"You can't say civilization isn't advancing; in every war, they kill you in a new way!" (Will Rogers)
A popular Chinese curse goes thus: "May you live in interesting times!" The world is indeed living in 'interesting' times courtesy of the only surviving super power (Robin Cook, the immediate past British Foreign Secretary would prefer to call it Hyper Power) on the face of the earth, the United States of America. It is no longer news that the George W. Bush administration has, as widely anticipated, decided to go ahead and unleash its awesome military might against the sovereign state of Iraq, in defiance of the overwhelming majority of the United Nations members. What is clear though, is that in so doing, George W., as he is widely known, has merely picked up from where his dad, George Bush Sr. had stopped. The main difference, however, is that whereas the first Gulf War, otherwise known as Operation Desert Storm, was aimed at liberating a sovereign state, Kuwait, which was illegally invaded by Iraq with the sole aim of annexing it, the current one, curiously tagged Operation Iraq Freedom represents, to many, a barefaced attempt to not only forcefully topple a legitimate government, but also annex a sovereign nation in the same manner Iraq had tried to do in Kuwait. Another major distinction is that the campaign launched by George Bush, the father, to expel Iraq from the land it illegally occupied in Kuwait was prosecuted with the tacit approval of the UN while the current war led by George Bush, the son, is being waged in spite of the same UN's disapproval.
There is an old American adage that says; "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem begins to look like a nail". Anyone who has followed the build up to this war, which many world leaders, including respected members of both the UN Security Council such as France, Russia and China and the European Union like Germany, have aptly described as both unjust and unnecessary, would not have failed to notice America's undisguised resolve to go ahead and steamroll Iraq into submission no matter the level of opposition from the UN. Indeed, long before the start of the current bombing campaigns, President Bush has had cause to sound a note of warning to anyone who cared to listen that America would not need the blessing or approval of the UN to defend its own interests. This singular statement portends a lot of danger for the balance of power in George W. Bush's dream of a new World Order because even though he did not bother to clearly define what exactly he meant by 'American interest', the rest of the world knows fairly well that these interests could be as diverse as they are numerous. And God help us all if the US is led by a rogue (and, let's face it, there are rogues all over the world!) as we currently have, whose view of the world is so narrow and limited as to put America's interests first, second and third, through his warped US-only approach in matters of the world, which he is ever willing to enforce at all costs as Professor Bolaji Akinyemi rightly stated in a recent interview. Even the ordinarily steely heart of the ultra-conservative Senator Robert Byrd who, at 85, remains the oldest and longest-serving US Senator could not but weep and bleed for his own country!
The unfolding events we are current witnessing playing themselves out appear to be coming out of a well scripted and choreographed American and Israeli ploy (which fittingly began with the unfortunate incident of September 11th, 2001) to decimate and dominate the affairs of the Middle East and directly control its resources. The former conservative Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (whose country holds the unenviable record of running the single most heinous system known to mankind since the equally criminal apartheid policy was abolished in South Africa) had, in a September 20th, 2001 speech to the US House of Representatives Government Reform Committee, traced the growth of the terrorist network to "the result of several developments in the last 20 years". Chief amongst these is "the Khomeini Revolution (in Iran), victory of the Mujahedeen brotherhood (against the Soviets) in Afghanistan, escape of Saddam from destruction (after Gulf War I) and the creation of the Palestinian territory", which he interestingly described as "Arafat's terror enclave". In the same speech, he also reminded his captivated audience about a supposed warning he had served in his 1996 book regarding a possible attack by a "militant Islamic group" on the World Trade Center, an amazing five clear years ahead of the actual incident in 2001! The ex-Prime Minister went on to urge his distinguished listeners to ignore the "root cause" of terrorism (which, not surprisingly, remains the hugely unjust Israeli repressive policy in Palestine) and go ahead to deal with its symptoms! In so doing, however, he was only laying more credence to Marquis De Condorcet's argument that "men will preserve the errors of their childhood, of their country, and of their age long after having recognized all the truths needed to destroy them".
When viewed against the backdrop of the reported strange incident where over three thousand individuals of Jewish extraction failed to report to work in several offices located within the twin towers of the WTC on September 11, this rather precise but all the more intriguing 'prediction' by Bibi Netanyahu has, if anything, only served to lay strong credence to the widely held theory in some quarters that the incident of September 11 was indeed a contrived event aimed at achieving a much wider objective. Already, two of the nations involved in the "developments" identified by the ex-PM above, Afghanistan and Iraq, have been attacked while Palestine is daily being pummeled into submission. It remains to be seen if Iran, which has been listed amongst the trio constituting George Bush's famed "axis of evil" (remember the case of the third member, North Korea, is uncharacteristically being treated diplomatically!) as well as other Arab states like Syria, Libya and the Sudan also named by Netanyahu as supporters of terrorism will follow in the line of those to be caged. It is indeed strange that the terrorist State of Israel, which has always been ruled by one set of terrorist elements after another since its forced creation (from a League of Nations mandate under British administration) on May 14, 1948, is conspicuously missing on this list. If Messrs Bush(man) and Blair are really serious about stamping out terrorism, therefore, they know where to start from. But then, I guess, like one of Blair's predecessors, Sir Winston Churchill once said, they would do the right thing only after all the alternatives have been exhausted!
To be fair, Saddam Hussein is not the kind of person one would ordinarily come out to defend under normal circumstances. Indeed, we could all recall the ferocity with which he prosecuted the bloody Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988. Interestingly, at that time, the Americans viewed him as their own answer to the 1979 Iranian revolution, which had just swept away their stooge, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, from power and installed the fiery Ayatollah Khomeini whom the west wanted tamed at all costs. It was, therefore, convenient for the US government led by the inimitable Ronald Reagan, which incidentally had George Bush Sr. as the Vice President, to look the other way while Saddam openly used chemical weapons against both the Iranian military and civilian population. All Iranian protestations against this practice were deliberately ignored because their government represented the villain in the eyes of the Americans and anything was fair in their efforts, through Saddam, to contain the revolution and stop it from spreading to other parts of the Middle East. The Shi'ite and Kurdish minorities opposed to his government also accused Saddam of using weapons of mass destruction to quell local uprising in the immediate aftermath of Gulf War I. Following his eviction from Kuwait in 1991, he was variously accused of not cooperating with the UN weapons inspectors in his desire to circumvent his post-war obligations of neither developing nor owning chemical or biological weapons as well as other conventional weapons beyond a certain range.
Despite what anyone would hold against him, however, it must be said that of recent, Saddam, by his own standards, has been amazingly unusually cooperative in allowing the Hans Blix-led team to carry out its mandate under the UN resolution 1441 and was even reported to have given them unimpeded access to places one would otherwise have thought impossible in the past. Even Hans Blix had attested to this new-found cooperation in his numerous reports to the UN in which he stressed that no banned weapons had yet been found by his team even while pleading for more time to conclude the job. At the same time this was going on, Saddam was also reported to be destroying some of his conventional weapons in the form of the medium range Al Samud missiles but President Bush was apparently not impressed. The United States and its alter ego, the United Kingdom, would later go on to table a new resolution that would expressly allow them to use force in finally resolving the Saddam question and would also go ahead to employ some unconventional and undiplomatic tactics in cowing other members of the UN Security Council into supporting their move. Upon sensing an imminent defeat of their resolution which was apparently too demeaning for the new hyper power status of the US, President Bush, and his de-facto Vice-President who also doubles as both his Foreign and Defence Minister, Tony Blair, would go on to withdraw this resolution and claim that a material breach of resolution 1441 was enough ground to declare war on Saddam and the hapless Iraqis. What the duo failed to tell the rest of the world, however, is that if 1441 allowed them to unilaterally wage a war on Iraq in the first instance, why were they bent on getting a new mandate under another entirely different resolution? This only goes to show the dismal level to which America and its allies could stoop in their dealings with the rest of the world. It has also totally exposed America's morally deficient policy of double standards in the use of force to impose selective UN resolutions especially as the State of Israel (which also controls all sorts of weapons of mass destruction, by the way) has been known to be in material breach of innumerable UN resolutions way back when these resolutions were counted in the hundreds, which it did and still does with the active support and encouragement of the same holier-than-thou United States.
In justifying their actions in their self-declared war against terrorism, Bush and Blair are always quick to brand their new-found adversaries as enemies of western civilization who are bent on destroying the west's cherished way of life; whatever that means! As an answer to this, the west, ably led by the US, is forever ready to unleash its wrath and bare its fangs, even at the risk of losing thousands of helpless civilian lives in the process, to topple any regime remotely suspected (please note the choice of the word, suspected) of supporting these terrorist groups based on its morally warped logic of "if you are not with us, you must be against us". Whatever happened to the age-old policy of neutrality as espoused by the esteemed members of the Non-Aligned Movement? This band of modern day western leaders has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they are either too blind to see, or indeed deliberately choose to ignore, the simple connection (often at great costs) between the terrorism they claim to fight and the glaring injustice daily being perpetrated against the Palestinian nation by the Israelis which, incidentally, also happens to destroy their own age long way of life. This, more that anything else, increasingly pushes aggrieved individuals to resort into taking extreme measures in expressing their hopelessness and frustration with the situation. It also has to be said that there is certainly nothing civil or civilized in the Israeli use of armored tanks and Apache helicopters against stone-throwing Palestinian children or indeed in America's use of cruise missiles against Iraqi civilians! It is definitely not in doubt that America's disproportionate military force will prevail in the end and they will go on to win the war, albeit at great costs in terms of both Iraqi and allied lives. Already, body bags have began arriving Britain and the US, together with scores of injured combatants even though western propaganda would insist that the casualties were more the result of friendly fire, as if to suggest that the so-called friendly fires were not a direct fallout of the intensity of the combat! What is in doubt, though, is America's and British ability to win the peace after all is said and done. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether international terrorism, which the coalition claims as its justification for attacking Saddam, will abate as a result of the war, or indeed flourish in spite (or as a consequence) of it. Already, British authorities have started flaunting their over bloated experience earned in dealing with the IRA bombings of the past in response to the recent reports that London has now been declared a legitimate target for terrorist suicide attacks. What the British appear to overlook is the fact that whereas the IRA would normally place a phone call to alert of a planned bomb attack before hand in order to minimize the casualty figures, their new enemy's modus operandi actively encourages the infliction of the maximum effect, which is usually measured in terms of the number of those killed or maimed in a single operation. One fervently prays it doesn't come to that!
Another curious and unprecedented aspect of the whole campaign is the rather laughable 48-hour ultimatum given by President Bush to President Saddam Hussein who, despite all his shortcomings (and he has many of them), still remains the legitimate leader of a sovereign state, which is legally recognized by the United Nations. I say laughable because as far as I can recall, when Bush was infamously propelled into the US presidency through the help of his younger brother, Jeb Bush's controversial Florida butterfly ballot paper system, it was only American citizens that voted in that election. Again, as at the time of writing, I am not aware that the UN General Assembly, which remains the only political organ that presides over global affairs, has passed any resolution extending his mandate beyond the shores of the United States! Failure to heed this brazen show of power was considered enough trigger to detonate thousands of tons of ammunition, which has been amassed in readiness for the imposed war on the Iraqi people. Well, Saddam, as expected, did not heed Bush's 'presidential order' to go into exile, and the war is currently on. The initial premise of a short and sharp campaign is daily being reviewed and revised in the light of the unexpected setbacks being experienced by the coalition. Even a wounded American Marine, whose group came under a surprise ambush by the Fedayeen paramilitary group around Najiriyah, in which a number of his comrades lost their lives, confessed that their Commanders gave them the false impression that they would not meet a stiff resistance in their advance on Baghdad. Lt.-Gen William Wallace, the US top gun on ground in Iraq, also told the Washington Post last week that the enemy they were fighting was a bit different from the one they war-gamed against, because of these paramilitary groups. Already there is the belief amongst informed military circles that a guerilla war situation is beginning to unfold even though the Americans are very quick in dismissing such insinuations; and for good reason too. Anything that will evoke the faintest of memories of the doomed Vietnam misadventure (in which young and inexperienced US soldiers perished in their multitude), in the minds of the average American citizen must be avoided at all costs in order to sustain public support for the war effort.
The use of the phrase, Shock and Awe, in describing the current bombing campaign is also another dumb and unintelligent choice of words that smacks of America's famed pride and arrogance especially in view of the fact that real human lives, most of which would be civilians, are involved. What we are currently witnessing, however, does not bear testimony to what the Americans had intended in their choice of this phrase. It is quite clear that, if anything, the honors appear to have been shared between the two protagonists as far as the business of shocking and awing is concerned. This is because whereas the ruthless manner with which the US is prosecuting its aerial bombardments of not only Iraqi military targets but also private homes and market places (and, in the process, killing and maiming hundreds of civilians) might have left the rest of the world shell-shocked, the level of resistance being put up by the modest ground paramilitary forces of Iraq, devoid of any technological advantage or aerial cover, has indeed elicited nothing but awe and admiration in the eyes of many observers. Already, suicide bombing, hitherto the exclusive preserve of a few known militant Palestinian groups has started manifesting itself in Iraq with a sole bomber taking four Marines' lives in Najaf, thereby further complicating the problems for the US. In addition, the widely touted support of the Iraqi opposition for the allied expedition appears not forthcoming (except for the minority Kurdish support in the North) as evidenced by the decision of the Shi'ite opposition's Tehran-based Badr Brigade to fight the American invaders rather than alongside them. In other words, they have demonstrated enough sanity and presence of mind as to differentiate between their well-known hatred for Saddam and a tacit support for a foreign invasion of their country, which they totally abhor. Another shocking aspect of this war is the high rate at which an ever-increasing number of the so-called precision and laser-guided bombs supported by immense satellite technology appear to be completely missing their targets and landing in far away places in the neighboring countries of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
A further proof of America's arrogance is the shameless disregard for the territorial integrity of a sovereign nation by its decision to appoint Jay Garner, a retired US Army General to head an interim government in post-Saddam Iraq. He will be ably (?) assisted by a cabal of former US ambassadors and defence and intelligence officials to serve as a shadow government for post-war Iraq. What brazen show of shame akin to the colonial expeditions of old! The saddest part of it all is the fact that Iraqi resources will again be exploited and applied by these modern-day vultures in paying American and British firms for the reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure in post-war Iraq; the same devastation inflicted by the same coalition forces that claim to be liberating it! It is also laughable that the same US which has demonstrated an open contempt and disregard for the UN in unilaterally going ahead with this war, is now accusing Russia, Iran and Syria of violating UN sanctions by allegedly sending military supplies to Iraq. In other words, the US which has at its disposal, the latest bombs and arsenals originating from places as varied as the US, Israel, Britain and many other members of their allied coalition, would rather have the Iraqi military sit like lame ducks and await a certain extinction as decreed by the almighty Americans! In the words of Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 - 1400), "Laws care for all, and he who seeks to lay them on others should, by right, obey them"
In conclusion, this piece is not in any way an attempt to support or glorify Saddam Hussein, whose past misdeeds against not only his neighbors but also his own people are well documented. Nor is it an attempt to defend or support the current unjust and meaningless war waged on the Iraqi population by an equally obstinate George Bush. The Head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Rahim Safawi could not have put it any better when he described Saddam as "a regional dictator" and President Bush "a global dictator". Forced to chose between the two, I have absolutely no doubt that many people would rather live in a world that harbors a regional dictator whose activities are localized to his own region than a world with a global monster whose dictatorial tendency knows no bounds and who is ever ready to unleash his country's frightening and disproportionate military might on smaller and weaker nations on the flimsiest of excuses in his blind quest to defend so-called self-interests. May God open not only our eyes but also our hearts to enable us see reason and stand up to such people who are bent on pushing the world on the verge of self-destruction. As Antoine De St. Exupery rightly notes, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye"
Abdullahi Usman is a 35 year-old Nigerian who currently resides and works in Lagos, Nigeria. He graduated with a B Sc Microbiology degree for the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and worked in the banking industry in his country for 2 years before leaving for the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1992 to study for an MBA degree which he concluded in 1993. "I combine my job with freelance writing which I do as a hobby rather than for any commercial advantage. I try to contribute my own quota to my country's political development by writing occasional commentaries and critiques on the happenings in the nation's political arena as well as issues affecting my continent of Africa."
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