There’s been a lot of news in the past few months about a pos­sible war in Iraq. I thought I should get my thoughts down on this. I ini­tially wrote the fol­low­ing in response to a com­ment that the USA should be allowed to attack Iraq on the basis of “free­dom”. I’ve nev­er really under­stood this atti­tude, because to me it seems clear that the US gov­ern­ment is not con­cerned with free­dom at all, and is simply using it as an excuse to fur­ther its own interests (this is typ­ic­al beha­viour of any gov­ern­ment). Nev­er­the­less, I am not entirely for or against such a war at this stage. I always like to keep my options open. I don’t like Sad­dam Hus­sein, but I don’t like the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion either. Any­way, here’s what I wrote: 

Sorry, but that’s a very simplist­ic atti­tude. Firstly, you should remem­ber that Sad­dam Hus­sein was built up by the USA for dec­ades before the (first) Gulf War, and the situ­ation was not much dif­fer­ent back then. Sad­dam was the same mur­der­ous dic­tat­or he is today. 

You’re fool­ing your­self if you think this is about “free­dom”. No gov­ern­ment really cares about free­dom, they care about power. In the Middle East, much of the power is based around oil. 

France have oil con­tracts with Iraq, and in the past they’ve also had nuc­le­ar energy con­tracts (I don’t know if these still exist). They obvi­ously don’t want to risk these end­ing. I think Rus­sia mey also have oil agree­ments with Iraq. Anoth­er reas­on why Rus­sia may be against what the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion calls “régime change” is the pos­sib­il­ity of a pipeline being built to trans­port oil and gas from former Soviet repub­lics to the Gulf, bypassing Russia. 

The USA are also after power. The oil industry is incred­ibly power­ful in the USA, more so than in many oth­er coun­tries, and they’ve even man­aged to “per­suade” the gov­ern­ment to give them bil­lions of dol­lars in annu­al sub­sidies and tax breaks. Bush comes from a Tex­an oil fam­ily, and he has nev­er hid­den the fact that oil is a very import­ant part of his admin­is­tra­tion’s policy — just look at his insist­ence on drilling in eco­lo­gic­ally sens­it­ive areas of Alaska. The USA is the world’s largest con­sumer of oil, both in abso­lute terms and per cap­ita. Clearly, oil is very import­ant to US cit­izens, and noth­ing would make them hap­pi­er than cheap fuel. 

Invad­ing Iraq would not only secure a cheap energy source for the USA and US oil com­pan­ies, it would also weak­en France (and hence the EU) and Rus­sia (which the US still views as a pos­sible rival) by nul­li­fy­ing their cur­rent con­tracts with Iraq. It would also strengthen the USA’s geo­pol­it­ic­al pos­i­tion in the region, giv­ing them a per­man­ent base right in the middle of the richest oil reserves in the world. The US also has an aim towards “encirc­ling” its (poten­tial) major rivals: Rus­sia and China. If you look on a map, you can see that this encirclement is mostly com­plete, with an expand­ing NATO in the east; Iraq, Afgh­anistan and Pakistan (BTW, why does the USA sup­port an undemo­crat­ic dic­tat­or like Per­vez Mush­ar­raf, whom every­one knows sup­ports ter­ror­ists?) in the south; and Taiwan, Japan and South Korea in the west. 

In the world of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions, there are no clear-cut “good guys” and “bad guys”. Every­one is after power, and they’ll use whatever means they can to get it. If the US truly cared about free­dom, they would have pushed for demo­crat­isa­tion in Kuwait. Instead, they rein­stalled the dic­tat­ors. Did the US media ever try to exam­ine why Iraq attacked Kuwait in the first place, or they instantly paint Iraq as the “bad guy” and jump to the war cov­er­age (i.e. the ratings/​money earners)? To this day I have not even seen one men­tion in the main­stream press (Aus­trali­an, Brit­ish or Amer­ic­an) that Kuwait was slant-drilling to steal Iraq’s oil, or that Kuwait was threat­en­ing to devalue the Iraqi Dinar. To me, that sounds like suf­fi­cient grounds for an attack, provided that all dip­lo­mat­ic aven­ues had failed (as they did between Iraq and Kuwait). 

I am try­ing my best to sit on the fence on this one. How­ever, what I don’t get are those people (mostly Amer­ic­an) who claim that this is about “free­dom”. Here’s some news: your gov­ern­ment does not care about free­dom. They have proven that with their Home­land Secur­ity Act and related legis­la­tion. If they don’t care about free­dom at home, what makes you think they’ll care about free­dom in Iraq? They cer­tainly don’t care about free­dom in Pakistan, or Kuwait, or Panama, or Chile, or in count­less oth­er countries. 

This isn’t about ter­ror­ism, either. There is no proven links between Iraq and ter­ror­ist groups, oth­er than the vague “ter­ror­ist X vis­ited Iraq one time”. Osama bin Laden has made it abund­antly clear that he con­siders Sad­dam Hus­sein to be an infi­del, so that rules out any Iraq-Al Quaeda con­nec­tion. Of course, that tit­bit was nev­er repor­ted in the US media. Instead, Amer­ic­ans got only a small sample of Osama’s speech (which came via Al Jaz­eera), care­fully chosen to ignite anger towards both Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Don’t ya just love the press? They’ll do any­thing for rat­ings, and hence money. 

War in Iraq / Sridhar Dhanapalan by Sridhar Dhanapalan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.
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