FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War on Iraq Debate

The question dominating the news: When will we go to war against Iraq?

The answer: We are already at war with Iraq.

The debate over the Bush administration’s call for war is usually described as hawks v. doves — those for the war pitted against those opposing war. In fact, the debate in mainstream news is hawks v. hawks; the question isn’t whether or not to wage war, but what form that war should take.

Bush and the ultra-hawks want a full-scale war as soon as feasible, to secure control over Iraq and its oil. The hawks at the moderate extreme argue for continuing “containment,” a euphemism for devastating economic sanctions and regular bombing in the so-called “no-fly zones.”

Sanctions, imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, are administered through the United Nations but in place only because the United States insists; most of the rest of the world has condemned them. The embargo has helped cause the deaths of more than 500,000 children under the age of 5, according to a UNICEF study. That’s why two former U.N. humanitarian coordinators in Iraq — Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck — have resigned in protest, calling the sanctions immoral and even genocidal.

Though the sanctions have strengthened Saddam Hussein’s control over Iraq while punishing ordinary people, the United States insists they remain.

Starting with a complete ban on oil sales and frequent restrictions even on basic medicines, the sanctions have gone through stages. Currently, there is no limit on total oil sales and most medicines are allowed in, but there are still major problems with funding projects to repair critical infrastructure and foster economic development.

Combined with the almost complete (and quite deliberate) destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, particularly water- and sewage-treatment plants, by U.S. forces during the Gulf War, the sanctions have meant increased malnutrition, disease and death — not for Saddam but for the Iraqi people.

U.S. official blithely claim that the so-called “smart sanctions” approved by the Security Council in July would solve these problems. But instead of feeding Iraqis, the changes mostly helped confuse the public — which, according to some U.S. officials, was the original intent of smart sanctions.

Now, as worldwide attention to the effects of sanctions has decreased, the humanitarian situation has worsened. Even as cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for approving imports were supposedly streamlined, the monetary value of “holds” (contracts held up by some nation on the Sanctions Committee, almost always the United States) is at $4.7 billion, higher than before smart sanctions were proposed. Worse, because of a retroactive oil-pricing scheme recently implemented by the United States (oil companies don’t know what price they’ll pay for Iraqi crude until after it is loaded), Iraqi oil exports are way down; in August, exports averaged 800,000 barrels per day, compared with more than 2 million at earlier points. This funding shortfall means Iraq is unable to pay even for some approved humanitarian imports.

U.S. officials blame all this on Saddam, and certainly the Iraqi government has made some questionable allocations of resources. But Tun Myat, the current U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, has described Iraq’s food distribution as “second to none,” echoing evaluations by other UN officials.

While the sanctions kill slowly, the United States continues to patrol the no-fly zones in the northern and southern parts of Iraq, bombing at will and killing civilians — at least 27 attacks by U.S. planes in 2002. The most recent, on Sunday (Aug. 25), killed eight, according to Iraq.

When challenged, U.S. officials robotically repeat that they bomb only when threatened by Iraqi air defenses. However, despite U.S. claims, there is no U.N. Security Council authorization for this violation of Iraqi sovereignty. U.S. journalists rarely mention the obvious point — that if the United States ceased its illegal patrols, Iraqi radar would not “light up” U.S. planes, making U.S. attacks unnecessary.

While not militarily significant, these attacks serve to terrorize the Iraqi people and remind everyone that the United States exempts itself from international law. Combined with the sanctions, they constitute a war on the people of Iraq.

While the fanatical hawks argue with the moderate hawks about the way in which a war against Iraq should proceed, virtually all the world opposes a full-scale war. It’s time for us to realize that most of the rest of the world also wants to stop the containment war, end the suffering of the Iraqi people and begin the diplomatic process necessary for regional peace.

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas and author of Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

Rahul Mahajan is a member of the Nowar Collective and the Green Party candidate for Governor of Texas. His book, “The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism,” (Monthly Review Press, April 2002) has been described as “mandatory reading for anyone who wants to get a handle on the war on terrorism.” He is currently writing a book on Iraq titled “Axis of Lies: Myths and Reality about the U.S. War on Iraq.”

He can be reached at rahul@tao.ca.

 

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail