What's Left

August 25, 2003

Dependent as ever on war and its booty

By Stephen Gowans

A mountain of evidence that the war on Iraq was carried out for entirely specious reasons is hardly daunting to true believers. They carry on.

"We have lost many brave soldiers in an effort to free the Iraqi people from the tyrant Saddam Hussein, keep the world safe and preserve freedom for everyone," writes Mark Halle, from Manchester, New Hampshire.

But the war that was supposed to be fought to uncover and destroy Saddam Hussein's fabled weapons of mass destruction, has failed, for no weapons have been found. Which is why Halle, and others, have fallen back on liberation, and keeping the world safe and free, as the reasons for the war on Iraq, even though these were never cited as reasons before the war.

The war, a one-sided assault by the world's most powerful military on a defenseless Third World country, battered by two previous wars and over a decade of crippling sanctions, was a brazen affront to international law, and to the rather humble idea that you don't carry out unprovoked attacks on other countries. Eight thousand Iraqis have been killed and 20,000 injured, according to an analysis of 300 press reports by the Iraq Body Count Project (1).

Boosters of the war, when pushed far enough, will almost always play their trump card, pointing to the deaths of 3,000 on Sept 11, 2001, as if this somehow gives the Pentagon and its British juniors licence to jackboot around the world, killing and injuring many more thousands.

To these true believers, the actions of their government come first, the justifications second. There's always an apparently legitimate excuse for wars of conquest -- no matter how unconvincing.

The need to deprive Saddam of weapons of mass destruction is no longer an excuse. Not anymore.

The inquiry into the death of British Ministry of Defence scientist David Kelly, and complaints from members of the US intelligence community, make clear that Bush and his British junior used a combination of pressure, spin, and deliberate deception, to turn the absence of a material threat, into a menacing and imminent threat, to justify the take-over of Iraq.

Blair's staff complained that the evidence assembled by the British intelligence community failed to establish either Iraq's capability or its intent to threaten the UK and its allies. Philip Basset, an adviser to Blair's communication director, Alastair Campbell, warned of the intelligence: "Very long way to go I think. Think we are in a lot of trouble with this the way it stands now." (2)

A very long way to go I think...to arrive at a halfway credible pretext for war.

Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell said that he had warned Blair on Sept. 17th that it would be wrong to say Iraq posed an imminent threat, but Blair, never one to shy away from paltering with the truth, presented his dossier to Parliament a week later, declaring that Iraq was a "current and serious threat." (3)

The media legitimized these fallacious claims, shying away from sceptical analyses, and relying on "experts" whose insights turned out to be nothing more that the brainless aping of lies Washington and London crafted. (4)

Kenneth Pollack, a Brookings Insititution expert, and a former CIA analyst, assured television viewers that there was no doubt Saddam was hiding banned weapons, but when weapons weren't found, defended his assessment by saying he had simply repeated "the consensus of opinion among the intelligence community." (5) That was me "parroting the claims of so-called experts," he added (6).

One expert repeated what another expert said, who repeated what another expert said, who repeated what another expert said, and so on. The original experts turned out to be not experts at all but people like Basset in London who were folding, twisting, and manipulating intelligence data until it said what they wanted it to say.

David Albright, a former UN inspector who was widely relied on by the media as an expert on Iraq's weapons, was another link in the same chain. In Albright's view, there was no question that Iraq had banned weapons. But when the weapons failed to turn up, Albright expressed anger. "I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons," he admitted. "I figured they were telling the truth. [If no banned weapons are found] I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance." (7)

Today, in Iraq, it's clear the US and British occupation forces, too small to keep a lid on the roiling waters of Iraqi resentment and anger, are regarded for what they are -- an occupation force, not liberators, notwithstanding Mr. Halle's fantasies. Washington's efforts to draw other countries into the quagmire to secure its occupation have so far failed. France and Russia refuse to participate unless they (that is, their large corporations) are given a share of the spoils. Washington demurs. Reconstruction contracts have been doled out to American, British and Israeli firms, who will be paid handsomely from the proceeds of the sale of Iraqi oil, which Iraqis nominally own but have no say over. The war wasn't fought to enrich French and Russian corporations.

Iraqis also nominally own their own country, but have no say over the nature of the new economy (it will be a market-based economy dominated by Wall Street), the character of the school system, police force and army being set up by US firms, or the laws that are being formulated, rubber-stamped by a governing council hand-picked by the US overseer, the new dictator.

Elsewhere, Afghanistan, where thousands were bombed to death, remains as mired in civil war among backward, religious fundamentalists as it ever was, despite the claim the US was liberating Afghans from the tyranny of the Taliban's harsh religious rule.

Little has changed, but this: US military bases now dot the oil rich Caspian Basin region, and Washington has installed its own man in Kabul. Plus, the Pentagon's NATO jannisaries -- having torn up their original charter and found a new lease on life -- have taken on the task of constabulary duty, freeing up the Pentagon's own forces for operations aimed at pushing back the empire's frontiers elsewhere, which means expanding the gamut of investment and resource extraction opportunities for US corporations.

The price comes cheap or high depending on who you are. Thousands of desperately poor denizens of the Third World are dead, while others have lost limbs and parents and children. But Washington is more firmly in control, US investors are sitting on bigger investment opportunities, and the American economy -- kept alive on an IV drip of military Keynsianism -- chugs on, as dependent as ever on war and its booty.

1. "Adding Indifference to Injury: At Least 20,000 Civilians Injured in Iraq War," Counterpunch, www.counterpunch.org August 7, 2003.

2. Warren Hoge, "Probe exposes Blair's information control," The Globe and Mail, August 25, 2003, from the New York Times Service, with a report from AP

3. Ibid.

4. See Seth Ackerman, "The Great WMD Hunt: The media knew they were there--but where are they?" Extra, July/August 2003.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

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