The Essential Job

Merrick, 26th September 2002ce

'The two facts which even now are not widely grasped are:

1) That war against a foreign country only happens when they moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it

2) That every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.

The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.'
- George Orwell

Whilst the current Iraqi regime is unquestionably brutally violent and repressive, this does not distinguish it from many others, nor, more importantly, does it mean that war is the best method of changing it. Even in the aggressor countries, 58% of people in the UK oppose it and Gulf War veterans like General Norman Schwarzkopf have spoken out against it.

Not only is the idea of attacking a country that hasn't attacked another an outrage and a war crime, but the risk of escalation following such an attack is terrifying.

Israel has sworn to retaliate if attacked, unlike their stance during the Gulf War. There is a very serious chance that an attack on Iraq would be the start of a major war in the Middle East involving nuclear-armed states.

And yet still the US government, followed obediently by the UK government, are gearing up for war.

In reality, we have been at war with Iraq for over ten years now. NATO planes, including British ones, fly out of Turkey and bomb Iraqi infrastructure. We don’t hear about it because it’s not considered newsworthy, so we only find out when a Parliamentary Question is asked by a career-inhibiting peacenik MP.

If the USA and UK really want to act upon ‘the will of the international community’ they would stop being the last dogged supporters of economic sanctions against Iraq which, by leaving even the most basic foods and medicines in short supply, have killed over a million people. The will of the international community is to not bomb Iraq, and to end sanctions.

Opposing the war does not mean supporting Saddam Hussein's regime. Opposing the war means supporting the Iraqi people. With the Iraqi infrastructure of health care, food and water shattered by twelve years of bombing and economic sanctions, the effects of war would be a humanitarian disaster.

They pretended the last Gulf War was about sovereignty. When the war was over they reinstalled a Kuwaiti regime that gives a vote to less than 10% of its people. But the real proof of this hypocrisy is not to look at the last Gulf War, it's to look at what's been done elsewhere.

The US government tells us that bombing Iraq into changing its regime is the only way to deal with those who illegally produce weapons of mass destruction and who obstruct UN inspectors.

Israel already has illegal weapons of mass destruction which it won’t allow the UN anywhere near. When one of their scientists, Mordecai Vanunu, leaked details of Israeli nuclear weapons, he was kidnapped and drugged by the Israeli secret service and taken to Israel for a secret trial. He has spent the last sixteen years in prison, eleven of them in complete isolation.

Israel remains the only country in the Middle East that definitely has nuclear weapons. This development of weapons of mass destruction – not just allegedly working towards it – is somehow not even worth US complaint, let alone threatening all-out war.

Israel ignores UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of its troops from Occupied Territories. Israeli troops stay in the Territories, enforcing militaristic apartheid and randomly killing civilians. It obstructs UN humanitarian workers in the Territories, where it has no right to even be there. Yet somehow these acts of brutalising those under their jurisdiction are supposedly different to Iraqi treatment of Kurds, somehow it is tolerable from Israel but not from Iraq.

Kurdish land and peoples live in an area that straddles the Turkey/Iraq border. The Iraqi treatment of Kurdish people is not dissimilar to the Turkish treatment of Kurds, yet Turkey gets no admonishment. Again, the deeds are similar; Kurdish culture is repressed, people are serving sentences years long in Turkey for simply speaking in favour of the Kurdistan Workers Party; but Turkey is a NATO member and is vying for EU membership, so the West ignores it.

Weapons of mass destruction are being illegally made by nations with aggressive intent. India and Pakistan have both tested nuclear devices. Yet there has been no threat to bomb these countries and force a change of regime. Indeed, much of the weapons technology comes from the same Western countries that decry their use! The opposed nuclear programmes of Iraq and Israel are both made with technology and supplies from France. Throughout the 1980s Saddam Hussein’s regime was receiving huge military aid from the USA.

As Bill Hicks said, ‘We know Iraq have incredible weapons – we looked at the receipt’.

Saddam Hussein's obviously a vicious and dangerous man, but it must be clear that most world leaders could put that on their CV too. As always, our governments and mass media have lied to make us accept war. As always, war is portrayed not as war, but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.

War is being proposed in our name, despite there being no sovereignty breached or act of aggression to curtail. This is supposedly about UN inspection teams. There have been UN weapons inspectors working in Iraq from the end of the Gulf War until 1998. At that time Iraq stopped inspections because of the domination of one team by Americans, including Gulf War veterans.

A supposedly impartial global body like the UN put people in these teams who were personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi people.

Since the inspectors withdrew in 1998 the chief of the teams, Scott Ritter, has openly admitted that information they got under the UN banner was being passed straight to the CIA and the Israeli military. If the UN inspectors have been used as CIA and Mossad spies before now, it can hardly surprise us that Iraq is wary of UN teams.

So if it's not about the UN or sovereignty, what's it all about this time? In a word, oil. Oil has always been at the heart of the US/Iraq conflict. Ten years ago it was about keeping Iraq out of US-friendly Kuwaiti oil fields.

Iraq has the second largest proven reserves of oil on earth. US oil consumption is increasing and oils stocks everywhere are going down. Oil depletion is becoming a major concern. Most of the Bush cabinet are former big-oil staff. They know exactly how big a crisis looms.

Today, Gulf states produce around half the world’s oil. Within ten years, it’ll be around 70%. So, in five years the Middle East will be capable of shutting down the global economy on a whim. And unlike the 1970s, there's no new fields like the North Sea to exploit in order to make up the difference; Norway – until 2000 the world’s second largest exporter of oil – has announced that its oil fields are in permanent decline.

Thus, if the US wants to continue with its suicidal oil consumption – and control supply to everywhere else and thus maintain its power - it wants friendly regimes in the places of production. Now we see why ‘regime change’ is the stated aim of the US threat against Iraq.

The USA has been so keen to maintain sanctions against Iraq in order to get oil in favourable ways.

Despite proclaiming a belief in free markets, the US government subsidises its farmers and this generates an enormous amount of food that, were it to be sold, would cause prices to fall. There are several solutions. One is to simply dump food and let it rot.

Another is to give it as aid. This has been a great backdoor way of ensuring receiver nations comply with US policies, and has also led to GM food entering previously GM-free countries. When Zimbabwe and Zambia refused GM food aid, the US government and western media blamed them for starving their people, rather than explaining why they were only offering GM food.

The relevance with Iraq is that the sanctions have created a desperate need for food in Iraq. The sanctions also forbade Iraq trading in oil. The US was the most fervent supporter of the sanctions. Then a ‘food for oil’ scheme was devised, whereby Iraq – with a glut of oil and literally dying for food – would swap with the US. The US would be performing a kind of economic alchemy, turning waste into colossal amounts of black gold at very favourable rates.

Under this deal Iraq was the second largest supplier to US refineries.

The deal was only made possible by the misery, suffering and death caused by the sanctions. With mounting pressure to end sanctions coming from other countries and domestic pressure groups, the food for oil deal was clearly not a long term prospect. So, what to do?

Certainly there are other reasons to go to war, but the control of an increasing share of the global oil supply is paramount. The maintaining of US dominance as a political power is a factor – but oil is political power. And for that, we all must take responsibility.

It is our love of a lifestyle driven by oil that makes oil into political power. The way we choose to live (all of us in the West, every anti-war activist included) is the ultimate reason for this proposed war, not Bush or Blair or Hussain or anyone else.

Dr Albert Bartlett of the University of Colorado said, "Modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food”. Oil and natural gas are feedstocks and energy sources for fertilisers and pesticides; oil is the source of fuel for tractors and harvesters. Oil runs food processing and packaging plants, the food transportation and refrigeration systems, it is the raw material for the plastic bag you carry it all home in. The plastic keyboard sat in front of you is an oil product.

Oil, thanks to the Western way of life, is the most valuable currency of political power. It is political power that is the US government’s real authority, not any moral claim.

The US has no moral superiority: if they were this side of the Atlantic, they wouldn't be allowed to join the Council Of Europe because of their capital punishment record—we'd exclude them on grounds of human rights! They are the biggest funders of terrorist groups worldwide, the largest user of chemical weapons in history and the only nation ever to have used nuclear weapons. What is it that gives such dangerous people the right to set themselves up as the world's police, judge, jury and executioner?

Around the world, and especially in the nations around Iraq, it is the USA that is feared far more than Iraq. The true terrorist of this issue – the one causing the most terror as they exert their will – is the US government.

Calling these governments bad humanitarians is rather like calling the Pope a bad Protestant. But they do claim humanitarian integrity, so they do lay themselves open to it. All governments are liars and murderers, and so maybe it's wrong to expect anything better from them. But I can't believe it's wrong to hope for better, to want for better, to believe it could and should be better than this.

Wherever there is powerful government, there is abuse of power. It is the concentrations of vast power that leads to this corruption, and until we dismantle such power structures we will always be plagued by such corruption and inhumanity. War is the most effective tool of acquiring and protecting political power.

The post-9/11 social climate has more tolerance for war, so major political powers are seizing the opportunity. To oppose war whilst supporting these concentrations of political power is an absolute contradiction. Unless our aim is to diffuse political power, to bring it back to a level where it is wielded by those whom it actually affects, there will always be war.

But that is not to say that nothing can be done in the short term, or those presently in power cannot be swayed by public opinion. The poised war against Iraq is not inevitable. If it does happen, there is still the power of the Western populace to curtail it.

War is often the failure of politicians to do their job, but they will often offer justifications. In a case such as this – when it is simply a tool of economic control – it can never be justified. As long as we consistently and vocally show that we see through their PR whitewash, we shackle their murderous impulses.

London mass demo Saturday 28th September.
Assemble Embankment 12.30 marching to rally at Hyde Park.

Voices In The Wilderness, the campaign to end sanctions against Iraq

For more information about Mordechai Vanunu

For more about oil supplies running out: