"Tens of thousands of marines and soldiers [will invade Iraq] from Kuwait. Hundreds of warplanes based in as many as eight countries, possibly including Turkey and Qatar, would unleash a huge air assault against thousands of targets, including airfields, roadways and fiber-optics communications sites. Special operations forces or covert CIA operatives would strike at depots or laboratories storing or manufacturing Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to launch them."
New York Times , July 5, 2002
This isn't a fictional scenario from a Tom Clancy novel. It's a real scenario from "CentCom Courses of Action"--the latest U.S. plan for war on Iraq.
Leaked to the New York Times, the plan calls for attacks on Iraq by U.S. air, land, and sea- based forces from the north, south, and west, in coordination with covert operations inside Iraq by the CIA and various Iraqi groups. As many as 250,000 U.S. troops could be involved. The goal: to overthrow the Iraqi government and install a pro-U.S. regime.
In the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S.-led coalition killed between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqis. A new U.S. war carried to Baghdad could make that bloodbath pale in comparison.
The Central Command plan reveals the rulers’ determination to wage war on Iraq, and how advanced their planning is. Yet the establishment treated their disclosure as routine -- as if the U.S. has an undisputed right to openly plot wars on whomever, whenever.
No big outcry came from Congress -- leading Democrats vocally support "regime change" in Iraq. One Republican backed congressional hearings "as a way of building public support for potential military action." Mainstream editorials focused on tactics and timing - not justice.
Military Preparations Underway
Since September 11 there has been intense discussion within the ruling class over how to seize upon the attacks to advance U.S. global interests. Much of this discussion has focused on Iraq - most of it behind closed doors.
The options reportedly being considered include a CIA-organized coup against the Hussein regime; a campaign--modeled after the U.S. war in Afghanistan--involving a combination of air strikes, a limited number of U.S. Special Forces, and anti-Hussein forces in Iraq; a full-scale U.S. invasion; and various combinations of all three.
The New York Times notes that "Courses of Action" may indicate that war planners favor a large-scale invasion: "Most military and administration officials believe that a coup in Iraq would be unlikely to succeed, and that a proxy battle using local forces would not be enough to drive the Iraqi leader from power."
Meanwhile, the U.S. has been actively preparing for battle. The Washington Post (6/16) reports that earlier this year, Bush "signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president." One official told the Post that these plans were not a substitute for war but "should be viewed largely as `preparatory' to a military strike."
In the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. built up an extensive network of military bases throughout the region. Today there are some 20,000 U.S. troops in Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait and another 5,000 in Saudi Arabia. These bases are being beefed up, expanded, and readied.
The New York Times reports, "Thousands of marines from the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the marine unit designated for the Gulf, have stepped up their mock assault drills," and the "Air Force is stockpiling weapons, ammunition and spare parts, like airplane engines, at depots in the United States and in the Middle East." Troops are reportedly arriving in Turkey, and military aid to Jordan is being increased.
U.S. officials have been touring the pro-U.S. regimes in the area to line up support--Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar in June. In April the CIA brought officials from Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq to the U.S. for secret meetings. Some 70 former Iraqi military officers met in London during the week of July 8 to discuss their role in a U.S. war. And U.S. support for Israel's brutal invasions of the West Bank and Gaza--as well as hypocritical and empty words about a Palestinian "state"--are aimed at extinguishing the fires of the Palestinian uprising in preparation for war against Iraq.
According to the New York Times (7/10), "Once a consensus is reached on the concept, the steps toward assembling a final war plan and the element of timing for ground deployments and launching an air war represent the final decisions for President Bush to make." The Times also reports (7/5) that "senior administration officials continue to say that any offensive would probably be delayed until early next year, allowing time to create the right military, economic and diplomatic conditions." Of course, such timetables are speculative and subject to change by global events.
War preparations are also well underway on the propaganda front. At his July 8 press conference, Bush declared, "The world would be safer, more peaceful if there is a regime change" in Iraq. The U.S. accuses Iraq of possessing or developing "weapons of mass destruction." Yet a number of former UN arms inspectors say that Iraq has largely been disarmed, and even Pentagon officials admit that Iraq's current military is only one-third its 1990 size.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is boosting its already staggering military budget by another $50 billion, and now embraces preemptive wars and first use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. has troops stationed in every corner of the globe and is at this moment bombing Afghanistan, organizing counterinsurgency campaigns in the Philippines and elsewhere, and backing Israel's murderous assaults on Palestinians.
The Bush administration demands that Iraq accept intrusive, U.S.-controlled arms inspections - in other words spies must be allowed to roam throughout Iraq as the U.S. prepares its war. After talks between Iraq and the UN on return of arms inspectors recently broke off, the State Department called Iraq "a threat to regional security, to the nations in the region."
Iraq argues that any agreement on arms inspection must be part of an overall agreement on exactly what constitutes compliance with all UN resolutions. Such terms have never been clearly spelled out -- allowing the U.S. to claim Iraq is "non-compliant" no matter what steps it takes.
This is the prime U.S. excuse for maintaining sanctions, which were extended again in May. In 1999, UNICEF found that one Iraqi child in seven dies before the age of 5. This means that 5,000 more children in Iraq die each month today than before the U.S. war and sanctions. UNICEF also reported that 22 percent of Iraq's young children are chronically malnourished.
An Imperialist Agenda
After September 11, the U.S. rulers aggressively pushed forward their pre-existing agenda of recasting global relations to extend and solidify U.S. global dominance. And waging war on Iraq has been central to this whole vision.
The Wall Street Journal (6/14) revealed that within days of the September attacks, top Bush advisers "argued over whether to launch a strike on Iraq"-- even though there was "no real evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had anything to do with the terror attacks."
In the view of those running the empire, Iraq's defiance undermines U.S. hegemony in the oil-rich Middle East and tarnishes its standing as the world's dominant superpower.
By toppling the current Iraqi government and installing a pro-U.S. regime, the U.S. hopes to tighten its grip on Persian Gulf oil-- and all who depend on it. These global predators view war on Iraq as key to redrawing the region’s political map and intimidating anti-U.S. resistance. According to the New York Times, top officials argue that "an Iraq under new governance could become a new Western ally, helping to reduce American dependency on bases in Saudi Arabia, to secure Israel's eastern flank and act as a wedge between Iran and Syria."
Waging war on Iraq is also seen as a crucial test of the so-called "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive wars against any the U.S. considers a threat. Those running the empire are determined to show the world that the U.S. is willing and able to crush any challenger, or sweep away any impediment to its power.
U.S. plans for war against Iraq--and the whole "Bush doctrine"--have nothing to do with "protecting the world" or "saving the lives of American people." They’re about naked imperialist power politics--gangsterism on a global scale.
In 1991, on the eve of "Operation Desert Storm," George Bush Sr. declared, "We have no argument with the people of Iraq; indeed, we have only friendship for the people there." Eleven years later, over one million Iraqis are dead thanks to U.S. bombs and sanctions.
Any new U.S. war on Iraq will no doubt be undertaken in the name of helping Iraq's people. But such a war will once again inflict enormous destruction, suffering, and death on ordinary Iraqis.
People around the world -- especially those of us who live in the U.S. itself -- must oppose such an unjust and cruel war with all our hearts.
Larry Everest is a correspondent for the Revolutionary Worker newspaper and the author of Behind the Poison Cloud: Union Carbide’s Bhopal Massacre. He traveled to Iraq in 1991 and shot the video Iraq: War Against the People.