Months before the United Nations grappled with the issue of what to do about Iraq and long before a war resolution was seriously debated in Congress, the Pentagon had been engaged in a massive military buildup in the Persian Gulf, supremely confident that a U.S. war against Baghdad is a certainty, and that it would begin early next year. No one believes the White House report that the President hasnt made up his mind about ordering an invasion.
By the time the war actually begins, the U.S. will have assembled a colossal war machine that, some Pentagon officials predict, will quickly overwhelm Saddam Husseins military, crippled by its heavy losses during the 1991 Gulf War.
At this stage, the U.S. is relying heavily on its elite Special Operations troops, many of whom are now inside Iraq, scouting for arsenals of biological and chemical weapons, conducting sabotage against major enemy installations, working with opposition groups and trying to find, kill or capture Saddam Hussein and his chief lieutenants.
The Pentagon already has a sizable force of more than 20,000 American troops that have been permanently stationed in the Gulf, within striking distance of Iraq, after the war with Saddam Hussein ended in 1991. Also available are huge supply depots in Kuwait and Qatar that hold large numbers of heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery ammunition, howitzers and missiles. Kuwait warehouses have a 30-day reserve supply of food and fuel.
Thousands of marines and Army ground forces, equipped with heavy armor, are continually moving into Kuwait. The Navy is readying three aircraft carriers for war duty. Carrier battle groups include ships and submarines with long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles that can attack far off targets. They also carry surveillance and strike aircraft. The Air Force is adding more jet fighter aircraft to the 200 U.S. warplanes that are patrolling the no fly zone in Northern and Southern Iraq. The Pentagons Central Command is sending 600 military planners to Qatar to set up a forward headquarters in the region.
Congress Rushes to Give Bush Broad War Powers
Without a full-scale discussion whether a war for regime change in Iraq is in the interests of the American people, Congress is acceding to President Bushs timetable to give him broad, open-ended powers to wage war against Baghdad, before it adjourns the first week in October. The war resolution is expected to have the overwhelmingly bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. It allows the President to engage in a pre-emptive war in violation of the United Nations Charter, even if the Security Council fails to endorse military action against Iraq.
There's no limit at all on presidential powers. It's not even limited to Iraq, said Senator Carl Levin (Dem.-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Senator Joseph Biden (Dem.-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicted that the war resolution would meet every need the administration has.
A group of 19 House Democrats have been trying to rally opposition to military action, declaring there is no evidence that Iraq poses a direct and immediate threat to the United States. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Dem. Ohio), a leader of the group, recalls his opposition to the Vietnam War and how Congress rushed through a war resolution in 1968 without seriously considering the perils that eventually cost more than 50,000 American lives.
The Republican election strategy is to focus on the upcoming war against Iraq and deflect efforts by Democrats to win voter attention to such domestic issues as the sick economy, high unemployment, corporate corruption and prescription drugs for the elderly.
Regime Change Means Big Prize for U.S. Oil Companies
The Bush-Cheney team has a private scenario for a post-war Iraq that has their pals in the U.S. oil industry drooling in anticipation. After Saddam Hussein is toppled, the United States will be the occupying power in Iraq. It will be in a singular position to select democratic Iraqi leaders who will be beholden to America and induced, for their own survival, to privatize the countrys enormous oil reserves, consisting of about 10% of the worlds untapped petroleum. American oil companies, of course, would be first in line to grab the most lucrative fields for exploration and production. In appreciation of Prime Minister Tony Blairs staunch support for the U.S. war effort, British oil companies will be cut in on some of Iraqs proven reserves, estimated at 112 billion barrels.
That need not be the end of it. With the American military dominating the Persian Gulf, it is conceivable that the United States might decide to take over the worlds richest supplier of oil, Saudi Arabia. A war against the Saudis could easily gain public support as part of the war against terrorism, an argument that President Bush has refrained from using because, at present, that country is our ally.
In this grand strategy, if the United States controls the oil supply of the Persian Gulf, it could dominate Europe and Japan, whose economies are dependent on oil.
But Saddam Hussein has also used his countrys oil reserves as a trump card in his battle for survival. He has lured Russia, France, China and Italy into becoming his potential allies within the United Nations. He has signed highly favorable contracts with their major companies for huge investments in oil exploration and production, to go into effect as soon as the U.N. lifts its 11-year economic sanctions against Baghdad. These countries have an economic interest in preventing a U.S. military takeover of Iraq.
Blair Offers No Hard Evidence for Scary Charges
British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a 50-page dossier that claimed Iraq had biological and chemical weapons that could be unleashed within 45 minutes. He cited no smoking gun, basing his charges on intelligence sources. He appeared to contradict President Bushs charge that Iraq was an immediate threat stating it would take from one to five years for Iraq to develop a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, Iraq has repeated that it has no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction and is promising U.N. weapons inspectors unfettered access for their investigations. The word spread by the Bush people is that Saddam will bamboozle the inspectors, as he has in the past, and will continue to hide his arsenal of weapons for later use. If the inspectors were to find no evidence of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), Cheney and Rumsfeld would consider it proof positive that Saddam had succeeded in hiding them.
Arms Inspectors Did Great Work in Iraq
In the eight years that U.N. arms inspectors operated in Iraq, they destroyed Saddams stockpile of WMDs, delivery systems and the capability to produce such weapons. UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) oversaw the destruction of 38,000 chemical weapons, 480,000 liters of live chemical-weapons agents, 48 missiles, six missile launchers, 30 missile warheads modified to carry chemical or biological agents, and hundreds of pieces of related equipment with the capability to produce chemical weapons. In the last three years of its operations, UNSCOM was unable to detect any evidence that Iraq had been concealing prohibited weapons.
The Bush administration, already primed for war with Iraq, will exploit every opportunity to quickly terminate the work of the U.N. inspectors, who are scheduled to arrive in Baghdad in mid-October. But, as long as those inspectors remain in Iraq, it will be all but impossible for Saddam to launch a biological or chemical attack, even though there is no proof that he intends to do so.
The Question Box: Let's Get Your Response
Union members are invited to exchange views on these questions:
Should the AFL-CIO support a U.S. war against Iraq?
Is control of Iraqs oil reserves President Bush's real target?
Why are most Europeans opposed to a war on Iraq?
Should Congress give the President unlimited war powers?
Send e-mail responses to email@example.com.