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(en) Why Iraq? Why Now? AF (Ireland) anti-war talk

From Al S <klasbatalemo@yahoo.ie>
Date Wed, 19 Feb 2003 22:21:49 +0100 (CET)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Below is a talk delivered by a member of the Anarchist
Federation at an anti-war meeting in Belfast on 11.02.03 hosted by Organise-ASF.
> Why Iraq? Why Now?
I have been asked tonight to provide a talk on the
imminent war with Iraq. 
A lot of the information you are about to hear is no
doubt already known to most of you, and normally the
problem faced by people in the movement is to get
across such information to wider circles. Consent is
manufactured on a daily basis by the government
lackeys in the media and to such an extent that
information leaks out in dribs and drabs, never
approaching the kind of levels required to initiate or
sustain real and effective change amongst greater
numbers of people across the country. 

With Iraq, however, hundreds of thousands of
demonstrators have already taken to the streets of
London and cities elsewhere to protest against a war
that has yet to happen, which itself is part of
another war -the so-called war against terrorism. So,
in effect, the U.S. and their lapdogs in Britain and
Ireland are facing a groundswell of reaction against
governments that have taken people down the garden
path perhaps one too many times.

Of course, the war against Iraq is not going to break
out suddenly in the next few weeks. It is merely going
to escalate the aerial bombardment of a country that
has been ongoing since the so-called end of the last
Gulf War in 1991 -this bombardment being the most
consistent bombardment of any country since the end of
World War II. 

So what is the escalation of hostilities about?

·Is it about the removal of Saddam Hussein, our
latter-day Hitler-in-disguise, who must not be
appeased and who strangely enough wasn?t removed last
time round?
·Is it about Saddam?s refusal to abide by the laws of
democracy, and this from a country, the U.S., which
has set up puppet dictatorships throughout the third
world and beyond? 
·Is it about Saddam?s supposed links with terrorist
networks across the globe and in particular Al-Qaeda
though these links have never been proved and there
has yet to be produced a shred of evidence to suggest
he is involved in any way?
·Is it about Saddam?s hidden stockpile of weapons of
mass destruction (WMD) which no one seems able to
·Or is it about oil, meeting defence expenditure
quotas, opportune diversions from catastrophic
domestic problems and the effects of a neo-liberal
agenda that seeks to extend itself in every corner of
the world?

In answering these questions tonight, we also need to
consider our strategy for creating more awareness
about the issues involved, the significance of the
recent direct actions at Shannon, and the building up
of a support network for those people who will
ultimately fall foul of our so-called laws. We need to
bear in mind that by the time I finish this talk
another 170 children will have died of starvation in a
world where a 1000m people ?suffer from chronic hunger
and 600m people are overweight?(1) - a world where
Ecuador and El Salvador have already adopted the U.S.
dollar as their national currencies, and where in
Argentina, a popular T.V. show has for it?s top prize
-a job!

Are we appeasing Saddam?

So Saddam Hussein is the modern equivalent of Adolf
Hitler, Tony Blair is Winston Churchill, Vera Lynn is
back at the top of the hit parade and Jim Davidson
will no doubt be cracking the same jokes he did in the
Falklands in 1982 (!). Rockwell Schnabel -the US
ambassador to the European Union is quoted as saying
in the last few weeks?

?You had Hitler in Europe and no one really did
anything about him. We knew he could be dangerous but
nothing was done. The same type of person (is in
Baghdad) and it?s there that our concerns lie.?

This from a citizen of a country that enjoyed a
profitable period of neutrality in 1939 and 1940 and
against a tyrant whose Secretary of Defence, Donald
Rumsfield, only a few weeks ago offered ?a suitcase
full of cash? to get out of Baghdad (2). This also
against a man who invaded Iran in September 1980 in an
attempt to muster support from the U.S., the imperial
powerhouse in the region and who received by the
Reagon administration enough?

 ?? for (the) development of biological weapons and
the basic ingredients for the chemical agents he used?

It?s well known that Saddam remained a close ally of
Washington?s right up to his invasion of Kuwait in
1990 (Kuwait itself was legitimately a part of Iraq
until 1920). His reason for doing so was? 

??to punish Kuwait for its refusal to write-off debts
incurred in a war that had arguably protected that
nation?s oil fields from Iranian conquest?. (4)

But Saddam is not mad. Well, at least not mad enough
to risk angering his patrons in Washington. After all,
he had been given the green light by the U.S.
ambassador to Iraq, Glaspie, that the U.S. ?had no
opinion in Arab-Arab conflicts? (5).

So this is the man who must not be appeased. Unlike
Hitler who was appeased until it was too late. Well,
maybe not. And why not? Maybe because it doesn?t quite
explain how U.S. investment by such companies as
General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Texaco
and I.B.M. continued investment in Germany even after
the outbreak of the Second World War. (Standard Oil,
being the most famous example since it maintained its
contracts with I.G. Farben -the German chemical cartel
that manufactured Zyklon-B. -the poison gas the Nazis
used in the gas chambers up until 1942.) In fact,
pilots were given instructions not to hit factories in
Germany owned by U.S. firms.

?Thus Cologne was almost levelled by allied bombing
but its Ford plant, providing military equipment for
the Nazi party, was untouched...?  (6)

Maybe this is one of the reasons why the anti-Semite
Henry Ford, on his 75th birthday, received the Grand
Cross of the German Order (the highest honour for a
non-German) from Hitler himself. So we can expect
similar non-attacks on the properties of Hewlett
Packard, Dupont, International Computer Systems and
the other twenty or so U.S. companies based in Iraq
this time round. 

So we?re not ?appeasing? Saddam. Britain, the U.S. and
others collaborate with Iraq and this collaboration is
based on economic greed. When the West becomes too
greedy, then the troops set sail.

What about democracy?

Well, if the war is not about ?appeasement?, it must
then be about ?democracy? and ?human rights?. 
The problem with this is that this is the same
democracy and human rights which the U.S. has rolled
back both at home and in client regimes abroad. But
it?s not just the U.S. The E.U. is following suit by
virtually criminalizing dissent. Democracy? This is a
president who had his presidency stamped, sealed and
delivered in the governor?s mansion of his brother Jeb
in Florida. A president who has a mandate from only a
¼ of the American population!
But what about human rights? When Saddam gassed the
6,800 Kurds in Halabja in 1988, the U.S. propaganda
machine later attempted to blame the massacre on Iran.
When Iraqi soldiers refused to fight at the beginning
of the last Gulf War, but instead joined the
spontaneous outbreak of working class resistance in
the Kurdish north and Shi?ite south of the country,
Bush Snr. gave Saddam all the time and military
support he needed to crush the revolts.

In any case, even if the West got rid of Saddam this
time round, it is not in their strategic or economic
interests to set up a ?unified, democratic state? (7).
The fact that brutal Afghan warlords are currently
running that part of Afghanistan that remains after
being pulverized by high altitude bombing militates
against such kind of thinking. If the U.S. were really
interested in democracy, it would not have set up
military garrisons in Gulf States like Saudi Arabia,
Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman etc? If it believed in
democratic protocol, it would not conduct daily
bombing raids into illegal No Fly Zones in northern
and southern Iraq.

So quite obviously, the war is not about democracy and
human rights.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and the war against terror

But then you have the WMD?
Immediately after the events of 9-11, a cabinet
meeting took place at the Whitehouse at which Donald
Rumsfield insisted that Iraq should be ?the principle
target of the first round in a war against terrorism
(8). Bush Jnr. allegedly replied that ?public opinion
has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is
possible?. Afghanistan was chosen as a softer target,
but the desire to find any pretext possible to invade
Iraq was there for all to see at a time, remember,
when it had not even been determined that the suicide
bombings had been conducted by Osama Bin Laden?s
Al-Qaeda network never mind any connection to Iraq.
 A U.S. State department annual report at the time on
?Patterns of Global Terrorism? does not list any acts
of global aggression linked to the regime in Baghdad.
It was not until September 21st 2001 that Condoleezza
Rice, the National Security Advisor told CNN that the
U.S. had?

??evidence, historical and otherwise, about the
relationship of the al-Qaeda network to what happened
on September 11?. 

No details have been forthcoming.

Years before in 1997, when the Republicans were out of
office, a number of them organised themselves as the
?Project for the new American Century? (PNAC) and
began the process of lobbying for regime change in
Iraq. One of their members was, guess who,  Donald
Rumsfield who in the words of a PNAC document
?Rebuilding America?s Defences? were waiting for a
?catastrophic and catalysing event like a new Pearl
Harbour? that would mobilise public opinion and put
theories into practice. On September 11th they got
what they needed. 

The argument today is that Saddam has in his
possession WMD. This would seem to suggest, even if it
were true, a need to disarm Iraq as opposed to a war
to bring down Saddam. UN inspector Scott Ritter has

? I bear personal witness through seven years as a
chief weapon?s inspector in Iraq for the UN to both
the scope of Iraq?s weapons of mass destruction
programmes and the effectiveness of UN weapons
inspectors in ultimately eliminating them.? (9)

The irony, of course, is that during the 80?s Saddam?s
biological weapons programme provided him with
American strains of anthrax, West Nile virus and
botulinal toxin.

On October 7, 2002, President Bush contributed what
was probably one the most extreme rationales for a war
with Iraq. In a speech in Cincinnati, he first noted
that "Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is
addicted to weapons of mass destruction" and then
warned that? 

"Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned
aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse
chemical and biological weapons across broad areas.
We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using
these [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions
targeting the United States." 

Presumably Bush was here referring to the Czech L-29
jet training aircraft, 169 of which Iraq bought in the
1960s and 1980s. The L-29 is a single-engine,
dual-seat airplane meant to be a basic flight trainer
for novices. It has a range of about 840 miles and a
top speed of around 145 miles per hour. Bush did not
explain how these slow-moving aircraft might reach
Maine, the nearest point on the U.S. mainland, some
5,500 miles from Iraq, or why they would not be shot
down the moment they crossed Iraq's borders.
The US?s use of depleted uranium in 1991 while not
only leading to babies being born without brains, has
a shelf life of 4 ½ billion years, essentially until
the end of time.

The only case for Saddam?s sponsorship of anti-US
terrorism was his alleged attempt to have George Bush
Snr. assassinated during a tour of Kuwait in April
1993. However, it is more likely that this had more to
do with covering up the discovery of a smuggling ring
on the Iraqi-Kuwait border.
The case for war against Iraq because of a build-up of
WMD is particularly ridiculous given N. Korea?s
possession of nuclear missiles capable of flattening
Seoul, Tokyo and reaching the western seaboard of the
U.S. itself. But since N. Korea already has WMD, the
U.S. has to play ball. The inconsistency though is
worrying since it will probably lead to nuclear
proliferation as possession of nuclear warheads is the
only deterrent against U.S. aggression. 
The fact that Turkey for most of the 1990?s was the
world?s largest importer of WMD, arms and other
military hardware bought from the U.S. is apparently
of no value, nor is Turkey?s continuing air bombing of
the Kurds in Northern Iraq whom the U.S. and Britain
are meant to be protecting through NFZ?s. 
Al-Qaeda itself was armed with over $2 billion worth
of light weapons funnelled to the Mujahideen in
Afghanistan in the 80?s.  Today, according to the
U.N., one and a half month?s diversion of finance
normally reserved for U.S. military defence, would
allow the entire world to be fed.  
Meanwhile, the U.S./U.K. embargo of Iraq has been
responsible for the deaths of approximately half a
million children since 1991, with no evidence of the
alleged divergence of foodstuffs to the Ba?athist
party elite.

So if the war is not about WMD, then what is it about?


The U.S. Department of Energy announced at the
beginning of this month that by 2025, U.S. oil imports
will account for perhaps 70% of total US domestic
demand (10). U.S. oil deposits are becoming
progressively depleted and many other non-OPEC fields
are beginning to run dry. ?This really means that the
bulk of future supplies will have to come from the
Gulf region? (11). Since Iraq has the second largest
reserves of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia, it
seems sensible to seize them particularly now that
Bush and Cheney are in the Whitehouse -both are former
oil company executives while Bush Snr. was founder, in
1954, of the Zapata Offshore Oil Company. Cheney, when
president of the Halliburton Company of Houston, sold
Saddam $23 billion dollars of oil field equipment.

?In last April's New Yorker, the investigative
reporter Nicholas Lemann wrote that Bush's most senior
adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told him she had called
together senior members of the National Security
Council and asked them "to think about 'how do you
capitalise on these opportunities'", which she
compared with those of "1945 to 1947": the start of
the cold war.?  (John Pilger) 
?The Bush administration, intimately entwined with the
global oil industry, is keen to pounce on Iraq's
massive untapped reserves, the second biggest in the
world after Saudi Arabia's. But France and Russia, who
hold a power of veto on the UN Security Council, have
billion-dollar contracts with Baghdad, which they fear
will disappear in 'an oil grab by Washington', if
America installs a successor to Saddam.? (The
There are a number of interrelated issues here: 
Firstly the profits of individual corporations are
dependant on relations with the oil producing states.
A diversification of oil production - opening up new
sources of supply (such as that in Central Asia or by
re-bringing Iraqi oil on to the open market) weakens
the power of OPEC, - the consortium of oil producing
states, thereby strengthening the bargaining position
of the corporations who purchase from them.
Furthermore an increase in American military power in
an area, naturally will be used to benefit American
based corporations as opposed to, say, French ones.
However, if it was just a matter of the interests of
individual corporations or sectors of the economy,
then market competition would compel them to, for
short term reasons, do business with Iraq,
irrespective of what regime is in power there; so
secondly, and most importantly, the question is where
does the profits which have been creamed off the backs
of the working class in oil producing areas end up. It
can be re-invested in the world economic system
dominated by elites in the West as we can see in this
extract on Saudi Arabia from the Washington Post: 
"Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has shifted from its
role as a large oil supplier to becoming the principal
U.S. ally and economic partner in the region. In the
1970s and 1980s, it bolstered the international
banking system with its oil revenue.. ?.Since 1981,
U.S. construction companies and arms suppliers have
earned more than $50 billion in Saudi Arabia,
according to the Congressional Research Service.
??U.S. investments in the country reached $4.8 billion
in 2000, according to the Commerce Department. The
U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. recently was chosen
by the Saudi government to lead two of three
consortiums developing gas projects worth $20 billion
to $26 billion." (Washington Post 21/9/01)
However a nationalist government in power in an oil
producing area, aiming to build up a native industrial
base, as did most of the rouges in the Middle East
?the West? has fought against, from Nasser to Hussein,
would make for lost profits as the wealth which could
go to the coffers of the banks, arms companies,
construction companies and what have you of the west,
instead is invested developing local industry. This is
bad news, not just because of that lost profit, but
even more fundamentally given that we are talking
about areas where lies one of the most valuable
commodities  in the world - a resource which could
form the building block for the development of an
imperialist rival to ?the West?.
The oil industry, as well as being a source of
capital, also produces an important resource. While
?America? is certainly not dependant upon imports of
it from the Middle East, large parts of the world,
included Europe and Japan, are, and thus the more
power Washington has in the Middle East the more
influence it has over these potential rivals.   
 Thus in the second two cases the American state is
representing the interests of not just oil
corporations, but the overall interests of the
corporate elite.
Furthermore, while today there is no American reliance
on Middle Eastern oil, in the future this may be
radically different, the U.S. Department of Energy
recently announced that by 2025 70% of the oil
consumed in the U.S. will be imported. It could be
argued that this would place the U.S. at a strategic
disadvantage, there is of course a way around this,
not to mention the slightly more pressing problem of
global warming, and the rise in asthma due to exhaust
fumes, - the development of sustainable transport
alternatives to the petrol driven motor car. But I
wouldn?t hold my breath waiting for that from a
government of ex-oil executives whose election
campaign was funded by big oil.   

Diversion Tactics

But it is not just about oil. The outbreak of war in
Iraq will help to deflect real problems for the Bush
camp at home. For example, their close ties to the
corrupt Enron Corporation, the huge and growing budget
deficit, tax cuts that massively favour the rich, a
severe loss of civil liberties under Attorney-General
Ashcroft, and Bush?s dismantling of ballistic missile
and global warming treaties.

In the long-term the war is about preserving and
enhancing the economic interests of US capital; it is
dictated by imperialist and militarist demands just as
was the case in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and has
been the case for most of the last hundred years.

The question is: what can we do about it?

>From the Autumn of 2001 to now, there have been
massive demonstrations in London, truly massive, there
will be another this Saturday, we have to seriously
consider what impact this strategy large
demonstrations in city centres alone, exclusive of all
other tactics, is having. Can we say that this
strategy has impacted on British government policy.
Can we when the British state is again about to go to
war in Iraq.? Nor will public opinion alone stop the
war machine - when even in the U.S. a large slice of
the population is deeply suspicious of Washington?s
war, and when across Europe polls show massive
oppositions, yet still the war machine plunders on.  

For an alternative, let?s take the example of Shannon
airport as a case study??
Back in August  70  people attended a demonstration
there, and successfully defied police orders to stay
outside the airport, and by merely entering the
airport grounds cause re-fuelling U.S. military planes
to leave.
Some weeks later one activist got into the airport in
the dead of night and spray painted a U.S. transport
plane, there was a media feeding frenzy and the
Shannon issue was put on the agenda.

In the middle of October 700 people gathered to
demonstrate there, and over one hundred took part in a
mass trespass.

There was another demonstration on December the Eight,
followed by the establishment of a peace camp on
January 4th.

January saw two demonstrations, one of several
thousand, and one of around 800, at the first a roof
top was occupied and an attempt made to enter the

By this time World Airways - a charter company which
carries U.S. troops through Shannon began to pull out,
the damage inflicted on one single U.S. transport
plane in two different actions within a space of a few
days was World Airway?s death knell and now they have
pulled out.
We have won a victory in the campaign to demilitarise
Shannon, we have done so because the fight was taken
directly to the airport and because every action there
directly effected its use as a pit-stop for war by
creating a ?security threat?. In other words there was
the cutting edge of direct action, rather than
pleading with the government, people went out and made
it happen.

Nor has direct action scared people away - as some
doubters say, on the contrary the movement has grown
larger as people see that it is prepared to act. 

However, we don?t just need a movement of direct
actionists?many people have commitments, which prevent
them from travelling to Shannon let alone
participating in direct action. We need also to fight
a battle of ideas, to ceaselessly counter the war
propaganda put out by the government and it?s lap dogs
in the media. 

Furthermore the anti-war movement cannot just rely on
trips to Shannon, we must broaden the base of the
struggle in an inclusive fashion and localise
resistance. However Shannon is where we can win and
are winning, so we would argue that the focus should
remain on Shannon, and we should have local actions
against commercial interests connected to military
re-fuelling in Shannon, such as Top Oil.

This does not mean we advocate an insular approach of
sticking on our own little island and forgetting about
the rest of the world, the significance of Shannon is
this - it is one part of the logistics supply that the
war machine in the Middle East is dependant upon, it?s
the weakest link in those line of supply which run
across Europe, if we decommission it, the rest of
Europe will take heart and be given an example to
follow, not one of pleading with the governments, but
one of taking the battle direct to the enemy.  

Of late the mailed fist of repression and the smear
campaigns of the media have been thrown at the peace
movement. This shows that we are getting effective.  
We would urge everybody here tonight to support the
defendants and prisoners of the anti-war movement in
any way, shape or form they can.

Finally while we would unreservedly defend the actions
of the Ploughshares 5 and Mary Kelly, especially in
the face of the condemnation their bravery has
received, unfortunately a condemnation also issuing
from some segments of the anti-war movement. It is all
to easy for a situation to arise where direct action
becomes the preserve of an elite and the rest of us
are left to the category of spectators, this is why we
advocate mass direct action, in which the maximum
number of people can participate in, on an equal and
democratic basis. 



(1)The USA is at War -Eduardo Galeano. Jan 14/03
(2)The Wartime Deceptions -Robert Fisk. The
Independent. Jan 27/03
(3)Iraq Wars - Chalmers Johnson Jan 24/03 
(4)Big Brother Bush?-Paul Street Jan 22/03
(6)Michael Parenti in Mickey Z?s The A Word. Jan 10/03
(7)Iraq Wars - Chalmers Johnson Jan 24/03
(8)CBS News as reported in NYT Sept 5/02
(9)Is Iraq a threat to the U.S.? - Scott Ritter:
Boston Globe, July 20/02
(10) The Looming war isn?t about Chemical
Warheads?Robert Fisk Jan 18/03
(11)Michael Renner: Worldwatch Institute 01/03 

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