http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2002-12/06herman.cfm

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From ZNet Commentary
 By Edward Herman

...Let me review first some
of the paralyzing elements of the PR barrage, then note briefly points
downplayed or omitted by the patriotic left and other apologists for war.



PARALYZING ELEMENTS:

1. Saddam Hussein is evil, hence his removal is justifiable

It is certainly true that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator, but that is
not a reasonable justification for his removal by a foreign invasion. Such
an invasion is strictly prohibited by the UN Charter, except where the
targeted government threatens an attack, which, unlike the United States,
Iraq has not done.

An attack on Iraq would therefore entail a breakdown of international law
and constitute a return to the law of the jungle. Furthermore, an invasion
will be extremely costly to the Iraq population, which has already suffered
genocide-level sanctions by the UN, covering for U.S. and British policy.
This point is reinforced by the fact that the United States regularly uses
methods of warfare that produce high civilian casualties in the target
country in order to minimize U.S. casualties.

Removal of a bad government is primarily a task for the victim population;
any help from the outside should fall far short of holding the population
hostage to regime change (the ongoing sanctions policy) or external
intervention by force.

It should also be noted that Saddam Hussein's qualities as a leader can
hardly be the real reason for the proposed war, given that the United States
and Britain supported him energetically in the 1980s when he was fighting
Iran; and they have supported other dictators in his class of brutality
(e.g., Suharto, Trujillo, Mobutu, Pinochet, the Argentinian generals,
1976-1983).

Given the U.S. and British record, their purposes (see "the hidden agenda,"
below), and the chaos and hatred that an invasion would engender-- following
12 years of genocidal sanctions--there is no reason whatsoever to believe
that they would want, or that their intervention would result in, an end of
dictatorship.



2. Saddam's acquisition of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) would
threaten U.S. and world security

This is untenable nonsense, first, because the United States is well able to
defend itself and has overwhelming retaliatory capability, and even Israel
would threaten a level of retaliation that precludes Saddam's using those
weapons offensively against it even if he had them.

What is more, he has no delivery systems that would allow him to reach U.S.
targets. He has used WMD in the past, but only when the United States
supplied him with and protected his use of such weapons (against Iran, a
U.S. enemy), the United States even going so far as to prevent condemnation
of Saddam's methods in the Security Council (for details see the Labour
Party "counter- dossier," Sept. 21, 2002:
http://www.traprockpeace.org).

Saddam did not use WMD during the Persian Gulf War, because he knew that if
he did so U.S. retaliation would be severe. CIA head George Tenet testified
before a Senate Committee in early October that the probability of Saddam's
using WMD in "the foreseeable future" was "low," except as a desperation
move if attacked. In short, even if Saddam Hussein did possess WMD, he could
only use them as a means of self-defense, unless he directed them against a
U.S.-approved target, as in the 1980s.



3. Saddam's obstructive behavior toward Security Council resolutions and the
inspections regime is intolerable

This charge assumes that the inspections regime has moral standing and has
not been an instrument of a U.S. program and vendetta. In fact, although the
inspections system was put up nominally to assure the elimination of Iraq's
WMD, throughout the Clinton years it was repeatedly made clear that the
inspections-sanctions system would stay in place until Saddam Hussein was
removed.

This eliminated any incentive for Saddam to cooperate with inspections, and
it also showed that the inspections system was a cover for a quasi-hidden
U.S. agenda. It has also been acknowledged by U.S. and high UNSCOM officials
that the United States used UNSCOM to spy on Iraq in preparation for
military attack, which helped targeting in the December 1998 "Desert Fox"
bombing campaign carried out by the United States and Britain. That bombing
campaign, the numerous further bombings, and the "no-fly zones" were never
authorized by Security Council rulings or decisions, or the 1991 truce
accord with Iraq, and are therefore illegal, unilateral acts of aggression.

The inspections regime is also discredited by the fact that its sole
proponents, the United States and Britain, have regularly refused to allow
the enforcement of Security Council resolutions when this suited their
political interest. Resolution 687, which imposed sanctions and inspections,
also called for the creation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. This has
not been implemented, as it would require the United States to admit to, and
force the elimination of, Israel's large stock of WMDs.

In the case of Iraq, the United States and Britain have also used Iraq's
alleged 687 failings to continue the "sanctions of mass destruction," which
have resulted in more than a million civilian deaths.

Joy Gordon has shown in "Economic Sanctions of Mass Destruction" (Harpers,
Nov. 2002) that the United States and Britain have repeatedly interpreted
sanction rules to prevent humanitarian relief to civilians (vetoing
ambulances, vaccines, water pumps, fire-fighting equipment, even
wheel-barrows), actions on the part of U.S. and British officials that
constitute war crimes.

Despite the hidden agenda and illegalities of the inspections system, and
Iraq's foot-dragging and deceptions, the system did oversee the destruction
of an estimated 90-95 percent of Iraq's WMD stocks, and most of its WMD
capacity. Iraq was essentially disarmed, according to Scott Ritter and Hans
Von Sponeck, who were active participants in the inspection process. But
this did not satisfy the United States and Britain, and couldn't do so
because of their illegal aim of regime change.



4. Well, what do you propose?

In the face of planned aggression--the most serious of all international
crimes--the only decent and rational response is: don't do it. Apologists
cannot admit that their state is embarking on aggression, so they can't see
this elementary point. They can't acknowledge that the "threat" posed by
Iraq is contrived, and that the big problem is containing a superpower rogue
state manufacturing reasons to go to war.

My first and main "proposal" therefore is that the United States and Britain
be pressed to stop their plan to commit aggression, and that the
"international community" end its support for sanctions of mass destruction
and the superpower rogue's planned aggression and force the rogue to desist,
threatening him with global economic sanctions if he fails to stop.

The second great threat is Ariel Sharon's and Israel's policies of
occupation, ethnic cleansing and expanding settlements, and planned further
wholesale terrorism and "transfer." I propose that the UN should condemn
these policies, but also condemn U.S. support of this massive and
accelerating ethnic cleansing, and threaten sanctions and expulsion from the
UN and civilized community if these terroristic and ethnic cleansing
policies are continued beyond a specific deadline.

As regards Iraq, given that the policies of inspections and weapons control
have been based on a mythical fearsome threat, constructed to rationalize a
hidden agenda and sheer vengefulness on the part of the United States and
Britain, and that these policies have had genocidal consequences, they
should be terminated forthwith.

Instead, relations with Iraq should be normalized and it should be given
incentives to behave by establishing trade relations and "constructive
engagement," which the United States regularly uses with repressive states
that serve its interests. Iraq's "threat" will be controlled by this web of
interests, by its acceptance of surveillance by the International Atomic
Energy Agency, and by the existing balance of power system in which
offensive behavior and use of WMD on its part would be immensely costly (2
above).

This will not automatically produce democracy in Iraq, but that is something
that should come from within, and it is likely that it will happen sooner
under "constructive engagement" and reduced siege conditions than with
continuing intense hostility or U.S.-engineered regime change.



POINTS DOWNPLAYED OR OMITTED:

The apologists for U.S. policy and the imminent war regularly ignore or fail
to see the significance of the features of that policy that make it
hypocritical, illegal, immoral and criminal. Among them are the following:



1. Unclean hands

Saddam was not only supported, he was protected in his use of chemical
warfare in the 1980s by the two countries that have been most concerned over
his possession of WMDs today. The hypocrisy here is notable, but this
consideration also suggests the fraudulence of the claim of a threat.

The death of over a million Iraqi civilians as a result of the sanctions
policy constitutes a major case of war criminality, violating the Nuremberg
Code. The engineers of this genocidal policy not only do not have clean
hands in pursuing Iraq any further, in a just world they would all be under
trial in a court of justice. The apologists for U.S. policy and prospective
war seem quite unaware of this hugely compromising background to today's
policy discussions.



2. The illegality of preemptive war

The apologists are also very blase about the fact that going to war against
a country that has not attacked you and poses no credible threat of attack
violates basic international law and constitutes plain aggression. This lack
of concern with basic legality is helped along by the advanced demonization
process and threat inflation. It also disregards the fact that according to
"preemptive" principles, scores of states would be justified in preemptively
attacking U.S. territory.



3. The double standard

It is also helped along by the long-standing double standard in which
international law and Security Council resolutions apply to others only, not
to ourselves or our friends. Thus the apologists find no problem in the fact
that Ariel Sharon and Israel can not only ignore international law (the
Fourth Geneva Convention) and scads of Security Council rulings, but also
receive positive U.S. support for these violations. If their state says it
is important to enforce the law selectively, they join in the selective
enforcement bandwagon with great moral fervor.



4. The hidden agenda

Their moral fervor is not diminished by the obviousness of a hidden agenda
beneath the claptrap about the threat to U.S. national security in the bad
man's possession of WMD. The desire to control oil resources, to help
Sharon, to help the weapons producers, to reshape the Middle East and
project power more broadly, and to keep a war going to cover over the
reactionary Bush agenda are unrecognized or kept out of sight. This is a
great help to the Bush team's program.



5. The corruption of the UN

The apologists also ignore the extent to which U.S. policy has made the UN a
farce and tragedy. The Bush team is openly contemptuous of the UN (and
international law) as it pursues the administration's aims. It (and the
Clinton team before it) will use the UN if it can and will ignore it when
the UN is not available for service. In the run-up to an attack on Iraq the
Bush team has gotten the UN to agree to an inspections regime that will
assure a casus belli and make it possible for it to commit aggression with
UN approval. Instead of opposing aggression the UN is colluding in its
implementation. This represents the moral death of the institution.



6. The costs of war

The apologists underrate the costs of war. There will be modest U.S.
casualties, but enormous Iraq casualties as the U.S. carries out its
standard policy of intense bombing prior to invasion- occupation. There will
be huge costs in a destroyed Iraq and heavy costs in the conduct of the war.
"Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq," put
out by the Medical Association for Prevention of War in November 2002,
estimates half a million deaths assuming only conventional warfare, costs
exceeding $200 billion, and immeasurable adverse secondary effects on health
and welfare.

There will also probably be intensified terrorist responses to the attack on
Iraq. This and the feedback effects of war on the U.S. society will push it
further toward an authoritarian state. This is a plus for the Bush
administration as it will, like 9/11 and the war on terror in general, help
it cover over its anti- public interest agenda.