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Best Iraq articles I've yet read about the current crisis

Apologies for the length, but these 2 articles really are superb. More 
can be found at

Needless to say, none of the opinions expressed here are necessarily 
endorsed by CASI.




  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
  of facts.

  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

  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 Iraqs 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 threatenedtherefore 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 UNs 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 

  Thus by these examples, which we could multiply 
  endlessly, we see that (1) The U.S. not only 
  doesnt 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 itprecisely 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 
  doesnt reject rogue behavior in general, but 
  frequently abets it and carries it out, including 
  in this bombing. (4) The U.S. doesnt 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 hasnt 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 isnt a regional danger or a threat to 
  us, is it credible that the U.S. is simply so 
  disgusted and outraged by Husseins 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, Husseins 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 Saddams 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 Saddams other 
  atrocitiesincluding his use of cyanide, nerve 
  gas, and other barbarous weaponswith 
  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 Husseins 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 

  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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