End of the Peace Movement
The history of aggression and attacks against Iraq, with more than two million Iraqi people exterminated during the last 13 years, provides the main example to analyze what the peace movements of the West are about.
At the end of the Cold War Iraq was Chosen for U.S. Aggression
Let us remember that by 1990 the political landscape was fundamentally changed with the official end of the Cold War. The U.S. moved ahead quickly and forcefully with the aggression against Iraq in 1990/91, which caught the anti-imperialist and peace movements in serious contradictions.
The U.S. switched from supporting Iraq as a containment of the Iranian revolution to choosing it as the best target for assault. An example was to be created to show the will, resolve and ability of the leaders of 'New World Order' to use overwhelming violence and mass extermination to subjugate peoples. Their propaganda initiative focused upon demonization of the 'evil Saddam', the 'Hitler of Baghdad' who 'gassed the Kurds'. Confronted with this massive demonization campaign, a lot of people felt they had no 'good side' to support and tried to take some position 'in between' or 'above'.
Claiming Moral and Intellectual Superiority and Supremacy
We reserve for us the final say and therefor feel like have to either approve or disapprove the others. When, from our perspective and judgement, the attacked don't deserve our support, we basically approve or even demand intervention and aggression. From there, any clear position against U.S. and Western hegemony, expansion, power projection and enforcement is compromised and the discourse shifts toward against whom, when and how.
An estimated two million Iraqi people were exterminated since 1991, most through the UN sanctions, blockade and embargo, building upon the devastation caused by 88,500 t bombs exploding upon Iraq. We all watched, more or less silently, while our societies, in our name, committed mass extermination of Iraqi people.
For all of us not living in Iraq there was a simple decision to make between only two sides. Any avoidance to stand in uncompromised solidarity with Iraq only revealed the deeply rooted interventionist and missionary mind-set of those, who cannot simply respect the integrity, sovereignty and self-determination of other peoples.
In Reaction to the Conflict between Iraq and Kuwait in 1989/90
Most don't know much about the historical context and escalating conflict between Iraq and Kuwait throughout 1990. Not being aware of anything, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, came as a surprise and many of us reacted strangely. Suddenly , the colonial and imperial borders and state constructs became some kind of a positive thing to be protected and enforced under 'international law' by the 'international community'. Sanctions were accepted as a necessary or lesser evil and presented as a 'peaceful alternative to war'. Others were quick to declare the U.S. aggression as a 'war for oil' without ever doing much research into the oil market or development of resources.
Many, who never before cared about the Iraq-Iran war and even less about internal Iraqi politics, now felt they want to talk about how bad Saddam and the Baath regime is and that Iraq had used chemical weapons. And it became popular to say that Saddam was supported by the U.S. and CIA. Presented this way, President Saddam Hussein appeared as a CIA creation tyrannizing the Iraqi people. Such was the rationalization of a twisted position opposing the U.S. assault against Iraq, but also avoiding to stand in solidarity with Iraq.
I can't really understand why it was so difficult to stand clear against any foreign intervention into the internal affairs of Arab countries not threatening anyone else. And stay away from opinions about the government of Iraq, concentrating instead on fighting our own governments, injustice and oppression of our own societies.
Aggression against Iraq in 1991
The war aims were spelled out by Bush I in his address to the nation on August 8th, 1990.
Four simple principles guide our policy. First, we seek the immediate, unconditional, and complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Second, Kuwait's legitimate government must be restored .... And third, ... the security and stability of the Persian Gulf. And fourth, I am determined to protect the lives of American citizens abroad.
The U.S. managed to completely isolate Iraq politically and economically and the Coalition forces waged a massive bombing campaign against the defenseless country dropping 88,500 tons of bombs, killing some hundred thousand people in Iraq and leaving many more injured and sick. Moreover, the destruction caused by the bombing prepared the circumstances for the U.N. sanctions to be effective in generating mass suffering and extermination of Iraqi people.
After the capitulation of Iraq, the Bush Sr. government concentrated on maintaining the large coalition of countries against Iraq. To make the campaign a political success, the territorial integrity of Iraq needed to be preserved for the time being.
The coalition had not been easy to assemble and maintain. Pursuing a policy of regime change in Iraq was seen as incompatible with the goal of keeping the coalition. Iraq was in a spot with no exit and the beasts outside waiting for you to give up. The potential gains of invading and occupying Iraq seemed not worth the significant risks. This is why there was no open support for the insurgencies in Iraq after the official 'end of the war'.
When it became obvious that the Iraqi central government would regain control of its northern provinces despite all CIA efforts, many Iraqi Kurds would flee in fear of retaliative and punitive attacks. This was a welcome opportunity for the 'international community' to further interfere into the internal Iraqi affairs, do more bombing, impose a no-fly zone and create a U.N. protectorate in the Northern Provinces in clear violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq.
With the capitulation of Iraq and official 'end of the war' and 'liberation of Kuwait' the attention of the peace movement quickly disappeared. Meanwhile, the aggression against Iraq was continued unabatedly by promoting and supporting insurgency inside Iraq and the most comprehensive sanctions, blockade and embargo ever imposed upon any country. The sanctions were an integral and essential part of a long term strategy of aggression and warfare against Iraq.
The Iraqi People Resist
Nevertheless, Iraq recovered from the hell they have been bombed into and was able to prevent major epidemics and famine. Under conditions of forced nearly total isolation the Iraqi people restored basic services and rebuild key infrastructure quickly and as best as it could be done.
But despite their best efforts, the sanctions caused an ever increasing number of deaths. Spreading diseases had to be met with a health care system seriously damaged through bombing, and mostly without access to imported medicine and spare parts for equipment and repairs. Malnutrition and hunger were met with highly subsidized food baskets but food production could not be increased enough to prevent widespread food deficiencies. The problem was aggravated by the separation of the northern provinces from Iraq because it is the major grain producing region of Iraq.
Sanctions causing Economic and Social Devastation
The blockade of foreign trade proved to be a devastating force with most of the state revenues lost and legal imports largely unavailable. Hyper-inflation wiped out savings and income, impoverishing large parts of the Iraqi society while the capacities of the state to provide services deteriorated. Iraq was made a weak state like it happened to other countries like the DRCongo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, or Haiti. This had devastating consequences on the social realities with destructive practices like smuggle, fraud, corruption, theft, and violence proliferating. More and more children dropped out of schools being forced to work and live on the streets and people were dying in masses. These conditions finally forced the Iraqi government in 1996 to signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.N. thereby accepting UNSCR 986 (the so called Oil-for-Food scheme). It was a quite desperate effort of the Iraqi government to ease the suffering of its population.
Mass Extermination Ignored or Accepted
After 1991, very few organizations, groups and individuals continued to work to 'End the Sanctions and Stop the Bombing'. Trying to organize and put information out about the war crimes committed by the Coalition forces, the damage caused by Depleted Uranium, the mass extermination of Iraqi people through the U.N. sanctions.
Only after several U.N. reports (FAO , UNICEF ) hit the public in 1995 talking about the devastating consequences of the sanctions and thousands of Iraqi people and children dying every month, new and old organizations were (re)discovering the issue of the sanctions against Iraq. Again not willing to stand with Iraq, many of those were unhappy with the direction of the anti-sanctions movement at that time and began to undermine the integrity of our positions.
In 1995 as the call to end all sanctions and inspections in Iraq was gaining momentum, many activists mistakenly saw the Oil-for-Food deal seemed a realistic way to immediately end the suffering in Iraq. It turned out instead to be really a campaign to extend and continue the sanctions indefinitely.
Weapons Control Regime
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of weapons control frameworks - voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary weapons control agreements often result from a situation of a certain balance of military power among the countries involved. Another important factor is that none of the participants expects to gain any serious advantage by continuing armament in the areas under negotiation.
An involuntary weapons control regime is of a totally different kind. It is usually the dictate of victorious powers after capitulation, or based on agreement of all the major weapons exporters to stop selling certain weapons or isolating certain countries.
Anyway, the major point of a weapons control regime is it credibility. In the case of a voluntary agreement the very fact of the successful negotiations provides some initial trust, which can be strengthened by regular consultations, exchange of information or inspection teams and other trust building measures.
Iraq proves Failure of Concept
An involuntary weapons control regime cannot build on trust of any kind. The targeted country will try whatever it can to overcome the restrictions and reclaim its sovereignty. The credibility of the control regime therefor totally depends on the design of the regulations applied and the weakness of the targeted country. In the case of Iraq the control of its oil revenues and imports was the main source of credibility. Only to some extend could this control be substituted by rigid and intense weapons inspections (unconditional, unrestricted, where and whenever access). There was no way to maintain a credible weapons control and allow Iraq to regain its full sovereignty or even control over its revenues and development.
Indeed, is was a major and extremely important success of Iraq to prove that even the most intrusive weapons control regime ever practiced could not finally ensure that Iraq doesn't continue the targeted weapons programs.
Weak Iraq means De-stabilization of the Region
An important consequence of the forced disarmament of Iraq was the de-stabilization of regional balances of military power. Iraq was prevented from rebuilding its military forces and meet its needs of self-defense. There was not only the constant military threat and attacks by the U.S., Iraq was also facing threats and actual violations of its territorial integrity by Saudi-Arabia, Turkey and Iran. And Israel, the dominant military power and most aggressive country in the region, made no secrecy of its readiness and willingness to attack Iraq.
A military balance of power between the countries of the region could be a foundation for the development of peaceful relations and cooperation. But clearly the U.S. and Israel prefer military subjugation and domination.
Shift in U.S. Strategy against Iraq
Confronted with eroding support for the sanctions, suggesting a shift in momentum in favor of Iraq, the U.S. changed strategy during 1997. Iraq at this moment was militarily extremely weak and no threat to anyone. But could the involuntary weapons control regime imposed against Iraq ensure that the country was not rebuilding its chemical weapons capabilities and medium range missiles?
UNSCOM under Richard Butler was making clear that it had no intention to ever certify Iraqi cooperation and compliance with UNSCR 687 , endlessly looping through the same issues which could never be resolved. Iraq insisted that it had cooperated with UNSCOM and the IAEA and that the UNSC may in turn fulfill its commitments under UNSCR 687 paragraphs 21 and 22 and reduce or lift the sanctions. The U.S moved ahead with the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 signed by Clinton on October 31, 1998 . On November 12, 1998, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Tariq Aziz asked:
Is it international law to allocate $97 million to topple a national government? What does the American Congress and the American administration has to do with the government of Iraq? Why do they spend the taxpayers money to finance subversion in Iraq? Is there sincerity in dealing with the United Nations resolutions?
More Bombing: Operation Desert Fox
The U.S. launched Operation Desert Fox on December 16, 1998, to begin four days of massive missile and air strikes. CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni gave an idea about the scope of the operation at a DoD News Briefing on December 21st:
The operation involved over 30,000 troops, and 10,000 more outside of our area of responsibility who supported and alerted from bases virtually around the world. We flew over 600 sorties in four days. Over 300 of those were night strike sorties. Over 300 aircraft were involved in strike and support roles. Over 600 pieces of ordnance and 90 cruise missiles were delivered by these aircraft. Over 40 ships performed strike and support roles with ten of them launching over 300 TLAM missiles. Thousands of ground troops deployed to protect Kuwait and to respond to any counter-action. Hundreds of our Special Operations Forces troops also deployed to carry out their assigned missions.
The massive U.S. bombing campaign of December 1998 was causing some protests worldwide. But regular missile attacks and the constant bombing raids were not getting much attention at all in the anti-sanctions and peace movements of the DTS. Bombing was only worth mentioning in reference to civilian casualties. Who would care about killed Iraqi soldiers defending their country from attacking U.S. and British warplanes? And the bombing of air defenses, communication facilities, and other infrastructure seemed more or less accepted as legitimate military targets. After all, who cared still about the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq?
'Economic' and 'Military' Sanctions
Within the anti-sanctions movement we saw certain organizations and individuals promoting a concept of de-linking 'military' and 'economic' sanctions. There was acceptance of 'military sanctions' against Iraq, and therefor agrued that the movement concentrate only on the 'economic sanctions' harming and killing the Iraqi people. What this basically meant is to accept U.N.-U.S. intervention and interference into Iraqi sovereignty but disagree about the best way to do so.
The most absurd aspect of the de-linking is that 'military sanctions' never existed. The U.N. sanctions regime against Iraq was a comprehensive and integrated scheme using economic, political and military means to achieve its goals. No single part can be taken out and separated from the whole. Iraq was indeed forced to cooperate with an involuntary weapons control regime imposed upon it, which combined a wide range of measures to virtually ensure that Iraq will not be able to rebuild its military capabilities. An indispensable and key part of that regime was the tight and comprehensive control of Iraqi foreign trade including its export revenues. Other prominent aspects were space, air and ground based surveillance and monitoring operations, inspections, and bombing raids.
"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
We witnessed the efforts of certain U.N. sub-organizations, humanitarian NGOs and parts of the anti-sanctions movement going into the same direction of a humanitarian re-tuning of the sanctions, which would later become known as 'smart sanctions', which was the final effort of the U.S. to re-affirm and re-inforce the slowly eroding sanctions regime. In effect, the wolves in sheep's clothing among the anti-sanctions movement where really working together with the U.N./U.S. against Iraq.
It became popular among anti-sanctions activists to argue that the sanctions were not really targeting Saddam but the Iraqi people and had therefor failed. This argument at least implies some kind of agreement with the goal of removing President Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Again there was no disagreement about the goal but only about the means.
Within the anti-sanctions and peace movement the two central themes of the war propaganda against Iraq - demonization of the Iraqi government and imposed weapons control - were widely answered with a 'yes, but ...', slowly but surely undermining the very essence of the anti-sanctions movement. The effective diffusion and de-politicizing of our positions was the main outcome of the de-linking economic/military sanctions campaign.
Another Shift in U.S. Policy: Invasion and Occupation
Meanwhile, for Iraq, things were improving slowly but surely. Support for the sanctions was further eroding, causing an increasing willingness to break the sanctions and earn some extra profits. The first passenger flights were coming in during the fall of 2000. Iraq was promoting regional economic integration and had reorganized its trade focusing on other Arab countries. While the suffering and dying of Iraqi people continued, there were some improvements and hope.
These developments were forcing the U.S. into a decision. It was the openly declared policy of several successive U.S. governments to overthrow the Iraqi government. While the U.S. propaganda and CIA operations against Iraq had some success in fueling separatist attitudes in the northern provinces, they had completely failed to destabilize the Iraqi government, despite some hundred millions dollars spent on various groups of agents and mercenaries working for the U.S. After 12 years of ruthless aggression and devastating sanctions could it now be allowed that Iraq recover and reclaim some of its sovereignty?
Due to the steadfastness and determination of the Iraqi people and government, the U.S. had finally lost the political initiative and was facing defeat. There were not many options left at this point but to invade and occupy Iraq. The decision for invasion of Iraq was a consequent and conscious continuation of the struggle to re-colonize Iraq.
'Stop the War'
Faced with the plans of invasion and occupation of Iraq the major players of the U.S. peace movement made the decision to form a broad coalition to 'Stop the War'. Built upon a long list of conflicting positions and a history of working against each other, this coalition was created as a short-term emergency response for the sake of numbers on the streets. The obvious flip-side of that approach was a flattening of content and concepts to prevent internal conflict from escalating.
The government propaganda strategy was focusing upon two main themes directly targeting our weaknesses. The demonization propaganda was such a devastating success that most of the peace movement couldn't talk about Iraq without stating that they are against Saddam and the Iraqi regime. The WMD talk caught the peace movement even more in deep contradictions because we had demanded the abolition of ABC weapons all these years.
Mass Protest Ineffective
The peace movement found itself re-enforcing the main propaganda played out to sell the war by providing the argument that even the opposition agrees in principle with the goals of the government (remove Saddam and install democracy, control the armament of Iraq).
Mass protest for peace became a useless exercise in complaining about the means being used to achieve goals many of us basically supported. So did it happen that Reverent Jackson spoke at the large anti-war demonstration in Washington naming the 1991 assault a 'just war'. And we again had those saying 'Sanctions - Not War' (welcome back to 1990) or variations of that same theme like 'Give Hans a Chance' (see if UNMOVIC finds WMDs) and again the 'No War for Oil' (which reduces Iraq to its natural resources). But maybe most ridiculous and sad were the 'Peace is Patriotic' (U.S. and peace are a fundamental contradiction), 'Support the Troops' (supporting the war machine) and waving of U.S. flags (still 'Proud to be American'?).
U.S. Occupation and the Peace Movement
Again showing their cruelty and racist arrogance, those societies responsible for the extermination of more than two million Iraqi people and destruction of the countries infrastructure and environment, production and service facilities, shops and houses, now claim that Iraq needs 'help' and 'assistance' to overcome the 'humanitarian crisis' and 'rebuild the country'.
The suffering they inflicted upon the Iraqi people and destabilization of the Iraqi society is used to justify the continuation of their efforts to control development of Iraq and impose the Western Democratic schemes upon them. The reasoning goes that if you were for or against the invasion, stability and development must now be everyones goal.
And we now find many in the peace movement actually and openly supporting occupation. Just they are against U.S.-led occupation and want the U.N. to take over. I find this position most outrageous and disgusting given that the U.N. authorized assault of 1991 and the U.N. sanctions were the main means of mass extermination of Iraqi people. A clear message was already sent by Iraqi resistance forces on August 19, 2003 with the attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
Solidarity with the Iraqi Resistance
As it looks now, establishing security in Iraq and success with rebuilding means success for the occupation. De-stabilization, sabotage, casualties of occupation personal and Iraqi collaborators means success for the resistance. Occupation is a violent condition imposed upon a people, full of contradictions, humiliation and suffering.
The main goal of the U.S. occupation is to pitch Muslims against Muslims, Kurds against Arabs, tribe against tribe, to divide the resistence into adverse currents betraying and fighting each other. This strategy is supported by bombing raids, death squads, mass arrests and other collective punishment measures like house demolitions and elimination of income and subsistence sources. Unity of Iraqis against the occupation will be most important for the success of their resistance.
Having inflicted so much damage and suffering, we should refrain from and resist any further intervention into the affairs of Iraq and leave them alone. The Iraqi people will handle the problems they face by and for themselves and decide about their political structure according to their own culture, traditions and aspirations. Using their own resources they will rebuild and develop their own country in their own ways.
Failure of the Peace Movement
Iraq was only the most prominent of the countries attacked. Numerous interventions, attacks and occupations were launched since the end of the Cold War opened new perspectives for expansion. Other prominent targets of major military aggression were/are Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. And we saw a lot of other interventions and occupations, mercenary and proxy wars.
While the 'War' on Islam is in full swing, the DTS peace movements are hardly showing any solidarity with the attacked. There are no efforts really to end the 'war on drugs' and 'war on terror'. But even in those cases, when the peace movement organized protest, we failed repeatedly to stop the aggressions being committed by our societies. No one can honestly expect we may succeed in the future.
The hundred thousands saying 'No to War' are irrelevant as long as they are not disturbing the 'normal' and 'peaceful' functioning of their families, communities and workplaces. Mass protest as a democratic expression of dissent has very limited influence on public opinion in highly industrialized mass societies. It is futile to hope for a few seconds in the news of the major media companies and dream of becoming a majority one day. The intensity and depth of propaganda is simply overwhelming. And we know that when the propaganda machine fails, police forces, national guards and armies are standing by.
Within the rules and frames of the democratic order we cannot expect to end the aggressions and domination by our societies.
Conditions for Peace
Hundreds of years of European and U.S. plunder and theft, lies and fraud, interventions and aggressions, colonization and genocide, led us into a desperate situation without any signs of fundamental change of the mind-set and practice of these societies to end their domination and hegemony. Do we really expect the privileged people and their partners and beneficiaries to stand against the very order which makes them enjoy their piece of power and privileges?
Follow exploitation, destruction and death and we will always find the Western Democratic Societies deeply involved in creating and profiting. We find no willingness or ability to respect other peoples.
If the few highly industrialized societies continue to consume, waste and destroy much of the resources and living things, leaving all others with the rest to fight about, forcing masses of people into early death, poverty, dependency and bondage, there can be no peace. We will see either more total domination and mass extermination, or a fundamental shift of control to the other peoples and decline of the Democratic Societies and their inter-, multi- and transnational networks and communication.
There can't be peace without our societies retreating from control of resources and interference into the development of other peoples and societies. Peace is therefor a fundamental threat for the Western societies. No social forums and reforms, global workers rights, fair trade initiatives, aids medicine, humanitarian aid programs, peace keeping and enforcing will help prepare the necessary conditions for peace.
Time to Die
Realizing that our way of life is incompatible with peace and respect for other peoples and unsustainable even for ourselves alone (assuming constant elimination of over-population), that we are living of the suffering and death of others, on which we impose our schemes to serve our interests, and we have done so for so long, without showing much potential to grow out of the destructive and racist mind-set, therefor concluding that our societies and way of life are approaching the end of their road, reaching their time of death and end of history.
We fulfilled our civilizing missions and manifest destinies, did educate enough about our principals and ideals, which lay blank for everyone to see. Our rule and way of life must be ended the sooner and more thorough the better, to make room and way for peoples to live their own lives according to their culture, traditions, knowledge and histories. Not much further is to say here. We can only hope other peoples and societies will do better than we did.