Why Should We Fight Iraq?
By Terrell E. Arnold

As international disagreement grows over any decision to invade Iraq, the United States is increasingly isolated on this issue. Moreover, as recent demonstrations indicate, opposition to the war is growing even in the United States where, at the beginning, President Bush had substantial support. If the war had been fought immediately after 9-11, while public furor over those attacks was high, the Bush team might have pulled it off. However, as more than a year has passed the flaws in the Bush case against Iraq have multiplied, boxing Saddam Hussein in on weapons possession has proven difficult, and an awkward lack of integrity has emerged in case building, as Secretary of State Colin Powell found with bogus or plagiarized materials provided by the highest levels of British Government. Lack of official clarity and the passage of time have given critics the opportunity to examine a wide range of scenarios for fighting this war, but none so far is satisfying or persuasive.
Numerous writers say that key members of the Bush team, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Boulton, and Perle (the only one outside government but closely linked through the Defense Policy Board) were planning war on Iraq before Bush entered office. Given their earlier writings and affiliations, that is highly probable. Immediately after 9-11, the war on Iraq took increasing precedence over the war on terrorism, probably because it was well understood that the war on terrorism is not winnable. Rather the focus turned to a pre-emptive strike to strip Saddam of his alleged weapons of mass destruction and to break up his alleged ties to Al Qaida. Neither of those reasons has survived close international scrutiny because UN weapons inspections so far show that Saddam has less of anything in the WMD line now than he may have had before the first Gulf War. Moreover, the link to Al Qaida, still asserted by US officials, has yet to be proven. Maybe Saddam will oblige the US by having something that can be construed as a material breach of UN Resolution 1441, but he has been successful so far in retreating just ahead of the inspectors and staying out of range.
The second rationale for war on Iraq many critics say is oil. That argument has certain appeal because it at least brings an element of genuine pragmatism onto the table. Since we use about one barrel in every four produced globally, we obviously need oil. However, we have taken the lead in sanctions against Iraq that have limited Iraqi oil exports, and we have done that without harm to ourselves. As the world's largest user, we do not need to own the sources to command market attention, and product prices are typically a good deal lower in the United States than they are in any other developed country. Thus, fighting a war to get products that are likely to flow to us in any orderly market would not be rational. That fact may not keep some members of the Bush team from eyeing the Iraqi wellheads with envy, but that kind of lust does not translate into the national interest.
A third justification for war on Iraq is often cited by President Bush: To create a democratic government in Iraq and hopefully start a democratic transformation in the region. For that to work at all, however, thoughtful observers of Iraq have suggested that the present country should be turned into two or three. One of those countries could be the area now actually ruled by Saddam, that is the territory not covered by so-called "No Fly Zones", roughly the area of his secular governance. The southern No Fly Zone could become a country for the Shi'a Muslims, assuming they do not wish to join Iran. The third country would be nominally the northern No Fly Zone, that area of Iraq that is a piece of ancient Kurdistan, along with parts of Syria, Turkey, Armenia, and Iran. In effect, colonial era state building created an ethnic, cultural and religious mess that is unlikely to respond in any short period to democratizing, and none of the countries involved want to give up territory. However well intentioned, Bush may not have enough time or shovels to clean out this stable. Meanwhile, democratic consensus building is retarded to say the least in all of the countries involved, and no outsider is likely to fix it.
A fourth rationale for war on Iraq that is increasingly discussed on the Internet is to do a piece of national security work for Israel. How, one might ask, will the Israelis benefit from a war on Iraq? To answer the question, one must have an understanding of the Zionist dream for Israel as well as the obstacles the Israelis have encountered in bringing the dream about.
The first obstacle, set in the Balfour Declaration that initiated creation of Israel, was a requirement that the rights of the Palestinians be protected. That dictum interfered with the Zionist ideal of a Jewish National Home. The second obstacle emerged with Palestinian discovery that the Zionists had no intention of observing the Balfour dictum, and that perception, reinforced by repeated Israeli attacks on villages and expulsions of Palestinians, generated both hostility and open warfare.
A third major and persistent obstacle emerged with the elder King Abdullah's capture of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1956 war. Under the original partition scheme, those areas would have become part of Israel, and in line with the Balfour Declaration the Palestinians who lived there at the time had a right to remain there, just as those in the coastal regions had that right. Israel retook this territory twenty years later. However, by that time the land was occupied not only by Palestinians whose families had lived there for centuries, but also by refugees expelled from Israel. Incremental accretions of this territory to Israel are being attempted with Jewish settlements, mostly with Jews brought from outside Israel. Despite the settlement activity, the West Bank and Gaza are still the home of 3 million Palestinians.
As Zionist hard liners and some more moderate Israelis see it, the main obstacle to achieving a Jewish National Home as originally conceived is the presence of Palestinians, in Israel, in Gaza, and in the West Bank. The Jewish National Home the Zionists have in mind extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.
What does this have to do with a war on Iraq? There are two answers. One is about power politics. To carry out the program they had in mind, the Zionists needed a military arm. Initially that consisted of two terrorist groups, the Stern and Irgun groups whose early achievements were brutal attacks on Palestinian villages and the ultimate expulsion of the British from Palestine. Over time, these capabilities evolved into the Israeli Defense Force, the IDF. Israeli leadership knew from the start that their creation of the IDF was an attractive nuisance to other countries of the region, but remarkably only one country rose to challenge Israeli regional military dominance, Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Israel also set out to acquire and now has nuclear weapons. Here again, the Israelis have tried to assure dominance, first by carrying out an attack on Iraq to destroy that country's reactor, thereby delaying if not actually frustrating Iraqi acquisition of nuclear weapons. Despite Israeli success on that front, however, and despite the setbacks Saddam has experienced since loss of the Gulf War, Israel still considers Iraq a threat, because Saddam has the resources and the will to compete for regional power. That threat is increased by continued Israeli repression of the Palestinians.
The second answer to why the Zionist hard liners want a war with Iraq concerns what some Israelis refer to as the "vexing demographic" of the Palestinians. There are upward of 4 million Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and at observed rates of increase the Palestinians eventually will outnumber the Jews. For the Zionists, that is an intolerable condition for the Jewish National Home. Since the Palestinians have shown for years that even under repressive conditions they will not leave voluntarily, the only answers are to learn to live with them, give the Palestinians their state, or expel them.
Zionists want to expel the Palestinians, and war with Iraq would provide the opportunity. For decades, going back virtually to the birth of Israel, the dream of the hard liners has been that a war will break out in the region and provide cover for expelling the Palestinians. While in normal times world opinion would rebel at the thought of expulsion of the Palestinians, the hope is that no one of importance would notice systematic expulsions under cover of a regional war.
US leadership fought hard during the first Gulf War to keep the Israelis out of it, because Israeli entry would have destroyed the coalition of Gulf states that supported war against Iraq. The same problem exists now, so the US is likely to insist that Israel abstain from any second Gulf War. However, given the all too polite US criticism of harsh Israeli attacks and repression of the Palestinians in the name of a war on terrorism, the Israelis might gamble that no one, especially not the United States, would object if the Palestinians were forced into Jordan at the height of attacks on Iraq. By the time that war ended, Israel would have its National Home, and we, with Jordan and the UN, would inherit 3 million, maybe 4 million refugees, as the French say, a fait accompli.
Under this scenario, as a result of its war on Iraq the United States will have inherited management of two large ethnic and cultural nightmares: the Kurds who would not wish to join any Iraqi government, and the Palestinians who would be out in the cold. In essence, the United States would take over two refugee problems, neither of which regional powers have shown any willingness to solve on their own, and the US could solve them, at best over a long time, only by going head to head with the several regional powers involved on matters of policy, governance and national territory.
Spread out in this manner, a war on Iraq looks like a bad foreign policy investment for the United States, no matter who joins the coalition. We would make enemies of a billion Muslims, most of whom are at least neutral toward us now. We would trample on long-standing alliances with European nations, and convince many others that we have abandoned our democratic values. We would inherit by default two intractable sets of refugee problems, and we would have taken on unilaterally the adjustments to nation states that likely are needed to make any peaceful future work. We could end up doing all of that for the dubious reward of making Israel the unchallenged power in the Middle East, and we would have facilitated the largest of the humanitarian crimes the Israelis will have committed against the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, Sharon told a visiting US Congressional delegation in Israel this week that after Iraq he wants Iran, Libya, and Syria disarmed next. He appeared confident he could get the US to do it. That would make four countries whose leaders we will have overthrown, even though they are not threatening us. Then the Zionists could think about expanding into Jordan, looking for land and water, and expelling the Palestinians to where? How about Saudi Arabia and Egypt, or even Iraq, since the new Israel would be Iraq's neighbor?
Why doesn't George W. Bush just tell Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Boulton, and other strong Iraq war supporters in his administration that this game is not in the US interest? Most of our friends and allies and many of the world's Jews would applaud that decision, despite the screams Bush surely would hear from the Zionist lobbies. Some argue that losing face would keep Bush from backing away from war on Iraq, but how could he lose face at the same time so many people will applaud his good judgment?
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State. He will welcome your comments at



This Site Served by TheHostPros