JSalloum on Mon, 21 Dec 1998 20:05:45 EST

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Syndicate: more on the war: two articles

Subject: Edward Said on Iran/iraq Crisis

> [Source: http://www.salam.org/iraq/apocalypse.html]
> Apocalypse Now
> by Edward Said
> It would be a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening between Iraq
> and the United States simply to an assertion of Arab will and sovereignty
> on the one hand versus American imperialism, which undoubtedly plays a
> central role in all this. However misguided, Saddam Hussein's cleverness is
> not that he is splitting America from its allies (which he has not really
> succeeded in doing for any practical purpose) but that he is exploiting the
> astonishing clumsiness and failures of US foreign policy. Very few people,
> least of all Saddam himself, can be fooled into believing him to be the
> innocent victim of American bullying; most of what is happening to his
> unfortunate people who are undergoing the most dreadful and unacknowledged
> suffering is due in considerable degree to his callous cynicism -- first of
> all, his indefensible and ruinous invasion of Kuwait, his persecution of
> the Kurds, his cruel egoism and pompous self-regard which persists in
> aggrandizing himself and his regime at exorbitant and, in my opinion,
> totally unwarranted cost. It is impossible for him to plead the case for
> national security and sovereignty now given his abysmal disregard of it in
> the case of Kuwait and Iran.
> Be that as it may, US vindictiveness, whose sources I shall look at in a
> moment, has exacerbated the situation by imposing a regime of sanctions
> which, as Sandy Berger, the American National Security adviser has just
> said proudly, is unprecedented for its severity in the whole of world
> history. 567,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the Gulf War, mostly as a
> result of disease, malnutrition and deplorably poor medical care.
> Agriculture and industry are at a total standstill. This is unconscionable
> of course, and for this the brazen inhumanity of American policy-makers is
> also very largely to blame. But we must not forget that Saddam is feeding
> that inhumanity quite deliberately in order to dramatize the opposition
> between the US and the rest of the Arab world; having provoked a crisis
> with the US (or the UN dominated by the US) he at first dramatised the
> unfairness of the sanctions. But by continuing it as he is now doing, the
> issue has changed and has become his non-compliance, and the terrible
> effects of the sanctions have been marginalised. Still the underlying
> causes of an Arab/US crisis remain.
> A careful analysis of that crisis is imperative. The US has always opposed
> any sign of Arab nationalism or independence, partly for its own imperial
> reasons and partly because its unconditional support for Israel requires it
> to do so. Since the l973 war, and despite the brief oil embargo, Arab
> policy up to and including the peace process has tried to circumvent or
> mitigate that hostility by appealing to the US for help, by "good"
> behavior, by willingness to make peace with Israel. Yet mere compliance
> with the US's wishes can produce nothing except occasional words of
> American approbation for leaders who appear "moderate": Arab policy was
> never backed up with coordination, or collective pressure, or fully agreed
> upon goals. Instead each leader tried to make separate arrangements both
> with the US and with Israel, none of which produced very much except
> escalating demands and a constant refusal by the US to exert any meaningful
> pressure on Israel. The more extreme Israeli policy becomes the more likely
> the US has been to support it. And the less respect it has for the large
> mass of Arab peoples whose future and well-being are mortgaged to illusory
> hopes embodied, for instance, in the Oslo accords.
> Moreover, a deep gulf separates Arab culture and civilization on the one
> hand, from the United States on the other, and in the absence of any
> collective Arab information and cultural policy, the notion of an Arab
> people with traditions, cultures and identities of their own is simply
> inadmissible in the US. Arabs are dehumanized, they are seen as violent
> irrational terrorists always on the lookout for murder and bombing
> outrages. The only Arabs worth doing business with for the US are compliant
> leaders, businessmen, military people whose arms purchases (the highest per
> capita in the world) are helping the American economy keep afloat. Beyond
> that there is no feeling at all, for instance, for the dreadful suffering
> of the Iraqi people whose identity and existence have simply been lost
> sight of in the present situation.
> This morbid, obsessional fear and hatred of the Arabs has been a constant
> theme in US foreign policy since World War Two. In some way also, anything
> positive about the Arabs is seen in the US as a threat to Israel. In this
> respect pro-Israeli American Jews, traditional Orientalists, and military
> hawks have played a devastating role. Moral opprobrium is heaped on Arab
> states as it is on no others. Turkey, for example, has been conducting a
> campaign against the Kurds for several years, yet nothing is heard about
> this in the US. Israel occupies territory illegally for thirty years, it
> violates the Geneva conventions at will, conducts invasions, terrorist
> attacks and assassinations against Arabs, and still, the US vetoes every
> sanction against it in the UN. Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq are classified as
> "rogue" states. Sanctions against them are far harsher than against any
> other countries in the history of US foreign policy. And still the US
> expects that its own foreign policy agenda ought to prevail (eg., the
> woefully misguided Doha economic summit) despite its hostility to the
> collective Arab agenda.
> In the case of Iraq a number of further extenuations make the US even more
> repressive. Burning in the collective American unconscious is a puritanical
> zeal decreeing the sternest possible attitude towards anyone deemed to be
> an unregenerate sinner. This clearly guided American policy towards the
> native American Indians, who were first demonized, then portrayed as
> wasteful savages, then exterminated, their tiny remnant confined to
> reservations and concentration camps. This almost religious anger fuels a
> judgemental attitude that has no place at all in international politics,
> but for the United States it is a central tenet of its worldwide behavior.
> Second, punishment is conceived in apocalyptic terms. During the Vietnam
> war a leading general advocated -- and almost achieved -- the goal of
> bombing the enemy into the stone age. The same view prevailed during the
> Gulf War in l99l. Sinners are meant to be condemned terminally, with the
> utmost cruelty regardless of whether or not they suffer the cruelest
> agonies. The notion of "justified" punishment for Iraq is now uppermost in
> the minds of most American consumers of news, and with that goes an almost
> orgiastic delight in the gathering power being summoned to confront Iraq in
> the Gulf.
> Pictures of four (or is now five?) immense aircraft carriers steaming
> virtuously away punctuate breathless news bulletins about Saddam's
> defiance, and the impending crisis. The President announces that he is
> thinking not about the Gulf but about the 21st century: how can we tolerate
> Iraq's threat to use biological warfare even though (this is unmentioned)
> it is clear from the UNSCOM reports that he neither has the missile
> capacity, nor the chemical arms, nor the nuclear arsenal, nor in fact the
> anthrax bombs that he is alleged to be brandishing? Forgotten in all this
> is that the US has all the terror weapons known to humankind, is the only
> country to have used a nuclear bomb on civilians, and as recently as seven
> years ago dropped 66,000 tons of bombs on Iraq. As the only country
> involved in this crisis that has never had to fight a war on its own soil,
> it is easy for the US and its mostly brain-washed citizens to speak in
> apocalyptic terms. A report out of Australia on Sunday, November l6
> suggests that Israel and the US are thinking about a neutron bomb on
> Baghdad.
> Unfortunately the dictates of raw power are very severe and, for a weak
> state like Iraq, overwhelming. Certainly US misuse of the sanctions to
> strip Iraq of everything, including any possibility for security is
> monstrously sadistic. The so-called UN 661 Committee created to oversee the
> sanctions is composed of fifteen member states (including the US) each of
> which has a veto. Every time Iraq passes this committee a request to sell
> oil for medicines, trucks, meat, etc., any member of the committee can
> block these requests by saying that a given item may have military purposes
> (tires, for example, or ambulances). In addition the US and its clients --
> eg., the unpleasant and racist Richard Butler, who says openly that Arabs
> have a different notion of truth than the rest of the world -- have made it
> clear that even if Iraq is completely reduced militarily to the point where
> it is no longer a threat to its neighbors (which is now the case) the real
> goal of the sanctions is to topple Saddam Hussein's government. In other
> words according to the Americans, very little that Iraq can do short of
> Saddam's resignation or death will produce a lifting of sanctions. Finally,
> we should not for a moment forget that quite apart from its foreign policy
> interest, Iraq has now become a domestic American issue whose repercussions
> on issues unrelated to oil or the Gulf are very important. Bill Clinton's
> personal crises -- the campaign-funding scandals, an impending trial for
> sexual harassment, his various legislative and domestic failures -- require
> him to look strong, determined and "presidential" somewhere else, and where
> but in the Gulf against Iraq has he so ready-made a foreign devil to set
> off his blue-eyed strength to full advantage. Moreover, the increase in
> military expenditure for new investments in electronic "smart" weaponry,
> more sophisticated aircraft, mobile forces for the world-wide projection of
> American power are perfectly suited for display and use in the Gulf, where
> the likelihood of visible casualties (actually suffering Iraqi civilians)
> is extremely small, and where the new military technology can be put
> through its paces most attractively. For reasons that need restating here,
> the media is particularly happy to go along with the government in bringing
> home to domestic customers the wonderful excitement of American
> self-righteousness, the proud flag-waving, the "feel-good" sense that "we"
> are facing down a monstrous dictator. Far from analysis and calm reflection
> the media exists mainly to derive its mission from the government, not to
> produce a corrective or any dissent. The media, in short, is an extension
> of the war against Iraq.

> The saddest aspect of the whole thing is that Iraqi civilians seem
> condemned to additional suffering and protracted agony. Neither their
> government nor that of the US is inclined to ease the daily pressure on
> them, and the probability that only they will pay for the crisis is
> extremely high. At least -- and it isn't very much -- there seems to be no
> enthusiasm among Arab governments for American military action, but beyond
> that there is no coordinated Arab position, not even on the extremely grave
> humanitarian question. It is unfortunate that, according to the news, there
> is rising popular support for Saddam in the Arab world, as if the old
> lessons of defiance without real power have still not been learned.
> Undoubtedly the US has manipulated the UN to its own ends, a rather
> shameful exercise given at the same time that the Congress once again
> struck down a motion to pay a billion dollars in arrears to the world
> organization. The major priority for Arabs, Europeans, Muslims and
> Americans is to push to the fore the issue of sanctions and the terrible
> suffering imposed on innocent Iraqi civilians. Taking the case to the
> International Court in the Hague strikes me as a perfectly viable
> possibility, but what is needed is a concerted will on behalf of Arabs who
> have suffered the US's egregious blows for too long without an adequate
> response.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> This article was first published in Arabic in Al-Hayat, London, and in
> English in Al Ahram Weekly, Cairo.

Robert Fisk Speaks Out - Deadly cost of a degrading act
Posted on the Internet by Mujahid Khalid ( mujahid_khalid@hotmail.com ) . 

WE ARE now in the endgame, the final bankruptcy of Western policy 
towards Iraq, the very last throw of the dice. We fire 200 cruise 
missiles into Iraq and what do we expect? Is a chastened Saddam Hussein 
going to emerge from his bunker to explain to us how sorry he is? Will 
he tell us how much he wants those nice UN inspectors to return to 
Baghdad to find his "weapons of mass destruction"? Is that what we 
think? Is that what the Anglo-American bombardment is all about? And if 
so, what happens afterwards? What happens when the missile attacks end - 
just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, because, of course, we 
really are very sensitive about Iraqi religious feelings - and Saddam 
Hussein tells us that the UN inspectors will never be allowed to return? 

As the cruise missiles were launched, President Clinton announced that 
Saddam had "disarmed the [UN] inspectors", and Tony Blair - agonising 
about the lives of the "British forces" involved (all 14 pilots) - told 
us that "we act because we must". In so infantile a manner did we go to 
war on Wednesday night. No policies. No perspective. Not the slightest 
hint as to what happens after the bombardment ends. With no UN 
inspectors back in Iraq, what are we going to do? Declare eternal war 
against Iraq? 

We are "punishing" Saddam - or so Mr Blair would have us believe. And 
all the old cliches are being trundled out. In 1985, just before he 
bombed them, Ronald Reagan told the Libyans that the United States had 
"no quarrel with the Libyan people". In 1991, just before he bombed 
them, George Bush told the Iraqis that he had "no quarrel with the Iraqi 
people". And now we have Tony Blair - as he bombs them - telling Iraqis 
that, yes, he has "no quarrel with the Iraqi people". 

Is there a computer that churns out this stuff? Is there a cliche 
department at Downing Street which also provides Robin Cook with the 
tired phrase of the American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, 
about how Saddam used gas "against his own people"? 

For little did we care when he did use that gas against the Kurds of 
Halabja - because, at the time, those Kurds were allied to Iran and we, 
the West, were supporting Saddam's invasion of Iran. 

The lack of any sane long-term policy towards Iraq is the giveaway. Our 
patience - according to Clinton and Blair - is exhausted. Saddam cannot 
be trusted to keep his word (they've just realised). And so Saddam's 
ability to "threaten his neighbours" - neighbours who don't in fact want 
us to bomb Iraq - has to be "degraded". That word "degraded" is a 
military term, first used by General Schwarzkopf and his boys in the 
1991 Gulf war, and it is now part of the vocabulary of the weak. 
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction have to be "degraded". Our own dear 
Mr Cook was at it again yesterday, informing us of the need to "degrade" 
Saddam's military capability. 

How? The UN weapons inspectors - led for most of the time by Scott 
Ritter (the man who has admitted he kept flying to Israel to liaise with 
Israeli military intelligence), could not find out where Saddam's 
nuclear, biological and chemical weapons were hidden. They had been 
harassed by Iraq's intelligence thugs, and prevented from doing their 
work. Now we are bombing the weapons facilities which the inspectors 
could not find. Or are we? For there is a very serious question that is 
not being asked: if the inspectors couldn't find the weapons, how come 
we know where to fire the cruise missiles? 

And all the while, we continue to impose genocidal sanctions on Iraq, 
sanctions that are killing innocent Iraqis and - by the admission of Mr 
Cook and Mrs Albright - not harming Saddam at all. Mrs Albright rages at 
Saddam's ability to go on building palaces, and Mr Cook is obsessed with 
a report of the regime's purchase of liposuction equipment which, if 
true, merely proves that sanctions are a total failure. 

Mr Cook prattles on about how Iraq can sell more than $10bn (£6bn) of 
oil a year to pay for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. But 
since more than 30 per cent of these oil revenues are diverted to the UN 
compensation fund and UN expenses in Iraq, his statement is totally 

Dennis Halliday, the man who ran the UN oil-for-food programme in 
Baghdad, until he realised that thousands of Iraqi children were dying 
every month because of sanctions, resigned his post with the declaration 
that "we are in the process of destroying an entire society. it is 
illegal and immoral." So either Mr Halliday is a pathological liar - 
which I do not believe - or Mr Cook has a serious problem with the truth 
- which I do believe. 

Now we are bombing the people who are suffering under our sanctions. Not 
to mention the small matter of the explosion of child cancer in southern 
Iraq, most probably as a result of the Allied use of depleted uranium 
shells during the 1991 war. Gulf war veterans may be afflicted with the 
same sickness, although the British Government refuses to contemplate 
the possibility. And what, in this latest strike, are some of our 
warheads made of? Depleted uranium, of course. 

Maybe there really is a plan afoot for a coup d'etat, though hopefully 
more ambitious than our call to the Iraqi people to rise up against 
their dictator in 1991, when they were abandoned by the Allies they 
thought would speed to their rescue. Mr Clinton says he wants a 
democracy in Iraq - as fanciful a suggestion as any made recently. He is 
demanding an Iraqi government that "represents its people" and 
"respects" its citizens. Not a single Arab regime - especially not 
Washington's friends in Saudi Arabia - offers such luxuries to its 
people. We are supposed to believe, it seems, that Washington and London 
are terribly keen to favour the Iraqi people with a fully fledged 
democracy. In reality, what we want in Iraq is another bullying dictator 
- but one who will do as he is told, invade the countries we wish to see 
invaded (Iran), and respect the integrity of those countries we do not 
wish to see invaded (Kuwait). 

Yet no questions are being asked, no lies uncovered. Ritter, the Marine 
Corps inspector who worked with Israeli intelligence, claimed that 
Richard Butler - the man whose report triggered this week's new war - 
was aware of his visits to Israel. Is that true? Has anyone asked Mr 
Butler? He may well have avoided such contacts - but it would be nice to 
have an answer. 

So what to do with Saddam? Well, first, we could abandon the wicked 
sanctions regime against Iraq. We have taken enough innocent lives. We 
have killed enough children. Then we could back the real supporters of 
democracy in Iraq - not the ghouls and spooks who make up the so-called 
Iraqi National Congress, but the genuine dissidents who gathered in 
Beirut in 1991 to demand freedom for their country, but were swiftly 
ignored by the Americans once it became clear that they didn't want a 
pro-Western strongman to lead them. 

And we could stop believing in Washington. Vice-President Al Gore told 
Americans yesterday that it was a time for "national resolve and unity". 
You might have thought that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor, 
or that General MacArthur had just abandoned Bataan. When President 
Clinton faced the worst of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he bombed 
Afghanistan and Sudan. Faced with impeachment, he now bombs Iraq. How 
far can a coincidence go? 

This week, two Christian armies - America's and Britain's - went to war 
with a Muslim nation, Iraq. With no goals, but with an army of 
platitudes, they have abandoned the UN's weapons control system, closed 
the door on arms inspections, and opened the door to an unlimited 
military offensive against Iraq. And nobody has asked the obvious 
question: what happens next?