Total control, not self-defense, behind US plans to topple Saddam
By Stephen Gowans
"The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change," said US Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was talking about Iraq, but he could have been talking about any country. The US not only reserves the right to change regimes it doesn't like, it has been actively doing so for decades. Saddam Hussein's regime simply stands at the summit of a long line of nationalist, socialist and communist regimes the United States has sought to topple, in favor of installing pro-US, pro-capitalist, quisling governments.
For months after Sept. 11, Washington sought desperately to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, to justify all out war on the devastated country. But no link could be found.
That, however, didn't stop President George W. Bush from preparing the way for more devastation by calling Iraq one of the "axis of evil" countries, along with North Korea and Iran.
Iraq, Bush said, intends the US harm. But in Washington's Orwellian world of war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength, it is the opposite that's true.
US and British fighter pilots fly almost daily sorties over Iraq, enforcing "no fly zones." Dozens, if not hundreds, of Iraqi civilians have been killed. And the no-fly zones have no basis in international law. They've been unilaterally imposed by Washington.
During the Gulf War, coalition forces bombed Iraq's eight multipurpose dams, destroying flood control systems, irrigation, municipal and industrial water storage, and hydroelectric power. Major pumping stations were targeted, and municipal water and sewage facilities were destroyed.
Article 54 of the Geneva Convention prohibits attacks on "drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works."
The United States knew sanctions would prevent Iraq from rebuilding, and that epidemics would ensue.
One recently declassified document, brought to light by Thomas Nagy, a business professor at George Washington University, warned that sanctions would prevent Iraq from importing "water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals" leading to "increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."
Another document listed the most likely diseases: "diarrheal diseases (particularly children); acute respiratory illnesses (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis A (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis, including meningococcal (particularly children); cholera (possible, but less likely.)"
After more than a decade of sanctions, well over a million Iraqis are dead from preventable causes. Over 4,000 Iraqi children die every month from typhoid, hepatitis, pertusis and other sanctions-related diseases, just as Washington predicted.
And yet, despite a decade of unremitting US hostility, aggression, and a near-genocide, George W. Bush wants to escalate the aggression, create more suffering, and usher more children into graves.
Bush says he needs to put a stop to Saddam Hussein's weapons program, but that's mendacious.
American Scott Ritter, a former U.N. arms inspector, claims that Iraq is effectively disarmed, and has been for some time. And it's difficult to imagine how a country that's been besieged and under attack for over 10 years, could be building weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, Israel, a US ally in the region, is widely believed to have an arsenal of 200 nuclear weapons. A recent report claims Israel may have as many as 500 warheads. While in violation of countless U.N. Resolutions ordering its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, Israel faces no sanctions and no order to disarm. Amnesty International, which has warned that Israel's crackdown on the latest Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, borders on war crimes, condemned Tel Aviv for its "utter disregard for human life in the Occupied Territories" and for its violations of international law. And yet even calls for intervention as mild as placing international observers in the Occupied Territories have been rebuffed.
The Gulf War erupted after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait. After the war, the United Nations imposed sanctions, ordering Iraq to disarm. Iraq's violation of international law in invading its neighbor was cited for the harsh treatment. But critics of the policy say that punishment for violations of international law are being meted out unevenly and hypocritically. Israel's innumerable transgressions go unpunished, while governments that have fallen out with Washington, often over investment or debt repayment issues, are treated severely.
Moreover, the United States itself has a long track record of violating international law. Washington's undermining of Iraq's water treatment and sanitation facilities in violation of the Geneva Convention is just one of many recent transgressions, including the bombing of Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and the continued bombing of Iraq. And the imprisonment of Afghan soldiers at Guantanamo Bay flagrantly violates the Geneva Convention. Never has the designation "rogue nation" been more deserved than in the case of the US.
US-led NATO forces also targeted civilian infrastructure in Yugoslavia. At one point, US Air Force General Michael Short explained that NATO's bombing campaign was aimed at causing misery in the civilian population. "If you wake up in the morning," said Short, "and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, 'Hey, Slobo, what's this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?"
Short's explanation of US strategy pretty much adds up to a dictionary definition of terrorism. So, which is the terrorist state -- the US or Iraq?
And Powell has exposed Bush's lie. Even if UN arms inspectors are allowed back into the country to dismantle whatever weapons of mass destruction might be laying around (of which there are likely to be none,) Washington has no intention of backing off plans to change the Iraqi regime. Powell said, "'US policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad."
Ritter says that when he was UNSCOM's chief inspector, dozens of US Special Forces and CIA operatives masqueraded as arms inspectors. When Baghdad learned UNSCOM was being used as a cover for US intelligence, it stopped fully co-operating with arms inspectors. At that point, former US president Bill Clinton decided to launch a new round of bombing, and the UN withdrew its inspectors (and the American spies.)
Last month Bush directed the CIA to topple Hussein's government, using whatever means necessary, including assassination. 'Now that Bush has specifically authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Hussein," remarked Ritter, "the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq, regardless of any assurances the U.N. secretary-general might give."
Washington doesn't really care whether Iraq allows inspectors back into the country or not. It simply wants to exercise its "right" to control any country it -- and the corporate interests it represents -- deem to be of commercial or geostrategic interest. And Iraq, having the world's second largest reserves of oil, is of immense importance. The same, however, cannot be said of Iraqis, tens of thousands of whom will die if Bush launches all out war. But then, the US government has had over a decade to demonstrate that the wholesale death of ordinary Iraqis is of little moment. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright even said the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children every month was "worth it."
For that, the US government deserves to be called what it is. Not only the world's greatest rogue, but also the world's greatest killing machine; ugly, vicious, violent, a country that has slaughtered millions upon millions of the world's poor and wretched for the crime of sitting atop coveted resources, for seeking to live free from subordination by colonial masters, for trying to achieve a measure of economic independence. There is no force in the world today more thoroughly corrupted by greed and lust for power, more capable of mass destruction, more inhumane, and few more retrograde, than the US government, the corporate interests it serves, and the cabal of political appointees who've decided that now is the moment to secure total control of the planet in the name of American dictatorship.
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