1990s >> 1996 >> no-1106-october-1996

Why is Iraq Singled Out?

“When you abuse your people and threaten your neighbours you must pay the price”

This pearl of wisdom was uttered by President Bill Clinton after the US had fired 27 Cruise missiles during the first of two attacks on Iraq by US B-52 bombers in early September.

You don’t need to be an expert in international affairs to realise how pathetic and hypocritical his statement is.

Clintonwas attempting to justify the US attack on Iraq because Saddam Hussein had ordered his troops into Kurdish-held northern Iraq. He seemed totally unaware that Turkey, a NATO ally has been bombing the Kurds in northern Turkey on a regular basis for years – Kurds, like those in Irbil, attacked by Saddam, who demand autonomy – and from the same air base used by the US to attack the Iraqi army.

We might well ask why such logic is not used as a pretext to bomb Indonesia, whose government ruthlessly suppresses the people there and has murdered 200,000 since the invasion of East Timor some twenty years ago. Or why the US is not currently intervening in the present 25 ongoing conflicts in which people are “abused” and neighbours “threatened”.

One would think, judging by the number of separate occasions on which the US has bombed Iraq, that it would be easier for the US to oust Saddam, as they have done to countless other world leaders in the past. Bombing raids are, after all, expensive. The Cruise missiles alone that were fired at Iraq in early September cost $42 million.

However, what should have become apparent by now is that the US does not want Saddam toppled. He is, in fact, invaluable to the furtherance of US interests for a number of reasons,

Firstly, and most obviously, Saddam, as has been the case in the past, acts as a buffer to the spread of militant Islam from Iran, which itself regards the US as the “Great Satan” and is feared by the pro-US regimes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Secondly, if Saddam is toppled, there is a strong chance that Iraq will break up into warring factions that will result in further regional instability.

Thirdly, so long as Saddam, the world’s number one “monster”, remains in power, he remains unpredictable and thus frightens his neighbours, who are only too willing to buy western arms and defence systems. Since 1990, the countries bordering Iraq have spent $75 billion on such hardware.

Furthermore, Saddam provides the US President and his cohorts with a timely vote-catcher. Unless you’ve been on a desert island or in a coma these past few months, you will know that the US presidential elections take place this November – elections already dragged down to gutter level by sex scandals and the like. The attack on Iraq can also be seen as a piece of electioneering aimed at a gullible and jingoistic electorate. Indeed, an ABC News poll, carried out after the first attack on Iraq, found that 81 percent of those questioned were in favour of it.

Big Game

Perhaps most importantly the US attack on Iraq should be seen as part of a larger game plan, with Saddam’s aggression not the issue at all.

By far the biggest threat to US interests in the Middle East is Iran, a country of 60 million ruled by Islamic fundamentalists who detest the US; a country with a huge army and arsenal to match and a probable nuclear capability.

The US has for years made every attempt to castigate the “mad mullahs” of Iran and turn world opinion against them, blaming them for every explosion from Saudi Arabia to the downing of an airliner 8 miles east of New York two months ago.

August had in fact brought much pressure on the US government to bomb Iran. “US prepares air strikes against I ran” ran a headline in the Sunday Telegraph (4 August) while a day later the Times reported: “Pressure grows for US raids on Iran” (5 August).

However, the Pentagon is fully aware that any attack on Iran would result in a far greater response than anything elicited from Iraq. Most certainly the bombing of the American heartland by Iranian terrorists.

With this in mind the attack on Iraq was also a message intended for Iran “mess with our interests and this is what you’ll get” – ‘a message far less costlier than any attack on Iran would be.

Again, with the US still looking for its hegemonic raison d’être, the anti-Communist passport now expired, the Middle East is still as good a place as any for the US to assert its presence on the world stage, and Saddam is as good a target as any to bully and to show anyone watching you’re still policeman of the world.

Hate and War

For a bigoted white American, the average Middle Easterner is an ideal target of hate and one that confirms the average prejudice. They are generally of a different hue. They have strange cultures and customs. They have a different religion and speak a funny language and are always staging wars. What other motives do you need to convince an already brainwashed audience (Clinton fans) that they (the Iraqis) have no place in the civilised world and that it is okay to bomb them?

It can well be argued that the Iraqi working class has more than paid the price for Iraq’s brief incursion into Kuwait back in August of 1989.

Six years of sanctions have not only crippled the economy, but have also, the World Health Organisation argues, resulted in 500,000 deaths from want of decent food and medicine. The sewage system has collapsed, disease is every-where and there are 5,000 new cases of malnutrition every month.

A plan to allow Iraq to sell $2 millions-worth of oil to buy food and medical supplies (as if this is sufficient for a population of 17 million) was supposed to come into operation at the end of September. This has currently been suspended. One thing is certain, the future looks bleak for the average Iraqi.

All of this is not to say that Saddam deserves a break and should not incur the wrath of the world, even though, he argued, he had been invited into Kurdish – held territory by Kurdish leaders. And neither do we care to imply that the US were wrong insofar as they “misinterpreted” Resolution 688 of 5 April 1991, which made no mention of justifiable attacks on Iraq or of no-fly zones.

The entire episode should reveal the desperate lengths the world’s ruling capitalist elite will go to secure their own interests and that all conflicts, when properly analysed, are the result of the desire of a minority to make a profit at the expense of the majority – whether through trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets or mineral wealth. The crisis in the Middle East actually fits all these criteria.

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