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A. The Iraqi mutiny, Guardian, 9 July [comment piece by Matthew Engel] Letters: email@example.com [remember to include your address and telephone #] ************************************************** A. The Iraqi mutiny Matthew Engel Tuesday July 9, 2002 The Guardian Iraq is back in the news again: last Friday the New York Times published a story purporting to show how the Americans were planning to conduct their invasion. This may not have been the Times's greatest ever journalistic revelation, given that the scheme was months old, and had not been even looked at by the military brass, the defence secretary or the president, let alone the eight or so countries near Iraq who were regarded as essential to the plot. I am not decrying the plan itself, which appeared to be pretty similar to the one I would draw up on the back of a packet of Woodbines given two or three minutes for strategic planning. Clausewitz himself would probably concur that it would be best to invade Iraq from the other countries in the region rather than, say, Bolivia. Unfortunately, the story has to be what you might call a self-denying prophecy, since it would be very bold double-bluff indeed to launch any invasion once the plans for it had appeared in the New York Times. So, ruling out this particular option, let's try to consider where things really might be going. What has happened in the past few months is that President Bush has succeeded in assembling a coalition on this subject comparable to the one that his father assembled after the invasion of Kuwait a dozen years ago. Unfortunately for Bush junior, this coalition is arrayed against him. Two weeks ago, there was another story in the American press, but this appeared in USA Today, which the elite doesn't bother with much, so it hardly got noticed. It listed the views of various members of Congress: not any old hobbledehoys either, but the party leaders, mostly Republican, whose support would be crucial to the political viability of any Pentagon plan. Their response to the idea of invading Iraq was tepid to the point of mutinous. "You hit the other guy first, but only if you know he's going to hit you" - Henry Hyde, chairman of the House international relations committee. "Our focus should be Israel" - Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House. "US forces are already stretched to the limit" - Senate Republican leader Trent Lott. Republicans, all of them. There was a further outburst of scepticism on CNN just two days ago, from senior Democrats and one of the Senate's most respected foreign affairs experts, Chuck Hagel, another Republican. "We need friendships," he said. "We can't arbitrarily go after Saddam Hussein." There is hardly a country on earth that the president can bank on to support an invasion of Iraq. Even the Israelis, ever enthusiastic for a bit of smiting under Ariel Sharon ("man of peace" - G Bush), may have the odd qualm. There are certainly signs of queasiness coming from Turkey and Kuwait, not to mention Britain, all of whom are presumed by Washington to be in the vanguard. And then there is the US military itself, willing to bite its lip and do its duty, but desperately anxious, like the senators, about overstretch, unnecessary wars and a viable strategy. The word is that the joint chiefs of staff are split. But the president has a rhetorical commitment which is hard to ditch. If Saddam is still in business in 2004, Bush is going to look rather silly, having shot his mouth off to the extent that he has. He might hope that the CIA or the Iraqi opposition might find a way of quietly bumping him off, but you would not bet your political life on either bunch. Curiously enough, as things stand, Bush's Iraq policy is doing fine. We have not had a cheep out of Saddam since September 11. Having specifically rejected a policy of containment, the president is actually executing a remarkably successful one. But he has talked too much to continue on that path, so he has to do something, which is the most likely way to ensure that Saddam does fling down whatever last cards he might have: missiles, chemicals, smallpox, whatever. If the decision to invade or not has to be taken, let me give you the names of those whose views might matter, to the point of possible veto. The first is Tony Blair: the US is banking on his acquiescence, if not his support. The second is Karl Rove, Bush's political consultant. The third is George W's father, the first President Bush. The fourth and fifth are Colin Powell, the secretary of state, and his deputy, Richard Armitage. In contrast to the armchair warriors who run the Pentagon, both happen to be genuine soldiers. When it comes to diplomacy, they get overridden time and again. Paradoxically, if push really comes to shove, the general might suddenly become the man whose counsel matters most. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk