Chomsky: The case against U.S. adventurism in Iraq
Published March 13, 2003
The most powerful state in history has proclaimed that
it intends to control the world by force, the dimension
in which it reigns supreme.
President Bush and his cohorts evidently believe that
the means of violence in their hands are so
extraordinary that they can dismiss anyone who stands in
The consequences could be catastrophic in Iraq and
around the world. The United States may reap a whirlwind
of terrorist retaliation -- and step up the possibility
of nuclear Armageddon.
Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and company are
committed to an "imperial ambition," as G. John
Ikenberry wrote in the September/October issue of
Foreign Affairs -- "a unipolar world in which the United
States has no peer competitor" and in which "no state or
coalition could ever challenge it as global leader,
protector and enforcer."
That ambition surely includes much expanded control over
Persian Gulf resources and military bases to impose a
preferred form of order in the region.
Even before the administration began beating the war
drums against Iraq, there were plenty of warnings that
U.S. adventurism would lead to proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction, as well as terror, for deterrence
Right now, Washington is teaching the world a dangerous
lesson: If you want to defend yourself from us, you had
better mimic North Korea and pose a credible threat.
Otherwise we will demolish you.
There is good reason to believe that the war with Iraq
is intended, in part, to demonstrate what lies ahead
when the empire decides to strike a blow -- though "war"
is hardly the proper term, given the gross mismatch of
A flood of propaganda warns that if we do not stop
Saddam Hussein today he will destroy us tomorrow.
Last October, when Congress granted the president the
authority to go to war, it was "to defend the national
security of the United States against the continuing
threat posed by Iraq."
But no country in Iraq's neighborhood seems overly
concerned about Saddam, much as they may hate the
Perhaps that is because the neighbors know that Iraq's
people are at the edge of survival. Iraq has become one
of the weakest states in the region. As a report from
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences points out,
Iraq's economy and military expenditures are a fraction
of some of its neighbors'.
Indeed, in recent years, countries nearby have sought to
reintegrate Iraq into the region, including Iran and
Kuwait, both invaded by Iraq.
Saddam benefited from U.S. support through the war with
Iran and beyond, up to the day of the invasion of
Kuwait. Those responsible are largely back at the helm
in Washington today.
President Ronald Reagan and the previous Bush
administration provided aid to Saddam, along with the
means to develop weapons of mass destruction, back when
he was far more dangerous than he is now, and had
already committed his worst crimes, like murdering
thousands of Kurds with poison gas.
An end to Saddam's rule would lift a horrible burden
from the people of Iraq. There is good reason to believe
that he would suffer the fate of Nicolae Ceausescu and
other vicious tyrants if Iraqi society were not
devastated by harsh sanctions that force the population
to rely on Saddam for survival while strengthening him
and his clique.
Saddam remains a terrible threat to those within his
reach. Today, his reach does not extend beyond his own
domains, though it is likely that U.S. aggression could
inspire a new generation of terrorists bent on revenge,
and might induce Iraq to carry out terrorist actions
suspected to be already in place.
Right now Saddam has every reason to keep under tight
control any chemical and biological weapons that Iraq
may have. He wouldn't provide such weapons to the Osama
bin Ladens of the world, who represent a terrible threat
to Saddam himself.
And administration hawks understand that, except as a
last resort if attacked, Iraq is highly unlikely to use
any weapons of mass destruction that it has -- and risk
Under attack, however, Iraqi society would collapse,
including the controls over the weapons of mass
destruction. These could be "privatized," as
international security specialist Daniel Benjamin warns,
and offered to the huge "market for unconventional
weapons, where they will have no trouble finding
buyers." That really is "a nightmare scenario," he says.
As for the fate of the people of Iraq in war, no one can
predict with any confidence: not the CIA, not Rumsfeld,
not those who claim to be experts on Iraq, no one.
But international relief agencies are preparing for the
Studies by respected medical organizations estimate that
the death toll could rise to the hundreds of thousands.
Confidential U.N. documents warn that a war could
trigger a "humanitarian emergency of exceptional scale"
-- including the possibility that 30 percent of Iraqi
children could die from malnutrition.
Today the administration doesn't seem to be heeding the
international relief agency warnings about an attack's
The potential disasters are among the many reasons why
decent human beings do not contemplate the threat or use
of violence, whether in personal life or international
affairs, unless reasons have been offered that have
overwhelming force. And surely nothing remotely like
that justification has come forward.
Noam Chomsky is a political activist, professor of
linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and author of the bestseller "9-11." He wrote this
article for the New York Times Syndicate