A VISITOR from Mars these days could easily get the impression that Iraq is a pioneer in the field of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, such a visitor would almost certainly conclude that Iraq alone is keen on hideously violent weapons, while the rest of the world directs its technological expertise exclusively toward peaceful, constructive purposes.
It might be worth mentioning, at least, that when it comes to violent weapons, Iraq is hardly breaking new ground.
Last week, Britain’s Tony Blair triumphantly released a dossier purporting to show evidence that Saddam Hussein is assembling weapons of mass destruction. But if we’re looking for evidence of such weapons – real ones, which exist right now, which are mounted and ready to be fired at this very moment and have the power to kill millions of people – we don’t need to go checking under bridges, tables and mattresses in Baghdad. There are plenty closer to home.
The United States alone has 9,000 nuclear warheads, as does Russia, while Britain, France and China have another 950 between them. By contrast, Saddam doesn’t even have one, as even his fiercest critics acknowledge. Instead, they accuse him of having chemical and biological weapons (easier to produce and less potent in terms of sheer murderous possibilities) and of trying to acquire nuclear weapons – that is, trying to acquire the ultimately destructive weapon that others already have in abundance.
But oddly, it is Baghdad that is described by U of T’s Wesley Wark as having an “unquenchable appetite for weapons of mass destruction.” If Baghdad’s appetite is unquenchable, how could one characterize Washington’s? Isn’t this a bit like denouncing Donald Trump for being inconsiderate to his ex-wife, while not saying a word about O.J. Simpson?
We also hear constantly about Iraq’s refusal to co-operate with international weapons inspections (although, of course, Iraq has recently promised to submit to such inspections – an offer Washington says can’t be trusted).
One could easily be left with the impression that Israel’s nuclear arsenal – which arms experts believe contains about 200 warheads – is regularly inspected. In fact, it has never been inspected. That’s because, like India and Pakistan, which reportedly have a couple dozen nuclear warheads each, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so its arsenal exists outside international law and beyond the reach of inspectors. (Iraq signed the treaty, and therefore is required to submit to inspections.)
But even U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 – prohibiting Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction – declares in its preamble that all states must do everything possible to “establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East.” That would include Israel. But as Washington’s ally, Israel is under no pressure to comply.
It doesn’t seem particularly surprising that Saddam seeks weapons of mass destruction. He’d have to be some kind of peacenik – or just a guy with a death wish – not to be scrambling to assemble some heavy-duty weapons, given the long-standing, open hostility of Washington, which has recently done everything short of announcing the date for its invasion.
The lack of focus here on Washington’s weapons of mass destruction is all the more striking given Washington’s astonishing moves this month to establish its right to enforce U.S. military dominance through the use of pre-emptive attacks.
Still, faith in benign U.S. power persists. Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee showed the power of this faith in a column, which was aptly headlined: “Don’t worry, Iraq is all he wants.”
Gee mocked the “worriers” who fear Washington will run roughshod over the globe, insisting it will only go after really terrible leaders, like those who attack other countries. Saddam is certainly a terrible despot, and under him, Iraq has attacked two countries, Iran and Kuwait, in the past 22 years.
But such aggression is not unique The U.S. itself has attacked far more countries in the past 22 years – a point made powerfully last week by former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark in a letter to the U.N.: “In the same last 22 years,” Clark wrote, “the U.S. has invaded, or assaulted, Grenada, Nicaragua, Libya, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and others …”
Of course, there’s also the troublesome fact that the U.S., alone in the world, has actually used nuclear weapons in the past – and appears to be thinking of doing so again, according to a Pentagon document leaked to the New York Times last March. The document, called the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, identified Iraq and five other countries – including non-nuclear nations like Libya and Syria – as “immediate contingencies” for which “requirements for nuclear strike capabilities” must be established.
It’s amazing the things some people worry about.