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The Splendid Failure of Occupation Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Part 42: Postwar aftermath or imperialist mutatis mutandis?
By B. J. Sabri
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 27, 2006, 01:07

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"As I report to you, air attacks are under way against military targets in Iraq . . . I've told the American people before that this will not be another Vietnam. And I repeat this here tonight. Our troops will have the best possible support in the entire world, and they will not be asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back."-- President George H. W. Bush, Address to the nation, January 16, 1991. [Italics added]

In addressing Soviet concerns on the American intentions in Iraq (early fall, 1990), former Secretary of State James Baker, borrowed from the vast repertoire of deception long experimented with by U.S. imperialist circles. He solemnly declared that once the United States �liberated� Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation, not even one American soldier would remain in the Gulf region.

Baker never meant what he said. In fact, once the U.S. �liberated� Kuwait, American military bases spread like fungi across the Arabian Peninsula, and, de facto, all Gulf Sheikdoms (with the exception of Yemen that voted against the use of force against Iraq) fell under American tutelage as undeclared protectorates and semi-colonies.

Background: Baker well knew that a Soviet collapse was imminent, thus no other major military power would challenge U.S. military presence after the prospective war. Moreover, Baker was aware that an already U.S.-controlled Arab system would never challenge an American entrenchment on Arab soil, and that any attempt to evict the new invaders would require widened military confrontations with two nuclear adversaries: the U.S. and Israel, that the Arabs, despite the trillions of dollars they spent on weapons, were unwilling or unable to undertake.

Hence, remembering the Israeli plan to extend the borders of the Jewish settler state from the Euphrates to the Nile, and remembering the American five-decade plan to control the oilfields of the Middle East, any contemplated American colonialist conquest of the Arab states would begin with Iraq. The rationale for this order was explicit: Iraq had wealth, a solid industrial base, scientists, a strong army, a nationalist outlook, and was on the top of Israel�s hit list after the surrender of Egypt consequent to the Camp David Accord with Israel. Such war, therefore, would achieve two U.S.-Israeli strategic objectives: 1) the military control of Arab states and their oilfields until exhaustion, and 2) putting Israel's in military control of the region.

In addition to this concise outline for U.S. war objectives, I would like to give you another outline before I discuss the motives and potential results the United States expected from its war strategy. In his excellent and a must-read essay, Third World War: A Political Economy of the Gulf War and New World Order, Andre Gunder Frank from Amsterdam University, Holland, listed the basic points that drove the economics of the Gulf War.

After an introduction to the world order created by the collapse of the Soviet system, and after he discussed the U.S. pretexts of war, Frank listed a number of factors at the core of the economic ambitions of U.S. imperialism. These included: 1) foreign oil, 2) domestic recession, 3) the world recession of the 1990s, 4) West-West Competition, 5) East-West, North-South, 6) using military strength to compensate for economic weakness, and 7) political economies of escalation.

The point for reporting such factors, which Frank discussed with cogency, is that to understand the objectives of the United States as a militarized capitalist state with specific ideological manifestoes, it is prerequisite that we understand first the economics of its imperialism. That is, economically, in order for the U.S. to assert its role as the sole ruler of the world (after the expected Soviet collapse), a war with Iraq (aside from the control of Iraqi oil that the United States eventually implemented through the �Oil for Food Program� would achieve all of the following:

  1. Overcome the crises of its own capitalism by reviving war economy patterns and trickledown benefits; and

  2. Help British and French military-industrial complexes (U.S. NATO partners in the war), all while inflicting the final blow to Russia�s (Soviet) export of military hardware (in the end, the U.S. would characterize its war with Iraq as a confrontation between the quality of two weapon systems: American and European vs. Soviet, thus increasing the sale of Western weapons to developing countries.

  3. Asserts the United States as the military and economic boss of Western Europe and Japan; and

  4. Satisfy basic requirements for hegemonic empire through the expansion of the military sector domestically, and the sale of new weapon systems to international buyers.

To realize these objectives, U.S. imperialists decided that Iraq and its people should become an example to all those who dare challenge the transformation of the world into caged and gagged states serving the sole interests of the United States and elite partners.

From the viewpoint of a country (United States) with over two centuries in the practice of imperialism, colonialism, exterminations, and mass destruction, a war with Iraq should, therefore, not only leave that country with an insurmountable postwar aftermath, but also must lay the foundations for structural changes to accommodate an embryonic neocon imperialism. That is, to carry out an imperialist mutatis mutandis whereby, what ought to be changed so that the United States can implement its plan for Iraq, will be changed.

What was the blueprint to make that change?

In the British-American experience to conquer what is now the United States, the colonialist strategy was simple: Destroy the economic pillars and sources of wealth and sustenance of the Original Peoples. These included political structures, village and town systems, cattle (remember the near extermination of the buffalo?), agriculture, forced transfer (remember the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears?), and confinement to large prisons called reservations. Once the pillars collapse, the gradual reduction of the conquered people to disempowered outsiders in their own land, coupled with the breakup of economic-political elements of society, disease, malnutrition, depopulation, and continued war, would become reality.

From a historical viewpoint, the strategy to destroy Iraq to conquer it later, worked in the same manner, except this time, an international system marked by perfidy, hypocrisy, cowardice, and shameful submission to U.S. imperialism, colluded with the United States to carry out its plans for Iraq and the Middle East.

Even in matters of extermination to conquer nations or peoples, the supremacist mentality that prevailed toward the Original Peoples (and later toward Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Koreans) was the same in Iraq. For instance, while American and European settlers exterminated the lawful owners of the land with wars, smallpox, starvation, and disease, the U.S. bombardment of Iraq in 1991, did not only kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and military in just 43 days, but also poisoned the surviving population with radioactive uranium.

Beyond that it destroyed primary infrastructures needed for society, including bridges, roads, water and sewage systems, electric powers grids, civilian factories, dairy factories, Iraq�s only baby formula factory, poultry hatcheries, grain silos, hospitals, shelters, schools, and burned half of Iraq�s date-palm trees in the South of Iraq. (Dates and date syrup are essential staples in the Iraqi diet, as well as, an important export commodity)

That the United States (as we shall see next in part 43) wanted a war with Iraq at any cost was a fact that needs no corroboration: actions and pronouncements proved it. Yet, was the U.S. Nazi strategy to �liberate� Kuwait by destroying Iraq accidental? In addition, because the destruction of Iraq�s vital structures was premeditated, what was the purpose?

Writing a revelatory article (Allied Air War Struck Broadly in Iraq; Officials Acknowledge Strategy Went Beyond Purely Military Targets) for the Washington Post (1991), Barton Gellman pointed to the strategy behind the bombing. The article is important because Gellman dispensed with linguistic subterfuge and chose clarity. For example, in the opening paragraph he described U.S. war against Iraq, not as a war to end the occupation of Kuwait, but �As a campaign against Baghdad's offensive military capabilities,� which, of course, was Washington�s euphemism to destroy Iraq as a functioning nation -- since the term implies a comprehensive destruction of civilian and military targets that sustain those �capabilities." Indeed, Kuwait�s �liberation� did not appear as a motive for the war, at least, as Gellman presented it.

Because of the relevance of Gellman�s argument to my current debate, which is, whether the situation of Iraq after the bombardment was a classic postwar aftermath or calculated strategy to cripple Iraq permanently, I shall incorporate most of it in this and the next article. In order to give you a compact synthesis, I reorganized the article in two parts, but added Italics where the imperialist long-term objective -- cripple Iraq permanently -- is both, apparent and implicit based on the consequence of each military action and the target it destroyed. The question is, why cripple Iraq permanently? Was that to provoke a regime change from inside, or prepare the prey for conquest? I shall answer these questions in the upcoming part.

Part 1 of Gellman�s Findings:

  • The strategic bombing of Iraq, described in wartime briefings as a campaign against Baghdad's offensive military capabilities, now appears to have been broader in its purposes and selection of targets.

  • Amid mounting evidence of Iraq's ruined infrastructure and the painful consequences for ordinary Iraqis, Pentagon officials more readily acknowledge the severe impact of the 43-day air bombardment on Iraq's economic future and civilian population.

  • Their explanations these days of the bombing's goals and methods suggest that the allies, relying on traditional concepts of strategic warfare, sought to achieve some of their military objectives in the Persian Gulf War by disabling Iraqi society. [Italics added]

  • Though many details remain classified, interviews with those involved in the targeting disclose three main contrasts with the administration's earlier portrayal of a campaign aimed solely at Iraq's armed forces and their lines of supply and command. Some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create postwar leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself. [Italics added].

  • Planners now say their intent was to destroy or damage valuable facilities that Baghdad could not repair without foreign assistance. [Italics added]

  • Many of the targets in Iraq's Mesopotamian heartland, the list of which grew from about 400 to more than 700 in the course of the war, were chosen only secondarily to contribute to the military defeat of Baghdad's occupation army in Kuwait. [Italics added]

  • Military planners hoped the bombing would amplify the economic and psychological impact of international sanctions on Iraqi society, and thereby compel President Saddam Hussein to withdraw Iraqi forces from Kuwait without a ground war. [Italics added]

  • Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as "collateral" and unintended, was sometimes neither. [Italics added]

  • The Air Force and Navy "fraggers" who prepared the daily air-tasking orders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, took great care to avoid dropping explosives directly on civilians -- and were almost certainly more successful than in any previous war -- but they deliberately did great harm to Iraq's ability to support itself as an industrial society. [Italics added]

  • The worst civilian suffering, senior officers say, has resulted not from bombs that went astray but from precision-guided weapons that hit exactly where they were aimed -- at electrical plants, oil refineries and transportation networks. Each of these targets was acknowledged during the war, but all the purposes and consequences of their destruction were not divulged. [Italics added]

  • Among the justifications offered now, particularly by the Air Force in recent briefings, is that Iraqi civilians were not blameless for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. "The definition of innocents gets to be a little bit unclear," said a senior Air Force officer, noting that many Iraqis supported the invasion of Kuwait. "They do live there, and ultimately the people have some control over what goes on in their country." [Italics added]

  • "When they discuss warfare, a lot of folks tend to think of force on force, soldier A against soldier B," said another officer who played a central role in the air campaign but declined to be named. Strategic bombing, by contrast, strikes against "all those things that allow a nation to sustain itself." [Italics added]

  • For critics, this was the war that showed why the indirect effects of bombing must be planned as discriminately as the direct ones. The bombardment may have been precise, they argue, but the results have been felt throughout Iraqi society, and the bombing ultimately may have done as much to harm civilians as soldiers. [Italics added]

  • Pentagon officials say that military lawyers were present in the air campaign's "Black Hole" planning cell in Riyadh and emphasize that the bombing followed international conventions of war. Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, at a recent breakfast with reporters, said every Iraqi target was "perfectly legitimate" and added, "If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing." [Italics added]
  • A growing debate on the air campaign is challenging Cheney's argument on two fronts. Some critics, including a Harvard public health team and the environmental group Greenpeace, have questioned the morality of the bombing by pointing to its ripple effects on noncombatants. [Italics added]

  • The Harvard team, for example, reported last month that the lack of electrical power, fuel and key transportation links in Iraq now has led to acute malnutrition and "epidemic" levels of cholera and typhoid. In an estimate not substantively disputed by the Pentagon, the team projected that "at least 170,000 children under five years of age will die in the coming year from the delayed effects" of the bombing. [Italics Added]

  • Military officials assert that allied aircraft passed up legitimate targets when the costs to Iraqi civilians or their society would be too high, declining for instance to strike an Iraqi MiG-21 parked outside an ancient mosque. Using the same rationale, the critics argue that the allies should not have bombed electrical plants that powered hospitals and water treatment plants. [Italics added]

  • "I think this war challenges us to ask ourselves whether or not the lethality of conventional weapons in modern, urban, integrated societies isn't such that . . . what is 'legitimate' is inhumane," said William M. Arkin, one of the authors of the Greenpeace report. [Italics added]

  • Historians Robert A. Pape, Jr., and Caroline Ciemke, noting that the U.S. Central Command planned for only 30 days of bombing, say the vital targets were existing stocks of supply and the system of distribution. A campaign to incapacitate an entire society, they say, may be inappropriate in the context of a short war against a small nation in which the populace is not free to alter its leadership. [Italics added]

  • Among the remaining questions about the air strategy is the extent of the administration's top civilians' participation in planning the bombardment. President [George H. W.} Bush stressed during the war that he left most of the fighting decisions to the military.

  • Cheney, for his part, rejects any talk of second thoughts on the bombing. "There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind that modern warfare is destructive, that we had a significant impact on Iraqi society that we wished we had not had to do," he said. Once war begins, he added, "while you still want to be as discriminating as possible in terms of avoiding civilian casualties, your number one obligation is to accomplish your mission. . . ." [Italics added]

In part (43), I shall discuss part 2 of Gellman�s findings, as well as, the scheme to destroy Iraq as a nation.

Next: Part 43: The scheme behind the bombardment of Iraq      

B. J. Sabri is an Iraq-American antiwar activist. Email

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The Splendid Failure of Occupation
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Part 45: How the U.S. engineered the Iraqi holocaust
Part 44: Burning the cradle of civilization
Part 43: The scheme behind the bombardment of Iraq
Part 42: Postwar aftermath or imperialist mutatis mutandis?
Part 41: The choice: obedience or annihilation
Part 40: A one-way bombardment called Gulf War
Part 39: Iraq: The second stage of conquest
Part 38: Inside America's lab of horror
Part 37: Iraq, America�s Lab of Horror
Part 36: George Bush occupies Iraq
Part 35: When an American Hulagu invades Mesopotamia
Part 34: Iraq, another chapter of American fascism, colonialism, and extermination
Part 33: Facing East: Iraqi hating and empire building*
Part 32: From Alexander Hamilton and Iroquois to George Bush and Iraqis
Part 31: Achtung! We can invent a pretext to conquer you
Part 30: Iraq Occupation, pretext, encroachment, and colonialism
Part 29: Iraq Occupation, anatomy of pretext
Part 28: Imperialist expansions and 9/11
Part 27: Demystifying 9/11
Part 26: Dick Cheney, numbers and the metaphysics of 9/11