What's Left

May 9, 2003

Round Three

By Stephen Gowans

Round three of the war on terrorism was kicked off yesterday when US President George W. Bush expressed concerns "that the Iranians may be developing a nuclear [weapons] program." [1]

Washington insists that Iran, whose rich deposits of oil and natural gas obviate the need for nuclear power plants, is building a uranium-enrichment facility to produce nuclear weapons, in contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This comes on the heels of the U.S. State Department on April 30th issuing its annual list of "state sponsors of terrorism," a list which includes Iran, as well as Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.

Cuba, a regular on the list--and a perennial target of US-sponsored terrorism--has reacted strenuously to its inclusion, pointing out quite reasonably that being tagged by Washington as a sponsor of terrorism adumbrates "possible military aggression" by Washington. [2]

Some, including the Wall Street Journal, dismiss the charge as a wild fantasy, complaining that, "Fidel spends every waking hour trying to convince Cubans that America wants to attack them." [3] The charge, however, is far from the flight of a febrile mind.

The US has declared a war on terrorism. It has already taken its war to two countries. It claims Cuba is a sponsor of terrorism. Put two and two together and it's plain that Cuba's turn is coming.

Now, Bush's expressing his concerns that Iran may be developing a nuclear weapons program has all the hallmarks of the beginning of another White House-orchestrated campaign aimed at terrifying Americans into supporting the invasion of another oil-rich Middle Eastern state. This is the umpteenth act in the long running saga, "The bogeyman is coming," whose list of previous (and current) villains includes the Russians, Khadafi, the Sandinistas (a two days march from the Texas border), Noreiga, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, and Saddam Hussein.

Recall that the first salvo in the war on terror followed the warning that al-Qaeda's terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan had to be uprooted, because Osama (who has since become stale-dated as a bogeyman), was out to get Americans and he needed to be stopped before he did any more damage.

Even so, the conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq has not, it seems, done the trick, for NATO has decided that the threat of terrorism is just as strong as ever. You can be sure that this menace will always be deemed to be as strong as ever, no matter how many sponsors of terrorism are struck off the State Department's list. Gosh, marvelled a senior Bush adminstration official, "On Sept. 11, we woke up and found ourselves in Central Asia. We found ourselves in Eastern Europe as never before, as the gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East." [4] Bogeymen allow that to happen. They are, accordingly, indispensable.

Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan, undertaken without UN authorization, grim warnings about Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction began to trickle into the press, eventually working their way into an angry and frightening torrent. Saddam had to be stopped, before he began ushering terrorists bearing shopping lists into his vast warehouses of deadly chemical, biological and radiological weapons (all of which, we're now to believe, were destroyed on the eve of the Anglo-American invasion, this being a new development in military strategy: destroy all your best weapons just before the enemy attacks.)

And now the campaign is about to be replayed, only this time the hobgoblin is Iran, and Bush's expressing concerns about Iran possibly having a nuclear weapons program is just the start of what may, in time, become an angry and frightening torrent of stories about Tehran's menace to the peace and security of civilization.  "Our concern is about the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by a state that's a known supporter of terrorism," said U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. [5] Hmmm. This seems to have a familiar ring to it.

There have been plenty of other hints that Iran, if not next, is close to being next.

Two down, four to go -- five, if you count China as a long term objective.

To be sure, China's leaders are now convinced that Washington will instigate a confrontation, sooner rather than later. "Chinese strategists...believe that if the US can score a relatively quick victory over Baghdad, it will soon turn to Asia to control it and begin efforts to tame China." [9]  This, like the Wall Street Journal's charge that Cuban leader Fidel Castro is fabricating US military threats to justify a crackdown on dissidents, will be dismissed as an overreaction, but it's difficult to see how much more evidence is needed of Washington's vast imperial ambitions and its willingness to use its equally vast military resources to pursue them.

Militarily, the US is in a strong position to set jackboots (an allusion that seems less and less rhetorical everyday) marching on Tehran. The Pentagon's new footholds in Iraq and Afghanistan mean Iran is virtually surrounded, and vulnerable to an attack by the US, and its faithful lapdog, the UK.

Whether Iran has a nuclear weapons program is unclear, though in the face of Washington's manifest predatory intentions, it would be neither irrational or unexpected for the country to be secretly laboring to produce a nuclear deterrent.

Washington's resurrecting the Nazi strategy of preventive war (we'll attack whoever we please on grounds we're preventing a possible future threat, provoking Cuba to decry the doctrine quite correctly as "Nazi-fascist"), guarantees that some of its targets will either disarm in hopes of convincing world opinion that no threat exists and that an attack should not go ahead, or will assume a threatening defensive posture, in an attempt to deter an invasion.

Given that Washington has, in the case of Iraq, demonstrated that it is steadfast in its intentions to replace the governments on its list with puppet regimes, whether the target country is a real threat or not, and in complete defiance of world opinion (a much overrated second superpower), it's doubtful that the remaining countries on Washington's hit list will be keen to continue to respect the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or whatever similar bans obligate them to refrain from developing weapons of mass destruction.

There is, of course, a huge difference between possessing banned weapons to deter a US threat, and using them in a first strike. Indeed, so vast is the US armamentarium that it would be suicidally insane for North Korea--to cite one frequently used example--to fire a nuclear-tipped ICBM at Hawaii, an entirely improbable scenario whose utter absurdity does not prevent it from being presented quite seriously in the American press.

It should strike a reasonably intelligent 13-year old as odd that the United States, the greatest military power in history, should find itself in a state of constant peril, threatened by military pip-squeaks. It doesn't add up, or does, in the US, but in the US alone.

Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Libya, without weapons of mass destruction, are no material threat to the US.

At the same time, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Libya, with a few weapons of mass destruction, are no material threat to the American people. They are, however, so equipped, threats to the imperialist designs of a US elite intent on spreading its dominion over the globe.

Americans should ask themselves who is really a threat to who.

1. "Bush fires first salvo in bid to halt Iran's nuclear program," The Globe and Mail, May 9, 2003.

2. "Cuba angrily rejects U.S. terrorist label, Reuters, May 8, 2003.

3.  "Fidel's Die-Hards," The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2003.

4. "Pentagon expects long teem access to four key bases in Iraq," The New York Times, April 19, 2003.

5. "Bush fires first salvo in bid to halt Iran's nuclear program," The Globe and Mail, May 9, 2003.

6. "Pre-emption: Idea With a Lineage Whose Time Has Come," The New York Times,  March 23, 2003.

7. "U.S. Tells Iran, Syria, N. Korea 'Learn from Iraq," Reuters, April 9, 2003.

8. "Iran to be US next target: CIA report," Pak Tribune (Online) March 24, 2003.

9.  "After Iraq, US may turn to China: Analysts," HindustanTimes.com, Press Trust of India, March 26, 2003.


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