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here is an interesting background article about the situation in Iraq.
Eleven years after the Gulf War
What's really behind U.S. hostility toward Iraq?
By Richard Becker
What is really behind the intense U.S. hostility toward Iraq and its government?
The call for a new, all-out war against Iraq has been revived inside the national security apparatus, although the timetable for an attack is still open. Since Sept. 11, figures like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle of the Pentagon Review Board and former CIA head James Woolsey have been leading the charge.
Other leading administration spokespeople like Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly believe that the time is not ripe for a massive attack on Iraq. Powell is concerned about the political repercussions in the Middle East and fears an explosion of popular anger in the region.
Moreover, the U.S. has no proxy force similar to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance in Iraq. Occupying Baghdad and the oil regions of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of Pentagon troops and the possibility of large-scale U.S. casualties.
Powell is not "soft on Iraq," as some of his critics charge. It should be remembered that General Powell, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, oversaw the 1991 Gulf War that destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and killed more than 200,000 Iraqis. Powell helped lead that high-tech war of mass destruction from afar, one in which direct U.S. casualties were kept to a minimum.
Minimizing GI casualties was seen as key to minimizing political criticism of the war at home, and was the main reason why U.S. ground forces did not march on Baghdad in 1991.
But while there are very real and significant tactical differences within the imperialist establishment over how to prosecute the struggle against Iraq, there is little disagreement about the objective: to reduce Iraq to the status of dependent neocolony and take control of its vast oil resources.
Of course, saying so right out loud would seem a bit crass, so U.S. government officials and their obedient mass media propagandize the public here with other, more moral-sounding reasons for why we should all hate and fear Iraq.
Iraq could be developing "weapons of mass destruction--WMD's," the keepers of the most massive array of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons in
history tell us. In reality Iraq is the most inspected country in history, and even former weapons inspectors like U.S. Marine Capt. Scott Ritter have repeatedly testified that Iraq poses no threat to any other country.
Concerted efforts to link Iraq to the anthrax-infected letters sent to members of Congress last fall fell flat. It turned out that the anthrax strain involved was identical to one used in U.S. Army laboratories, despite the fact that the U.S. supposedly gave up biological warfare development in 1969.
That the Pentagon "fears" Iraq's so-called WMD's is a truly laughable concept. The Pentagon budget next year will be more than 10 times Iraq's gross national product. During the Gulf War, when Iraq was at the peak of its military power, its air defenses were unable to shoot down U.S. warplanes. In the past decade, U.S. military power has increased vastly, while Iraq's has greatly declined.
The other main selling point of the Hate Iraq campaign is the charge that Iraq and its ultra-demonized president Saddam Hussein have violated human rights.
The two main U.S. allies bordering Iraq are Turkey to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south. Turkey is ruled by a semi-military dictatorship that has slaughtered tens of thousands of Kurdish people--the same Kurdish people the U.S. claims to be protecting if, and only if, they live in Iraq. The Turkish military has bombed and burned more than 3,000 Kurdish villages in southeastern Turkey using U.S.-supplied F-15s, bombs and tanks.
(American Kurdish Information Network)
The Turkish military also harshly represses unions, students, women, journalists and other popular forces.
Saudi Arabia, the world's number-one oil producer, is a family dictatorship run by the al-Sauds. To have any role in decision-making you must be a prince of the Saud family. There is no parliament, no voting, no rights for women or workers. But there is a big secret police force, routine torture and frequent beheadings for such "crimes" as adultery by women or non-princely men.
No one in the world, however, has a worse human rights record than the United States itself. U.S. wars and CIA coups have left behind a trail of unmatched death and destruction from Korea to Angola, from Indonesia to Nicaragua, from Vietnam to Iran. Nor can it be forgotten that U.S. capitalism was erected upon a foundation of genocide against Native peoples and enslavement of millions of African people.
And in Iraq itself, the greatest cause of death and suffering is the U.S./UN sanctions blockade that remains in place 11 years after the Gulf War. As former U.S. Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark said on the fifth anniversary of the war in 1996, "There is no greater violation of human rights anywhere in the world in the last decade of this millennium than the sanctions against Iraq."
The blockade of Iraq has taken the lives of more than 1.5 million Iraqis, half of them children under the age of five years. As is universally acknowledged, the sanctions blockade only remains in place due to the insistence of Washington.
If the given reasons for the ongoing U.S. aggression against Iraq are false, what is really behind the policy? To answer this question requires looking back in history to 1958.
U.S. objective: domination
The 1950s were a time of sea change in the Middle East and the world, with national liberation movements sweeping across the colonized and semi-colonized countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.In Washington, these movements were regarded as threatening U.S. corporate and strategic interests.
U.S. domination of the Middle East had been a fixed objective of U.S. foreign policy since World War II. The Roosevelt and Truman administrations, representing the big banking, oil and military-industrial interests, were determined that U.S. capital would predominate in the aftermath of the world war. Key to securing U.S. hegemony was control of the world's critical resources, especially oil.
In particular, Washington's sights were set on taking over the oil fields of Iran and Iraq. Both Iran and Iraq, though nominally independent, were then part of the British empire, as was most of the Middle East--Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen.
But Britain's imperial sun was setting.
In the early 1950s anti-colonial revolutions in Egypt and Syria led to the formation of the United Arab Republic, seen by many as a first step toward uniting the Arab nation into one country.
The U.S. and its by then junior partner Britain responded by arranging the unification of two rotten monarchies, Jordan and Iraq, into a short-lived reactionary alliance called the Arab Union.
Washington had also set up the Baghdad Pact in 1955, which included its client regimes in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Iraq, along with Britain. The Baghdad Pact, also known as CENTO or Central Treaty Organization, had two purposes. First, to oppose the rise of Arab and other liberation movements in the Middle East and south Asia; and second, to be another in a series of military alliances--NATO, SEATO and ANZUS were the others--encircling the socialist camp of the Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe, north Korea and north Vietnam.
Iraq, the center of CENTO, was independent in name, but was by now a joint U.S.-British neocolony. The British maintained their military airfields in Iraq. While the country was extremely rich in oil--10 percent of the world's reserves--the people lived in extreme poverty and hunger.
Illiteracy was more than 80 percent. There were only 13 dentists in the entire country--one for every half million people in Iraq. ("Iraq to 1963," Fran Hazelton: 1986) The country was ruled by a corrupt monarchy under King Faisal II and a coterie of feudal landowners and merchant capitalists.
Underlying Iraq's poverty was a simple fact: Iraq owned exactly zero percent of its vast oil reserves. Four countries--England, France, Netherlands and the United States--had each been allocated 23.75 percent of the country's oil when modern Iraq was created out of the former Ottoman Empire as a British colony following World War I. The other 5 percent was in the hands of oil billionaire Cyrus Gulbenkian, the infamous "Mr. Five-Percent."
Iraqi Revolution shocked Washington
But on July 14, 1958, a powerful social explosion rocked Iraq. A military rebellion turned into a countrywide revolution. The king and his administration were suddenly gone, the recipients of people's justice.
Washington and Wall Street were stunned. In the week that followed, the New York Times, the U.S. "newspaper of record," had virtually no stories in its first 10 pages other than those on the Iraqi Revolution.
While another great revolution that took place just six months later in Cuba is better remembered today, Washington regarded the Iraqi upheaval as far more threatening to its vital interest at the time.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower called it "the gravest crisis since the Korean War." The day after the Iraqi Revolution, 20,000 U.S. Marines began landing in Lebanon. The day after that, 6,600 British paratroopers were dropped into Jordan.
This was what came to be known as the "Eisenhower Doctrine"; the U.S. would intervene directly--go to war--to prevent the spread of revolution in the vital Middle East.
The U.S. and British expeditionary forces went in to save the neocolonial governments in Lebanon and Jordan. Had they not, the popular impulse from Iraq would have surely brought down the rotten dependent regimes in Beirut and Amman.
But Eisenhower, his generals and his arch-imperialist Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, had something else in mind, as well: invading Iraq, overturning the revolution and installing a new puppet government in Baghdad.
Three factors forced Washington to abandon that plan in 1958. The sweeping character of the Iraqi Revolution. The announcement by the United Arab
Republic, which bordered Iraq, that its forces would fight the imperialists if they sought to invade. And the emphatic support of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union for the revolution. The USSR began a mobilization of troops in the southern Soviet republics close to Iraq.
The combination of these factors forced the U.S. leaders to accept the existence of the Iraqi Revolution. But Washington never really reconciled itself to the loss of Iraq.
U.S. strategy vs. Iraq
Over the next three decades, the U.S. applied many tactics designed to weaken and undermine Iraq as an independent country. At various times, such as after Iraq completed the nationalization of the Iraqi Petroleum Company in 1972 and signed a defense treaty with the USSR, the U.S. gave massive military support to right-wing Kurdish elements fighting Baghdad.
The U.S. supported the more rightist elements within the post-revolution political structure against the communist and left-nationalist forces. For example, the U.S. applauded the suppression of the Iraqi Communist Party and left-led trade unions by the Ba'ath Party government of Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s.
In the 1980s, the U.S. encouraged and helped to fund and arm Iraq in its war against Iran. U.S. domination of the latter had been ended by Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979. In reality, though, the U.S. aim in the Iran-Iraq War was to weaken and destroy both countries.
Ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger revealed the real U.S. attitude about the war: "I hope they kill each other."
The Pentagon provided Iraq's air force with satellite photos of Iranian targets. At the same time, as the Iran-Contra scandal revealed, the U.S. was sending anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
The Iran-Iraq War was a disaster, killing a million people and weakening both countries.
Collapse of USSR and the Gulf War
When the war finally ended in 1988, developments in the Soviet Union were posing a new and even graver danger to Iraq, which had a military and friendship treaty with the USSR. In pursuit of "permanent détente" with the U.S., the Gorbachev leadership in Moscow began to cut its support for its allies in the developing world.
In 1989, Gorbachev went further and withdrew support for the socialist governments in Eastern Europe, most of which then collapsed. This sharp shift in the world relationship of forces--culminating with the collapse of the Soviet Union itself two years later--constituted the greatest victory for U.S. imperialism since World War II.
While proclaiming a new era of peace, Washington immediately began preparing for new wars of aggression. At the top of its list of targets was Iraq.
Now the U.S. leaders saw the opportunity to overturn their stinging defeat of three decades earlier and to establish unquestioned domination over what they regard as the most strategic region: the Middle East and its critical oil fields. These were the conditions that led to the Gulf War of 1991 and the sanctions that have done such great destruction to Iraq.
U.S. imperialism wants to turn back the clock, not only in Iraq, but also in Cuba, Korea and around the world. But despite all the unimaginable hardships they have been forced to endure, the Iraqi people--like the Cubans, the Koreans, the Palestinians--have not been defeated. Washington has not been able to fully realize its dream.
Now, on the 11th anniversary of the Gulf War, it's time for the anti-war and workers movement here in the heartland of imperialism to redouble efforts to prevent a new war against Iraq and to get the U.S. out of the Middle East.
- END -
Reprinted from the Jan. 17, 2002, issue of Workers World newspaper
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