Time has shown us that the words we use heavily influence our perception of reality. Catch phrases – “war on terror”, “liberating the people of Iraq”, “regime change”, “spreading democracy” – continue to be unabashedly promulgated by the spin doctors in Washington in tacit agreement with the corporate media. While many may be buying into the jingoistic fervour, there are others who see through the smokescreen of words, and realise that the intentions of the American government are far from benevolent. However, the one word which even dissenters have seemingly acquiesced to using is calling this a “war” with Iraq. Indeed, perpetuating this farcical and misleading term is occurring at the detriment of the resistance movement and any attempt at viewing the current situation through a realistic and just lens.
Political scientists and military analysts have surely debated what the pre-requisites are for calling a particular conflict a “war”. However, it would seem that even those of us not well-versed in politics ought to realise the gross inaccuracy of calling this a “war” with Iraq. The United States, as sole superpower in the world, dwarfs Iraq with respect to its military strength. The United States is known to have a panoply of weapons of mass destruction (e.g. chemical, biological, and nuclear); there has still been no concrete evidence to corroborate the allegation that Iraq possesses these same destructive capacities. It is the American government that sent over 250,000 troops to the borders of Iraq over the past few months; the Iraqi government did not send troops to Canada or Mexico awaiting the signal to invade the United States. While the hawks in Washington have ordered their troops to begin bombing Iraq, Hussein and his regime did not initiate an attack, nor did they threaten to prior to the declaration of this “war” by the United States. Perhaps most instructive, while the intensity of attacks has increased over the past few days, the decimation being inflicted upon the Iraqi people is nothing new; indeed, it has continued unabated through the UN-imposed sanctions and American- and British-led bombing raids over the past 12 years. During this time, Iraq has not once attacked the United States – admittedly because of its inability to do so, rather than any unwillingness on its part.
World War I and II initially saw opposing alliances with comparable military and strategic powers facing off against one another. The Korean and Vietnam Wars, meanwhile, are illustrative of other “wars” in which the “enemy” was significantly weaker, and thus did not pose a direct threat to the United States at the time. In these cases, the potential of “instability” that would arise from the spread of Communism was ostensibly the threat to which the United States reacted. However, even this is not a parallel which can be drawn to the current situation, as the ideology espoused by Saddam Hussein, although odious in its own right, does not pose a direct threat to the United States. Instead, it has become fairly clear that the economic leverage which will be gained through control of Iraq’s oil reserves and the strategic dominance to be secured in the Middle East by occupying Iraq, provide the impetus for the American “pre-emptive” strike. Of course, to justify such ignoble intents, the war-mongers in Washington have done their best to convince the world of the threat posed by the Hussein regime in Iraq. Surely, there is nothing novel about using “war” to make the “enemy” a legitimate threat in the eyes of one’s citizens.
To call this a war intuitively suggests a battle between two foes of some comparability, whose armies are on opposing sides shooting at one another across a great divide. The reality is that this is a clash between two psychopathic, violent, arrogant men who find themselves in very different circumstances with very different resources at their disposal. Bush possesses half the world’s military hardware and innumerable weapons of mass destruction, while the United States is indisputably the most influential economic and political player on the global scene. Meanwhile, claims that Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction remain unsubstantiated (although admittedly possible), while the dispossessed people of Iraq have been made to suffer as a result of a combination of his policies and the UN-imposed sanctions over the past 12 years. Consequently, to call this a war minimises the disparity in power between the two nations involved. It makes those opposed to the bombardment of Iraq internalise the notion that these two foes share some degree of equal footing. It undermines the flagrant injustice implicit in the Bush regime’s unilateral drive to establish an oppressive global hegemony. But perhaps most importantly, to call this a war does no justice to the people of Iraq who will continue to pay the price in lives lost, as havoc is wreaked on them with impunity.
Although the argument may be made that this is a semantic debate, the truth of the matter is that if we want to begin exposing the budding American empire’s lies, we must eschew their words of subtle indoctrination. We must create our own vernacular which accurately depicts the reality of what is happening so that it may be appropriately recorded for posterity’s sake. Indeed, there are innumerable terms and expressions which aptly describe what is happening in Iraq, but “war” is not one of them. What we are witnessing is a US-Led Aggression against Iraq to advance an imperialist agenda. It is an Act of State Terrorism in defiance of international law and public opinion. It is an Unjustified Bombardment. It is an Invasion that will end in Occupation. It will be a Massacre.
Samir Hussain is a graduating medical student at McGill University. He is an independent writer, social justice advocate and a founding member of the Montreal-based Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org