Will Victory Make America Safer?
by Chuck Sher
April 14, 2003
Will the US military victory in Iraq make us safer? You can follow our lockstep media in ignoring this crucial question, but a more responsible choice would be to think long and hard before we go any further down the path of unilateral US military actions.
Of course, our government would have us believe that their motives were noble and the risks were few, but politicians have been known to be less than truthful on occasion, so let's look briefly at the reasons given for this war and whether they actually hold water. If nothing else, it will be instructive for the next time we are asked to believe that a new "monster" is threatening the world.
So, was Saddam actually a threat to us or his neighbors? According to UN weapons inspectors, before the war they had dismantled or destroyed well over 90% of Iraq's outlawed weaponry, and in a matter of months could have resolved any outstanding disarmament questions. In fact, Scott Ritter, former chief UN weapons inspector, testified before Congress in 2000 and stated: "The reality is that, from a qualitative standpoint, when you judge Iraq's current weapons of mass destruction capabilities today, they have none. In terms of long-range ballistic missiles, Iraq no longer has these missiles. They have been disarmed. The same holds true with chemical weapons. The same holds true for biology. The same holds true for nuclear. . . So when we talk about Iraq's current weapons of mass destruction threat, the answer is that there is no weapons of mass destruction threat."
If, by any chance, Saddam had squirreled away any such weapons, there is absolutely no indication that he intended to use them for anything but his own defense. Saddam had not threatened aggression against us or any of his neighbors since his ill-conceived invasion of Kuwait 13 years ago; and, in any case, he had no military force capable of any such aggression.
How about Saddam giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? Our government has tried to whip up our fears of another 9-11, but the truth is that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. Saddam was a secular nationalist and a sworn enemy of extreme fundamentalist Muslim groups. Indeed, Osama bin Laden has called Saddam, "an apostate, an infidel and a traitor to Islam." The newest US bogeyman, Ansar-al-Islam, only operated in Kurdish-controlled parts of Iraq and there is no credible evidence linking them with Saddam's government.
While "liberating" the people of Iraq from their tinhorn dictator may have been a positive side effect, I would suggest that Bush and his Big Oil backers are primarily interested in liberating Iraq's $1 trillion of oil, not their people. A good indication of US priorities is shown by the fact that there were plenty of US soldiers available for securing the oil fields but none for stopping the looting of hospitals. You connect the dots. And please remember that the families of the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded by the USA's use of "overwhelming force" aren't going to be celebrating anytime soon.
To give US motives some historical context, please note that according to UN reports, approximately one million Iraqis have died as a direct result of the draconian sanctions insisted on by the US during the last 12 years. Where was our government's concern for Iraqi suffering then? Or when they supported and armed Saddam all through the 1980s as he was committing his worst crimes against his own people? Where is their concern for the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and a dozen other countries ruled by repressive regimes that only exist because we support them? I would again urge my fellow citizens not to take government pronouncements (as repeated endlessly in our media) at face value. Rather, you need to think for yourself and seriously consider whether ulterior motives are at play here.
Another crucial fact to keep in mind is that "regime change" is a very bad precedent to set. Where does it end? Who elected us judge and jury of all other nations on earth? And are we an unbiased observer of world affairs or do US corporations have an economic interest in who rules other countries?
Without UN Security Council authorization, the US/British invasion and occupation of Iraq is flatly illegal according to the UN Charter, which we are obligated to live by. If other countries were not so afraid of US retaliation, they would be prosecuting our government for the war crime of invading another sovereign country. What has happened to our country when 83% of Europeans recently polled by Time Magazine said that they considered the US to be the greatest threat to world peace? And what if they are correct? (In that regard, please remember that this war did not happen in an historical vacuum. From Vietnam to Laos, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, Angola, Palestine, the Philippines, East Timor, Panama, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, etc. etc., the deaths of literally millions of innocent people can be directly attributed to the foreign policies of the USA.)
"But we are a good people and are just trying to help others," it might be said, and correctly so. We personally know our fellow Americans to be kind and decent people on the whole and we therefore assume that our good intentions are transferred over into good intentions of our government. But it is crucial that we consider the possibility that this is simply not the case.
Maybe our government has another, less noble, agenda. Maybe our government is actually working on behalf of big corporations and wealthy individuals who pay for the political careers of politicians in both major parties, and who use American power overseas to increase their economic control of every region of the world. Increasingly, this is how the rest of the world views us. And what if they are correct?
Our government assumes we will identify with their agenda, and our supine media churns out endless cheerleading for "victory." But is this really in our own self-interest? War is not a game that we must "win" or be humiliated. Every day that this war went on just brought more death and needless suffering. And every day that this war continued actually decreased our security here at home. This is because the real threat to our safety is not from terrorists having weapons. Given the motivation, the world is awash in all kinds of weapons. And please remember that 9-11 was committed by people with box cutters!
No, the real threat to our safety is not from mythical Iraqi weapons, but from very real hatred of America being multiplied daily as people watched scenes of death and destruction being rained down on a defenseless Arab population by US forces---scenes mostly censored from our corporate media, but not from theirs. Big oil companies may benefit, but it is we Americans who will pay the price for the hatred our government generated. So, out of pure self defense, if not simple human decency, we should oppose this and all unilateral US military adventures overseas.
We are not invulnerable. We are not God. We don't need an American empire ruling the world. We don't need "victory." What we do need is safety and security (not to mention health care and decent schools) and for all that we should go on record as opposing Bush's expensive, unnecessary, brutal and illegal invasion of another sovereign country.
Chuck Sher is a musician and founder of The Petaluma Progressives, in Petaluma, California. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org