The Unprovoked War
Why Berlin Should Say No to the Iraq Crusade
By Michael Naumann
[This article originally published in: DIE ZEIT 02/2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://zeus.zeit.de/text/2003/02/01_leit_1.]
War cause research is a sorry discipline. The research always comes too late. However the reasons of an imminent war were never so detailed as in the case of Iraq. Its foreseeable consequences were never described in such detail as in these days. Bombs have fallen on ancient Mesopotamia for months. The military-buildup of the American-English army on the Persian Gulf could be concluded in 30 days. The date and time of the first exchange of fire of ground troops on Iraqi soil are still unknown. Nevertheless this war is avoidable more than any other.
The longest suicide note
A military intervention against the Saddam regime is the surest way to unite the few reform forces in the Middle East, particularly in Iran, with the anti-western Mullahs, Ajatollahs and their recruits all over the world, the German foreign minister warned. Therefore the German government should say No to an Iraq war. Loyalty to the alliance does not require giving up our intelligence. A German Yes in the UN could endanger the red-green coalition, a "collateral damage" that the White House would naturally welcome.
Another paradoxical result of the Iraq war would be the end of non-proliferation policy. If the battle on the Gulf occurs, nuclear threshold states would accelerate and not slow down their nuclear armament since they could weigh the risk of an American intervention more exactly. This is now happening in North Korea.
How did the escalation of conflict occur? During the first months of the Afghanistan war, Iraq did not play a central role in the political-military plans of the White House and the Pentagon. However a group of Machiavellian intellectuals - including Richard Perle who recently urged the resignation of the German chancellor - prevailed in Washington, given wings by the successful bombing campaign and motivated by the shocking experience of the murderous September 11, 2001. Former CIA director Woolsey publically admitted one of the goals of war: "oil". Led by Secretary of Defense Donald Runsfeld and Vice-President Dick Cheney, that group developed a vision of a future Pax Americana reflected in an extraordinary strategic document of the White House. This vision joined America's hegemony with the right to preventive wars. One of the critics of the concept, Henry Kissinger, recently said the president signed the document without even reading it. Thus Iraq falls in the crossfire.
Before the United Nations, George W. Bush declared on September 16 that his country will attack without a UN mandate if Saddam Hussein does not destroy his weapons of mass destruction and intermediate-range missiles "immediately and unconditionally". Diplomatic pressure and the reservations of his Secretary of State Colin Powell moderated this threat. The Iraqi dictator is given a last chance. He should present his whole armament program to the Security Council and the UN inspectors by the end of the year without omissions and games of hide and seek and destroy his weapons of mass destruction and intermediate-range missiles.
Saddam Hussein missed this opportunity. His 12,000 page document was full of "lies" (UN weapons inspector Hans Blix) about the location of biological and chemical weapons. This was "the longest suicide note of history" in the words of the Oxford political scientist Timothy Garton Ash. Correctly assessing the untenable nature of the false acts of humility was easy for the five veto powers of the Security Council since they furnished Iraq themselves with technical foundations for the production of weapons of mass destruction for years. Thus a legitimation in international law arose for an invasion of Iraq.
However every justified war is not rational. The military risks and economic consequences of an intervention can be quickly listed. The eight divisions of Hussein's republican guards will be deployed around Bagdad, a city of five million. Its officers will have nothing to lose. The encircled dictator will not hesitate using poison gas grenades without regard for his own troops. Materials for 26,000 liters of anthrax are stored in Hussein's arsenal, enough to kill millions of people. In the worst case of a house-to-house battle in Bagdad, the exchange of fire could last six months. According to Pentagon estimates, this could cost up to 10,000 American soldiers' lives, to say nothing of civilian casualties.
US Generals against Rumsfeld
The American economy could easily cope with the costs of a six month war - $140 billion - but hardly the $1.5 trillion that Yale economist William Nordhaus calculated for a ten year occupation. No one expects the defeated Iraqis to remain in their old colonial borders. Who should rebuild and govern democratically a destroyed land that was already shaken in the 20th century by nine military putsches and many revolts is completely unexplained.
Resistance against a military adventure in the Gulf stirs in the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld's smug, complacent and self-satisfied manner has made more enemies among his own generals than abroad. "Never in American history", a US diplomat says with necessary sarcasm, "has our country been closer to a military coup-de-etat than today." He certainly exaggerates but the tear going through the Bush administration is more blatant than the astonishing absence of political opposition in the American Congress.
Neither Europe nor Russia - not even Germany - will be able to influence the decision by George W. Bush with convincing words on the telephone. Bill Clinton's twaddle diplomacy has his heartfelt contempt. The Blair, Chirac and Schroder governments missed the possibility earlier for canvassing together for a multilateral Middle East peace conference that seeks an emergency exit at the last minute from the ever narrowing political conflict corridor at whose end lies an unprovoked war with many dead. The three heads of state would have nothing to lose outside of George W. Bush's affection.
Saddam Hussein is murderous, heavily armed and with all his madness rational in a shrewd way. On the other hand, the West is much more heavily armed and believes reason is on its side. This will be the argument in the next weeks.