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 “regime 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 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.