Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On the Eventuality of a US Intervention in Iraq

What are the real aims of the American administration’s policy towards Iraq? Some preliminary thoughts that go further than official American claims may serve to enlighten us on the subject. The US have suggested that their strategy of pre-emptive strike is designed to eliminate the grave security threat presented by Saddam Hussein’s build-up of weapons of mass destruction in the region. However, at the same time, the Americans have shown little interest in cooperating with the UN, in trying to come up with a peaceful solution for the Iraqi problem, one that seeks not to inflict punishment upon the Iraqi population for the deviant behavior of the Baath regime, over the actions of which they have limited control anyway. In fact, one might go so far as to suggest that the unilateralist tactics by which the Bush administration has sought to implement its war against Iraq, have served to effectively undermine the UN as an instrument for the peaceful resolution of conflict. The moral authority of the UN has been severely compromised by Bush’s initial decision to attack Iraq without seeking for the UN’s approval, namely in the form of a Security Council resolution concerning Iraq. The current attitude of the US is no more than a continuation of this approach, given that Bush has openly declared his intention to proceed with his military plans even at the event that the UN refuses to sanction the use of force against Iraq. Should this come to pass, Bush intends to bypass the UN organization completely, and assemble the so-called ‘Coalition of the Willing’ that will participate in a violent overthrow of the Iraqi leadership. Such a development can be interpreted not only as revealing the unilateralist pretensions of the Bush administration on the single question of Iraqi disarmament, but as indicative of a more decisive shift in the formulation and practice of American foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War. The doctrine of pre-emptive strike is a proactive, aggressive approach towards international relations, designed to promote a type of action that will effectively shape international conditions and reevaluate the framework within which states interact with each other in the global arena. The implications of this position are twofold and extend far beyond the ongoing controversy about Iraq:
a) The source from which legitimacy for international actions emanates will be transferred from the fora of the UN, to the White House chambers in which US foreign policy is being decided. In other words, the US is claiming for itself the right to set the agenda in global politics, to define what constitutes moral action in international affairs and what does not, to transform the predominant notions underpinning what M.Waltzer called, a ‘Just War’, and bring those more in tune with what is (wrongly) perceived to be the American national interest.[1] What follows from this is not anarchy as many international analysts fear. For instance, India will not be able to engage in a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, since a source of authority regulating relations among states will continue to exist, embodied in attitude adopted by the US towards a given regional conflict. Pre-emptive attacks will not become the norm in international relations, for this will be a right reserved for the US alone. By insisting on their right to perpetrate preventive attacks the US do not seek to remove all constraints from the conduct of warfare, but aim at consolidating their preeminence over international law and are claiming a right to interpret and enforce it at will.
b) It is obvious that in such an environment the United Nations will be condemned to a status of irrelevance. It is in this context that Collin Powell’s statements on the future of the UN should be interpreted, if the latter choose to dismiss the American claims regarding Iraq. Pre-emptive engagement is a doctrine that can scarcely be reconciled with the modus operandi of the UN, which represents a legacy reflecting the balance of power during the Cold War era. The UN is an institution which operates through mediation and negotiation, designed to contain the possibility of war by imposing stringent terms on its conduct. The doctrine of pre-emption seeks to remove such constraints so as to legitimize the use of force. This theoretical development is a byproduct of the bankruptcy of the American political and economic model (‘cowboy capitalism’) in that, following the recent global economic recession, faith in the neo-liberal model of development has been eroded and the emergence of a new, socially oriented form of political practice (Lula in Brazil, Chaves in Venezuela, the EZLN in Mexico) has undermined the neo-liberal consensus upon which the ideological apparatus of the New World Order rests. The US has lost much of the ideological appeal that it enjoyed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and it now seeks to establish itself as world leader by asserting its supremacy in the only field in which it remains without an antagonist, namely, that of military capability.[2] It also reflects an anachronistic appreciation of the virtues of war as an instrument of moral regeneration, as well as a means for ensuring security and order. This marks an inversion of the evolution of the theory of international relations which can be traced back at the end of World War II and which had deprived the notion of war of any positive connotations that it might have carried in the practice of relations among members of the international community.[3]
Under this light, it should come as no surprise that the US has done little to support the difficult task assigned to the UN inspections team that is currently operating in Iraq. It has refused to even consider slowing down its military preparations in the region, in order to provide the inspectors with sufficient time so that they may bring their work into completion. While the Iraqi regime has cooperated with the inspectors providing access to military sites and scientific venues never before opened up for Western eyes to see, the US has persisted in accusing Iraq of misleading the UN and of failing to show compliance with its resolutions.[4]
In fact, President Bush has been quite outspoken in expressing doubts about the very feasibility of inspections due to considerations that have to do with the vast territory that needs to be covered by the inspectors and with the amount of time available to Blix and el-Baradei in order to accomplish disarmament. Leaving aside the issue of non-compliance which has already been settled in a positive way by Hans Blix’s recent report in the UN Security Council (14/02/03) and can be raised with equal force over Israel’s blatant disregard for a series of SC resolutions issued against its neo-colonialist Jewish settlement policy in Palestine, we may argue that when Bush expresses his misgivings about inspections, he struggles over a problem that he himself has created and is doing whatever possible to accentuate. As chief inspector Mohammed el-Baradei has stated, if afforded with sufficient time and personnel, his team of inspectors would eventually be in a position to accurately determine whether Iraq possesses any nuclear or atomic weapons whatsoever. To the extent that the US has delivered the US with an ultimatum on the use of force, it can be said to have effectively subverted UN attempts to avoid war in Iraq through the policy of peaceful disarmament. The stance adopted by the US, seems to acknowledge neither the ability, but, more importantly, nor the moral vantage position of the UN inspectors to make authoritative pronouncements on whether Iraq is indeed the security threat the US claims it to be. At the same time it has shown to have no good reason to distrust the inspections process, since it has procured no convincing evidence concerning Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction drawn from its own intelligence resources.[5]
The US has pointed out the security threat which the amassing of weapons of mass-destruction by Saddam Hussein represents for the region of the Middle East. Yet, a more careful examination of the contemporary balance of power in the region will convince us that the American claims are rather unfounded. The particular historical junction in which the US has chosen to organize a military intervention in Iraq is most instructive in this respect. Iraq was much more of a menace to world peace in the period before the 1991 Gulf War, when the Iraqi armed forces were still powerful and Saddam’s authority remained unchallenged. Given the remarkable swiftness with which the American war machine overrun Iraqi positions in the 1991 conflict, we fail to see why we should conceive of Saddam Hussein as a security risk at this particular point in time. True, Iraq remains a rogue state. However, its military capability has been severely diminished as a consequence of the 1991 war. Major fighting units of the Iraqi army were destroyed during the 1991 US-led offensive, involving the capture of heavy artillery equipment and the disabling of mechanized divisions that were defeated in open battle by the far more technologically superior Allied forces. The systematic destruction of the elite Republican Guard, with close ties to Iraq’s caste of officials, was also successfully carried out by the invading armies, since it rated highly among the strategic goals of the campaign.
Military defeat was supplemented by the imposition of a rigorous inspections regime on Iraq in the aftermath of the war, charged with the supervision of the task of methodical Iraqi disarmament. In defense of his work, Scott Ritter, a former US marine and head of the 1991 inspections mission, confirms that about 80% of Iraqi military capability designed for offensive purposes was permanently put out of use, leaving the Iraqi state a mere 20% so as not to render it completely defenseless in an area so turbulent as the Middle East. All infrastructures eligible for use in the production and dissemination of chemical and biological weapons were systematically destroyed in this process.
The imposition by the UN of No-Fly zones over the vicinity of Northern Iraq where the Iraqi Kurdish minority is situated, has served as an additional factor undermining the authority of the central government in Baghdad. US and British war plains have committed consecutive air raids on Iraqi soil, in an undeclared war of attrition against the Iraqi regime that has lasted for over ten years now. The Northern areas inhabited by the secessionist Kurds, have long enjoyed a semi-autonomous status under the protection of the US and British air force. The fragmentation of Iraqi territory, the articulation of a US-sponsored political opposition in the autonomous Kurdish areas and the partial neutralization of the Republican Guard as the most reliable tool of oppression at the disposal of the regime, combined to form a context into which a turn in Iraqi foreign policy was deemed necessary, towards the normalization of relations with its neighbors and finding a way out of international isolation.[6] Under this light, we deem it safe to claim that the strategic threat once posed by Iraq has been quite nearly eliminated. Iraq’s military situation does not allow it to threaten either the world’s unique superpower, nor does it warrant a sustainable challenge to Israel’s indisputable status of regional superpower in the Middle East.
The urgency with which the US leadership has sought to undertake forceful intervention in Iraq, should be rather associated with military and strategic considerations that, if ignored, might jeopardize the successful outcome of the operation. From a military point of view, now is a more propitious moment to launch a large-scale offensive, as opposed to two months from now, when extreme desert temperatures will be at work. Furthermore, the US military staff in charge of the operation fears that a protracted delay in commencing engagement might put American resolve to the test, resulting eventually in the demoralization of the troops. On a more practical note, a long waiting process might tax the budget of the operation with the additional burden of deploying reservists and bringing them back, only to redeploy them at a later stage. Also, it is certain that Iraq will try to exploit the additional time afforded to it by diplomatic negotiations, in order to strengthen its defenses and prepare its civilian population for the eventuality of a prolonged and total war. It is for these reasons that the uniformed military, “is drawn to the proposition that if it is to be done, it is best that it be done quickly”.[7]
A legitimate question might be raised as to why the diminishing clout of Iraq in its external affairs has not been translated to regime change at home. Apart from the ruthless repression through which the Baath dictatorship exercises its rule, Saddam’s political resilience can also be explained in terms of the profound impact that the 10 year long UN embargo has had upon Iraqi society, right down to its very core. The embargo has generated a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions and it is reasonable to suggest that UN sanctions had the opposite effect from that intended. Saddam’s grip on power has been strengthened as people have come to rely for their survival upon food distribution regulated by the government. It has also served to rekindle anti-Western feeling among the population by making them suffer the consequences for Saddam’s misconduct. The expected outcome of the embargo, namely the creation of an explosive situation within Iraq by stirring up discontent against the regime, both amidst the ordinary population and among the ranks of functionaries of the state, to the point that would precipitate a loss of faith in the regime and its consequent overthrow either by an uprising or by coup d’etat, has not materialized. Such expectations were unrealistic given the extent of the humanitarian tragedy caused by poverty, disease and deprivation. No movement of political liberation could find a firm grounding in a popular mass exhausted by the hardships of the embargo and no effective political opposition could be formed under conditions of total dependency upon the regime. Particularly so, in the absence of any concerted Western effort to support any such endeavor within the Iraqi borders (as was the case with the Kurdish insurrection in Northern Iraq, when the West stood idly by while Saddam was using chemicals to quell the rebellion).[8]
In an attempt to make political capital out of the emotional trauma visited upon the American people by the Sept.11 atrocities, the Bush administration has tried to establish a nexus connecting Saddam Hussein to the terrorist network of al-Qaeda. Such an effort is aimed both at deflecting criticisms which hold that a military campaign against Iraq would require the subordination of vital resources to this end, that could otherwise be mobilized in the ongoing global struggle against terrorism. A compelling majority of states in the international community feel that the overriding threat to world peace comes from Islamic fundamentalism and that, viewed form this angle, a war in Iraq would be counter-productive.[9] In his presentation in the UN Security Council, Collin Powell defended Washington’s belligerent plans by siting the presence in Baghdad of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born former mujahedin as evidence corroborating the existence of a link between Saddam and Usama Bin-Laden. He also pointed to the subversive activity of the Islamic fundamentalist group Ansar al-Islam in Iraq’s Northern provinces, as proof of the extension of al-Qaeda’s organizational network in Iraq. However, one might object that such evidence are hardly conclusive given that most of Powell’s claims are based on a series of theoretical conjectures, linking together only tentative threads of intelligence, with no hard factual evidence with which to back such information.[10] As a matter of fact it appears that the Secretary of State has either grossly exaggerated the marginal political importance and military capability of the Ansar al-Islam group, or he has taken the terrorists’ claims about their conquest of power at face value. Yet if he had done so, he should also have fathomed the political hostility towards the Baghdad dictatorship that inevitably results from the Islamic grouping’s aspiration to establish a theocratic regime in Iraq. The political objective espoused by Ansar al-Islam, namely the creation of an Islamic Republic, rules out the possibility of collusion between the Baath regime and the guerillas.
This rationale is equally valid when applied to American claims of cooperation between Bin-Laden and the Iraqi secret service.[11] Firstly, it is well known that Bin-Laden has developed his network of international terrorism through utilizing his own personal assets and by constructing private transnational networks of financial assistance, not by relying on any type of surrogate state sponsorship.[12] Secondly, it often escapes Western experts on terrorism when discussing Bin-Laden’s political agenda, that the main strategic concern of his campaign is to expel US troops from the Middle East (whom he describes as ‘forces of occupation’ desecrating Muslim holly lands), thus bringing about a series of mass uprisings that would overthrow the ‘corrupt’ Arab governments replacing them by some form of Islamic rule. It follows, that his quarrel is first and foremost with Arab governments, whom Bin-Laden dismisses either as tyrannical and subservient to American interests, or as morally reprehensible for having betrayed Muslim traditions and for allowing foreign influences to undermine the basis of Islamic morality and virtue. It is ludicrous to hold that Bin-Laden’s recorded message at the eve of the US-British invasion of Iraq, signifies anything more than a predictable attempt on his part to ride the wave of anti-American sentiment that is fomenting throughout the dar al-Islam (the realm of Islam), and all over the globe for that matter. Only the outbreak of a barbaric US-led Crusade against the Iraqi people could inadvertently succeed in uniting those forces in the Muslim world that have hitherto seemed to be irreconcilably divided and opposed to each other (Islamic fundamentalists and Muslim secularists fighting in unison against the common enemy). Thirdly, the positing of links between Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda on a lower functionary level, does not amount as President Bush wants us to believe, to the existence of a common organizational structure, subordinating Ansar’s activity to the strategic command and planning of the al-Qaeda leadership. Sensing the assumption implicit in Collin Powell’s argument, Mullah Krekar, founder and spiritual mentor of Ansar has come out from exile (Norway) to publicly refute Powell and defend the autonomous character of his organization. It seems that the terrorist Islamic underground is not as homogenous as the Bush administration believes to be. But such generalizations are bound to inform Bush’s crude conception of international relations, which blurs even less delicate distinctions than the one alluded to above (‘Axis of Evil’).[13]
One last point should be made in assessing the security risk represented by Iraq. It is my firm belief that any attempt that Iraq made towards rearmament would have been immediately picked up by the electronic surveillance networks set up through the use of US satellites, or intercepted by the CIA or some other intelligence agency. The case of North Korea is quite didactic in this respect. Its attempts to resume its programs for the manufacture of nuclear weapons were immediately picked up by intelligence services, whereas satellite images have been brought forth as concrete proof of this fact. Yet, one might object that Korea has made no effort to conceal its rearmament efforts. To this we should respond that there can be no better disclaimer of American claims against Iraq, than the very eagerness, bordering on recklessness, with which the ‘hawkish’ faction within the Bush administration opted for embarking upon a military escapade in Iraq. It is conceivable that had Iraq succeeded in equipping itself with such potent an arsenal as the one possessed by North Korea, there would have been a greater amount of deliberation in the White House, before deciding to involve the US military in a conflict which might provoke serious retaliation on Iraq’s part and a significant number of US casualties. The wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan were conducted against armed forces considerably inferior to those of the US and with a minimum loss of American lives. The Vietnam experience has taught the US ruling elite that for victory to be conquered, the battle of public opinion at home must first be won. It is doubtful that support for the war and a high morale among the population can be maintained in the event of a long, protracted engagement in Iraq, inflicting heavy losses on the US.[14] Bush’s opting for a diplomatic approach in resolving the crisis with North Korea is proof of the validity of the above hypothesis.
President Bush has argued that, apart from eliminating the security threat represented by the current Iraqi regime, a US-led military incursion of Iraq would help bring about the Iraqi people’s liberation from Saddam’s tyrannical rule and usher in a new age of democratic politics in the Middle East. In my view, both the logic underlying this argument and the sincerity of a US commitment to the ideal of promoting democracy in the region, are subjects open to debate. The formulation of a workable postwar plan for Iraq, defining the nature of the regime that is to supplant Saddam’s dictatorship and specifying the actors that are to partake in the conduct of government, has hitherto caused considerable friction between the US envoy responsible for the task and the Iraqi National Congress, the main Iraqi opposition group. The Americans seem to be wedded to the belief that the establishment of a parliamentary democratic system in Iraq would be somewhat premature, as it would lack the strength and resolve to meet the challenges of a volatile postwar environment in a straightforward and dynamic manner. The postwar solution which the Americans envisage, albeit only temporary, is hardly of a democratic character. The internal power structure of the Baathist regime is for the most part to remain unaltered, except from the removal of key figures in the present governmental hierarchy. A US military commander is to be installed as the supreme authority, exercising overarching control over the transitional government, while a selection of American generals will assume control of certain key ministries that will remain active after the Baath Party’s collapse. Naturally, the Iraqi National Congress has vehemently objected to such a postwar proposal, arguing that far from laying down the foundations for the growth of parliamentary democracy, it basically amounts to an outline of the effective military occupation of Iraq, with direct rule exercised from Washington. These criticisms, justified as they may be, are symptomatic of a relationship of mutual distrust that has developed between the US and the Iraqi opposition, owing to two major factors; a) the neocolonialist mentality of the Bush administration as regards the future of the country and its misgivings about the political role that such a disjointed coalition of forces as the INC should play in a liberated Iraq and, b) the internal cleavages of the INC, manifested in the disparate attitudes expressed by its constitutive parts towards the possibility of war (ranging from a reluctant acceptance of war as the necessary instrument for overthrowing Saddam, to an outright rejection of it). Indeed, many Iraqi dissenters, who have found themselves in exile due to their energetic resistance against Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime, view an American intervention in Iraq with suspicion. By declaring their opposition to the war, they can be said to have acted on an authentic patriotic impulse in the face of a foreign invasion of their country. In addition, their reaction was based on a sober assessment of their political standing as future leaders of a ‘free’ Iraq, should they enter Baghdad in the company of triumphant American bayonets. What then will their position be vis-à-vis the Iraqi people? And what are the guarantees extended to them, that they will be able to act freely, unhindered by US efforts to influence or even dictate policy? It might be said that the difference between those who take a principled stance towards the war and those who uncritically view it as a development which is both inevitable and necessary, marks the boundaries which distinguish the patriotic Iraqi freedom fighter, from the political opportunist whose only concern is the conquest of power. We cannot overstress the importance that this dichotomy holds for Iraq in the post-Saddam era.
The alternative to the conception of democracy advocated by Bush and the INC must be sought in a democratic model which postulates a series of presuppositions for its growth that go far beyond mere regime change. In our view democracy cannot be transplanted from abroad. It is first and foremost an internal process.
The proper internal conditions for democracy to function in Iraq will be created only in the context of a popular mobilization against the Iraqi junta, a mass movement that will be assisted by the West but not controlled by it. In the course of the struggle against oppression, the movement will acquire its political character. It will lead to the emergence of new grass-roots political institutions that will probably form the basis for Iraq’s future system of government. The masses of the Iraqi people will be able to obtain the invaluable experience that they lack in the function of proper democratic processes and train themselves in the active practice of popular rule. Most importantly they will find themselves in the position to actively use their cognitive resources in an imaginative and creative manner that will permit them to make an informed choice over the type of democracy under which they really want to live. Only by virtue of the militant pursuit of freedom will a radical break with Iraq’s authoritarian, Baathist past occur, generating the conditions for the transformation of Iraqi political culture and the raising of the political consciousness of the people. I also feel, that such a process of transformation ‘from below’ would bring about a new sense of unity among the Iraqi people, based on the common memory of an honorable struggle for national and social regeneration. Such unity would go beyond ethnic or religious differences, thereby containing the centrifugal forces that threaten to destabilize the area after the collapse of Saddam’s government.[15]
It should be clear from the above that the imposition of democracy by force of arms would result to the installment of a proxy regime, subservient to US and Western interests in general. And even if a significant degree of independence from US patronage could be secured, it would still be lacking the popular legitimacy that might allow it to govern freely and effectively. A relapse (?) to the conceptions of democracy that underlined anti-colonial, Islamic thinking is sure to follow. Democracy, in the eyes of the people, would come to be associated with tyranny, a Western product introduced as a tool for the neocolonial domination of Muslims.[16] Anti-Western radicalism, in the form of Islamic fundamentalism is sure to thrive in such an environment, while the foundations of the newly acquired democracy will look shaky indeed. Such an explosive situation might serve as a pretext for the US to prolong the military occupation of Iraq indefinitely.
This brings us to the question of the motives that lay behind the decision to invade Iraq. We have already seen that as regards the international dimension of a military intervention in Iraq, American claims cannot be made to hold. The likely repercussions of such an endeavor are the destabilization of the Middle East with far reaching consequences for the maintenance of world peace, the radicalization of Arab societies against the West and the throwing off balance of the integrated, global capitalist economy. How then can US officials suggest that undertaking a war in Iraq conforms to the desiderata of American national interest?
Only a narrow definition of national interest, which perceives security as coercion and as the extension of US power throughout the globe, can be used to provide a justification for war. In spite of the deafening silence that Arab governments have maintained in the face of the impending war, the impression that is predominant among Muslims of the lower social strata is that this new war is the second episode in an ongoing war of civilizations, a Christian crusade directed against the Islamic world as a whole. What has hitherto been the main security preoccupation in the War against Terrorism, namely the containment of transnational Islamic terrorism, will become far more difficult to accomplish since US militarism lends credence to the claims of Islamic radicals about an undeclared war going on between Muslims and the West. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism will be more difficult to arrest in a radicalized environment, where pro-Western political forces will have been marginalized and a new generation of Islamic militants espousing jihad and violence will perpetuate the threat directed against the security of Western societies.
On the home front, the impact of war consists in diverting the people’s attention away from the problems stemming from global economic recession, as well as allowing Bush to repay the financial support which he received by large segments of the US business sector during his electoral campaign, through the institution of policies designed to advance the interests of big capital and multinational corporations. National pride, which has been the rallying cry around which the Bush administration has managed to incite popular support at the wake of Sept.11, has contributed in the creation of a racist-chauvinist ideological climate, in which any attempt on criticism is suppressed on the pretext of patriotism and resistance automatically acquires the character of an act of treason. In the name of security new, anti-terrorist legislation has been passed that seriously infringes the liberties of American citizens. The perpetuation of the state of emergency allows Bush to consolidate Republican control over all instruments of government (Congress, Senate), and eclipse any institutionalized opposition by imposing a forced consensus of views among the upper political strata. Such a development will, in turn, create circumstances in which an even more radical shift to the right will become plausible, signified by the introduction of draconian measures that will lean heavily on civil rights legislation and will further limit the freedom of American citizens. These reactionary policies enable the US government to construct a more effective apparatus of control over the population, in view of the upcoming social upheavals and struggles that are sure to come in the face of growing poverty and inequality both on a national and an international scale. We may already observe the corrosive effect that this ‘institutionalization of repression’ has had upon the civic culture of both Britain and the US, in the fatalistic acceptance and moderation with which the presence of armored vehicles at Gatwick airport and the patrol of fighter planes over major US cities has been received by the majority of the population.
I wish to conclude this cursory examination of the Iraqi question, by briefly exploring the hypothesis that the emergence of American militarism, owes much to the transformation of US armed forces into a professional body. Nicollo Machiavelli’s reflections on whether a civilian army is preferable for the defense of a Republic over the employment of mercenary troops, will provide the theoretical basis for our argument. According to Machiavelli the defining feature that distinguishes citizen-republican militias from professional ones is that, “these groups will willingly wage war in order to have peace and will not seek to disturb peace in order to wage war”.[17] For him, the danger always exists when one employs mercenary soldiers, that the latter may eventually turn against the very city which hired them, or seek to create artificial crises and wars with external enemies that may allow them to remain in business. Expanding on Machiavelli’s argument we may claim that the abolition of the draft and the professionalization of the military, has severed the chord linking civic responsibility to the proper decision-making processes by which the decision to got to war is taken in a democracy, and has given rise to a professional body of military functionaries with corporatist mentality, with its own vested interests and professional aspirations, independent from those of the nation as a whole. The professional status of the army has served to foster a perfunctory, disinterested attitude towards war which rids citizens from the moral burden of sending their youngsters to the battlefield (‘its just a job’) and has largely immunized American society from reflecting upon considerations normally associated with war (‘who are we bombing?’, ‘why are we bombing them?’). The prevalent conception is that soldiers fight for this is what they do, and that they should be allowed to so in the absence of any civilian interference. After all, they are professionals; they know what they are doing. One of the great achievements of 20th century politicians was that they subordinated war to political considerations and created mechanisms for the exercise of political control over its conduct. The possibility of an inversion of this state of affairs in favor of the military-industrial complex is becoming more real with each step we take towards a war against Iraq, and this is a possibility against which the American people should stay on their guard.

[1] This is a question to which we intend to come back later in this work. We will argue that the preoccupation of the US government with ‘security’ is justifiable in view of Sept.11, but it has also provided it with a pretext for launching a set of policies both inside the US and in its relations with other states that will have precisely the inverse result. The extent to which the US government is likely to revise its shortsighted and undemocratic policies related to its War against Terrorism, is connected to the extent to which the institutionalization of repression that is currently taking place in the US actually serves to consolidate an administration that enjoyed marginal popular support in the initial period of its term in office and is still completely out of tune with the basic needs of the American people. It is my view, that what is being currently portrayed as the American national interest, in fact corresponds to no more than the interests of the American ruling elite.
[2] One is reminded here of Secretary of Defense McNamara’s rhetorical comment on the Vietnam War, when he contemplated the ‘discouraging truth’ that the American political system was not the “recipe, the catalyst, to educate, to inspire [the Vietnamese] into effective action”-“the only thing we can do is kill, he added”. In N.Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism (Nea Synora, Athens), p.165.
[3] There is a significant difference between the decontextualized use of war as police action within the structures of empire, as described by Hardt and Negri in their famous book, and the war the US are about to wage against Iraq. Here war, far from being “reduced to the status of police action” [Hardt & Negri, Empire (Harvard University Press, Cambridge), p.12], assumes the character of a heroic exploit with ethical overtones, and is employed as a political instrument with a profound impact upon domestic political developments in the US. Whereas Kosovo was a war aimed at the normalization of the internal functions of Empire, Iraq is a war aimed at disrupting and reconstituting those internal functions on a more centralized basis (US command). Under this light, those countries leading the international opposition to war, aim at defending the consultative mechanisms of Empire, in an effort not to see their power reduced. A plausible historical parallel might be drawn here, between the international situation we are experiencing today and the Homeric power struggles within the Roman Empire between Caesar and Senate for determining the nature of the Roman form of government.
[4] The question over UN inspections can be pursued even further and include a discussion of the legitimacy of the whole enterprise. Former UN inspector Scott Ritter has been quite frank on the use that the US made of the last inspections mission in Iraq for gathering intelligence and spying on the Iraqi regime. Ritter claimed that a significant power struggle took place, as UN envoys fought to prevent the infiltration of CIA operatives into the ranks of the inspections team, thus ensuring that the mission would be conducted in an impartial manner. Similar concerns can be raised, regarding the current inspections team and its ability to act independently of US influence. Moreover, one must guard against the possibility of demands being made on the Iraqi leadership that are impossible to meet, thus provoking an artificial crisis of non-compliance that would serve as a pretext for war. Indeed, there is nothing quite so impartial about the inspections project, given that the platform upon which they are being carried out has been formulated exclusively by Western powers (which materials are suspect, what constitutes an act of non-compliance). For instance, the US are currently estimated to possess nearly 10,000 nuclear warheads, while Israel has 400 nuclear warheads ready for deployment. Would any of these two countries acquiesce to a similar demand for an inspection of their arsenals? Iraq has done precisely that, yet it still stands accused of defying the UN’s authority. Let us not forget that the discord which exists between the dominant Western powers today, pertains more to the means (war or diplomacy) and less to the desired end (Saddam’s removal from power). See also T.Fotopoulos, Iraq: the Enormous Importance of an Impending Change in Elefthrotypia, 25/01/03.
[5] Applying diplomatic pressure to the Iraqi regime is one thing. It is quite another to follow a diplomatic path that will ineluctably lead to war. We must note that, chilling as the comparison might be, it is not the first time in history that such tactics have been employed by aggressors against a weaker state. A good case in point is Mussolini’s strategy of tension that led to the Italian invasion of Greece in 1940. The ‘success’ of Mussolini’s method rested on the combination of two maneuvers; making demands on the Greek government that, if met, would amount to an abdication of Greek independence and not giving Metaxas enough time to act, should he choose to accommodate Italy’s requests. For a first-hand account see Em.Gracci, The Beginning of the End (Hestia, 1980). Let it be said, that Mussolini too was confronted by a dictatorial regime that initially could not count on the broad support of the indigenous population. Yet, Italian aggression galvanized the Greek population and led them to get behind their government in their fight against the common enemy.
[6] The importance of the Republican Guard militia as to the maintenance and defense of the Iraqi regime cannot be overstated. The fanatical dedication of the members of this special corps to Saddam Hussein and his regime, owes to the selection process which postulates the existence of blood ties connecting a Republican Guard to a government functionary. For details see Time, pp.24-32, 13/05/03.
[7] M.Woollacott, Soon the military timetable will start to dictate events, The Guardian, 31/01/03.
[8] I am employing here a distinction between what I perceive as two separate strands of opposition to the regime, animated by two competing conceptions of political power. The popular Kurdish uprising that was crushed by Saddam represents in my view, a genuine grass roots movement, in touch with the needs and aspirations of the local population. On the contrary, the exiled Iraqi opposition consists in an aggregation of disparate groupings, united only in their hostility towards Saddam’s dictatorship and their pro-Western credentials. Perhaps this line of reasoning might help us understand why the West has chosen to support one political initiative over the other.
[9] This discord over tactics is underlined by a more fundamental disagreement as regards the methodology by which international terrorism might be combated. Opposition to a war against Iraq is grounded in the belief that an anti-terrorist strategy should not consist merely in the brutal repression of armed groups that are designated as ‘terrorist’, but should also include a correspondent strategy seeking to remedy the sociopolitical roots of terrorism at the national and international level. Bush’s strategy against terrorism seeks to counter the symptom, without attending to the underlying cause.
[10] Characteristically, we may note that the militants to whom Powell referred as central figures in the plot to set up an al-Qaeda cell in Iraq, have already been detained on terrorist related charges by other European intelligence agencies, who, upon hearing Powell’s suggestions, have emphatically denied the possibility of the detainees’ involvement in any operation to establish an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Iraq. For a vigorous criticism of the position Powell elaborated in the UN Security Council see…
[11] We are referring here to the secret meeting that ostensibly took place in Prague at the eve of the Sept.11 attacks, between a top Bin-Laden lieutenant and a senior official of the Iraqi secret service, which, according to the US proves that Iraq’s involvement in the operation reaches at the highest levels of government. So far, this meeting has been excessively debated, but hardly ever verified by any reliable evidence.
[12] The relationship between Bin-Laden and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan cannot be used for disproving our argument. Rather it only strengthens its logic further, since it was the Taliban who were dependent upon Bin-Laden’s vast financial resources for the building of infrastructure (mosques, hospitals) and for acquiring military equipment that would further entrench them in power. The offering of such critical assistance to the Taliban, was rewarded by awarding Bin-Laden the title of ‘formal guest of the regime’ (that is, offering him safe haven from international persecution) and allowing him to set up terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
[13] To be fair, one could refer to the New Terrorism paradigm in defense of Powell’s views on the connection between Ansar and al-Qaeda. According to Paul Wilkinson this new theoretical hypothesis seeks to explain the emergence of a new type of terrorist organization which operates by virtue of, “more amorphous and diffuse loosely connected nuclei inspired by spiritual mentors such as Sheikh Abd al-Rahman, operating as amateur ‘freelance’ groups to carry out specific operations. Many obtain their ideas and fuel their hate through the Internet. These ‘new’ terrorists take advantage of extensive private transnational financial support networks […]. They avoid links with state sponsors”. In P.Wilkinson. The Strategic Implications of Terrorism, However, one may express doubts as to whether the existence of a homogeneity of aims and tactics between Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaeda, can be used as a casus belli, that is, a sufficient grounds upon which to undertake military intervention against Iraq.
[14] Perhaps this may account for the stress laid by US military strategists not merely on ways of winning this campaign, but also on bringing it to as rapid a conclusion as possible.
[15] Franz Fanon was quite on the point when he wrote that, “Without that struggle, without that knowledge of the practice of action, there’s nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets. There’s nothing save a minimum of readaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag waving: and down thereat the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the Middle Ages, endlessly marking time”. In F.Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (Penguin Books, Middlesex), p.118.
[16] Similar unfavorable views of democracy pervade the political writings of such prominent Islamic thinkers as Muhammad Iqbal, Sayyid Qutb and others.
[17] In N.Machiavelli, The Art of War, The Portable Machiavelli (Penguin Books, Middlesex), p.496.

No comments: