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Gulf War 2. The War for Disarmament.

"Oh good god what has he done?
Traded a heart for a bullet and a mind for a gun."

Gemma Hayes, Day One

The singer-songwriters are on the Linn Genki at GPS HQ. When war is in the air you need someone with a gentle voice and a minor chord to remind you that being a human being isn't all about artillery and anthrax bombs. It's a grey, snowy day in Aldershot and I had planned to have a late breakfast this morning, brew up a pot of Java Sumatra and read through my new collection of Chekhov's stories. Instead the news on the radio was so grim that I felt the need to get something down on the record about this vengeful, stupid, unjustified war on Iraq that we somehow seem to be heading towards with the all the purpose and glee of an idiotic dog chasing a stick in the park. In truth war was inevitable months ago, once the military build-up in the region reached a critical mass. Once your troops are mobilised there is only one outcome.

Let me first collect my thoughts and see whether I can put down the case for war as it is being given by the Bush/Rumsfeld axis. We are going to need this because future generations of schoolchildren are going to have as much difficulty with their "Origins of the Second Gulf War" essays as mine did with the "Origins of the First World War". Following the First Gulf War - justified, in my view because Iraq had invaded a neighbouring state - Saddam Hussein was compelled by UN resolution to disarm his store of chemical weapons and abandon his Nuclear Weapons programme. No fly zones were established in North and South Iraq. A policy of containment was established. Hussein was not overthrown, perhaps because the UN's mandate explicitly does not allow for forceful regime change (which seems odd - what other response to Nazi Germany was there?), but more likely because the military cost was viewed as too high. UN Weapons Inspectors were put in place to enforce the disarmament process. Hussein certainly had his wings clipped and apart from an abortive attempt to assassinate George Bush in Kuwait in 1993, there are no recorded post-war attempts at external aggression by Iraq. Life for the average Iraqi certainly seems to have been miserable in the Nineties, caught between Hussein's rights abuses and punitive UN sanctions that meant that proper food and medical supplies were scarce. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died because of those UN sanctions. In 1999 Hussein threw out the UN Weapon Inspectors on the thin pretext that they were spying for the US. [Correction: The Inspectors were not "thrown out" - the Security Council withdrew them because of increased obstruction by the Iraqis. Note that Blair still calls this being "thrown out".]

Following September 11, Bush's administration was in no mood for diplomacy and the 2002 State of the Union address created an "axis of evil" that included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Here, the madness begins. The mood turned toward war with Iraq. A further UN resolution was passed in late 2002 calling for disarmament of Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons. Weapons Inspectors returned to Iraq to assess Hussein's claims that there were no chemical and nuclear weapons to destroy. In their report to the UN on 27 January the Inspectors reported that no evidence of chemical weapons has been found and no evidence that Iraq has re-started its Nuclear Weapons programme had been found. The US noisily declared the need for War putting forward a glorious Catch 22 argument: "No evidence of WOMAD means that Iraq is not complying with the disarmament; evidence of WOMAD means that Iraq is not disarming". The US knows that Iraq has WOMAD. It knows because it sold them to Iraq in the 1980s. The UK follows the US line. France and Germany, to vicious condemnation by the US, are unconvinced. Bush's State of the Union address on 28 January was a rabid, ignorant tour-de-force of prejudice and war lust. Yesterday (31 Jan), Blair flew out to Washington and it now looks likely that Inspectors will not be afforded more time to complete their job, a second UN resolution will be sought, but regardless of whether the Franco-German axis can be persuaded, War looks inevitable.

Now let's get this straight: IRAQ HAS NOT DONE ANYTHING. It has not invaded anywhere. It has not been involved in terrorism. It has not fired a shot or unleashed a single spore. The US/UK will be the aggressor in this war. When was the last time Britain was an aggressor in a war? The Boer War? Sudan in the 1880s? Henry V at Agincourt? I don't know. But I can recognise that this war, whether you consider it a sensible pre-emptive war or not, represents a significant shift in the way that such matters are conducted. It feels like a retrograde move, back to a 19th Century way of doing things.

Does a Second Gulf War make sense in this context? Does Iraq present a threat? Tuesday's supremely nasty State of the Union address put the case for. The first half of the speech covered domestic policy and was a laughable flashback to discredited Thatcher / Lawson economics. After a brief interlude when a sensible initiative on African AIDS was announced, Dubya licked his lips and went for the jugular on Iraq. The next twenty minutes painted one of the most savage pictures of the world I have ever seen. Here we had an Iraq brimming with Anthrax, nerve gas ready to unleash any moment on the free peoples of the world. Millions dead all over the mid-West. Evidence was available of Iraq's Nuclear Weapons programme (Dubya here was in deep water, directly contradicting the UN Inspectors). Iraq (as well as "Homburg and Meelon" - I think he meant Hamburg and Milan) was teeming with Al-Qaeda training camps. The US had a historical duty to rid the world of this menace; the American model of liberty was "God's Gift to the World".

Well what a load of crap. The link to Al-Qaeda is pure conjecture. Dubya wants there to be a link. It confuses him that there isn't, because his world view is so black-and-white: 'my two enemies must be friends with each other'. Al-Qaeda is more subtle that that. It is not nation-based. You cannot go to war with it in the model that the US military feels comfortable with - whatever the Afghanistan War achieved it has not destroyed Al-Qaeda, but the US doesn't seem overly bothered with that. And the War on Terrorism has brought with it the US's own violations of International law: Camp X-Ray is in clear breach of the Geneva convention and the State of the Union address brought a smug confirmation that summary executions are taking place: Dubya on certain Al-Qaeda operatives, "Let's just say they're not a problem anymore". A reference to the murder in Yemen of suspected terrorists a few months ago.

Iraq's nuclear capability is non-existent, as the Inspectors confirmed. The US has nuclear weapons, as has the UK. The only country that has used nuclear weapons in anger is the US. Why should the US and UK be allowed nukes, but not Iraq? Why should Pakistan be allowed nukes and be allowed to harbour terrorists but not Iraq? Why aren't we invading Pakistan?

On Iraq's chemical weapons, once the link with terrorist organisations is discounted, and supposing that the US's sabre rattling isn't predisposed to put the idea of closer terrorist links in Hussein's mind, it is unclear what the threat is and clear that there is no threat to the US. If the US has intelligence on where Iraq's chemical weapons are (weapons that the US sold to Iraq, remember) then why doesn't it share that information with the UN inspectors? Because then Dubya couldn't have his war? Because he is bored with the Inspection process!? And what if there is a war. Will Iraq be stable enough post-war to control its chemical weapons? Doesn't war increase the chances of chemical weapons becoming available to terrorists?

Iraq's missile capability has limited range. Its longest range missile is the Scud which can just about reach Israel, but it's unclear whether this can be used to disperse chemical weapons. Where is the threat? America has chemical weapons. Anthrax attacks killed 6 Americans in 2001. The FBI and CIA aren't looking too hard for the perpetrators of that attack. Possibly because the perpetrators are US government biochemists. America is developing an Anthrax bomb. Why? Supposedly as a "law enforcement" mechanism. This laughable claim gets around international treaties banning development of chemical weapons for military purposes. See http://www.mtcp.co.uk/mark/articles.htm#top for further details of the US chemical weapons programme. It is "do as I say, not as I do". There is no fairness, no equality in international law.

Dubya's stated policy towards Iraq is "regime change". So what will the objectives of the Second Gulf War be, disarmament or regime change? Regime change is absolutely contrary to the UN charter. But the present US administration seem to hold little store by the rules and theories of international diplomacy. It rides roughshod over the world with a smug Bush-Rumsfeld smirk on it's skeletal face. It has no logic, no concept of fairness. It is based on instinct and prejudice, a wild lust for September 11 revenge and, if not a delight in war, it is careless with its superpower responsibilities.

Now sod off and let me read Chekhov in peace.

Chris Sampson, 1 February 2003

Postscript, 6/2/03. After further thought I have come to the following position. Trying to argue the merits or otherwise of the war is like trying to grasp an eel. The US position is based on instinct, a gut feeling, rather than logic. I believe they are into regime change, not disarmament. I think disarmament is a worthwhile target, and could be achieved by something less than the total war that is being proposed.

28/2/03. Blair announces his "last push for peace". If the entire world wasn't in the midst of a sense of humour failure I think I'd laugh.

7/3/03. Blix report to the UN. Total depression sets in. Security Council hopelessly divided. Blair announces he'll ignore multiple vetoes. The UN Peacekeepers on the Iraq/Kuwait border (hey, good job) catch a couple of off-duty marines cutting armoured-vehicle shaped holes in the electrified fence marking the border. Hell, as HST used to say - there's always smack.

16/3/03. Dubya, from the "Azores Summit" (which lasted all of an hour - well beyond Dubya's usual attention span). "Tomorrow will be a moment of truth for the world". Well, frankly, no it won't. It'll be the usual bullshit, with a high probability of war starting, whatever that means anymore. I doubt we'll get a declaration. I seriously doubt there'll be a second resolution. And in any event the bombing started long ago. One thing we certainly haven't been getting from our leaders for the past 6 months is the truth.

Picture: "No fighting in the War Room!". Dr. Strangelove.
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