" "We may well live in the age of the so-called `smart bomb,' but the horror on the ground will be just the same as that visited upon the villagers of Guernica ....

"Innocent Iraqis — men, women and children — will pay a terrible price. And it won't be possible to pull a curtain over that." "


Published on Saturday, February 8, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
New Iraq Report: Yes, Tony, There is a Conspiracy
by Jacob Levich

Here's the prewar zeitgeist in a nutshell: In a widely reported January 16 speech, Tony Blair proclaimed that the impending invasion of Iraq "has nothing to do with oil, or any of the other conspiracy theories put forward."

One week later, Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quietly passed word to Russia and France that their countries will be frozen out of staggeringly lucrative postwar oil contracts unless they roll over and endorse the US attack.

Yes, Tony, there is a conspiracy, in the dictionary sense of the term: an agreement among people to perform a criminal or wrongful act. It consists, not of a tiny cabal, but of the whole of the American power elite, from politicians to business executives to journalists. It has everything to do with oil. But it is not secret.

The conspirators know they can count on the uncritical support of the mass media. Therefore knowledge of their cynical motives and thuggish tactics can be made available in journals and other specialized fora, all but invisible to most Americans but accessible to the few with sufficient time and inclination to dig beneath the headlines.

Building on that knowledge, a Mumbai-based independent think tank has now anatomized the conspiracy behind the coming war and issued a truly comprehensive explanation of the current global crisis.

Behind the Invasion of Iraq, the startling new book-length report authored by the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE), synthesizes the seemingly disparate threads of the US war drive in what amounts to a blistering indictment of American foreign policy. The report (available on the Web at www.rupe-india.org) is lavishly documented and jargon-free; the effect, especially for readers with limited understanding of global commerce and finance, is of puzzle pieces clicking decisively into place.

The RUPE report wholly confirms the widely-held view of the coming war as a massive oil grab, "on a scale not witnessed since the days of colonialism." Further, the current debate about arms inspections and alleged links to al-Qaeda is revealed as pure political theater, since the decision to invade Iraq was made months ago.

But seizure of Iraq's multi-trillion-dollar petroleum reserves is only the immediate goal, the report shows. RUPE's rigorous analysis of publicly available sources -- including official documents, think-tank papers, and press reports -- reveals that the US intends to use the invasion of Iraq as a launching pad for a drastic reshaping of the Middle East, to be followed by an unprecedented expansion of US power worldwide. The strategic trend of US foreign policy now points unmistakably towards global empire.

To be sure, an imperial project on so ambitious a scale entails big downside risks for the US, including staggering costs, military hazards, and the disruption of global "stability" (i.e., the dearly-bought loyalty of US allies and client states.) But the American Establishment seems prepared to go for broke, and its enthusiastic consensus behind a naked war of conquest cannot be explained solely by the "cowboy mentality" that some detect in the White House.

What's really at stake -- and this will come as no surprise to leftists -- is US control of global markets. The report reveals that the US economy is now facing a nightmare scenario: A crisis of overproduction has crippled US GDP, resulting in monstrous trade and budget deficits, even as a potentially disastrous deflationary spiral appears to be under way worldwide.

Meanwhile, superpower rivals Europe, Russia and China are mounting a vigorous challenge to US economic preeminence, which is further threatened by the euro's emergence as a credible alternative to the dollar as global reserve currency. (All this is exhaustively detailed in the RUPE report, which draws its most telling evidence from the mainstream financial press.)

In this context, the US sees confiscation of the world's richest oil-producing regions as a magic bullet. While securing its own access to petroleum supplies for the foreseeable future, it can simultaneously defend dollar hegemony and restructure Middle East markets for the exclusive benefit of US-based corporations.

Which brings us to the crux: Direct American control of oil would render any potential challengers for world or regional supremacy perpetually dependent on US forbearance. In RUPE's words, "once it has seized the oil wells of west Asia the US will determine not only which firms would bag the deals, not only the currency in which oil trade would be denominated, not only the price of oil on the international market, but even the destination of the oil."

RUPE’s argument here is powerful but complex, and this summary is necessarily an extreme oversimplification. But the overall thrust is quite clear: The US invasion of Iraq needs to be understood not as an end in itself but as the means to an end -- the foundation of a New American Empire.

Needless to say, you won’t catch Tony Blair owning up to the war’s real purpose as he flogs it to a skeptical public. But the truth, or something pretty close to it, is now readily available to anyone who cares to look.

Jacob Levich (jlevich@earthlink.net), a writer and editor based in Queens, N.Y., assisted RUPE in researching Behind The Invasion of Iraq -- which is a fancy way of saying he forwarded several hundred articles to an email address in Mumbai.




Published on Sunday, February 9, 2003 by the Toronto Star
The Lessons of Guernica
'Profound symbolism' as U.N. hides Picasso's anti-war masterpiece for Colin Powell's call to arms
Bush's `game over' remark makes it definite: U.S. will attack
by William Walker


UNITED NATIONS—On the second floor of the United Nations building in Manhattan, just outside the Security Council entrance, hangs a seminal piece of 20th-century artwork that offers a graphic and chilling reminder of the horrors of war.

But as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sat down last week to deliver an historic speech about why America must go to war with Iraq, Pablo Picasso's Guernica was concealed by a large blue drape.

To twist an old axiom, those who ignore the horrors of history — or cover them up — are doomed to repeat them.

"The game is over," President George W. Bush declared, just 24 hours after Powell's presentation failed to sway doubtful U.N. Security Council members.

"Saddam Hussein will be stopped."

From the night of his State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, Bush and his administration have been turning the screws tighter and tighter, applying intense pressure on the U.N. to issue a second resolution authorizing war against Iraq and also leaning heavily on friendly nations like Canada to agree to join the military effort without U.N. backing.

But it wasn't until last week that it finally became clear to the world: Bush will go to war.

The president said as much, standing grimly in a White House briefing room alongside Powell, the one-time administration dove whose political stock has soared in Republican party circles for championing Bush's march to war.

To those who closely observe Bush, it comes as no surprise to be on the eve of war. Some even wonder how he held off this long.

"Recent visitors to the Oval Office are struck by the president's single-mindedness on this subject," says Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution think-tank and deputy secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration. "No matter what they come to discuss ... Bush brings the conversation quickly to Iraq and the urgency, as he sometimes puts it privately, of `getting this thing done.'"

Increasingly, Bush the 43rd president resembles Bush the 41st president, a man viewed as consumed by (oil-related) foreign policy while his country's economy foundered. Bush's father was defeated after winning the 1991 Persian Gulf War largely because Americans felt he ignored the country's economic woes.

With his countless warnings over recent months that "time is running out" for Saddam, and fear-mongering references to weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's ties to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on America, the younger Bush seems to many to be similarly obsessed with Iraq.

The president has reached "the point at which he feels he has heard enough of the arguments against what his instincts tell him he should do," Talbott says. "He understands that it is the consequence of a decision, not the rationale for it, that determines how it will be judged. He wants to end the debate with action and dispel the doubts with success."

That Iraq has bedeviled U.N. weapons inspectors, as Powell asserted at the U.N., should come as no surprise.

Saddam has toyed with Washington for more than a decade, at turns openly defiant and taunting, then suddenly graciously co-operative.

An example of the latter came after Saddam's congress voted unanimously last fall to ban the return of any U.N. weapons inspectors to the country.

Then, by "presidential decree," Saddam signed the order allowing inspectors to return.

According to Powell, Saddam has since hidden his biological and chemical weapons, placed the U.N. inspectors under surveillance, accused them of being American spies and denied them access to Iraqi weapons scientists.

Polls taken after Wednesday's U.N. speech show Powell's performance has moved more Americans to favor war with Iraq. Yet a determined minority is extremely opposed and offers the nuggets of a potential anti-war movement the likes of which haven't been seen since Vietnam.

Yesterday, Bush used his national radio address to hammer home the message on Iraq.

Today, he is dispatching both Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to the Sunday TV political shows.

This week, Bush will be arm-twisting world leaders by telephone and in person to join his campaign for "regime change" in Iraq — leading to Friday's climax, when chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix makes his final report to the U.N. Security Council.

With more than 125,000 American troops within striking distance of Iraq — including the famed 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" elite strike force — most Washington observers say the war will begin within 20 days of Blix's report.

When Powell completed his 85-minute presentation to the Security Council, he and its members walked out into the second-floor hallway and past the covered tapestry of Picasso's 1937 masterpiece, Guernica.

The tapestry was donated to the United Nations in 1985 by Nelson Rockefeller as a tribute to the international agency's mandate.

Picasso was living in Paris during the civil war in his homeland of Spain when Adolf Hitler agreed to help Gen. Francisco Franco's Nationalist regime.

Hitler sent his air force to bomb the small Basque village of Guernica in northern Spain.

In three hours of relentless bombing, 1,600 of Guernica's civilians were killed, many of them women and children.

It was the kind of atrocity the United Nations was created to stop.

And it's the kind of atrocity many predict will be repeated in Iraq when Saddam's soldiers hide among civilians in Baghdad and other cities, looking to sacrifice them in hopes of turning world opinion against an American-led military coalition.

The official reason Picasso's masterpiece was covered up? It hangs over the exact spot where Security Council members stop and speak before TV cameras. It was decided the violent anti-war images would not be the fitting backdrop for talk of a new war.

"It is, we think, we hope, only temporary," said Faustino Diaz Fortuny, a Spanish envoy whose government owns the original painting and shows it at a Madrid museum.

"It's only temporary. We're only doing this until the (TV) cameras leave," said Abdellatif Kabbaj, the chief U.N. media officer.

It wasn't the first time the lessons of art have been ignored as the Bush administration pursues its post-Sept. 11 war-on-terrorism agenda.

Attorney-General John Ashcroft threw a similar blue drape over the Spirit Of Justice statue last year at justice department headquarters to obscure a naked marble breast while he conducted a TV briefing. At the time, Ashcroft's FBI was arresting and locking up young Muslim men all over America, many on no criminal charges at all.

In the disbelief that clouded the minds of many in the days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, few could have expected such an unfolding of events: a war with Iraq that could spark wider war in the troubled Middle East; the emergence of North Korea as an "axis of evil" country threatening counter-attacks against America over its nuclear program; Bush's "strike first" pre-emptive military doctrine, now being eyed by countries like India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers.

Author Russell Martin was standing in a Madrid museum, viewing the original Guernica on the day terrorists struck America. He was researching his new book, Picasso's War.

Says Martin now: "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, and in his impatience with the U.N.'s global approach to disarming Saddam Hussein, George Bush leads a U.S. administration that appears to observers in other nations to be belligerent, utterly uninterested in dissenting perspectives and determined to make war at any price."

Still, those who support Bush argue that, if world leaders had stepped in and dealt with Hitler after he intervened in Spain's civil war, there might not have been a World War II.

They see parallels now in Saddam's 1991 invasion of Kuwait and the need to stop the Iraqi dictator before be regroups and resumes his alleged goal of dominating the Middle East.

More an art critic than a political one, Martin describes Guernica as featuring "a screaming horse which has fallen, pierced by a lance; a wailing woman holding a dead child in her arms; another woman, her clothes on fire, attempting to escape from a burning building; the severed head of a soldier.

"It spoke to the horrors that humans have visited on each other for millennia and, because of this, the painting began to symbolize war remarkably soon after its creation," he says.

"Guernica has become for people around the world visceral, visual evidence of the true nature of war, a perspective very unlike the heroic and optimistic one so often presented by politicians who have never seen war close at hand."

Laurie Brereton, an Australian Labour MP and U.N. delegation member, reflected on the draped-over Picasso after Powell's Wednesday speech.

"There is a profound symbolism in pulling a shroud over this great work of art," she said.

"For throughout the debate on Iraq ... there has been a remarkable degree of obfuscation, evasion and denial, and never more so than when it comes to the grim realities of military action.

"We may well live in the age of the so-called `smart bomb,' but the horror on the ground will be just the same as that visited upon the villagers of Guernica ....

"Innocent Iraqis — men, women and children — will pay a terrible price. And it won't be possible to pull a curtain over that."

Copyright 1996-2003. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited



Published on Sunday, February 9, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Only Human
by David Potorti


As I write, it's February of 2003, and the United States is preparing for a short, decisive battle in Iraq. But in February of 1945, the United States was preparing for another short, decisive battle. It was to take place on a small island in the South Pacific called Iwo Jima. Iwo was a critical step in our nation's wartime advance toward Japan--a nation which at the time had brutalized its own people, its neighbors, and our own territory of Pearl Harbor. Though the island was small, it was heavily fortified by the Japanese, who knew well in advance that its control was a strategic necessity for the Allies.

Nevertheless, some in the U.S. predicted a short battle--lasting from 72 hours to four days--to secure the territory. Others predicted heavy U.S. casualties--an estimated 15,000 service people--and were ridiculed. They were wrong on both counts. Iwo Jima took 26 days to secure. And there were 25,851 Marine casualties in that battle, only one battle out of the countless battles of World War II. Those are the recollections of William Manchester, in "Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War," published in 1979. Manchester was himself a Marine who saw combat on Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

Rather than being a walk in the park, Manchester writes, "The deaths on Iwo were extraordinarily violent. There seemed to be no clean wounds, only fragments of corpses. It reminded one battalion medical officer of a Bellvue dissecting room. You tripped over strings of viscera fifteen feet long, over bodies which had been cut in half at the waist. Legs and arms, and heads bearing only necks, lay fifty feet from the closest torsos. As night fell, the beachhead reeked with the stench of burning flesh."

I’ve been thinking about Iwo Jima these days because my father, a Fourth Division Marine, was there. Because he lived long enough to see his firstborn son, my brother, die at the World Trade Center on September 11. And because I watched the Space Shuttle Columbia return in a fireball to earth, instantly turning joyful reunions into unimaginably traumatic losses. I know what those people are feeling, and it is almost too much to bear.

What I’m thinking about are not military briefings, or ceremonies of commemoration, but human bodies. I remember early reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center in which eyewitnesses remarked, "it’s raining human beings." I remember descriptions of shoes--hundreds of them--falling out of the sky. Of arms and legs and hands landing on sidewalks, news photographs of them quickly censored by mutual agreement as being too depressing for readers to bear.

Now I'm reading reports of the shuttle explosion, and of a mother in Texas with three sons, ages 4, 6 and 8, who were riding in an all-terrain vehicle when they came across the charred leg of one of the shuttle astronauts. Of the woman’s neighbor, who found a badly disfigured torso, including the head, in her backyard. And of another man who found a human torso in the middle of the road. It’s raining human beings again.

One can argue that war, terrorism and accident, while producing the same outcomes, are not morally equivalent. But the common aftermaths illustrate something terribly important about the human condition. They serve as a reminder that in the end, we are only human beings: fragile, transitory, and short-lived. That even with the best of intentions, and the best of technologies, things do not always go as planned. And that, ultimately, the control we pretend to have over our destinies--a year from now, five minutes from now-- is an illusion.

In the end, it’s a humbling experience--or at least, it should be--to remember that every bomb we drop on Iraq is going to be a World Trade Center. That children who witness terror and death are changed by them forever. And that to those doing the dying, the mechanism, motives and circumstances of their deaths are irrelevant. They’re still human beings. And they’re still dead.

It’s a humbling experience.

Or at least, it should be.

David Potorti is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (www.peacefultomorrows.org).