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Who'll clean up the mess?
March 25, 2003
For sheer chutzpah you have to hand it to the Americans.
'Liberate' Iraq, and then make sure that they pay for the war.
It's like having someone defecate on your doorstep and then ringing the bell and asking for a toilet roll.
Or take US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent remarks that the portrayal of American prisoners of war held in Iraq on television violated the Geneva Convention. If I was his agent, I'd surely put him up there with Seinfield and the Looney Tunes...
Like the man who bought a new boomerang but couldn't throw away the old one, the US attack on Iraq has added a force multiplier to the deadly cycle of terror and counter terror.
A force multiplier not just in the form of further terrorist attacks on US interests. But one that also involves bad blood between Washington and Paris, Washington and Berlin, Washington and Moscow.
While none of these nations is likely to use terror to retaliate, they could gang up to hurt American economic interests badly, regardless of the fact that this would also affect their own economies.
For instance, if 'Old Europe' is left out of the oil contracts post Saddam, or if Moscow loses the few million dollars that Saddam owes it, chances of such a ganging up multiply. Even the otherwise unpredictable and inscrutable Chinese may see this as an opportunity to rattle the unipolar world it so vehemently opposes.
If we examine the reasons put forth for this war, both official -- weapons of mass destruction, links with Al Qaeda -- and unofficial -- 'it's the oil, stupid' -- one thing that becomes obvious is that George Bush and his comrades in arms decided to attack Iraq first, and then tried to find excuses to do so.
When these excuses were exposed as lies and fabrications, the US then sought to bribe, browbeat or beleaguer the opposition in the UN Security Council. When that failed, Washington decided not to seek UN approval but to go it alone, with its band of buddies, namely the UK and Spain.
Colonialism's dead, long live colonialism.
Plans to remove Saddam Hussein were on the drawing boards probably within days of the Bush Administration taking over, and 9/11 possibly delayed the attack on Iraq, rather than precipitate it.
Among the two main reasons for the US decision to attack Iraq, the first is the belief that -- despite all the UN and US sanctions, and despite having signed the Non Proliferation Treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention, Iraq is uncomfortably close to mass producing weapons of mass destruction. Apart from the fact that letting him get away would encourage others in the region, namely Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to follow suit, the possibility of Baghdad selling these weapons to terrorist outfits gives Washington the shivers.
The other reason is that Washington's mighty upset over the way Saddam Hussein has continued to remain in power despite a dozen years of harsh sanctions, and in fact, has become a popular figure in the region -- some say even more popular than Osama -- for having dared to stand up to the mighty US. Besides, he went to extent of plotting the assassination of the current US president's father, George Bush senior, after the earlier Gulf war.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with this assessment, the fact remains that President George Bush believes these reasons are strong enough to go to war.
But people who predict that the average Iraqi will rejoice on the streets and garland the 'liberating' forces perhaps ought to remember that for 12 years, Iraqis faced severe hardship owing to sanctions imposed at the behest of the US. Thatanger will be difficult to address.
The humanitarian aid that the US and UK have readied for the citizens of Iraq will not last more than a week, perhaps a month at the most. After that, what?
Of course, the UN, which was so unceremoniously snubbed and rubbished before the war, will be expected to clean up the act once the war is over. At a time when the US treasury department predicts that the deficit is likely to soar from the current $158 billion to more than $300 billion in two years, where else will America find the money to rebuild Iraq?
Even the proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil are unlikely to meet the massive amounts necessary to ensure that Iraq returns to normalcy, just like the recently 'liberated' Afghanistan -- where thousands joined an anti-US protest -- is returning to 'normalcy.'
In fact, the Pentagon's recently set up 'Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance' for Iraq predicts that the war in Iraq could cost anything from $60 billion to $95 billion. While the Congressional Budget Office estimates that just transporting troops and equipment to and from the Persian Gulf could cost $25 billion, and US occupation of Iraq -- as seems likely, at least initially -- $1 billion to $4 billion per month.
Add to this the huge sums pledged to various nations like Spain, Turkey and the other members of the 'coalition of the willing,' and the figures go off the charts. (Here, unlike Pakistan, which had all its sanctions removed, India was unable to negotiate a deal with the US for just staying on the fence).
Now suppose, just suppose, that snubbed by an angry America for refusing to back the war, France and Germany refuse to reach for their chequebooks to help rebuild Iraq. Russia, beset with its own economic crisis, is unlikely to offer more than promises and some token aid anyway.
Suppose the US reacted by highlighting the fact that the Iraqi weapons program was aided and abetted by these three nations to begin with. Suppose the three embarrassed nations then launced a economic blitzkrieg on American interests. Suppose other nations opposed to the war but too scared of the US to say it out loud found common cause with France.
Ridiculous? Not any more than 'Freedom Fries.'
What next? 'Free France'? I wonder what they'll do with the Statue of Liberty.Ramananda Sengupta