The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Apologies for the length, but these 2 articles really are superb. More can be found at www.zmag.org Needless to say, none of the opinions expressed here are necessarily endorsed by CASI. -- Robin ------------------------------------------------------------------ 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 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 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 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 levels. 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 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. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html