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Before the Third Iraq War: Book Review

"The US was (and is) an imperialist state, not only a community of arch-democrats, a melting pot of people of many cultures and a refuge of freedom and democracy. Most activities carried out according to the guidelines of a self-righteous justice system and a world police enforce economic, political and military interests.." Translated from the German
Before the Third Gulf War

By Anja Laabs

[This book review of: Rainer Rupp, Burchard Brentjes, Siegart-Horst Gunther, Vor dem dritten Golfkrieg, Berlin 2002 originally published in: Utopie kreativ, July 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.linksnet.de.]

"Let's go." With these words, George W. Bush launched the offensive war against Iraq on March 20. He gave the order in the name of world peace and "for the well-being and freedom of the Iraqi people". At 3:34 Middle East time the first cruise missiles struck in Baghdad. When this book appeared in October 2002, the clear goal of the US was manifest in its demand for unrestricted weapons inspections in Iraq. The latest results presented by Hans Blix could not calm the aggressive mood. All the negotiations of the UN seemed ineffective. The decisional power of the UN and its role in deciding the legitimacy of war or peace are damaged with the single-handed effort in waging war without a UN mandate. "The threat against Iraq" is in effect for the whole world. The use of expensive weapons would be a rich profit to some in the war industry and a power demonstration of global significance to others."

This book is a conflict analysis that is still timely. The three authors familiar with the history and conditions of the Middle East analyze the economic, geo-political and strategic connections.

In the introductory chapter "Only One Region is Worth Contesting", Rupp writes about the exclusive claim of the democracy idea and the feeling of Americans that grew over decades of "being a model for all states and people". This exclusive claim cannot be established either with the genesis of the country marked by genocide and expulsion or by US assistance in the anti-Hitler coalition. "The US was (and is) an imperialist state, not only a community of arch-democrats, a melting pot of people of many cultures and a refuge of freedom and democracy." Most activities carried out under the pretext of the model and the guidelines of a self-righteous justice system and world police enforce economic, political and military interests. As in the second Gulf war, one of the most important strategic goals is securing the oil fields and becoming independent of other oil-producing states like Saudi Arabia. With a daily consumption of 17,972,000 barrels of oil (equal to the total daily export of Saudi Arabia and Russia together), the US must import half of its needed oil. Through an occupation and complete control, Iraq with the largest oilfields worldwide would compensate for a "conceivable loss" of the Saudi oil supplies. This goal could have been realized in 1991. However Saddam Hussein's elimination could have resulted in a crushing of the centralist regime and a germinating of separatist currents and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, "a nightmare for the government in Ankara". Thus Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait supported the preservation of Saddam's dictatorial regime. The first two Gulf wars and the 1991 sanctions imposed by the UN made Iraq one of the most underdeveloped countries (the per capital income up to 1990 was $2800) with the highest child mortality. The only change since then is that the regime of Saddam stabilized. Under the motto of combating worldwide terrorism, the Americans for years planned a new attack on the economically and militarily weakened Iraq. "The existence of a secure American base in the middle of the Arab world will enable America to intimidate all Arab governments" and gain "power over the whole region".

In the second chapter, Brentjas describes the development of the Gulf region as the cradle of humanity and the role of oil during the first Gulf war. The described development of a culture over 4000 years gives a valuable insight in the connections of historical dependencies because of wars and colonialization. The modern age of petroleum began in Rumania and Galatia in the early 19th century. The whale oil previously used for lamps was replaced by crude oil. The oil business in Galatia began to flourish in the 50s. Oil was extracted and sold to Vienna. The US adopted this business idea of oil marketing and founded companies in 1953 that began in competition with the production of kerosene "for lighting purposes". The production and export of oil in the country increased during the American civil war (1863-1965). Five years later John D. Rockefeller founded the first international oil company, "Standard Oil", with the discovery of oil in the Gulf, a division of the region began that continues today. This division was propelled at that time by Great Britain and France and now mainly by the United States.

The oil didn't only lead to wars since its discovery. Oil also decided the outcome of wars. World War I was decided for want of oil reserves. Russians and English defended Baku from where Germans wanted to draw oil for its industry and air force and forced the German capitulation on November 11, 1918. In 1944, the Anglo-Americans began bombing operations for oil synthesis and destroying fighter aircraft. A gasoline shortage led to the end of the war in Europe.

Since the end of the 2nd World War, American firms increasingly superseded its allies by allying with the kings, emirs and presidents to share in the profits. America gained hegemony in the Gulf and doesn't want to lose that hegemony at any price. The US proved its resolution by attacking Iraq after Iraq invaded Kuwait several months before.

In the third chapter, Gunther, professor of patho-psychology and tropical medicine, described the consequences of this war for the civilian population. On June 12, 1960, Gunther was appointed to the medical faculty of the University of Damascus in Syria. He saw himself mostly as a politically na´ve person who essentially concentrated on his scientific activity. However he was often involuntarily involved in politically explosive situations. These included contacts with west German secret service persons participating in chemical weapons production in Iraq who sought to win him for their work. These weapons were used in the second Gulf war of 1991 "against soldiers of the NATO partner Germany" and ultimately against the Iraqi population. Four weeks after the second Gulf war, Gunther was asked to come to Iraq for medical activities. In Iraq, a syndrome unknown to him caused by uranium-enriched shells confronted him. The use of uranium has had serious health consequences up to today for the Iraqi population and soldiers on both sides. Gunther's experiential report is both impressive and shocking. "I saw the mangled drinking water facilities and the destroyed power plants where electricity for life was once produced. People drew water from the rivers and drank this water unsterilized... The 'surgical war' cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. One-and-a-half thousand died in the attack on the al-Amariya bunker in Baghdad including many children... "

As a memorial, this book could not prevent the third Gulf war. Still it could help us understand the real reasons and goals of this war.

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