cj#881> ZNet on Iraq

1998-12-19

Richard Moore

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Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998
To: •••@••.•••
From: viviane lerner <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Fwd: Iraq, etc. from ZNet

Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 19:55:23 -0800 (PST)
To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Iraq, etc. from ZNet

ZNet Friends,

We have added to the ZNet site (www.zmag.org)just
yesterday and today numerous Iraq policy related
materials and links including original
commentaries by Howard Zinn, Edward Herman,
Bernie Sanders, Ted Glick, and Brian Dominick
(who has also provided a flyer that folks can
reproduce), and myself. My entry is a full
article for Z, prepared today in draft form for
concluding editing on Monday. In hopes it might
be beneficial, and after a number of folks
suggestd I do it, dspite its lenght, I include
the piece below, along with Herman's. Do whatever
you wish with them, of course.

Likewise, we have gotten lots of messages about
reproducing materials off ZNet. It is fine, of
course, though I hope you will also tell folks to
visit.

By the way, in response to my last message many
people signed up for the Daily Commentary
Program, but we do still have quite a ways to go.
To sign up, just go to www.zmag.org and read
about the commentaries, and then fill out the
form online.

Here then is Edward Herman's comment on Iraq,
followed by my own -- they indicate two types
of ZNet Commentary, among many, that will be
delivered daily when we get the 500 donors needed
to commence the project.

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AMERICA THE MERCILESS

Edward S. Herman

Although Americans are mainly decent people,
their country is merciless. This contradiction
comes about because the country is run by a small
economic and political elite that uses its
dominant economic and military power to serve its
own interests, and people who stand in its way
must be crushed. Ordinary Americans might not
like spending huge sums to crush distant peoples
if they had an unbiased representation of all the
facts. But they don't get those facts, and their
consent is carefully engineered. This is done by
dehumanizing and demonizing the targeted enemies
and making their destruction into a morality
play, a struggle between good and evil. It also
requires a careful selection and suppression
off acts.

Dehumanization and demonization have had a long
history in this country. Dispossessing and
slaughtering the native Americans required that
they be deemed savages, and the slave system also
rested on a treatment of blacks as less than
human. The subjugation of the Philippines at the
turn of the century, which involved ruthless
treatment and mass killing of the native
population, was greatly helped by our sense of
superiority and the strange morality of a
Christianizing mission that destroyed in order to
"save." This same racist morality allowed us to
impose our rule and that of chosen tyrants like
Duvalier, Somoza and Trujillo on the peoples of
Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

Countries that have crossed us have paid dearly.
Following the Vietnam war, in which we killed
vast numbers and left a smashed country, we
maintained an 18 year boycott that helped prevent
that traumatized country from recovering.
Similarly, Cuba under Fidel Castro and Nicaragua
under the Sandinista government in the 1980s,
were subjected to severe boycotts (as well as
terrorist attacks) that caused great suffering to
the peoples of those countries. In each of these
cases, our actions were presented to the American
people as a just struggle against a nefarious
Communist enemy. Our own material interests in
maintaining a global open door economy, and the
human costs of our policies, were barely
acknowledged.

Our attacks and pursuit of sanctions on Iraq have
been based on the demonization of Saddam Hussein
as "another Hitler" who cannot be allowed to
develop "weapons of mass destruction." We are
also allegedly carrying out UN policies that
represent the will of the "international
community." But during the 1980s both the Reagan
and Bush administrations and Mrs. Thatcher's
government gave Saddam Hussein loans and approved
his acquisition of "weapons of mass destruction"
even in the face of his aggression against Iran
and his use of chemical weapons against both Iran
and Kurds within Iraq. In short, he was supported
when he served U.S. aims, and became a bad man
only when he crossed us.

Although the U.S. position is that we are
carrying out UN policies, the fact is that only
the United States and Britain support the
rigorous sanctions and periodic bombing of Iraq,
and the policies go forward essentially because
of U.S. power. Furthermore, the United States
regularly violates the UN-granted authority and
the UN Charter itself. The United States now
openly admits that it will press sanctions until
Saddam Hussein is ousted, although the UN grant
of sanctions authority has never made Saddam's
removal a condition for the lifting of sanctions.
It is also clear that the United States is using
inspections to humiliate Saddam Hussein, to
provoke him into acts that will justify using
violence against him.

The sanctions policy has been very costly to the
people of Iraq; as in the case of post-war
Vietnam, we have not allowed Iraq to recover from
the devastation of the 1991 war, and by credible
estimates some 5,000 to 6,000 children are dying
every month as a result of the sanctions. We
contend that this is all Saddam's fault. But his
people did not starve before the Gulf War and our
responsibility for the present catastrophe is
heavy. In a sense, the United States has been
holding the 18 million Iraqis hostage till Saddam
Hussein goes and other U.S. ends are met. This is
arguably a form of terrorism that makes the 1979
Iranian seizure of 53 Americans as hostages look
very modest indeed.

---


Impeachable Offense:
Clinton As (Desert) Fox in the Henhouse
By Michael Albert

Operation Desert Fox, aptly named after Nazi
general Erwin Rommel, has as its premise that to
ensure world peace Iraq must be contained,
degraded, and perhaps obliterated by both
periodic bombardment and persistent economic
strangulation. What do you respond when someone
in your family, or a neighbor, workmate, or

fellow student wonders the reason for bombing and
sanctions? Do we bomb because: (1) Iraq is a
horrible danger to its neighbors and on their
behalf we must contain it. (2) Iraq is a clear
and present danger to the United States, and to
survive we must attack it in self-defense? (3)
Iraq is so immoral that we are more than
justified to punish it in revulsion? (4) Hussein
is a horrible dictator and we need to bring
democracy to the people of Iraq? Or (5) The U.S.
does whatever it wishes, and what it wishes is a
function not of concern for other nations,
respect for the law, regard for morality, or love
of democracy, but of the geopolitical interests
of its elites?


Iraq as Regional Danger
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Do Iraq's neighbors see Iraq as dangerous?
Hussein flouts international law and operates
according to his interests and those of his elite
constituents. So yes, freed of all restraints
Iraq might act against the interests of
neighbors, like every other country in the region
might, not to mention countries across much of
the planet, not to mention the U.S. itself.
However, having had its infrastructure devastated
and its military capacity torn asunder, one
suspects that Iraq in particular is a relatively
minor threat to others in the region, even were
there no restraints operating on it. And, indeed,
the New York Times reported that the reactions to
the latest U.S. attacks "from countries like
Egypt, Qatar, and Syria have ranged...from regret
to concern to outright condemnation. Even Kuwait,
which was liberated from Iraqi occupation by the
Persian Gulf War, has stopped short of endorsing
the military action."  And Iran, which reported a
stray cruise missile hitting one of its cities,
called the bombing unacceptable.

Well, then, does the U.S. generally care about a
country being threatened—therefore making it
credible that here too protecting weak nations is
our motive? And does the U.S. agree that states
complaining to the UN should be defended and
violators of international law punished, and that
the UN's authority should be binding?

The U.S. approach to international law was
forthrightly articulated by then UN Ambassador
Madeleine Albright, stating about the Mideast
that the U.S. will act "multilaterally when we
can and unilaterally as we must," because "we
recognize this area as vital to U.S. national
interests" and therefore accept no external
constraints. Likewise, when the World Court in
1986 condemned the U.S. for "unlawful use of
force" against Nicaragua, demanding that it
desist and pay extensive reparations, and
declaring all U.S. aid to the contras, whatever
its character, to be "military aid," not
"humanitarian aid," in the U.S., as Noam Chomsky
reports, the Court was denounced on all sides
[and] the terms of the judgment were not
considered fit to print, and were ignored. The
Democrat-controlled Congress immediately
authorized new funds to step up the unlawful use
of force. Washington vetoed a Security Council
resolution calling on all states to respect
international law, [and] when the General

Assembly passed a similar resolution, the U.S.
voted against it."

Or consider the December 1975 UN Security Council
unanimous order to Indonesia to withdraw its
invading forces from East Timor "without delay"
calling upon "all States to respect the
territorial integrity of East Timor as well as
the inalienable right of its people to self-
determination." The U.S. responded by (secretly)
increasing shipments of arms to the aggressors,
and in 1978 Carter accelerated the arms flow once
again as the attack reached near-genocidal
levels.

Thus by these examples, which we could multiply
endlessly, we see that (1) The U.S. not only
doesn't oppose all illegal and violent behavior,
instead it often supports and undertakes it. And
(2) the U.S. does not accept that the UN should
offer defense to nations seeking aid unless so
doing happens to correspond to U.S. interests—
thus not when it is Nicaragua complaining that we
are overthrowing their revolution, not when it is
Panama complaining that we are attacking Noreiga
(who, like Hussein, got an uppity streak of
nationalism), and not when it is East TImor
bemoaning that our ally, Indonesia, is waging
genocial war against it—precisely the attitude we
would expect from a state that considers itself
above the law, such as America.

Finally, to evaluate if the U.S. accepts that in
the case of a state violating international law
and UN resolutions, any other state able to do so
is justified in unilaterally attacking it, we
might ask how the U.S. would react if the Soviet
Union bombed Israel tomorrow for Israel's
continuing violations of UN resolutions, or if
China bombed Indonesia Christmas day for its
grotesque policies in East Timor, or if Cuba
bombed New York on New Years' Day in retaliation
for U.S. terror attacks in Cuba.

So what we have is that (1) the states in the
region of Iraq have not only not claimed they
need external defense from Iraq, but have
rejected such defense outright. (2) The UN has
not sanctioned the attacks on Iraq, making them
internationally illegal. (3) The U.S. not only
doesn't reject rogue behavior in general, but
frequently abets it and carries it out, including
in this bombing. (4) The U.S. doesn't respect the
rule of international law, in any event. And
finally, (5) the U.S. would immediately reject
the idea that nations (other than the U.S.) can
bomb others unilaterally based on the grounds
that the targeted nation has violated
international law. Thus concern for Iraqi
regional threats or for international law cannot
be behind U.S. policy.


Iraq as a Clear and Present Danger to the U.S.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Suppose there really was a clear and present
danger to the U.S. from Iraq, what then? Well,
The United States Constitution, Article I,
Section 8, expressly requires authorization by
Congress before the President can engage in acts
of war, unless there is a direct attack upon the
United States. Thus, there would have to be a
debate and authorization by Congress for any
military action, which hasn't happened, likely

because having such a debate would have allowed
time for dissent to congeal before the policy
could be undertaken, including time for everyone
sane to note that there is no clear and present
danger. But beyond this nicety, the idea that
Iraq presents a clear and present danger to the
U.S. is so clearly divorced from reality as to be
beneath discussion, except that by constant
repetition many have come to believe it. So, to
counter the view, one might point out that the
Gulf War, not yet a decade old, was a one-sided
massacre of Iraqi military and civilians, not
only without impact inside the U.S., but with
almost no impact even on U.S. troops fighting
inside Iraq. In fact, it is hard to imagine a
more Kafkaesque formulation than that third world
Iraq, devastated by a war deemed seven years ago
a "Turkey Shoot," wracked by sanctions since, and
now bombed anew, represents in the view of our
government and media a threat to the United
States, the perpetrator of all this violence.


Iraq As Moral Target
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
If Iraq isn't a regional danger or a threat to
us, is it credible that the U.S. is simply so
disgusted and outraged by Hussein's immorality
that we see no recourse but to punish him? As
Secretary Albright puts it: "It is very important
for us to make clear that the United States and
the civilized world cannot deal with somebody who
is willing to use those weapons of mass
destruction on his own people, not to speak of
his neighbors."

There is a problem with this too, however, even
if we ignore the Guatemalan death squads and
murderous regimes that the U.S. routinely arms,
funds, and trains, (not to mention our own
missiles and bombs, not to mention our providing
Hussein much of his military materials, as well).
That is, Hussein's acts that Albright and Clinton
and virtually every news commentator in the land
now find so horrifying were not what turned Iraq
into a "rogue state." Instead, as Chomsky
relates, there were no passionate calls for a
military strike after Saddam's gassing of Kurds
at Halabja in March 1988; on the contrary, the
U.S. and UK extended their strong support for the
"mass murderer." Moreover, the U.S. and Britain at
the time also expedited Saddam's other
atrocities including his use of cyanide, nerve
gas, and other barbarous weapons with
intelligence, technology, and supplies. Rather,
Hussein went out of favor only when he stopped
being our malleable thug, and became
uncontrollable. Until then his vile side was just
another asset.

Of course, one might also note that the Kennedy
administration pioneered the massive use of
chemical weapons against civilians as it launched
its attack against South Vietnam in 1961-1962
such that "thousands of Vietnamese still die from
the effects of American chemical warfare. Or one
might refer to the substantial evidence of U.S.
use of biological weapons against Cuba, reported
as minor news in 1977, and at worst only a small
component of continuing U.S. terror. And finally,
most germane to moral evaluations of this case,

one might note that the U.S. and UK are now
engaged in a deadly form of biological warfare in
Iraq. The destruction of infrastructure and
banning of imports to repair it has caused
disease, malnutrition, and early death on a huge
scale, including 567,000 children by 1995, such
that "epidemics rage, taking away infants and the
sick by the thousands" while "those children who
survive disease succumb to malnutrition."

So as to moral outrage against chemical and
biological weapons provoking violent retribution
against Hussein, ignoring that massive bombing
would be a very strange way to manifest superior
morality, the claim that the U.S. has scruples
about Hussein's morals, having supported his
worst acts and replicated them on a much larger
scale itself, is obvious nonsense.


The Bring Iraqis Democracy Argument
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
What about the idea that the U.S. is concerned to
remove Hussein replacing him with a democratic
government that could truly serve the Iraqi
people? Hussein is indeed a grotesque thug, but
democracy for Iraq has never been the U.S. goal.
During uprisings in Iraq in March 1991 at the end
of the Gulf War, U.S. forces under General
Schwartzkopf stood aside as Saddam butchered the
southern opposition, even denying the rebels
access to captured Iraqi arms: The State
Department formally reiterated its refusal to
have any dealings with the Iraqi democratic
opposition, and as from before the Gulf War, they
were virtually denied access to the major U.S.
media. `Political meetings with them would not be
appropriate for our policy at this time,' State
Department spokesperson Richard Boucher stated.
Had it not been for unexpected public reaction,
Washington probably would not have extended even
tepid support to rebelling Kurds, subjected to
the same treatment shortly after. The result of
this and other similar acts and statements by the
U.S. was that Iraqi opposition leaders got the
message. Leith Kubba, head of the London-based
Iraqi Democratic Reform Movement, alleged that
the U.S. favors a military dictatorship,
insisting that `changes in the regime must come
from within, from people already in power.'
London-based banker Ahmed Chalabi, head of the
Iraqi National Congress, charged that `the United
States, covered by the fig leaf of non-
interference in Iraqi affairs, is waiting for
Saddam to butcher the insurgents in the hope that
he can be overthrown later by a suitable
officer,' an attitude rooted in the U.S. policy
of `supporting dictatorships to maintain
stability'. And what impact will this latest
bombing have?  Everyone knows that Hussein will
still be there after the attacks, and many
commentators, such as Robert Kagan of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
conclude that he may emerge stronger than ever.
So much for bringing democracy to Iraq.


And What Do We Do About it?
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
So, U.S. policy has nothing to do with protecting
Mideast countries from Iraq, nothing to do with
devotion to international law, nothing to do with

exacting moral retribution, and nothing to do
with extending democracy. So what does it have to
do with? Sending the message that "what we say
goes," in the words of George Bush. Legitimating
continuing astronomical arms expenditures, even
in a world without a credible military threat.
Preserving our dominant role in the Mideast,
where oil promises to become even more important,
given declining reserves. These are real motives,
really operative, in this case as in countless
others.

But as powerful as these motives are, U.S.
government policy responds to popular pressure,
as does corporate policy, if such pressure raises
social costs beyond elite tolerance. Pressure
comes from visible dissent by growing numbers of
the public who become steadily more militant and
more informed, enlarging their focus of attention
from immediate events to underlying institutions,
if possible. And the social cost that elites
respond to is that policies and structures they
hold even more dear than using Hussein as a foil
to demonstrate U.S. might and to bolster war
planning and budgets and geopolitical designs,
will come under scrutiny and attack. Anti-war
demonstrations should therefore include
references to other facets of social life, to
trade, to distribution of income, to welfare, and
to affirmative action. What will change Iraq
policy, not only the bombing but also the even
worse sanctions, is if elites fear that the
continuation of bombing and sanctions will push
growing audiences into opposition not only to
these policies, but to other policies as well
that they hold even more dear. Movements that are
multi-issue and multi-focus are best suited to
raising such fears, as well as to creating
conditions favoring further effective activism in
the future, ultimately addressing not only
symptomatic violence and vulgarity, but the
causes of injustice that lie behind the policies.



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