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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 98 12:04:11 CST
From: Workers World <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: What Fuels War on Iraq?
Article: 27602

Pentagon steps up drive for world domination: What fuels war on Iraq?

By Fred Goldstein, Workers World, 19 February 1998

The Iraq crisis has brought into bold relief one of the contradictions plaguing U.S. imperialism as it strives to assert absolute world domination in the post-Soviet era. It is the contradiction between its growing military firepower and its increasing political isolation

It is against this background that the U.S. government moves closer and closer to a new Gulf War.

When the United States led the imperialist world into the Gulf War in 1991, it had marshaled 265,000 troops from 27 other countries in addition to its own troops. These included the Western European imperialist powers as well as oppressed countries, including Egypt and Syria, dragooned into the fray.

Washington was the ringleader of a grand alliance to protect the hundreds of billions of barrels of oil reserves in Kuwait--and potentially in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

There was no threat to the natural resources themselves. The threat was to the control of oil extraction and production, which is dominated by the big imperialist oil companies in the United States and Europe. The Iraqi government was attempting to assert some independence.

In the current crisis, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has gone to Europe and to the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson has gone to Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, Kenya, Gambia, Brazil, Gabon and Costa Rica--the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen was in Europe to lobby Italy, France and Germany. President Bill Clinton made a phone call to Saudi King Fahd.

After all the diplomacy, arm twisting, threatening and promising was over, only the British government--the United States' longtime junior partner--and its dependencies Canada and Australia, plus the puppet sheikdoms of Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, would stand by Washington. And, except for the British government, that support is lukewarm.

No matter how many other dependent governments the Clinton administration coerces to pay lip service to this motley coalition, it will not change the utter isolation of U.S. imperialism.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl gave verbal support and offered the use of German bases, which are not needed for military operations in the Gulf, in what has been widely characterized as a token show of support.


Why are the former Gulf War allies reluctant?

Among the Arab governments it is clear. They fear the masses.

Amre Moussa, Egypt's foreign minister, told a Washington Post reporter on Feb. 6 in a diplomatic understatement: The whole Middle East is not comfortable with this, and I don't think there is support for [a military strike by the U.S. and Britain]. All of us will face the consequences of such a military attack.

Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Sultan's feudal monarchy despises and fears the secular, modern, nationalist regime of Saddam Hussein and its anti-imperialist posture. Nevertheless he was compelled to openly oppose his U.S. masters in their demands to use Saudi Arabia to stage air attacks on Iraq.

We do not favor striking Iraq as a people and as a nation, the prince was widely quoted as saying in Saudi news reports. (New York Times, Feb. 9) Such a statement could only arise from fear of publicly giving aid to U.S. aggression.

The French imperialists, of course, have no interest in seeing their U.S. rivals strengthened. The United States has been trying to sabotage French deals for oil with both Iraq and Iran. Now Washington has the arrogance to demand that Paris line up behind its war.

The Yeltsin regime in Russia is wary that not only will it be shut out of the Middle East, but that the high-tech, deep-penetration weapons the Pentagon wants to test in Iraq could be used against Russia itself.


With the Clinton administration edging closer to a military adventure in Iraq, anxiety and pessimism about the plan are spreading--even as new ships, planes and troops are ordered to the region.

Washington knows that the Iraqi people's hatred of the United States is now so great that bombing will not bend their will. In fact, it could set off a firestorm of protest against U.S. imperialism throughout the Arab world. A U.S. military strike at this time could also further deepen the split within the NATO alliance.

So what's behind such a seemingly perilous strategy?

Washington puts the issue in terms of destroying biological and chemical weapons. But this is strictly for popular consumption.

Of course, the imperialists want to disarm any oppressed country that defies them. That goes without saying. It is fine for the United States to have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the globe. But for Iraq--faced with not only with the Pentagon threat but a nuclear-armed Israel--to have any comparable weapon is strictly forbidden.

Yet with all the military means at the disposal of the United States, fear of Iraqi weapons can only be regarded as a secondary issue.

In fact, Clinton may have inadvertently revealed the underlying tendency driving this crisis during his joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. When asked whether or not the United States intended to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Clinton replied: I don't believe we need to refight the Gulf War. It's history. It happened, that's the way it is. I don't believe we need to get into a direct war with Iraq over the leadership of the country.

The political debates in Washington and on the editorial pages of the capitalist press make it clear that what's behind this crisis is the pressure to fight the Gulf War again--only this time to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein.

It must never be forgotten that Iraq has 100 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. That is just shy of one- tenth of the world's 1.1 trillion barrels. The U.S. ruling class and sections of the military believe they came close to having it all during the Gulf War of 1991.

They feel that while they were poised for the kill, the Bush administration, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Colin Powell and theater commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf pulled up short.

This dispute broke out the day after the war was over. It has never been put to rest.

The Pentagon and the military-industrial complex have been preparing to refight the war for six years. Frustrated by their inability to fully immobilize Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm, the Feb. 1 Washington Post wrote, the military has spent huge amounts of money and time developing weapons that can accomplish their task with greater accuracy and deadliness.

The article went on to describe new smart bombs tied in to a satellite-guided global positioning system, new bunker buster deep-penetration bombs and other Pentagon weapons of mass destruction.

Rep. Newt Gingrich and Sen. Trent Lott, the Republican leaders of Congress, support the military buildup. But at the same time they are baiting Clinton about limiting the military objective to destroying Iraq's military capability.

They demand the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

This could be passed off as election-year demagogy--but for a letter drawn up by Richard Perle and former Democratic Rep. Steven Solarz, which has been circulating in Congress since Jan. 26. Perle was an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and has emerged as a representative of the tendency in the ruling class that wants to refight the Gulf War.

It can no longer be argued, Perle wrote in the Feb. 8 Washington Post, that stopping half way is good enough. The idea that we and our allies could find safety in a `contained' Saddam Hussein encouraged the Bush administration to halt Desert Storm before the job was done.

The letter, directed to Clinton, has 18 signers. It calls for removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. (Washington Post, Feb. 5)

Among the signers are R. James Woolsey, Clinton's first director of the CIA; Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense under Reagan; Paula Dobriansky, head of the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations; Robert Zoellick, a key foreign-policy adviser to Bush; leading right-wing ideologue William Bennett, secretary of education under Reagan and drug czar under Bush; and Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who recently wrote an article for the right-wing Weekly Standard calling for ground troops in Iraq.

The signers are not agreed on a program. But the Perle group has separately elaborated a plan to promote the CIA puppet group called the Iraq National Congress, which is based in northern Iraq.

The Perle plan calls for the Hussein government to be expelled from the United Nations. Then the United States would recognize the INC and ply it with money taken from frozen Iraqi national assets. Washington would also supply it with military power and air cover.

Other schemes build on this scenario and call for using the Iranian government to bolster the effort.


While such scenarios are gaining currency in Washington as an alternative to the use of U.S. ground forces, it is not possible to tell to what degree this reflects military and ruling-class sentiment. But there are always recriminations within the military and the ruling class when they do not get their way on the battlefield.

Recriminations against the Kennedy administration for not supplying air cover and going all out militarily to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961 may very well have fed the reactionary political current that carried out his assassination. The U.S. struggle to destroy Cuba has not abated in 39 years.

To this day the United States has not recognized the results of the Korean War. It has not permitted a peace treaty with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to this day--45 years after the Korean people, supported by the Chinese People's Republic and the USSR, fought world imperialism to a standstill. The United States still stands poised with 37,000 troops and nuclear weapons to resume the war. Washington has never surrendered the goal of reconquering the north.

For years after the Vietnam War, the bitterest recriminations went on within the military over how the United States held back and did not really use its full military potential--meaning more massive bombing and nuclear weapons. All these setbacks for U.S. imperialism took place during the era of the USSR, whose military and political strength were a deterrent to the Pentagon.

It is the greatest frustration to the military establishment and ruling class to be unable to vanquish the Iraqi regime and conquer the country when there is no great military power standing in their way.


What they will not admit out loud, however, is that what stood in their way of taking Baghdad in 1991 is the same thing that stands in their way now. And in some ways it is more powerful than the deterrence of the former USSR.

It is fear of the masses worldwide and here in the United States.

What stopped them from going all the way in 1991 was fear of a rebellion at home if they sent the soldiers to die in a war for Big Oil.

They boast now about how their polls show support for an attack on Iraq. But they know how superficial that support is--should it become a question of sending soldiers for house-to-house combat with an armed people defending their country against imperialist aggression. That could cause a rapid shift from support to militant anti-war sentiment.

All the right-wing pundits are urging Clinton to destroy the Iraqi government. Of course, the Clinton administration is undoubtedly trying to figure how to do just that, but is afraid of saying so publicly should it fail. Only the most brazen advisers suggest sending in ground troops.

The entire capitalist news media and all the politicians are now coming to grips with the limits of air power as the crisis comes closer and closer. They all realize that the aggression they are about to unleash cannot be consummated without claiming victory on the ground. And the only way to accomplish that is to get the workers and the oppressed in the United States to fight.

This has always been the imperialist bourgeoisie's problem when they wanted to start a big war. How do you pull in the masses, who do not want to fight such wars? They have to resort to manufacturing disasters that take the masses unawares in order to herd them off to war.

That's what they did when they sank the Maine in order to start the Spanish-American War of 1898. Or when they sank the Lusitania during World War I. Or when Roosevelt maneuvered the Japanese into the Pearl Harbor attack by cutting off their oil. Or when Lyndon Johnson stage managed the Gulf of Tonkin attack that led to the escalation of the Vietnam War.

It may be that the ruling class is afraid of breaking up capitalist stability at home by dragging the masses into a military adventure abroad at this moment. But should the Asian crisis begin to come home to the United States, the temptation to divert attention from an economic downturn into a military campaign will become stronger and stronger.

As the Clinton administration moves closer and closer to a bloody attack on the Iraqi masses, all progressives must get into the streets and rouse anti-war protest from every possible platform. This is the time to mobilize in solidarity with the people of Iraq and of the Middle East.