Wednesday, June 16, 2004

If war isn't the solution, what is?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

To answer the question you first have to pin down which predicament it is that war is presumed to be able to remedy. Initially the objective was to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction the coalition insisted he had in his possession. When numerous intelligence experts revealed that Hussein's surviving feeble arsenal of weaponry posed no threat, the diplomatic, peaceful solution became clear; grant the weapons inspectors more time to continue their evidently successful work. Considering that Iraq had been subjected to largely uninterrupted air attack since the 'end' of the first Gulf War and inspectors had been permitted to dismantle the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons which the US supplied to Iraq in the first place, it's hardly surprising that Hussein's munitions stockpile was so unimpressive.

The hypothetical imminent threat was demonstrated to be fallacious and hence there was no justification for rushing into a reckless melee. This spelled bad news for the Bush administration because they wanted a war no matter what, for reasons which had little to do with eliminating a real threat to the security of the western world. If the weapons inspectors had been given equal air time to voice their concerns and it had been a genuine goal to find alternative means of resolving our differences with Hussein, we certainly would not have embarked on the despicable fiasco that ensued. Much to the coalition's embarrassment, the UN weapons inspectors consistently refused to bolster the official, fictitious justifications for a phoney war. This troubled the warmongers to such an extent that they arranged for chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to be bugged to pre-empt the further exposure and ridicule of their fairy tales.

Shortly before the war began, Hussein offered to do everything in his power, bar committing suicide, to appease Washington and find a way to evade war. It would have been nice if we could have reached this juncture months or even years prior to Gulf War II, but better late than never. So what if the troops were all in position ready to 'kick ass'? It would still have been possible to call off the dogs and oust Hussein without razing Iraq to the ground, civilians and all. Washington's response was "tell them that we will see them in Baghdad".

Incidentally, similar offers were made before the bombing of Afghanistan commenced and again during the bombing, yet these diplomatic efforts were also sabotaged by Bush in favour of brute force. We were told in official Whitehouse statements that it was necessary to carpet bomb Afghanistan because the Taliban refused to handover Osama bin Laden. This was a barefaced lie - the Taliban were prepared to turn him in on the proviso that evidence of his involvement in the attacks of September 11th 2001 could be provided. Hardly an unreasonable demand, especially considering we were led to believe the case against Al Qaeda was cut and dried. Nevertheless, Bush's response was, "There is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty." A Taliban spokesman informed the Bush administration, "We are ready for negotiations. It is up to the other side to agree or not. Only negotiation will solve our problems." Not being big on grown-up talk, Bush, with all the bravado of John Wayne retorted, "They must not have heard. There are no negotiations. This is non-negotiable" and that was that. Bombs away! Weeeeee!

"I'm the commander. See, I don't have to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." - President G W Bush to Bob Woodward

The carrot on the stick manoeuvre, also known as exile could have provided yet another preferable exit strategy. The talks broke down apparently when Hussein refused to pull the weapons he didn't have out of a magic hat. It's very easy to appear to be making conciliatory efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution when you're dispensing impossible ultimatums.

It should be noted that it is not for Bush to decide to wage war without first exhaustively exploring diplomatic alternatives. There are clearly delineated protocols that leaders must follow in order to operate within the boundaries of international law as stipulated by the UN: "the parties to any dispute ... shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation." In an article written by Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times, it was revealed that a White House source told the Financial Times that the final decision to go to war with Iraq was made way back in December so any diplomatic attempts to resolve the disputes between Hussein and the Bush administration would have fallen on deaf ears. "A tin-pot dictator was mocking the President. It provoked a sense of anger inside the White House", and this was deemed sufficient cause to unleash weapons of mass destruction onto the already war-weary populous of Iraq. If the western world expects wayward rogue states to comply with such legislature, we too must be seen to be playing fair. The US must set a good example if they wish to be taken seriously when promoting themselves as a benevolent super power.

The coalition eventually acknowledged that their flimsy lies would no longer convince the public of the necessity of war so the quest for a more robust manipulative vehicle began. They settled for the 'humanitarian saviours' bandwagon and proceeded to exploit it to full effect in promoting Hussein's unmistakably atrocious crimes. Whilst scores of these have been verified and well documented by Amnesty International and other reliable sources, much of the intelligence used to highlight Hussein's worst human rights violations emanated from Ahmed Chalabi who's reputation leaves a lot to be desired to put it lightly! What they didn't tell us is that Iraq no longer constituted a humanitarian crisis as stipulated by Human Rights Watch, and that if we were to spend $117+ billion dollars on alleviating human suffering, that money would have been put to better use elsewhere in the world. If the intention was the play the Good Samaritan, why not select the region that is home to the most pressing current humanitarian catastrophe and set up camp there? Surely not because the belated human compassion expressed by the coalition was no more than an egregious smokescreen? Governments just don't engage in that kind of deception. There are absolutely no precedents for such behaviour.

Nevertheless, Iraq clearly was a stage for all manner of horrendous human rights abuses and it remains true that the longer we stood around twiddling our thumbs and debating the issues, the more innocent Iraqis would die. No-one is saying we should have ignored the appalling plight of the Iraqi people, just that you don't heal wounds by sticking dynamite in them. It's not rocket science. So what actions could we have taken to depose the vile despot responsible for this suffering? One option was to bribe key commanding officers of Hussein's Republican Guard to stand down long before the bombing commenced. Actually this strategy was utilized and proved to be highly effective. When coalition troops 'stormed' Baghdad there was surprisingly little resistance, precisely because Hussein's cronies knew the game was up and couldn't resist the temptation to profit from their inevitable defeat. Hundreds of unoccupied tanks lay dormant, lined up in neat rows constituting no hazard to the invading forces, and enemy soldiers had long since changed into civilian clothing and were nowhere to be seen. So if the majority of the 'resistance' had already agreed to surrender, why was there a need for the spectacular pyrotechnics show which followed? Was it the whim of the belligerent child occupying power in the White House to be entertained by a cycle of flashing lights and a cacophony of exploding Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs?

Sure, go ahead and scare witless Saddam's Fedayeen forces to convince them they're doomed to failure if they put up a fight, but surely indiscriminately bombing areas populated by civilians is overkill. Even the most blinkered gun-toting warmonger knows that 'smart' bombs are only smart in the sense that George Bush is a Nobel prize-winning mastermind. If military might was the only dish on the menu, what would be so wrong with using it responsibly through the precision targeting of key defences, followed by threats of more of the same if Saddam et al didn't surrender? Now that would be a fine exemplar of showing compassion towards the civilian population. They're the people we invaded Iraq to unshackle, remember? Come on, keep up!

Judging by the willingness of Hussein's Republican Guard to defect to the opposition, it's not beyond the realms of belief to suppose that the same troops could have been paid to perform a coup and handover Hussein to the coalition themselves. Such covert operations have proved to be successful in the past when dealing with much more formidable foes than Hussein so it was certainly worth a shot. $118,000,000,000 (and rising!) is a hell of a lot of moola, and we all know money is power.

Another option would have been to support an uprising by the indigenous people of Iraq. The problem with this approach was that the most likely candidates, the Kurds, no longer trust the US because twice previously they had offered their assistance and twice abandoned them when it came to the crunch. Thousands of Kurds were massacred and even more were forced to flee their homes in fear of reprisals. Third time lucky, the refugees hoped in 1996 when Clinton thought it timely for another duck hunt. They should have trusted their instincts and told Washington to do their own dirty work - at the 11th hour the Clinton administration reneged on the deal and many more thousands of people had to be air lifted to safety and then sheltered in neighbouring Turkey.

Ultimately the crux of the matter is that any war waged against our ex-bestest buddy Hussein should not have turned into a war against the innocent people he held in subjugation for decades. Military action executed for the purposes of liberation does not result in the deaths of over 11,000 civilians.

Aside from serving up Hussein's head on a silver platter, there were other avenues to explore. Indictment, for instance, has proven to be a valuable tool in the past when dealing with despots previously thought unassailable. Two of the best examples are the cases of the then president of Liberia Charles Taylor and onetime Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic. Perhaps if, instead of patting Hussein on the back, we had made the case against him in the 80s, he wouldn't be such a thorn in our side today. That was the time to criticise dithering over his fate. This would have been the most cost-efficient, and more importantly, life-efficient means of bringing him to justice. Unfortunately it wouldn't have allowed the US military to use the Iraqi population as guinea pigs in the testing of their toys of mass murder or guaranteed the installation of a pro-American government.

If the weapons of mass destruction ruse hadn't been abandoned in favour of emancipation peaceniks might have argued in favour of extending and refining our successful containment strategy. It seems like a waste of energy to go into great detail describing how this might have worked now, but feel free to examine this article for further elucidation.

Assuming we can bring about bona fide regime change, the question remains, will the Iraqi people accept the newly installed government, puppet or otherwise? It wouldn't be surprising if they revolted, split into guerrilla forces and proceeded to wage civil war. If they aren't ready, or aren't interested in sustaining a democratic political system, post-Saddam Iraq could prove to be far more hostile and dangerous a place to live than it was prior to our occupation. This would of course make a mockery of liberation and disrupt the flow of oil from east to west... not that this was ever a concern.

The blustering challenge levied at anti-war protesters, "you find another solution to the Iraq problem then" presumes that bombing is the answer and is helping us to make headway in the 'war on terror'. This is an erroneous and lethal mistake. Since waging war on Iraq to avenge unrelated terrorist attacks and advance US dominance of the Middle East, Bush has validated the perilous fables he spoon-fed the world prior our pyrrhic victory. Free from Hussein's clearly tyrannical though, in some ways, positively constraining influence, Iraq has become a Mecca for Islamic fundamentalists, terrorists and suicide bombers, and as a result civilians and coalition troops continue to be slain on a daily basis. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have played straight into the hands of the likes of bin Laden as they have made martyrs of the survivors who are now more determined than ever to lash out at the western world. Terrorist attacks elsewhere have intensified, the Middle East has been destabilized precisely as the CIA predicted and all the while bin Laden still manages to evade capture. Even the militant's champion, Colin Powell, has been forced to concede that worldwide terrorism has escalated following our imperialist escapades in Iraq. So when will the war-hawks admit they were wrong and start listening to the intelligence and foreign affairs experts they pay so generously to produce reports which they then use to line their bird cages?

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