In his United Nations speech on Sept. 12, President Bush replaced Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein as the nation’s primary enemy and set the stage to win world support for U.S. intervention in Iraq. But his speech was also about removing exposure of corporate crimes against working people and the economy and about the failed campaign to defeat Al Qaeda from the front pages – all, as Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, “curiously timed to coincide with the fall re-election campaign.”
On Sept. 19, Bush sent Congress a resolution giving him a blank check to invade Iraq and “dislodge” Hussein. Bush hopes to have a vote before the elections, in order to make war with Iraq the decisive issue in this tight election campaign.
Removal of Hussein is not a new objective. Scotland’s Sunday Herald exposed the fact that “secret” plans for invasion of Iraq preceded Bush’s election. Its author, Neil Mackay, disclosed a blueprint creating a “Global Pax Americana.”
The document, entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century,” written in September 2000, was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vicepresident), Donald Rumsfeld (defense secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s deputy), George W. Bush’s younger brother, Jeb, and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff).
The plan 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.”
The document supports “maintaining global U.S. pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests,” and describes American armed forces abroad as “the cavalry on the new American frontier.”
The cost of this war – estimated by the Pentagon to be some $200 billion – represents a planned theft from the already dwindling public coffers. It also threatens to further destabilize the precarious economy, pushing us deeper into a recession. The Pentagon’s estimate of 200,000 ground troops required for such a war signals the high probability of the return of a large number of troops in body bags.
The situation is changing rapidly and is still fluid. The die is not cast. While Germany has remained opposed to any unilateral U.S. intervention, France and Russia initially seem to concur with the U.S. proposition that a UN resolution threatening military intervention should be passed. When the Iraqi government announced they would allow the return of weapons inspectors without conditions, there was a collective sigh of relief around the world, except for the White House. BBC News reports, “Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the United States will find ways to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq unless there is a new United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue.”
And what does the U.S. hold out as the carrot to these countries besides the threat of the stick? It is becoming clearer the price of non-cooperation is preventing countries from sharing in the spoils of war – namely a piece of the action in Iraqi oil once Hussein is gone. This is a powerful inducement for countries whose dependence on Middle East and Iraqi oil is much greater than the U.S.’s.
It appeared the U.S. suffered a setback in its UN strategy now that other nations, Russia, France and China, are ready to let the weapons inspectors enter Iraq and do their job without additional UN resolutions threatening war. Nor can Bush draw any satisfaction from the German elections that returned Gerhart Schroeder to power.
The war is not a done deal and can be stopped. Any attack on Iraq – whether it is unilateral or with UN approval – must be opposed.
Having signed a few too many blank checks in the past year since Sept. 11, some in Congress are beginning to protest. Congress is the battleground. Leaders of both parties have pledged to deliver to Bush a resolution within weeks, if not days. But there is growing Congressional opposition.
Last week Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said President Bush’s plans to invade Iraq are a conscious effort to distract public attention from growing problems at home. Byrd said his belief in the Constitution will prevent him from voting for Bush’s war resolution.
How do we assess the mood of the U.S. public? A look at the Sept. 11 ceremonies provides a snapshot of the nation one year after. Most observances refrained from overt reference to continued war on terrorism. Many raised questions of how to struggle for peace and justice without war. Members of Congress are getting petitions with thousands of signatures, phone calls and visits insisting on peace with Iraq.
Demonstrations against Bush are growing. A full-page ad in the Sept. 19 New York Times by Not in Our Name, demanded a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Although public opinion spiked upward following Bush’s UN speech, broad sentiments is developing against Bush’s drive to war. The people must act, the stakes are high.
Sarah Staggs is the chair of the Communist Party Peace and Solidarity Commission. The author can be reached at email@example.com