Mark the date: March 16, 2003. It will go down in history as the day our new Caesar crossed his personal Rubicon. Bush’s twin ultimata, to Iraq and to the United Nations, constituted the final and ultimate declaration of the new New World Order.
The first formal declaration was in his speech to Congress on September 20, 2001. “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” The open implication was that the rule of law, already honored mostly in the breach, was to be replaced by the rule of force; that force, naturally, to emanate from Washington.
Over the 1.5 years since then, there have been numerous reaffirmations — the launching of the pre-emption doctrine, the warning to the UN that if it didn’t do America’s bidding it would make itself “irrelevant” — but it was always possible to imagine that even this reckless administration might be turned back, might at least at least generate an illusion of a velvet glove in which to cloak its iron fist.
No more. Bush’s declaration was crafted to lock in the insane and potentially suicidal course that the administration has taken ever since the attacks of 9/11.
What was really shocking and terrifying was not simply the effective declaration of war against Iraq; it has been a foregone conclusion for at least six months that, in the absence of overwhelming opposition, the war would happen. Rather, it was the way the ultimatum was delivered. To give Iraq 24 hours to “disarm” (even while Dick Cheney and Colin Powell make the rounds of talk TV saying there is no longer a way for Iraq to comply) is openly farcical. An administration that took a year after 9/11 before it instituted widespread X-raying of checked bags might be expected to understand this. To give the Security Council 24 hours to pass a resolution is a naked imperial imposition.
It is an ultimatum designed not to elicit any response, but rather to humiliate.
It is also perhaps worth commenting on the stunningly open mendacity of the Bush administration, continued with Bush’s ultimatum yesterday. To make this declaration on the 15th anniversary of the gassing of Halabja, to mention it specifically, is a profound insult not just to the Iraqi people but to all of us; where is the mention that the United States supported Iraq fully at the time, with biological and chemical materials, loan guarantees, and diplomatic cover? That it went so far as to issue organized disinformation (http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0117-01.htm) suggesting that Iran was the culprit? To mention Rwanda as an example of the “failure” of the UN was possibly even worse. Again, where was the mention that the UN “failed” because the United States kept UN peacekeepers from being reinforced, cut off their supplies, and pushed ceaselessly to have them removed? Or the mention that the State Department deliberately covered up http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB53/press.html) its clear knowledge that what was happening was genocide?
Indeed, it is again as if these references were added simply to display flagrant contempt for the rest of the world, which may know the truth but consistently feels unable to express it because of the weight of U.S. coercion.
And perhaps the most important lie was the reference to France. France has “shown its cards” and “said they were going to veto anything that held Saddam to account” — this right on the heels of Chirac’s effective surrender by agreeing to a 30-day deadline for disarmament.
This was is much bigger than a war on Iraq. It is a gauntlet hurled in the face of France and the rest of “old Europe.” It is a frontal assault on the concept of democracy worldwide. It is, if you look at the planning documents (http://www.newamericancentury.org) of the neoconservatives who now run our foreign policy, the first stage in a long campaign against China.
Yesterday, Bush drew the battle lines through the entire globe and through the middle of each country. In order even to begin to understand how to oppose this new imperialism, we must understand this: weapons of mass destruction have nothing to do with this war, and even Iraq itself has to do with this war only in the sense that it is a strategic prize. This war is a small part of an ongoing attempt to reshape the world.
The target of this war is not Iraq. The target is the entire world order, and Iraq is simply collateral damage.
Rahul Mahajan is a founding member of the Nowar Collective (http://www.nowarcollective.com) and serves on the National Board of Peace Action. His first book, “The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism,” (http://www.monthlyreview.org/newcrusade.htm) came out in April 2002, and his next book, “The U.S. War Against Iraq” (http://www.sevenstories.com/Book/index.cfm?GCOI=58322100353810) will be out in April 2003. His articles can be found at http://www.rahulmahajan.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]