What's Left
August 6, 2002

Country with the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction threatens another war

By Stephen Gowans

It has led a sanctions regime against Iraq that, according to the UN, has killed more than half a million Iraqi children. Sanctions have "contributed to more deaths during the post Cold War era than all the weapons of mass destruction throughout history," observe political scientists John and Karl Mueller.

It has the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. And a substantiated threat: it is the only country to have ever used atomic weapons.

What's more, it has a long history of mass destruction, destroying millions of the world's poor through campaigns of carpet bombing, in Korea, in Indochina, and in prolonged bombing campaigns in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

How sadly ironic, then, that 57 years after it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this very same country, armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction, is preparing to wage all out war against a devastated country it has attacked and besieged for over a decade. Why? Because, we're told, the victim might acquire what the aggressor has in spades -- weapons of mass destruction.

"If you wait for a threat to develop, you've waited too long," says US President George W. Bush. By Bush's logic, it's perfectly acceptable to walk down the street and empty the magazine of an assault rifle into a passer-by who refuses to get off the sidewalk, his refusal to submit being evidence of a potential threat.

"I call it self-defense," says US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

I call it naked aggression.

"The greatest danger," says William Shawcross of the International Crisis Group, "is to allow this evil man to remain indefinitely in power, scorning the United Nations and posing a growing threat to the world."
He could have been talking about Bush or Rumsfeld: scorning international law, posing a growing threat to the world; it fits. But he was talking about Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein.

Not an analyst, but a propagandist who beats the drums of war, Shawcross describes Hussein as evil, diabolical, ruthless, intolerable, dangerous and immoral, words used to drum up support for a US foreign policy that is evil, diabolical, ruthless, intolerable, dangerous and immoral.

This, as all wars, is being framed as a war of good vs. evil, but the good guys are hardly good. In their pursuit (as the late Walter Rockler, a prosecutor at Nuremberg, put it) of a "course of raw imperialism run amok," they're no different from the Nazis.

"As a primary source of international law" wrote Rockler, "the judgement of the Nuremberg Tribunal in the 1945-1946 case of the major Nazi war criminals is plain and clear. Our leaders often invoke and praise that judgement, but obviously have not read it."

The International Court declared:

"To initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
But these days, Washington has given up even the pretence of following international law, let alone the Nuremberg judgement. Instead, it claims to be engaged in a titanic struggle against evil.  The Nazis too crafted lofty arguments to justify their wars of aggression.

In 1947, John Flynn remarked that, "The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells."

Last week, Senator Richard Lugar said, "As part of our plan for Iraq, in addition to identifying the political leadership and the coalition and building democracy, we're going to run the oil business...we're going to run it well, we're going to make money, and it's going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq."

A war against evil? Or a war of evil? And oil? And power?

In 1957, Dr. Jan Van Stolk, now a retired physician living in British Columbia, was introduced to two young women who survived the Hiroshima blast. He recalled the meeting:

"I'm dumbfounded. Two human-beings, two young women. They were four and five when the Bomb dropped. They look like monsters and I'm supposed to examine them. Mitsu has no ear-lobes left, her face is a mass of scars, her eyes are constantly watering, her nose is two holes, her hands are claws. Aya's back is a patchwork of . . . I don't know what. Her mouth is pulled to one side by the big scars on her face. Her hands and fingers are also contracted and look like claws. Most of her head is bald. One ear-lobe is gone too.

"I don't quite know what happened next. I became upset....Something must have shown on my face, because Mitsu reached out, and with her claw-like hand she stroked me and said, 'It isn't your fault.'

"Was Mitsu right? Maybe it isn't our fault. But isn't it our responsibility? As The Power of Now author Eckhart Tolle said: 'Don't we belong to this human race, this species, which has managed to kill, in one century, nearly 150 million of its own.'"

Fifty-seven years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated, it's fitting to remember Mitsu and Aya. And also the Iraqis who will -- who have already -- suffered at the hands of a country that stockpiles weapons of mass destruction, and uses them; whose former Secretary of State said that the sanctions-related deaths of hundreds of thousands of children was regrettable, but "worth it."

We should also remember the 150 million who died in the last century's wars, many in places with names like Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan.

And we should remember something else: the words of the Nuremberg judgement:

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience." They have a duty "to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."

Another crime against peace and humanity is about to happen.

We have a duty.


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