Alternative Insight

Target Iraq
Another Yugoslavia?

Defense Secretaries, military officials, foreign affairs experts and a bewildered president of the United States noisily debate America's policy towards one person--Saddam Hussein. The well orchestrated and discordant rhetoric camouflage the key element in the decision-making process--the political consideration--and the key element in the reasons for disposing of the Iraqi leader--to keep impotent the Arab world's most potent country. Political decisons are usually safeguarded so no official can be accused of an error in judgement. The safest approach--follow a successful past adventure--use the lessons of the war against Yugoslavia.

The Political Consideration
President Bush is not certain that a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein will automatically award the presidency to him in 2004. A military victory didn't enable his father to retain the presidency. A victory that costs American lives and causes unforeseen damage to the United States will endanger Bush's 2004 presidential campaign. A president concerned with his political future is guided by the politics of the moment. While Secretary of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell engage in the "bad guy" and "good guy" rhetoric, modeled to please and confuse a divided world, Bush's political advisors seemed to have already guided him to a decision of how to handle Saddam Hussein and the country of Iraq.

The political thought follows a political direction:

(1) The United States has bombed Iraq for 10 years, killed hundreds, wounded thousands and destroyed Iraqi infrastructure. U.S. reports on the bombings indicate that more radar installations have been destroyed in Iraq than exist in the entire world. The world has permitted these calamities and has not vigorously reacted to them. The United States can continue this type of destruction with impunity
(2) The American military already has bases from which it can continue to launch attacks against Iraq, as it has done for 10 years. The U.S. military would not be judicious to engage in disputes by requesting bases from other countries for a larger attack, such as a military invasion.
(3) From the bases it now has at its disposal, the United States can increase the power of the bombings and the selection of targets so that Iraq is more aggressively punished and destroyed. This approach will satisfy world opinion that argues against invasion. It will prevent American casualties (no American airplane has been destroyed by Iraq defenses in thousands of sorties by American pilots), and soothe fears of the American public.
(4) Bombing from the air, combined with terrorist actions within Iraq and hysterical ranting that hold Sadddam Hussein responsible for all that is done against Iraq, will eventually cripple Iraq's infrastructure and create anarchy. The U.S. can continue the aggression for decades. Iraq can not suffer for as long as that time.
(5) No reliable evidence exists that Iraq has an arsenal of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. No reliable information exists that a relatively feeble Iraq intends to use any weapons (which it might not have) against the mighty United States, nor that it would be of any strategic benefit to Iraq. Reliable information exists that Iraq has no system capability for delivering weapons of mass destruction against the United States. Credible opinion asserts that if the U.S. invades an Iraq that has weapons of mass destruction and a delivery system, the invasion will provoke Iraq to use those weapons against the United States. I,f after conquering Iraq and suffering casualties, the U.S. fails to uncover any Iraqi programs or weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Republican party will suffer from mass destruction.
(6) The "bomb them to hell" policy worked against Slobodan Milosevich and Yugoslavia. It is a proven technique for pulverizing a country into submission and ridding the world of a recalcitrant dictator. By continuing loud administration demands for a pre-emptive strike, while pursuing a formidable but less aggressive policy, the U.S. administration will make it appear it is willing to compromise and won't receive as much "heat" for its slightly less aggressive policy.
(7) Politics dictates policy. The "bomb them to hell" bombing of Iraq is the politically wise decision. No bureaucrat can be held responsible for a policy that is already in motion, and no one can argue against a policy that had positive results in past military situations.

The Target is Primarily Iraq and not Saddam Hussein
After a decade of complaints directed against Saddam Hussein, coupled with threats to remove him from power, the Iraqi dictator remains comfortably in power. Does the U.S. government sincerely care? Any other Iraqi leader will be an Arab and a Moslem and will follow an Arab nationalist policy similar to that of Saddam Hussein. A new leader could even be more antagonistic to America. Saddam is a secular nationalist, the very type that the U.S. is trying to promote. A future leader might not be secular--he could be a Shiite who links Iraq closer to Iran. Nothing has changed for Saddam Hussein during years of aggressive U.S. policy towards Iraq. Much has changed for the Iraqi people. If Iraq were Pompeii, then the US would be Mt. Vesuvius.

After having been the most prosperous and well organized Arab country in the Middle East during the 1980's, the Iraq economic and social structures suffered severe declines in the 1990's. Well regarded statistics indicate a severe increase in mortality, sicknesses, malnutrition and impoverishment.
Some statistics from a UN Report on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, submitted to the Security Council, March 1999
and from other sources:

  • Maternal mortality rate increased from 50/100,000 live births in 1989 to 117/100,000 in 1997. Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition.
  • The dietary energy supply had fallen from 3,120 to 1,093 kilo calories per capita/per day by 1994-95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%).
  • The World Food Programme estimates that access to potable water is currently (1998) 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and only 33% in rural areas.
  • The collapse of the irrigation system and the introduction of the oil-for-food programme have prompted the Government to withdraw from agriculture (The Economist Intelligence Unit, country profile Iraq, 1998-99).

Iraq's economic and social problems during the 1990's are a direct result of the sanctions and almost daily bombings of Iraq. Lately, Iraq shows signs of recovery . Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, that stood at almost $4000 in 1989 and fell to poverty levels during the 1990's, rose 15% last year to $2500, double that of Egypt. As Iraq slowly struggles to return to stability, the United States promotes Iraq's instability and the impoverishment of the Iraqi people. Some examples:

When Iraq served U.S. interests, and the U.S. knew Iraq used chemical weapons, the U.S. did nothing to discourage Iraq's crimes.

The Washington Post, August 16, 2002 reported:

A covert American program during the Reagan administration provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the program.

Now, although the U.S. does not know if Iraq has chemical weapons, and has no evidence that Iraq is preparing any attack, the U.S. is intending to crush Iraq.

The United States has objected to sales to Iraq of a wide range of products, including medical equipment (computers can run weapons systems), medical supplies, vaccines, incubators (all have potential use in biological and chemical weapons), hightech machines for producing pills and eliminating kidney stones (possible military applications), etc.

The U.S. air force claims it is forced to repeatedly bomb Iraq in order to defend the Kurdish people from Saddam's displeasure. Yet, the U.S. government permits the Turkish government to bomb the Kurds and attack them ferociously. Meanwhile, Al Queda leaders are reported to have found refuge in the Kurdish territory where the legal government of Iraq has been denied entry. The U.S. government, that is forming plans to attack Iraq, has no plans to attack Kurdish territory.

In the September 11 attack against the United States, innocent American civilians were unfairly slaughtered because a group had grievances against the American government. In the attacks against Iraq, innocent Iraqi civilians have been slaughtered because the U.S. government has undefined grievances against the Iraqi government. No single attack on the Iraqi people has been as dramatic and punishing as the 9/11 attack on the American people.Still, the totality of the harm done to the Iraqi people by sanctions and bombings are magnitudes greater than the 9/11 catastrophe inflicted upon the American people. The American people deserve justice for the harm inflicted upon them. The recognition of that deserved justice becomes obscured by the lack of recognition of the injustice being inflicted by the U.S. government on the Iraqi people who, together with their government, have never participated in attacks against the United States.

The Political Decision in Motion
Recent bombings by U.S. war planes of Basra and Mosul in Iraq signal the start of a wider bombing campaign. Basra, Iraq's second largest city suffered a major bombing on Sunday morning, August 25. Reuters reported that eight people died and many civilians were injured in the attack. An anti-war delegation visiting Iraq also reported that U.S. war planes carried out major bombing attacks on the airport in Mosul and on civil and service installations in Al-Nukhayb, located south of Baghdad. The delegation reported that the airport and its radar tower that guides civilian air traffic were hit by U.S. missiles on August 27.

The American administration has made its decision on what to do with Iraq. The administration claims its decision is most guided by the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power; a claim that is not supported by the U.S. policies of the last decade. U.S. policies have indicated that America only wants the nation of Iraq to remain weak, and prevent Iraq from developing the potential of being the core power of the Arab world. Bush wants to be assured that a decision does not compromise his political career. The decision-making process includes possible compromises to the future of the Iraqi people.

september 1, 2002