Opinions

The real American motive in Iraq

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If Mike Tyson was feeling a little edgy and looking for a fight, would you sneak up on him and kick him in the shins when he wasn't looking? Probably not.

This is the current Iraqi reality with respect to the United States. Sure, they might be able to sneak in a quick sucker punch on an overwhelmingly powerful opponent, but afterward, the damage brought onto the Middle Eastern country would be ten times worse. The American army would come out swinging against Iraq's armed forces. (And, in the spirit of the former heavyweight champion, would probably try to eat their children.)

Any Iraqi-based attack against the U.S. could only come to life if Saddam Hussein was feeling particularly suicidal. Assuming he isn't, Americans should rest assured that they are in no real danger. But this is not the case. For the last year or so, the fear mongering campaign of the American government has attempted to make their citizens fearful of an imminent attack that really makes no logical sense.

This behaviour is certainly not uncommon for our neighbours. For over 40 years, they taught their country to fear the Soviets. They built weapons en masse, collected names of suspected communists, and went to wars across the globe to prevent the spread of communism. But was there really a threat of a massive attack from the Russians? With mutually assured destruction in mind, I don't think so.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Americans have continued to prosper and face no real threat from any military power, including Iraq. At least during the Cold War, the Soviets had a sizeable army and nuclear weapons. Iraq on the other hand, is far weaker and much less of a threat, yet the fear of attack lives on.

So, if Iraq doesn't really pose a threat, why would the Americans be so eager to go to war? Well, because the UN weapons inspectors haven't been allowed to continue their work in Iraq like they agreed to in the treaty that brought an end to the Persian Gulf War. We've all heard this argument many times, but I don't buy it. If this were the case, the Americans would have attacked shortly after Iraq violated its treaty promises. But they didn't; there was no need to. Now, there is.

The American economy is still relatively weak and has not fully recovered from September 11. This is, by far, the biggest difference in the United States since the time that the inspectors were relieved of their duties in 1998. At that time, with Bill Clinton in office, the American economy was strong and getting stronger. When Hussein demanded the inspectors leave, the American government held on to it as a "war rain-cheque" to be claimed when needed. Now, the Americans are looking for a way to improve their stagnant economy, and Iraq's massive oil supply looks mighty tempting--but George Bush won't come out and say it.

Instead, the Americans try to fill their citizens with the fear of an inevitable attack. To the global community, they speak of treaty breaking to validate an attack against Hussein. However way you choose to look at it, Bush surely isn't telling the truth. By marketing it as a pre-emptive strike, the Americans are only trying to justify their greed. But come on, it's starting to look pretty obvious that Iraq's oil is what they are really after.

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I'm not so sure it's about oil. The Americans are horse-traders without peer, and if they wanted Iraqi oil the most efficient means would be to send in the corporate suits and ink some deals. All the US admin would have to do is whisper in Halliburton's ear that the way was clear...send in the weapons inspectors, declare Iraq clear and open for business. War, on the other hand, would be disasterous for an already-tenuous infrastructure that is essential to a functioning oil industry. If oil were the objective, lifting sanctions would be a more effective and much less costly way of getting at it.

Stephane Massinon seems a lot more eager to bash American foreign policy than she is to understand it. In many ways this sort of anti-american reflex is self-defeating. We *need* people to inform and criticize American activities. What hope have we of changing what we don't like about them if we set ourselves as inplacable opponents of everything we imagine they might do.

It's interersting to note that this sort of tone set the stage for the Kuwait even though it has not yet opened it's oil industry to foreign investment.

Iraq is not an unlimited oasis of oil up for grabs. First, Iraq supplies only 3 percent of the worlds oil production. Secondly, it is not at all clear that a new Iraqi government would given foreign investors free reign. Even if it were to do something so foolish, the US is very far from an optimal position to take advantage of it. Russia, France and China - vocal opponents of heedless aggression by the way - are better situated.

I do agree Massinon's evaluation of the chance that Iraq would directly attack the United States. It seems true that certain politicians insinuated that it might to gain support for their policies.

Yet this tack is much less common in this administration. By all intelligence, most indicate that the threat that Iraq poses today is to the region and through the agency of terrorist organizations.

The international finance scene is a messy, complicated and has no coherent policing. Thus, anyone with a lot of money, even illegal money, can pretty much shift it around with impunity. Recall that for all the talk of it, only a few millions dollars have been siezed from Al Qaeda.

According to the US, they are very concerned that he will lend support, possibly monies, possible weapons, to terrorists. Given Saddam's history and the nature of terrorism, this is not at all implausible. In fact, there is evidence that it's already been happening.

As a regional force, there is great concern that Saddam will attempt to militarily dominate the region. This seems to be the largest threat to world peace. As much as the possibility that war in Iraq will lead to a world-wide conflict, unchecked military buildup of such a regime would only make the situation more dangerous.

Quickly, Timothy, a reply to your post.

By reducing Iraq's contribution to the world's oil to three per cent, you assume Iraq exists in a bubble, and that what happens in Iraq does not affect neighbouring countries that house significant amounts of oil.

Terrorism is America's new justification for attacking Iraq, and I would agree that it is certainly possible that Iraq is funding terrorists (although I am not as convinced at the evidence as you are... Mr. Bush quickly points out that he doesn't need evidence--he knows it is true and that's enough). However, George Bush Jr (and let's not forget his father) wanted to attack Iraq before September 11 and before terrorism became such a large part of the international-poltical vocabulary as it has.

While the US may not want Iraqi oil specifically, having an unpredictable dictator with a history of external aggression right in the middle of an oil hotbed isn't good business if you're looking to protect your country's access to oil. Part of the reason (and certainly not all of the reason) that the US is so adimant about attacking Iraq is oil. To neglect this as a driving force would be irresponsible.

-James

"Part of the reason (and certainly not all of the reason) that the US is so adamant about attacking Iraq is oil. To neglect this as a driving force would be irresponsible."

I agree that Oil is directly relevant in two ways: One is the economic leverage (hence power) Saddam has with a supply of Oil and second is to secure it's own oil supply.

I deny neither of them, but I have a real problem with the reflexive anti-americanism which drives the proliferation of the myth that America is just another imperialist power willing to go to war for a resource grab. (A potentially big price for a marginal prize.)

The first reason, and those relating to it, has consistently been the message coming out of Washington. Granted, there is the underlying tacit acceptance that access is also a potential benefit, but it's vastly blown out of proportion by editorials such as Massinon's. As I said before, in addition to the relatively small size of Iraqi production, American access would not be assured by a war. It could have the opposite effect and policy makers know this very well.

It is precisely that Iraq does not exist in a vacuum that the US administration is concerned about the power the regime has. It is for this reason too that the UN is taking the issue of Iraq's behavior very seriously and is prepared under certain circumstances to go to war.

While re-reading the article, it seems to me like my emphasis wasn't quite as clear as it could have been. What I wanted to do, more than anything else, was to critise the American government for the messages it is sending out to justify a war in Iraq.

First, and shortly after 9/11, the message was the existence of a direct link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. Next, we heard of Iraq as a threat to the U.S. Following that was the case of UN treaty-breaking. Now, we're starting to hear about human rights violations by Hussein.

Now, I still think that the American gov't is motivated by economic improvement, but what I regret not stressing more was the fact that nobody will admit it. I also think that oil is not the only reason why the Americans want to go to war, just the main one. If they had a better motive, wouldn't they just come out and say it?

Stephane

More anti-american rhetoric. But then, should I expect anything different from a university's student newspaper? Remember Concordia and the speech the Israeli minister was to give but was silenced by radical pro-palestinian demonstrators? Hardly free speech, but I digress. Anyway, I believe that the house of Saud is a greater threat to peace in the region than Saddam Hussein. Saudi Arabia has quietly condoned the spread of militant islamist jihad-based movments all the while playing the friend to the US. The social conditions in Saudi Arabia are not far removed from those under the Taliban (remember that the Taliban was a largely foreign group comprised mainly of Arabs). Many of these militant islamic groups and most of the dictatorial governments (including Iraq whose leader has funneled money to the families of the suicide bombers, and Al Queda whose leaders have used the Palestinian cause as a justification for Al Queda's actions) in the region use the palestinian cause as a rallying cry for their own adjenda to spread militant Islam (the goal being to set up hard-line Islamic states like the Islamic Repubic of Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban) and to attack or silence all those who whould oppose them and/or their goals such as Israel (remember that Israel is the only democracy in the region besides Turkey}, the United States, and the silent majority of moderates in the Islamic world. Or what about that other Axis of Evil country, Iran. They have recently been cracking down on student protest. I didn't hear all you leftists out their in large protests ouside the Iranian embassy, but you are quite happy to protest outside the American embassies and consulates when it suits you. Oh, I forgot, you conveniently forget about pro-democracy protest when the country involved is closer to the current left-wing ideological fad of the day. You lefties are all alike, you pick your causes with all the anti-American vitriol you can muster without really looking at the cause you are supporting. But then, I digress once again. Ta Ta for now, you peace-loving workers and peasents of the Student Union. Oh, I forgot that was the Soviet Union, oh well, same dif.

Mike,
I think you have our editorial board confused with someone else. James is likely the most left-leaning editor, and that's only relative to the rest of us.
As a whole, the staff here (at least the editors) tend to be more right-leaning, we just don't all have time for opinion columns. Don't judge the paper as a whole based on one writer.