Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.
April 12, 2002
On Native Ground

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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's hard to make a case that anything good will come out of the current carnage in the Middle East. But David Corn, Washington correspondent for The Nation, brought up an interesting theory in a recent column - the fighting on the West Bank may have stopped President Bush's plans to invade Iraq.

Corn wrote that the Bush Doctrine - that anyone supports or harbors terrorists is also a terrorist and is subject to getting blown into oblivion by the U.S. - fell apart when it came to applying it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"To do so, on his terms, would entail branding (Yassir) Arafat a terrorist and blessing a (Ariel) Sharon rampage, and that could lead to an all-out war that spreads beyond the West Bank and eclipses Bush's own war on terrorism," Corn wrote.

Add to this the recent vote by the member states of the Arab League to treat any U.S. attack on Iraq as an attack on the entire Arab world and the League's support of a peace plan that would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders, and suddenly the war with Iraq that seemed inevitable a couple weeks ago now looks more doubtful today.

Corn has an interesting point, but he also realizes that the right-wing nutters who have given unconditional support to Israel and who want an invasion of Iraq as soon as possible will make it difficult for the Bush Administration to work out a peace deal in Israel and also avoid a ruinous war with Iraq.

"Perhaps events in the Middle East might cause Bush and histeammates to understand that index-card foreign policy formulations - regarding hostilities in the Middle East or the war on terrorism - do not always hold true outside of focus groups," wrote Corn.

But President Bush doesn't seem to get this. Right after telling Sharon and Arafat's forces to stop the fighting, the President spent a weekend on his Texas ranch discussing war plans for Iraq with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It seems his only interest in achieving peace between Sharon and Arafat is to make it possible to wage war on a nation of 23 million people who have suffered far too much since the end of the Persian Gulf War by the economic sanctions and periodic bombings carried out by the U.S. and Britain. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - mostly children - have died over the past decade due to the U.S./U.K. embargo. The prospect of tens of thousands of more civilian deaths from a U.S. attack doesn't seem to faze President Bush and Mr. Blair.

The "proof" of the need to invade Iraq seems rather flimsy. The "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" claim quickly falls flat in the face of a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency - which is still regularly visiting Iraq for inspections - that states Iraq's nuclear weapons program has been "efficiently and effectively" eliminated. That same conclusion was also reached by the U.N. Security Council regarding its chemical and biological weapons programs.

Then there is the "Iraq helped the Sept. 11 hijackers" claim. The Central Intelligence Agency squashes that one. According to the New York Times, the CIA has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in any terrorist operations against the U.S. since the end of the Persian Gulf War, and the CIA is also convinced that Iraq has not supplied weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups.

Take those two canards off the table, and the justification for a war with Iraq quickly disappears - unless you're President Bush and want to keep "the war on terrorism" going for as long as possible to keep the Republicans in power.

Blair and President Bush appear to be the only world leaders in favor of war. While removing Saddam Hussein from power is a good idea, it's a pretty safe bet that if Iraq was attacked, that:

  • Saddam would escape like Osama bin Laden and virtually all of the al-Queda leadership escaped during the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan;
  • That a pro-U.S. puppet leader will be installed in Saddam's stead and life in Iraq for the average citizen will remain terrible, just as has happened in Afghanistan;
  • That any unprovoked attack upon Iraq will likely enrage the Arab world and cause even more problems in the Middle East.

And these certainties don't take into account the U.S. casualties that will likely happen in this war. The Pentagon estimates that it will take a massive bombing campaign and more than 100,000 U.S. troops to carry out an Iraq attack, and those troops may have to spend years in Iraq to prop up whomever we put into power.

The old aphorism - when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail - aptly describes the current U.S. foreign policy. President Bush should realize that launching an all-out war on Iraq is the least wise, least effective and most dangerous option.

What would be a better one? How about working on ways to develop a non-violent revolution in Iraq? We know the average Iraqi doesn't think much of Saddam and has suffered greatly over the past decade and we know "people power" has toppled despots from Ferdinand Marcos to Slobodan Milosevic to Suharto in recent years. Why not try that, rather than the hammer of total war?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shown us the dangers of the simplistic "good versus evil" mindset of the Bush administration. The current bloodshed there might have been avoided with the proper application of American diplomacy.

A wider, more dangerous war in the Middle East can be avoided, but only if the Bush administration finds the moral ability to work as hard to build a coalition for peace as it has in trying to build acoalition for war.

Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for morethan 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).

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