27 March 2003 Edition
Thousands protest across Ireland
BY JOANNE CORCORAN
'Bertie Iscariot, you betrayed us all,' screamed one banner at Dublin's Anti-War protest on Saturday. The protest was just one of many that took place throughout Ireland last week, when thousands of people demonstrated and marched against the invasion of Iraq.
Protests kicked off in Dublin on Thursday, when hundreds of people waited outside Leinster House to hear the result of the Dáil debate on the use of Shannon Airport for US warplanes. As the government showed its lack of respect for the public, defending the airport's use, insults were thrown inside and outside Leinster House.
Emotions were running high and Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, bore the brunt of demonstrators' frustration when he tried to make a break for Buswell's hotel. The protestors blocked his way, repeatedly shouting 'shame' and one protestor daubed red paint on his suit.
Fianna Fáil Senator Terry Leyden also got the red paint treatment as tensions rose between the protestors and the Gardaí.
At 12 noon, a ten-minute work stoppage, backed by SIPTU, was observed at hundreds of workplaces across the country, including the Civic Offices in Dublin.
On Thursday night, over 2,000 Dubliners gathered outside the US Embassy at Ballsbridge. Along with the political party speakers, which included Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh, members of Americans Against War and a young Muslim girl addressed the crowd. Ó Snodaigh told the crowd that Seamus Brennan had been to Baghdad in 1988 to negotiate a beef deal, months after the Kurdish massacre. He criticised the government's decision to defend the use of Shannon Airport for US warplanes.
After an hour, the protest moved down to the British Embassy, where Gardaí in riot gear waited inside the gates. The protest remained peaceful, denying the Gardaí a chance to act, and those present sat on the road and listened to John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance.
Saturday's protest in Dublin was the largest of the week. Over 10,000 people gathered on Dame Street and marched to Leinster House. Red paint was thrown on government buildings as the march stopped outside to shout protests.
Roger Cole of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, using a parody of the US president's words, said he was 'shocked and awe-struck as the parents of Iraq sat huddled with their children as 3,000 missiles rained down on then for the purpose of liberating them".
Meánscoil Feirste make their point in Belfast
Up to 5,000 people marched to City Hall in Belfast on Saturday. An air-raid siren rang out as a reminder of the constant bombing raids on Baghdad. The crowd waved Palestinian flags, and placards denouncing President Bush and Tony Blair as 'international terrorists.
Unionist demands that such protests should be cancelled on 'patriotic grounds' were strongly rejected by the crowd.
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said the citizens of Belfast, like others across the world, must become the voice of the Iraqi people, who had no voice. He added that nobody believed that this was a moral war or that the coalition was interested in the welfare of ordinary Iraqis.
Hundreds of protest letters over the government's position on Shannon Airport were posted to the offices of cabinet member Eamon Ó Cuiv, during a mile-long anti-war march through the city on Saturday.
Nuria Dunne, an Iraqi citizen living in Galway, spoke of her fears for her fellow Iraqis as they are bombarded by US and British weaponry. Daniel Callanan of Sinn Féin criticised the fact that 'none of the government backbench TDs had the bottle to disassociate themselves from the US war machine
On Monday morning, the Galway Alliance Against War held a two-hour funeral ceremony outside the constituency offices of local Fianna Fáil Minister Eamon Ó Cuív to mark, they said, the death of the de Valera and Frank Aiken tradition of Irish neutrality and independence.
A spokesperson for the Alliance said that the minister's office was the only focal point in the city to express people's deep shock and anger at the betrayal of Irish neutrality.
On Thursday, 4,000 students and staff turned out to display their abhorrence at the continued use of Shannon airport by the US military.
Minister for Health Micheál Martin had his Cork city centre constituency office occupied by anti-war protestors on Saturday in a 'peaceful act of civil disobedience'. A large protest march started at 1pm at Daunt Square and proceeded down Grand Parade, returning to Patrick Street, where the protesters staged a 20-minute sit-down, blocking traffic on the city's main thoroughfare.
The leader of the group that occupied Martin's office said that a heated exchange took place with the minister, but added "he is part of a cabinet that took a decision to allow US war planes refuel at Shannon, and that to us is not acceptable.
"This government has dragged Ireland into complicity in the slaughter of Iraqi people."
On Sunday afternoon, 30 anti-war activists were refused access to Shannon Airport after walking 53 miles from Galway over two days. The Peace Camp was re-established over the weekend and Jimmy Brosnan of the Tralee Anti-War Group said: "We are doing this to re-focus the attention on Shannon being used as part of a massive war machine."
Sligo's streets closed to traffic on Saturday, as over 1,000 people participated in a protest march throughout the town. Led by a samba band, the march ended at the Town Hall, where an open air protest was addressed by trade union members, Palestine Solidarity campaigners and activists from the Sligo Women's Movement.
Millions swell anti-war protests
Anti-war demonstrators marched in cities around the world on Saturday 22 March, with over 200,000 attending protests in Madrid and New York and twice that in London, at just two days notice.
In Britain there were minor clashes between protesters and police and a small number of arrests. Police in riot gear were called into central London on the night of 22 March when anti-war protesters blocked Oxford Street after leaving a big rally demonstration in Hyde Park.
Demonstrators at the US base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire were forced back by riot police and officers, with about a dozen arrests reported, while in Glasgow 400 people were penned in on Sauchiehall Street for several hours by police, some on horseback, and two demonstrators were arrested for minor offences. There were also five arrests for minor offences at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, where US B52 bombers are based. The crowd laid flowers at the main gate for 'the death of democracy'; above them, eight more of the long-range bombers took off for Iraq in high sunshine. Rallies were also held in Tony Blair's constituency of Sedgefield, and in Manchester and Bristol.
Opposition to war in the United States is growing, and even the Oscars became an anti-war platform for many of those who won awards on the night of Sunday 23 March. Most prominent of threse was radical activist and filmmaker Michael Moore, who was deservingly but surprisingly awarded the Oscar for best documentary feature for his anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine. Concluding a passionate speech against the war, to a mixture of applause and booing from the Hollywood glitterati, Moore quipped about George Bush: "Any time you get the Pope and the Dixie Chicks afgaist you, your time is up."
In Los Angeles on Sunday, 20,000 anti-war demonstrators flooded the streets of downtown Hollywood and marched on CNN. Declaring that the mainstream media has let down the people of America, and by extension the people of the world, with its distorted coverage and biased pro-war commentary, the demonstrators held a rally at the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard. And what's a Hollywood event without stars: Eddie Vedder sang an a-capella song, while Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Oscar winning director Pedro Almodovar spoke to the overflowing crowd, declaring their solidarity with the international peace movement. At the end of the day, 78 people were arrested, 40 for non-violent civil disobedience in the Hollywood and Vine intersection, 38 as a result of police overreaction.
The previous day, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the United States. Marchers stretched more than three miles down Broadway in New York City. Unofficial estimates put the crowd at 150,000 to 250,000, while streets in the centre of San Francisco were closed for a third day as tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in front of city hall before marching through the city in a parade that extended the length of ten blocks.
The day closed without incidents, in contrast to the arrests of more than 2,100 people since Thursday 20 March in daily anti-war demonstrations in the city. Most of those arrested had simply staged anti-war sit-downs on San Francisco's main roads.
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday in cities in France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and other European countries.
In Spain, police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in the capital, Madrid, for the second day running. Around one million people took to the streets throughout Spain, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who has strongly supported the military intervention against Baghdad.
They included about a quarter of a million people who joined a peaceful march though Madrid, crying "No to war!" "Aznar resign!" and "Murderers!"
About half a million people demonstrated in the north-eastern city of Barcelona and tens of thousands more attended anti-war rallies in Valencia, Bilbao, Santander, Granada, Pamplona and Seville.
In Brussels, riot police tried to prevent protesters who hurled rocks and sticks at the US embassy from getting too close to the building, later using water cannon on a small number who split from the main protest.
Protests in the Swiss capital, Bern, were tense after police used water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas against a group of demonstrators.
In Athens, Greece, demonstrators outside the US embassy threw two Molotov cocktails onto the embassy lawn.
In Sudan, anti-riot police reportedly shot dead a 19-year-old university student during a protest in the capital, Khartoum.
In Asia, the largest demonstrations were in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, but only a few thousand people took part, some burning US flags and photos of George Bush. "Fight back, Americans are killers," protesters chanted outside the US embassy in Jakarta.
Protests continued for a second day in the Middle East after violent anti-US clashes on Friday 21 March. Riot police used tear gas against some 200 high-school students who threw stones near the US embassy in Bahrain. Some 5,000 students gathered at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, calling on Arab nations to send troops to support Iraq. In Yemen, three people were shot dead and dozens injured as police clashed with demonstrators attempting to storm the US Embassy.
In the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, 50,000 protesters marched through the streets, some chanting 'God is great' while others burnt effigies of the American president. The chief cleric of India's biggest mosque, the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, led more than 4,000 Muslims in a march through the capital.
In Afghanistan, about 1,000 people demonstrated in Metalam, the capital of Lagman province following the decision of their government to back the military action.
In Australia, whose government has deployed about 2,000 military personnel to the Gulf, demonstrations continued for a third day on Sunday 23 March. In Sydney, traffic was bought to a standstill by about 30,000 people blowing whistles and banging drums. In the capital Canberra, about 5,000 people assembled in front of parliament to scatter flower petals in the shape of peace signs and to encourage drivers to "honk for peace".
In Argentina, marches took place in the main cities, like Rosario and Córdoba. In the capital, Buenos Aires, a thousand people marched to the US embassy, where they were confronted by the police, who used rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas.
Biggest threat to Irish neutrality is government's own policy
Speaking during a debate in the Dáil on the EU Council statement on Iraq on Tuesday, Sinn Féin spokesperson on International Affairs, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that "the biggest threat to Irish neutrality today is this government's own policy.
"The EU Council and indeed this government may be more comfortable talking about a mop-up job, but the war is still on and people are dying. The role and responsibility of this Government is at issue, and I am not bothered if it makes the Taoiseach squirm to be pinned down as to his position."
The Dublin South Central TD said: "This government has brought shame on the Irish people with its support for this illegal war. This government should have done the right thing when it was on the UN Security Council, and it should be doing the right thing in both the UN and the EU now by joining with France, Germany, Belgium, the neutral states, and others the world over to press for a diplomatic solution based on UN primacy.
"Nowhere is the contrast between what this government should be doing and what they are doing more apparent than when we compare this government's policy on the use of Irish airports and airspace with that of the other European neutrals. Ireland is now the only supposedly neutral state actively cooperating with the US war effort.
"Not only has this government auctioned Irish foreign policy off to the highest bidder, it has kept its head down, and talked out of both sides of its mouth for fear that its real position and agenda will become known to the Irish public.
"But the Irish public has noticed that Ireland is conspicuously absent from any EU-related list when war positions are being spelled out. We're not on the official hawk list. We're not listed with war opponents. We're not listed as acting with the other neutrals. Are we in fact on the list of 15 secret supporters? If so, the Irish public and members of this House have the right to know this. We must have this answer today, and if it is true, we must also know under what conditions this support was offered and accepted. The secrets and lies must come to an end."
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern admitted in the Dáil that the Irish state is on that US list because of the use of Irish airports and airspace but he denied that the state formed part of the "coalition of the willing", a claim rejected by the Sinn Féin TDs.
Sinn Féin only party to back Kurdish self-determination
During last week's Dáil debate on the government motion pledging Irish support for the war on Iraq, it became clear that Sinn Féin was the only party willing to back the call for Kurdish self-determination.
The Sinn Féin deputies tabled a number of amendments attacking the government motion, including a clause supporting self-determination for the Kurdish people. While the opposition parties were unanimous in their rejection of the government motion pledging continued assistance to the US war effort through overflight and landing privileges, the surprise came when all the other opposition parties - including the Greens - abstained from supporting the Sinn Féin amendment on the Kurds. Only six independent deputies voted with Sinn Féin: Paudge Connolly, Jerry Cowley, Tony Gregory, Marian Harkin, Joe Higgins, and Finian McGrath.
A closer examination of the other parties' amendments explains this apparent anomaly. Without exception, the other parties called for "respect for Iraq's territorial integrity" - a formulation explicitly rejected by Sinn Féin in solidarity with the Kurdish peoples of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq and their struggles for self-determination and an independent Kurdistan.
The break-up of the Ottoman Empire after WWI, created a number of new nation-states, including Iraq - whose borders were drawn by a British civil servant - but did not establish a separate Kurdistan.
Britain divided traditional Kurdistan among neighbouring countries, which included Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Syria. The Kurds have suffered harsh treatment in most of these countries as they have tried to establish levels of independence.
In 1988, Saddam Hussein massacred 5,000 Kurds in the town of Halabja with poison gas and Turkey still refers to the Kurds as mountain Turks, denying them their identity. The Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, is currently waging a guerrilla war in South Eastern Turkey.
There are five million Kurds living in Northern Iraq and eight million living in South Eastern Turkey.
By not supporting Sinn Féin's motion, the other opposition parties have shown that it is not only the government that needs to be challenged for failure to recognise the Kurdish people's legitimate aspiration.
Adams - Bombing of Iraq is unjustified
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has described the bombing of Iraq as unjustified and says the only thing it will achieve is a humanitarian crisis and further destabilise the Middle East. He has called on the Dublin government to work with the UN to stop the war and to uphold Irish neutrality.
"This war is totally unjustified," he said. "Diplomatic efforts have not been exhausted. Moreover, the UN has been undermined as the work of the weapons inspectors was beginning to pay dividends.
"The Irish government has a strong role to play in this situation in seeking to bring an immediate end to the war and a return to diplomacy and dialogue. Granting permission for over-flights or landing at Shannon is no part of that.
"Sinn Féin is calling on people to mobilise against the war and join the protests which will be taking place in towns and cities throughout Ireland in the coming days."
War and words
BY LAURA FRIEL
An acceptable role for the Iraqi people has already been mapped out by coalition politicians and the media. It involves silently enduring the hardship and humiliations of a war conducted in their name but not at their request
"The problem with these people is that you can't believe anything they say," said US Sergeant Michael Sprague, bemoaning the apparent duplicity of Iraqi civilians in Nassiriya, a city along the river Euphrates the occupation of which has been declared a US and British military objective.
Sergeant Sprague was commenting on the fact that a young Iraqi detained and then released by the US military was later discovered in possession of a Kalashnikov rifle and cash to the equivalent of £500 in his father's home. Nathen's father, Said Yahir, had remonstrated with his son's American captors. "This is your freedom?" the farmer had demanded before declaring, "This is my life savings."
The altercation had taken place in front of a British media team and eventually Said and his son were released to return home, together with their money. Sergeant Sprague was a member of an invading foreign army waging what many people believe to be an illegal war.
In the pursuit of war, the US military had raided a home, arrested a son and confiscated the family's wealth and possessions but somehow the US soldier still felt he had a right to feel aggrieved. "You canít trust anyone," another US soldier told the media. "They smile at your face and then shoot you in the back."
Back home in the USA, Sergeant Sprague's President and his coalition partner, Tony Blair, had promised cheering crowds of grateful Iraqi civilians and happy-to-surrender Iraqi soldiers greeting American and British soldiers as liberators.
The template had been drawn from Second World War images of Allied soldiers entering Nazi occupied territory but there was one fundamental flaw.
Iraq is a sovereign state, not an occupied territory. As a sovereign state, Iraq is protected by international law and the institutions of the international community had already refused to sanction military action. Sergeant Sprague, like thousands of other US and British troops, had been in Iraq less than a week and clearly he already felt he wasn't fighting the war his leaders had promised.
Sergeant Sprague was slowly realising that many people in Iraq didn't really want him there, that ordinary Iraqis like Said and Nathen Yahir might actually resent foreign military occupation. Worse still, some might even resist. As the US Army secured bridges in Nassiriya, a few shots had been fired. The marines responded with aggressive house raids and searches. Sporadic sniping continued.
Later, after bodies of two US marines had been brought to Nassiriya hospital, American aircraft dropped cluster bombs on a residential area, killing ten civilians and injuring over 200. But the military tactic of collective communal punishment was doing nothing for American/Iraqi relations.
Mustafa Mohammed Ali told the British media that he had understood US forces would go straight to Baghdad to get rid of Saddam Hussein. "I don't want forces to come into this city. They started bombing Nassiriya on Friday but they didnít bomb civilian areas until yesterday. There is no room in the hospital because of the wounded. We don't want Saddam but we don't want them," said Mohammed Ali.
The media had already reported military engagements with 'civilian-clothed' paramilitaries but were quick to point out that these could not be identified as civilians taking up arms in defence of their country or community. These were 'political fanatics' and 'irregulars' who support Saddam's regime, the media told us. The logic was simple.
America and Britain had already declared that the Iraqi people were not their enemy. It is, therefore, inconceivable that the people of Iraq might see America and Britain as anything other than their friends and benefactors. Only a 'fanatic' would identify military invasion accompanied by aerial bombardment as an act of hostility.
And anyway, an acceptable role for the Iraqi people has already been mapped out by coalition politicians and the media. It involves silently enduring the hardship and humiliations of a war conducted in their name but not at their request; passively accepting the destruction of their homes and business, schools and hospitals, water and electricity supplies in exchange for a promise of 'humanitarian aid'; welcoming the opportunity to surrender to the invading forces and meekly accepting capture and detention; and finally, forgiving the maiming and killing of their children, family, friends and neighbours as inevitable, regrettable and ultimately insignificant 'collateral damage'.
Of course, the people of Iraq might be 'humanely' bombed into freedom from Saddam Hussein's regime, but there's no hope of democracy.
The US has already made it clear that it intends to impose one of its generals to oversee the governing of post-war Iraq. Despite this, the message to the Iraqi people is clear. It is all for their own good and it will be worth it in the end.
But as the British Guardian reported, "hopes of a joyful liberation of a grateful people by US and British armies are evaporating fast". But all was apparently not lost. According to the Irish Times, "a lot" of Iraqi soldiers were "surrendering gleefully, happily".
Meanwhile, the media was focusing on US outrage at footage of captured and dead American soldiers by Iraqi television. Some of the footage was later broadcast on Al Jazeera, the Arabian satellite TV station in Qatar.
Footage of five captured US soldiers was denounced by Donald Rumsfeld as a breach of the Geneva Convention, which indeed it was, but even the British press couldn't quite ignore their coalition partner's blatant hypocrisy.
Photographs released by the US government of shackled and prostrate suspected Al Qaida and Taliban prisoners captured during the war in Afghanistan appeared in the British media with the caption "look who's talking about international law and regulations". The same picture carried by the Mirror ran with the caption "what does the US expect when it treats POWs like this"?
The media pointed out that the decision to hold over 600 captives outside the US's domestic jurisdiction at a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay had been taken precisely to deny the prisoners legal protection.
"Earlier this month, when lawyers acting for 16 captives demanded a court hearing, the US court of appeals ruled that because Guantanamo Bay is not sovereign US territory, the prisoners have no constitutional rights," reported the British Guardian.
The paper went on to point out that the US has also refused to recognise them as POWs and implement the Geneva Convention. The USA is currently in breach of 15 articles of the third convention that includes the right of POWs to be held without being subject to coercion to secure information.
"One rule for them," wrote anti-war campaigner George Monbiot. "Suddenly the government of the United States has discovered the virtues of international law.
"It may be waging an illegal war against a sovereign state; it may be seeking to destroy every treaty which impedes its attempts to run the world but when five of its captured soldiers were paraded in front of the Iraqi television cameras on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld immediately complained," said Monbiot.
Meanwhile, the people of Baghdad had taken to the streets to protest, not as anticipated against their oppressor, Saddam Hussein, but in anger at their liberatorsí who were bombing their homes.
Crowds of citizens gathered, some carrying the coffins of the latest victims of the war, not members of Saddam's notorious Republican Guard but ordinary Iraqi civilians killed during the coalition's aerial bombardment of a city that is home to over 5 million people over 40% of which are children.
"We are not being given the full truth," wrote Brian Reade in the British Mirror. "We see screaming babies in ramshackle hospitals stripped bare of supplies by a dozen years of medicine sanctions and we despair at the lie that this war is a humanitarian mission to help stricken people.
"It wasnít supposed to be like this. The propagandists at Allied Command gave unprecedented access to journalists and camera crews in the hope of showing how merciful their mission was. But the many sickening sights we have seen have only strengthened the belief held by the majority of the world, that this is a futile and immoral attack on people who currently threaten no outsiders."
Within a week of the invasion, Iraqi civilian casualties of the war have already reached many hundreds but some newspapers persisted in reporting only the deaths and capture of American and British troops. "Allies feel the pain," was the front-page banner headline of the Irish Independent.
"As the coalition forces faced unexpectedly fierce resistance from well armed Iraqi troops and the official death toll rose to at least 34, the mood in London and Washington became increasingly sombre," wrote Tim Reid and Roland Watson.
"The human cost of war overshadowed the limited advances made by coalition forces on what one American general described as the toughest day of resistance." But the human cost to the citizens of Basra had to wait until page 10. "77 civilians claimed dead," said the headline at the bottom of the page.
The newspaper reported a further 366 Basra civilians as injured during cluster bomb attacks but was preoccupied by the "droves of Iraqi soldiers" surrendering to the coalition forces.
The photograph accompanying the article showed a small child, severely injured and most probably dying, her right foot hanging as a lump of mangled flesh and her body ripped and bleeding with shrapnel wounds, but the story ignores the image and remains upbeat.
"In orderly queues they lined up submissively to collect humanitarian rations from the Royal Irish Regiment soldiers, before sitting cross-legged in silent rows to tuck into Laughing Cow cheese spread, Heinz tuna steak, chicken luncheon meat, milk biscuits and honey with water, orange juice or banana milk shake to drink," wrote Terri Judd.
From outside Basra the British and American media reported a long predicted 'uprising' against Saddam Hussein's regime. Al Jazeera journalists who were actually reporting from inside the city rubbished the claims. The streets of Basra were quiet, they said.
But the failure of the Iraqi people to provide the media with images of rebellion in support of the coalition's objective of regime change had been considered so significant a setback that both the British PM and US Defence Secretary had felt compelled to explain.
Neither mentioned the fact that during the last Gulf War, the then US President George Bush Senior had urged the Iraqi people to "take matters into their own hands". But when a popular rebellion seized control of 14 out of 18 provinces controlled by Saddam, the American administration had panicked.
Popular revolutions are an anathema to US interests of control and extraction. During the last war, the US and its allies had encouraged rebellion only to draw back support and allow Saddam to defeat the rebels.
The Iraqis hadn't rebelled because they have been repressed by Saddam Hussein's "vicious regime", Donald Rumsfeld told the media, but "at some point their fear of him will be much less than their fear of us". The coalition had promised 'liberation' but they were delivering repression. To quote Sergeant Sprague, "the problem with these people is you can't believe a word they
Profiting from War
Send builders, guns and money
BY ROBBIE SMYTH
$53.4 billion for waging war, $7.8 billion for humanitarian relief, $1.4 billion for coalition allies. This was the price tag calculated by George Bush for the first weeks of his war on Iraq.
Waging war today is expensive, especially in an arena when each air-launched Cruise missile costs $1 million. This, however, is only the beginning of the total costs of the war in Iraq. This war is a complex economic process that is at its heart also a very unequal one.
The average annual wages of an enlisted soldier in the US armed forces who actually has to wage Bush's war is $25,400. The 120,000 combat troops who will put themselves in the firing line will be benefiting considerably less from this war than the executives in the defence, building, oil and other companies who will earn literally billions from the war in Iraq.
The war is a complex process because it's not just a case of going to war. The process includes the logistics of amassing of an army with massive naval, air and ground presence on the borders of Iraq. Then there is the bombardment, invasion and reconstruction of Iraq, not just in physical terms but also in terms of political and economic institutions.
War is also an important part of the US economy and government spending. In the years since George Bush took office, the US defence budget, the largest in the world, has grown by 23%. Bush is seeking another $17 billion increase next year, taking the budget to almost $380 billion.
Winning a war is also not just expensive but is a complicated business. Not only do you have to spend years developing new technology for your weapons, there are also many hours needed for picking stylish names such as MOAB, that's a 9.5 tonne Massive Ordnance Air bust Bomb. New weapon names have to roll off the tongue with the same slickness as the old reliables like Apache and Tomahawk. (It is nice to know that Native American culture has a contribution to make to the war). However the hawk brand is a bit overused. The US also a Globalhawk spy drone and the Nighthawk Stealth fighter.
Then there are the combat clichés. In 1991, we got "Desert Storm", "carpet bombing" and "collateral damage". This time around we have the "coalition of the willing" and "shock and awe", but "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is a bit lame. Being a superpower means it is difficult to get everything right.
For starters, there are all those billions invested in developing new battle technologies. The increase in technology is clearly visible in the new war in Iraq. Just 10% of ordnance dropped on Iraq in 1991 was so called 'smart bombs'. This time around, the figure is closer to 80%, so clearly the weapons industry in the USA and Britain has had a productive decade.
You also have to organise the logistics of arming, moving and feeding over 250,000 personnel, 1,100 aircraft, and six carrier battle groups, who could strike up to 3,500 points daily with missile attacks.
This, however, is only one aspect of the organising of the war in Iraq. There are much more important arenas to be included, such as ensuring the price of oil stays between $22 and $28 a barrel, that the stock markets maintain their new bull run and that the planning for distributing lucrative contracts rebuilding a post 'shocked and awed' Iraq continues interrupted.
COSTS OF THE COALITION
Then there is the important work of keeping the 'Coalition of the Willing' on board, and this means splashing around the dollars. The billions needed to buy allies for the war on Iraq are mounting and that's even before you count up the $6 billion for Turkish assistance.
There must be wistful thoughts in the Pentagon for the heady days of October 2001, when it only took $70 million in cash to pay off the Aghani tribal leaders. Bush's war cabinet was told at the time: "You can't buy an Afghan, but you can rent one." Already this week, George Bush has asked Congress for $1.4 billion for coalition allies.
COSTS OF RECONSTRUCTION
While US weapons manufacturers might be lining their bank accounts, so too will some US builders. The US based Council on Foreign Relations estimates the annual reconstruction costs in post war Iraq at $2.5 billion. It is no wonder then that a queue of US companies is forming to help rebuild the damage done by US and British forces.
British officials put the cost of reconstruction at up to $7.95 billion. In recent weeks it was revealed that the Bush administration had moved a step beyond estimates and was awarding contracts worth $900 million to five US and international construction companies.
One of the companies, Bechtel, has board members who served in the Reagan administrations, while US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld represented the company on a pipeline project it was tendering for in Iraq in 1983.
Bechtel is also apparently named, along with 24 other US companies, as having provided aid and expertise to Iraq. The details are in the 12,000-page report given by the Iraqi government on its biological, chemical and nuclear technology programmes to the UN arms inspectors. So it seems that they will profit in war and peace.
US Vice President Dick Cheney was once chief executive of a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil and gas exploration, development and services company that is also on the $900 million contract shortlist. Over the last two years, 89% of Halliburton's political donations went to the US Republican Party.
So where does this long and winding road end? Well, enter the Adam Smith institute in Britain, which believes the overthrow of Saddam will lead to "long-term political and economic stability". There will, of course, be a "robust private sector" as part of this. It seems that some of the US companies won't be going home for a long long time. It is surely no coincidence that next to Saudi Arabia, Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves.
Air launched cruise missile $1 million
Tomahawk cruise missile $575,000
M1 Abrams tank $4.3 million
Apache Longbow Helicopter $14 million
M270 Rocket Launcher $2.3 million
B52 Stratofortress £30 million
F-15 Eagle $35 million
Nighthawk Stealth Fighter $45 million
Hawker Harrier $21.6 million
Challenger Tank $4 million
Iraq and Beyond
The Nation magazine is one of the leading progressive intellectual voices in the United States. The following was its editorial view as the war on Iraq got under way last week
The Bush Administration has launched a war against Iraq, a war that is unnecessary, unwise and illegal. By attacking a nation that has not attacked us and that does not pose an immediate threat to international peace and security, the Administration has violated the United Nations Charter and opened a new and shameful chapter in US history. Moreover, by abandoning a UN inspection and disarmament process that was working, it has chosen a path that is an affront not only to America's most cherished values but to the world community. The UN did not fail; rather, Washington sought a UN imprimatur for a war it had already decided to wage and scorned it when the Administration couldn't get its way.
To justify the war, the President has invoked the doctrine of "preventive" war, under which the United States is to be the sole judge of that doctrine's legitimacy and application. Thus, the war is about more than Iraq; it is about the character of our society and the international order in which we live. The Administration hopes that a quick victory will not only silence critics and confer an ex post facto legitimacy on the war but also give momentum to its larger political agenda. But even if there are minimal casualties and devastation, that will not justify overturning international norms developed over 60 years. Nor can it legitimise a worldview that will make Americans the target of international outrage and make the world less secure.
Americans will soon be forced to confront the question of who is to pay for what is about to unfold. The White House has withheld from Congress and the American people the true political, humanitarian and economic costs of the war and of the occupation that is to follow, but even by the most modest estimates, they will be staggering. In addition to lost lives in Iraq and ruptured friendships around the world, they include grave domestic damage; by adding $200 billion or more in war-related costs to the cost of his tax cuts for the wealthy, Bush has signed a death warrant for many social welfare programs and damaged our society for years to come. The costs also include the renewed threat of nuclear proliferation from countries, including North Korea, fearful of leaving themselves without a deterrent to US aggression.
Another issue that must be confronted is the postwar agenda in the Middle East. Already hawks are arguing that the United States should use a conquered Iraq as a base for increased military pressure on Iran and Syria, with the goal of further "regime change." If the Administration chooses this course, it will put the lie to its rhetoric about bringing democracy to the region. Instead, it must work cooperatively with the European Union, Russia and the UN to dismantle Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and bring about a viable Palestinian state.
If we are present at the creation of a new American empire, we are also present at the creation of another superpower - the largest, most broadly based peace and justice movement in history, a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe. In America, in the weeks and years ahead, this movement confronts several historic challenges. In the long term it must build an alternative foreign policy and sustain its dedication to a nonimperial future. In the short term it must organize to remove the Bush Administration from office and elect new leaders dedicated to international cooperation and peace.
New World Disorder
In an article in the Spectator magazine last week, Richard Perle, a key advisor to President Bush, crowed over the incipient demise of the United Nations. The "myth" of world security attained through international consensus and cooperation, he wrote, was dead and buried
At the end of the Cold War, George Bush Senior proclaimed the advent of a "new world order". In 2003, we face the reality of world disorder as American unilateralism undermines the arrangements that have maintained international stability since 1945. As American and British forces crossed into Iraq last week, we all stepped into dangerous and unknown territory.
For 50 years after the Second World War, international relations were based on the principles of multilateralism and mutual deterrence. A web of international organisations and treaties increasingly bound states in relations of mutual co-operation and dependence. The collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed one pillar of the international order - mutual deterrence - and left America the sole remaining superpower. Now the superpower has set aside the principles that international conflict should be avoided if at all possible, and that military intervention in a sovereign state is legitimate only if approved by the international community through the Security Council of the United Nations. The decision by America and its allies to invade Iraq without a mandate from the UN has undermined the authority of that body, perhaps fatally, and set a dangerous precedent. The UN has many flaws, but it remains the best hope for a world order built on law rather than violence. By openly disavowing the UN and its procedures, America has replaced the rule of law in international relations with the rule of force.
This is no accident, but a deliberate decision by the right-wing ideologues who have American foreign policy in their grip. In an article in the Spectator magazine last week, Richard Perle, a key advisor to President Bush, crowed over the incipient demise of the United Nations. The "myth" of world security attained through international consensus and cooperation, he wrote, was dead and buried. In future, "coalitions of the willing", like that invading Iraq, would deal with threats to world stability and peace. Such coalitions would intervene in places like Kosovo or Rwanda (given by Perle as instances where the UN failed to prevent genocide): they would also strike at "emerging threats" from states harbouring terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. This is the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive strikes against any state that Washington feels may one day pose a threat to American interests. It is a doctrine capable of limitless expansion, which might be invoked to justify almost any war America cared to launch. As the bombs falling on Baghdad go to prove, not only is the US prepared to go to war without the sanction of the United Nations; it is prepared to go to war on the slightest provocation and against the remotest threat.
The argument that waiting for international consensus means standing idly by while catastrophe unfolds would be more credible if we could trust the motives of the "willing". But American foreign policy has always been driven by interest rather than principle. Moralistic rhetoric is used to dress up policies shaped by more earthly motives. That is why the torture, the genocide, the rape, and the brutality perpetrated by the Iraqi regime did not prevent Saddam from being a valued ally of the West while at war with fundamentalist Iran in the 1980s, although today they appear as justifications for an invasion of Iraq. That is why America simultaneously fights to "liberate" the Iraqi people, and supplies Israel with weapons to suppress the Palestinians; why Israel can break UN resolutions with impunity, while Iraqi defiance calls down a holocaust on the heads of its defenceless people.
But what is most frightening about the American right is the utter contempt it shows for any country that dares hold a different opinion to the United States. France's diplomatic opposition to the rush to conflict has triggered manifestations of anti-French feeling in America that might seem excessive if the countries were at war. Before the invasion of Iraq, an American diplomat confided that Guinea would probably vote against a second UN resolution "on the advice of the president's witch-doctor".
Many Americans seem unable to conceive that there is any way but the American way; for them, the difference of other cultures is invariably a sign of backwardness and failure. Even "Old Europe", with its social market and its aversion to military conflict, is regarded with contempt. Bush and his cohorts are right-wing revolutionaries determined to re-make the world in the image of America. Their agenda goes far beyond defending the West against "terrorism" or "rogue states", to opening the entire globe for unlimited exploitation by free market capitalism. They aim to make the world safe, not for democracy, but for corporate America. What motivates them is the vision of a planet where everybody eats hamburgers, wears American clothes, watches American movies, slaves in American factories, and spends the money they earn on the latest in American consumer gadgetry - the vision of an American millennium, when the peoples of the earth are gathered beneath the golden arches of MacDonald's.
Even were their intentions of the best the unilateralism of the Bush White House is a recipe for disaster. Who will decide when a pre-emptive strike is justified? Who but the Americans themselves? And what court will call them to account?
Behind the rhetoric and spin, what Bush and his allies advocate is the rule of the strongest. Their policies amount to the replacement of international law by the law of the jungle. Deployed in aid of the political, economic and cultural domination of the world by American interests, the principles of unilateral action and pre-emptive strikes promise to unleash a spiral of violence whose end cannot be foreseen.
After Afghanistan and Iraq, who will be next? Iran? Syria? North Korea? Can even Europeans feel sure that if they act against American interests, the wrath of an enraged superpower will spare them? Under the shadow of American domination, hatred of the West will breed to hatch more Bin Ladens. No amount of bombs dropped abroad, no curtailment of civil liberties at home, will stop the attackers getting through. There will be more 9/11s.
The best hope for world stability and peace now lies in the mass politicisation of ordinary citizens in America and throughout the West. Presidential elections are less than two years away. Regime change in Washington might allow the genie of conflict Bush and Bin Laden have raised between them to somehow be charmed back into its bottle.
BY PAUL O'CONNOR