Henry Kissinger and Christopher Hitchens are both agreed on the desirability
of sending in the bombers and finishing off Saddam, I suppose the Bush regime
will conclude that the necessary national consensus for war has been achieved.
All that remains to be done is to deploy Christiane Amanpour.
Was it Hitchens
or Kissinger who wrote the following? "An opponent might
argue that inspections offer a better chance on containing the deadly weaponry,
and of observing the rights of sovereign states.
"Invasion might cause
much death and destruction, and exert a destabilizing effect on the region.
It might also trigger the use of the very weapons whose removal was its ostensible
justification." Hard to decide, isn’t it? But you’re right, Kissinger
is simply incapable of reflecting on the imminence of death and destruction,
whereas Hitchens raises the matter, if only to discount it as of no great consequence.
The on-again, off-again
noises from the White House about the desirability of "a regime change"
in Iraq have become like white noise, always in the background, then intermittently
rising to oppressive levels. What’s it all really about? We can dismiss
the proclaimed reasons, starting with the "weapons of mass destruction."
I’ll buy the verdict of Scott Ritter here. Ritter, you’ll recall,
was formerly one of the most hawkish of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq.
He has stated repeatedly that Iraq is "qualitatively disarmed" and
as of December 1998 was in no position to develop biological, chemical or nuclear
Even the rabid pro-war panel
on the first day of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearings on
Iraq was unable to produce any reason why Saddam would be crazy enough to try
and offer the pretext the U.S. has been yearning for. Beyond this, the United
States has systematically sabotaged arms control in Iraq and worldwide.
It was Clinton who pulled
out the arms inspectors in 1998. It was Bush who killed off the proposed enforcement
and verification mechanism for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention,
originally passed in 1972. The enforcement mechanism could have been used as
a lever to prize open Iraq for arms inspections. In April 2002, the United States
removed Jose Bustani, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons, from office. George Monbiot of the Guardian has written that
it was because of Bustani’s efforts to include Iraq in the chemical weapons
convention, thereby opening it to weapons inspections.
Other rationales for attacking
Iraq have come and gone. A few months ago, former CIA director Woolsey, buttressed
by the writer Laurie Mylroie, were pressing Iraq’s implication in 9/11.
Few now raise that excuse, though it does remind us that the nation that was
host to most of the 9/11 perpetrators is Saudi Arabia.
This offers us the necessary
pointer. Remember, where the Middle East is concerned, everything revolves around
oil. The conspiracy-mongers mumbling about the natural gas pipeline scheduled
to run through Afghanistan and about the Kazakh oilfields are looking at the
wrong page in the Atlas. In Afghanistan it’s not "all about oil."
When it comes to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it is.
Figure it. In the wake of
9/11 it becomes clear that Saudis, starting with Osama bin Laden, were at the
heart of the attack, with some members of the ruling family probably involved
or at least tacitly approving. Furthermore, America’s local supervisors,
the Saud dynasty, face increasing discontent. The Bush administration is led
and advised by people trained by origin and business proclivity to see everything
in terms of the availability and price of oil. Now Saudi Arabia is the world’s
"swing producer," meaning it controls the world price by either restricting
or expanding supply. Would it not be rational in the wake of 9/11 to seek urgently
other "swing producer" options, and to see such an option in the form
of Iraq? Iraq nationalized its own huge reserves back in 1972, taking control
over sale and pricing. Either upon his own initiative, or conned by the United
States, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, thus setting Iraq on the path
to utter ruin, and permitting the U.S., via sanctions, to control once more
Iraq’s oil exports, drastically restricting its supply.
So the U.S. game plan could
be to continue with the present "strategy of tension," or to gradually
ratchet up the level of military harassment, without all the trumpet blares
that accompanied the formal onslaught of 1991. More bombing raids, more attacks
from the Kurdish protected areas, more thundering about weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam can be counted on to play his own weak hand badly. Last week, for example,
he chose to divulge his apparent agreement for new weapons inspectors to a British
labor MP, George Galloway, who reported as much in a newspaper column. Result:
the concession, if such it was, made about as much noise as a crumpet falling
on a carpet.
It probably would not take
much in the way of armed intervention for Saddam to be overthrown in an internal
revolt. Then the U.S. could substitute a suitably brutal successor and have
Iraq ready as the swing producer, and Iran as the next target of opportunity.
"President George Bush’s
‘war on terror’ reached the desert village of Hajibirgit at midnight
on 22 May." Thus began a chilling story by Robert Fisk of the British Independent.
The essentials are that
U.S. Special Forces raided the village of Hajibirgit and shot dead the 85-year-old
village leader. Villagers were then accused of being members of the Taliban
or Al-Qaeda, flown to an interrogation center in Kandahar (home of the 101st
Airborne). One later told Fisk that "the villagers were, by their own accounts,
herded together into a container. Their legs were tied and then their handcuffs
and the manacle of one leg of each prisoner were separately attached to stakes
driven into the floor of the container. Thick sacks were put over their heads.
Abdul Satar was among the first to be taken from this hot little prison. ‘Two
Americans walked in and tore my clothes off,’ he said. ‘If the clothes
would not tear, they cut them off with scissors. They took me out naked to have
my beard shaved and to have my photograph taken…’"
Eventually the villagers
were taken to the stadium that the Taliban had used for executions, and ultimately
According to Fisk, "The
Pentagon initially said that it found it ‘difficult to believe’ that
the village women had their hands tied. But given identical descriptions of
the treatment of Afghan women after the US bombing of the Uruzgan wedding party,
which followed the Hajibirgit raid, it seems that the Americans–or their
Afghan allies–did just that."
The villagers returned to
find their village looted by a group of Afghans led by Abdul Rahman Khan–"once
a brutal and rapacious ‘mujahid’ fighter against the Russians, and
now a Karzai government police commander who had raided the village once the
Americans had taken away so many of the men. Ninety-five of the 105 families
had fled into the hills, leaving their mud homes to be pillaged."
Now here’s a story,
replete with specifics about another appalling episode like the slaughter of
the Afghan wedding party. A check shows that thus far not a single word of the
destruction of Hajibirgit had appeared in any mainstream U.S. news medium.
But the war is coming home,
the way wars always do, in the form of drugs and psychosis. Witness the murders
of four Fort Bragg soldiers’ wives in the space of six weeks. Fort Bragg
is the home of the Special Forces Command. Three of the four soldiers had recently
returned from Afghanistan, where they served with Special Forces units.
"He was like my own
child," said Wilma Watson, describing her son-in-law Master Sergeant Wright.
"Until he came back from Afghanistan, I didn’t worry about violence."
Wright killed her daughter. "He was getting these attacks of rage."
One line of defense, discussed in an interesting piece published Sunday in Newsday
by UPI reporters Mark Benjamin and Dan Olmsted, is that at least two of the
soldiers had been taking Lariam, aka mefloquine, in Afghanistan. As the reporters
wrote: "Lariam has been blamed for psychotic episodes and suicidal behavior
for more than a decade. The official product information sheet, written by manufacturer
Hoffmann-La Roche and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states
Lariam has been associated with aggression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts."
It is the Army’s drug
of choice to prevent malaria.
There’s nothing to
equal the military as the incubator of violence. The villagers of Hajibirgit
paid the price. The four murdered women in Fort Bragg paid another installment,
and the payments in terms of rage, drunkenness, drug addiction and antisocial
behavior will be exacted month after month for years to come, amid the resolute
determination of the press not to connect up the dots.
The search for the "violence
gene" is always with us. Last week it surfaced once again, when The
Economist proclaimed that "the first study has just been published
showing how a particular gene and a particular environment interact to produce
violent individuals." The Economist cited the publication of "a
clear-cut case–a paper showing that the degree of expression of a gene
implicated in the development of aggression does indeed interact with a person’s
early circumstances to shape a violent or a pacific personality.
"Terrie Moffitt, of
the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, and her colleagues,
picked MAOA, the gene for a protein called monoamine oxidase-A, for their study,
which has just been published in Science. Monoamine oxidase-A is an enzyme
that breaks down members of an important group of neurotransmitters, the molecules
that carry signals between nerve cells. These neurotransmitters include dopamine,
serotonin and norepinephrine, all of which help to regulate a person’s
"There is abundant
evidence," The Economist continued excitedly, "that a reduced
level of monoamine oxidase-A (and therefore an elevated level of these neurotransmitters)
results in violent behavior. There is also evidence that chronically low levels
early in life result in an individual who is more than averagely predisposed
to react violently to any given situation in adulthood, regardless of monoamine-oxidase
levels at the time."
You take your pick: the
elusive "violence gene" or a militarized culture that sees unending
war, with racism and cruelty associated with that activity. Was it a "violence
gene" that drove McVeigh on, or an anti-malarial medication, or what he
experienced in his military training and in the war in Iraq?