; it has refused, for example to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which have-not nations consider a minimal litmus test indicating a country's commitment to the NPT.
The United States is also a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). As a report for the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies noted,
"After signing the treaty in 1993, Washington largely ignored it, escaping national embarrassment only with a last-minute ratification just four days before its entry into force. Moreover, the United States took steps to dilute the Convention by including waivers in its resolution of ratification and implementing legislation exempting U.S. sites from the same verification rules that American negotiators had earlier demanded be included in the treaty."
Among the exemptions were the U.S. President's right to refuse an inspection of U.S. facilities on national security grounds. (See Amy E. Smithson, U.S. Implementation of the CWC," in Jonathan B. Tucker, The Chemical Weapons Convention: Implementation Challenges and Solutions, Monterey Institute, April 2001, pp. 23-29, http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/reports/tuckcwc.htm ).
The United States is also a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), but efforts to improve compliance with the treaty floundered after Washington blocked continued discussions. (See Jonathan Tucker's Feb. 2002 analysis, http://www.nti.org/e_research/e3_7b.html ). Among other WMD states, Israel has refused to sign the NPT or the BWC or ratify the CWC; India and Pakistan have refused to sign the NPT; and Egypt and Syria have not ratified either the CWC or the BWC.
But even though many nations act hypocritically, it would still be a good thing if Iraq's WMD programs were effectively inspected (not least, for establishing a precedent that could be extended to others). Most everyone favors the inspection of Iraqi WMD, other than Saddam Hussein and, as we can infer from its actions, Washington. Everything the United States has done for the last few months, and indeed for the last eleven years, has had the effect of discouraging Iraq's cooperation with inspections. Security Council resolution 687 declared that sanctions would be lifted when Iraq was disarmed, but the United States promptly removed Hussein's incentive for disarmament when in May 1991 deputy national security adviser Robert Gates officially announced that all sanctions would remain as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power. In March 1997, secretary of state Madeleine Albright stated that "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted" -- and Hussein became more uncooperative with the inspectors.
After the inspectors were withdrawn in 1998 so U.S./U.K. bombing could proceed, it was discovered that the United States had used the inspection teams for spying. Obviously, Iraq would be disinclined to admit the inspectors again if the United States was determined to attack Iraq no matter what, for in that case admitting them would only weaken Iraq's defenses in the face of the inevitable assault. So an assurance from Washington that compliance with UN inspections would forestall an attack would provide an incentive for Hussein's cooperation. But declared Secretary of State Powell (ABC News, 5/5/02), regardless of whether inspectors are admitted, the United States "reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change." And then, when Iraq on September 16 declared its willingness to allow in the inspectors, the White House replied: "This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions."
Now the United States is trying to force through a Security Council resolution on inspections that could not possibly be accepted by Iraq -- essentially allowing U.S. military forces full access to Iraq and the right to unilaterally declare Iraq in non-compliance, thereby allowing the U.S. to invade Iraq without having to force its way across the border and with spies already in place to direct the attack (Guardian, 10/3/02). Such a proposal could have no other purpose than to make sure that inspections don't take place. Yes, Saddam Hussein has tried to obstruct and manipulate previous inspections and loopholes need to be closed -- as inspections need to be imposed on all other WMD states as well. But U.S. efforts here are not aimed at making inspections effective but at making them impossible.
C7. Is Hussein's announcement that he would allow in inspectors without condition to be taken at face value?
If a gigantic bully in the school yard says to a little bully "let me look in your pocket to see if you have a rock that you might throw at me or I am going to bash your head with this baseball bat until there is nothing left of it," are we to take the little bully's reply, "okay, go ahead and look," at face value? The question is about the same. If the little bully had a rock in his shoe, he'd say okay. If there was no rock, he'd say okay. He doesn't want to get bashed in the head with a baseball bat. Every time the little bully said okay it would mean -- okay, dig away in my pocket. The little bully would likely try, as well, both for dignity and for the possibility of retaining some tiny measure of self defense, not to mention retaining means to bully those who are even smaller -- to keep the gigantic bully out of some possible hiding places, of course. Is there a difference? Only in that more is at stake. And in that the Bush/Hussein-scale bullies don't, in fact, generally hurt each other, but huge numbers of innocents instead.
C8. Can't Hussein fool the inspectors?
But no inspectors at all are far easier to fool than some inspectors, and some inspectors are easier to fool than more inspectors. As best anyone can tell, the inspectors in Iraq from 1991-1998 were far more effective at destroying WMD than was bombing either during the Gulf War or in 1998.
One might ask, also, can't the U.S. fool inspectors - can't India, can't Pakistan, can't China, can't Russia, can't France, can't Israel? What inspectors, you say? Indeed. Very dangerous WMD arsenals in each of these countries are not subject to inspections at all, a matter that should worry anyone sincerely concerned with WMD arsenals.
C9. Can Saddam Hussein be deterred?
Suicide bombers or suicide pilots cannot be deterred. They have already chosen death. But Saddam Hussein has spent a lifetime precisely trying to avoid death. You don't make it as a ruthless dictator without an over-developed survival instinct. In 1991 during the Gulf War, Hussein withheld use of his chemical weapons. We don't know if he was deterred by the U.S. (and Israeli) threats of disproportionate and massive retaliation or by the realization that by using such weapons against coalition forces he would be guaranteeing a U.S. march on Baghdad -- but either way, he was deterred. Given the certainty of instant annihilation for using his WMD, there is no reason to believe that he is not deterrable.
Are there some circumstances, however, in which Hussein would not be deterred? Yes, if he thought he were doomed anyway, he might decide to kill as many of his enemies as possible. So, ironically, the one circumstance most likely to elicit Hussein's use of WMD is a war fought to depose Hussein in the name of nullifying his WMD. And if Hussein in desperation used his WMD against Israel, Israel has promised to retaliate, perhaps with unconventional weapons of its own - with unimaginable consequences for the whole region and the world.
C10. Bush claims he does not need specific Security Council authorization to legally attack Iraq. Is this claim true?
No. The UN Charter prohibits nations from using or threatening force against other nations with only two exceptions.
First, Article 51 permits self-defense, but only "when an armed attack occurs." Clearly, there has been no armed attack by Iraq against the United States. Some argue that self-defense includes the right to strike an enemy who is about to launch an attack. Clearly there is no basis for claiming that an Iraqi attack is imminent. If U.S. claims that Iraq might have nuclear weapons by the end of the decade are taken as adequate grounds for allowing anticipatory self-defense, then think about what the world would be like. Surely, Lebanon would have the right to attack Israel, and vice versa, and Pakistan would have the right to attack India, and vice versa, and indeed, just about any country would have the right to attack just about any other country. It was precisely this sort of international lawlessness that the UN Charter was meant to prevent.
The second exception to the Charter's prohibition against the use or threat of force is action taken under the authority of Chapter VII. That is, the Security Council may, under Chapter VII, authorize the use of force in pursuit of international peace and security. So if the Security Council were to pass a resolution authorizing an attack on Iraq, an attack would be legal (which is not the same as just -- see question A5 above). But there has (as of yet anyway) been no resolution authorizing an attack. Back in 1990, after all sorts of bribery and pressure from the United States, the Council did authorize action in resolution 678 to expel Iraq from Kuwait. U.S. officials claim that this resolution is enough to legitimize U.S. military action against Iraq today, but that is patently preposterous. Resolution 678 authorized member states to use all necessary means "to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions." Resolution 660 called for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait and the subsequent relevant resolutions are listed at the beginning of 678 and consist of the series of resolutions relating to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait passed between resolutions 660 (Aug. 2) and 678 (Nov. 29, 1990). U.S. officials maintain that "all subsequent resolutions" includes anything having to do with Iraq passed after Aug. 2, 1990 and thus includes all the post-Gulf War resolutions relating to arms inspectors. Such a claim cannot be taken seriously. Resolutions don't authorize the use of force to uphold resolutions not yet passed. And they don't authorize individual member states to determine for themselves whether Iraq is in compliance with any particular resolutions. That's the responsibility of the Security Council.
After the Gulf War, resolution 687 -- accepted by Iraq -- mandated the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But nothing in that resolution authorized any use of force or the right of any individual state to determine Iraqi compliance. If the U.S. view prevailed, then Israel, for example, could legally attack Iraq at any time after November 1990 -- last year, last week -- if it decided that Iraq wasn't complying with some subsequent resolution. Could this possibly be what the Council intended?
A final U.S. argument is that Iraq remains in violation of some 1990 resolutions relating to Kuwaiti prisoners and property and thus can still be brought to account under resolution 678. But, as Phyllis Bennis has noted, at the March 2002 Arab League Summit, every Arab state including Kuwait signed an all-sided rapprochement with Iraq, including specific arrangements for the return of Kuwait's stolen National Archives and prisoner exchanges.
Thus there is no legal basis for a U.S. attack on Iraq without explicit Security Council authorization. We reiterate, however, that Security Council authorization determines legality, not morality.
C11. Has Iraq violated many Security Council resolutions?
Yes. But it is not the only country to do so. Other countries, including close U.S. allies like Israel and Turkey, have been in violation of Security Council resolutions. (See Stephen Zunes's detailed accounting, available at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2417.) And, of course, the number of violations by U.S. allies would be far larger if it were not for the fact that the Security Council has a totally undemocratic voting procedure that gives Washington (and four other nations) the power to veto any resolutions of which it disapproves.
That others violate UN resolutions is not a justification for Iraq to do so. But the contradiction is relevant to note for it gives the lie to the Bush administration claim that it is motivated by a concern for upholding the UN and international law. Moreover, there is not a little irony in the fact that the Bush administration has declared that in order to enforce adherence by Iraq to the UN, it is prepared to go to war against Iraq, even if that war is not authorized by the Security Council, and hence in clear violation of the UN Charter.
C12. What are the likely consequences of a U.S. attack on Iraq? On the people of Iraq? On the prospects for democracy in the Middle East?
Administration officials assure us that all the consequences will be positive. The Iraqi people will welcome their nearly bloodless deliverance and democracy will spread throughout the region. These are possible outcomes, but the first is by no means certain and the second extremely unlikely. Under some scenarios, Iraqi troops will all refuse to fight and Saddam Hussein will be defeated swiftly. But no sane military planner will proceed on the assumption that everything will go right. One cannot exclude the possibility of intense urban fighting (with the U.S. using overwhelming airpower to obliterate all resistance), which would mean immense civilian casualties. As for Middle Eastern democracy, the corrupt authoritarian regimes of the region will probably be able to hold on to power by the imposition of greater repression on their populations - that is, by becoming less rather than more democratic. And if the threat to these regimes gets more serious, we can expect to see Washington increase its support for dictatorial rule, for there's no chance that the U.S. would tolerate a new government in Jordan or Egypt or Saudi Arabia that came to power by opposing the U.S. war in Iraq
C13. Are the claims about civilian deaths in Iraq due to the sanctions exaggerated? And isn't Saddam Hussein responsible for the humanitarian crisis by his diverting of money to his weapons programs?
There is debate both on the number of deaths in Iraq under the sanctions and the cause of those deaths. Save the Children UK and a coalition of other NGOs has recently issued a report that summarizes the conflicting estimates regarding "excess mortality":
"UNICEF, in a widely publicised study carried out jointly with the Iraq Ministry of Health, determined that 500,000 children under five years old had died in "excess" numbers in Iraq between 1991 and 1998, though UNICEF insisted that this number could not all be ascribed directly to sanctions. UNICEF used surveys of its own as part of the basic research and involved respected outside experts in designing the study and evaluating the data. UNICEF remains confident in the accuracy of its numbers and points out that they have never been subject to a scientific challenge.
"Prof. Richard Garfield of Columbia University carried out a separate and well regarded study of excess mortality in Iraq. Garfield considered the same age group and the same time period as the UNICEF study. He minimized reliance on official Iraqi statistics by using many different statistical sources, including independent surveys in Iraq and inferences from comparative public health data from other countries. Garfield concluded that there had been a minimum of 100,000 excess deaths and that the more likely number was 227,000. Garfield now thinks the most probable number of deaths of under-five children from August 1991 to June 2002 would be about 400,000." (Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future, 8/6/02, http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/sanction/iraq1/2002/paper.htm )
Whether the UNICEF figures are correct or the more conservative Garfield figures, either way we are talking about a massive human catastrophe. Using Garfield's estimate, more Iraqi children under the age of five have died from the sanctions than in a hundred World Trade Center attacks.
Some supporters of the sanctions argue that any humanitarian suffering is a result not of the sanctions but of Hussein's manipulations of the sanctions regime. There is no doubt that Hussein has a callous disregard for his people's hardships and bears some of the responsibility for the situation. However, as the Select Committee on International Development of the British House of Commons noted (1/27/00), this does not "entirely excuse the international community from a part in the suffering of Iraqis. A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein is fundamentally flawed." Two UN humanitarian coordinators for Iraq (Denis Halliday in 1997 and Hans Von Sponeck in 2000) resigned to protest the inhumanity of the sanctions.
Not all U.S. officials have chosen to deny the impact of the sanctions. In May 1996, Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes asked Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "We have heard that half a million children have died . . . is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."
The sanctions have undergone various changes, but in all versions the people of Iraq have been the victims, while Hussein and his inner circle have, if anything, been strengthened -- the exact opposite of how sanctions ought to be targeted.
C14. Aren't the sanctions essential to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction?
Not if we are to believe the U.S. and British governments, which claim that Hussein has been able to rebuild his WMD programs by easily evading the sanctions.
Blocking weapons transfers and WMD components makes good sense -- and not just to Iraq. But the sanctions regime in Iraq blocks far more than military supplies. In July 2002, $5.4 billion worth of goods were being held up, almost always at the insistence of the United States or Britain, covering such supplies as water purification systems, sewage pipes, medicines, hospital equipment, electricity and communications infrastructure, and oil field equipment.
C15. Christopher Hitchens says: ''you can't subject the Iraqi people to the cruelty of sanctions for so long while leaving the despot in place.'' Is this an argument for "regime change" and war?
Hitchens would have us believe that having subjected the population of Iraq to sanctions that have caused the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the solution is for the perpetrator of this mayhem to now invade, and add additional carnage, and claim by that act to have become a moral agent.
Suppose the mafia has been conducting a reign of terror on a neighborhood in the South Bronx for ten years because somewhere inside this neighborhood an ex mafia lieutenant acting as a local lord had decided to keep more of the take than the mafia dons felt he was entitled to. Would we call for the mafia to send in its heavily armed thugs, shooting their way through the dwellings, until they managed to find and kill the rogue local lord -- with the intent, of course, of placing a new mafia lieutenant in the saddle? Shouldn't our call be, instead, "Mafia Out, Rogue Out," and down the road, "No More Mafia"?
But might the residents of the South Bronx (or Iraq) be better off under a new mafia lieutenant than remaining subjected to the mafia reign of terror (or the U.S. sanctions)? That will depend on the human costs of the campaign to kill the rogue local lord, but even if the costs turn out to be less than the continued reign of terror - which no one can assure -- consider the horrible precedent that Hitchens's argument would establish. Do we really want a world where India arrogates to itself the right to invade Pakistan in order to protect the Pakistani population from some murderous Indian policy? Should we have cheered Indonesia's invasion of East Timor as a humane alternative to continued Indonesian efforts to starve the East Timorese?
C16. Who authorized the U.S. and British air forces to patrol the no-fly zones over Iraq?
The U.S. and Britain. In April 1991, when Hussein was crushing uprisings in the north and south of the country, the UN passed a resolution calling on Iraq to cease its repression and urging member states to provide humanitarian aid to refugees. Embarrassed and under political pressure for allowing the uprisings to be crushed, President Bush senior ordered air drops to Kurdish refugees on the Turkish border and then ground troops which assisted the refugees as part of Operation Provide Comfort. The U.S., Britain, and France demanded Iraq observe a no-fly zone in the area, and when the troops were withdrawn, the no-fly zone was maintained, and patrolled by coalition air forces. Nothing in the UN resolution authorized Operation Provide Comfort, the no-fly zones, or the air patrols. The no-fly zone was ostensibly to protect the Kurds, but the protection was rather limited: it only applied to Iraqi attacks, not to Turkish air or ground incursions into Kurdish areas of Iraq -- which have never been protested or opposed by the United States. The boundaries of the northern no-fly zone do not coincide with the boundaries of the autonomous Kurdish-held area. In 1992, a similar no-fly zone was established in the south, even though Iraqi forces had not withdrawn from the area as they had from the north. France withdrew from participation in the no-fly zones and since then Washington and London alone have unilaterally extended the boundaries of the two no-fly zones and unilaterally expanded their rules for engagement, allowing broad attacks on Iraqi installations if the planes are fired upon.
The initial no-fly zone in the north may have played some humanitarian role with respect to the Kurds. But essentially the zones are unilateral U.S. and British impositions, without any basis in international law, designed to put pressure on Saddam Hussein. Under the new rules of engagement, they represent the opening salvos of a unilateral U.S.-U.K. war.
C17. Do the American people support a war against Iraq?
Yes and no. If asked do you support the United States preventing Iraq from killing you or your parents or your children, or indeed from killing even just those people who live in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, a considerable majority of Americans will most certainly say yes.
On the other hand, if they are asked, should the United States blast Iraq -- a country it has already devastated for over a dozen years with hundreds of thousands of casualties -- into the dark ages, with countless further victims -- in order to make the point that we are callous enough and violent enough to do it -- and to steal for ourselves direct control over the resources of another country, it is reasonable to guess that a considerable majority of Americans would say no.
Currently, as we write, reports suggest that about 70% of the British population, by polls, opposes the war plans, despite the British government being the only one in the world solidly behind Bush. This is very interesting. Two things seem to explain the British being more anti-war than Americans. One, the planes that crashed into buildings on 9-11 didn't do so in London. And two, there is in Britain a mass-circulation press which is conveying actual truths and morally civilized reactions to the on-going events, more widely than these are being conveyed in the U.S. Reaction in the U.S. is definitely behind. But it is also catching up.
C18. Why does the U.S. government want to go to war against Iraq?
Because Iraq's leader is not in Washington's hip pocket anymore, where he was, when Washington liked him quite a lot, while he was committing his worst crimes.
Because underneath Iraq is the world's second largest reserve of oil, which the U.S. government would like to control, particularly given the instability of Saudi subservience.
Because around the world are country after country who are suffering the accumulating damage of corporate globalization and being pressured by their populations to extricate from the American Empire's hold over their policies, and waging violent destruction on Iraq sends a very loud message regarding just how high the price will be for extrication from U.S. domination.
Because anything remotely resembling a legal and moral approach to international problems is ridiculed and rejected by U.S. elites because legal and moral approaches to international problems would, in case after case, lead to outcomes contrary to their agendas and interests.
And because intense focus on Iraq is serviceable to Bush and Co. seeking to divert attention from the condition of the U.S economy and corporate corruption leading up to the November U.S. elections, and hoping to undermine social spending that is strongly favored by the population, in the interest of tax cuts for the rich, which is strongly opposed by the population.
This article is part of the following collection:
- War on Terror FAQs
- 45 Q & As: Intervention, Afghan and Iraq
- September 11th and Terrorism FAQ
- 47 Questions and Answers on the War in Afghanistan
- Questions and Answers on September 11 And Its Aftermath
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