Invading Iraq or Courting Calamity?
Dru Oja Jay <dojy@...
2003-02-14 02:09:32 GMT
A second look at the humanitarian consequences of war in Iraq, and an argument for deterrence instead of preemption.
Invading Iraq or Courting Calamity?
By Dru Oja Jay
Many people who support the anticipated US war on Iraq say that Saddam
Hussein's government is a menace to many of the 22.5 million Iraqis over
whom he rules, and is a threat to the security of the United States and the
stability of the middle east. As a result, a "regime change" will be
beneficial not only for anyone who worries about being attacked by Iraq, but
for the Iraqi people. The US will swoop in, unseat Hussein, institute a
democracy, and everyone will be better off in the long run. Right?
For those who believe this, the anticipated effects of an invasion of Iraq
are worth a closer look.
The Pentagon's current plan is to drop over 3,000 bombs on targets within
Iraq over two days, destroying political and military headquarters, and
essential infrastructure, according to the New York Times. The aim of the
attack, according to Pentagon officials, is to "shock" the Iraqi army, and
"break its will to fight".
The plan is reportedly based on "Shock and Awe", a strategy developed by the
Pentagon in the early '90s, which calls for a barrage of 800 cruise missiles
over 48 hours. In an interview with CBS, Harlan Ullman, one of the authors
of the plan, compared the psychological effect to that of dropping atom
bombs on Japan. "Rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima," the effect
would be to make Iraq's army give up immediately, he said. "There will not
be a safe place in Baghdad," predicted one Pentagon official.
Ullman imagines the attack: "You also take the city down. By that I mean you
get rid of their power and water. In two, three, four, five days they are
physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted." It is widely
estimated that 100,000 Iraqis died in the first Gulf War, but documentation
of suffering, starvation and exhaustion is not available. According to the
Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defense, electrical systems on which
essential sanitation and water purification systems depend would be
Due to the collapse of Iraq's economy from sanctions and bi-weekly bombings
for the last ten years, "the bulk of the population is now totally dependent
on the government of Iraq for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs",
according to a UN report quoted in the Washington Post. If the US invades,
over ten million Iraqis--including two million refugees and homeless--will
be left with diminished or nonexistent access to food and medicine, leading
to starvation and outbreaks of cholera and dysentery, in "epidemic if not
The first Gulf War resulted in over two million refugees. Iranian officials
expect more than one million refugees to cross their borders alone, and UN
officials fear that other neighboring countries could close their borders to
those fleeing an invasion, escalating what would already be a major crisis.
Ironically, it is the sanctions that have robbed half of the population of
Iraq of economic self-sufficiency, leaving them dependent on Hussein's
regime and less likely to revolt than at any other time. The last time that
Iraqis overthrew a (US-supported) tyrant and instituted a democratic
government, in the revolution of 1958, the existence of a large, educated
middle class was widely acknowledged as the primary cause. If the US does
want a real democracy in Iraq, it is largely to blame for strengthening
Hussein's grip on Iraqi society, leaving a violent and immanently disastrous
"regime change" as the only option.
This probably stems from a desire to have a US-friendly regime in power.
When Sunni Muslims in southern Iraq and Kurds in the north began a major
rebellion during the Gulf War, they asked for the US to provide them with
arms captured from Saddam Hussein's army. Not only did the US refuse, but US
air cover mysteriously disappeared at the critical moment, allowing Hussein
to crush the rebellion with gunships. (US support for Hussein goes all the
way back to 1963, when the CIA sponsored the coup that eventually put him in
power. After an interlude where Iraq was a "terrorist state", diplomatic
relations were reopened in 1983--by none other than Donald Rumsfeld--just in
time for US companies to provide Iraq with materials for chemical weapons
and nuclear reactors, nerve gas, and military helicopters, which were used
in the Iran/Iraq war.)
But if an invasion won't be good for Iraqis, it isn't clear that it will be
good for the US, either. Besides facing a long ground war with thousands of
US casualties (something that the US public is, paradoxically, sensitive
of), the US may make itself more, not less vulnerable to terrorist attacks
by attacking. As a CIA report quoted in the New York Times said, "Should
Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he would
become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." Hussein's son,
Uday, recently threatened the US publicly. "If they come, September 11,
which they are crying over and see as a big thing, will be a real picnic for
them," he said. A "terrorism expert" recently quoted in the Globe and Mail
said that "if Saddam knows he's going down, he'll use everything he's got."
Even assuming that Hussein will give up so quickly that he won't have a
chance to use what he has--if he has anything, it's anthrax and vx nerve gas
that US companies sold to him in the 80s--there is still a much greater
danger of any weapons that exist falling into terrorist hands during an
invasion. If, for example, chemical agents are being hidden in the homes of
scientists, they will cease to be under Hussein's control the moment that
bombs begin to fall. Perhaps they will find a new home through the black
If the American government's goal is to prevent terrorism and help the Iraqi
people then two courses of action seem necessary. First is acknowledgement
that the threat of retaliation, rather than "pre-emptive" invasion, is a
much more effective means of keeping Saddam Hussein from using his weapons,
if indeed he has them. Second is an understanding of the long history of US
intervention in Iraq and the 1.5 million lives it has cost. If we want the
Iraqi people to be free from Saddam Hussein's rule, are we really willing to
unilaterally inflict an atrocity many times the magnitude of September 11th
in order to achieve this? Who, exactly, is the US to play such number games
with human lives when it is its own policies that have caused such
unspeakable horrors in the past?
Posted on Monkeyfist at http://monkeyfist.com/articles/833