[Translated from Gegenargumente radio broadcast in Vienna, February 4, 2003]
In spite all the disharmony between the USA and Europe about the right pace towards Iraq, both sides agree that Saddam Hussein's regime is intolerable. The USA has decided on his loss of power and removal, and Europe is for far more intensified containment and supervision and is split in the meantime. What crime did this state therefore commit?
Demonization of the enemy:
Crime No. 1: “Possession of weapons of mass destruction”
Iraq is suspected of possessing such weapons or of being able to produce them and also wanting to use them if necessary. The accusation is raised most vehemently by the nation that disposes over the world’s largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – and is also determined to use them. Recently the leadership of this nation, which accuses Iraq of possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” explained: “Nuclear weapons play a crucial role for the defense capability of the USA, their allies and friends” (Nuclear Posture Review, January 8, 2002). It has announced the development of a generation of new nuclear weapons that can be used “accurately” in a war like the one that is now approaching against Iraq. Tony Blair and others have not excluded the employment of nuclear weapons in the approaching war.
In the case of the USA, possession of “weapon of mass destruction” and the will to use them are not a crime. Completely the contrary, it is its legitimate right. And why? The answer is obvious: because the USA – in contrast to Iraq – can do nothing other than handle “weapons of mass destruction” “responsibly.” After all, this power dedicates itself to the responsible task of protecting the “interests of America” and its “allies” worldwide: “The armed forces of the USA, including nuclear weapons, receive now the task to hold opponents from their own armament programs or military operations that could threaten American interests or those of our friends and allies.” (ibid.) And indeed this classically imperialist task – “to hold” every “opponent” from their “own armament programs” so that they cannot oppose the “interests of America” and its allies – is not to be had without disposal over “weapons of mass destruction.”
“The right is entitled to us” – the west – to bring the whole world of states under control by means of superior force so that “our interests” enjoy the world-wide respect that they deserve. If one regards this point of view, bent on world-domination, as the most normal thing in the world, then – and only then – the absurd distinction works that “weapons of mass destruction” in the hands of the USA are for good, in the possession of states like Iraq on the contrary are bad, a sole “threat to world peace” and proof of the criminal motivation of Saddam: “People without respect for life may never be allowed to control the ultimate tools of death” (Bush, March 11, 2002). Thus good people like Bush must ensure, out of “respect for life,” that the “ultimate tools of death” are at last taken away from the “wrong” hands because they can unfold their philanthropic task only in the “correct” hands. The fact that the implementation of this responsibility includes the “mass extermination” of any number of Iraqis probably then falls under the “collateral damage” that “unfortunately” cannot be avoided in “just” wars.
Crime No. 2: “Saddam Hussein oppressed his own people”
The accusation is made of the Hussein regime that it moved with bloody force against the separatist efforts of the Kurds and against insurgent Shiites and also plans to do more of the same. This is from states that have several partners in their valued NATO community for whom the violent annihilation of “minorities” fighting for their own state is not represented as anything but a pure self-evident fact, i.e. a necessary and legitimate fight against “terrorists.” So Turkey has supplied their “Kurdish problem” with a violent “solution” with the approval and active support of the NATO partners, and Spain proceeds with all brutality and the support of the Americans and Europeans against its “terrorists” – the Basque separatists.
Such procedures against disobedient parts of the population, which are so natural for every state, are not so naturally entitled to Saddam. Here one should interpret the suppression of insurgents as a sign and voucher for the abysmal wickedness of the Iraqi ruler – and Kurds and Shiites are not condemned as “terrorists,” but are “freedom-” and “independence fighters.” Like in former times in the Balkans or still earlier in Afghanistan and just as currently as, say, in Nepal: whether it is “terrorism” or a “legitimate fight for self-determination” is not an objective state of affairs, but only a question of political definition. Whether the custodians of global human rights permit the bloody suppression of separatism or opposition under the quality seal of “counterterrorism” to a state, like Israel, or whether they refuse this license for internal order – both exclusively follow their calculations against foreign sovereigns. A rule agreeable to “us” may absolutely terrorize their population for protecting their state order. A criticism arises only when such a rule has gambled away its legitimacy because it departs from its required servitude towards “us.” Saudi Arabian customs have recently fallen into disrepute, e.g. because 15 of the 19 suicide assassins of 9/11 originated from this kingdom and the Saudis nevertheless still had the insolence to refuse the required assistance to the USA for a war to deprive Saddam Hussein of power. Vice versa, it is certain from the start that when unacceptable states like Iraq proceed violently against insurgents or separatists it can only be a despicable suppression of the legitimate aspirations of the population.
Crime No. 3: “Aggressive regional claims to power and aggrandizement”
The third accusation against Iraq is that it poses a threat to its neighbor states because it appoints itself the superpower in this region, thus what the USA claims for itself. This accusation is the highest type of brazenness: it is mentioned for the sake of completeness that this “danger” should be posed by a state weakened for more than a decade by embargoes, exists under the supervision of the UN, as well as being kept militarily insignificant – British and American combat aircraft maintain a low-level war as a permanent condition – and which is not even able to use its force monopoly over its entire area of rule. The US Secretary of Defense supports his confidence for a fast completion of Iraq by the fact that its present military potential is rather weak in comparison to what it had during the first US war against this country. The special brazenness consists in the fact that the USA and its allies, which demand absolute validity for their interests and their worldwide acknowledgment, which insist on absolute respect before their superpower, simply do not want to grant Iraq such a thing as its own national interests and ambitions in the Middle East, a region controlled by them. Therefore they attribute an “expansionist” state reason to it and reproach it for “endangering world peace.”
Nowadays, the “major power demands” of America and Europe are considered so natural that they do not even have to be brought up for discussion, let alone stand on the pillory as “imperial arrogance.” They obviously include the “natural” – in the case of the USA, God-given – right to decide the ambitions of all other states, to measure and either reject or possibly permit them according to their usefulness for their own interests. Because the master of the world of states strictly enforces the controlled objects in the hierarchy, a state like Iraq comes into its visor. In 1990, that state actually believed itself able to create its own regional order with a war and then, despite its defeat, did not subordinate itself unconditionally to the imperialistic world order, but tried in view of the threat of war by the USA to make even the conditions of its surrender the subject of diplomacy with the UN. Such a state, personified in the “bad” figure of Saddam Hussein, persisting in its own sovereignty, uncertified by America’s blessing, became a singular crime in this beautiful new world order - and the Iraqi head of state who did not resign and does not want to voluntarily transfer himself to “our” war crimes tribunal where “we” would decide his fall is a scandal. Against such a loss of reality, only a war for a new regional order helps, in the opinion of the world order-keeping powers, ending “the error in Baghdad” with bombs.
Conclusion: the core of the accusations consists of Iraq wanting to be like the world powers have been for a long time, the USA above all: in possession of weapons of mass destruction; entitled to and determined to fight opponents or insurgents as terrorists; with claims to regional hegemony. Its enemies are not opponents of its unpleasant demands, but merely competitors – they want what they accuse Iraq of exclusively for themselves, or to keep it for themselves if they have long had it.
Critical beliefs and other ideologies
Now two other reasons for the war that circulate in public, more critically and more affirmatively: oil and democracy. The concern with oil:
In a call by war opponents, the point of view is that “the real causes for this war are to politically subject this region so that the big oil companies gain access to the oil wealth of this region."
Here a small point is overlooked: the large oil companies have long had “access to the oil wealth of this region.” The oil of this region has long been open for its commercial utilization by all the relevant firms of global repute. If Iraqi oil is not available at present problem-free, then this is not because of Iraq, but the other side, the USA. Iraq would gladly sell its beloved oil because that is the main use of oil for a state like Iraq – as a source of energy for industry, so much oil is not needed in the Middle East at all. A so-called oil state can hardly do anything else with it than sell it. The obstacle for access to Iraqi oil is not at all Iraq, but the US-implemented embargo, which permits only limited oil exports under the monitoring of the UN and only in a kind of barter for food in the context of the “food for oil” program. The so-called oil weapon, an oil boycott for political reasons, “envisioned” more often by Arab nationalists than practiced, is exclusively a weapon for the other side. Iraq’s opponents want to starve and thereby weaken it. In this sense, the conception that the war is about “access for companies to oil wealth” is simply without foundation.
These wrong criticisms, that the war does not at all concern counterterrorism or bringing Iraq democracy, currently exists in two versions, one more traditionally “leftist” and the other a modern “European” one. The annoying and wrong dogma, traditionally leftist, that must find long-run economic motives behind every war, in this way gets politics and the state out of the line of fire, plays them down. It is only the force monopoly with the authority to establish a War Department that today is everywhere called the Department of Defense; it is this department that maintains armed forces during peacetime, trains conscripts or career soldiers, takes into service aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons, depending upon its size and wealth – as if they would actually only use their weapons because they are almost abused by groups of interests and are misappropriated for economic aims. One notices that these war opponents want to evade the agitation of the war mongers a little: where the war proponents usually recruit with high values such as native country, democracy and human rights or, currently, the threat to all humankind by Iraq, a war opposition that assumes ulterior economic motives tries to appear as not against these high values or possibly thinks well of them – so that one “must” attribute other base motives behind the noble values in order not to have to join the frontlines of the war proponents. And this only gets more amusing – access to oil fails not because of Saddam Hussein, and the Balkans have nothing equal to offer economically, as absurd as the constructions get – and draws a false picture of the national force monopolists who would be obligated strictly to peace and would use their armed forces, armies and airplanes only because of the doubtful, inadmissible influence of economic interests.
On the contrary, I want to affirm the assertion that “imperialism” is a relationship between states, that the states are the subjects of war, that the states lead war for their interests and that this looks not only superficially the case. If oil plays a role in this argument, then it is a completely different, substantially more comprehensive one. It is about Iraq’s status as a so-called “oil state.” Up to now, it was the case that after de-colonialization in the Middle East, the newly created states were recognized as owners of their raw materials that therefore might also claim an interest in the price of oil, no matter whether they produce oil nationally and sell the promoted quantities or whether they take royalties or tariffs from the demand for oil and oil exports. Meanwhile, in the case of Iraq, the USA considers the previous concession no longer justifiable, that such a state actually has a means of sovereignty in the oil business, i.e. it uses it for nothing other than its national interests, weapons included. Certainly, that was alright when this state led a war with western support and with western weapons, paid for with proceeds from the oil business, against Iran. One remembers: at that time an “Islamic revolution” had expelled an ally of the USA, a certain Reza Pahlavi, the “Shah.” Saddam Hussein saw his chance, got a war on, and calculated at least partly correctly. It was supported with quality products from renowned European arms manufacturers, but the west did not grant him total victory and the defeat of the Mullahs in Iran; both regional powers were allowed to mutually and bloodily decimate themselves, steered by western weapon supplies and satellite information. When Iraq wanted to then get itself a reward for its anti-Iranian war, and pulled off a “reunification by force” with the sheikdom Kuwait, the line was crossed and for this Iraq got another war and its defeat promoted Saddam Hussein to the status of rogue: his crime is the anti-Americanism of wanting to exist not as a satellite and not as a vassal and to assert himself against the USA. No later did the USA discover a striking nationalistic abuse of the income that flowed to this state, only because “our” oil by chance camps out below its soil. The plans for after the war, as far as known, speak volumes: it does not concern a mere “regime change” in the sense of a “change of government” in which the leader goes into exile and is replaced. It is about a complete reorientation of Iraq during a longer transition period under an American military dictatorship, whereby Iraq’s future oil revenues should be applied to covering the cost of the war, partly for reparations payments. A future Iraqi state, no matter how big it may be and how it may be constituted, has anyhow already lost control of the oil and the income from it! Before this demanding point of view of political control of the oil business by the USA, Saudi Arabia is also by the way no longer what it once was. This state always handled its oil fields and its promotion politics within the context of OPEC with consideration for market conditions and the strategic needs of the USA; but that this state has influence and income from the oil business is used increasingly against it since September 11 by the US: the majority of the assassins originated from Saudi Arabia, and this state nevertheless also affords still another national cause that includes an Islamic clergy which makes or at least made propaganda against western values. And with the income from “our” oil!
The other version of the objection that it is “about oil” is European-nationalistic, a competitive euro-imperialism. The USA pursues their anti-terror war and their attack on Iraq first of all completely independently and arbitrarily, solely according to its own discretion, with nothing to negotiate and nothing to decide – except agreement, subordination and such emergency military services as are already required, not only in the context of the UN and the security council. Some European states interpret this completely correctly as an attack on their own ambitions to shape an approach to the Middle East and to decide about war and peace. The higher meaning of the European unification just consists of being able to assert more weight in relation to the rest of the world and towards the re-organization of the region as arranged by the USA. If the criticism that the USA is only after oil is expressed beyond the usual suspicions, then it concerns a euro-imperialistic anti-Americanism that wants to deny the USA legitimacy for its attack on Iraq, not because it in principle is against war – one remembers the European war mongering against Yugoslavia, where Europe went ahead and plotted a war-like re-organization of the Balkans – but because the war is against Iraq, which is launched by the USA completely for its own calculations and uses, from which Europe not only does not profit, but which even harms Europe in the competition of imperialists. Meanwhile the first form of this damage lies open on the table: it is the splitting of the European states on the question of war.
The concern with democracy: in the crusade for one’s own interests the purpose sanctifies the means
The journalist Hoffmann-Ostenhof discusses another war reason, which he faces absolutely openly, if not sympathetically. He writes:“The experiences of September 11 and not least the fact that al-Qaida's terrorism originates in the long run from Saudi Arabia, the best Arab friend of the USA, has led to a rethinking … in Washington, the realization becomes generally accepted that the roots of Islamic terrorism lie in the lack of democracy in these countries. … Bush himself assures that he will do everything in the post-Saddam Iraq to establish democratic conditions, to make a model democracy for the whole region from the current country. … then the Iraq war would be the first step in the attempt to create a large democratic movement in the entire Arab region. Certainly: under the pretext of bringing liberty and democracy, many obscenities have already happened. … One must hope, against all doubts, when the war takes place, for a fast victory for the USA. And insist that their democracy and liberty slogans do not remain mere rhetoric.”
We note: democracy in the eyes of some of its supporters is what Islam probably is in the eyes of its believers, i.e. a holy thing that is worthy of being spread by fire and sword against all those who are not yet attached to it. It works in the same way as the elements of the enemy picture discussed at the beginning of this article: if the opponent does the same thing as one’s own side, then it is a crime. Islam is sometimes considered to be an “aggressive” religion that is necessarily spread by force – even with “fire and sword.” Anyhow, with Islam the means discredits the purpose: if this religion depends on violence or at least sees it as a possible means, then this speaks against it. If, turned around, democracy is to be spread with fire and sword and weapons of mass destruction in the Arab region, then the purpose sanctifies the means, at least in the eyes of democratic fundamentalists; then it does not speak against democracy that it is not dependent on the persuasive power of such instruments, but against its victims.
Hoffmann-Ostenhof’s reporting the US point of view contains a last point of reference to the holy democracy: it is the simple and brutal interest of the USA. “Democracy” stands here for unrestrained pro-Americanism, for political conditions subordinate to the USA, conditions that will simply not permit distance and opposition to the USA. Bush has praised at every opportunity the conditions in Afghanistan and Palestine as future democratic models for the Arab region. It may be that the memory of the introduction of democracy in defeated Germany carries this understanding of democracy. There it is not without a certain irony that just at the moment that Germany is delighted with democracy it defines its national interest in the question of war differently. It was also not at all the introduction of this system of government, but its national re-emergence in the context of the world order of the cold war that made Germany the reliable ally of the USA, an ally that now no longer sees any further national use in subordination to the USA.