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The Road to War

by Richard Garrard (garrard55 [at]
From behind the Zion Curtain: a call for Peace

Address to People for Peace and Justice, Liberty Park, Salt Lake City, Utah, 09/10/02.
My name is Richard Garrard. I am here representing the Humanists of Utah. I thank you for assembling in, appropriately, Liberty Park for peace and justice. I am here tonight to honor the fallen of New York and Alexandria and Pennsylvania and Afghanistan. And I am here to warn of yet another tragedy, to tell you a story about a gathering storm, about a path through deepening shadow, about The Road to War.

Twenty years ago, before there was an "Axis of Evil"--when there was only an "Evil Empire" --the U.S. State Department removed Iraq from its official list of sponsors of terrorism. Soon thereafter, Saddam Hussein began purchasing civilian helicopters from the United States. A second order of helicopters brought some congressional opposition but, with the blessing of the Reagan administration, the sale was approved in August, 1983.

Months later, in December, 1983, Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Bagdad, the capital of Iraq. He brought a message from President Ronald Reagan: the United States is interested in resuming diplomatic relations with Iraq. An estrangement of 16 years was coming to an end. Rumsfeld would later tell the New York Times "it struck us as useful to have a relationship, given that we were interested in solving the Middle East problems." The United States plainly saw value in using Iraq as a foil against the U.S. nemesis, Iran.

On March 24, 1984, Rumsfeld was back in Bagdad for meetings with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. The day the two men met, UPI reported that Iraq had used Mustard and VX gas against Iran. Days later, on March 29, 1984, The New York Times reported from Bagdad that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name."

November, 1984. Full diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iraq were restored. During 1984, the State Department approved the sale of military-type helicopters to Iraq.

In 1988, Saddam's military launched attacks on Kurdish civilians, using chemical weapons. U.S. intelligence sources later, in 1991, told the LA Times that they "believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs."

There is a phrase--possibly apocryphal, because it has been attributed to both Franklin Roosevelt and former Secretary of State Cordell Hull--that refers to "OUR son of a bitch." The story goes that, when the brutishness of an ally such as Somoza or Trujillo was mentioned in diplomatic circles, the retort was, "yes, he's a son of a bitch, but he's OUR son of a bitch." Previous SOBs of ours had included the Shah of Iran and even Josef Stalin. Saddam was our SOB throughout most of the Reagan administration. Somewhere along the line, possibly in 1990, we dropped the "our." It did not happen when Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. It did not even happen in 1988, when Saddam used GB nerve agent against an uprising of the Kurds--an ethnic minority of his own people--in Northern Iraq. It only happened when he ran afoul of the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush.

Fast forward to the Brave New Millenium. The United States, still reeling from a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, has not apprehended the chief villains of the tragedy: Osama Bin Laden and Mulla Omar. The FBI has not apprehended a suspect in the mailings of anthrax to Federal legislators and other government officials. A massive, unprecedented series of corporate scandals, involving billions of dollars in fraud, has seriously shaken the U.S. economy. The president--who is in office because of a Supreme Court decision made by a slim majority of his ideological sympathizers--sees his approval ratings plummeting, sees the dominance of his party in Congress swiftly eroding. Israel and the Palestinians, India and Pakistan are teetering on the brink of wide scale conflict, perhaps even war, perhaps even nuclear war.

So—NOW it's time to return to Iraq?

George W. Bush prides himself on being the first CEO president, on being a businessman. Indeed, the 'policy preferences' of the present Bush administration heavily favor the geopolitics of oil. Not only did the president receive almost $2 million from the oil industry in his last campaign, the elder Bush is heavily involved in the Carlyle Group, a transnational corporation deeply invested in energy and defense resources; the vice President was chair of Halliburton, a Dallas-based oil services company; his National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, is a former Chevron board member; his Deputy Secretary of the Interior is a former CEO of a Denver oil and gas company; and numerous other members of his administration came from the same industry. In fact, eighteen of the energy industry's top 25 donors to the Republican Party helped the Vice President's energy task force develop its plan. The minutes of that task force are still in dispute, embroiled in a lawsuit from the General Accounting Office. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham met with 109 representatives from the nuclear, electric utility, coal, oil and gas industries during the three months he spent preparing Bush's national energy policy; by contrast, representatives of only 11 environmental groups were consulted, and were allowed only 48 hours to fax in their comments.

In the Bush presidencies, policy comes from economics, not from human rights. During the first Gulf War, much was made of the outrages committed by Saddam Hussein in the gassing of the Kurds; yet, as is noted above, these atrocities had little influence on U.S. foreign policy at the time. Even the highly publicized accounts of "babies thrown out of incubators" was revealed by the New York Times to be a public-relations hoax orchestrated by the Kuwaiti government and the PR firm Hill & Knowlton.

So—why attack Iraq?

What of the assassination attempt made on the elder George Bush in 1993? The Clinton administration confirmed the existence of an Iraqi-designed car bomb, apparently intended for the former president and a high-ranking Kuwaiti. Such an assassination attempt is inexcusable, but not exactly rare in the world of covert operations. The U.S. has variously attempted assassinations of foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro, Muamar Qadafi, and Saddam himself. At the time, the Clinton administration responded with an escalation of bombings of Iraq.

In fact, in addition to sanctions against Iraq, bombings continued throughout the end of the first Bush administration and the duration of the Clinton presidency. Though controversial, the sanctions themselves are considered by objective groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as counterproductive in the toll they take on the lives of the ordinary Iraqis. The U.S. State Department proclaims that Saddam misdirects or misuses the "Food for Oil" transactions, but UN observers are not convinced.

What of Saddam's potential for developing WMD--"weapons of mass destruction"? Reports vary as to the potential and the actual. UN weapons inspectors have not been in Iraq since 1998. Crude chemical and biological weapons are easily produced and hidden. There is little in the way of inspection regimens that could provide assurances. Weaponized versions of anthrax and the delivery systems (ballistic missiles) required involve much more sophisticated technologies that should be verifiable. True nuclear (fission and fusion) weapons are even more amenable to detection, while so-called "dirty" radioactive bombs require substantial quantities of radioactive dust and could not easily be delivered over a large target area in any effective way. Even if Saddam were to attack Israel with WMD, the reprisal would be swift and devastating: Israeli nuclear capabilities are estimated at around 200 tactical nuclear warheads.

Is Iraq connected to 9/11? One report has surfaced of a contact between Iraqi and Al-Qaeda operatives in the Czech Republic in 2001, but the report has since been discounted by both the Czechs and the U.S. Government. Israeli intelligence sources have argued for Iraq-Al-Qaeda connections, but there is much greater evidence of Taliban and even Saudi (but not official Saudi government) involvement, particularly the fact that three-fourths of the suspected hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. Israel clearly views Saddam as a threat, especially since the launching of Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf War, but the case of a clear provocation against the U.S. has not been made.

In fact, the lack of evidence is why the United States has only two potential allies in a war against Iraq: Israel and Great Britain. Israel's position relates to their past experience, and the alliance with Britain is questionable. A clear majority of Brits disagree with British involvement in a war with Iraq. The coalition that preceded the initiation of Operation Desert Storm does not exist. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France and Japan have clearly stated that they would not support such action.

While a majority of the American public supports military action against Saddam, a recent Washington Post-ABC news poll found that "66 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats said Bush should seek congressional consent before attacking Iraq." At this time the full Congress has not been consulted and Congressional support is steadily eroding. The latest casualty is Richard Armey, Republican House leader and fellow Texan. Concerns have been expressed by top national security strategists of previous administrations: Brent Scowcroft, who warned in a Wall Street Journal article of "an Armageddon in the Middle East." Lawrence Eagleburger, who stated that unless Saddam had "his hand on the trigger" of a weapon of mass destruction, an attack was unwarranted; and Henry Kissinger, who cautioned against unilateral action as a dangerous precedent.

So why is this president so adamant? Could it be because of the popularity of many wartime presidents? Could he be concerned that, historically, the party in the White House loses seats during midterm elections? Could it be because the president's corporate managerial credentials--and those of the bulk of his appointees--are now in disrepute? Or because the federal budget surplus turned to deep deficits on his watch? Could it be, with the failure of the "war on terrorism," the president needs another chance, in another war? The growth of executive power to make war is a disturbing trend of administrations over the last fifty years, especially since Vietnam. The war proposed is conveniently remote in geographical distance and also psychic distance: the enemies are 10,000 miles away, they are Muslims; we kill them with smart bombs, stealth aircraft and unmanned Predators at little risk to ourselves; we can even subdue them with nonlethal microwave "pain rays." War has never been so un-warlike…right? If the gore is not televised, does it exist? Everywhere bumper stickers proclaim, "US Troops Kick Ass!" as if war is some sort of Superbowl game.

Should we care? Yes. The United States should not embark on a war in the Middle East without Congressional oversight and support. The American public must hear a full and open debate on the issues and the options. The U.S. should seek an international consensus, as well. War should not be seen as an exercise in patriotism, but only as a dreaded last resort. In the sanitized, public-relations managed era of remote, high-tech war, we easily forget: War is killing. War not only destroys others but, in the end, destroys us as well.
In the words of a former Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket
fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who
hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending
the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists,
the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all
in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity
hanging on a cross of iron.

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