No Justifications For War- No Link to September 11th

The United States is now set on war with Iraq. What justification is there for such a war? Occasionally it has been suggested that Iraq was somehow linked to the 11 September attacks. The strongest alleged link has been the supposed meeting of Mohammed Atta, the 11 September ringleader, and an Iraqi diplomat expelled from the Czech Republic for spying. The two are meant to have met in Prague in 2001, a ‘fact’ confirmed by Czech interior minister Stanislav Gross in Oct. 2001. When the Czech police completed their inquiry in Dec. 2001, however, ‘Jiri Kolar, the police chief, said there were no documents showing that Atta visited Prague at any time this year [2001], although he had visited twice in 2000’. Another man by the name of Mohammed Atta did visit Prague in 2001, but according to a Czech intelligence source, ‘He didn’t have the same identity card number, there was a great difference in their ages, their nationalities didn’t match, basically nothing. It was someone else.’ (Daily Telegraph, 18 Dec. 2001, p. 10) Despite the disintegration of this fable, it continues to circulate and to be repeated as fact. Useful lies can live for a long time. As for any links between Baghdad and al-Qaeda, an anonymous former CIA officer has remarked that, ‘The reality is that Osama bin Laden doesn’t like Saddam Hussein. Saddam is a secularist who has killed more Islamic clergy than he has Americans. They have almost nothing in common except a hatred of the US. Saddam is the ultimate control freak, and for him terrorists are the ultimate loose cannon.’ (Daily Telegraph, 20 Sept. 2001, p. 10)

No Justification for War – Weapons of Mass Destruction

‘Initially, Washington included Iraq on its list of countries with links to al-Qaeda, but when European governments insisted that there was no intelligence evidence connecting Baghdad to Osama bin Laden’s organisation, the US changed tack. “Now the emphasis is on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programme and the danger that Saddam might send out his own agents armed with chemical or biological devices”, one [British] official said.’ (Times, 16 Feb. 2002, p. 19) The latest CIA report on the topic (Jan. 2002) says, that without ‘an inspection-monitoring program’ ‘it is more difficult to determine the current status’ of Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programmes. No smoking gun, then. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has written, ‘Given the comprehensive nature of the monitoring regime put in place by UNSCOM [UN Special Commission weapons inspectors], which included a strict export-import control regime, it was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed. Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring. The same was true of Iraq’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.’ (Arms Control Today, June 2000) According to Ritter, a former US Marine, ‘manufacturing CW [chemical weapons] would require the assembling of production equipment into a single integrated facility, creating an infrastructure readily detectable by the strategic intelligence capabilities of the United States. The CIA has clearly stated on several occasions since the termination of inspections in December 1998 that no such activity has been detected.’ As for biological weapons, ‘The Iraqis do have enough equipment to carry out laboratory-scale production of BW agent. However, without an infusion of money and technology, expanding such a capability into a viable weapons program is a virtual impossibility. Contrary to popular belief, BW cannot simply be cooked up in the basement; it requires a large and sophisticated infrastructure, especially if the agent is to be filled into munitions. As with CW, the CIA has not detected any such activity concerning BW since UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq.’

US ‘Won’t Take Yes For An Answer’

No conclusions can be drawn regarding Iraqi weapons programmes without in-country monitoring, but the best way to secure that monitoring is to move to a less confrontational inspection programme, and show willingness to lift, and not merely suspend, sanctions, according to Ritter. US policy is heading in the other direction. The likely trigger for a new US military campaign will be the demand for UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, a demand phrased in order to elicit an Iraqi refusal. ‘Key figures in the White House believe that demands on Saddam to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors should be set so high that he would fail to meet them unless he provided officials with total freedom.’ (Times, 16 Feb. 2002, p. 19) A US intelligence official said the White House ‘will not take yes for an answer’. (Guardian, 14 Feb. 2002, p. 1)


Estimates as to when the US intends to launch the war vary wildly. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been reported as being ‘sympathetic for a campaign starting as early as this spring’.(Sunday Times, 3 Feb. 2002, p. 23) Other reports say that ‘Military action aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein from control of Iraq, while seen as urgent, would not begin until the end of this year at the earliest.’ (Sunday Telegraph, 10 Feb. 2002, p. 28) ‘Washington appears ready to wait until after the United Nations security council debates a new sanctions regime in May, when further demands will be made for UN weapons inspectors to have access to Iraq.’ ‘Having cried wolf so loudly this time, [Mr Bush] will scarcely be able to return to Capitol Hill next year with nothing to show for it.’ (Independent on Sunday, 17 Feb. 2002, p. 23) ‘President Bush has vowed to topple Saddam Hussein within a year… says a leading diplomatic source.’ (Daily Telegraph, 16 Feb. 2002, p. 12) ‘The long preparations required for a 200,000-strong invasion force… could also delay an invasion until the autumn.’ (Sunday Times, 17 Feb. 2002, p. 29) The period between June and Nov. 2002 seems the most likely period for the initiation of hostilities.

The ‘Afghan Test’

A fundamental problem is that military planners have yet to come up with a convincing plan: ‘so far, officials have yet to come up with a plan that meets “the Afghan test”: a low-cost, speedy assault that has a high probability of toppling President Saddam Hussein.’ (FT, 1 Feb. 2002, supplement p. III) Washington must decide whether to try the Afghan route, relying on local opposition forces supported by US airpower; or to opt for ‘a comparatively compact assault on Baghdad by three divisions comprising 50,000 troops who could be deployed in weeks’; or to adopt ‘a long-standing invasion plan that calls for a force of 200,000 troops to be assembled over a period of up to three months.’ (Sunday Times, 17 Feb. 2002, p. 28) The smaller force could be assembled on US aircraft carriers and in Kuwait, without having to force unwilling allies in the region to provide bases. It could also be built up faster, lessening the opportunities for international opposition to develop. ‘A force of three American divisions – one airborne, one mechanised and one marine – could strike swiftly at Baghdad, possibly provoking an immediate coup’. (Sunday Times, 17 Feb. 2002, p. 28)

‘Leadership Change’ Not ‘Regime Change’

US leaders, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, speak of their desire to see ‘regime change’ in Iraq. However, ever since 1991 US administrations have shied away from provoking fundamental change in Iraq, and have sought instead ‘an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein’, according to Thomas Friedman, Diplomatic Correspondent of the New York Times, writing on 7 July 1991: sanctions were there to provoke a coup to create ‘the best of all worlds’, a return to the days when Saddam’s ‘iron fist… held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia.’ In March 1991 this prospect was described by Ahmed Chalabi (now leader of the Iraqi opposition group the Iraqi National Congress) as ‘the worst of all possible worlds’ for the Iraqi people. (Quoted in Noam Chomsky, World Orders, Old and New, 1994, p. 9)

The US commitment ‘leadership change’ rather than ‘regime change’ was demonstrated when Kurds and Shias rose against the regime in March 1991: the US granted permission to Baghdad to use helicopter gunships against the rebels, refused to release captured arms dumps to rebel forces, and refused to intervene to defend the rebellions. Richard Haass, director for Near East affairs for the US National Security Council, explained in March 1991, ‘Our policy is to get rid of Saddam, not his regime.’ (Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, HarperCollins 1999, p. 37) ‘Washington’s calculation is that a break-up of Iraq would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Middle East, especially if it led to the creation of an independent Kurdistan. Turkey, a steadfast US ally with a large Kurd minority, would be destabilised. Iran could exploit the vacuum.’ (FT, 1 Feb. 2002, supplement p. III)

Sparing the Republican Guard

An officer involved in US planning says, ‘Our question was, “What about the day after?” For example, do you take the Republican Guard [the military unit most loyal to Saddam] and disarm it? Or is it preferable to turn it from having a capability to protect Saddam to a capability to protect Iraq?’ (New Yorker, 24 Dec. 2001, p. 63) Protect Iraq from fragmentation, that is. In Feb. 1991, large elements of the Republican Guard, including the Hammurabi Heavy Division, the most powerful single force in the Republican Guard, were boxed in near Basra, almost certainly about to be destroyed, when President Bush Sr. called a ceasefire, preserving this central pillar of the regime. It appears that under President Bush Jr. military planning is governed by the same desire to preserve the military regime in Iraq – the Republican Guard is noticeably absent from the targeting plans being floated in the media.

The Illegality of the US War

‘The US does not, to date, have a legal mandate for serious military intervention.’ (Economist, 26 Jan. 2002, p. 59) Lord Healey, former Defence Secretary and leading right-winger within the Labour Party, said during Operation Desert Fox in Dec. 1998 there was ‘no question’ that the US bombing was unlawful: ‘It is illegal to attack with bombs targets in a sovereign country without direct authorisation from the Security Council.’ (Daily Telegraph, 21 Dec. 1998) No such authorisation has been given, or is being sought, for the new US war on Iraq.


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