For the past seven months, the United Nations Security Council has been proceeding on the assumption that its sole objective was to disarm the Iraqi regime of weapons of mass destruction, not to overthrow it.

While no one thought the inspections process would go off without a hitch, on the surface it seemed that both the Security Council and the Iraqi government were committed to making the process work, to seeing it through to a peaceful conclusion.

But no sooner had the inspections begun than the unanimity in the Security Council started to fray. The tensions though were not between the Council and Iraq, but rather between the United States and Britain on one side and France, Russia, Germany and China on the other.

The latter countries have been taking a positive approach to the inspections process. They argue that the inspections are working and should be continued until Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.

In fact, “Old Europe,” Russia and China have been guardedly optimistic that the crisis could be solved along political lines. Force was not absolutely ruled out, but it was considered an option only in the event that every possibility to disarm the Iraqi regime proved fruitless.

By contrast, the Bush administration has said that Iraq is turning the inspections into a farce. The arms inspectors’ reports to the Security Council, according to Colin Powell and others, demonstrate the complete futility of the inspections and provide unassailable evidence that force is necessary to disarm Iraq’s “rogue” regime.

How do we explain this divergence of views in the Security Council?

To find an answer we have to look no further than White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s remarks to reporters last week. At a news conference, he said that war could be averted, but only if two conditions were met: complete disarmament of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

In insisting on regime change, the Bush administration is now attempting to unilaterally change the mission of the Security Council from disarmament to regime change.

This prioritizing of “regime change” is not because Iraq constitutes an imminent threat to either our country or its neighbors. The 1991 Gulf War, the subsequent decade of harsh economic sanctions, and five years of arms inspections have destroyed Iraq’s nuclear capacity. They have eliminated or significantly degraded its other weapons of mass destruction.

Nor is it because Iraq provides a safe haven for terrorists – the evidence for this is threadbare.

Nor is it because Bush is consumed by an overwhelming desire to breathe democratic life into a region of the world that he considers “pre-modern” and uncivilized.

The singular determination by the Bush administration to remove the Iraqi government by force despite worldwide opposition is traceable to three factors.

First, a military takeover would establish a beachhead from which U.S. imperialism would be able to extend its influence in an unstable region of the world, a region whose strategic economic and political importance will grow in the coming decades.

Second, in contravention of international law and the UN charter, it would establish, de facto if not de jure, the legitimacy of pre-emptive strikes against regimes which possess or are considering the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.

Third, “Shock and Awe” – the name given the plans for the first days of the attack on Iraq with new hi-tech weapons of incredible destructive power and precision – is designed not only to terrorize and crush the Iraqi people’s will, but also to convince a global audience of the futility of resisting U.S. imperial dominance in the 21st century.

If this argument sounds thin, remember that the Truman administration dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to bring World War II to a close, but because U.S. imperialism was willing to murder tens of thousands of innocents and shock the world in order to establish its supremacy in the postwar era – particularly over the Soviet Union.

Given this, it’s easy to understand why White House policy makers have so insistently trashed the inspections process. Their concern was not that the inspections wouldn’t work, but that they would, thereby undermining the White House rationale for regime change and making the possibility of a UN mandate for war less likely. They have acted in the Security Council to actually undermine the inspection process.

Though some countries have been bought or coerced over to the U.S. side, the opposition to war, in the United Nations and in the streets of the world, remains formidable. Despite unrelenting pressure from the White House, the vast majority of states and peoples continues to demand, “No war in Iraq, Let the inspections work.” So far the rush to war of the U.S. military machine has been slowed down. But the coming two weeks are decisive. And once again it will take an outpouring of millions of people and the continued resistance of governments to win peace.

Sam Webb is the national chairman of the Communist Party USA
and can be reached at

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