A War Of Deception
By Angana Chatterji
March 26, 2003
Americas war with Iraq
is about deception, control, and the violation of local and international
will. This war is not about freedom. It is about a superpower asserting
itself in a unilateral world. Iraq, a repository of oil reserves, the
second largest after Saudi Arabia, must be disciplined and punished.
At the announcement of war, the Dow rallied over 282 points. The Bush
administration prepares to bestow 900 million dollars to domestic firms
in post war contracts for rebuilding Iraq. Who benefits from this war
The impenetrable Bush coalition
is ready. Foreign missions have been evacuated, armies mobilised, and
body bags ordered. The call for war has been given. Ships roll in rough
seas ready to parachute bombs which to wipe out evil must murder the
innocent. President Bush, defining this as a war of liberation,
says that the United Nations has not lived up to its responsibilities.
Are his actions responsible?
Information available betrays
this administrations logic for war. The United States claimed
to have destroyed 80 percent of Iraqs military capacity in 1991.
Since then, the United States and the United Kingdom have administered
air strikes and deluged Iraq with explosives. So, what is this war about?
Is it to protect the Kurds or Jews in Iraq, perhaps, given Saddam Husseins
animosity toward minorities and alliance with Palestine? But Kurds were
betrayed in the last war and Iraqi Jews have chosen to remain in Iraq,
in a society where frayed remnants of secularism endure. Osama Bin Laden?
There is no evidence that links Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. Truth refuses
alliance with this war. In the minds of many Americans this war is retribution
for September 11. A vengeful war that desecrates the memory of those
who died on that fatal day. Is it about nuclear weapons? Iraq has none.
The United States possesses 10,729 nuclear warheads and is the only
country to have used atomic weapons in a war. There is no evidence to
imply that Saddam Hussein will use chemical and biological weapons against
America, weapons Iraq developed in the 1980s, ironically, with the knowledge
and support of the United States. Regional security? Does America care
if Iraq violates its lesser neighbours? The United States
did not castigate Iraq when Saddam Hussein gassed 5,000 in the Kurdish
town of Halabja. Let us remember as well that the United States used
19 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam. How does a nation with
blood on its hands attempt to hijack the moral high ground?
Iraq, the land of ancient
civilisation, heritage to all, drawn from the memories of Mesopotamia.
A culture which connects us from prehistory to history. The triumphs
and tribulations of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians,
Hittites, Israelites, Lydians, Phoenicians, Persians have birthed its
imagination. A multitude of religions, tribes and ethnicities has produced
a profusion of art, music, religion, mythology, architecture, literature,
and history. A land desecrated by corrupt regimes and untold horrors.
Long forgotten is the Baath Partys commitment to a socialist revolution,
to equity and freedom. And now, a crusade led by America that only promises
torment and adds to Iraqs grief. This war will reinforce Islamic
fundamentalists, marginalise progressive Muslims and strengthen the
religious right. This war will escalate a thousand-fold the terrorist
threat that terrifies people the world over. How shall we make President
Bush understand? Millions have marched, people and governments have
pleaded their dissent. They have failed to produce conscience and reason
in the Bush presidency, or a commitment to international coalition building
and bilateral relations. Should the world impose sanctions on America?
The Iraqi people want to
be free of torture and fear, of the despot Saddam Hussein. At what cost?
By whose will? They have not asked the United States to intervene. What
of the retaliation, as Iraq signals the war, firing at three Kurdish
villages north of Kirkuk? Eight hundred thousand Iraqi civilians died
from the environmental and infrastructural impact of Americas
first war with Iraq. Since 1991, there has been a 600 percent increase
in cancers. Infant mortality rates have increased by 260 percent. It
is over 12 years since the United Nations introduced Resolution 661,
imposing ruinous sanctions against Iraq. Sanctions that have killed
1,684,850 since 1991, 704,162 of them children under five. Has all this
made peace? A full-fledged war will induce 500,000 casualties in Iraq,
leave 50 percent of the population without access to water, displace
2 million people, and create 600,000 refugees. Insolent actions of Empire.
They portend dangerous consequences. Attending to the post war crisis
will force UN agencies to redirect emergency funds from war torn Africa
or refugees returning to Afghanistan. Will our world be safer?
Iraq possesses 110 trillion
cubic feet of natural gas, of grave concern for regional and international
security. In the first Gulf War, 700 oil wells burned for nine months,
discharging toxic clouds that blinded the sun. Sixty million gallons
of crude oil were unleashed into the environment, wounding the desert
with 246 craters of congealed oil, damaging the coast for 1,500 miles.
Eight hundred tons of depleted uranium were used in Iraq during the
Gulf War, 300 tons of it scattered across Kuwait and southern Iraq.
The beautiful marshes, the rivers, the skies, the seas rage in mourning.
The desert is filled with trepidation. Where is our compassion?
Justice is not lucrative
in the world order to which we acquiesce. Do we want to feed the hungry
and shelter the displaced? Because we can. The world spends 800+ billion
dollars each year in military outlays. In 2002, the United States alone
spent 518.9 billion in military and related expenditure. Ninety-seven
ships, attack helicopters, smart bombs, a 1000 fighter jets, and 250,000
soldiers march into Iraq. Each day at war will cost American taxpayers
517 million dollars. In contrast, the United Nations estimates that
an annual allocation of 80 billion dollars would make available fundamental
necessities and mitigate poverty for the underprivileged across the
globe. Where is the will for ethical change?
The drums roll for combat.
I think about women and men in Iraq, about children afraid in the shadows,
about dreams in which they struggle to rest. What a mess we have made
of this world. In San Francisco, opposition to this war is prodigious,
as I write, in dissent and with all the failings of hope. When will
we be heard?
(Angana Chatterji is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology
at the California Institute of Integral Studies.)