Why attack Iraq?
A US student in the UK thinks the last thing we need is Gulf War Take Two.
Iraq is next.
The USA and the UK are planning an intervention in the Gulf to oust Saddam Hussein, the most evil ‘evil doer’ in President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’. But what has Saddam’s government done this time to elicit the West’s post-11 September wrath? According to the CIA, not very much.
Saddam wears battle fatigues to cabinet meetings, is the subject of nearly all of Iraq’s public art, and declared his birthday a national holiday. He’s easy to hate, and has arguably become the last universally recognised malevolent totalitarian. Iraq is Bush and Blair’s bubble-wrap – too irresistible to have a pop.
Along America’s axis of all things evil, Iraq stands out. Hints of possible military strikes started emerging from the White House back in November 2001 (1), long before Iraq was labelled evil in Bush’s State of the Union address. But according to the CIA, there is no evidence that Iraq has ‘engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade’, and no evidence of a link between Iraq and the 11 September attacks, as has been claimed over the past six months (2).
On the question of weapons, 2400 UN inspections over the past 10 years have failed to find any ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (3). Still, rumours abound that the Pentagon is thinking of sending a 200,000-strong force into the Gulf – though Bush is said to favour a covert ‘regime change’ (4).
So why Iraq? Take one universally identifiable bad guy, an idyllic battlefield and a plethora of juicy targets, add some overwhelming confidence…and war with Iraq is an easy cake to bake.
Six months after the terrorist attacks on the USA and five months after launching his seemingly directionless ‘war on terror’, Bush needs to do something with America’s guns and bombs to improve his standing. Osama bin Laden hasn’t turned up, dead or alive. The remains of the Taliban and al-Qaeda are scattered, but not destroyed. To sustain public support for the war on terror, the allied governments need some kind of ‘V-day’, and American citizens want one. Sorry, Iraq.
Attacking Iraq seems to be far more about Bush’s domestic political agenda than about countering a real international threat. For a decade, Iraq has been America and Britain’s stomping ground. The UK/US alliance has patrolled and enforced the ‘no-fly’ zones since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, and has been the main supporter of enforcing the sanctions that have had disastrous consequences in Iraq. There are still regular air strikes on Iraqi targets, many of them carried out by RAF Tornados. Over 250 days of joint air strikes have been recorded in the past two years alone (5). For some in Iraq, the Gulf War never really ended – it’s just that the CNN camera crews went home.
Unfortunately, the question our leaders are asking now is not why attack Iraq, but when and how?
America’s axis-tential crisis, by Brendan O’Neill
spiked-issue: After 11 September
(1) ‘Bush hints Iraq may be next target’, Boston Globe, 27 November 2001
(2) ‘Iraqi terror hasn’t hit US in years, CIA says’, New York Times, 6 February 2002
(3) ‘Impact’, CNN, 4 March 1998
(4) US stirs efforts to oust Saddam, USA Today, 28 February 2002
(5) Airstrikes routine in no-fly zones, CNN, 16 February 2001
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