Over the last several months news reports of Bush Administration plans concerning the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein have appeared with relative frequency in the mainstream media. However, with very few exceptions those reports have emphasized either that these are contingency plans that have not been operationalized or the target date has been postponed until next year. In light of some recent circumstantial evidence and on-going signals from the White House, the later story especially, published in the New York Times, now seems like a case of Pentagon disinformation. The invasion of Iraq may be sooner than we are being led to believe by the propaganda machine.
Among the more telling signals not discussed yet in the mainstream media is the revelation that a number of MASH units are being called up to report for duty in July. These same units will be committed up to a 6 month period from the July date, that is, through the fall congressional elections. Added to this is the increasing reserve call-up of troops and the deployment of more warships to the region, including war games in the coming weeks with India. Further evidence of a push for a late summer/early fall invasion is the churning out of weapons, including the so-called “low-yield” nuclear bunker buster bomb.
With the White House still publicly committed to a “regime change” in Iraq, is there any doubt that the Bush Administration is undeterred by the lack of support anywhere in the international community for a war against Iraq? Even the Blair government, with potential back-bench trouble, is nervous about a war with Iraq, especially because it was unable to generate any hard evidence against Saddam Hussein’s complicity with Al-Qaeda networks. Given the continuing unilateralism of the Bush Administration, there is no reason to believe that the Pentagon hasn’t been given a green light for its invasion plans.
Of course, the conflict in Israel/Palestine may be seen as a complicating factor. Certainly, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, all staunch US allies, have made very vocal their criticisms of the Sharon government and the need for a just settlement for the Palestinians. Nonetheless, several factors have further underscored the reluctance of the Bush Administration to push Israel into accepting the Saudi and Arab League peace proposal. Among those factors are the hard-line congressional supporters of Israel and the just completed pro-Sharon Joint Congressional Resolution. Also, Pentagon hawks see Israel as the key ally in the war of terror in the Middle East. Hence, it’s just as likely that Sharon’s visit to Washington will consider Israel’s role in the invasion of Iraq since Israel’s military power may be required to keep the Arab states occupied during a US full-scale attack on Iraq. In fact, a recently published story by an Israeli military analyst suggests that Sharon would attempt to capitalize on the war against Iraq to settle scores with other Arab states and even to begin a horrific “transfer” of Palestinians to Jordan.
While Colin Powell and the State Department are making noises about an international summit on the Middle East, given the intransigence of the Sharon government, it’s possible such a summit would provide a convenient forum to present dramatic new “evidence” of some violation by Saddam Hussein that would warrant a military response by the US. Given the recent involvement of the US in the attempted coup of the Chavez government in Venezuela, is it also not probable that a pretext to invade Iraq could be manufactured with the covert aid of US agents? This pretext would also provide a cover under the “war against terrorism” to circumvent the necessary Congressional debate and declaration of war. (Given the craven responses by the Congress in this area, it’s hard to imagine there would be a majority to oppose such a war!)
The domestic fallout from a war against Iraq in the late summer/early fall would be to once more use the drumbeats of mindless militarism and punitive patriotism to dominate the political agenda and muffle any sound of dissent. Given the fact that some Democrats are beginning to criticize the Bush Administration on domestic policy, shifting the spotlight to waving the flag could effectively silence the Democrats and give the politically bankrupt Republicans the only forum through which they could effectively attempt to marginalize the electoral opposition. Of course, such a war could also potentially criminalize dissidents and a fledgling peace movement. Certainly, the Patriot Act has put in place all the repressive instruments for punishing anyone who gives aid and comfort to suspected terrorists.
While no one can predict any scenario with absolute certainty, there should be some clear understanding of why this Administration is hell-bent on a war with Iraq. Beyond the transfer of massive amounts of tax monies to the wealthy, the only real substantive imperative pushing policy for the Bush Administration is expanding the military and elaborating further the role of US hegemony throughout those areas of the world where oil is a fundamental resource. With so many members of the Bush White House bathed in the politics of oil (George W., Cheney, Rice, etc.), there is certainly an economic interest in taking out Saddam Hussein and putting in power a more pliant regime, ala Afghanistan. Also, given the conflicts of interest inside this Administration with the military-industrial complex (e.g. the Rumsfeld-Carlucci-Carlyle connection), there is an overwhelming push for deploying more and more weapons and troops around the world.
Of course, there should be no illusions that an invasion of Iraq would be an easy “victory.” One Pentagon study pointed to an “acceptable” death rate of 20,000-30,000 US soldiers. The arrogance of such chilling scenarios is further compounded by the lack of estinates of the number of “acceptable” Iraqi deaths. Given that this and previous Administrations have been willing to sanction the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians by the withholding of vital medicines and materials, what number of actual deaths by missiles, bombs, and even potentially “low-yield” nuclear weapons would the Bush Administration tolerate? What level of disruption in the Middle East and potential blowback would be tolerable? Given the near-religious zeal of Pentagon hawks and evangelical fervor by Bush himself in fulfilling his destiny to rid the world of one of the linchpins the “axis of evil,” it’s not difficult to imagine the moral blindness and near insanity of such policy-makers in their pursuit of war against Iraq.
The final question remains whether the citizens of the United States would tolerate such a maniacal war in their name. Certainly, the passions of the Middle East will be inflamed. No doubt what’s left of the left in Europe will be in turmoil over an invasion of Iraq. How quickly and effectively an opposition will mobilize in the US will, to some extent, determine how homicidal the Bush Administration will be in its warmaking. Unfortunately, unless there is some totally unforeseen circumstances, there will be an invasion of Iraq sooner than later. And the sooner we plan to try to stop the war, or, at least, deter the worst ravages of such a war, the better for all concerned.
Fran Shor teaches at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is an anti-war activist and member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org