This article has been reproduced from the Socialist Standard (April 2002), the monthly journal of The Socialist Party of Great Britain
“What the Pentagon has done with this is sound military conceptual planning.” This was the US Secretary Colin Powell commenting on the leaked 50 page Pentagon report entitled: “Nuclear Posture Review” – proof, if ever it was needed, that the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum.
What was so special about this “Review”? It contained contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons on seven countries that the US claim are the biggest threat to world peace: China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya. It orders the US military to plan for the use of smaller nuclear weapons, suggests the arming of Cruise missiles with nuclear warheads and identifies four instances when the US must launch a nuclear attack: an Arab-Israeli conflict, war between China and Taiwan, an attack by North Korea on South Korea and an attack by Iraq on any of its neighbours.
Coming within a year of the US trashing of numerous international treaties regarding weapons proliferation and, bearing in mind the US response to the 11 September attack on mainland USA and the belligerent tone of President Bush’s recent State of the Union Address, this is news to be taken seriously. It hints at US unilateralism and a new era of unchecked US aggression in defence of the interests of its corporate elite.
Such US aspirations, however, are not recent, for they can be traced right back to the 1820s and the “Monroe Doctrine”, which announced that the Americas belonged to the USA. Now, all US excesses can be rationalised by a quick thumb over the shoulder in the direction of Ground Zero. The US, having suffered considerable loss of life in the 11 September attack last year, have found in that atrocity the pretext to pursue their goal of “full spectrum dominance” – military domination of the world.
No sooner was this news out, when US vice president Dick Cheney flew off for a ten-day tour of the Middle East. Though ostensibly the trip was an attempt to iron out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, few commentators did not suggest that the real reason for the visit was to drum up support for a full-scale attack upon Iraq . Prior to his visit to the Middle East he stopped over in Britain to ask a complacent Tony Blair whether he could afford any US attack on Iraq 25,000 British troops.
The signs of a coming US attack upon Iraq have been visible for some time now. For months, US military instructors have been in northern Iraq training Kurdish fighters. Five thousand mothballed military vehicles in Kuwait have been overhauled and 24 Apache attack helicopters have arrived in Kuwait. Moreover, In the wake of the recent anthrax scare, investigators worked round the clock in a desperate and futile bid to find the Saddam link, before concluding it was probably the work of a home-grown crank. And in recent weeks, Washington has continually reminded us that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and must be prevented from using them, whilst negligent of reports from the UN Special Commission that Iraq’s arsenal is now down to 5 percent of its 1990 level and seemingly oblivious to questions relating to how he has amassed such deadly weapons, considering the stringent sanctions which even outlaw the export of ping-pong balls to Iraq.
Twelve years after the war with Iraq, the US now looks serious about “regime change”. Back then though the overthrow of Saddam was not part of the US agenda. Having initially led the Kurds of northern Iraq and the Marsh Arabs of the South into believing that they would get US support if they rose up against Saddam, they then sat back and watched as Saddam almost annihilated them. It had occurred to them that Saddam might be holding the country together, stopping the spread of militant Islam, and that an Iraq minus Saddam might divide into warring factions and further threaten US interests in the region.
US allies in the Middle East – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – have shown little enthusiasm for US plans for Iraq, all voicing reservations and fearful of the consequences. Turkey, another US ally, who has many times loaned its airfields to the US for its operations against Iraq, believes its economy could be damaged by any such conflict, and King Abdullah of Jordan has warned of the “catastrophic effect” that any aggression towards Iraq would have on the Middle East. Seemingly, only Tony Blair, George Bush’s cheerleader, has agreed that Saddam must be stopped, citing, in Republican fashion, Saddam’s elusive weapons of mass destruction and, like the true political amnesiac, never querying the weapons of mass destruction the US and Britain have stockpiled or the nuclear weapons in the hands of another Middle Eastern aggressor – Israel.
While the defenders of “freedom” attempt to whip up support for another Gulf War, on the pretext that Saddam Hussein is a terrorist, the rest of us can recall that both the US and Britain backed Iraq in its war with Iran, even providing it with arms, and that they were silent when Iraq used chemical weapons on Iranians in 1984 (four months later the US even reopened its embassy in Baghdad) and again when Saddam used chemical weapons on the Kurdish village of Halabjah in 1988, killing 5, 000 civilians.
And remember the ferocity of the first US war with Iraq, when Saddam invaded Kuwait and threatened US oil interests in the region? It lasted 42 days, during which time 110,000 “Coalition” aerial sorties were flown and 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped. It left an estimated 100,000 dead, including tens of thousands burnt to death retreating from Kuwait along the Basra Road. Sanctions imposed since then have devastated Iraqi civil society and have killed over 1.5 million including 500,000 children under the age of five – results the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide classifies as “genocidal conduct” and a convention the US refuses to comply with.
When asked what he estimated the number of Iraqi dead were after the first Gulf War, Colin Powell remarked: “Frankly, that’s a number that doesn’t interest me much”. His predecessor, Madeline Albright, when asked to comment on the half a million Iraqi children that had died of starvation disease and replied: “the price is worth it.” These are the type of people calling the shots in Washington, working closely with the Pentagon and the White House and in the interests of world peace!
When we recall the horror of the first Gulf War and juxtapose it with the statements of successive US Secretaries of State and indeed the recent revelation that the US will hit with a nuclear weapon whoever it wishes, regardless of international opinion, we realise that the job of securing world peace can never be left to politicians. Defending the belligerent stance of the US, George Bush recently said that “inaction is not an option.” It’s a sentiment shared by socialists. For it is the inaction and complacency of the working class that enables such horrendous injustices to go on. For almost a century we have warned of the dangers of political apathy, of trusting in leaders, of accepting all that governments say without question. Our silence, more than anything, is what Bush and Blair and Co. will depend on in coming months, that same silence the master class toasts each day. Our inaction is an important element in our continuing exploitation, for the master class see in it our consent for their excesses.
As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Capitalism may well breed war, but our apathy is very much a part of the process. Bear the above in mind in coming months when the US fleet heads off to the Gulf.
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