The Charlotte News
Saturday, May 3, 1941
Site Ed. Note: "In Iraq" calls upon us to report some additional previous and subsequent history other than that which Mr. Cash tells us below, accurate though that portion is.
The history of Iraq, once called Babylonia or Mesopotamia, and perhaps Eden, is a somewhat difficult trail to follow. For purposes of the present discussion, as much of the rest is based on anthropological rather than historical evidence, we can start at the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
After the Armistice ending World War I in 1918, Iraq was placed under the dominion of the British until being granted its independence in 1932. Still, it remained a British protectorate until 1941 and the British had control of the country's rich oil reserves. Initially, the British were in a quandary about whether to exert direct control over Iraq or to maintain a puppet government. In 1920, however, events determined the decision. Faysal I established himself as king of Syria. Then his brother, 'Abd Allah, set up as king of Iraq. Syria's nationalist uprising prompted the same in northern Iraq, spreading to the middle region and then throughout the country. Meanwhile, in Syria, Faysal became upset with the French who had the mandate over that country. Faysal was expelled. In 1921, Winston Churchill presided over a conference to settle middle eastern affairs. Faysal was enthroned as king of Iraq, confirmed by a plebiscite. The government was modeled on the English parliamentary system. Typical freedoms in a representative democracy, including freedom of religion, were recognized and a treaty with Great Britain was formed. But the treaty was displeasing to the Iraqi Constituent Assembly who threatened to reject it in favor of complete self-rule. The British warned that if they did so, the matter would be referred to the League of Nations. So the Constituent Assembly went along with the plan and formed the parliament.
Nationalistic tension continued throughout the period of the British mandate, it being argued that two governments existed in Iraq, one foreign, one national. The British eventually granted Iraq independence in 1932, an independence which still recognized a close alliance with Great Britain and mutual consultation in foreign affairs affecting their common interests.
Trouble soon developed in the newly independent state, however, when in 1933 the Assyrians in the Mosul province in the north of Iraq became concerned about the new regime; violence erupted in which hundreds of Assyrians were killed by Iraqi troops. The League of Nations intervened; the first government after independence fell and a new, more moderate one, promising recognition of minorities, replaced it.
This goal being that which present U.S. policy seeks, it is wise then to look closely at the subsequent era in Iraq.
King Faysal died and his 21 year old son, Ghazi, became king. His youth and lack of experience at statecraft led to political turmoil between rival factions. Palace intrigues, yellow press scandals and the like destabilized several Cabinets. Five governments came and went between 1932 and 1934. Then, disenchantment with the regime among tribal leaders became prevalent and three more governments were toppled in 1934-35. Next, the opposition used military coups tactics to obtain control. But once entrenched, it became difficult to get the military out of power. In 1939, Ghazi was killed in an automobile accident and his four year old son, Faysal II, ascended the throne, necessitating the appointment of a regent to act in his stead. Between 1936 and 1941 military rule persisted.
When World War II began on September 1, 1939, Iraq, fearing a German victory over Britain, declared itself neutral and ceased diplomatic relations with Germany, but not with Italy. Pan-Arabs, favoring total Arab independence from Britain and France, a natural enough thing for a population to desire, caused Iraqi public opinion to shift heavily against Britain after the fall of France in 1940, a thing obviously influenced by the Nazi propaganda of which Cash speaks in the editorial below. Promise people economically enslaved by one set of imperialists a "new order" and, like little lambs, they accept, not fully realizing that their promised new freedom will be a worse form of enslavement, as it would have been under the Axis states, obviously. Nevertheless, the wide-eyed sheep of the Pan-Arab league in Iraq began secret negotiations with the Axis.
As discussed further by Cash below, the British then sent soldiers into Iraq via the Persian Gulf in April and May, 1941, leading to a brief war, lasting a month. The regent fled the country with the then six year old king. The Iraqi army surrendered at the end of May and the Pan-Arabs left Iraq. The regent and the king returned. Iraq declared war on the Axis in January, 1942. The four Iraqi officers responsible for the war with Britain were hanged. Though the new government promised democratic freedoms, the excuse of World War II was used instead to tighten down on all freedoms. The wide-eyed people of Iraq submitted to this notion on the belief that things would change after the war; they didn't. Faith was placed in the promised land but also faith in the wrong leaders to it.
After the war, in 1945, the regent called for a true parliamentary system with free political parties. But the Old Guard prevailed again and, despite reforms, a new government, formed in 1946, fell in a few months. Elections which followed under the new government were rigged. The various political parties boycotted.
Another new government was formed in 1947 under the leadership of Jab'r, a Shi'ite Muslim. Jab'r sought to aid Arabs in Palestine, but lost favor among the opposition by seeking to overturn the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1930 which had led to independence from Great Britain. Jab'r negotiated with Great Britain to obtain local control of air bases in Iraq, theretofore used by Great Britain, in exchange for Jab'r's support of Britain generally. These discussions led to a 20-year treaty signed in 1948--a treaty which would be abrogated long before 1968. Under the treaty, the two air bases in question were returned to Iraq and both countries promised to remain faithful to the other in dealings with foreign countries. In the event of war, it was promised that Iraq would consider allowing Britain's use of the bases, but only at the expressed invitation of Iraq. In return, Britain would supply arms and military training to Iraq. But the Iraqi public rejected the treaty and took to the streets of Baghdad in protest of it. The regent, deciding that things were too hot, repudiated the treaty. Jab'r resigned.
The overarching cause of these continuing problems of instability appeared to be the conflict between the younger liberal leaders and the old guard politicians. (In the United States, we might reflect on a similar, albeit less tumultuous, conflict in the 1950's through the 1970's for analogy.) The Old Guard, through various machinations, would not let the young leaders into government. The conflict thus continued in the new government and in 1952, students again took to the streets and martial law was declared for two months. (The United States saw much the same result from the same type conflict, albeit sporadically, in 1967 through 1970.) Civilian rule returned in 1953, but there was still no quarter given by the old to the young.
By this time, Faisal II had come of age. The regency therefore ended but the regent continued to pull strings from behind the arras. The struggle between old and young continued until the monarchy fell in 1958. The king and the leadership of the country, the Old Guard, had favored the Baghdad Pact and opposed the United Arab Republic. The younger, more vibrant leaders opposed the Pact and favored the Republic, that is Pan Arab unity. Free Officers, young military men disenchanted with the leadership, formed secret cells for the purpose of staging a coups in 1958. Only the Central Organization, headed by 'Abd al-Karim Qasim, was known by name. On a ruse that a brigade of military men were to go to assist Jordan against Israel, the brigade would take Baghdad as they passed through the city. It worked. The king was executed, as was the leader of the old guard government.
During the period of the monarchy and parliamentary style government from independence in 1932 through 1958, there were 10 elections and fully 50 changes in the Cabinet. Despite the continuing tension, material progress had been made in the 1950's because of increased royalties from oil, previously kept to a minimum for lack of technical progress in building pipelines as well as the limitations on economic progress occasioned by the War. The Iraqi government arranged a fifty-fifty split with the Iraqi Petroleum Company, a multi-national entity, over royalties. The new agreement mandated certain minimum royalties of 30 million dollars in 1953 and 1954 and 50 million in 1955 and thereafter. A Development Board, 70 percent of whose financing came from oil, was established in 1950 to make internal improvements, prime among which was the Tharthar flood control project completed in 1956, connecting the Tigris at Samarra with the Wadi Ath-Tharthar Depression. A diverter on the Euphrates funneled water into Lake Habbinayah. In addition, schools, hospitals, and other public works were constructed in the latter fifties, before and after the overthrow of the throne in 1958. But opposition leaders attacked these projects as being beneficial only to the tribal leaders and landowners, while neglecting the impoverished people.
After the coups, Qasim formed a Cabinet and a three-person Council of Sovereignty was appointed to act as head of state. The new constitution declared Iraq to be part of the "Arab nation" and that Arabs and Kurds were "partners in this homeland". Iraq was made a republic with Islam the official state religion. Though power officially vested in the Council of Sovereignty, in actuality Qasim, with power over the army, was the de facto head of state. But Qasim, along with the Kurds, communists, and others, were not in favor of Pan Arab unity, and so conflicted with some of his fellow revolutionists who wanted it. (Such a state of affairs is not unlike the tension between a strong central government and states rights which existed after the American Revolution and eventually led to the Civil War.)
In 1959, there was a failed coups attempt by some of the young Ba'athists against Qasim in an attempted assassination, including in their number Saddam Hussein. The attempt failed when, shooting at Qasim's car from opposite sides, the would-be assassins missed and shot each other instead.
In 1961, Qasim, to divert attention from these divisive problems at home, sought to claim Kuwait, creating tension with Great Britain and the other Arab countries in the region which had just recognized Kuwait's sovereignty. Qasim finally also recognized Kuwait's sovereignty. In addition, a law was enacted to prevent granting oil concessions to foreign countries and a new nationally owned company was formed, Iraq National Oil Company. Only the Soviet Union remained friendly with Qasim; all other foreign nations shunned him.
We begin to see a familiar scenario.
In February, 1963, the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, young rebels, including Saddam Hussein, who favored Arab nationalism, freedom, and socialism, rebelled and overthrew Qasim, executing him. (This coups took place with the assistance of the C.I.A.) While preferring to remain outside power themselves, the Ba'athists formed a National Council for Revolutionary Command and made Ba'athist officer, Colonel Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, the premier. 'Abd as-Salam 'Arif, a collaborator with Qasim in the 1958 coups, but later splitting from him on the issue of Arab unity, was made president. Instead of immediately invoking socialist doctrine, however, the new leadership favored caution and instituted industrial and economic reforms, recognizing the middle class.
Under the leadership of Ahmad Hussan al-Bakr, assisted by Saddam Hussein, the Ba'athists reorganized their party between 1963 and 1968. Soon, however, 'Arif betrayed the Ba'athists and had the leadership arrested and seized control of the government. A new constitution was drawn up in 1964 based on Arab unity and socialism. Both leaders were imprisoned in 1964 by the 'Arif government for the threat they posed. Al-Bakr was soon released for reasons of failing health. Saddam Hussein escaped in 1966.
Despite the new constitutional form, 'Arif did not favor socialism and the Iraqi people were by and large opposed to it. 'Arif favored an end to military rule and brought in 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Bazaaz to form a new government on the premise of civilian rule. But then 'Arif was killed in 1966 in an apparent helicopter accident, though many believed it to have been an assassination. 'Arif's brother, 'Abd ar-Rahman 'Arif, became president and under military pressure removed al-Bazaaz. The Ba'athists called for a reform coalition government and the holding of general elections, but military rule persisted under the new 'Arif government.
Military rule, tacit or formal, it might be noted, at any time, gets a country into trouble from which it is difficult to wrench itself.
In 1968, because of its recalcitrance in not holding popular elections and the continued maintenance of military rule, the 'Arif government was overthrown. The head of military intelligence and the head of the Republican Guard agreed to assist the Ba'athists in the coups provided they could lead the country. The Ba'athists agreed, with the intent to control these leaders at the earliest opportunity. Colonel al-Bakr became president and the former head of military intelligence under 'Arif was called upon to form a Cabinet.
As al-Bakr became older, Hussein took over more of the practical duties of government. A plan developed to get rid of the former head of military intelligence and the head of the Republican Guard. Hussein had the head of military intelligence arrested and agreed to spare his life if he left the country. The head of the Republican Guard, on a mission in Jordan, was simply ordered to stay there. The Ba'athists led by al-Bakr and Hussein were then firmly in control of the government. Their chief opposition came from the Kurds in the north, given military aid by Iran under the Shah, and led by Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani.
To relieve the tension with the Kurds, the new Iraqi government agreed in 1970 to allow them autonomous self-rule, to go into effect in 1974.
In 1972, Iraq formed a treaty with the Soviet Union to cooperate in political, economic, and military matters.
To further solidify the Ba'athist Party's power, a conflict with the Iraqi Communist Party, arising in 1958, was reconciled and the National Progressive Front was created to gain the support of other political parties in the country, including the Kurds. The Ba'athists published the Charter for National Action in the press to encourage public discussion of the conflicts. As a result, in 1973, all of the parties began to cooperate under the Front.
But in 1974, problems over the Kurdish issue developed again as the new boundaries for self-rule for the Kurds excluded the oil-rich Kirkuk region. Al-Barzani, the Kurdish leader, resisted this boundary limitation on the basis that a promised census to determine where the Kurds were located and hence where the boundaries ought be was not properly taken by the al-Bakr-Hussein government. A war ensued with the Kurds over the issue, initially assisted by the Shah of Iran, until Iraq agreed to ease a riparian boundary dispute with Iran on the Shatt al-Arab river which had given Iraq since 1937 exclusive shipping rights. Hussein enabled this agreement with the Shah and the Shah's assistance to the Kurds ended.
The communist party in Iraq openly criticized the Ba'athists and its leaders were arrested. Most other political opposition to the Ba'athists dried up or went underground under similar threat.
The Ba'athists had intended originally in 1968 to form a socialist society in which all citizens would benefit from prosperity, prosperity to be had from economic independence from oil revenues. Industrial and agricultural progress was stressed instead, but progress was not as rapid as hoped. The oil fields were fully exploited for the first time by Iraqi interests through help from the Soviet Union. The Iraq Petroleum Company was nationalized in 1972 after the multi-national owners were compensated for the expropriation. In 1973, Iraq nationalized U.S. and Dutch holdings--as U.S. gas station lines got long over rising OPEC prices and diminished supply. And in 1975, Iraq nationalized the remaining foreign interests. Further agrarian reform was attempted by distributing lands to the peasants; dams were constructed on the Tigris and Euphrates and the Tharthar. As full socialism proved impractical, some private business ownership was allowed.
In response to Anwar Sadat's peace with Israel in 1977, nearly a year of talks followed to try to form a union between Hafiz al-Assad's government in Syria and that of al-Bakr in Iraq, but the talks broke down over who would predominate the proposed new union, Iraq or Syria. Al-Bakr resigned and Hussein assumed full power of Iraq on July 16, 1979. On July 28, a plot, allegedly sponsored by Syria, to overthrow the new government was uncovered and Hussein set up a tribunal to try the conspirators who were then executed or sent to prison.
When the Shah of Iran fell and the Ayatollah Khomeini took over in 1979, a new policy took hold of Iran with respect to Iraq. Formerly friendly to the Ba'athists under the Shah, Khomeini saw the Ba'athists as secular and wished them overthrown and replaced by Islamic fundamentalists. (The extremist Khomeini had been in exile from Iran since 1964, having been provided asylum in Iraq, only to be expelled in early 1978.) A war ensued between Iran and Iraq, beginning in September, 1980, when Hussein abrogated a 1975 treaty which had ceded certain disputed border areas to Iran. The U. N. Security Council called for a cease-fire which Hussein agreed to recognize if Iran would. Iran wouldn't; the war continued.
Significantly, Iran, supported by the Kurds, threatened the Kirkuk region with its rich oilfields in the north of Iraq. Chemical weapons were used by both the Iranians and the Iraqis on each other, Iraq trying to repel invasion by Iran. One version of the history has it that the Iraqis used the weapons on the Kurds for their aid to the Iranians, who were, as we say again, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini; another says the cyanide-based chemicals, as later determined by the C.I.A., were used only by the Iranians on the Kurds. Which version is true, of course, is likely unknowable, though the former is the one preferred by those seeking to justify a war with Iraq. In any event, the Kurds were fighting in support of the invading Iranians against the Iraqi government over the rich oilfields of Kirkuk.
Diplomatic relations between Iraq and the U.S. had been re-established in 1984 while Ronald Reagan was President and the U.S. provided intelligence support to Iraq in the war with Iran because the Ayatollah was our declared enemy and the U.S. had a policy to destabilize him if at all possible--arms for hostages deals with the Ayatollah, cooked up from the White House basement by the Reagan Administration, to support the Contras in Nicaragua, notwithstanding.
In 1987, after arms deals with France and the Soviet Union, Iraq began to gain the upper-hand in the war with the Ayatollah Khomeini.
In 1987, the U. N. Security Council again called for a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq and an end to all hostilities. Hussein accepted. The Ayatollah again resisted, insisting instead that all foreign interests leave the Persian Gulf and that Iraq be condemned as the aggressor. The war continued.
Iraq gained back lost territory and Khomeini, fearing revolt by his own people over the continuing war--a war in which Iraq was now aided by active U.S. military involvement in the Persian Gulf--finally accepted the cease-fire in August, 1988. Formal resolution of territorial disputes between the countries was completed in 1990.
In January, 1989, Hussein had announced formation of a committee to form a new constitution which would provide for a multi-party system and freedom of the press. Before it could be voted on by plebiscite, however, events would turn when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August, 1990.
What prompted this turn of events?
The armament program in Iraq came about primarily because of the war with Iran but also because of fears of Israeli intervention in Iraq and fears generally of the increasing hostility of the western press. Hussein made inflammatory speeches in the late eighties about the critical press reports in the United States and Great Britain regarding his armament program as it included nuclear technology and chemical and biological weaponry. Hussein, among other threats, vowed that if Israel again attacked Iraq as it did in 1981 to destroy a nuclear plant, Iraq would attack Israel with chemical weapons. If this sounds bullying and dredging up past history, then it might be wise to reflect that at present the United States threatens war on Iraq largely over events twelve years or more in the past.
As to why Iraq suddenly invaded Kuwait, the answer probably is, as with most such imperialism, spiraling debts and the need for money. Iraq had a war debt after the Iran-Iraq war totaling 80 billion dollars. Iraq assumed Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where much of the financing for the war with Iran originated, would forgive the debt and help rebuild Iraq as Iraq saw the war as a regional resistance to the Islamic Revolution in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini. (We once hated him, if you recall, in 1979-80, and declared him our enemy and, of late our leaders have taken to the expression that "the enemy of our enemy is our friend"--obviously, however, with the caveat that it is only that way until our first enemy is eliminated at which time the enemy of our enemy is our enemy also.)
Hussein based his expectations from the Saudis and Kuwait on the Marshall Plan of the Allies rebuilding Europe after World War II. And of course, the same was done, though done with considerable incompetence leading inevitably to World War II, to a great extent after World War I, the feeding of Europe then having been coordinated by Herbert Hoover under the Harding-Coolidge Administrations, a Republican one of the Old Guard variety, (not to be confused with the Republican Guard in Iraq).
Instead, the Saudis and Kuwaitis didn't read their western history books and failed to follow the model vis á vis Europe of the Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy Doctrine after World War II or even the incompetent League of Nations led Wilson-Harding-Coolidge-Hoover Doctrine after World War I and the Versailles Treaty, but instead simply refused to forgive the debt and even raised OPEC quotas on oil, lowering its price, further depressing Iraq's struggling economy.
Just why the United States and Great Britain at the time in 1990 could not successfully broker a compromise between Iraq, the Saudis, and Kuwait is anyone's guess. But we are certain there were major reasons for it, hidden deep within the coppice.
Other countries in the middle east suspected Iraq of having aggressive designs though no evidence had been offered to this end, at least not until...
To gain leverage in forgiveness of the war debt, Iraq then asserted an 1871 claim on Kuwait. The substance of the claim was that under the Ottoman Empire formerly ruling Iraq, Kuwait became part of Iraq in 1871 with full acquiescence by the Kuwaiti ruler to gain military assistance from Iraq. But in 1899, the successor ruler of Kuwait entered into a secret agreement with Britain for protection of Kuwait. The Ottoman and British governments recognized the hybrid possession of Kuwait in 1913, but that recognition was never ratified. When British protection of Kuwait ended in 1961, Iraq claimed sovereignty over it under the old agreement of 1871, even though Turkey, seat of the Ottoman Empire, had relinquished its claims in all Arab countries by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Iraq in fact eventually recognized Kuwait's independent sovereignty in 1961, but, as already stated, that came under the Qasim government and he was executed after the young Ba'athist revolution led by al-Bakr and Hussein. That was that.
Furthermore, territorial disputes complicated the situation with Kuwait. The islands of Warbah and Bubiyan, (not to be confused with Quemoy and Matsu near China, a hundred miles from Formosa, now Taiwan), two strategic islands at the head of the Persian Gulf, had never belonged to Kuwait but were part of Iraq under the Ottoman Empire. The unratified 1913 British-Ottoman convention, however, placed these islands under the control of Kuwait. Hussein sought to resolve the territorial and sovereignty dispute with Kuwait but failing that over a period of a decade, invaded Kuwait in August, 1990.
So, it is a safe bet that most Americans do not realize that in fact the trigger for the 1991 roiling Gulf War lay in the desire by Iraq for the dales of Warbah and Bubiyan. (Cf. Lillian Smith's essay on the root causes of primal warfare.)
The U. N. condemned the move by Iraq and authorized military force. A 28-member coalition of countries led by the United States demanded Hussein remove from Kuwait during that fall. A siege was conducted called Desert Siege or A Line in the Sand or Let's Sell Some More Cornflakes, what have you. When Iraq did not withdraw, war began on January 17, 1991, so-called Desert Storm, and ended in formal surrender of Iraq on April 7, 1991. The Kuwaitis waved American flags at first, their "benign" kingdom was returned to its throne--and now most Kuwaitis, by all reports, thoroughly despise the United States. So much for freeing small countries on a different clock from the West.
The infrastructure of Iraq was left badly damaged and its military capability virtually destroyed. Hussein stayed in power under a treaty with the coalition. Iraq was separated into several competing factions, especially the Kurds and Shi'ite Muslims. Hussein's regime suppressed Kurdish and Shi'ite rebellions seeking to overthrow the government. The Kurds, who had once helped Ayatollah Khomeini, our enemy in 1979-80, now became our friend. They fled to Turkey and many died of hunger and disease. U. N. forces brought relief to the refugees so that they could return to their homes in northern Iraq.
In 1998, Hussein ejected U. N. weapons inspectors from the country who by treaty after the 1991 Gulf War were there to insure the continued disarmament of Iraq.
Iraq has made no substantial military or politically aggressive move since the war in 1991 though rumors persisted since 1998 that they were rebuilding their armaments, attempting a nuclear program and developing new chemical and biological weaponry.
Since December, 2002, U. N. weapons inspectors have been re-admitted to Iraq under threat of force by the United States and the deployment of 225,000 American troops and 25,000 British troops to Qatar and Kuwait. Weapons inspections have proceeded and no substantial weapons program has yet been discovered as of mid-March, 2003, a few missiles capable of delivering biological and chemical warheads notwithstanding. Complaints by the weapons inspectors of lack of full cooperation by the Iraqis have been met by greater cooperation by the Iraqis though complaints persist that full cooperation has yet to be given. The Administration contends that a full accounting has not been made for weapons of mass destruction and has given Iraq until March 17, possibly longer, to comply or the Irish jig is up. The U. N. favors further inspections and the chief weapons inspector indicates that several more months are necessary to complete inspections, inspections which he believes, with greater cooperation evidenced by the Iraqis in recent weeks, will be ultimately successful without the necessity of war.
The U. S. Administration continues to insist that the clock must rule but has made no convincing case either to the American people or to the world community why more time should not be allowed for inspections to continue, as evidenced by resistance by the U. N. to pass a resolution to back present military action against Iraq, increased anti-war demonstrations and polls overwhelmingly opposing the war being registered in every country among the allies of the United States, including Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany. In the United States, public opinion is divided, but most people favor providing more time for weapons inspections to continue. Congress, for the most part, and the Administration, however, have turned a deaf ear to the public both at home and abroad.
Some politicians in the United States and Great Britain proclaim that U. N. Security Council Resolution 1441, passed in November to demand renewed arms inspections to the end of disarmament of Iraq, authorizes force for noncompliance with the demands for inspections and disarmament. But these individuals obviously have never bothered to read the Resolution as the word "force", or its equivalent, is never once used in the resolution and no sanction is stated for failure of compliance. There is only the proviso that the Security Council may meet at any time and pass subsequent resolutions necessary to insure compliance. No such further resolutions have been passed and the Security Council refuses to back present military action against Iraq.
And so that is where we are today, March 16, 2003.
So what does all this history of Iraq, checkered as it is, with various attempted reforms, attempts at self-government, alternative attempts at forms of socialism and then forms of democracy or parliamentary rule, mean? We have a country which has obviously been in turmoil for most of this century. Any country occupied by others for the sake of Empire would be likewise in all probability. Witness the terrible experiences of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, all the Stans, and Yugoslavia in Europe; South Africa, Libya, Syria, etc. Obviously, other countries, notably Great Britain and Turkey under the Ottoman reign, sought to exploit Iraq's resources, notably oil and aquifer control. Was this exploitation for the mutual benefit of Iraq and its people as well as those practicing Empire? Only the Iraqis can really tell us that. They rejected both Empires and sought self-rule, so perhaps that is the answer.
Now, the United States and western nations generally support the Kurds, who once supported the Ayatollah Khomeini, in their attempt at self-rule because they were not satisfied with self-rule granted by Iraq without Kirkuk and its rich oilfields.
But before all of that, the United States, when it saw fit under the Reagan Administration, supported Saddam Hussein when it came to defeating the Ayatollah in Iran. Yet, when the war was over, the United States was not terribly helpful to Iraq, it would seem, in negotiating a plan for peace, a post-war Iraq in which its debt would be alleviated vis á vis Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq, primarily to exonerate its war debt, occupied Kuwait. But plainly, Iraq had no legal right to do that, based on an outmoded claim of sovereignty dating back to 1871 when Iraq was under Turkish rule. The break-up of the overlord broke up the claims of sovereignty maintained under the overlord.
Where does that leave Iraq in 1990 when it declared sovereignty over Kuwait? Instead of the United States and the United Nations sitting down with Iraq and the Kuwaiti royal family and the Saudis and trying to negotiate some plan for rebuilding Iraq after Iraq had taken it on the nose for ten years fighting Khomeini's fundamentalism and irrational form of government, (once our enemy)--instead of doing these things, under the leadership of the United States, the United Nations condemned Iraq, drew a line in the sand and lots of people in the United States cheered, waved flags, sat back and watched buttons being pushed near and afar like video games while lives were destroyed as popcorn flowed freely in front of the new hit show, "Bombs Over Baghdad".
Oh, what a war it was back there in the good ol' days of '91, youngster! We won! Quick and easy. The humiliation for the loss in Vietnam was finally behind us. We were united again--in war! (Seems a dark sort had much the same high-prancing boast at Compiègne in June, 1940, but we won't make too much of that.)
Well, then some things happened, horrible things, about which we know, over a period of ten years, the last being the worst act of terrorism in history. It didn't emanate from Iraq. It emanated from stateless Islamic fundamentalists, apparently led by militarists who the C.I.A. trained in the Afghan war with the Soviet Union, an ally of ours in defeating Hitler but who then became our avowed enemy after the war until its break-up through economic internal collapse in 1989 led to the institution of new democratic forms of government in its former states which, thus asunder, again became our allies.
Khomeini fought against Iraq because he considered them secular, not fundamentalist enough. That's when we considered Iraq an ally and shared intelligence with them against our enemy, Khomeini.
Now, we want to bury them, Iraq, despite continued success in renewed weapons inspections.
As Groucho said, "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms."
And all the pols advancing this particular action in 2003 are not paying attention to the people they represent, a people, when the congressional resolutions were debated and passed, distracted by a Chevy Chase in northern Virginia and places else about the Beltway. And so they go a merrily authorizing the waging of a war which makes no sense, historically, strategically, militarily, or for the purpose of continued security and stability in the world. In fact, the contrary would be apparent vis á vis the stateless terrorists who thrive on propaganda against the United States and would love nothing more than an unprovoked action against an Islamic nation by the United States to oil their whetstone for further terrorist actions.
Or will Pyongyang decide to launch or sell in response to this new, unprecedented foreign policy of the United States?
But wait a minute. Light has bolted to our brain!
They threatened us; we will destroy them before they can do it to us because some of them did it to us once before.
But, if that is about the sum and substance of the new policy, why should it then not also in turn be the policy for any other country who so chooses? Korea has much to complain about from 1950 and 1951 after all. Let us not forget Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Japan? Germany? The South? Native Americans? Let us have the time of our lives. Might as well. Life will soon be unto death anyway.
Meanwhile, most of Europe is more afraid of the aggression of the United States than of Islamic terrorists.
Shall we congratulate ourselves roundly? Fifty-four years of N.A.T.O. appears on the skids in a matter of 26 months.
Okay, so we can just say to all those foreigners who can't even speak our language and nevertheless may disagree with our brilliant arguments, "We're not morons. We just want to get this war on."
All the claims of secrecy as to the whys and wherefores are not nonsense, of course. Shhhhhhh. There is a Secret, as it is plain to see by anyone who bothers to watch tv just a little. The Secret is for five year old boys planning their first club house. We must not give it away. (There is a Sanity Clause after all.) What's the password?
But now, aren't Secrets for the protection of plotting military strategy and not to hide the causes of going to war?
Never mind that. Why, if Franklin Roosevelt had appeared before Congress on December 8, 1941 and declared, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, was a day which will live in infamy--but, folks, I just cannot tell you why or where it was or what happened, or who did it, yet we are at war with the Empire of Japan because I think it best," well, rest assured, we would have won that one much sooner.
Our present leaders know best. So, tell us nothing more than precisely that: nothing. We needn't know the rest. Spoils our nighttime tv schedule too much anyway.
This proposed war is not to make hay--have to be nuts to think it--or to get rid of some clumsy mistakes in the past, or to get our minds off failing domestic policies and diminishing constitutional protections, nor will it be a war which will lead inexorably, by the plot of human nature's constituency, to only far more sinister problems in the future, perhaps the mutual destruction of mankind. Not at all. And even if it were so to do, what us worry? That's tomorrow and tomorrow belongs to us. We shall rebuild with all of that untapped oil over there near Tharthar and continue to pollute the world with fossil fuels for another hundred years. Global warming is a myth. Are you warmer now than last year? Nonsense. Out of Eden in Babylon will come Eden once again. Praise Be! Foul wells shall be cleansed!
The principle of turning the other cheek is for suckers. For if you turn the other cheek, then you have to avert your eyes and dodge the truth and we wish to see just what will happen--so we cannot turn the other cheek, can we? Those silly people 2,000 years ago did not wage a war on the Romans with guns and tanks and look where it got them. They argued with them. How silly. Weak. They tried to teach the people of their time another way than by violence. But only wimps fall for that one.
Force is always a last resort when otherwise we cannot get our way by other means. The Roman law says so. That farcical Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence which contends that force is only a resort under law when force is used first by the other and to such a degree that that there is no course besides force, and force used in the same degree only as that being used by the other--well, that's all wimpy nonsense. Throw that old stuff out and get back to the good stuff--eye for eye until none are left. Manly. Praise Be! Foul wells be cleansed!
Why, to combat the threat of force if one believes his neighbor is plotting against him, then the only logical thing to do is to go remove him from his home by force and if he resists that, kill him. Praise Be!
That is not something that we have ever in the history of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence countenanced, of course--but that is why we have been weak for all this time. Now, we are a battleground and anything goes on a battleground. You saw what happened at Gettysburg, didnít you? Praise Be!
And since the Administration is holding thousands of "prisoners of war", in a non-existent war, incommunicado and without counsel, then we should round up whoever we suspect of something inimical to our purposes and do likewise to them wherever we find them. Now, don't go gagging on that weak-kneed notion that such hearkens of concentration camps. Surely, you would not think that. These are all prisoners of war and can readily be seen as such by painting a white "P" on them if need be.
Weakly, after the assassination of our President in 1963, the government sought to limit the act to one person in fear that broadening the search could lead to chaos in times immediate to the assassination. But the current Administration has wisely taken the act of 19 madmen and sought to expand the conspiracy as broadly as any uninformed peawit's credence will allow. We commend this action! It is from the wise of the wise communicated sub silentio only to those wise enough to understand it. How could we differ?
One can read Iraq's history and see the unstable mess within it, stretching over many decades. And why should that history suggest to Iraq a promise of a better future with the U.S. as its temporary architect of reconstruction when so many other stewards have failed? Because we have much to brag about from the last forty years of our own history to recommend us as such a temporary caretaker.
After all, in that period, we have had one President brutally assassinated in broad daylight with hundreds of eyewitnesses, but the assassins have never properly been brought to justice. Another President was forced, by chaos in the streets over a war run amok and waged without the support of the American people, not to run for re-election in 1968, an election then decided by brutal assassinations in April and June and riots in the streets of Chicago in July. Then came the "law and order" period followed by an election in 1972 tainted by political intrigue, break-in of the opposition party's headquarters by creeps employed by the Administration, suppression of dissent in an unconstitutional and illegal manner, all leading in turn to Articles of Impeachment against that President forcing his resignation in 1974. Then, another President was defeated in 1980 by the presence of a hostile regime around the globe holding United States citizens as hostages, a regime which was our enemy, headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Those hostages, having accomplished their purpose of insuring arms from the subsequent Administration and the dumping of the old one, were released on inauguration day of the next President, with the money secretly flowing from the arms sales to that enemy eventually being used to aid Nicaraguan rebels, all without the knowledge or approval of the American people or any part of them, all nearly leading to the impeachment of another President in 1986. Then of course a preciously anointed minority of all-knowing, soft spoken cherubs in a dangerously divided country became our saviours in 1998-99 by seeking the scalp of yet another President over a purely private matter made public by a yellow rag press eager to know of and sell to trailer trash minds, paid off by opposition party interests dissatisfied with the Administration's renewed progressive stands on race and opposition to the tobacco industry in the South, all finally culminating in an election in the year 2000 where the loser won and the winner lost, by edict of five conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States, each appointed by the opposition party, in an unprecedented decision by that body when the Great Booby in Florida couldn't figure out how to count votes, thanks in large part to some young refugees from the North coming in and knocking the doors down to the counting room on the eve of Thanksgiving, ultimately causing the ticking time clock to be declared to have run out.
But our wise ones are wisely oblivious to all of that. They were wisely spending their precious time busily trying to follow the complex plot lines of soap operas on tv or the newest war movies and hadn't the time to waste on concerns so light as the fate of our democracy.
And why should Congress listen to any of us? They know we elected them, don't they? Would you listen to us if we elected you?
There is the matter of mistreatment of the Kurds, of course, but the Kurds aided Iran, the enemy of Iraq and all because the Kurds didn't get their way to get the oil-rich Kirkuk, though given self-rule otherwise by Iraq. (But we repeat ourselves.) The Kurds are our friends because they were the ally of our enemy, Iran, who was the enemy of Iraq, and so naturally Iraq is now our enemy. The enemy of our enemy is our friend until they become the enemy of the enemy of our enemy in which case they become our enemy and their enemy then becomes our friend. (That's a corollary to the rule earlier stated above.)
Viva Herr Doktor Fremdliebe!
There are historical analogies which bear on this situation, hypothetical though they are.
Let us assume that South Carolina, after secession in 1860, went to Mr. Lincoln in 1861 and said that they wanted to annex western Pennsylvania and Texas as part of South Carolina because some fellow named Ford had been visiting Columbia and informed them that in about forty years this Seneca and Genesee oil that this fellow Drake had been spouting off about in '59 would be very valuable because this Ford fellow intended to mass-manufacture on something called an assembly line a carriage which went about without horses, powered by an engine which would run on oil, held in abundance out there around Nacogdoches, Texas and western Pennsylvania, produced by the action of millions of years of plant and animal decay taking place deep beneath the ground, way down yonder in Hell--that burning the stuff, after something they will call fractional distillation and cracking, will produce by-products which will impel pistons far more efficiently than steam, that they believe they must already have some of it down south because it comes out of the Chattanooga shale and so Lookout Mountain must have a whole lot of it, that they only need the means to tap it and distill it and all would be well? Well, we suspect Mr. Lincoln would have likely smiled politely at the poor, dreamy-eyed waif bearing this tender, excused him, suggested an alienist take a look at him, and told him to tell his masters in Columbia that they had better either rejoin the Union or face armed conflict, that he had this fellow named Sherman, mad as a hatter, who wanted to use their railroads as neckties elsewise within a couple of years or so hence. And if he had been dealing with a Kurd, rather than a South Carolinian, the same would have likely been the response.
The analogy is not a perfect one. But perhaps it does suggest something about human nature and that perfection is nothing more than absolute imperfection thinking it is something better than that.
The point being that a peaceful solution is the best solution to craziness, especially when there is ample craziness on all sides to go around. Perhaps if we bottle the craziness and bury it in the ploughshares with the salt of the brow that made it, things will apace be better.
Obviously, some among us, however, have lived so long with the craziness that they believe they cannot live without it. Double, double, toil, and trouble. Maybe the way is to wean these from the fractional distillation and the crack and the whirlybirds and the poptop-guns and the sports utility vehicles and other toys of mass destruction and teach them that the only thing we have to fear is being afraid that we will one day have no fear at all--and, of course, that of our own shadows.
And unlike earlier times in history, time is not the enemy in this fearful time. It can in fact be a healer, this time.
If not, then take note of this: Since votes were never properly counted in Florida and the election ultimately turned on 500 votes, any 500 of us have the right, just as much right as this Administration anyway, to determine our foreign and domestic policy. And this Council of 500 say no to war in Iraq and more work on ridding yourselves of the crack, that is, domestic issues. And if you desire our votes to be counted, we shall refuse you with emergent alacrity: we are so sorry, but time ran out on the count, anent which we cite the 1892 McPherson v. Blacker's decree. Thus, despite your guerdon residence, we are sadly bound by precedent.
Hitler Makes a Bid for Unlimited Oil Supplies
The outlook for Britain grows grimmer in the Near East.
While the eyes of Britain and the world were on the Balkans the Nazi agents were busily at work in Iraq, rich oil land, with the same poisonous Fifth Column activities which have already been seen in so many countries and which threaten to extinguish even the United States.
First, ambitious native scoundrels were found. Then the scoundrels were set to selling the notion to the people of the Mohammedan population that Germany was a tower of light embarked on a holy crusade to liberate the peoples of the earth from Britain's iron heel. It was easy for the mass population of these Eastern countries which is generally brutally ignorant and has only the vaguest idea of Germany.
England it knows well, and can always be incited against her on the score of religion, exploitation of the oil wells by English companies, etc., though she voluntarily made Iraq an independent country in 1927, merely reserving the right to send in troops if any other country made an attempt on it.
A month ago, as the invasion of Greece began, the Nazi stooges seized control of the government, began to play Hitler's game. Last week the British sent in troops, this week sent in more.
That the British can put down the Iraq army is certain. It numbers only some 14,000 men--though the Nazis have undoubtedly armed them well. But whether it can put them down before the Nazis get aid through is another question. And there is the grave danger of the fight setting off an outbreak throughout the Mohammedan world, which may be stupid enough to believe that it can win its full independence by fighting for Hitler now.
Let's Remove All Sources Of Dispute at a Stroke
The twelve points of the Japan Times-Advertiser, semi-official organ of the Japanese Foreign Office, to which Miss Thompson's column on this page is devoted today, might be expected, reasonably, to take the wind completely out of the sails of the American appeasement party--the crowd that has been whooping that the war in Europe is none of our business and that a "negotiated peace" is quite possible.
The twelve points can be summed up in a sentence: they aim to give the Axis absolute mastery of the earth and strip England and the United States helpless before it.
Reasonably, therefore, they might be expected to leave the appeasers with little to say. But in reality that is far from certain. Miss Thompson seems to doubt that Wheeler, Lindbergh & Co. will entertain such proposals for "peace." But, on the basis of the record, it is quite possible that we shall hear them boldly asserting that we ought to accept and force England to accept, and claiming that it is after all, only a rectification of "old wrongs."
But let us at least be logical about it. If we are to surrender in order to have something called peace, let's go all the way at a stroke and so avoid new causes of trouble.
Instead of making India and South Africa "independent," let's give them to the Axis at once, and so avoid endless bickering as the Axis gobbles them up anyhow.
Instead of merely opening Australia to Japanese immigration, cede it to her and close that question once for all. And so with the Dutch Indies and Singapore and Suez and Gibraltar.
Hand over not only the Philippines and our islands east of Hawaii but Hawaii which will simply be a cause of useless friction once it is stripped of its fortress status.
And of course the Panama Canal, which will be a poisonous trouble spot if we don't.
Let us understand clearly the implications of the demand for a free hand for the Axis in Latin America. The Spanish province of the new Germanic state will, as we have already been told, want all the old Spanish holdings back. That will include Mexico--and Mexico proper, you will recall, includes Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. These had better be handed back at once if we hope to avoid useless bloodshed. And so had Florida, a colony of old Spain.
Then there are the rightful claims of the Vichy province of New Germania. Canada, naturally, will have to go to it. So will the Louisiana Purchase--got by a shameless taking advantage of Napoleon's necessities--and the Great Lakes country.
The Dutch province of Greater Germany will have to have the colony of New Amsterdam returned, and the Danish province will have some claim to New England. We better not contest it if we want to avoid a hopeless fight.
So far as the Middle West goes, there would be firm justice in all these cessions--for it is there of course that appeasement has the stronghold. The arrangement would be a little hard on our friends in the Southwest and in the Southern portion of the Purchase. But there seems no help for it if we are not to be betrayed into more Alamo and New Orleans nonsense.
It wouldn't leave us much, but what we had would be fairly secure under Adolf's benign hand. And after his American Fuehrer and Gauleiters had finished the blood purge among us, we undoubtedly would have peace for a long while. Stable animals are usually peaceful. And the peace of death is the peace that passeth understanding.
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