A Pew Research Center poll released Oct. 31 found support for George W. Bush’s plan for preemptive war against Iraq has dropped from 64 percent in mid-September to 55 percent. Support for war plummets to only 27 percent if the U.S. acts unilaterally, down from 34 percent in September.

The poll revealed deep fears that a U.S. military attack might impel the Iraqi regime to resort to chemical or biological (CB) retaliation against U.S. troops. It reflects the CIA’s warning, leaked last month, that Saddam Hussein is unlikely to use CB weapons unless the U.S. provokes him by attacking first.

Half the 1,751 people polled said Bush has not clearly explained what is at stake in Iraq. Half also agreed that there has been too little discussion of ways to deal with Saddam Hussein other than military force. Only about 25 percent said there has been enough discussion of other options for dealing with Iraq. The poll shows that the American people are still imbued with the notion, born of Pearl Harbor, that a surprise or preemptive attack on another country is an infamous crime.

Bush attempts to give his war drive a high moral purpose. But the New York Times Week in Review, Nov. 3, carries a report by Serge Schmemann headlined, “After Hussein: Controlling Iraq’s Oil Wouldn’t Be Simple.” The story is illustrated by a map and graphs of Iraq’s enormous oil fields with 112 billion barrels, 10 percent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves.

Schmemann writes that France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China are all warily watching the U.S. war buildup. Russia and France in particular have huge investments in Iraqi oil that will be swept aside by Bush’s planned colonial-style U.S. military occupation government in Baghdad.

Toby T. Gati, a former Clinton foreign policy adviser, told the Times the “real issue is American power. How do countries safeguard their interests in a unipolar world where Washington’s attitude is that what’s good for America is good for the world?”

Youssef M. Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times, “The Saudis are saying to themselves, the Americans are going to invade Iraq and turn it into their private pumping station.” That may explain why Saudi Arabia has refused to allow the U.S. to launch the war from their territory. They know they may be next on Bush’s “permanent war” list.

The Bush administration says war against Iraq will cost as much as $200 billion and require mobilization of 265,000 troops, equal to Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This time, troops would be deployed not only in Iraq but at U.S. military bases throughout the world.

The confrontation with the Bush war plan has come to a head at the United Nations Security Council, where the White House seeks a blank check similar to the war resolution approved by Congress.

Bush left a summit meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Oct. 27, scowling angrily because Fox refused to back the administration’s pending Security Council resolution on Iraq. “The crucial thing is collective action,” said Fox, whose buddy friendship with Bush has gone sour.

The Bush administration assumed it could count on Mexico’s vote as a member of the Security Council, but Mexican officials made clear they will support France in insisting that the UN first send inspectors to Iraq to search for any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. If those weapons sites are discovered and Iraq refuses to dismantle them, then a second resolution charging “material breach” would be presented to the Security Council. The Bush administration has refused to support the “material breach” phrase, insisting that the Council approve one resolution pre-authorizing war when and if Bush decides.

Attempting to defuse intense international opposition to its unilateral war drive, the U.S. has submitted a “compromise” resolution that still gives the Bush administration the right to act alone. If France, Russia and others go along with this deal, it will be a clear capitulation in exchange for some unknown quid pro quo, probably on the issue of oil.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, in a visit to Spain, denounced Bush’s war drive against neighboring Iraq, charging, “The United States with its hegemony has strengthened bin Laden…I hear a discourse from two poles. One is the voice raised from Afghanistan by bin Laden that says: Whoever is not with us must be destroyed. The other is the voice of the United States that says, ‘Whoever is not with us is against us.’ That is a logic which on the one hand leads to the most atrocious forms of terror and on the other side … war.”

Khatami pointed out that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian troops in the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, made with technology supplied by the U.S. Yet the Reagan-Bush administration uttered not a word of condemnation. “If chemical weapons are bad, why when they were used against us or Iraqi citizens wasn’t Iraq condemned and pressured?” demanded Khatami.

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