Why George Bush REALLY Wants To Go To War
By Yvonne Ridley
It is all too easy to believe that Boy George simply wants to avenge his father by launching a military attack on Iraq. However the reality is that US President George W Bush needs a major distraction from his shocking domestic failures including economic mismanagement and the fall-out from gangster-style capitalism.
There’s nothing like a war to galvanise the population as British PM Margaret Thatcher discovered during the Falklands War – a justifiable military venture provoked by the invasion of sovereign British territories by Argentina.
However there is nothing justifiable in a military strike against Iraq despite the silly rhetoric which has come from Bush and his White House hawks in recent months. Saddam Hussein’s regime poses no greater threat now to anyone than it has done in the last decade.
Firstly, Bush would have us believe that Iraq was aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists and therefore was a legitimate target in the ill-founded War against Terror. WRONG.
Boy George and his cronies have never been able to come up with any proof, no matter how tenuous, linking Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime with al-Qaeda, despite many desperate attempts.
Ever resourceful, Bush then accused Iraq of producing weapons of mass destruction and said this was why the regime refused to allow the return of the UN weapons inspectors.
Whipping up hysteria among the American people, he convinced them that Iraq posed a direct threat to every citizen. A valid reason perhaps on the surface, therefore, to attack.
However, when I visited Baghdad in May and interviewed Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, he had just been informed that America was going to bomb Iraq regardless of if they allowed in inspectors or not. The normally polished politician, often seen as the acceptable face of Saddam’s regime, was undoubtedly ruffled and exasperated by this news which had come from Colin Powell’s State Department.
At the beginning of August these sentiments were echoed by John Bolton, the US official in charge of arms control who told the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme that America’s policy towards attacking Iraq would not change whether inspector go in or not.
US Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector reviled by Iraq and its people, has also poured cold water on this theory much to the irritation of his fellow Americans. So there’s another theory dispelled.
In a change of tactics the increasingly desperate monosyllabic Bush then focussed his attention on the man himself and insisted that Iraq needed a regime change. A bit rich coming from the un-elected leader of the United States. Although they may seem polls apart, Dubya and Saddam do have something in common in the wake of the shambolic American presidential elections . . . neither was voted in democratically!
The message coming out of Washington is confused, to say the least and is leading to growing scepticism across Europe about the lack of clarity from the US President over his policy towards Iraq.
The huge anti-war movement and ‘Don’t Attack Iraq’ lobby in Britain, compounded by the confusion emanating from the White House now appears to threaten the special relationship between Bush and our own Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair knows that Bush is becoming increasingly unpopular with American-loving British people and joining forces with the US on any military action could split his Cabinet.
Although intoxicated with power, Blair is politically astute enough to know that a continued unconditional friendship with Bush could cost him dearly. He has enough problems in the UK without being ‘egged’ by the growing army of Bush critics. So much so that he told Jordan’s King Abdullah he had ‘’tremendous concerns’’ about military action.
Showing neither the tact nor diplomacy of his later father, King Abdullah revealed this delicious piece of private angst to the world’s media during a trip to the White House at the beginning of August.
To Bush’s irritation (‘Goddamn the sonofabitch,’ I can almost hear him saying in the Oval Office) he was then dealt another knockout blow less than 24 hours later on August 7 by another Arab royal. Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said it would not allow the US to use its territories to launch a new attack.
This announcement took the White House hawks by surprise. Many of them advisors to Boy George’s daddy had been counting on Saudi support since it offered the main launch pad for George Bush senior’s war against Iraq in 1991.
In a blunt message Prince al Faisal declared: “We are against any attack on Iraq because we believe it is not needed, especially now that Iraq is moving to implement United Nations resolutions.” He followed that statement up with another verbal jab by adding: “For the Government of Iraq, the leadership of Iraq, any change that happens there has to come from the Iraqi people.”
As yet another of America’s traditional allies kicked sand in Bush’s face the President’s new best friends in Russia also showed a clean pair of heels. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia welcomed Baghdad’s offer to invite the UN’s chief weapons inspector to the capital for talks with a view to resuming the inspections and said it was not an opportunity to be missed.
Across Europe there are growing signs of little or no support for a military strike. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder wrote in Germany’s popular tabloid Bild Zeitung that a war against Iraq would “destroy the international alliance against terror.”
France’s president Jacques Chirac remarked: “I don’t want to imagine an attack against Iraq, an attack which – were it to be happen – could only be justified if it were decided on by the (UN) security council.”
Even traditional enemies of Iraq voiced concerns over the gung-ho attitude of Bush. Jalal Talabani, respected leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told the Reuters news agency: “We are not in favour of having a new dictatorship replacing the old one. And we are not for blindly participating in any attack or any plan.”
Even if George Bush chooses to ignore all the warning signs for international allies, there is another major snag to his ambitious plans to declare war on Iraq – he has no valid post-Saddam vision. Exiled Iraqi opposition leaders are bickering and fighting over who should govern the country. They are only united in one opinion and that is that Saddam Hussein could easily be defeated – not a view shared by the men who really know.
They are, of course, the generals in the Pentagon who know only too well the realities of going to war. They have insisted all along that if such a military campaign was to succeed then at least 250,000 troops would be needed to launch an invasion and maintain security inside the country. Unlike Afghanistan there is no effective ‘Northern Alliance’ to do America’s dirty work on the ground while B52s blast the country with carpet bombs, daisy cutters and other heavy duty weapons.
Saddam Hussein will not put out his 2000 battle tanks or Republican Army in the desert to be picked off from 30,000 feet in the air, he learned that costly lesson during the Gulf War of 1991.
The Iraqi dictator would probably put rings of steels around the country’s towns and cities which would force America into urban warfare resulting in thousands of body bags and memories of Vietnam. The only other alternative would be to carpet bomb those cities and towns resulting in massive civilian casualties which would provoke outrage around the world against America.
Even if such a US military campaign was successful American soldiers would then be sucked into guerrilla fighting for years and years as they tried to enforce control on every single street from Baghdad to Basra. There are 25,000 men serving in Saddam’s elite Republican Guard who are totally loyal to the dictator and would fight any invader to the last man. Deploying 250,000 American soldiers inside Iraq would provide snipers with very easy targets to pick off and the American people would not, and could not, stomach another Vietnam.
While George Bush has been banging his war drum from the Oval Office, Saddam Hussein has spent his time quietly despatching his own envoys to garner support among his Arab neighbours. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has met political leaders from Jordan, Syria, Algeria and even Iran which is still reeling for being lumped in to George Bush’s so called Axis of Evil. Lures of free-trade agreements, cheap oil and lucrative building contracts are thought to have been offered to friends and foes alike.
Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates all value their ties with America, but the ruling leaders know their citizens will not tolerate a war against Iraq.
“Worried leaders are constantly looking over their shoulder towards Iran and remember only too well how quickly the revolution to overthrow the Shah began and ended,” remarked one seasoned Middle East observer. While the Arab rulers are caught between a rock and a hard place, Blair is also looking closely at public opinion in Britain.
Personal aides say he loathes the image of him being an American poodle and is highly irritated by the constant reminders of his canine clout in British newspapers like the Daily Mirror. But he is growing increasingly concerned by the momentum of the anti-war movement in the UK which promises to send a tidal wave of protest across his bows on September 28 when campaigners gather for what could be billed as ‘The Mother of All Rallies.’
It is being organised for the eve of the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool and while Tony Blair contemplates the future of his friendship with Bush, he should be more concerned about the views of the people who voted him into power in the first place.