- Created: Friday, 25 September 2009 17:39
- Written by Carol Brickley
In the 1991 Gulf War, President George Bush Senior declared that: ‘America stands where it always has, against aggression, against those who would use force to replace the rule of law’. He was lying of course. The propaganda of the time claimed that this period, in the wake of the destruction of the Soviet Union, would be the opening of a New World Order of peace and justice: ‘… a rare transforming moment of history’, said US Secretary of State Baker. The Cold War was over, the Soviet Union in retreat and the UN was functioning ‘as it should’: as a ‘bold peacekeeper’, ‘without the shrill anti-western rhetoric of the Third World’.
It took little more than ten years to incubate this New World Order. With the most recent War on Iraq, the New World Order has emerged fully-formed, not as the promoter of peace, justice and respect for the rule of law, but as the ghastly harbinger of barbarism, might is right and global domination. Over the last decade the imperialists have ravaged Serbia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Iraq with their bombs. They have helped the Israeli occupiers to persecute the Palestinians. They have consigned the entire African continent to the dustbin of history: starvation, genocidal wars and genocidal diseases. All the paraphernalia of international relations, established as a result of the post World War II settlement, has been compromised: international law and treaties, the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions.
The 2003 Iraq War was short, bloody and extremely nasty. It lasted from the ‘shock and awe’ of the first bombardment of Baghdad on 19 March to 2 May when US President George W Bush announced that it was over. In effect, the war was more one-sided and less costly to the imperialist Coalition than anyone had predicted. With a combined defence budget of more than the total for all other countries in the world, there could be no doubt that the US and Britain would win. However, their victory does not answer questions about the legitimacy of the war or its aftermath.
The Coalition offered three main planks of justification for waging war on Iraq:
1. To stop the production and use of weapons of mass destruction.
2. To halt the threat to western democracies of rogue states and international terrorism.
3. To liberate the Iraqi people from a regime of intolerable repression (a very late argument).
1. Weapons of mass destruction
In the lead-up to the war, effectively from September 2002, both the US and Britain produced reports, said to be the products of high-grade state intelligence, on the production of biological, chemical and nuclear weaponry. In the early months of 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair, argued that such weapons were available and ready for use ‘within 45 minutes’.
All the reports presented to the United Nations Security Council were later found to be fabrications, including Jack Straw’s now infamous PhD thesis, faked up as intelligence. US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s report based on fuzzy satellite pictures, alleged that Scud missiles were ready to launch. In fact the UN inspectors had already reported that all but two of the 819 Scud weapons known to exist at the time of the first Gulf War had been verified as destroyed.
We should be clear that the Saddam Hussein regime did have chemical and biological weapons, sold to them by the imperialists, and had used them notoriously during the Iran-Iraq War and against the Kurds at Halabja. But the UN weapons inspectors, led by Hans Blix, had confirmed the destruction of large amounts of such materiel and had reported satisfactory progress towards full disarmament.
In his State of the Union speech at the end of January 2003, George W Bush referred to reports that Iraq had imported weapons-grade uranium in large quantities from Niger. He credited the British government with supplying the information. When the evidence was passed to the International Atomic Energy Agency in March it took only hours to establish that the documents were fakes. One of the letters purported to be signed by a Niger minister who had been out of office since 1989.
Where did the fake documents come from? From 1997 onwards the British and US secret services were issuing fake document and false accusations about Iraqi weapons in order to overcome the already major disagreement at the UN Security Council. It is probable that these documents came from MI6 and were part of this propaganda programme. There never were any uranium imports.
There is a wider question, of course, even supposing that the Coalition’s claims were true: does the possession of such weapons by a state justify ‘regime change’ brought about by aggressive war and military invasion? If it does then everyone should ask why Israel is not top of the list of rogue states in the region. It not only possesses chemical and biological weapons, and has used them against the Palestinians and the Lebanese, it also has a fully-developed nuclear weapons programme.
No weapons of mass destruction were used during the war and none have been found by the occupying powers. It is hard to believe that if Saddam Hussein had such weapons at his disposal he wouldn’t have used them to defend the regime. Many reasons have been offered for this, one most notably by the Labour government: that the weapons had been hidden so thoroughly in order to fool the UN weapons inspectors, that there was no time to get them out again or make them useable. This is a far cry from ‘45 minutes to Armageddon’. The whole point of telling such lies is that the public believes them at the time. At the outbreak of war 40% of the US population believed that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons.
2. Rogue states and terrorism
Every effort was used to connect Saddam Hussein with international terrorism. According to the imperialist Coalition, not only was he a brutal dictator surrounded by a ferocious and brutal Republican Guard, but his regime also supported Al Qaida and was proliferating terrorism across the globe. This was ratcheted up by a cluster of warnings that major terrorist attacks were imminent: remember that in February Heathrow airport was surrounded by the British army. 44% of Americans believed that some or most of the the World Trade Centre/ Pentagon hijackers were Iraqi, and 45% thought that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the attacks. No one was going to disabuse them.
Both Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida were nurtured by the US during the 1970s and 1980s as anti-communist allies. The US supported the anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan to the hilt and it was there that Al Qaida gained strength. In Iraq, the CIA provided the regime with the lists of people with communist and democratic connections for the regime to torture and murder. The massacres which followed the Shi’a rebellion in the early 1990s, the remains of which are now being unearthed, were not the first. Thousands of communists had already been murdered by Saddam Hussein with the full support of imperialism.
Brutal though Saddam Hussein’s regime certainly was, it was quickly destroyed by the Coalition invasion. The ease with which the regime was defeated belied the fact that it was any threat at all on an international scale. Even the CIA announced that they did not believe there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the Islamic fundamentalists.
3. A war of liberation?
It was only in the late stages of its argument that the Coalition began to offer the liberation of the Iraqi people from brutal repression as an excuse for war. Prime Minister Blair even argued that war would liberate the Iraqi people from the torment of UN-imposed sanctions – sanctions that the Labour Party had fully supported and which Blair acknowledged had led to the deaths of 130 children in every thousand in Iraq, and had left more than 60% of the population dependent on food aid.
Everyone knows how finely honed the sensibilities of the imperialist nations are to the suffering of oppressed people! They had resisted the urge to intervene in South Africa, Namibia, East Timor, Burma, Chile, Turkey or Israel/Palestine, to name but a few brutal regimes. When sanctions against South Africa were proposed, the US and Britain argued for ‘constructive engagement’ to change the policies of the intransigent apartheid state. But in Iraq it was different: the people must be liberated by imperialist war.
The Iraqi people did not rush out from their homes to welcome the invading troops as their saviours, not even the Shi’ites who hated the regime. The destruction of the statue of Saddam Hussein was a staged event for the media, outside the hotel where the media were housed, and involving only a few hundred Iraqis and many more US troops. They were, funnily enough, armed with ‘the Stars and Stripes flag that had been flying on the Pentagon on 11 September 2001’ to put over the dictator’s head. Laughably improbable though all this was the world media happily obliged by spreading the lie. This was the only pro-invasion activity going on. In reality generations of Iraqi people have lived in fear of their government, and they continue to live in fear of the occupying forces.
At every stage the public has been offered lies to cover up the real driving force for war. The three planks which justified the war have proved to be utter lies.
It is estimated that 2,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the war and that more than 5,000 were wounded. This gives the lie to the Coalition’s claims of precision bombing of military targets only. More than a month after the end of the war, most cities still lack basic utilities like electricity and clean water because of the bombardment and because of the looting which was allowed to continue after the regime’s army had fled. It was significant that while the troops claimed to have control of the oil fields in the south, the cities were allowed to descend into ‘anarchy’.
In Baghdad the oil ministry was guarded while looters ransacked 30 other ministries, hospitals and the museums. Food warehouses, power stations and sewage plants essential for the restoration of civilian life have been left unprotected. As a result millions of tons of raw sewage have been discharged into the rivers every day. There have now been outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. Aid has been allowed into the country very slowly, some of it blocked by US troops. The hospitals are overcrowded, the staff unpaid and there are few medicines.
Demonstrations against Coalition rule began before the war had ended. At the end of April 20,000 marched in Nassariya against the meeting called by the US-appointed governor Jay Garner, an arms dealer and supporter of Zionist Ariel Sharon, to discuss a future Iraqi government. Garner had already announced that that there would be no Islamic state. ‘Yes to Liberty! Yes to Islam! No to America. No to Saddam!’ were the slogans of the march. Many more marches have followed with the same demands.
As occupying powers, the US and Britain have legal obligations to restore and maintain law and order, to provide food, medical care and relief assistance to the population and to protect property and natural resources. They have failed in these obligations.
What they haven’t failed to do is begin ‘reconstruction’ funded by Iraqi oil sales and set about establishing a new governing regime which will favour imperialism. The United Nations has been sidelined. On 25 April Jack Straw said the UN should play a vital role in future weapons inspections. In fact the Coalition has set up its own weapons inspectors run by the military, and the UN inspectors are being kept out. The US has doled out millions of dollars worth of contracts exclusively to US companies (all supporters of the Bush administration). The exclusivity is justified on the ground that the reconstruction projects fall under the aegis of USAid, and by US law all the contracts must go to US companies. This is a fudge: the money will come from Iraqi oil.
The Coalition’s behaviour as occupying power was illegal. Even the Attorney General, hired legal spinner for the British government, thought so. So they had to pull back a little, withdrawing Garner and the US-appointed Mayor of Baghdad, and compromising slightly on the future role of the UN. The bidding for sub-contracts has been opened up – the British are expected to benefit, having been cut out of Kosovo and Afghanistan where all the contracts went to US firms. The plan to dominate the region, intimidate the world and make profits along the way is still in place.
In order to make their occupation legal retrospectively, the US and Britain had to stitch up a deal in the UN Security Council. They have now done this. A resolution lifting the sanctions and legalising the regime was passed 14-0 on 22 May, with only Syria absent. The UN has been demoted to take an advisory position; instead of controlling the rebuilding of Iraq it is invited ‘to collaborate with the US in the formation of a new Iraqi government’. Britain and the US now have control of Iraq’s oil and will make sure that its wealth remains under their control. ‘We don’t touch it, and the US doesn’t touch it,’ promised Blair, talking about oil on 7 March. A complete lie, but the British government is nothing but consistent.
Welcoming the UN resolution, Blair told the most important lie of all: ‘It’s been a very important day in the United Nations because the international community has come back together’. We won’t have long to wait before the international imperialist rivalries which have underpinned the Iraq crisis are once again shattering innocent lives.
FRFI 173 June / July 2003