Three Wars Against Iraq

OPS Newspaper, April 2006

The US military adventure in Iraq is a tragedy beyond words to describe. But it is really the third war in 16 years against Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War and sanctions through the intervening years smashed Iraq’s military power and killed more than a million Iraqis. And these are just the latest in a long history of conflicts and wars in which economic interests, power, and geo-political dominance have been the driving forces; in which rallying cries about freedom, justice and democracy have been little more than fig leaves to cover real motives. (On page 3, see the excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, retired, decrying war entirely.)

The first Gulf War in 1991 was ostensibly to drive Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait. Another view is that Saddam Hussein was snookered into attacking Kuwait, providing the pretext for the US-British alliance to gather a coalition to go to war. War with Iraq would cut its large military machine down to size. During Iraq’s war with Iran, the US had sold Saddam Hussein, then considered America’s ally, every kind of military equipment including chemical and biological weapons. When Iraq and Iran called their war off, it left Saddam Hussein and Iraq disquietingly powerful in the Middle East balance of power. Many believe that neutralizing Iraq was a “real reason” for the 1991 Gulf War … aside from the obvious desire among US planners to gain greater geo-political power and control in the Middle East.

For years Iraq had accused Kuwait of drilling sideways into Iraqi oil fields, stealing Iraqi oil. Indeed, Middle East commentators have expressed the belief that Kuwait was encouraged to do so, to prod Iraq into a border conflict. Before Iraq’s action into Kuwait, Saddam Hussein met with US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie. Notes from that meeting indicate that Glaspie assured Saddam Hussein that the US had no stake in border disputes between Iraq and Kuwait. Eight days later, Iraq attacked Kuwait.

Historically, Iraq had maintained that Kuwait was part of its territory – one of its states — since the modern borders in the Middle East were set following World War I largely by Britain and the United States. One historian said that Iraq had more justification to take Kuwait than the United States had to take Texas. In any case, Iraq did seize Kuwait, and the Gulf War ensued.

Following the build-up of 500,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, hostilities began with the heavy bombing of Iraqi military targets for 40 days and 40 nights. Daily satellite passes over Iraq permitted precision bombing of every target in Iraq larger than a helmet. Fuel-air bombs – also called “the poor man’s nuclear weapon” – sucked the air out of underground installations of Iraqi forces suffocating untold thousands. When the ground attack finally began, tens of thousands of Iraqi troops immediately surrendered, most in dehydrated and starving condition. The war was finally called off during the US bombing of the road to Basra, as vehicles of every description carried terrified Iraqis fleeing for their lives. Little remained of Iraq’s military inventory.

Twelve years of economic sanctions against Iraq following the war, which was monitored by continuous over-flights by US fighter jets and bombers, keeping Iraq militarily neutered and bereft. Iraq’s sanitation and water treatment facilities were never returned to their former capacity, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths to water-borne diseases. Full power generation never returned either, creating challenges to every segment of society.

From the early days of the GW Bush administration, the President, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condi Rice are all on videotape stating that Iraq presented no danger to its neighbors or anyone else, and had no weapons of mass destruction. That line changed following the 9/11 terrorist attack on America.

The CIA was immediately assigned the task of “finding” connections to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. CIA terrorist specialist Richard Clarke reports that the administration showed little interest in Al Quaeda or Afghanistan, but wanted only information supporting their desire to blame Iraq. A campaign was launched to convince Congress, the American people, and the world that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction, and did present a danger to his neighbors. All that proved not to be true.

The current Iraq War was an arrogant and misguided adventure to extend US influence and control into the world’s primary oil-producing region. Justified with misinformation and waged in defiance of cautions from State Department professionals, the war has been a litany of blunders, miscalculations, and rosy predictions based on false hopes. It has killed another 100,000 Iraqis, some 2,500 Americans, and will cost American taxpayers a trillion dollars, with no happy outcome in sight. It has cost the US any reputation we might once have had as a protector of human rights or world peace.

The presence of US troops in Iraq is the primary thorn fueling the insurgency. The US must simply get out, and turn over the civil strife among Iraq’s religious and political factions, unleashed when their government was smashed, to some international body while Iraq is rebuilt. Because leaders of both major US political parties seem committed to continuing the war, an end to the war can only be brought about by a visible popular movement of war resistance and peace actions by the American people.