In a magnificent and courageous statement, 2500 British church leaders, including Rowan Williams, Archbishop-elect of Canterbury, wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair, declaring that an invasion of Iraq would be “deplorable,” against UN conventions and Christian principles. Calling for Mr. Blair to support a peaceful and legally justified solution to the problem of Iraq, the statement added: “We deplore any military action that regards the deaths of innocent men, women and children as a price worth paying in fighting terrorists, since this is to fight terror with terror.”
In a special double issue, ethicist G. Simon Harak, S.J. presents a thorough and well-documented history of the factors leading to the brink of the U.S. invading Iraq, evaluating this situation from the perspectives of ethics, international law, politics, and the strategic issues which are claimed to justify invasion. He provides a broad narrative of recent US-international and US-Iraq relations, so that we might more clearly see the rationale behind the US plans for invasion.
At this writing, the Bush administration has succeeded in getting the U.S. congress to cede war-making power to the presidency.1 Despite grassroots opposition unseen since Vietnam,2 on October 10th and 11th, 2002, the House and the Senate, respectively, passed H.J. Res. 114 and S.J. Res. 46.3 The president can now use force at his own discretion if he perceives Iraq to be in breach of UN Resolutions, or a threat to the security of the US.
In his effort to convince the congress and the American public, the president delivered a speech on October 7, 2002 in Cincinnati to summarize the nature of the Iraq threat.4 Even the supporters of the invasion admitted there was little new in this speech. Everyone agrees that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. Beyond that, the present and “unique threat” of Iraq was presented by suppositions and scenarios without facts or evidence,5 despite the administration’s intense pressure on intelligence agencies to “cook the intelligence books"6 and come up with something concrete about Iraq. In fact, US intelligence agencies have disputed or refuted many elements of that speech.7 A study of those critiques (refer to numbers. 5-7) gives one the impression that the administration has been presenting a modern-day “Gulf of Tonkin incident"8 to the American public to justify its planned invasion of Iraq.
President George Bush addressed the UN on September 12, 2002, reciting the history of Iraq’s wrongs and violations of United Nations Security Council [UNSC] resolutions. He warned that “We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather,” and challenged the UN to “serve the purpose of its founding.“9
Days later, Iraq, with the prompting of members of the Arab League and others, agreed to allow weapons inspectors to return to Iraq “without conditions.“10 After negotiations with Iraq, Hans Blix, head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission [UNMOVIC] announced that, under the new inspections regime, UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] “may conduct interviews with any person in Iraq whom they believe may have information relevant to their mandate. Iraq will facilitate such interviews.” More importantly, “It is for UNMOVIC and the IAEA to choose the mode and location (emphasis added) for interviews.” This allows people to be interviewed outside Iraq, and away from possible retaliatory threats from Iraq. Further, inspectors will be granted immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to sites deemed sensitive in the past, including eight presidential palaces.
֠UN officials have the right to determine the number of inspectors required for access to any site.
֠“Iraq will ensure that no proscribed material, equipment, records or other relevant items will be destroyed except in the presence of ... inspectors.”
֠Iraqi authorities will provide free escorts, transport, assistance with moving equipment, and a full-time telephone hotline staffed by an English speaker, along with security for inspectors and their equipment.
֠Iraq will guarantee the safety of all air operations outside the no-fly zones and “will take all steps within its control to ensure the safety of such operations” within the zones.
֠Inspectors will be guaranteed visas on the basis of a UN certificate and neither they nor their baggage will be searched.11
The US government’s initial response to Iraq’s re-admittance of inspectors was dismissive. Even with the above “immediate, unrestricted, unfettered” access, the US is at this writing, preventing the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. Instead, the US is presently putting intense pressure on the permanent members of the UNSC (as it did before the Gulf War12) for a new resolution. This pressure takes different forms for different countries. For example, France (and other European countries) would agree in exchange for access to the conquered Iraqi oil fields.13 Russia would want a guarantee that it would receive the $7-8 billion still owed to it by Hussein’s government, and for the US to look the other way while it pursues its attacks on Chechnya. China would want a free hand to pursue the “Islamic rebels” threatening its totalitarian power within its own borders.14
What is the US seeking with its new resolution? Under the present UNSC resolutions, Iraq’s disarmament would lead to a lifting of the brutal sanctions against Iraq. Under the new resolution intended by the US, weapons inspections would lead to, or themselves be, a military invasion of Iraq. That is, if the weapons inspections “fail,” then the US would want a free hand to invade Iraq to remove them. In addition, the draft of the new US-proposed UNSC resolution would allow foreign and of course US troops into Iraq to enforce air and ground keep-out “corridors” to and from any place the inspectors might wish to go.15 This provision would achieve invasion by inspection.16
Despite its pressure, it now appears as though the United States will not get the kind of UNSC Resolution it wants, since China, Russia and France have come out against the US proposal for the use of force.17 Some new UNSC resolution may well be passed, but it will not except perhaps in the eyes of the US18 allow the US to invade Iraq to enforce it. In the meantime we are left to ponder the irony that a nation so concerned with weapons of mass destruction [WMD] is prohibiting weapons inspections, the most effective means for eliminating WMD.
As the nation rushes toward invasion of Iraq, we need more than ever to understand the motivations and probable outcomes of our action. This essay does not address the elements of the two administration’s efforts (in the legislature, and at the UN) toward invasion point by point.19 Instead, I want to provide a broader narrative of recent US-international and US-Iraq relations, so that we might more clearly see the rationale behind the US plans for invasion. I use the word “invasion” advisedly since, as I hope to show in this essay, the US has been conducting siege warfare against Iraq for the past twelve years.
In 1979 Saddam Hussein came to full power in Iraq, by killing his opponents, but also on the strength of a massive social uplift program. Under Hussein, the Ba’ath party virtually eliminated female illiteracy, provided free universal health care, clean water, and free education through graduate level studies for all. By the end of the 1980s, the UN was calling Iraq “an emerging first world nation.”
Also in 1979, Iran’s Muslim fundamentalists engaged in the largest nonviolent demonstration in history to oust the Shah installed by the US and backed by the US-trained secret police, the Savak. Obviously, then, during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War,“We couldn’t allow Iran to win,” explained American officials.20 The United States supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq even altering our laws so that US companies could sell Iraq the resources for WMDs,21 and helping Iraq with satellite targeting for chemical warhead attacks on Iran.22 This support continued through the gassing of the Kurds in Halabja, when the White House intervened to kill the Senate’s “Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988,” aimed against Iraq.23
As Hussein’s human rights violations became more and more flagrant, the US response was to send a parade of US government representatives to support Hussein Donald Rumsfeld,24 Alan Simpson, James McClure, Robert Dole, Frank Murkowski, together with US Ambassador April Glaspie. Typical of their statements is one from Senator Howard Metzenbaum, announcing himself “a Jew and a staunch supporter of Israel.” He went on to tell Saddam that “I have been sitting here and listening to you for about an hour, and I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace.“25
The Iraq-Iran war involved the use of chemical warfare, the vast militarization of both societies, and cost some 750,000 casualties on both sides. Yet we did not consider Iraq as a “threat to security and peace” we actually assisted them. It seems then, that our present moral outrage at the crimes of the Iraqi regime absent at the time is at best convenient.26
After the Iran-Iraq War in 1990, Iraq attacked Kuwait, a country the US didn’t want them to attack. Shunning every attempt at peaceful resolution,27 the US orchestrated “Desert Storm,” dropping over 60,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, most of them on the civilian infrastructure. Specifically targeted was the electrical grid from dams to power stations. In effect, the US unplugged every hospital drug and blood refrigeration unit, every life support machine, every incubator in Iraq. Irrigation systems failed. Clean water couldn’t be provided, sewage systems broke down. The whole country was flooded with disease-ridden water, “leading to epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, and gastroenteritis, particularly among children.“28
As Professor and Holocaust survivor Thomas Nagy has discovered through his research, the US military knew the effects of their attacks on the civilian population and proceeded with them nonetheless.29 As an “unnamed Pentagon source” put it, “People say, `You didn’t recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage.’ Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of sanctions.“30
Further, the US and Britain used depleted uranium 660,000 pounds of the stuff in weapons such as rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) to attack Iraq. The residue which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years contaminates the air, land and water, and causes chromosomal radiation damage especially to soft tissue, and pregnant mothers and their fetuses.31
Though it had WMD and had used them in its wars, Iraq did not use WMD during Desert Storm probably because the US had threatened massive retaliation with WMD if it did.
But the question remains: if in the midst of this savage attack on its own civilian population, Iraq did not use WMD even on the invading US troops, what exactly is the nature of the “threat” that the administration now feels?
In fact, we might push the question further. With the intentional unleashing of typhus, malaria, E coli, amebic dysentery, and diphtheria on Iraq’s civilian population through the destruction of infrastructure and sanctions, we might ask, who is using bacteriological warfare in Iraq? With the massive use of radiological weaponry, who is using WMD in Iraq?
And now, for the past twelve years, since Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States has insisted that the UN maintain those sanctions on Iraq the most comprehensive sanctions in history effectively putting the entire nation of Iraq under prolonged siege. Fundamentally, “sanctions” mean that Iraq’s sale of oil is completely controlled by the UN. Without the purchasing power to repair the vast damage of the Gulf War attacks (95% of Iraq’s foreign exchange came from the sale of oil), the siege has extended and exponentially increased the effects of the bombing.
But what about the “oil-for-food” [OfF] program? This program allows Iraq to sell its oil. The money from the sale of oil goes into a UN escrow account in the Bank of Paris in New York City. The UN controls those funds, not Iraq. (That fact should put to rest charges that Iraq “uses oil-for-food money to purchase arms.” Iraq may want to, but it can’t access the money at all.) The UN disburses the money first for reparations, then to finance its own operations in Iraq, and finally to the suppliers with which Iraq has had to make contracts. If the OfF worked perfectly, it would allot each Iraqi about a dollar a day to exist on. But the besiegers can be clever even then. Enter the veto.
Every contract under the “oil-for-food” deal has to be approved by a committee. Any member of that committee can veto any contract for any reason. The US is a permanent member of that committee. And the US has exercised the veto over 1,500 times in the last 5 years (next is Britain with a paltry 160 vetoes). Sometimes the US exercises a “straight” veto. For example, the US invariably vetoes spare parts to repair the water or sewage systems; invariably vetoes spare parts for oil production, always vetoes communication equipment. The US sometimes vetoes baby milk powder because it has phosphates, and these can be used for bombs. The US vetoes chlorine for water purification because it can be used for chemical warfare. The same with many drugs.
But the really winning strategy is what the UN calls “the problem of complementarity.” The US allows life- support machines, then vetoes the computers needed to run them. The US allows dentists’ chairs, then vetoes the compressors. The US allows blood bags, then vetoes the catheters. The US allows insulin, then vetoes syringes. The result? The Iraqis “waste” what little money they have on things that don’t work. And, the US State Department can point to a warehouse where they store the insulin, waiting for syringes, and say, “Look, they’re hoarding medicine! They have it, but they’re not distributing it.”
And for the record: all present and past UN heads of the oil-for-food program in Iraq, who monitor the distribution of the already inadequate goods that do manage to get into the country, report that there is no hoarding, no diversion, no leakage in the distribution. In fact, two of those program heads, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, have resigned their 30+-year commissions as Assistant Secretary Generals in the UN to protest the sanctions.
Nor have the newest “smart sanctions” advertised as allowing more consumer goods into Iraq greatly helped the Iraqi people. In addition to items already forbidden by UNSC Resolution 687, the new UNSC Resolution 1409 is accompanied by a 300-page “Goods Review List” of items that have to go through the entire approval (and veto) process.32 Items not on the list still have to be approved by the IAEA, the UNMOVIC], and the Office of the Iraq Program [OIP]. Since the UN passage of the “smart sanctions,” the US has increased the value of vetoed contracts to nearly $5 billion, reduced its own purchase of Iraqi oil to nearly zero (the US had, through various companies, been buying up to 60% of Iraqi oil), and insisted that the price of Iraqi oil be set after other companies and countries agreed to purchase it. The cumulative effect of these new measures is to reduce the income from the oil-for-food deal by about 2/3rds. And even then, the “smart sanctions” give no cash to the Iraqi people. So even if goods somehow manage to make it through all those obstacles and arrive on the shelves, the people have no money to purchase them.
It is important to remember that this one program was never meant to replace an entire national economy. No amount of tinkering with it will address the fundamental problem: the sanctions have paralyzed the entire economy of Iraq.
What’s the result? Three years ago, in August 1999, UNICEF did a study that concluded that the sanctions had cost the lives of half a million Iraqi children under 5 years old.33 They didn’t count 7-year-olds, or 9-year-olds, or people suffering from heart disease, or diabetes, or old folks who fall and break their hip. Just 5-year-olds and under. Half a million children dead from the US-led sanctions. On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked our country and my home city, New York, in a brutally criminal and heartless act, killing nearly 3,000 Americans and foreign visitors. Effectively, the US-led sanctions regime takes that same number of toddlers, and kills them and has done so every three weeks in Iraq for the past twelve years.
Yet, in the face such relentless killing of the Iraqi weak and vulnerable, the Iraqis have not struck at the US. They have not suicide-bombed, or attacked with anthrax,34 or had anything to do with the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the US.35 So what is the nature of the “threat” from Iraq?
We can’t forget that for nearly 12 years, the US and UK have been bombing Iraq continually,the longest US bombing campaign since Vietnam. In April, 2000, The Washington Post reported that the US and UK had flown 280,000 sorties over Iraq: sonic booming, bombing, terror. On August 25, 2002, for example, US planes bombed the southern city of Basra, killing eight more people.
On September 30, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a press conference stating that “Since the Iraqi letter [granting unconditional access to weapons inspectors] arrived two weeks ago, they have fired on coalition aircraft sixty seven times, including fourteen times this past weekend.” He went on to assert, “That ought to tell reasonable people something.” The implication is that the Iraqi actions are in violation of UN resolutions, and indicate their unwillingness to comply with weapons inspections, which are somehow connected to the US bombing in the no-fly zones.
The problem is that the “no-fly zones” are not authorized by any UN Resolution and are illegal violations of Iraqi sovereignty.36 They were unilaterally imposed by Britain, France and the US. France withdrew in 1988, meaning that the “coalition” consists of Britain and the US only.
The US uses cluster bombs, which are not primarily anti-materiel weapons. Their small fragments are designed to maim to lop off hands or legs. Occasionally, though, the cluster bombs decapitate people, as was the case with young Omran Jawair, who was decapitated in an open field, while shepherding his sheep. When the villagers came out to try to rescue him, they too were cluster-bombed.37
Further, the “no-fly zones” are often “suspended” in the North, to allow Turkish helicopter gun ships and troops into northern Iraq to kill Kurds.38 Recently, Rumsfeld announced an increase in the bombing, and an increase in the targets in Iraq, apparently “softening them up” for the coming invasion.39 On September 26, 2002, one of the members of the Iraq peace team reported the bombing of the Basra airport.
Yet in all those years, Iraq has never been able to shoot down a single jet over its own territory. How then can it possibly threaten the US? We can press the question further. On one of my trips to Iraq, I visited a school which the US had bombed. When the children heard that the Americans had actually come, they were so terrified that many had to be taken home. One was so frightened of the Americans, he actually suffered a seizure as we walked into his classroom. Imagine growing up with that much fear. As I write this, people in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area are being terrorized by a sniper who kills at random. Perhaps we have all seen TV interviews with parents weeping for fear because they can’t know when or whether their children might be attacked, and because they cannot protect them. I have visited Iraq several times. This is the same terror that the US bombing has achieved among children and parents in Iraq, sustained now for nearly 12 years. Who is terrorizing whom?
But isn’t Saddam Hussein just a bad guy? Doesn’t he support terrorism? Didn’t he gas his own people? No one questions that Hussein is a dictator, ruling Iraq with an iron fist, eliminating anyone who threatens his power. This in itself, however, does not provide a “just cause” for invasion. Perhaps some form of humanitarian intervention might be called for, but its first step should be elimination of the economic sanctions, which have killed 10s of thousands of times as many Iraqis as the regime has. Further, an invasion on such grounds does not consider the humanitarian disaster that would ensue.
The US State Department has charged that “Iraq provided bases to several terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and the Abu Nidal organization (ANO).“40
Just a cursory examination of these groups should give us pause. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq [MEK], is a radical group seeking to overthrow the government of Iran. Perhaps support for such a group might be understandable, given the hostility between Iran and Iraq that exploded into war in 1980-88. What is less understandable is that this very same group has offices in Washington DC, not far from the White House, and is supported by several influential people, including former Sen. Robert Toricelli, Rep. Gary Ackerman,41 and Sen. Jesse Helms.42 The PKK is one of the two major groups of Kurds in the north of Iraq, vying for control of the population. The Baghdad regime of course has relations with both groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] and the PKK. Further, the PKK was one of the groups the US encouraged immediately after the Gulf War.43 With all this information, it is at best difficult to determine just how seriously to take the “terrorist threat” from Iraq especially since none of these groups has expressed any desire to attack the US. The one group not listed as “supported” by Iraq is al-Qaida. The resolutely secular Iraq regime and that radical religious group find themselves in direct opposition to each other, and all attempts to link them have failed.
As for Hussein’s “gassing his own people” in the Kurdish village of Halabja in March, 1988, the record is not as clear as the media would like us to believe. Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, recently retired as professor of National Security Affairs at the US Army War College, studied the gas attack on the Kurds and published “Lessons Learned: The Iran-Iraq War,“45 along with Leif Rosenberger and Lt Colonel Dr. Douglas Johnson. That report became “the handbook- the bible - that was issued to all US military units for strategic and tactical guidance during Operation Desert Storm,” Pelletiere said.46 The report states that “Most of the civilians killed at Halabja - and it’s very unlikely that as many as 5,000 died - were killed by Iranian poison gas.“47 Pelletiere ends the interview by stating quite frankly: “Bush and Blair want a `regime change’ simply because if sanctions were to be lifted then Saddam’s regime would favour Russian and French oil companies rather than US or British multinationals. This dispute has little to do with any war on terrorism. And it is quite wrong that we should base public policy on propaganda and lies.“48
But why did Hussein kick out the weapons inspectors in the first place?In fact, it was Richard Butler who ordered the weapons inspectors out, as reported in the Times by Josh Friedman on Dec. 17, 1998: “Butler abruptly pulled all of his inspectors out of Iraq shortly after handing Annan a report yesterday afternoon on Baghdad’s continued failure to cooperate with UNSCOM.” Butler presented his report to the UN after days of “consultation” with American leaders. He ordered the inspectors pulled out without authorization from the UN Security Council, a move that was condemned by Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov. Further, according to chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter, the Iraqis were “set up” to fail the inspections requirements.49
Besides, Ritter asserts, Iraq had been effectively disarmed from its WMD by 1996. Other weapons inspectors, like Raymond Zalinskas50 and Rolf Ekeus,51 agree with him. All WMD production facilities were destroyed. All means for long-range delivery were destroyed. In the four years since the weapons inspectors have been in Iraq, Iraq did not have the economic resources to a) rebuild its factories, b) research, c) develop, d) weaponize, and e) test such weapons. Even if it did, such manufacture would require a distinctive infrastructure railing, a network of access roads, immense power sources and massive construction activity (the more if it were underground, as some fantasies would have us fear). Iraq would have to store and then deploy quantities of WMD sufficiently massive to be used in warfare, and also acquire the means to deliver them. Presently, six billion-dollar US spy satellites make twelve passes over Iraq every 24 hours. These satellites, which have a day-time imaging resolution of four to six inches, would have spotted such an enormous undertaking.52 Yet they have discovered nothing in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
In fact, US intelligence did discover a facility testing the poison gas ricin, in northern Iraq late this summer. But “U.S. officials decided it was not enough of a threat to justify taking military action.“53 Why not? We should note that this activity was in the Kurdish north, a place not under Hussein’s control and, more significantly, among a people the US hopes to enlist for their attacks against the rest of Iraq.
Thus, when the US discovers actual WMD development and testing among its potential allies in Iraq, it does nothing. However, when it has no evidence of WMD destruction in the rest of Iraq and even expert testimony to the contrary it is prepared to undertake a massive attack, killing thousands, or tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Furthermore, the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN has continuously inspected Iraq for nuclear weapons. These inspections have proceeded even after Butler withdrew the UNSCOM inspectors. The last was in January, 2002, when the chief inspector Anrzey Pietruzewski reported that Iraq had cooperated fully with the inspectors. “During our inspection, representatives from the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission were present for the whole time and all help that is necessary to perform the inspections was provided by Iraqi authorities.” 54
For the record, the IAEA never reported that Iraq was “six months away” from producing a nuclear weapon. This charge was repeated by Tony Blair in a September 7 news conference, and confirmed by President Bush. Much of the press took this to mean that Iraq was six months away in 1998. “Clarification” from White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan was that the President was referring to the initial report from the IAEA in 1991. However, IAEA spokesperson Mark Gwozdecky refuted both statements on behalf of the IAEA, saying that the IAEA had never issued any such report. It is instructive to read the entire story of this misinformation, including The Washington Times’ laconic observation: “Many news agencies including The Washington Times reported Mr. Bush’s Sept. 7 comments as referring to a 1998 IAEA report. The White House did not ask for a correction from The Times.“55 The point, I believe, is to cultivate fear, which requires a certain degree of ignorance.
Finally, Ritter has been touring the US, telling people that the US used the information he uncovered during his investigations to bomb civilian targets in an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein and his cadre.56
Now that Iraq has agreed to let the weapons inspectors back in, we might ask what guarantees Iraq would have that the inspections would not again be used to further the declared US plan to remove or assassinate Iraq’s leadership? When Iraq requested such assurances from Kofi Annan, the UN Security Council refused to consider them. We might ask: What does “unfettered access everywhere” mean? Every field, every church, every mosque, every home? How could such an inspection regime ever be concluded? How could it ever be completely complied with? In my visits to Iraq I have seen and heard how the insistence on “unfettered access” was used to make compliance impossible, and so extend the sanctions regime.57 It is a legitimate concern that such specious “non-compliance” would now be used to justify an invasion.
To summarize, what led to the collapse of the first inspections regime was not Iraqi noncompliance, but US interference. This interference continues to this day, as the US holds up the inspections while seeking a stronger resolution. When Hussein finally yielded to threats of invasion (and to the pleadings of the Arab League, and past UN officials) and offered to re-invite the inspectors “without conditions,” the “news made United States officials furious,“58 and the US undertook the two-part strategy for invasion described at the beginning of this essay. It looks as though, to put it bluntly, “The White House’s biggest fear is that UN weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in.“59
But what if the weapons inspectors (who spent almost 8 years with “unfettered access” in Iraq), and the ongoing International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, and the monitoring by the spy satellites, are all wrong? Let’s imagine that Iraq has managed (with little money and less materiel) to rebuild its factories, and to research, develop, test, weaponize and store and then deploy quantities of WMD sufficiently massive to be used in warfare, and to acquire the means to deliver them. Let’s imagine that, while the Kurds in the north of Iraq killed a few animals in a closed room with ricin and were detected by the US, this enormous undertaking by Iraq has somehow managed to escape US attention. What if somehow, Iraq really does have weapons of mass destruction? Then an invasion would surely be the wrong way to go about getting them, in fact, would probably assure their being used.
The government of Iraq had such weapons during the 1991 attacks of the Gulf War. It did not use them, though it had used them before in war. They restrained themselves in this war evidently because the US threatened massive retaliation with WMD if Iraq did use its WMD. This deterrence had force, because a national government wants to stay in power; even dictators tend to want to have a country to dictate over.
But if a ground invasion goes forward, and the “regime change” is about to take place, then the force of deterrence is lacking. The regime, now having nothing to lose, would use these weapons.60
In another and very likely scenario (given the aftermath of the Afghanistan attacks), a ground invasion could cause Iraq to implode into civil war, with rival factions struggling for control. If such a faction or factions gained control of these WMDs, deterrence would have no force on them, since they are not in charge of the whole country. Some faction(s) may even be suicidal, simply wishing to destroy enemies at all costs. And the weapons would be used. Or people may steal the weapons, escape with them through borders made porous by the collapse of the government and by the movement of refugees. Then the weapons could turn up in Tel Aviv, or any other city. 61
Thus an invasion for “regime change” would increase the likelihood of the Iraq’s use of WMD to near certainty. An invasion would be exactly the wrong thing to do if Iraq did have WMD. The fact that the US military is planning such an invasion is, I submit, the surest sign that the US knows that Iraq doesn’t have them. The best way to address the problem of WMD remains a return of weapons inspectors, certainly not invasion.
OK, so if the sanctions and bombing and vetoes are not about weapons inspections, or terror, what are they for?
It may be, as Sen. Robert Byrd suggested, invasion plans distract the American public from domestic problems the falling stock market, job loss, housing problems.63
I submit, however, that the US wants to control Iraq’s oil the second largest oil reserves in the world. Anthony Cordesman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that the issue for the US was as much the security of the Gulf as access to particular oilfields: “You are looking down the line to a world in 2020 when reliance on Gulf oil will have more than doubled. The security of the Gulf is an absolutely critical issue.“64 Gerald Butt, Gulf editor of the Middle East Economic Survey, said: “The removal of Saddam is, in effect, the removal of the last threat to the free flow of oil from the Gulf as a whole.“65
During the July 31-August 1 hearings on Iraq in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ranking representative of the Republican Party, Senator Richard Lugar (R-In), submitted a strategy for urging other countries to join the US in invading Iraq: The US should tell other countries that “. . . we are going to run the oil business. We are going to run it well, we are going to make money; and it’s going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq because there is money there.” The US could then put pressure on other countries by saying, “. . . furthermore, if you want to be involved in that business, whether you’re Russians or French or whoever, you must be with us in the beginning of this business. We’re going to set up the business together. We’re going in together. Because once we get there, we’re going to control the oil business.“66
In a revealing article, reporters Dan Morgan and David B. Ottaway write, “A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq,” noting that “American and foreign oil companies have already begun maneuvering for a stake in the country’s huge proven reserves of 112 billion barrels of crude oil, the largest in the world outside Saudi Arabia.“67 The US could use its control of these oil fields to coerce members of the UNSC into cooperation for an invasion.
With the US troops finding themselves increasingly unwelcome in Saudi Arabia, it would make Machiavellian sense to transfer them to a supine, post-invasion Iraq.
The US continues to give many reasons for the siege reasons that prove specious upon the slightest examination. But the 12-year siege has failed to break the will of Iraq to resist. With the failure and possible collapse of the siege, the US is now considering intensifying its ongoing war for the oil resources of Iraq with a massive ground attack.
We have seen that initiating a ground attack against Iraq would be entirely unjustified. I hope we have seen that maintaining the genocidal siege of sanctions is unjustifiable as well. If we need to present the case against an invasion, there are other arguments as well.
First, the loss of lives. Iraq will be attacked with the now standard American military policy of “overwhelming force,” or, as Bush put it, “the full force and fury of the United States military will be unleashed.“68 In effect, this policy entails a total obliteration of any possible military opposition or threat. Any honest military officers will tell you that their job is to achieve this objective with little or no loss of troops. That means that if an officer suspects that a grove might have weapons to kill troops, artillery will be called down on it. The same goes for a village, town or city. Thus any ground invasion will mean massive loss of life, mostly Iraqi civilian lives. This loss will be intensified by the utter collapse of whatever life-sustaining civilian infrastructure the Iraqis have been able to cobble together.69 Further, according to the January 2002 “Nuclear Posture Review,” the U.S. has considerably lowered the threshold for a nuclear attack against Iraq.70
The Iraqis may be cowed by such an invasion, but it is sheer delusion to think that after 12 years of US-led bombing, sanctions, vetoes, and hundreds of thousands killed, they would then embrace the invading US troops as they kill more Iraqis.
I cannot see that the “direct casualties” of US invasion troops would be great, though Major General Patrick Cordingley, who led the British Armoured Brigade in the 1991 attacks against Iraq, has estimated 37,000 casualties among the 250,000 invading forces.71 This is the standard figure (15%) for casualties for invaders. I believe that the figure for direct casualties in this case is high, since the Iraqis have no real defense.72 Since the 1991 attacks against Iraq, 7,758 Gulf War veterans have died, and nearly 200,000 have filed for medical and compensation benefits.73 If the US post-war casualties in any way resemble the post-war casualties of the 1991 attacks, we can expect significant suffering and death for the invaders. Any death or suffering Iraqi or American is tragic, especially if it could be avoided, and especially if it is for economic gain.
Second, International Law and the UN. With the exception of England, Israel and perhaps Turkey, none of the 184 other nations in the UN supports the US plan for invading Iraq. In fact, Nelson Mandela called the US a “threat to world peace” in its actions toward Iraq.74
Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair is supportive, but his backing is weak. Even after Bush’s UN speech and Blair’s endorsement, British polls showed a majority against the invasion.75 And this was before Iraq’s unconditional acceptance of the return of UN inspectors. Blair commissioned a group of Whitehall lawyers to establish a case for the invasion, but it backfired: the lawyers agreed that it would be against international law to invade.76 He finally acceded to a debate in Parliament, but refused to allow a vote. Both Robin Cook, Leader of the Commons, and Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, have “broken ranks” with Blair.77 The presentation of his “dossier"78 about Iraq’s crimes still hasn’t convinced the British public to back the US invasion of Iraq.79 On Saturday, September 28, 2002, British protestors staged what The London Independent called “one of the biggest peace demonstrations seen in a generation” (9/29/02). Estimates of the rally ranged from 150,000 (police) to 400,000 (the organizers, and some London newspapers). Predictably, The New York Times and The Washington Post failed to give it much attention, assigning one sentence, and two sentences, respectively, in the middle of other articles.
The UN Security Council is in favor of having its resolutions obeyed in Iraq as with all nations. No one, however, has acceded to any military action (including bombing) in Iraq if the UNSC demands are not met.
A further note on the UNSC’s reaction to Bush’s speech: by “agreeing” that Iraq might be an “international threat,” the UNSC kept the discussion of Iraq under its own jurisdiction. If it were not a matter of international security, then the issue would no longer be under the authority of the Security Council and would be a matter for the General Assembly. The Security Council especially the five permanent members would be quite reluctant to have the question of Iraq pass out of its control.
Thus the planned invasion can be seen as a widening of the US break from international law and conventions, and therefore threatening to the already fragile international community structure.
Third, the Middle East.The Arab world watches as Israel (which possesses WMD) presses on with its program to eliminate the Palestinians, in defiance of scores of UN resolutions most recently September 24, 2002.80 Additionally, the US has exercised sole veto against dozens of resolutions that would have sanctioned Israel for defying the resolutions passed by the UNSC, and the threat of the US veto has killed many more. At best, the Arab countries see a double standard at work between the unconditional support for Israel’s policies, and the cruel attack on the people of Iraq. The Arab leaders who enjoy the support of the US (like the al-Fahd family in Saudi, or the al-Sabbah family in Kuwait) would be threatened and perhaps even overthrown. An invasion would at least mean immense and lasting turmoil in the rest of the Middle East,81 with more repression in response,82 and might even precipitate attacks on Israel as well.83 The head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, has said a U.S. strike would “open the gates of hell” in the Middle East.84
All the Arab nations (including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) have, in the Arab League, called for an end to the sanctions on Iraq.85 This solidarity with Iraq was reiterated at the Beirut Summit in March, 2002.86 Looking at all those factors, together with the “war on terrorism” (which targets Muslims almost exclusively in the US87 and abroad) the Arab countries have begun to decrease their trade with the US significantly in the last year.88
Further, Arab states have formally rejected participation in the US invasion. Saudi Arabia has refused to allow the US to use its soil for bases for the attack, unless approved by the entire international community. We should note that these nearby nations do not feel the “threat” from Iraq that the US seems to feel.
Fourth, the Cost.89 The US insistence that it will “go it alone” in Iraq90 means that 100% of the low estimate of $70 billion91 will have to be borne solely by US taxpayers. (80% of the $60 billion price tag for the 1991 Gulf War [$80 billion in 2002 dollars] was borne by US allies; the rest by the US alone.) We could ask if this money might be better spent domestically, especially if there are nonviolent and more effective ways of dealing with the problems.
Further, a “spike” in Middle East oil prices could lead to a world-wide recession. Every recession in the past 30 years has been preceded by such a spike. Even the normally conservative IMF has cautioned that the invasion of Iraq would “not be a very healthy development.“92
Fifth, the “Day After.” Even if invasion of Iraq were successful in overthrowing Hussein, we need to consider the consequences. What kind of regime would replace the present regime? The US is not known for establishing democracies.93 (Of course, “imposing democracy” is a contradiction in terms.) The possible “successors” to Saddam have been called by the British Sunday Herald, “Corrupt, feckless, and downright dangerous. Some say they even make the `Butcher of Baghdad’ look good.“94 One of them, General Nizar Al-Khazraji is accused by many human rights groups of heading the chemical attack on Halabja in the Kurdish area of Iraq.
We should have no illusions, therefore, about the US government’s intentions for Iraq. Congressman Tom Lantos of California, leader of the Democratic Party caucus in the House of Representatives’ International Affairs Committee, recently said to a member of Israel’s Knesset: “We’ll be rid of the bastard [Saddam] soon enough. And in his place we’ll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you.“95 His pro-dictatorship remarks reiterate the US policy which supported Hussein in the first place, and should prompt us to examine the myth proposed by President Bush in his September 12, 2002 speech to the UN, that “The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.”
Further, it is possible that Iraq might split up, with an ensuing civil war. Such a war, involving the Kurds (whose population spans four states) and the Shi’a Muslims, might spread throughout the region. How much would the US have to invest in personnel and resources to control Iraq after such an invasion? How long would the people stand for any imposed government? The mythical “Afghanistan model” doesn’t work. As James Rubin, former assistant secretary of State points out, the US doesn’t control Afghanistan; it barely controls the capitalKabul.96
Such a lawless attack can only encourage more lawlessness in international relations. Especially for peoples without military and economic power, this lawlessness would take the form of what we would call “terror.”
Sixth, the Loss of Liberty at Home. As a society becomes more and more militarized, it becomes by definition less free. As I write, some 1200 people in the U.S. are being held in secret, incommunicado, without charge, and without access to an attorney. Most are of Arabic descent, some are U.S. citizens. Further, the passing of the “Patriot Act” in October, 2002, has brought alarm to many civil rights groups.97
Finally, the Immorality. In a magnificent and courageous statement, 2500 British church leaders, including Rowan Williams, Archbishop-elect of Canterbury, wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair, declaring that an invasion of Iraq would be “deplorable,” against UN conventions and Christian principles. Calling for Mr. Blair to support a peaceful and legally justified solution to the problem of Iraq, the statement added: “We deplore any military action that regards the deaths of innocent men, women and children as a price worth paying in fighting terrorists, since this is to fight terror with terror.“98
When Jimmy Carter received the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, Nobel committee chair Gunnar Berge said the judges’ choice of the former US president “can and must be interpreted as a criticism of the position of the administration currently sitting in the US towards Iraq.“99
In early September,2002, Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement famed for conflict resolution and promotion of human rights, called its annual interfaith meeting. Among the over 400 attendees, condemnation for the US “war on terror” was intense and virtually universal. Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Ramzi Garmo of Tehran, Iran, asked, “If Sept. 11 had happened anywhere else, would it have had the same impact?” Garmo asked. “Take Iraq as an example. Hundreds of thousands have died because one very powerful nation wants the embargo to continue. What is the difference between Iraqi children and the victims in New York? Is American blood worth more than blood in other countries?” His question drew “strong applause.“100
Experience has shown that, unfortunately, we cannot expect such a strong stance from the Christian leadership of the US, with the possible exception of the Presbyterian Church. In fact, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, apostolic nuncio of the Holy See to the United Nations, has criticized American Catholic leaders’ response to the crisis: “Instead of `Holy God We Bless [sic] Thy Name,’ many were singing `God Bless America,’” Martin said. “We can’t allow other things to slip into our message.“101
What to do?Despite claims of “working through the UN,” US armed forces are being built up massively in the Gulf area.102 This activity imparts a psychological, economic and military momentum to invasion that is difficult to resist.103 It is difficult to believe that anything will deter the present administration from an invasion of Iraq.
Nevertheless, conscience and for some of us, our faith commitment requires that we seek to oppose invasion. We should begin by prayer and fasting, and by what Gandhi and other nonviolent theorists called “self-purification.” Then, several courses of action are open to those opposing the Administration’s ongoing war against Iraq.
Knowing that the legislature has capitulated in the struggle against invasion, one course left to us, within the system, is to petition the White House with phone calls, faxes, letters and demonstrations. (Senator Byrd recommended these actions to his supporters, in the above-mentioned speech.).
A second course is suggested by Geov Parrish. The massive numbers of protestors across the country have to form themselves into a political force with the capability of changing policy. This would require long-term planning by the broad spectrum of organizers.104
Finally, we might consider the question whether the US government has become less and less truthful and less and less representative of the people. Legislative offices reported receiving faxes, emails and phone calls that ran five and ten and even twenty-t- one against the resolution eventually adopted by Congress (see n.2). Recent polls show the US populace is opposed to an invasion without support from the UN or allies.105 Even more, many citizens are concerned with the irregularities of the last presidential election, when the Supreme Court effectively appointed the President. They are concerned with the possible abrogation of the Constitution, specifically in the recent passing of warmaking powers from the Congress to the President and increasingly, in the operation of a mercenary army not under the control of Congress.106
Up until now, the peace movement has been working with the overall nonviolent analysis of Martin Luther King. But if this charge that the government is increasingly less truthful and representative proves upon careful investigation and deep communal reflection to be well-founded, then I submit that the peace movement must change its paradigm. We must adopt the nonviolent analysis of Mohandas K. Gandhi, relying more on boycotts, strikes, non-cooperation and direct nonviolent confrontation to oppose a power that has disqualified itself from legitimate governance.
Peace groups have much information and many different venues for actions to challenge our policy toward Iraq. My group, headed by 3-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly, is Voices in the Wilderness: (1460 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640; 773-784-8065, [url=http://www.vitw.org]http://www.vitw.org)[/url] Also helpful are the Fellowship of Reconciliation (521 N. Broadway, Nyack, NY 10960; 845-358-4601, [url=http://www.forusa.org]http://www.forusa.org),[/url] Pax Christi (532 W. 8th Street Erie, PA 16502; 814-453-4955, www.paxchristiusa.org, and the American Friends Service Committee (1501 Cherry St. Philadelphia, PA 19102; phone: 215/241-7170, [url=http://www.afsc.org]http://www.afsc.org)[/url] The National Network to End The War Against Iraq (http://www.endthewar.org) is a coalition of most groups opposed to the ongoing war against Iraq. There you can find and sign a “pledge of resistance,” promising to undertake direct nonviolent action when the US invades Iraq.
Voices and Christian Peacemaker Teams send delegations to Iraq, to express solidarity with the Iraqi people, and to bring home the truth that is hidden by our government and media. At present, Voices has an “Iraq Peace Team” in Iraq, seeking to interpose themselves between the Iraqis and any invasionary forces (http://www.iraqpeaceteam.org). All these organizations especially Voices would appreciate donations for the ongoing struggle for justice for the people of Iraq and for the people of the US.
In Conclusion. Whatever our actions, I believe that we must always struggle against fear especially the fear of death which leads to acts of immorality and cowardice. I believe that now is the time to employ whatever spiritual strategies we have developed to overcome fear and act out of compassion and justice. If we do this, I believe there is hope for the people of Iraq, and for us.
G. Simon Harak, S. J. entered the Society of Jesus in 1970, and has served as a missionary in Jamaica and the Philippines. He has degrees from Fairfield University, the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a Ph. D . in ethics from the University of Notre Dame. He has taught ethics at Fairfield University, and was John Early Visiting Professor at Loyola College in Baltimore, MD in 1992-3. In 1995, he was chosen “Teacher of the Year” by the Fairfield University students. In 1998, he gave the Staley Lecture for Distinguished Christian Scholars. In 1998, he resigned his full professorship at Fairfield University to work full time with Voices in the Wilderness.
He has written Virtuous Passions: The Formation of Christian Character (Paulist, 1993), edited Aquinas and Empowerment: Classical Ethics for Ordinary Lives (Georgetown University Press, 1996), and Nonviolence for the Third Millennium: Its Legacy and Its Future (Mercer University Press, 2000), co-edited Beyond Boundaries: Student Volunteers in the Developing World (JASPA, 1998). He has just finished co-editing Riding on Faith: Essays on Disney, Culture and Religion which will be published by Indiana University Press in the year 2003. He has published numerous articles and is currently writing Vicious Passions: The Deformation of Christian Character. The extensive footnotes which accompany this article can be found on the Blueprint website at
Originally published in Blueprint For Social Justice, October/November 2002 issue at: http://www.loyno.edu/twomey/blueprint/blueprint-OctNov2002.htm Blueprint For Social Justice is published by the Twomey Center for Peace through Justice, Loyola University.
Reprinted in The American Muslim with permission