FROM THE WAR CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
By Jack Random
To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
The Judges of Nuremberg.
America clings to the belief that she is absolved from all sin, all crimes against humanity, all acts of unconscionable violence and equally unconscionable indifference by the simple recycling of leadership every four to eight years. We are not to be held accountable for our past behavior because the names of those who reside on Pennsylvania Avenue have changed.
It is of no consequence that the leading players in the current White House are the same individuals who committed those crimes under previous administrations. The fact is, regardless the changing cast, American foreign policy since World War II is a continuous line of intervention, self-serving unilateralism, and utter defiance of international law and universal principles of equity and human decency.
The world community has long understood and detested American foreign policy. The people of the world have long understood that a changing of the White House guard does not produce a change in America’s behavior in the world. It is only a matter of degree. Ronald Reagan and the elder Bush were the hammers of foreign policy. Presidents Carter and Clinton may have provided a brief respite in the brutal prosecution of American policy but they did not (perhaps could not) change the path that would inevitably lead to the critical impasse we now face.
What is now happening in the world is the realization that its people can no longer endure. The problem is not that the world fails to see the Bush vision. The problem arises from the fact that they see it all too clearly.
The entire world was listening in hushed silence when our vice president declared “forty years of war” in the wake of September 11. They understood what Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld meant when they suggested that the tragedy of that momentous event could be seen as an opportunity to resume the war on Iraq. They understood that those in charge of the Bush administration’s foreign policy were cold warriors longing to return to the games of international warfare, subterfuge, corruption and intrigue.
Blessings on Jacques Chirac, for though the French had undeniable interests in the region, France stood to gain immeasurably more by caving to American interests in open defiance of her own people. If we believe in democracy then France and Germany were the world’s champions in the United Nations effort to prevent the war. You cannot in good faith advocate democracy while dragging your people into war against their will. Trying to achieve democracy through invasion is like trying to achieve tolerance through intimidation. It is a fallacy and a lie. You cannot champion democracy while lying to your people to win their approval.
If you still do not believe your government lied to you, then read its own statements in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001. There was and is no connection between the events of that horrific day and the regime in Baghdad. The alleged meeting between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda agents never happened. There was no Iraqi connected Al Qaeda training camp at a specified location in northern Iraq. That Iraq openly supports the cause of occupied Palestine is unquestioned and that is the only connection to “terrorists” this White House has documented.
The administration had to resort to fabrication and falsehood because it failed utterly and completely to make its case for war. What they failed to achieve through diplomacy, however, they attempted to achieve through bribery and intimidation. Against this background of failure and disgrace, America saw fit to demand that the United Nations fall into line or withdraw from international relevance. Nothing could be further from the truth. If, under these circumstances, the United Nations had yielded to American demands it would then have proclaimed its own irrelevance. Like the United States Congress, it would have abdicated its right and lawful duty in world affairs.
If we but examine the American case for war without passion or patriotism we will arrive at the same conclusion the rest of the world already recognizes. America repeatedly noted that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds (“his own people”) decades before but considered it irrelevant that America knowingly and deliberately allowed corporations to provide chemical precursors and biological elements to Iraq with the clear intent of employing them as weapons.
America condemned Iraqi use of chemical weapons – as it did publicly in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war – but it is not to be acknowledged that America protected Iraq from the sanctions of the United Nations. Saddam Hussein was America’s man in the Gulf region and Donald Rumsfeld was on the scene to seal the deal with a handshake.
America claimed that Saddam Hussein openly defied the United Nations for twelve years, yet for eight of those years a successful inspection regime disarmed massive quantities of chemical and biological weapons and dismantled the Iraqi nuclear program. More arms were destroyed in this period than during Gulf War I or the subsequent bombings and no lives were lost in so doing. In the second Gulf War, countless lives were saved by those years of “doing nothing,” of defiance and UN failure to act.
We should not forget that the American government (whose president was in political trouble) in fact orchestrated the discontinuance of the inspection process. The ensuing four years of inactivity were in large part the legacy of Ken Starr and a right wing conspiracy – although the president can hardly be absolved.
America claimed that the United Nations did nothing for twelve years yet the UN sanctions – which the US alone continued to support and prosecute – resulted in over a million Iraqi deaths. All the while America fought against the Food for Oil program and all proposals to restructure the sanctions so that they targeted weaponry instead of food and medicine.
America claimed (rightly) that Saddam Hussein was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity yet America alone refuses to sanction the International Court of Justice. The truth is: America would stand trial as Saddam’s accomplice.
As we stood on the precipice of war, the advocates of the Bush Doctrine argued that we had to go to war because our troops were in place and they could not wait much longer. If ever there was a reason for justifiable war this did not rise beyond the level of contempt. It seems to me our soldiers could have learned to persevere in the deserts of Kuwait and Bahrain in the hope that war could be averted but we had beat the drums of war so long and so loudly (they argued with the curious passion of a child that has lost his favorite toy) that we could not fail to act now! What would become of our prestige, our credibility, and our weight on the world stage?
One thing we can readily agree on without trepidation is that neither the cost of maintaining our troops nor the collective credibility of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice was worth the blood of a single American soldier – no less thousands of innocent civilians. Let them eat diplomatic crow and let our soldiers be spared.
Recall: in a last ditch effort to justify the irrational and reclaim their self-proclaimed prominence in international affairs, the warmongers threw up their hands and demanded: What would you have us do? Nothing? Would you allow Saddam Hussein to go about his business? Surely, if he was not developing weapons before the threat of war, he will do so now!
There are in fact many things that could have been done to further contain and disarm this monster of our own creation though doing nothing would have been preferable to the path of destruction we have pursued.
As former Senator Gary Hart suggested, we could have expanded the No Fly Zone to include all of Iraq and continuously monitored his activities. We could have increased the number of inspectors and provided them with all the equipment and intelligence they needed – as required by Resolution 1441. We could have maintained a force in the region while withdrawing most of our troops so that cooperation could be measured without the threat of an imminent attack. We could have restructured the sanctions so that the Iraqi people were no longer denied essential commodities – drinkable water, food, and medicines – while the Iraqi government was denied the materials of war. As an assurance of good will, America could have pledged, in the event of war and occupation, that the United Nations would assume control of Iraqi oil. Finally, we could have sanctioned the International Court of Justice and submitted our case against Saddam Hussein.
All these actions could and should have been taken with United Nations approval and support. The UN behaved admirably in this crisis. They stood the high ground between the world’s superpower and the world’s people. Under the constant pressure of American demands, the United Nations alone was positioned to make an informed judgment as to what should happen next. The United Nations alone had the authority to act where no nation has attacked another. If the time for war with Iraq had come, the United Nations would have known it and acted responsibly.
If the time for war did not come then we should all have been eternally grateful for the crisis would have been defused, diplomacy would have won the day, Iraq would have been disarmed peacefully, and the world would not have been hurling toward four decades of unending war and violence under the banners of freedom and security.