Four weeks ago, "inspired" by the beginning of the war against Iraq, I wrote an essay, expressing my opinions. I argued that the reasons for going to war were questionable and that it violated international treaties. My foremost concern was the United States' continued ignorance not only of international treaties like the Geneva Convention, the International Crime Court or the Kyoto protocol, but that it is also starting to limit the freedom of their own citizens and residents, such as free speech and fair trials, all in the name of the war against terrorism. No measure is too hard if it can help increase perceived security.
Now, the war seems to be over. Some reporters commented on the fact that the end of the war has yet to be officially declared, but I don't find that surprising. After all, there was never a declaration of war in the first place.
According to all accounts, the military campaign has been a straightforward victory. As expected, Iraq's weaponry was no match against remote controlled precision bombs, with an obvious effect on the fighting morale. Some sources quote numbers of around 100 US soldiers killed against 10000 Iraqis.
After getting positive images of people celebrating the demise of their former leader Saddam Hussein in the streets, now we see the same people taking to the streets in protest against the United States, with posters like "No to Saddam, No to the United States." At the same time, Iraq's cities are plagued by chaos and anarchy, with people grabbing all that they can from palaces, embassies, museums, churches or empty private homes. Now it's the United States' turn to demonstrate and confirm the humanitarian reasons they've been promoting in favor of the war. It will be an uphill battle that some consider far more difficult than the military action.
Anyway, much to their dismay and embarassment, the United States has yet to find any chemical weapons. Remember that the disarmament of Iraq, and allegations that Iraq posessed weapons of mass destruction, were the the foremost reasons to meddle with the souvereign country. All the time, the United States argued, in direct violation of United States resolution 1441, that it knew locations where chemical or biological weapons were stored. And yet, these alleged weapons were never used in combat, and after weeks of scouting the "known" locations, the US has failed to find the smoking gun that it was so certain of.
Contrary to expectations, chemical or biological weapons were not used against United States or British troops. Initial reports of nerve gas findings turned out to be false, the agent in question was later revealed to be a pesticide. Same for reports of Scud missiles that were fired against Kuwait - illegal under the disarmament agreements - the allegation that the missiles were of Scud type was later retracted. The same pattern was repeated with numerous reports, as revealed by a BBC article.
In a desperate attempt to retroactively confirm their assertions, the United States now intends to send more than 1000 of its own weapons inspectors into Iraq, refusing the proposal by former weapons inspector Hans Blix to continue their investigation that was halted before the start of hostilities.
Ironically, the United States requires some cooperation from the United Nations, which is the only body able to lift trade sanctions that currently inhibit oil sales from Iraq outside the oil for food program. According to the pre-war state, lifting these sanctions depends on a positive report by the United Nations weapons inspectors (UNMOVIC). In this turn of tables, the job of proving disarmament of Iraq may now fall to the United States.
However, there may be a catch, as the United States is now preparing to deploy its own chemical weapons in Iraq. According to reports, the US wants to use tear gas, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which disallows use of "riot control agents as a method of warfare." The CWC was ratified by the United States in 1997, but again, rather than adhering to the rules, Donald Rumsfeld tries to weasel out of the strict language of the international treaty, calling the use of riot control agents "perfectly appropriate."
At the same time, the United States cries bloody murder when other parties violate a treaty: when prisoners of war were shown on Iraqi television, Rumsfeld was among the first to throw the book at them, namely that the Geneva Convention forbids to show humiliating POW pictures, conveniently ignoring that these pictures were picked up by US media as well. Not to speak of the United States government's ignorance of the very same Geneva Convention with respect to the Guantanamo Bay detainees.
On a different account, it might be easier for the United States to confirm a pre-war rumor. Before the war, forged documents seemed to imply that Iraq tried to buy Uranium from Nigeria. These days, it is certain and easily provable that Iraq posesses large quantities of Uranium, delivered right to their doorstep by friendly United States troops, where it can be easily picked off the ground. I am talking about the up to 2,000 tons of depleted uranium (DU) munition that has been fired by US troops during the conflict. A highly controversial weapon, depleted uranium usage has been linked to an elevated risk of cancer in the area as well as the still-mysterious balkan syndrome and gulf war syndrome illnesses (US troops also used DU munition in the Kosovo conflict and in the 1991 gulf war). Based on the unproven theory that Iraq is harboring terrorists, the United States is giving them exactly what they need in order to build "weapons of mass disruption."
I mentioned before that there is no official declaration to the end of the war yet. Another reason for that might be the United States' consideration that the attack on Iraq is but a small piece of the puzzle that they call "war on terrorism." James Woolsey, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, now destined to become Information Minister during the US military reign, considers the present situation to be World War IV, which kicked off on September 11, 2001: "We will have to deal with them in their lairs. It will be a long and bloody conflict lasting years, perhaps decades."
If the foreign and domestic policies of the United States continue to be based on such irrational ideas and unfounded fears, the nation is in a sorry state indeed.
I am slightly disappointed that no formal accusations were made to the United Nations security council against the United States. Some countries declared the war a violation of treaties, yet no leader had the courage to make the obvious step of bringing the matter to the table at the United Nations. Now, at the end of hostilities, countries like Germany start appeasing the United States again, offering concessions and aid. I guess that's Realpolitik for you; nobody mourns the loser as everybody is anxious to get in bed with the winners.
First published on April 19, 2003. This essay represents nothing but my personal opinion. Please feel free to distribute the text, or to link to it.
Frank Pilhofer <fp -AT- fpx.de> Back to the Homepage Last modified: Sun Apr 20 11:31:00 2003