What's Left

November 11, 2002

Compliance or not, Saddam's ouster inevitable

By Stephen Gowans

What are the chances war with Iraq will be averted?

Not very good.

There's only one way out:  Saddam Hussein steps down, handing Iraq over to Washington. Short of that, war--or, to be more precise, a US-led slaughter -- is inevitable.

To see why, imagine that (a) Iraq is already disarmed or (b) that it isn't, but fully complies with the latest Security Council Resolution, and that (c) it can reasonably do so within the allotted time (unlikely). Assume further that (d) Washington doesn't play games, lying that it has intelligence to show that Baghdad hasn't fully disclosed its weapons programs (assuming Baghdad has.) This too is unlikely, but let's assume there are no Washington shenanigans.

This, other than Saddam willingly ceding control of the country and its oil fields to Washington, is the most optimistic scenario for averting war. So, if it happens, what then? Does Washington order the Pentagon to shelve its invasion plans?


And that's because the US objective isn't disarmament; it's regime change.

"U.S policy, approved by Congress and backed by the Clinton and Bush administrations, calls for 'regime change' in Iraq -- a phrase widely interpreted to require the ouster of Mr. Hussein." (Globe and Mail, October 22, 2002.)

Washington's reasoning goes like this: If Saddam Hussein disarms, what will stop him from rearming? The only way to remove the threat, is to remove Hussein himself.

"I think regime change will be the result of disarmament," commented White House Chief of Staff Andrew H Card, adding "and regime change may have to be the means of disarmament." (Globe and Mail, Nov. 11, 2002)  In other words, the only way to gaurantee Iraq has disarmed, and stays disarmed, is to oust Hussein.

That's the official line, but it's doubtful that disarming Iraq is the real reason Washington insists on ushering the Iraqi leader into an early grave or a prison cell.

For one, Iraq doesn't live up to its billing as an imminent threat to the United States. When UN arms inspectors were withdrawn in 1998, the country was effectively disarmed, according to former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

And smothered by a sanctions regime, it's highly unlikely Baghdad has been able to rearm in the meantime.

What's more, the besieged country doesn't have the means to target the United States with weapons of mass destruction, and it knows that if it did, it would be obliterated in a instant.

As to Saddam Hussein being a despicable character, when has Washington ever had trouble with despicable leaders? It didn't have trouble with Saddam when he was waging war against Iran, or gassing his own people.

So, there are three problems with the administration's claim: Iraq hasn't the means to attack the US, it's very unlikely to have the motivation, and Washington has never had trouble with thugs, creeps, and dictators, its preferences leaning more to backing them than opposing them.

And months of efforts to tie Iraq to al-Qaeda have failed (the two hate each other.) Which may be why Bush talks in vague terms nowadays about what could be and might be.

Warned Bush last week, "[An] al-Qaeda type network, trained and armed by Saddam, could attack America. If we don't do something, he might attack us."

Liechtenstein could attack America too, but it won't for the same reasons Iraq won't. It would be blotted out in a heart beat.

And the chances that Iraq and al-Qaeda are linked are about as good as the chances an al-Qaeda type network, trained and armed by Liechtenstein, could attack America.

Still, if Bush said Liechtenstein is a threat, you can bet that the US media would uncritically accept the absurdity, and a good part of the American population would believe it.

Bush's reasoning reeks of the deliberate manipulation pointed to in a quotation by Herman Goering making the rounds of the Internet.

"Why of course the people don't want war. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

I don't know whether Goering actually said this or not, but the quotation makes a point: It's easy to frighten people into accepting war as necessary. And Bush is no slouch when it comes to fabricating horror stories.

All that matters is that the horror stories be told. Contradictions are soon forgotten.

Forgotten already is a CIA report which discounted the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein would attack America. On the contrary, the spook agency warned, if America attacks first, Iraqi retaliation may be in the cards. Otherwise, don't expect Iraq to do anything to invite the wrath of a country that owns the world's largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and has a track record of using them.

No, the true reason regime change is being sought is more likely to be the ousting of a leader who stands between Washington's aim of securing complete control of the Middle East and its achievement. Getting there means whipping up fear about attacks that could (and almost certainly wouldn't) come one day.

Can the growing antiwar movement stop the looming attack?

While tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of Europeans and North Americans have expressed their opposition to the impending US attack by taking to the streets, it's doubtful that protests alone are enough.

Western democracies allow their citizens to voice their opposition, but they rarely bend to their citizens' views.
"Political leadership," that exalted quality in the West, is the art of being able to manufacture consent for, or at least acquiescence to, policies that are formulated and executed without regard to public opinion. A leader's job is to see to it that policy goals are achieved without all hell breaking loose. And so far, while large scale protests and other expressions of opposition have been mounted, they haven't reached the point of being disruptive.

Bush, whose leadership qualities are now widely admired, knows that he can press on, unmolested for the most part, at worst having to contend with people thronging the streets in orderly protests every now and then, the protests largely ignored by the media, and known more for the fire they draw from people on the "left" than from conservatives and hawks. Washington should accommodate this opposition; it won't.

Nor, unfortunately, will it alter its plans if Iraq fully complies with the latest Security Council Resolution, assuming Iraq's allowed to, or reasonably can comply.

Regime change is what Washington wants, and regime change it will get, even if it means numberless Iraqis are obliterated, and even if it means numberless Americans are opposed.

With democracy and the right (of Iraqis) to life, liberty, and happiness counting for so little, maybe those who say the antiwar movement, not the hawks, are the true patriots, are right after all.


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