Monday, March 8, 2004


by Carl Martin

The Bush administration has perpetrated perhaps the most blatant and reprehensible criminal act in U. S. history: waging pre-emptive war on the basis of deliberately misconstrued evidence. As opponents of war have argued steadfastly since 2002, Saddam posed no imminent threat, had no WMDs, and maintained no alliances with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. (On the other hand, and to our embarrassment, it turns out that Pakistan, one of our 'allies' in the so-called 'war on terror', provided North Korea and Iran with materials and blueprints for the development of nuclear weapons -- an irony that recalls the discovery that most of the Sept. 11 attackers came from our oil-rich trade partner, Saudi Arabia).

But if Saddam can longer be considered a threat to us, it is now argued that he was a dictator who needed deposing on behalf of the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, in this crusade for the betterment of the Iraqi populace through regime change, some ten thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed ( Indeed, U.S. armed forces' destructive power against Saddam's former subjects would garner the enthusiasm of the old tyrant himself. History does not, however, bear out American assertions that getting rid of Saddam and freeing the victims of his brutality was of primary importance.

Less than two decades ago, both the U.S. and the U.K. supplied Saddam with the chemical weapons and backed his war with Iran -- America's preferred enemy at the time. Though no less brutal in the '80s, Saddam was then considered a useful U.S. ally against Iranian Islamic fundamentalism. Saddam has since been designated a war criminal. The White House remains just as cynical in its manipulation of moral concepts.

In American parlance, the terms 'ally' and 'enemy' remain fluid, shifting from one to the other according to changing circumstances. In the course of the reputed global war on terror, we may have freed the Iraqis from the grip of a dictator (whom we once supported), but woe to the people of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Their tyrannical rulers -- Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Islam Karimov, respectively -- are just as enthusiastic practitioners of torture and oppression as Saddam was. But ever since they became new U.S. allies by accommodating American military bases within their central Asian nations, their current crimes are tolerated like Saddam's were in the past. Once again, the White House has put its short-term aims before any concern for the promotion and protection of human rights and democracy.

Such ad hoc alliances are as likely to backfire in the same way our support for the Afghani Islamists in their fight against the Soviets in the '80s created more problems in the decade which followed. True to American tendencies in foreign policy, our intervention in Iraq was never motivated by democratic or humanitarian ideals. It cannot even be justified on more selfish grounds - like stopping global terrorism. Bush claimed on Jan. 20 that "the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place." But the hostile occupation of a sovereign Arab country has fueled more hatred for the U.S. and provided the perfect environment for the emergence of terrorist activity within Iraq itself. Both Americans and Iraqis are at greater risk now. Even the head of the CIA, George Tenet, admitted on Feb 24 that the dangers have not diminished.

War against Iraq has proven beneficial only to the richest, most influential members of the business elite. Having disabled or destroyed much of the resources and social infrastructure in Iraq, the U.S. military has afforded lucrative opportunities for corrupt American corporations like Halliburton and multinationals intent on privatizing the Iraqi public sector. The war on terror is not the focused response to a definite threat so much as a pretext for capitalism at its most rapacious. It is commerce at gunpoint. Like the inept and malignant Bush administration, we must reject the war on terror as morally and strategically bankrupt.

Carl Martin is a junior majoring in English and a member of the Tufts Coalition to Oppose the War on Iraq (TCOWI).