No to War!
By the editors of Sozialismus
[This article originally published in: Sozialismus Nr.2 (February 2003), 30/263 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.linksnet.de/artikelphp?id=833.]
There are many good reasons for speaking out against a new Iraq war. Let us begin with the most obvious reasons:
- UN resolution 1441 granted comprehensive inspection possibilities to the inspectors of the world organization. Unlike the 90s, the Iraqi leader has not resisted the inspections.
- No evidence of weapons of mass destruction was found. If the inspectors find nothing, the UN Security Council cannot legitimate any military intervention. "A preventive war unleashed without evidence would be a disaster for the rule of law consciousness of the West and a grievous setback for the further development of a radical right to international peace" (Heiner Geissler, SZ, January 20, 2003).
- The US administration under Bush Jr. is not interested in the rule of law or in peace. Rather we are witnesses to a step backward in international law and the rule of law with the imprisonment of "combatants" arrested in Afghanistan and with the denial of combat status and elimination of inspections of humanitarian organizations and legal assistance. The blockade against the establishment of an International Court, the expansion of international proscription of conventional weapons (land mines etc) and high tech ammunition (uranium-enriched grenades etc) can be understood in this connection.
- Even if weapons of mass destruction are discovered by the UN inspectors, the neighboring states are not so threatened that a "pre-emptive strike" would be legitimated. Non-military disarmament operations must be carried out. The doctrine of preventive attack is not compatible with the acknowledged (even if not always observed) rules of international law. There can only be a preventive war in the special case that an enemy state or its political class immediately mounts an attack. The assertion of a military doctrine based on "preemptive strikes" would be the end of the present world order. Then only the right of the stronger would be in force. No one really wants to live in such a world." (Christian Tomuschat, Spiegel, 1/20/03)
- No "danger is looming" in the case of Iraq. Rather a political example encounters us that was applied in the struggle against the dictatorial Taliban regime. After the rise of the military clan around Saddam Hussein who became the dictator of Iraq, the country attacked Iran in 1980 and could rely on US support in a protracted trench warfare (up to 1988). With the 1990 attack on Kuwait, the Americans began a confrontation course with the Hussein clan. The 1991 capitulation of the Iraqi dictator had no domestic political consequences because the Americans were thirsty for oil at that time and had no idea about a new order of Iraq with its complicated ethnic groups and traditional political opposition.
- A military demilitarization of Iraq would have considerable victims in the civil population. Neither the US alone nor the US with its allies has the ability or resources for actually making peace in Iraq or an economic-social reorganization in the phase following the war. In addition, the whole region could be destabilized economically and politically with a military intervention.
Saddam Hussein and his clan doubtlessly represent a misanthropic politics. However conditions in Iraq are only different in degrees from conditions in several neighboring states. The massive military armament in this region involves historically dubious borders and delusions about developing a US power base through territorial extension. Besides a luxurious lifestyle, the oil wealth allows the potentates massive armaments that cannot be financed by underdeveloped countries.
The fragile balance among the regimes of the region is a constant challenge. This was one of the decisive reasons for the second Gulf war. What was central at that time was the military presence in Saudi Arabia - the most domestically unstable regional power -, not direct control of the Iraqi oil fields. Influencing development in Iran with its far-reaching political and social upheavals was also vital. The military option in no way solves the geo-political challenges. Even after the end of the system confrontation, neither the US unilaterally nor in alliance with other capitalist centers can afford the material and financial resources necessary for an occupation over many years and for the economic and political reconstruction. The presuppositions for enforcing a regional distribution of power conforming to power interests are lacking. In Yugoslavia, this problem was pushed off on the Western Europeans. In Afghanistan, the problem of reconstruction is still burning. In the case of Iraq, far-reaching questions are stifled. No one can give a cogent answer how a nation-building process in the Middle East can be organized in a time marked by the decline of state orders in vast parts of the southern hemisphere.
To some war opponents, the argument that the world power US seeks the security and control of geo-strategic hierarchies of power and spheres of influence is not convincing. The military buildup can only be explained as the direct grasp of the fossil energy raw material oil. "Securing the oil supply" for the metropolises of the "North" is doubtlessly important in all questions concerning the Middle East and the Gulf. However deriving wars from this imperative raises new problems. A stabilization of the price of oil to the pre-war level is only possible in the medium term with a very brief successful military action. The price of oil will rise with the continuance of the war and the magnitude of the destruction. The costs of the war will also explode. Conservative estimates are $140 billion war costs and $500 billion occupation costs. Deutsche Bank (the German Central Bank) has calculated that a worldwide economic recession would be the result. The economic grounds of war must be considered. However the peace movement does not need a consensus in this question to convincingly mobilize against the war.
That war opponents and the political left in the wider sense have a hard time developing and popularizing a long-term policy is more important for mobilization. The Iraq conflict is a good example. Since the beginning of the 1980s, we have known about the repressive, misanthropic character of the Hussein regime and its expansionist tendencies towards its neighbors. We all like to postpone answering fundamedntal questions: How can international peace be developed by the UN or other institutions? How can an effective control of the minimum democratic standard not be undermined by any political regime? What power could be vested in international organizations? Many of us reach for the short formula "No blood for oil" because we don't like to speak of violations of international law and minimum political-social standards for all citizens on the globe and are in the dark how progress on this terrain can be achieved as quickly as possible.
That wars and preventive military strikes by states and their ruling classes have no legitimation any more is an historical achievement. In the last decades, there were advances in international peace and agreement on human rights and constitutional standards which are also worn down again and again by new forms of "denationalization and privatization of war" and civil war economies. As a result, we cannot simply cede securing peace and protecting human rights to international organizations. Rather we must do our utmost for the further development of civil society standards in international relations.
In the US, approval of the policy of the Bush administration has clearly fallen. In Europe, overwhelming majorities in the population are against a third Gulf war. A great terrain exists for the peace movement that could be "occupied". This political weakness must be overcome in the long term. Let us resolutely say No to a military intervention in Iraq!