On the U.S.-British Occupation of Iraq
Bush and Blair Take the First Step Toward Reconquest of the Middle East
by Tom Barrett
From the first threats made by the United States against Iraq in 2002, nothing about this war has made sense. And now, with U.S. troops occupying Baghdad and British troops occupying Basra, a fact accomplished in about three weeks, people all over the world are wondering, “What just happened here?”
Only a very few people on this planet know how the U.S.–U.K. alliance achieved its blitzkrieg victory, and this correspondent is not one of them. One who possibly does is Saddam Hussein, who seems to have disappeared into thin air. All we have is circumstantial evidence, speculation, and a whirlwind of rumors circulating throughout the Arab world. Was Saddam Hussein killed along with his two sons by a U.S. bomb? Did the Saudis succeed in brokering a deal between Bush and Saddam, in which Saddam gave up his country for a comfortable exile? Why did Iraqi resistance, which was surprisingly strong in the southern regions of the country during the first two weeks of the war, suddenly stop?
On May 1 (an ironic date), Bush declared that major combat was completed in his misnamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” but he did not declare victory or even an end to the war. Airmen and sailors are coming home, but as yet most of the Army soldiers and Marines are continuing to occupy Iraq.
Only one thing appears certain: the U.S. government is hiding the truth from the working people of this country. How successful they can be in this age of the internet and global news services, such as the Qatar-based satellite TV network al-Jazireh, remains to be seen. The Bush administration has promoted an image of this war as a video game, in which the bad guys have been obliterated by “shock and awe” firepower. And the U.S.-based media, both the major networks and the cable television news services, have hidden death and suffering from their audiences.
In the nearly twelve months of build-up to this war, the Bush administration has openly lied, hidden and distorted the truth, and exploited ignorance and racism in an attempt to rally public support behind a military attack on Iraq. What is surprising is not that a capitalist government would do such a thing, but how ineffective its deception actually was. Though opinion polls indicated that a majority of Americans supported military action against Iraq (depending, of course, on how the questions were phrased), support for “Gulf War II” was not nearly as strong as it was for George Bush the Elder’s “Gulf War I.”
Actually, most popular support for the war was based on a lie that even Bush’s loyal lieutenants could not defend: the accusation that the Iraqi government was involved with the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Evidence published widely in both print and broadcast media showed conclusively that not only was Saddam Hussein not in any way involved with September 11, but that Usama bin Ladin considered him to be an “infidel” because he was a secular nationalist rather than an Islamic theocrat. Any investigation of Arab history and politics showed that in no way could there be a connection between Saddam’s Ba’athist movement and bin Ladin’s al-Qa’ideh network. Nevertheless, even though the Bush administration denied accusing Iraq of being involved with the September 11 attacks, they continued to postulate a connection between the Baghdad government and al-Qa’ideh, usually based on one of bin Ladin’s associates receiving medical treatment in Iraq.
Though the Bush administration would strenuously deny it, it has built its support for its war policies and “antiterrorism” measures on a foundation of anti-Arab and anti-Islamic racism. It has not responded to Christian fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham, the preacher who called on God to bless the first hydrogen bombs), who have made comments that Islam is a terrorist religion. It has done little to put a stop to racial profiling by the airlines and law enforcement agencies, which have targeted Arabs, Turks, Pakistanis, and other Muslims for special surveillance as potential “terrorists.” And when all is said and done, only the logic of racism can enable anyone to link Saddam Hussein and bin Ladin, with the notion that all Arabs and all Muslims belong to an “axis of evil.” Administration spokespeople on the Sunday morning talk shows can deny all they like: talk to anyone with an American flag bumper sticker or a yellow ribbon on his lamppost, and there can be no doubt about the ugly racist undercurrent flowing just below the surface of support for this war.
But of all the lies this administration has told, the most glaring has been its basic pretext for military action: Iraq’s possession of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” — that is, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. At this writing, over four weeks after the capture of Baghdad and the disappearance of Saddam Hussein, over four weeks after U.S. and British forces have taken complete control of Iraq, no such weapons have been found. During the course of the war, when Saddam Hussein’s power and even his life were in question, no such weapons were used, and no one has ever doubted that Saddam Hussein had any hesitation about using such terrible weapons on anyone.
There is a big contradiction here that ultimately the Bush administration will be unable to resolve: if the U.S. and U.K. were able to “take Saddam out” so easily and so quickly, then how could Iraq have been such a threat to American and British security? After all, countries in the region, including countries which share borders with Iraq, did not feel threatened, including Iran, which fought a ten-year war against Iraq, instigated by this same Saddam Hussein. Iraq had no friends whatsoever among its Middle Eastern neighbors, and yet none joined the Bush-Blair “coalition of the willing.”
If one seeks proof that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice have been lying about the threat of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” one needs look no further than retired Marine Major Scott Ritter, who served as the UN’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. A self-described conservative Republican, who served in Gulf War I as a Marine intelligence officer and voted for Bush in the 2000 election, Ritter has no reason to lie. But he is blowing the whistle on this administration’s lies, and he has been one of the most eloquent speakers in opposition to Gulf War II. He has the evidence to prove the truth of his assertions.
He also has no love for Saddam Hussein, whom he calls a brutal dictator. Unfortunately, Ritter’s description of the Iraqi president is accurate. And even worse, his rise to power — and his acquisition of an arsenal of deadly chemical and biological weapons — was facilitated by none other than the United States of America.
Christopher Dickey and Evan Thomas, writing in Newsweek in September 2002, say the following:
The history of America's relations with Saddam is one of the sorrier tales in American foreign policy. Time and again, America turned a blind eye to Saddam's predations, saw him as the lesser evil or flinched at the chance to unseat him. No single policymaker or administration deserves blame for creating, or at least tolerating, a monster; many of their decisions seemed reasonable at the time. Even so, there are moments in this clumsy dance with the Devil that make one cringe. It is hard to believe that, during most of the 1980s, America knowingly permitted the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission to import bacterial cultures that might be used to build biological weapons. But it happened.
And in 1983 the Reagan administration’s Middle East envoy was sent to Baghdad to sit down with Saddam Hussein and offer assistance in his murderous war against Iran. That envoy was none other than Donald Rumsfeld.
Ritter acknowledges freely that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq was well on its way to developing nuclear weapons. Most of the weapons and technology that Iraq had were supplied by France, Germany, and the U.K., and to a lesser extent the United States, during its war with Iran. However, Ritter, in his capacity as senior weapons inspector, saw the destruction of these capabilities. In an interview with LA Weekly he says the following about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program:
Clearly Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. Of the four categories of prohibited weapons, nuclear is the one we most thoroughly eradicated. Especially the part of their nuclear program that was dedicated to enrichment, to producing the highly enriched uranium needed for the fissile core of a nuclear device. This was wiped out; there was nothing left. For Iraq to reconstitute that would require not only tens of billions of dollars of investment, but also the reconstitution of entire industrial facilities that are easily detected by our intelligence services. It would also require technology to be purchased abroad, which is tightly controlled and not something Iraq could do without being detected. I find it hard to believe the vice president when he says Iraq is close to developing a nuclear weapon — they weren’t anywhere near close in 1998, when inspectors left. If some new development has transpired in the last four years, I wish the White House would share that evidence with the American people.
Concerning chemical weapons, Ritter says this:
Iraq had a massive chemical weapons industry, with gigantic factories dedicated to the production of these deadly agents. They did use them against the Iranians and against the Kurds, which is one reason why the international community outlawed them in 1991. Once inspectors went into Iraq, we not only destroyed the factories and equipment that produced these agents, we also rounded up the weapons and the precursor chemicals that are mixed together to produce the deadly agent, and we eliminated them. We achieved tremendous success in this area. We eradicated their mustard-agent and their sarin- and tabun-agent production capability. If Iraq managed to hide some of their nerve agent from us, it has a shelf life of only five years, so today, with their factories destroyed, Iraq has no nerve-agent capability — unless they reconstituted their manufacturing base, which no one has demonstrated.
VX is a different subject altogether. Iraq lied to us from day one about VX. They said they never had a VX program. But we uncovered their entire research-and-development plant, which had been bombed during Desert Storm and destroyed. Using documentation recovered from that, we were able to track down and discover Iraq’s stockpile of VX, confirming that it had been destroyed. We also exposed another Iraqi lie — that they had never stabilized VX. We even proved that they put it in warheads, contrary to what they had declared. [But] the bottom line is — even though the Iraqis lied to us about VX, and we still might have some concerns about this program, there is no VX production capability in Iraq today — unless Iraq went out after 1998 and acquired all this technology that we had destroyed.