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Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 10:02 GMT
Viewpoint: UN inspections a side-show
The US is currently sifting through Iraq's dossier on its weapons programmes
In a series of comment pieces on Iraqi crisis, anti-war activist Milan Rai argues that Washington is intent on war to replace Saddam Hussein, not on disarmament.

UN weapons inspections are a side-show to the real task of bringing down the Iraqi leader.

The presence of weapons inspectors in Iraq could delay and perhaps derail the US drive to war, therefore they are part of the problem, not part of the solution, so far as the US is concerned.

A top US Senate foreign policy aide observed in May 2002 that: "The White House's biggest fear is that UN weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in."

This is a deeply cynical exercise, as well as being illegal and immoral

When he addressed the UN General Assembly on 12 September, President George W Bush demanded the elimination of "all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material" in Iraq, "if the Iraqi regime wishes peace."

He also demanded an end to Iraqi "support for terrorism", an end to Iraq's "persecution of its civilian population", and an end to the oil smuggling which is the lifeblood of the regime.

Nowhere did the president demand or even mention the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

The message seemed to be that even if weapons inspectors were re-admitted, the US could find another justification for a war against Iraq.

Pressure

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in May, "US policy is that regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad. The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change."

The abduction of scientists is not necessary to verify whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but disarmament is not the goal

There is pressure on UN weapons inspectors to instigate a confrontation that can be used to justify war, perhaps over the US demand that inspectors take weapons scientists and their families out of Iraq for questioning (where they will be offered asylum by the US).

Iraq is expected to refuse to permit this, creating a ''justification" for war.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is reluctant, having said: "We are not going to abduct anyone. The UN is not a defection agency."

The abduction of scientists is not necessary to verify whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but disarmament is not the goal. The US goal is to bring about the replacement of Saddam Hussein.

Regime change

Thomas Friedman, diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, said in July 1991 that economic sanctions would continue until there was a military coup which would create "the best of all worlds": "an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein".

The search for a replacement for the Supreme Leader has not gone well

A return to the days when Saddam Hussein's "iron first" held Iraq together, "much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia". This is not "regime change"; this is "regime stabilisation/leadership change."

In October, Ari Fleischer, White House spokesperson, tried to deflect a question about the multi-billion-dollar cost of a US invasion by observing that the expense of a war on Iraq could be saved by the "cost of a bullet". Asked if he was calling for Saddam Hussein to be assassinated, in contravention of US law, Mr Fleischer said, regime change was welcome "in whatever form it takes".

This clarifies the meaning of "regime change" beautifully: delete the Supreme Leader, and slot in another Iraqi general in his stead.

In this viewpoint section on 12 December, Daniel Neep of the Royal United Services Institute commented that, in the event of war: "The ideal scenario is someone within Iraq, preferably within the army, killing Saddam and taking control. That would mean that entering Baghdad would not be necessary and would also solve the problem of who will govern once he has gone."

The search for a replacement for the Supreme Leader has not gone well. The exiled general possessing the most "credibility" with the Iraqi military, General Nizar al- Khazraji, is being investigated in Denmark in connection with the war crime of gassing 5,000 Kurds in 1988.

Another US favourite is Brigadier General Najib al-Salhi, who has called for multi-party democracy in Iraq. The general rather gave the game away, however, when he stressed the need to encourage Iraqi military leaders to switch sides by promising that no more than 20 of Saddam's closest henchmen would be treated as criminals by a new Iraqi Government.

The United States is not committed to the weapons inspection process, has never called for the return of weapons inspectors, and is interested in the inspectors only insofar as they can be manipulated into creating a war crisis.

That war has as its immediate goal the assassination and replacement of Saddam Hussein and his immediate entourage, and a continuation of the same regime (with minor modifications).

"Regime stabilisation with leadership change" will reinforce the stability of Washington's clients in the region, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and re-establish US dominance of Iraq's huge oil wealth.

This is a deeply cynical exercise, as well as being illegal and immoral.

Milan Rai is author of War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War (Verso, 2002) and a member of Active Resistance to the Roots of War (Arrow). He is also co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness UK, which has worked for the lifting of UN sanctions in Iraq.

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Mr Rai's premise appears to be that Saddam has no WMD and that Iraq's leader is just a peace loving and totally harmless chappie - a friendly neighbour with a keen interest in chemistry. Does he know something that the rest of the world (including Iraq's own scientists) do not know? It is interesting to note that the same economic imperialism argument was made when Nato was forced to intervene in Kosovo: "The US is just trying to gain control of the precious mines and other natural resources of the area and force all the Central Europeans to drink Coke instead of Vodka." Nobody wants to fight a war, least of all the Americans. A war could cost up to $120bn - such a staggering addition to the US national debt would impoverish generations. Anyone who gives any thought to the economics of a war in the Middle East should quickly conclude that there's no net benefit to it. Everyone except the suffering innocent Iraqis citizens are better off maintaining the status quo, keeping Saddam in his cage with the no-fly zones and getting on with life buying oil and selling computers, food, services and other Western products. But, unfortunately, this conflict is not about economics. It's about the security of the world. What world does Mr. Rai live in?
Kenton Hambrick, USA

The US has every right to protect itself. Saddam Hussein is a man who has beat his people into submission. He's a thug, nothing more and the US is going to treat him as such. President Bush should be praised for his courage to confront leaders like Saddam. And just so everyone is clear on this: the US needs no more justification for war than it already had with the ceasefire agreement with the Iraqi government in 1991. War is a horrible thing, but reality dictates its use. To all those people who charge the US with trying to expand its 'empire' I say, if expanding democracy, and the idea that respect for the individual is paramount to a just and equitable society, so be it. Any oppressive leader who violates the inalienable rights of the people they supposedly govern and attempt to push those ideas through force onto foreign nations will be handled by the US, make no mistake.
Zachary Pfeffer, US

US is just oil thirsty and will jump into war no matter what it takes. Europe is resisting but for how long?
Faisal Karim, Pakistan

I agree with Milan Rai's charges that US policy is driven by financial interests and not on humanitarian considerations. One can foresee a world dominated totally by the US in the military and economic sense, but will this guarantee peace and prosperity for all? While replacing the governments in the several nations the US has dubbed rogue states is theoretically feasible, it does not necessarily mean that the new order will be superior. Further terrorism is bred by social, religious and economic injustice and these issues are not resolved by mere regime changes.
M M Allam, India

To believe that America is only interested in war mongering for oil is the same old weak argument that enables Iraq to force its policy of deception on the world. If America was doing nothing about the Iraq issue and Iraq decided to invade another country the people of the world would be crying on Americas doorstep pleading for our help. Either way America is observed as arrogant and/or "not interested in the humanitarian cause". However, the opinion above is right in one aspect. That America should step aside and withdraw from the issue of Iraq totally and let those so worried with the plight of Iraq deal with it. But, of course, America would then be "turning its back on the world" and letting another dictator impose chaos on and within the region. We as Americans can do nothing right. Right?
Clark, USA

I strongly believe that the will of the American people will prevail. They are against war for no reason. The American Government has shown no significant and or overwhelming reason to do any more then let the inspectors and due process take its course. I'm proud to be an American citizen and am sickened by the way our government has sidetracked from the significance of the terrorist situation to the Iraqi "regime change". I think Bush and Saddam should just get in a boxing ring and leave all the innocent people out of it.
John Goldberg, US.

The idea of war in Iraq, with a lot of innocent lives being lost is mad. The process by which a powerful country uses its militarily muscle to change a regime is immoral and unfair. Who made them the world's policemen? And Tony Blair, a Christian should think about innocent lives and not turn a blind eye because of Britain's economic interest.
Eric Kofi Aboagye Agyekum, UK

By trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the only goal of US is to control all the petroleum resources of the Middle East. They don't care about the consequences.
Jim James, USA

Certainly oil is a part of the equation for reasons to invade Iraq, but it's also a big part of the equation as to why countries like Russia and France are so adamant about not having an invasion. They want to make sure their business dealings remain intact - not because they are worried about the children of Baghdad. Oil is a nice prize, but having a democratic nation in the Middle East to look upon as an example and to weaken the grip of the Saudis, are an even bigger prize
Jason Harris, USA

I don't think that this has anything to do with oil, but the Iraqi's propaganda machine would love to have you believe that it does.
Tim Robison, USA

The US is heavily dependent on oil, yes. But it would be a mistake to believe that homeland security for the US is not a big issue and driver for the current crisis. Iraq did invade Kuwait. Iraq did try to assassinate Bush. Iraq is trying to build nukes. Iraq is the enemy of the US. We had 3,000 citizens killed by fanatics, and will do what ever is needed to prevent attacks on our soil again. Seems to me that the US is viewed as the cause of all problems in the world, and the savoir to all in the world at the same time. It isn't easy being the only superpower.
Evan Wood, USA

Unfortunately, many well-intentioned people believe the impending war in Iraq is simply a matter of a bully (USA) beating up on the innocent people of Iraq and taking their oil. Of course this is absurd. Tyrants such as Saddam Hussein have long abused their people and built palaces while his people starve and fear for their lives if they oppose the regime. War is the absolute last resort as would be the case in Iraq. Saddam Hussein will not go quietly as he plays games with the international community. I hope war can be avoided, but if it is necessary the peace loving people of the world should support such an action for the sake of the people of the Middle East.
Lee Jackson, USA

Seems to me that this is just another attempt by President Bush to return election favours. Which of Bush's friends wouldn't like to drill Iraq dry? Besides, if the US is following what the UN has suggested, it is simply to make any possible invasion "legal". Neither Bush nor his cabinet care about the Iraqi people. Remember, the US does not have friends, only interests.
FMZ, México

Please continue to shed light on the too silent majority holding this view and highlight the fact that regime change should begin with the removal of the "Thief Executive" of the USA.
Paulino Ruiz-Roman, Jr, Puerto Rico

Saddam Hussein is a war criminal of the worst kind, and any effort to paint the UK and USA as oil hungry demons is not only morally wrong but repugnant. The question at hand is not about the United Kingdom, United States, Blair or Bush, but about Saddam and his decades old crimes and deception. He should be dealt with now before it is too late.
Edward Kariuki, Kenyan, USA

Right on! It's good to have commentary from the opposition for a change. Saddam might be the meanest dictator since Stalin, but remember, he used to be the West's dictator, so that made everything okay. It's only when he started causing problems did he become a liability. The game, of course, is for oil, and for whether or not the USA has reason enough to attack. Unilateral, unprovoked action is not politically smart. However, I don¿t think the call to interview scientists and refusal of that will go down too well ether. It's a game between Saddam and Bush and, so far, Saddam is winning. In the end, an unprovoked attack and a war that ends up killing a lot of Americans will destroy Bush's career.
Misha Dellinger, Finland


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