Just last month, the Blair government flagrantly plagiarised an article from an academic journal and claimed it was based on reliable British intelligence and offered irrefutable proof of Iraq's involvement in global 'terrorism.' The intention was to paint Iraq in the darkest of hues -- to justify war.
Now, it turns out that the Anglo-American allegations about Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from Niger are also based on crude forgery. The International Atomic Energy Agency compared the letterheads and signatures on the documents submitted to it, with the authentic originals from the Niger government and declared them fake.
On March 7, IAEA Executive Director Mohammed El-Baradei also declared there is no evidence of Iraq's pursuit of illegal nuclear activities. He examined the aluminium tubes, about which the US been raising a hullabaloo for months, alleging these were used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. But he found no such 'indications.'
Thus, some of the critical 'evidence' cited for claiming that Iraq has weapons or capabilities of mass destruction remains uncorroborated even after thousands of inspections at more than 3,000 sites. After UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix's report certifying that Iraq has undertaken a 'substantial measure of disarmament' and that Baghdad's recent cooperation can be 'seen as active or even proactive,' it's just impossible to construct a plausible case for war. As Mr Blix put it: 'We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.'
Yet, it is on this far-from-credible, indeed flimsy, factual ground that the US is plunging into war. By the time these lines appear, an invasion of Iraq may well have begun. The US has dropped lakhs of leaflets over Iraq, telling its soldiers to desert the army. Nearly 300,000 US and British troops are already in the Gulf. If Washington and London cannot muster nine votes (out of 15) for their amended 'second resolution,' they may bypass the Security Council and rush into war any time (Note: This column was written before that happened on Monday).
The moral case for such war is simply non-existent. According to the theory of just wars, any use of force must be premised upon the exhaustion of all other means and on military necessity. The goals of war must themselves be just. Force must not be excessive or disproportionate, nor indiscriminate. None of these conditions is fulfilled in the present case. What lacks even a casus belli (rationale for war) cannot be a war for justice. It can only be a war to establish the hegemony of a particular state, a Hyperpower, which has utter contempt for much of the world in whose name it speaks.
So, how does Mr George W Bush rationalise war? First, he justified it as a means to disarm Iraq of WMD. Next, he said that Mr Saddam Hussein is a terrible tyrant who has gassed his own people; hence, a 'regime change' is imperative. And now, he declares: 'I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator if we need to act, we will act. And we really don't need the UN approval to do so When it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.' Mr Bush hysterically ranted on March 7: 'My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.' He cited 9/11 eight times in his press conference.
There is something seriously wrong here. For one, there's no link whatever between Iraq and 9/11. For another, his three rationales are mutually contradictory. And for a third, it's altogether preposterous to claim that Iraq 'threatens' America and the threat cannot be deterred or contained except by war. Nobody in their right mind can believe that a badly impoverished, sanctions-battered, half-broken, Iraq with its rusty weapons and its crude Al-Samoud 2 missiles (with a range of barely 150 to 180 km and without even a guidance system) poses a military threat to the US from a distance of 8,000 km!
Mr Bush's case for war is reduced to the pathetic tune: 'that man tried to kill my Dad.' America's real war objectives have to do with oil, Israel, and Islam -- or re-making the Middle East by promoting 'moderate Islamist' (read, pro-US) regimes. They also derive from a vaulting ambition to dominate the world. The US misrepresents this war as a war of necessity, when it's a war made out of choice. It's also fighting a war against another state, although it has since 9/11 said its priority is war on non-state terrorism, a much more diffuse adversary. This confusion on the nature of war could cost the US dearly in the long run.
The US, with its overwhelming military clout, will easily win the war. But winning the peace is another matter. Dismantling the Iraqi State will probably unleash uncontrollable forces in a country already divided between a Kurdish North, a 60 percent Shia majority in the South, and minority Sunnis ruling at the centre. This will send shockwaves through three key countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. These societies are in deep turmoil and boiling with discontent against rulers who are seen as despotic and servile to the West. Heightened strife here won't be controlled militarily. It is liable to take on a largely irrational, religious-fundamentalist form and incite more Al Qaeda type networks. This will not only infuse poison into the Middle East and South Asia. Ultimately, it will make the Americans themselves more vulnerable and insecure.
That's one reason why US establishment figures like former president Jimmy Carter, former secretary of state Warren Christopher and countless former generals oppose war. The New York Times too has spoken out against it. These leaders warn against the damage a war would cause to the United Nations, and to the US's own alliance system. Even former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski recognises that the US is now isolated as never before. America has exerted enormous pressure on a number of states, including the six uncommitted Third World countries which are on the Security Council, to build what it calls a Coalition of the Willing, when it is in fact a Coalition of the Coerced.
However, it can count barely 30 members -- out of the globe's 190-odd states. Not even one major state has joined the US-UK-Spain alliance in recent weeks. Turkey has defied Washington by refusing to station American troops -- despite the offer of $30 billion and half of Iraq's territory. For the past month, not even one of the 'Middle Six' 'fence-sitters' has declared support for the 'second resolution.' The US needs five of their six votes, and no veto, if its resolution is to go through. But Pakistan has decided to abstain, and Chile, Guinea and Cameroon seem intractable. [the US, UK and Spain decided on March 17 to withdraw their draft resolution seeking the United Nations Security Council's authorisation for war on Iraq.]
This is clearly the world's most unpopular war. It is sending tremors through governments and ruling parties -- witness Labour in Britain where MPs and ministers are revolting [Robin Cook, leader of the British House of Commons, resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet on March 17]. It's also a war which was opposed for months before it began -- for altruistic reasons inspired by the most elevated standards of morality. War will produce utter devastation for the long-suffering people of Iraq. Already, some half a million children have perished because of the sanctions imposed on this country of 23 million.
Countries like India can contribute to the global anti-war effort. But the Vajpayee government is reluctant, being tempted by the offer of crumbs from Iraq's post-war reconstruction, and afraid of annoying the Americans. At the March 10 all-party meeting, Mr Vajpayee opposed a Parliament resolution on Iraq. He even refused to commit India not to provide military help to America. But on March 12, he suddenly departed from the prepared statement and declared India stands for peace, and totally opposes external aggression to effect a regime change. He also said the weapons inspectors should be given more time and warned against 'puppet regimes:' 'If a change has to come about, it should be done by the people of that country, not an outside power '
In the UN, New Delhi's vacillating stand has further softened despite Mr Blix's March 7 report, which demand the argument for war. The official position admonishes Iraq to offer 'immediate, active and unconditional cooperation' to UNMOVIC, but is silent on the US' unreasonable conduct. No wonder US Ambassador Robert Blackwill told The Hindu (March 4) that he is 'satisfied' with India's position.
This must change. New Delhi should take a harmonised stand based on sound moral principles, multilateralism, and informed public opinion. In a Delhi middle class sample polled by MODE for The Hindustan Times, 87 percent of people say war on Iraq is not justified, and only five percent say India should offer military support to the US. It's a safe bet that people in other Indian cities, and villages, also share this view. The time has come for the government to reflect this in policy and action -- and for millions to join the global movement for peace.