Heading toward disaster: Congress back war plans

By Robert Jensen

with Rahul Mahajan

Published in War Times · October, 2002

[This article appeared in the print publication War Times, October/November 2002, p. 1.]

Despite bullying and bribery, George Bush cannot find much support for his war on Iraq.

Bush went to the United Nations to sell the war as an international effort, but other countries saw his speech as an ultimatum either obey or risk “irrelevancy,” as the U.S. plays judge, jury and executioner for the world.

France and Russia, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are resisting war despite the administration’s effort to buy them off with promises of a (small) share of postwar oil concessions in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair supports Bush, but the people are a different matter. Nearly 400,000 marched last month in the largest antiwar protest in Britain since the Vietnam era.

Meanwhile, U.S. protesters are occupying congressional offices, and a majority of the American people opposes war if the U.S. goes it alone. Nationwide antiwar protests are planned for October 26.

Why is most of the world rejecting Bush’s war plans? One reason is the effect on the people of Iraq.


Bush claims that he has no quarrel with Iraqi people, but it is they who will suffer the greatest consequences of a war.

Despite talk about precision bombing and minimizing civilian casualties, U.S. strategy guarantees large-scale civilian death and suffering. Routine high-altitude bombing to “soften up” an area before ground troops attack means routine targeting mistakes, compounded by the use of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster bombs. These tactics reduce U.S. military casualties at the expense of innocent civilians.

In Afghanistan, at least 3,000 civilians (as many who died on Sept. 11 attacks) died during the bombing, with estimates of roughly 20,000 deaths from the disruption of agriculture and food distribution.

Also expect the U.S. to deliberately target civilian infrastructure — electrical generation, water and sewage treatment — as it did during the 1991 Gulf War, according to government documents. That means not only immediate but long-term civilian casualties, as people without clean water or sanitation die from disease.

Thousands, possibly tens of thousands, could die if Iraqi troops dig in around Baghdad, a city of five million people, and the United States unleashes a bombing campaign against them. In Afghanistan U.S. forces regularly bombed targets in crowded urban areas. There is no reason to think Iraq would be different.

Opposition is also mounting as it becomes clearer this will be a war of U.S. aggression, not a war to disarm Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction as the administration claims. Bush’s plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq rest on shaky grounds. The best evidence provided by previous UN inspectors indicates that weapons inspections, terminated in late 1998 when the United States pulled inspectors out, had achieved 95 percent disarmament.

Bush’s “preemption doctrine” — the idea that the U.S. can arbitrarily and unilaterally attack anytime it claims a threat — undermines international law, establishes the rule of brute force, and provides a justification for U.S. attempts to control the Middle East, Central Asia, and anywhere else the Bush administration sees fit.


The cost is another reason to oppose a war. The U.S. government’s own estimates range from $50-$200 billion, and unlike the Gulf War there will be no allies to pick up the tab. All this on top of the $100 billion increase in the military budget since 2000. With the average amount spent on health care per person at roughly $5,000 per year, the cost of this war could provide a year’s health care for 10 million people.

And who will fight these wars? Certainly not the sons and daughters of Bush’s cronies.

Those who do the fighting and dying will be the poor and people of color. The privileged will not be fighting, but it does not mean they will not be dying. An unprovoked attack on Iraq will almost certainly increase terrorism aimed at the U.S., as networks like al-Qaeda tap the anger and resentment of the Arab world against U.S. policies in the Middle East. The FBI and CIA now admit that the war on Afghanistan increased the threat of terrorism, as predicted by the antiwar movement.

This war will be good for some — weapons manufacturers and arms dealers, construction companies that get contracts to rebuild a devastated society, and oil companies that win the rights to exploit Iraqi oil. It will serve the tiny elite at the heart of the U.S. empire by cementing control of oil and oil profits. For the rest of us, it will be a disaster.