Release Date: February 9, 1998
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis
Bomb The Usual Iraqis
by Eric Margolis © 1997 Eric Margolis
The objective of war, wrote the great military thinker Maj. Gen. J.F.C. Fuller, is not victory, but to shape the peace that follows.
Without clear, strategic objectives for a post-war period, starting a conflict is merely mindless brutality. This, alas, is precisely the direction in which the US is headed over Iraq.
War fever and jingoism, fanned by an uncritical, cheerleading media, grip the United States. Seventy-one percent of Americans, most of whom could not find Iraq on a map, want to see it pulverized anew.
Exactly 100 years ago, a similar nationalist frenzy produced the lopsided Spanish-American War. Today, the cry is: `Take Out Saddam!' Back then it was, `Remember the Maine!'
President Bill Clinton, up to his neck in sleaze, may unleash a new war on Iraq to distract the public from his growing legal and moral problems. The man who dodged the draft in wartime plans to use the US military to save his political skin. No matter thousands of Iraqi civilians and some American servicemen may die.
Republican leaders Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott are beating the war drums. Though bright men, like many Republicans and conservatives, they have no grasp of the Mideast's serpentine complexities. They see the Mideast with comic strip simplicity. These small-town politicians writ large mistakenly believe the solution to America's imperial problems in the Mideast is simply swinging the big stick. The world could pay dearly for this dismaying combination of international vigilantism, arrogance, and ignorance.
The US has painted itself into a corner by demonizing Iraq and wildly exaggerating the threat from Baghdad. Saddam keeps making the US look foolish. After all his threats, if Clinton backs down over Iraq, Republicans will crucify him. America's allies and Russia are frantically trying to fashion a face-saving diplomatic exit from this mess that will allow Washington to proclaim victory.
- The US bombs Iraq for days, killing large numbers of troops and civilians. Saddam survives. What then? He will proclaim another victory against the world's superpower. There will be widespread revulsion towards the US. Under international law, Iraq has the right to attack nations - like Kuwait and Bahrain - if they allow US warplanes to launch attacks from their soil. This week, Russia's Boris Yeltsin rightly warned of unpredictable dangers arising from an American attack.
- Iraq's remaining stores of chemical and biological weapons(CB) cannot be totally eliminated. Claims they can be expunged by bombing are nonsense. Iraq has no nuclear program left. Its strategic weapons consist of limited quantities of poison gas, V-series nerve agents, and biological agents. But Iraq cannot deliver them at any distance. These CB weapons are likely hidden in mountains, deserts or swamps, not in Saddam's palaces.
Hitting chemical sites could release toxic clouds, killing thousands of civilians - as almost occured in Baghdad in 1991. Gulf War Syndrome that affects so many US servicemen was most likely caused by the foolish demolition of Iraqi chemical weapons stores by the US Army.
- Chemical/biological weapons are relatively easy to manufacture. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require little space and can be hidden in a small, non-nondescript building. CB technology is a genii that's out of the bottle.
Note: Iraq's CB technology was provided by Britain and the US during the 1980's for use against Iran. The only way to eliminate CB technology from Iraq is by killing 22,000 Iraqi military technicians and scientists.
- All major Mideast powers now have chemical and, some, biological, weapons which, Arabs and Iran maintain, were developed mainly to counter Israel's huge nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal. If Saddam is overthrown, Iraq's next ruler will immediately begin rebuilding his strategic CB and, later, nuclear, weapons.
- Saddam is a dangerous brute. All previous Iraqi rulers since the 1950's have also been thugs. It takes an iron hand to rule chronically unstable Iraq. Unless Iraq, which has the Mideast's second largest oil reserves, is to be partitioned between Turkey and Iran, a Saddam act-alike will be needed to run this mutant stepchild of British imperialism. Iraq's next ruler will probably be as ruthless as Saddam, but smarter.
- Virtually unnoticed by the world, the US has given Turkey a green light to begin annexing northern Iraq, with its rich oil fields. Under the pretext of fighting Kurds, the Turkish Army is inching its way towards Mosul. The US scourges Iraq for trying to annex Kuwait, while encouraging Turkey to annex part of Iraq.
- Iraq is not the deadly menace American propaganda makes it out to be. Without missiles, and only a handful of aircraft, Iraq has little offensive capability. Once US-imposed sanctions are lifted, however, Iraq will begin rebuilding its forces, but this will take many years.
- US human intelligence (humint) in Iraq is awful. In 1996, the Clinton Administration badly botched an attempt to assassinate Saddam and overthrow his regime, including terror bombings of civilian targets in Baghdad. CIA's Iraqi network was broken and rolled up. Israel's Mossad has become a major supplier of humint on Iraq, The data from Israel is crafted to serve Israel's strategy of pressing the US into another war with Iraq.
- If the US strikes, it will try to kill Saddam, using newly developed BLU-109B/113 bombs that can penetrate 3 meters of concrete. Assassinating foreign leaders is against US law. The law, however, is suspended when dealing with the Mideast.
- An attack on Iraq will not be a UN operation. The core majority of the Security Council - Russia, France and China- strongly oppose attacking Iraq. So the US, with Britain tagging along, will unilaterally go to war with Iraq. Stripped of the UN fig leaf, we see the realpolitik: US determination to crush Iraq for daring challenge its Oil Raj in the Mideast.
- The lightweight US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, insists diplomacy has been exhausted. But contrast Clinton's policy towards North Korea, which, unlike demolished Iraq, is a real international threat.
North Korea has nuclear weapons, gas, and germs. It threatens to use them against South Korea, Okinawa, Japan and 37,000 US troops in Korea. Washington is buying off hungry North Korea by giving it a two nuclear reactors, oil, food and medicine. Why not buy hungry Iraq's good behavior? After all, a mere eight years ago, wicked Saddam used to be a close US ally.
Diplomacy is clearly the way out. But the US has made clear it will keep Iraq in prison, and torment its people, until they overthrow Saddam, Iraqis must be able to see an end to crushing sanctions and a return to normal relations. A nation cannot be kept in permanent solitary confinement. Saddam is not a lunatic; he can be encouraged to acceptable behavior. The world would be better without Saddam and his like, but we may have to live with him. And a lasting Mideast peace won't come until Israel allows a viable Palestinian mini-state, and joins some kind of regional CB arms control program.
This crisis will probably hasten the end of Iraq's 7-year isolation. US policy towards Iraq has been a total fiasco. Ironically, Great Brinksman Saddam may yet emerge the victor in his long test of wills with Washington.
America, the world's sole superpower, is about to savage a small, defenseless nation of 22 million. Such Saddam-like behavior is unworthy of both a great, humane democracy, and the proud US armed forces.
This is certainly not America's finest hour.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]