Gulf War II: U.S. vs. The World
Illustration by David Merrit
In February I wrote that Saddam Hussein just wasn't cutting it in terms of being a figure against whom the United States could marshal international support for another war. I was right - there is no international support for a military intervention in Iraq. However, the cowboys in the White House and Pentagon have decided in a true Clint Eastwood fashion that they don't need consensus from the international community to go on with their war-making. In the words of Colin Powell, when the international community "does not agree with us, we do not shrink from doing what we think is right."
Get ready for Gulf War II; this time the U.S. will be alone.
As Julian Borger and Ewen MacAskill report in the Feb. 14 edition of The Guardian, the Pentagon and CIA have begun preparations for a massive assault on Iraq later this year. The action, which may involve up to 200,000 troops, is currently planned for sometime between May and October, just in time for congressional elections.
After a meeting with his war cabinet on Feb. 13, George Bush Jr. said, "Saddam Hussein needs to understand that I'm serious about defending our country," and that he would "reserve whatever options" he has. Colin Powell, echoing Bush's sentiment, has publicly stated his support for a "regime change" in Iraq, noting that he was "looking at a variety of ways to bring that about."
There still seem to be, however, a couple of hitches that the government has to work out before it can get the war moving into full swing. First, the United States needs some pretense for an attack. They're working on it. The sanctions imposed against Iraq by the United Nations are up for review in May, and this is the spark that the United States will most likely use to start the war. While Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan has said that Iraq has no intention of allowing U.N. inspection teams to return to Iraq, a state department source quoted by Borger and MacAskill said that Washington will not take "yes" as an answer to U.S. demands for inspection teams to return to the country in May. The State Department source indicated that if Iraq were to acquiesce to the U.N. inspections, the United States would create an international crisis that they could leverage in order to attack Iraq anyway.
The second hitch with regards to a war with Iraq is the fact that Iraq may possess chemical and biological weapons. While Iraq refrained from using these weapons during the first Gulf War, U.S. generals are concerned that Hussein would be less reluctant to use them this time around, given the fact that an Iraqi defeat would mean his removal from power. Additionally, with an estimated 300 mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers, the U.S. will find it far more difficult to control the skies to the extent that they did during the Afghan bombing and invasion. Despite 10 years of sanctions that have doubled the number of child-deaths in Iraq, the country has one of the largest militaries in the region.
A third potential problem that the U.S. is currently ironing out has to do with the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Washington would like to utilize Kurdish forces and territory to launch an assault from the North of Iraq at the same time as an attack launched from Kuwait in the south. This would create a 'sandwich' effect on Baghdad, with troops invading from both the North and South. Unfortunately, during the first Gulf War, Bush Sr. encouraged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam, but pulled support out from under them in the middle of the uprising. The Kurdish insurrection was quashed by Hussein's military. The Kurds might not be so interested in helping the U.S. out this time around.
Meanwhile, on the international front, U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East are lining up to express their disdain for Bush's belligerence. Unlike the first Gulf War, which saw a host of European and Middle Eastern countries in an international coalition, in Gulf War II the U.S. will be alone or joined only by U.S. lapdogs Tony Blair and England (who are currently equivocating on their support). French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine warned that "we are threatened by a simplism that reduces all the problems of the world to the struggle against terrorism and is not properly thought through." European Union external affairs commissioner Chris Patten called U.S. military unilateralism "profoundly misguided."
With the largest budget increase for defense in the last 20 years, the monetary allocation for the U.S. military exceeds that of next nine largest militaries in the world - combined. The United States now spends a higher percentage of its income on the military than any other empire in all world history (including the Romans).
During the 2000 presidential campaign, TV provocateur and Flint, Michigan, activist Michael Moore wrote an open letter to Bush in which he said that Bush should not become the president, because it would pose too much of a national security risk. His tongue-in-cheek, though perhaps quite prescient, argument was that Bush's foolishness would create so many enemies around the globe that our national security would be threatened. The number of people around the world who had become enraged by our foreign policy would become so high that violence against the U.S. and its citizens would become commonplace. Of course, increased violence against the U.S. could spell even higher defense expenditures and more overseas invasions (in addition to massive profits for Bush and his cronies), and would certainly increase the speed of our blinding descent into a violent and dangerous abyss.