Statement on Iraq

13 August 2002

Statement on Iraq

President Bush is trying to concoct an effective method of warfare against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, euphemistically speaking of change in government. The consequences, however, will be immense. Primarily for the people of Iraq, but possibly for other countries in the Middle-East as well. On top of that, an attack without a proper casus belli will turn the entire international order upside down. Pleas to start a war against Saddam are short-sighted and irresponsible.

By Harry van Bommel, MP for the Socialist Party in the Netherlands

Ever since the terrorist attack on September the 11th last year, the United States have gone out of their way to find proof of Iraqi involvement in recent international terrorism. No such proof was found. Consequently the assumed production of mass destruction weapons was conjured up as justification for a preventive attack on Iraq. Former leaders of the UNSCOM inspection team, Butler and Ritter, disagree on whether Iraq has actually produced any mass destruction weaponry since the departure of UNSCOM from the country in 1998. The discussion seems of little importance, considering senator Rumsfelds statement that even Iraqi co-operation in weapon inspections will make no difference. US military forces will make Saddam resign. Thus the US are once again a gross embarrassment to the United Nations who – strongly suggested by the US, of all states – demanded weapons inspections, earlier.

People have been speculating on time and method of the attack since the beginning of the year. Like the roman senator Cato once claimed that all would be well after destruction of Carthage, in present time George Bush’s magic spell to exorcise evil boils down to the ’replacement’ of Saddam Hussein. Only a change in government will put an end to the hostilities between the United States and Iraq, or so he claims. It is true that not many tears will be shed over the departure of the cruel dictator Hussein. But decapitation of the Bagdad-regime will not automatically lead to stability in the Middle-East or the liberation of Kurds in Northern Iraq. Previous military operations have shown that the US government cares little or nothing about the fate of the Kurdish people and even stood aside to watch Saddam commit genocide on the Kurds, using chemical weapons. There is little reason to believe that this time America will care for a future for the Kurds. After all, this could seriously jeopardise the relationship with Turkey.

A more plausible explanation for Bush’s warlike rhetoric is the failing of the economic boycott Iraq has suffered the last eleven years. Saddam and his regime of murderers are barely affected by the sanctions, while millions of people have fled or died of poverty and starvation. According to UNICEF, at least 400.000 children have died needlessly. Needlessly as the boycott denied them food and medicine. Many elderly met the same fate. As a result, the total sum of lost lives meets the number of casualties from the Iran-Iraq war from 1980–1988. This dramatic failure however, can only light a candle to the many innocent victims who will fall in a war that will set the entire region on fire. Opponents of this disastrous policy should speak up now. For if they hold their speech, chances are that the US will once again start their own personal crusade, making all NATO-allies their accomplices. The French president Chirac and the German chancellor Schröder have unambiguously rejected this war. The European Union remains alarmingly silent.

Like in the war with Afghanistan, the United States have already set their eye on a worthy successor of Saddam. Out of sixty highly ranking officers that have fled Iraq in the last fifteen years – and who are to form a new governing body – they selected Nezar al-Khazraji, former commander of Iraqi ground forces. This general, who currently resides in Denmark, is not your average Iraqi. Danish human rights organisations discovered to their horror that Nezar al-Khazraji was responsible for the so-called ’Anfaal’ operations against the Kurdish people in 1988. This operation consisted of eight individual attacks with chemical weapons. A Danish human rights committee wants Al-Khazraji to stand trial before a human rights tribunal. This man, of all people is who the Bush-administration has selected to lead the yet to be formed governing body in Iraq. By choosing war criminal Al-Khazraji, Bush shows that self-interest rather than local democracy or respect for human rights, are the leading motive.

The Dutch Socialist Party is fiercely opposed to a new war in Iraq and urges the Dutch government as well as the European Union to speak up against the war rhetoric – and against the preparations for a war that are already being made – of the United States government. Of course, the key question is how else to replace a dictatorial regime, in an effective and legitimate way. Seemingly simple options like the military operations – variable from brief charges against Bagdad to full-blown war – in which the local opposition functions as ground forces and gets to receive the blows, offer no solution. Political isolation of Saddam however, combined with enforcing the autonomy of Kurds in Northern Iraq by offering economic support and diplomatic relations, will contribute to stability in the region. In such a political climate, the return of weapon inspectors will be made possible again. This is exactly what Foreign Secretary Colin Powell suggested, and with good reason. The European Union should speak up and support Powell in this matter if it wants to avoid an unprecedented blunder. It will strengthen the position of the United Nations and prevent excessive bloodshed. It would become my own national government – which is bound by constitution to promote international legal order – to persuade the EU to come to a similar point of view concerning the possible attack on Iraq. If the European governments do not speak up now, they’d better keep their mouth shut about human rights of the Iraqi people now and in the future.

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