Going back all the way to the Bush administration’s build-up for invading Iraq, there has been much written and said about the reasons for the invasion. Now Paul O’Neill’s revelations that the Bush administration planned to invade Iraq long before September 11, 2001 have been widely publicized.
Many believed right along that the major motivator for the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq is all the oil that sits beneath Iraq. That has been my belief as well. However, understanding the reason for the Bush administration’s anxiousness to invade may benefit from a trip back in recent history, before it is forever rewritten by the neo-cons.
Starting in late Summer 2000, there was a significant break down of support for the economic sanctions against Iraq. In August 2000, Baghdad Airport reopened. Lots of international flights started to come in from many different countries, including Iraq’s former archenemy, Iran. An annual trade fair was held in Baghdad, and the response was astonishing- over 1500 companies from 45 countries took part. France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Turkey and most Arab nations were well represented. On the UN Security Council, three of the five permanent members voiced opposition to the economic sanctions.
The outgoing Clinton administration, though faithful for eight years in continuing the sanctions policy that many called “genocidal”, was not prepared to invade Iraq as a last act of the administration. Both Clinton and Madeline Albright stated toward the end of their days in office that the sanctions would remain in place until Saddam Hussein was gone, or until the end of time, which ever came first. Not so surprising from an administration that said “the price is worth it” when asked about UNICEF figures of over a half million children dying from effects of the sanctions.
As soon as Bush and company took over the White House, Mr. Bush sent Colin Powell off on a mission to shore up support for the sanctions. Bush complained that the sanctions were “like Swiss cheese. That meant that they weren’t very effective.” Despite leeway made by anti-economic sanctions activists in bringing a clear picture of the sanctions’ effects on innocent civilians in Iraq, Mr. Bush’s “revised” policy would clearly not be focused on helping the Iraqi people.
Powell traveled to several Arab nations and came back by way of Europe. Though countries continued to speak out against sanctions, they stopped the huge influx of flights to Baghdad, and attempts at cutting business deals were disrupted or even stalled.
Still, mainstream media in the United States assisted in putting a humanitarian spin on the situation. On February 27, 2001, CNN reported that “[f]ollowing three days of talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, Powell said the United States was in the process of shaping new sanctions, which would target Iraq’s military exclusively and not the Iraqi people.”
Meanwhile Mr. Bush accidentally clarified that the sanctions would remain a US-centric policy: “Sanctions that work are sanctions that when a — the collective will of the region supports the policy; that we have a coalition of countries that agree with the policy set out by the United States. To me, that’s the most effective form of sanctions.”
Powell stated the objective of his trip more frankly: “So this wasn’t an effort to ease the sanctions; this was an effort to rescue the sanctions policy that was collapsing. We discovered that we were in an airplane that was heading to a crash, and what we have done and what we are trying to do is to pull it out of that dive and put it on an altitude that’s sustainable, bring the coalition back together.”
I have to wonder how diplomatic these ‘talks’ really were. Perhaps as diplomatic as the United States’ UN representative during the lead-up to the first Gulf War, when Yemen voted `no’ on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The US representative told the Yemeni representative, `That’s the most expensive vote you’ll ever cast.’ Shortly thereafter, all US aid to Yemen was stopped.
Following Powell’s trip, the US and Britain then began talking about “smart sanctions”, which was yet another cynical policy with a friendly sounding name. The revision that was allegedly designed to ease the effects of economic sanctions on Iraqis actually produced a voluminous list of products that would not be allowed into the country.
Ultimately, support for the sanctions was gone. The United States and Britain stood alone in the UN, demanding that the policy be strengthened. Around the world companies in other countries were negotiating business deals with Iraq, including oil deals. The US stood to miss out on a very big piece of a very big pie if it did not do something quickly.
Then came 9/11. After bombing Afghanistan, the Bush administration ushered in an intensive campaign, with much assistance from an unquestioning mainstream media, to gain support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As this campaign raged in 2002, Iraq’s trade fair drew numbers similar to those drawn in 2001.
Control over the second largest oil reserve in the world and massive rebuilding contracts were very nearly grabbed up by companies from other countries before the Bush administration took power. That, I believe, was a major factor in why they wouldn’t wait to attack Iraq. Today huge contracts are handed uncontested to Halliburton, Bechtel and other friends of the administration.
The Bush administration has made every attempt to revise history with regard to their belligerent worldview. The attacks of September 11, 2001 are cynically used to justify hostility on any front, “at a time and a date of our choosing”. Speaking the truth about events that took place in Iraq during autumn 2000 may help to dispel the ongoing myth that Bush & company became hostile toward Iraq and much of the rest of the world as a response to 9/11.
TOM JACKSON produced “Greetings From Missile Street“, a documentary video that shows Voices in the Wilderness delegates living with families in Basra, Iraq in the summer of 2000. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org