The War On Iraq
Dr. Eric Thor Karlstrom
Department of Anthropology and Geography
(November 16, 2002)
Since he gave his “Axis of Evil” speech, President Bush has not wavered in his resolve to wage war on Iraq. This despite objections from most of the nations of the world, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even from prominent Republicans such as Brent Scrowcroft, Henry Kissinger, and Dick Armey. The President assumes he has legal authority to wage such a war even though such a pre-emptive attack would violate the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the international law of self-defense, and the Nuremburg war criminal code. Iraq’s neighbors Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have each rejected the idea that they need protection from Iraq. Bush maintains the pretext of needing to disarm Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that former weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter have insisted that Iraq has not had the capabililty to produce nuclear weapons since 1991. And it was the United States that supplied Iraq with biological and chemical weapons. The minister of Justice in Germany this fall compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler – both relied upon pretext for their attacks upon other nations and showed imperious disregard for the civilized opinions of others.
In fact, recent papers have come to light such as Project for the New American Century, Sept. 2000, which indicate that the U.S. military has been planning an invasion of Iraq since the late 1990s and that it intends to take control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam is in power. Even the pretext of “regime change” is a façade. The report states:
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
This “American grand strategy” must be advanced “as far into the future as possible”. It calls for the U.S. to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” as a “core mission”. And it says the U.S. must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”.
The plan considers several options to redraw the map of the Middle East. These include the population transfer of Palestinians from occupied Palestine into Jordan, the partition of Iraq into three separate provinces, a north, central and south, and/or the creation of a Hashemite kingdom of Iraq and Jordan. The plan calls for the U.S. to maintain complete dominance of space and cyberspace, thus developing a “worldwide command and control center”. It is likely that the war will result in the killing of thousands or tens of thousands of Iraqis, will provide cover for Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, and will provide the excuse for U.S. invasions into other nearby countries.
What is really behind the U.S. hostility to Iraq? OIL. Iraq has 11% of the world’s proven oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has 25%. On the agenda in this perpetual war are Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon. And Vice President Cheney is already trading away Iraq’s oil assets to Russian and European corporations in return for their cooperation. But before we discuss this, let’s look at a little bit of history.
History of Iraq
Iraq includes the area drained by Tigres and Euphrates River; the “cradle of civilization”. More recently, it was part of the Ottoman Empire that was carved into much smaller countries by Britain and France at the close of World War I. This country was disassembled so that no regional power could contest the hegemony of the First world industrial countries over the region’s valuable oil resources. Under the new arrangement, Iraq’s oil belonged to England, France, the Netherlands and the United States. None of the oil wealth went to the Iraqi people. As a result, they lived in extreme poverty and hunger with an illiteracy rate of more than 80%. The country was ruled by the corrupt King Faisal II and a group of feudal landowners. In 1958, Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem overthrew king and established a republic. This event stunned Wall Street and Washington. (At the time, this Iraqi revolution was considered a much greater disaster than the Cuban revolution which occurred six months later). The next day, 20,000 U.S. marines landed in Lebanon. The day later, another 6,600 British troops arrived in Jordan.
In the “Eisenhower Doctrine”, the U.S. asserted its intention to go to war in the Middle East to prevent similar revolutions from occurring. This probably saved the corrupt neocolonial regimes in Jordan and Lebanon from a similar fate. Eisenhower, his Secretary of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid plans to invade Iraq and install a new puppet government in Bagdad. However, the U.S.S.R. mobilized troops to the edge of Iraq and the U.S. reluctantly had to accept the loss of Iraqi oil revenue- for the time being. But in 1960, the U.S. began to fund Kurdish guerillas who were fighting for a measure of autonomy within Iraq and the CIA made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Kassem. He made himself even more of a marked man when he helped create the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the next year and then created a national oil company. In 1963, in a CIA and British-sponsored coup, Kassem was assassinated and thousands of communists were killed.
In the 1980’s, the U.S. funded and encouraged Iraq in its bloody war with Iran, hoping to weaken and destroy both countries. The war killed a million people and did weaken both countries. However, even during this period, the standard of living in Iraq was amongst the highest in the Arab world. 97% of people in the cities had access to clean water and there was a very high literacy rate. And, for an Arab country, there was relative equality of sexes; as 40-50% of doctors were women. All this was due to Iraqi nationalization of oil resources. It was just after Iran-Iraq war, that the U.S. began calling Saddam “another Hitler”. Why? Again, because the Iraqi government was using Iraqi oil wealth to help the Iraqi people and because Iraq was becoming a regional power. For a neocolony to utilize it’s own resources for its own people was, is, and always has been regarded as a threat to U.S. imperialistic interests.
So in 1990 and 1991, the U.S., under the leadership of George Bush I, orchestrated an attack on the people of Iraq which included 43 days and nights of relentless bombing, the most concentrated aerial attack the world had ever seen. 177 million pounds of bombs fell, including cluster bombs and 300 tons of depleted uranium. The final tally in the massacre was 60,000 Iraqi soldiers and 140,000 civilians killed and less than 50 Americans casualties. The bombing destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and laid waste to her cities. But even more devastating have been the sanctions. On August 6, 1990 the U.S. and UN imposed sanctions on Iraq which have resulted in the deaths of a million and a half Iraqi citizens, including a half million children under the age of five, according to UNICEF. The causes of their death are primarily malnutrition, diarrhea, and lack of clean drinking water. In 1996, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark stated: “There is no greater violation of human rights anywhere in the world in the last decade of this millenium than the sanctions against Iraq”.
The continued exposure to depleted uranium has resulted in dramatic increases in leukemia, birth defects, breast cancer, and stomach cancer. And similar symptoms are being reported by the 1/3 to 1/4 of the Gulf War veterans disabled by the “Gulf War syndrome”. Since 1998, the U.S. and Britain have continued to bomb the country, overflying the country daily and bombing the country an average of two to three times a week. In the first eight months of 1999, U.S. and British planes flew 10,000 sorties over Iraq and dropped over 1000 bombs on over 400 targets.
Noam Chomsky sums it up the motivation:
It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the U.S. and its clients, and crucially that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil productivity and price.
Many may recall how George I’s pretexts for invading Iraq in 1991 were first, protecting the democracy of Kuwait (oops, it’s a monarchy), then it was about cheap gas, then to protect the American jobs, then to protect American jobs. Finally, he admitted: “Look, it’s about oil”.
It’s the Oil, Stupid
Colin Campbell, one of the world’s foremost experts on oil, affirms that there are an estimated 1 trillion barrels of high quality, readily extractable oil left. In the period between 1930 and the present we humans have extracted and exhausted about that same amount. At current rates of extraction, there is enough oil left to sustain industrialized civilization for another 35 years under the best of scenarios. The Hubbard Curve shows world oil production peaking in 2006. About 65% of proven reserves on the planet are in the Persian Gulf. Hence, its enormous strategic importance. The U.S., which consumes 25% of the world’s oil, only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves. Hence, it must now import 60% of it’s oil and this percentage will inevitably increase. Meanwhile, world per capita oil production already peaked in 1979 and world population is expected to peak decades from now.
The world’s economy is based on the sale of products that are either made from oil or which need hydrocarbon energy to operate, either via internal combustion or electricity. Different regions of the world peak in oil production at different times. The U.S. peaked in the early 1970’s. Europe, Russia and the North Sea have also peaked. The OPEC nations of the Middle East will peak last, some time in 2020s. Saudi Arabia, with 264 billion barrels of oil, has 25% of total proven world oil reserves and Iraq, with 113 billion barrels, has 11%. Clearly, these will be the most important and productive areas in the world for oil production and whoever controls this oil pool will control the world economy (figures from Resource Wars, the New Landscape of Global Conflict by Michael Klare).
It is ironic that the Bush II is using two different pretexts for invading Afghanistan and Iraq. The first, of course, was to apprehend the supposed architect of 9-11. The second is about a sudden and unexplained fear that Iraq may develop some objectionable weapons that might pose a threat to someone in the future. (Meanwhile, North Korea has recently confessed to having nuclear weapons and is not being targeted- yet). But it’s obvious that the real motivation for war is oil. The U.S. already has troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. After it’s coming war with Iraq it will have troops stationed in other Gulf countries as well.
Oil depletion scenario’s can be unsettling to the say the least. In the “The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge”, Dr. Richard C. Duncan, asserts that our industrial civilization itself is dependent on internal compustion and electrical energy, which in turn, depends upon fossil fuels. He notes that per capita energy production increased from 1945 to 1979, then dropped an average 0.33% between 1979 and 1999. He predicts that per capita energy production will drop another 0.7%/year between 2000 and 2011 in what he calls the “Olduvai slide”. During this time, severe stress will placed on the world’s agricultural system, which without oil products, will be only capable of feeding an estimated 2 billion people, or 1/3 of all humans. Then around 2012, Duncan predicts there will be a fall to 1930 levels of production and the rate of decline between 2012 and 2030 will be catastrophic 5.44%/year (the “Olduvai cliff”), precipitating on unprecedented world chaos.
Perhaps now we see a logical, if not appealing, rationale for Bush’s war on terrorism. Perhaps it is really about the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels and who maintains control of those resources. The pretext of waging wars against Afghanistan and Iraq to overcome the “evil” of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, then, can be seen as merely pretexts and public relations ploys. In “No Way Out”, Michael Ruppert describes our current situation:
What will be given to… the American people is a fragile pretxt to sanction something that is going to happen anyway. At that moment, everything that America once represented to the world as good will be lost and the U.S. will be, and in some cases already is, viewed as nothing more than a new Roman Empire- naked its power, unabashed in its greed, and brutal in the imposition of its wishes. We have reached that unique common denominator which has spelled the decline and fall of every totalitarian empire in the human history – might makes right. And most of the American people, with their bankrupt and corrupt economy, will welcome cheap oil, while it lasts, and they will engage in a multitude of psychological and sickening rationales that will, in the end, amount to nothing more than saying, “I don’t care how many women and children you kill. Just let me keep my standard of living.
What can we do? This country has always had the option of putting its resources into developing alternative energy such as wind, solar, and hydrogen fuel cell power, and in ways to increase energy efficiency. The government has generally resisted this priority but individuals are making great progress in this area. Alternative energy promises tremendous dividends in cheap, sustainable energy, not to mention domestic and world peace. In 1952, Harry Truman’s Paley Commission recommended weaning the nation from its dependence on fossil fuels and moving toward an energy future built around the sun and wind power. Alas, on behalf of the powerful private utilities, the Republicans scrapped these plans for a solar future when Eisenhower came to power.
Unfortunately, this war on Iraq is more than just another war to control other people’s resources and to further the interests of the American Empire. Yes, it will cause $100 to 200 billion which will be paid by the working families of America, and it will result in the loss of 10’s of thousands of Iraqi and an unknown number of American lives. Yes, it will spread chaos and misery throughout the Middle East. Yes, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon are all on the agenda. But, even more, this war could put an end to freedom and democracy everywhere. Our present government, installed over the wishes of the American people by a 5/4 supreme court vote, is a committee of fanatic, right-wing businessmen. Bush I and II, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and many others in the administration are so deeply tied to the oil industry that some writers referred to them as the “oil coup”, the “oil junta”, or simply the “oiligarchy”.
Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer puts it bluntly:
Global oil is peaking; in five years we will no longer be able to produce enough oil to meet the needs of our civilization. The oil elite wants to grab the remaining supplies and dictate their use. Likewise, the people of this country, who will soon be faced by starvation and extreme impoverishment, can be held in check through the establishment of a police state… (Thus) there is a lot more at stake here than just a continuation of the Cold War or U.S. imperialistic greed. There is enough energy remaining in the world right now for us- the people- to take control and ease ourselves into a democratic, egalitarian, stable-state society. Or there is enough energy for the elite to build a feudalistic, fascist, police state with themselves at the top. Yet (the oil elites) are not the ones pulling the triggers and enforcing the rules. We are… This is the choice facing us right now, and this is what is truly at stake.
These are dire predictions indeed, and I, for one, hope they are over-exaggerated. But regardless of the particulars, we in the industrial world face the inevitable imperative of shifting from a fossil fuel-driven civilization to a sustainable system fueled by renewables. Clearly our government is allied with oil elites that wish to consolidate their power and their power supplies. Clearly, their greed and fear has trumped their concern for the lives of others and the environmental health of the planet. This is irrefutable. In the face of this reality, we, the people, need to reclaim our constitutionally-guaranteed authority as citizens- and accept our responsibility to get informed, get connected, get organized, and respond appropriately. We can find sane, peaceful alternatives. Peoples’ movements need to come together to reclaim the government from the corporate powers which have taken it from us. The labor movement, the peace and justice movement, the environmental movement, the anti-economic globalization movement, the civil rights movement, the human rights movement- all these movements had better get moving now. We can and should join with the oppressed in other countries.
So it all depends upon the American people. Are there enough informed, courageous people now to take back this country from the new robber barons, the corporations, the “oiligarchy”, the ones that now control the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government? In George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, Tarpley and Chaitkin observe:
Oligarchs like Bush are well aware that there are only two ways to organize human affairs, namely the republican and the oligarchal modes. The republican mode depends upon the presence of citizens- well educated, technology-oriented, mature, and courageous people who are willing to think for themselves. Oligarchal forms function best in the presence of a culturally pessimistic, hedonistic, superstitious mass of passive witnesses to the passing scene.
The American people have been the object of a tremendously effective propaganda and disinformation machine- the mainstream media (see Noam Chomsky’s Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, and What Uncle Sam Really Wants). Our role as citizens has been replaced by our role as over-fed consumers. As such, we have been lulled into a kind of hedonistic-materialistic stupor. After 9-11, President Bush called on the American people not to sacrifice but rather to keep spending. But we are more than consumers; we citizens used to be the owners of this country. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution state that we still are. We still can wake up and reclaim for this country the principles upon which it was founded. We, the people, still have the power if we seize it- and we very much need to seize it now.