english.daralhayat.com     2003/03/28     11:59 GMT

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World Against War

The United States And Britain Are Heading For Disaster

Patrick Seale     Al-Hayat     2003/03/28

Whatever the military outcome of the 'battle for Baghdad', politically and morally the United States and Britain have already lost the war. Far from welcoming the Western troops with flowers, surrendering, or fleeing the country as refugees, the Iraqis are putting up ferocious resistance.

Thousands of Iraqis working in Jordan and elsewhere are rushing home to join the fight. Three million light weapons have been distributed to the population. Soldiers, militiamen, fedayeen, ordinary citizens - a nation in arms - have joined forces in a brave if unequal struggle, which has won the admiration of anti-war protesters from Sydney to Seoul to Sanaa.

Whatever the final outcome, the Iraqis have won their proud place in Arab hearts and minds.

At the same time, Operation Iraqi Freedom has been exposed as a gruesome travesty. An old-fashioned colonial war, built on lies, greed and geopolitical fantasies, it has nothing to do with 'disarming' Iraq or 'liberating' the Iraqi people. Iraq is a threat to no one. No connection has been found between Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11, and no evidence has been provided that Iraq has continued to manufacture chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and might pass them on to terrorist groups. All this is malicious propaganda to mask the real war aims which are what they have been since 1991: to affirm America's global supremacy in a strategically vital, oil-rich part of the world, and to protect Israel's regional supremacy and its monopoly of weapons of mass destruction.

The vision of the main Washington war-mongers, such as Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defense secretary, and Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, with their cohorts in Zionist and right-wing think-tanks, has proved a self-serving mirage. No 'explosion of joy' has greeted the invasion, such as Wolfowitz continues to predict. The political map of the region is not about to be redrawn to suit American and Israeli interests. The capture of Baghdad will not be followed by 'regime change' in Iran and Syria. A defeated and grateful Iraq will not embrace American-style 'democracy' or readily sign a peace treaty with Israel. Instead, by inciting the United States to engage in a criminal adventure, these men have stirred up boundless hatred, which will plague the United States and its citizens for years to come. A day will come when a Congressional committee investigates how and by whom the ill-fated decision to go to war against Iraq was taken.

Long despised and dismissed as irrelevant, the Arab 'street' has awakened and, in increasingly violent demonstrations, is expressing its utter revulsion at American bullying. Iraqi resistance has in fact empowered the Arab masses in a way not seen since the passions stirred by the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

Losing the war and losing the peace

The rift is dangerously wide between the governments of American client states in the Gulf, most notably Kuwait, and the broad current of Islamist and Arab nationalist opinion throughout the region. Gulf states may argue that they have had no choice but to host American troops because of military treaties signed with the US, but this sounds hollow in view of Turkey's principled stand despite its even more complex commitments to the US and NATO. If the war ends inconclusively, or subsides into guerrilla skirmishes, as well it might, the backlash against some of the ruling families in the Gulf could be violent. Kuwait should long since have made its peace with Iraq and consigned to history the 1990 invasion, for which the Iraqi people have paid so terrible a price. Whatever Iraqi regime emerges from this war will not easily forgive Kuwait its implacable revenge-seeking. In turn, the governments of Jordan and Egypt, torn between dependence on the United States and the explosive anti-American and anti-war sentiments of their populations, are also beginning to feel the heat. As was widely predicted, the fall-out from this war is likely to shake the region for a long while to come.

Meanwhile, on the battlefield, American and British troops, misled by their political masters, are having to face the nightmare of urban guerrilla warfare for which they have been neither trained nor equipped. Their supply convoys and the flanks of their armoured and infantry columns are being harassed by hit-and-run raids. Iraqi cities may become their death traps. They are responding with heavy, increasingly indiscriminate, air bombardment, as well as artillery and tank fire against civilian targets, further alienating a population already enraged by twelve years of cruel and crippling sanctions. Iraqi casualties, both military and civilian, are mounting rapidly. Hundreds, possibly thousands, have already been killed and wounded in battles at Umm Qasr, al-Nassiriyah, Najaf and many other places. The humanitarian crisis in Iraq's southern city of Basra, where two million people face acute food and water shortages, is putting great political pressure on Washington and London to do something to relieve it. Aid agencies are anxious to help, but they do not want to be tainted by association with American and British armies.

As forces gather for the assault on Baghdad, the key question facing the planners is whether the city can be taken at an acceptable cost in American and British lives.

Having lost the war politically, the US and Britain are also losing the peace. No one can seriously envisage Iraq being ruled by a United States military commander or by the rag-tag bunch of Iraqi exiles funded and cultivated by right-wing, often pro-Israeli, Washington hawks. American military occupation, if it comes to that, will be no picnic. Post-war Iraq will not be a safe place for Americans or Britons, whether soldiers or administrators, or their Iraqi collaborators. Nor will it be a safe place for American contractors and other fortune-hunters who, like vultures as Iraqis die, are already bidding for contracts to be paid for out of Iraqi oil revenues, and are hoping to divide the spoils of reconstruction with their cronies in the American government.

Tony Blair's catastrophic mistake

In the general political debacle, the saddest sight of all is Tony Blair, British prime minister, and his foreign secretary Jack Straw, scuttling for cover. Too late, they are beginning to utter distinctly European views, at odds with those of their hard-nosed American allies. The Washington hawks now say the UN is politically irrelevant to the resolution of the Iraqi crisis and needs radical reform, like stripping France of its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council! Blair, in contrast, says the United Nations must have a central role in a post-war Iraq. On his brief visit to the United States this week, he even made a detour via New York to call on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. But if Blair is suddenly so keen on the UN, why did he recklessly go to war without UN authorization? Now that things are beginning to go wrong, he is evidently hoping to recover some international legitimacy.

The big divide between Europe and America has to do with Israel and Palestine. Jack Straw has even made a startling confession. The West, he says, has been guilty of double standards! He feels 'angry and upset' at the plight of the Palestinians and also at the terror inflicted on the Israelis. Britain, he told the BBC, is 'one hundred percent committed' to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, based on Security Council Resolution 242, the 1967 borders, the end of Jewish settlements, and a solution of the refugee problem. These are fine words. But if he and his master Tony Blair are committed to such a two-state solution, why have they allied themselves in war with the American friends of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who is totally opposed to such a solution? Why over the past two years have they tolerated Sharon's massacre of Palestinians, his wholesale destruction of every vestige of Palestinian statehood, his targeted murders, house demolitions, settlement building, by-pass roads, closures, curfews and the rest of it? Why have there been no British sanctions against Israel to match the criminally punitive sanctions against Iraq that Britain helped the US keep in place?

Appointing himself an international statesman, Blair has sought to act as a transatlantic bridge between Europe and America. He believes it a grave danger if Europe were to constitute a rival pole to the United States, a development that most sensible people would see as a necessary check on the wild men in Washington and a major contribution to a less dangerous world. But Blair's 'bridge' has collapsed, along with Iraq's buildings. It is the gravest defeat for British diplomacy in living memory. He would do best to resign and let a more reasonable successor restore Britain's shattered ties with Europe as well as the authority of the United Nations.