BEFORE THE WAR
By IGNACIO RAMONET
ALL the indications are that we shall soon have a war between the United States, with some of its vassals, and Iraq. Formidable land, sea and air forces have been organised, the logistics are in place, the television cameras are ready to roll, the order to begin hostilities will not be delayed long. But there is still nothing under the international rule of law to justify this aggression. The inspectors sent by the United Nations to find potential weapons of mass destruction have nothing to show for their efforts. The report that they submitted to the UN on 27 January was inconclusive, as were the charges made by Colin Powell before the UN on 5 February. No credible link has been established between Baghdad and Islamist terror networks, in particular al-Qaida, which was responsible for attacks on the US on 11 September 2001. World opinion is still calling for solid proof to justify war.
The Iraqi regime is odious, and Saddam Hussein an autocrat who has shown no hesitation in massacring his own people, even using poison gas against them, banned under international treaties. But does this justify a "preventive war"? He is, alas, hardly the world's only such tyrant. During the 1980s Washington had no scruples about supporting Saddam when it suited US interests, along with Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, the Shah in Iran, Somoza in Nicaragua, Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in San Domingo, Pinochet in Chile and Mobutu in Congo-Zaire. Some of the bloodiest tyrants are still supported by the US: Teodoro Obiang (1) of Equatorial Guinea (2) was received with full honours by President Bush in September 2002.
In the face of the double standards of the US, even its long-standing allies are proving unwilling to support the war against Iraq. In a move that was almost insubordinate, France and Germany announced in January that there was insufficient evidence to justify armed intervention. They have called for the UN inspectors to be allowed to continue their work until there can be no doubt about Baghdad's possession of weapons of mass destruction. And they have said that, whatever the outcome, any use of force against Iraq must be explicitly authorised by a new Security Council resolution. France has not excluded the possibility of using its veto in the Council if necessary. This Franco-German position seems to have encouraged Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council, to adopt less timid positions and support the call for a new resolution.
All this has powerfully irritated Washington, which has been furious with both Berlin and Paris, accusing them of disloyalty. But the resisttance seems not to have altered US intentions about invading Iraq. Secretary of State Colin Powell, arriving at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January, had confirmed that the US could count on a dozen friendly countries, which he thought would be more than enough to make up an international coalition against Iraq.
The world is still questioning the real reasons for this military intervention. At the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, which brought together activists from all around the world, all the discussions reflected this concern. Many present - among them Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali, Naomi Klein, Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Eduardo Galeano - said it was absurd, if not criminal, to spend billions of dollars on this seemingly unjustified war, when it could be far more usefully spent on education, health, food, housing and literacy for the 3 billion poor people on Earth. This was also the message sent, in the name of the world's disinherited, by Brazil's new president, Lula da Silva, to the masters of the world meeting at Davos.
Many people believe that the only reason for this war is oil, and the control of one of the world's largest reserves of it. As a strategy this seems to confirm the new imperial arrogance of the US, an arbitrary action taken by the rich and powerful that could turn out to be disastrous in geopolitical and human terms (there will be thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of immediate victims of the war). The war is sought by a clique of extreme rightwing hawks surrounding President Bush - including Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Jack D Crouch, John R Bolton - all men drunk on power, who imagine that there is a military solution to every political, economic or social problem.
(1) General Obiang, who came to power by a coup in 1979, was "re-elected" to a seven-year mandate on 15 December 2002, with 97.1% of the vote.
(2) See Jean-Christophe Servant, "Unpatriotic opposition", Le Monde diplomatique, English language edition, January 2003.
Translated by Ed Emery
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