War in Iraq

By J.H. Crawford

26 March 2003


I was attending the Towards Carfree Cities conference in Prague when George W. Bush attacked the cradle of civilization, in apparent violation of international law. I had hoped that war might be averted, but events have now overtaken that hope. What does this war mean, and what should we do about it? I will explore these questions in this piece and at least one more to follow.

First, the Good News

Awful as this situation appears, there is one vital positive development. The global peace process is in place and was nearly effective enough to prevent this war. The UN refused, despite incredible US pressure, to authorize an invasion of Iraq. The past few weeks have seen the largest demonstrations in history against war. Outside the USA, the press and public figures alike have been relentless and eloquent in their criticism of Bush's war.

While these extraordinary events failed to avert this war, they have reaffirmed the place of international law and world public opinion in debating questions of war and peace. This will eventually lead to a functioning, effective UN. (Notice what an eloquent voice UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is for peace.)

Stop, Now

For the record, I call on George W. Bush to stop the invasion of Iraq now, before any more damage is done. While I have no hope that my voice and that of millions of others around the world will have the slightest influence on Bush or the course of this war, we must continue to call for peace.

A Just War?

Partisans will argue this question back and forth. Bush can make a tenuous argument that the invasion was justified under international law. What he cannot argue is that such an invasion is an expression of the high principles for which the American democracy (with certain glaring lapses) once stood. This war is not about democracy or freedom but rather the pure exercise of power. If Iraq were not already a weakened nation, Bush would never have chosen it to kick around. (See North Korea).

To date there is no body of evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and there is good reason to believe that he was not. (Fundamentalist bin Laden is no friend of secular Iraq.)

Bush now finds himself nearly alone in the world. Having casually but regularly insulted world sensibilities with his unilateral abrogation of major international treaties, he went on to make enemies of once-staunch allies who dared to question him, such as France and Germany. His policy of "full spectrum dominance" of the world is not in keeping with the former role of the USA. Bush seems to think that only power matters and only winning counts. As he goes to war virtually alone, he may now be discovering his error.

Bush's attempt to make a case for war has occupied the world press for a long time, and if there were a good case, it should have emerged by now. Instead, we have American leaders making strong statements against Bush's attack.

Ralph Nader said of Bush's stance vis-a-vis the UN:

Mr. Bush proceeded to flout the U.N. Charter, which the U.S. mostly drafted and signed on to in 1945.

His preemptive war - the first in U.S. history - against a nation that has neither attacked nor threatened our country cannot be construed as self-defense and therefore violates international law. Washington would certainly make exactly this point were another nation in the world to attack a country it finds noxious.

U.S. intelligence agencies say the Iraq war will likely increase global terrorism including inside this country. Respected retired military generals and admirals, such as Marine General Anthony Zinni, believe it will destabilize the Middle East region, undermine the war on terrorism and distract from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "King George" is not listening to them or to other prominent former leaders in the State Department, Pentagon or the major intelligence agencies, including his father's own National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft.

Dennis Kucinich (a candidate for president in 2004) had this to say:
I support the brave young men and women who are following orders that have placed them in harm's way. I hope and pray for their safe return. My thoughts and prayers are with them, their families and loved ones in this difficult time. While I will always support the troops, I cannot support this mission. Last night, the President ordered an unprovoked aggressive attack against Iraq in violation of American traditions of defensive war. This war is wrong. As a nation we must come together to support the troops but, continue to challenge the policy that has put them at grave risk.
Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY) said:
We are witnesses to a watershed moment in the history of the American republic. It is too soon to know how this will turn out, but it is very clear that the Bush Administration has radically changed the way our country behaves at home and in the world, and consequently, how others regard us. In just two years the Bush Administration has deconstructed the American economy, the nation's civil liberties, and our environmental protection. They have unilaterally withdrawn from the International Ballistic Missile Treaty, abandoned our European friends on the issue of global warming and walked away from the International Criminal Court.

And now, contrary to International Law and against every decent instinct, we are engaging in what will come to be seen as a massacre in Iraq on the basis of the "Bush Doctrine" of preemption, which allows the United States to attack any other country anytime we want and for whatever reason the President feels is justified.

Fianlly, Arthur Schlesinger said:
But let us continue to ask why our government chose to impose this war. The choice reflects a fatal turn in U.S. foreign policy, in which the strategic doctrine of containment and deterrence that led us to peaceful victory during the Cold War has been replaced by the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. The president has adopted a policy of "anticipatory self-defense" that is alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at Pearl Harbor on a date which, as an earlier American president said it would, lives in infamy.

How have we gotten into this tragic fix without searching debate? No war has been more extensively previewed than this one. Despite pro forma disclaimers, President Bush's determination to go to war has been apparent from the start. Why then this absence of dialogue? Why the collapse of the Democratic Party? Why let the opposition movement fall into the hands of infantile leftists?

Where indeed is domestic political opposition to this war? Few US politicians have dared to speak out against the Bush regime, and the American media is now dominated by organizations controlled by of some of the most conservative people in the world. (So much for "liberal bias in the media.")

The pro-administration media bombast has been strengthened by a fear of questioning Bush's legitimacy during such precarious times; even the New York Times found it necessary to shade the truth when reporting the results of the investigation into the Florida vote that it and several other prominent newspapers had commissioned. The American public seems dazed and down for the count, but is it out? We will have to hope that Americans will give their heads a good shake and snap out of this paralysis. Where are the Democrats? Surely most Americans do not want their government waging illegal war against a battered and starving Iraq?

The War Itself

Having shown colossal disdain for world opinion, international cooperation, and the rule of law, Bush and his obedient (and surely frustrated) ally, Tony Blair, decided to wage war against an Iraq they believed incapable of serious resistance, so only comparatively light forces were sent to the region (roughly half the force of the 1991 war). The reserve force is apparently still in Texas and at least three weeks away from battle, should it be needed.

The invasion appears to have met with much heavier resistance than was anticipated. So far, casualties on both sides have been relatively light (compared to, say, the Iraqi casualties in the 1991 war). The next few days will tell us whether or not the Iraqis will put up a strong defense of Baghdad. What will Bush and Blair do if US and British casualties reach high levels, as now seems possible?

I would not dare predict the outcome of this war, but the range of possibilities runs from a quick victory that includes many Iraqi divisions surrendering rather than fight for Saddam Hussein to a long, punishing campaign to take Baghdad. Indeed, the news that Basra had become a "military target" indicates that resistance there is stiff, and that the US forces will be counting on tactical air power to overcome resistance. This means, of course, heavy civilian casualties.

Sufficient American outrage at the war might force Bush to stop. If US casualties reach high levels, Americans may begin a serious dialog about the war and may decide that it should not be fought and is not worth the cost. Whether that would have any effect on this administration is difficult to say, but clearly the only thing Bush wants worse than Saddam Hussein's head on a pike is another term as president. Fighting an unpopular war is not a ticket to a second term.

Consequences of the War

Much of the world now hates and fears the USA, once the greatest champion of freedom and democracy the world had ever known. Many people outside the USA now regard George W. Bush as more dangerous than Saddam Hussein, which is a shocking state of affairs in itself.

This shameful situation can only be corrected by a new president who understands the depths of the wrongs Bush has committed and is prepared to apologize to the world for this sudden and apparently inexplicable flickering in the world's leading light of democracy. A new president could immediately end the war (assuming it is still in progress), reinstate the treaties Bush cast aside, and avow that America is once again a friend that exercises a democratic influence throughout the world, not a bully intent on its own narrow ends. I would never have believed that this matter would require any explanation; it used to be simply the evident truth. Today no more. Will the decades of glory soon be forgotten? Will the USA of the United Nations and the Marshall Plan disappear from the minds of people around the world, to be replaced by an abiding fear of an all-powerful and sinister nation?

Bush and the Future

At some point, one has to begin to question just what is going on inside the mind of George W. Bush. What does this man want? Does he know himself? I doubt that he really comprehends what he is doing. I was shocked by his demeanor when he announced the invasion. I had expected a belligerent, forceful Bush. Instead, what I saw was a man with perplexed, quizzical furrows across his brow throughout his remarks (at least in all the footage I have seen). It was as if he could scarcely believe what he had done and hadn't the slightest idea what the consequences would be. I know the feeling.

Bush must be removed from the presidency as quickly as lawful means permit. Clearly, any drive for impeachment will fail, unless the situation deteriorates very badly indeed (heavy US casualties, repeated terrorist attacks inside the USA, terrible economic news), in which case his own party might turn on him, but it is a faint hope that the Republicans would ever repudiate one of their own. (What a remarkable change this is - in the end game of Watergate, a Republican congressional leader is reported to have told Nixon that he could not find five votes against impeachment. Today it's partisan politics, pure and simple.)

So Bush will be in power until the next election. Until then, we must remain active and vocal in condemning this unjust war. The next article will consider how to prevent Bush from stealing another election.

Further Reading

The Second American Revolution by Roger Normand and Jan Goodwin

Attack on Iraq Could Turn Bush into Criminal by Thomas Walkom

Things to Come by Paul Krugman in the New York Times

Channels of Influence by Paul Krugman in the New York Times

The Arrogant Empire By Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek

Pentagon: Iraqi forces engaged in 'deadly deception' on CNN's web site

War Opens a Door to an America None of Us Has Ever Known by Leonard Pitts Jr.

The Philosopher of Islamic Terror by Paul Berman in the New York Times Magazine (long, fascinating backgrounder about Sayyid Qutb)

Critics say Rumsfeld plan ignored obvious pitfalls in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Live From Iraq, an Un-Embedded Journalist Robert Fisk on Washington’s ‘Quagmire’ in Iraq, Civilian Deaths and the Fallacy of Bush’s ‘War of Liberation’


Text ©2003 J.Crawford. This text may be freely reproduced provided that the entire text is reproduced without change and that jhcrawford.com is cited as the source.

Return to JHCrawford.com
Visit J.H. Crawford's Carfree.com
Send e-mail