Stop thief!

Sadly its a common story.
A desperate addict turns to a life of crime.

- by Murray Horton

"We’re the US, for Christ’s sake. We don’t plead. We don’t beg. You’re either with us or not" (unnamed US official, Time, 17/3/03).

"I think what’s happening now for the US is what happened in Israel in 1967. We are about to become a colonising power. And finally, when one colonises others, one is able to maintain that through force, brutality and injustice…Remember, this is a war about empire, and it’s about the expansion of American empire, and the right of American empire to dominate and control the world’s resources. If you think these guys (in the Bush Administration) have not sat around a table in Houston and split up the Iraqi oilfields, you are very naive" (Chris Hedges, New York Times correspondent, interviewed in the Listener, 5/4/03; Tim Wilson).

Yes, we’re all too familiar with the scenario. An addict with a raging, unquenchable hunger for a desperately needed drug turns to crime to feed that addiction, committing worse and worse crimes along the way. It routinely includes theft, burglaries, home invasions with aggravated violence, and quite possibly ends up with murder, sometimes multiple murder. It’s the sort of story that leads the TV news every night and fills the front pages of newspapers with reports and photos of the mythological monsters that commit these atrocities.

The heavily armed, drug crazed, mass murderer is, of course, the good old USA; the desperately needed drug is the oil to which the US is more and more addicted; the victim of the crime is Iraq. Addicts always come up with self-serving justifications for their crimes, and those excuses are regular fare in court reports. In this case, the justifications basically boiled down to this: Saddam Hussein is an evil bastard who even looks the part (for Christ’s sake, he wears black hats, smokes cigars, fires guns in public and has the most sinister moustache since Hitler. Not only that, all his evil henchmen have exactly the same moustache too). He used to be a useful tool when the West regarded several hundred thousand Iraqis an acceptable price to pay when invading Iran. The West was happy to use Saddam to "contain" the medievalist ayatollahs who had had the ingratitude to seize power there and chuck out the Yanks (they had beards and dressed funny, which was even worse. The Yanks plan to deal with them later). No girlie squeamishness then about good old Saddam, who used poison gas on the Iranians, during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War (one million dead). And on "his" Kurds (after all, Turkey, a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation {NATO} and the West’s reliable ally in the region, has also been waging genocidal war on "its" Kurds for generations). Not to mention the fact that Britain, as the dominant imperial power of the first half of the 20th Century, had also blithely used poison gas and chemical warfare against Iraqis. It did this when it invaded what was then called Mesopotamia, merrily strafing "the wogs" in one of the first uses of aerial terrorism against civilians.

Saddam Outlived His Usefulness

But Saddam outlived his usefulness when he thought he had American agreement to turn a blind eye while he settled a historical territorial claim, namely by annexing Kuwait, in 1990. The result was, of course, the (first) Gulf War, waged by the first President George Bush. Saddam remained in power, ruling over the remains of a ruined country, one being slowly bled to death by murderous UN sanctions and bombed on a virtually daily basis by the US and British air forces, keen to practise their deadly skills on real targets (and people). Saddam ceased to be "our son of a bitch" and became Evil Incarnate (which is a vital necessity when you’re running a huge military empire and the last holder of that title, the Soviet Union, had just collapsed in a heap. Plus it had undergone a public relations nightmare of a transformation to a Mafia model of capitalism). Saddam Hussein became a bogeyman, a name invoked to frighten children and enrich arms manufacturers; Iraq has been a Western punching bag since 1991. Saddam was still a murderously brutal dictator but essentially incapable of posing a threat to his neighbours, let alone the world at large.

The September 11, 2001, atrocities in the US replaced Saddam with a new personification of evil, namely Osama bin Laden. Apart from being Arabs with facial hair and enemies of the US, they had nothing else in common. Indeed, they had a totally different worldview and were mortal enemies. It was obvious from Day One that Saddam had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon – there were no Iraqis among the hijackers. Saddam may have been many things but suicidally stupid was not one of them. So the second President Bush went after bin Laden, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (there weren’t any Afghans on those planes either. Inconveniently, most of the hijackers were Saudis, as is bin Laden, and Saudi Arabia is America’s most crucial ally in the Arab world). A quick war routed the Taliban but bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, disappeared and they have never been caught, let alone killed. The US-led occupation of Afghanistan – like so many other foreign occupations of that woebegotten country – has bogged down into a mess, a dangerous war of attrition, a treacherous game of hide and seek.

Iraq: An Easier Target

US military might quickly defeated what passed for a state in Afghanistan. But bin Laden’s al Qaeda organisation was only using that country, and the Taliban, as a willing host, it was not itself a state. And fighting amorphous, stateless, transnational enemies such as these fundamentalist terrorists has proved to be an exercise in frustration for the huge US military machine which is geared up to fight the military of other states. So, once bin Laden disappeared and Afghanistan reverted to its usual place in the too hard basket, American attention turned towards the previous holder of the World’s Most Evil Man title. And Saddam was back in the frame. Iraq was a state with a conventional military, one that the Americans have already routed. Personalities came into it – Bush’s father had had the chance to get rid of Saddam, in 1991, but wouldn’t do it. Why? Because the Americans preferred to keep a weakened tyrant in place rather than risk a democratic Iraq that may have split along ethnic and/or religious lines. And Saddam was held responsible for a subsequent assassination attempt on Bush the Elder when the latter was visiting Kuwait.

Bush Junior and his henchmen (let’s call them the Bushmen) came up with various farfetched reasons why an unprovoked invasion of Iraq was suddenly necessary. They tried to concoct links between Saddam and bin Laden (even the most servile mouthpieces of the transnational corporate media wouldn’t buy that). That Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the world. The only problem was that the highly intrusive UN inspections process failed to find any trace whatsoever of these (the conquering armies haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction either, nor any chemical weapons or nerve gas ones. But they have found an awful lot of conventional arms, with plenty of them having been bought from the good old USA and the West). No fabrication was too blatant to try to get away with in this urgent quest to think up a justification for invasion and conquest. "The famed dossier presented by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to his Parliament was plagiarised from two articles and a September 2002 research paper submitted by a graduate student. Worse, the Iraq described by the graduate student is not the Iraq of 2003 but the Iraq of 1991. So glaring was the theft of intellectual property that the official British document even cut and pasted whole verbatim segments of the research paper, including grammatical errors, and presented the findings as the result of intense work by British Intelligence services" ("Britain’s Intelligence Dossier On Iraq Was Plagiarised From A Grad Student", 6/2/03, Michael C Ruppert).

Best of all, they announced that, after more than 20 years of accepting Saddam’s tyranny as being in Western interests, they were going to liberate Iraq, at gunpoint, and, by means of "regime change", transform it into a democracy. Which is as likely as the propaganda that the US had gone into Afghanistan to liberate its women. What a pity the equally oppressed women of Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the pro-American Arab states, don’t deserve the same attention. To quote Bush’s speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute: "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to other nations of the region. Success in Iraq could begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state" (Washington Post, published in the Press, 28/2/03, "President Paints ‘Big Picture’").

It was fascinating watching the huge aircraft carrier of empire laboriously change course, from al Qaeda and the war on terror, to the much easier Iraq. It reminded me of the old days of New Zealand rugby when the Ranfurly Shield holder didn’t have to play all comers but could pick and choose the challengers. The US and its more ovine allies, such as Britain and Australia, were much more comfortable with the idea of waging war on Iraq than of conducting an international police operation to catch and punish shadowy criminals. Now, Iraq, you could see them thinking, we’ve been there and knocked the shit out of them before, so it should be twice as easy this time. The whole build up to this invasion was a textbook study in war hysteria, scaremongering, and propaganda. The media lies and fantasies perpetrated during the war itself would fill a book.

Nothing was to be allowed to get in the way of the Bushmen’s obsession with Iraq (or, more specifically, with Saddam). Certainly not the United Nations and its annoying Security Council votes and vetoes, which had proven so useful to the US in the past (many US vetoes have been cast to stop any action against, or condemnation of, Israel, America’s most important satellite). And certainly not those ingrates – France, Germany, China and Russia – who had the temerity to actively oppose the US’ drive for war, with three of them having UN veto power to back it up. The US is particularly angry at Germany, where Gerhard Schroeder retained the Chancellorship (in the 2002 Federal election that he was expected to lose) solely by committing Germany to stay out of any war in Iraq, and to actively oppose it. Germany is the pivotal US ally in Europe and the glue that holds NATO together. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed it (and France) as "old Europe". The US plans to punish Germany, by moving its bases eastwards, to countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States (all of which spent half a century as the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact satellites, only to have now become America’s most fervent European satellites; all are members of the "Coalition of the Willing" which invaded Iraq). Another NATO ingrate is Turkey, which astonished the US by refusing to allow its territory to be used to wage war on its neighbour.

Obsession is not too strong a word to describe the desire of Bush and his faithful poodle, Tony Blair, to lunge at the throat of Saddam. Indeed, the British media have used much stronger language to try to fathom Blair’s thought processes, namely mental illness – for example, see "Behold The Madness Of King Tony" (The Times; Matthew Parris, published in the Press, 1/4/03). This obsession had serious military consequences too, with the invasion forces charging in half-cocked and under strength, having deluded themselves that the grateful Iraqis would pause from running away and surrendering long enough to strew their path with flowers. Instead they faced several weeks of real fighting against a weakened foe that they’d starved and bombed for more than a decade. And a foe who gave absolutely no sign of using, let alone actually possessing, the weapons of mass destruction that provided the feeble justification for the invasion. Amongst all the triumphalism that accompanied the capture of Baghdad, nobody in the Western media asked the obvious question – what took them so long?

The Cult Of What Makes The Car Go

But surely the world (or rather that small bit of it that makes up "The Coalition of the Willing") wasn’t dragged into a shameful war just so that Bush Junior could look good to his Dear Old Dad? Surely there must be more to it than the deluded obsessions of the ideological psychopaths, moral defectives and Biblebashers that make up the American government, a group that has difficulty distinguishing Disneyland from the real world?

Well, of course, there is a very serious reason why the capitalist Empire wanted to seize Iraq and that is because it wanted to steal Iraq’s oil, by any means possible, using as much violence as necessary, heedless of how many would die in the commission of this armed robbery. Oil is what it’s all about.

Robert E. Ebel, director of the energy programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading conservative US thinktank, says: "Oil is high profile stuff. Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics. It is no longer a commodity to be bought and sold within the confines of traditional energy supply and demand balances. Rather, it has been transformed into a determinant of well-being, of national security and of international power" (Mother Jones, March/April 2003, "The Thirty Year Itch", Robert Dreyfuss).

To coin a phrase, the Bush Administration is an oiligarchy. Fully 41 members have ties to the oil industry and both the President and Vice President are former oil executives. The US currently consumes 19.5 million barrels of oil per day or 26% of daily global oil consumption. With just 2% of the world’s proven reserves, the US imports 9.8 million barrels a day, or more than half of its daily oil consumption. Vice President Dick Cheney’s national energy strategy projects that the US will need to import 17 million barrels per day by 2020 (two thirds of its daily oil consumption). You’ve heard of cargo cults, well this is the cult of what makes the car go, the latest craze being for gas guzzling four wheel drives. Transport accounts for 66% of the petroleum that the US burns. Simply switching from the 4WDs to ordinary cars would save the US nearly one million barrels of oil per day. A 2001 report by the US Council on Foreign Relations and the Baker Institute for Public Policy concluded that: "the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience" (quoted in the Guardian, 5/11/02; "Why Blair Is An Appeaser: Britain Plays Poodle Partly Because The US Is Stitching Up The World’s Oil Supplies"; George Monbiot). America’s addiction to oil is the biggest in the world - a US citizen consumes 2.5 times the oil required by a British one.

Oil is the heroin of the world’s biggest capitalist economy, and much more vital than money. So where is all this oil going to come from? "…Over the past two years, it (the US) has been seizing all the Caspian oil it can lay hands on, cutting out both Russia and Iran by negotiating to pipe it out through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Afghanistan. Last week, though all the sages of the British and American Right insisted during the Afghan War that it couldn’t possibly happen, the presidents of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan met to discuss the first of the Afghan pipelines. American soldiers have now been stationed in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Georgia, all of which are critical to the Caspian oil trade. According to the security firm Stratfor, ‘the US military presence will help ensure that a majority of oil and gas from the Caspian basin will go westward – bypassing the United States’ geopolitical rivals, Russia and China’. The reason why Vladimir Putin is so determined to keep Chechnya under Russian control, whatever the cost to both the Chechens and the Russians may be, is that Chechnya is one of the last available routes for Caspian oil" (Guardian, ibid.). The US is casting a wide net in its addiction to oil – into Africa: "Last month a senior US general, Carlton Fulford, visited Sao Tome and Principe, the islands halfway between Nigeria and Angola, to discuss the possibility of establishing a military base there. Both nations see the base as a threatening staging post, which the US could use to help gain exclusive access to West African oil" (ibid.). And into South America - in January 2003, up to 100 US Special Forces soldiers began training the Colombian military to protect Occidental Petroleum’s pipeline in that country which has been ravaged by a murderous and multi-faceted civil war for decades. The inevitable happened in February, when a light plane carrying US "contractors" was shot down and some of the Yanks were kidnapped by guerillas. The involvement of US "advisers" was exactly how the US got sucked into its disastrous war in Vietnam.

Iraq Is The Second Biggest Source Of Oil In The World

But these are all small suppliers. The US is now heavily dependent on Arab oil, specifically from Saudi Arabia, which is why it totally ignores the blatant contradiction of its key Arab ally being dangerously fundamentalist, unstable, feudal and utterly undemocratic. At least they had rigged elections, with one candidate, in Iraq; nobody gets a vote in Saudi Arabia, a routine practitioner of torture and executions, and the world’s worst oppressor of its women. The nature of modern industrial capitalism is that more is always needed. The Persian Gulf region has 67% of the world’s proven oil reserves. The US has only got enough reserves to last a decade. By contrast, the five biggest holders of reserves – all in the Middle East – have over 100 years of supply. Iraq alone has proven reserves of 112.5 billion barrels or 11% of the world’s remaining supply, with possible reserves of almost twice that. Only Saudi Arabia has more. The Iraqi reserves could cover current US imports for almost a century. To summarise – Iraq is the second biggest source of oil in the world. Rather than devise a sustainable energy policy of living within its means, the US and its fellow robbers would much rather go and steal somebody else’s oil.

"Growing worries about the stability of Saudi Arabia, principal US supplier, heightened by revelations of Saudi extremists’ involvement in the September 11 terror attacks, have prompted US strategists to seek a backup should future instability lead to a drop in Saudi oil production, which could trigger a global recession. Some strategists have proposed Russia as a backup, others the Caspian Sea states of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. But only one country has the capacity to substantially increase oil production in the event of a Saudi collapse: Iraq. "With proven reserves of 112 billions barrels of oil (compared with 49 billion for Russia and 15 billion for the Caspian states) Iraq alone can serve as a backup for Saudi Arabia. At the same time, control over Iraqi oil would allow US leaders to more easily ignore Saudi demands for US action on behalf of the Palestinians and would weaken OPEC’s control over oil prices" (Nation, 7/10/02; "Oiling The Wheels Of War", Michael T. Klare).

Iraq nationalised its oil, between 1972 and 1974. This was extremely popular among Iraqis and stunned the oil TNCs. It set the precedent for the other Gulf nations to take control of their own resource from the companies and replace them with State-owned enterprises. Eventually, even Saudi Arabia followed suit, meaning that the US oil TNCs can only buy Saudi oil from the Saudis, not own or control it.

Winners And Losers

American oil transnational corporations (TNCs) dominate the industry globally, but they had been conspicuous by their absence from Iraq for more than a decade, since Saddam went from being "our son of a bitch" to just "that son of a bitch". The gap was filled by French, Russian, Chinese and even Indian oil companies, led by giant European TNCs such as TotalFinaElf (representing the old imperial powers in the Middle East). UN sanctions starved the Iraqi oil sector of the $US30-40 billion investment needed to rebuild and develop the industry. Of course, the non-American oil TNCs signed contracts with Saddam Hussein’s government and there was open speculation about whether any of those contracts would survive the Americans’ "regime change" in Iraq. So, if the Europeans, et al, are kicked out as a result of the American invasion, then guess who is standing by, ready to replace them? "James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a commentator on the relationship between oil and global security, told the Washington Post: ‘It’s pretty straightforward. France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government we’ll do the best we can to ensure the new government and American companies work closely with them. If they throw in their lot with Saddam it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them’" (Independent, 27/9/02; "Russia Fears US Oil Companies Will Take Over World’s Second-Biggest Reserves", Andrew Buncombe). Indeed Russia tried to have 50 cents either way and held secretive talks with the Iraqi National Congress, America’s stooges, about keeping its concession in a post-Saddam Iraq. This backfired when Baghdad angrily cancelled the Russians’ five-year contract – in January 2003 the Russians had to grovel to Saddam, with whom they had a long relationship, to get it reinstated.

Peter Zeihan, energy analyst for Stratfor (an intelligence-consulting group based in Texas – where else!), said that US oil TNCs are "ready to hit the ground running. If I were the CEO (chief executive officer) of one of the super majors, I would have contingency plans ready and make sure the necessary parts are in the region. The super majors would really shine. It could be like Saudi Arabia all over again for the American companies. Long-term, I see America being in the driver’s seat" (, "Ousting Saddam Could Put Big Oil In ‘Driver’s Seat’", 31/1/03). Stratfor pointed out that after a decade of sanctions, Iraq produces a maximum of 2.5 billion barrels per day, compared to Saudi Arabia’s eight million. But, just by refurbishing existing fields, Iraq’s production could be lifted to five million barrels per day. And Iraqi oil is cheap to extract, costing less than $US1 per barrel, compared to $US6 per barrel in Russia (and $US0.75 cents per barrel for Saudi Arabia).

There is no shortage of irony in the politics of the international oil business. There is ongoing class warfare in Venezuela, the fourth biggest oil producer and a vital oil supplier to the US (the reactionary ruling class, backed by the US, has tried a variety of means to get rid of the populist elected "Bolivarian" government of Hugo Chavez. A 2002 coup didn’t work, nor did mass street protests by the bourgeoisie. So capital called an open-ended strike, closing businesses and paralysing the oil industry. When the Arabs and the Iranians used the "oil weapon" in the 1970s, against the US, there was screaming from Washington to Wellington. However, it’s OK to use it against "Castroite Communist" governments, apparently). While America’s local proxies did its dirty work in Venezuela (unsuccessfully, as the strike collapsed and Chavez’s enemies now face serious criminal charges), the US was suffering from the shortfall of 1.5 million barrels of Venezuelan oil per day (out of the 2.4 million barrels per day that Venezuela exports). So where did the US oil TNCs go to make up the difference? Iraq, of course. From November 2002 to January 2003, US oil imports from Iraq doubled to more than one million barrels per day, oil diverted from its intended customers in Europe and Asia. It was all quite legal under the terms of the UN’s oil for food programme.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Pre-war, the US played a "good cop/bad cop" routine with the world about Iraq, including its plans for Iraqi oil. The good cop was acted, not very convincingly, by the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. He said that the US has no plans to seize Iraq’s oil as spoils of war but that it would be held in trust for the Iraqi people. "It will not be exploited for the United States’ own purposes" (Press, 24/1/03; "US will not claim oil, says Powell"). Anonymous US officials have spoken of plans to use greatly increased Iraqi oil revenue to meet the costs of feeding Iraq’s people during America’s proposed post-war occupation of the country (and, just incidentally, cover the costs of America’s planned huge occupation force). Even the baddest cop, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said: "It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil" (Foreign Policy In Focus, "Post-Saddam Iraq: Linchpin Of A New Oil Order", Michael Renner, January 2003).

On the other hand: "While the State Department is mindful of cynical world opinion about US war aims, officials do not always stick to the script. Grant Aldonas, Under Secretary at the Department of Commerce, said war ‘would open up this spigot in Iraqi oil which certainly would have a profound effect in terms of the performance of the world economy for those countries that are manufacturers and oil consumers" (Observer, "300 US Cruise Missiles A Day Ready As Chevron, Exxon, BP And Shell Divert European and Asia Iraqi Oil Exports To US, Doubling Nation’s Per Day Imports", quoted in Agribusiness Examiner, 30/1/03). The bad cops – men such as Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Defense Secretary, and Richard Perle, a key Pentagon adviser - plan a market structure based on bypassing the State-owned Iraqi National Oil Company and backing new free-market Iraqi companies. The same Observer article quotes Chevron’s CEO as having said, five years previously: "Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas – reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to".

Patrick Clawson, an oil and policy analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told a 1999 Capitol Hill forum on a post-Saddam Iraq: "US oil companies would have an opportunity to make significant profits. We should not be embarrassed about the commercial advantages that would come from a re-integration of Iraq into the world economy. Iraq, post-Saddam, is highly likely to be interested in inviting international oil companies to invest in Iraq. This would be very useful for US oil companies, which are well positioned to compete there, and very useful for the world’s energy-security situation" (Los Angeles Times, 1/12/02, "Beyond Regime Change: The Administration Doesn’t Simply Want To Oust Saddam Hussein. It Wants To Redraw The Mideast Map", Sandy Tolan). "’Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel’, says Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars. ‘Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan and China. It’s having our hand on the spigot’" …Robert Kagan, a leading neo-conservative strategist, recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ‘We will probably need a major concentration of forces in the Middle East over a long period of time. When we have economic problems, it’s been caused by disruptions in our oil supply. If we have a force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies’ (Mother Jones, March/April 2003, "The Thirty Year Itch", Robert Dreyfuss).

Sharing The Booty

Rupert Murdoch, the global media baron whose papers, including those in New Zealand, editorialised belligerently in support of the invasion of Iraq, was quite open about why such a war is A Good Thing. "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy…would be $US20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country…Once it (Iraq) is behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else" (various interviews, quoted in the Guardian, 17/2/03; "Their Master’s Voice: Rupert Murdoch Argued Strongly For A War With Iraq In An Interview This Week. Which Might Explain Why His 175 Editors Around The World Are Backing It Too", Roy Greenslade). So, privatisation and transnationalisation achieved by Stealth bombers and Cruise missiles – this is the model which has already been employed by the US and Western Europe in the former Yugoslavia (only in Iraq they also had to send in the ground troops).

America’s Iraqi stooges were quite open about it: "American companies, we expect, will play an important and leading role in the future oil situation in Iraq" (Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, quoted in the Foreign Policy In Focus report cited above). Indeed, Chalabi met executives of three US oil TNCs, in October 2002, to negotiate the carve-up of Iraq’s oil reserves post-Saddam. For its part, Britain (America’s principal partner in crime) has no qualms in describing security of energy sources as a major priority of its foreign policy. A Foreign Office source said: "I can’t say that energy is irrelevant (to the Iraq conflict) but the issue is one we would have to deal with, even if Saddam was a cuddly individual" (Age, 8/1/03; "Britain admits oil key foreign policy concern"). Ironic then that Lord Browne, head of British Petroleum (BP), complained that British oil TNCs were squeezed out of any of the spoils of war in Iraq before a shot had been fired.

For strategic reasons the US was prepared to allow certain allies to share the booty. The American attempt to gain access to Turkish military bases, in order to attack Iraq from the north, included an offer to allow Turkish troops to occupy a buffer zone inside northern Iraq. This would have allowed the Turks to deal to the Kurds who have been running their own autonomous territory inside Iraq since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. This buffer zone coincided with Turkish territorial claims on Iraq that date back to the 1920s. It would have effectively allowed Turkey to seize the rich oilfields at Kirkuk and Mosul (which it wants to deny to Iraqi Kurds, who might grab the fields themselves, as the economic basis of an independent Kurdistan).

The Turkish Parliament, of course, stuffed up America’s plans for a northern invasion of Iraq, by voting not to allow the US to use Turkey to do it (and thus stymied it). This allowed Iraq to concentrate its forces to fight an invasion from the south only and was a major setback for the US military. The Yanks had to parachute troops into the Kurdish enclave to secure access for a much slower airlift of troops and armour, to open a northern front, where military progress was slower. This was all the more ironic because the US had been touting Turkey - the only Muslim member of NATO - as the secular and democratic model for a post-war Iraq. How ironic that Turkish democracy thwarted those plans. In the end Turkey (whose population overwhelmingly opposed the war) agreed only to allow overflights by American and British planes en route to Iraq. Not that the US had any regard for "democracy" when it vainly tried to browbeat, bully and bribe Turkey into submission. "’The relationship is spoiled’, said Murat Mercan, a Member of Parliament from the majority party. ‘The Americans dictated to us. It became a business negotiation, not something between friends. It disgusted me’" (New York Times, 2/3/03, "Turkish Deputies Refuse To Accept American Troops", Dexter Filkins).

But Turkey has had its own agenda for a long, long time, reflecting its obsession with preventing Kurdish independence in Iraq from inspiring its own viciously oppressed Kurds, who have been fighting for that goal for decades. So, Turkey massed troops on the Iraqi border, threatening to send them in to reinforce the small number of Turkish troops who have been in northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi Kurds (who, in their autonomous northern enclave, were key American allies) made it clear that they hated the Turks as much as, if not more, than Saddam Hussein and would fight any Turkish invasion. They sent the Turks into a frenzy by seizing the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, advancing ahead of the Americans and while the Yanks were preoccupied in Baghdad. The Americans had to work hard to stop a war breaking out between the Kurds and the Turks.

Bashing OPEC

Seizing Iraq’s oil could also deal to another old enemy, namely the 11 member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC has been a thorn in the side of the US and the West in general since the first "oil shock" of the 1970s (remember the bumper stickers that read "Save Fuel. Burn An Arab"? In this country, the oil shock gave us Piggy Muldoon’s Think Big projects). OPEC represents the interests of those countries which nationalised their oil industries (of which Iraq was the first) and decided to work together to regulate global oil supply and get the best possible price for their oil (a good old capitalist cartel, in other words). Its glory days were back in the 1970s but it has been re-energised by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, since his 1999 election as that country’s President. Venezuela has played a leading role in OPEC in the opening years of the 21st Century. Surprise, surprise – Chavez is the target of a carefully orchestrated and lavishly financed campaign to get rid of him. The US and its oil TNCs would dearly love to weaken OPEC, if not render it completely irrelevant – stealing Iraq’s oil would do just that, along with getting rid of Chavez and getting access to the huge Russian oil fields. Any one of those three, let alone the whole lot, would guarantee cheap oil and enable the addict to keep feeding its insatiable addiction.

There is another oil-related reason why the US is keen to colonise Iraq and intimidate OPEC, and that is to preserve the profitable monopoly enjoyed by the US dollar. Until very recently all OPEC countries agreed to sell their oil for dollars only. In 2000, Iraq became the first member nation to break the mould and switch to euros (the currency of the European Union, and one deliberately established to challenge the dollar’s dominance of the global economy). Since Iraq’s defection, both Iran and Venezuela have talked about following suit (and, not by coincidence, they both figure prominently on America’s list of enemies).

The massive global anti-war movement (thank you George Bush, you’re the best recruiting sergeant we could have wished for) clearly recognised the central importance of oil and US oil TNCs in all of this. "No Blood For Oil" has appeared on placards and banners the world over, and it was correctly referred to as an Oil War. In February 2003, Greenpeace UK physically closed down scores of Esso petrol stations throughout Britain. Spokesperson Anita Goldsmith said: "This looming war is a barely disguised attempt by George Bush to get his hands on Iraqi oil, and no company has done more to fuel the crisis than his paymasters at Esso. They have spent millions keeping the US hooked on oil, bankrolling pro-war lobby groups and fighting international action on climate change. If people want to stop oil wars and global warming, one thing we can all do is to refuse to buy petrol from Esso" (Greenpeace UK Website, 25/2/03). A Greenpeace report, "The Tiger In The Tanks" detailed just how the oil TNCs dictate and finance policy in the US.

It’s worth mentioning that oil is not the only vital resource that Iraq has in abundance. It has the most extensive river system in the Middle East. "In the 1990s there was much discussion over the construction of a so-called Peace Pipeline that would bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the parched Gulf States and, by extension, to Israel. No progress has been made on this, largely because of Iraqi intransigence. With Iraq in American hands, of course, all that could change. Thus America could alter the destiny of the Middle East in a way that probably could not be challenged for decades – not solely by controlling Iraq’s oil, but by controlling its water" (New York Times, "War Crimes Or An Act Of War? Mixing Oil And Water", Stephen C Pelletiere, published in The Agribusiness Examiner, 3/2/03).

Making The Middle East Safe For Israel

There is a whole other dimension to this war, of course. Since the violent creation of Israel 55 years ago, the US has been the staunchest backer of the Zionist state. No US Administration has been stauncher in that backing than the present Bush one. Israel and its American cheerleaders have long regarded Iraq as a major enemy in the Middle East. Israel’s first astronaut, who was amongst the crew that all died in the February 2003 US space shuttle disaster, was famous in his homeland as one of the fighter pilots who bombed an Iraqi nuclear facility in the early 1980s. During the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam launched Scud missiles into Israeli cities. A 1996 Israeli think tank report concluded that: "Removing Saddam from power is an important Israeli strategic objective" (Los Angeles Times, 1/12/02, "Beyond Regime Change: The Administration Doesn’t Simply Want To Oust Saddam Hussein. It Wants To Redraw The Mideast Map", Sandy Tolan). Several of that report’s authors now occupy influential posts in the Bush Administration, men such as Richard Perle, who is on the Pentagon’s advisory Defense Policy Board.

Israel stands to make very real material gains from America’s occupation of Iraq. Before the battle for Baghdad was even over, plans were announced to study the prospect of reopening an oil pipeline from Iraq to Israel via Jordan, one that had not been used since the 1948 creation of Israel. The Zionist state is one of the few in the Middle East not to have oil, which it has to import.

The Bushmen’s Middle East strategy only starts with the conquest of Iraq, getting rid of Saddam and stealing Iraq’s oil. They also seek the end of OPEC – "which they argue is ‘evil’, that is, incompatible with US interests" (Guardian, reproduced in the Press, 6/11/02; "Iraq’s oil reserves divided up"). Plus they aim to secure, by external force or internal coup/rebellion, compliant governments in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, which are Israel’s other implacable enemies in the region (the Israelis and Americans consider the Palestinians to be "contained"). They wish to radically reshape the region to make it friendly for Israel, the US and the West and, to do that, they actively seek a cataclysmic war. Michael Ledeen, of the American Enterprise Institute, has been quoted as saying: "One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster please. That’s our mission in the war against terror" (Los Angeles Times, ibid.). In April 2003, Ledeen wrote an article entitled "Syria And Iran Must Get Their Turn" (quoted in the Press, 11/4/03). "Professor Ian Lustick, a Middle East expert at the University of Pennsylvania…told the Philadelphia Daily News in late January: ‘This is not a war on fanatics. This is a war of fanatics – our fanatics’" (Listener, 1/3/03, "Great Games: Many Fear That We Are Reverting To The Old Imperial Habit Of Drawing Lines On Maps – And We All Know Where That Led", Gordon Campbell).

These fanatics founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), in 1997, to agitate for a war on Iraq. PNAC activist, Norman Podhoretz, wrote in the November 2002 issue of his journal Commentary: "’ [regimes] that richly deserve to be overthrown and replaced are not confined to the singled-out members of the axis of evil. At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘friends’ of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority, whether headed by Arafat or one of his henchmen’. At bottom, for Podhoretz, this action is about ‘the long overdue internal reform and modernisation of Islam’" (truthout/Perspective, 27/2/03; "Blood Money", William Rivers Pitt).

Cutting Saudi Arabia Out Of The Picture

The "war on terror" has already allowed the US to build a whole new chain of military bases in Central Asia and throughout Arabia. Occupying Iraq would remove irritants such as the fact that the US air war on Afghanistan was directed from the Prince Sultan Air Base, in Saudi Arabia – and this is a Saudi, not an American, base, where the Americans can only operate on Saudi terms and under Saudi control. The Americans and other Western powers have had a permanent military presence in Saudi Arabia since the 1991 Gulf War (which provides the motivation for Osama bin Laden’s jihad). But, since the killing of 19 Americans in a 1996 terrorist bombing, the Saudis have confined American and other Western air force personnel to that base. Unlike the first Gulf War, Saudi Arabia did not allow American ground forces to enter Iraq across its border, nor to bomb Iraq from Saudi bases (Kuwait was the Americans’ invasion platform). The fact that bin Laden is a Saudi, as were the majority of the September 11 hijackers, plus the obvious support that he and al Qaeda enjoy among Saudis, makes Saudi Arabia a much less attractive ally for the US, and much more a potential enemy. As already mentioned, seizing Iraq’s oil would remove American dependence on Saudi oil (if that fails, some of the US ideologues have proposed dismembering Saudi Arabia itself, setting up a client regime in its Eastern Province, which contains most of the oil).

Power projection into Iraq by massive violence (which is basically a textbook definition of conquest and imperialism) is seen as a highly desirable outcome. "The United States would be in a position to manipulate the region on an unprecedented scale…War is the issue, voluntary regime change is not. It is not only important that Hussein’s government fall, it is equally important that the United States be seen as the instrument of its destruction and the US military as the means of his defeat. Given the logic of its strategy, the United States must defeat the Iraqi army overwhelmingly and be seen as imposing its will…Within a matter of months the United States would become the most powerful military force native to the region…If the United States occupies Iraq, the Iranian reality will be fundamentally changed…In effect, the era in which Washington must negotiate with a state like Qatar in order to carry out its essential operations will end…" (Stratfor Forecasting, "The War After Iraq", 11/12/02).

In fact, the US didn’t bother negotiating with Qatar for its Iraqi war. For the first time ever, it based a major military HQ outside the US. "Yet, according to the New York Times, the United States has not yet even asked Qatar – a nation of 750,000 inhabitants – if the country can be used as a base camp for a war against Saddam Hussein" (Press, 2/12/02, "US Sets Up HQ In Gulf. Qatar Not Asked"; Observer/Reuters).

OPEC is not the only multilateral body that these far Right ideologues want to destroy. They have much more ambitious plans. The UN, which the US conspicuously failed to bully into supporting its unprovoked and illegal invasion (a marked point of difference with the 1991 Gulf War), is the big target. For example, Richard Perle wrote a Guardian article (21/3/03) entitled "Thank God For The Death Of The UN: Its Abject Failure Gave Us Only Anarchy. The World Needs Order".

There’s Serious Money To Be Made By War Profiteers

Mind you, Perle himself is not a disinterested spectator. He stands to do very nicely as an Iraqi war profiteer – "he runs Trireme Partners, a firm which invests in homeland security and defence, a striking conflict of interest. In January, Perle reportedly met with arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and other Saudi businessmen to seek greater Saudi investment in Trireme. As Khashoggi told reporter Seymour Hersh (the New Yorker, 17/3/03), Trireme’s business potential depended entirely on a war in Iraq taking place. ‘Here [Perle] is on one hand trying to make a hundred million dollar deal’, former Saudi diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan told Hersh. ‘And on the other hand, there were elements of the appearance of blackmail. If we get in business, he’ll back off on Saudi Arabia’. Perle disputes the claims" (Listener, 28/3/03; "Conflicts Of Interest: There’s No Business Like War Business", Gordon Campbell). Perle’s ethics, or lack thereof, came back to haunt him (he took money to secure a deal), and in March 2003, he resigned as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon (but was allowed to remain as a member). Perle must have watched Gladiator once too often – he named his company after the ancient Greek or Roman war galley.

And this is only one tiny example of war profiteering. Before the first shots had been fired, US TNCs were fighting over the lucrative contracts for "reconstructing" and running post-war Iraq (after the US State, equipped by the arms TNCS, has done the "deconstructing" of Iraq). The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is in charge of awarding these contracts – just one of which, for highway and other capital construction, is worth $US1 billion. And it’s definitely jobs for the boys. Five of the companies invited to bid for that contract had contributed $US2.8 million to candidates in the past two elections, 68% to Republicans. Vice President Dick Cheney headed one of those companies, Halliburton, before he joined Bush’s ticket, in 2000. Through its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), it holds a key position as a Pentagon contractor to assess Iraq’s oil infrastructure after the war. KBR has already done very nicely out of the "war on terror", for example, having been awarded contracts for building new US bases throughout Central Asia and the cages in which prisoners are held indefinitely without trial at America’s dog pound for humans, inside its base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"There are twelve permanent US bases in Kosovo today, all built and maintained by Brown & Root for a multi-billion dollar profit…Another company with a vested interest in both war on Iraq and massively increased defence spending is the Carlyle Group, a private global investment firm with more than $US12.5 billion in capital under management…The President, his father, the Vice President, a whole host of powerful Government officials, along with stockholders and executives from Halliburton and Carlyle, stand to make a mint off this war" (truthout/Perspective, 27/2/03; "Blood Money", William Rivers Pitt. The article has a wonderful quote from Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of the State and corporate power").

"These are very ruthless ideological people. They don’t shrink from the use of violence. They come from the extreme Right wing of American society. They believe that what is good for Big Business is good for America, and if a lot of poor kids from Alabama have to die so that Halliburton and Brown and Root and Bechtel can have multi-million dollar contracts to run Iraq, that’s tough. These are not handwringers" (Chris Hedges, New York Times correspondent, interviewed in the Listener, 5/4/03, Tim Wilson).

The profiteers followed hard on the heels of the invaders. Within days of land forces crossing the Iraqi border, the first contract was awarded. Stevedoring Services America (which has a bad record in New Zealand; search the CAFCA Website for examples) was given the $US4.5 million contract to run Iraq’s only deep water port, at Umm Qasr (before it had even been "liberated"). This embarrassed the British, who are very much the junior partner in the carve-up of Iraq. Their senior officers expressed the view that the port should be run by Iraqis, as a model for the reconstruction of the country. One said: "This is not the Pax Britannica. We don’t want to conquer a second Mesopotamia. The ultimate goal is to hand everything over to the Iraqi people" (Guardian, 28/3/03; "British Anger As Port Contract Goes To US Firm Rather Than To Locals", Rory McCarthy and Vikram Dodd). The Poms’ main concern really seemed to be that their TNCs are not getting a fair suck of the sav and the Yanks are grabbing the lot for themselves. Fancy that.

The cost of rebuilding Iraq has been estimated to run as high as $US1 trillion over as long as ten years. In January 2003, the Administration created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, in the Pentagon, headed by a retired general, Jay Garner (who is the president of an arms company that provides crucial technical support to missile systems vital to the US invasion, and a staunch supporter of Israel). "Scores of Iraqi exiles – shop owners, schoolteachers, and former military men – will also travel with US troops. They have been recruited from America and Europe and trained for four weeks in civilian-military operations, relief work, and small arms fire at a secretive base at Taszar, Hungary…Never before has a USAID disaster-response team aligned itself so closely to the US military. ‘We’re making no bones about it’, said USAID’s Bernd McConnell. ‘We’re relying on the military for that security that is necessary for us to do our jobs’. USAID already has solicited bids from private American companies for hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild and run Iraq’s roads, ports, airports, schools, hospitals and water and sewer systems" (Los Angeles Times, reproduced in the Press, 21/3/03, "Civilian Team Prepares To Rebuild Iraq", Mark Fineman and John Hendren).

This envisages nothing less than the wholesale privatisation of the entire Iraqi economy and society, with US TNCs being the beneficiaries of a whole country handed over to them for profitable dissection. Just one contract alone is for the printing of millions of new textbooks – we can imagine at the content of these, particularly the Iraqi history ones. The personality cult and propaganda of Saddam’s totalitarian regime will be replaced by American State and TNC propaganda.

The invaders got their privatisation programme off to a flying start as soon as they were into Iraq. Umm Qasr, Iraq’s only port, was the first city to be "liberated", and the Americans decided that a good "incentive" for the distribution of humanitarian aid would be to sell water. Doing this to a population that is destitute and displaced by war (not to mention issues such as what currency to use) managed to simultaneously outrage local Iraqis, Iraqi Americans working with the invaders, and the British military. It was so embarrassing that the decision was reversed within a day (despite claims that it would get Iraqis used to capitalism).

Stooges Sidelined

In the early stages of the preparation for this war, the Bush Administration fostered the myth that it was going into Iraq to install a government headed by Iraqis. The leading candidate for that country’s post-Saddam leader was Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a man despised and scorned by earlier Administrations. Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command for US forces in the Middle East, described Chalabi and the INC as "silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London". Zinni referred to the disastrous 1961 US-backed invasion of Cuba by its Miami-based Cuban stooges. He said that backing the INC meant that "the Bay of Pigs could turn into the Bay of Goats" (The American Prospect, 8/11/02; "Tinker, Banker, NeoCon, Spy: Ahmed Chalabi’s Long And Winding Road From [And To?] Baghdad", Robert Dreyfuss).

But Chalabi was to be Our Man In Baghdad for the Bushmen, who were happily prepared to overlook the fact that he is a crook, one who had been sentenced, in absentia, to 22 years in a Jordanian prison, for fraud, embezzlement and currency offences totalling $US70 million. A former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia described him thus: "He’s a criminal banker. He’s a swindler. He’s interested in getting money and I suspect it’s all gone into his bank accounts and those of his friends" Not to mention the fact that he hasn’t lived in Iraq since 1956, apart from a short (and disastrous) period organising resistance in the Kurdish north in the 1990s. In 1996 he led a 1,000 strong CIA-backed army into northern Iraq. Not only did Saddam’s troops not defect but they fiercely resisted. To add insult to injury, one of the key Kurdish armies invited the Iraqis back into Kurdistan to defeat the INC. Chalabi and the remnants of his army fled in disarray; key CIA agents were captured and executed; a rival Iraqi exile group blew up the INC’s HQ. It was a fiasco and instrumental in persuading the US that if it wanted to get rid of Saddam it would have to do the dirty work itself.

So, as is glaringly obvious to anyone with half a brain, Chalabi enjoys very little support in Iraq. But he had the all-important patronage of the Bushmen. Indeed, as already mentioned, throughout the latter months of 2002, Chalabi received delegations from US oil TNCs and anxious governments, such as Russia, acting like an Ottoman Empire sultan and promising lucrative oil contracts to all those who sucked up to him. His dream world came to a rude awakening in February 2003 when his American masters unceremoniously sidelined him from any prospect of leading a post-Saddam Iraq. This was a spectacular downfall for the man previously dubbed "the George Washington of Iraq" by his erstwhile admirers.

Chalabi had enjoyed unfettered access at the highest level of the Bush government. "Indeed, in a development without precedent in the history of the United States government, (Defense Secretary) Rumsfeld and (Assistant Defense Secretary) Wolfowitz regularly introduced unvarnished INC intelligence and assessments into the Principals’ and Deputies’ Committees that coordinate the highest level decision-making on Iraq of the Federal government. None of it was scrutinised or independently assessed by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), State (Department) or any other government agency before being introduced and eagerly adopted. So why dump Chalabi now? Pentagon insiders say there was one, simple but overwhelming reason; Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and (Undersecretary of Defense) Feith and their supporters had finally woken up – catastrophically late in the day – to the realisation that they, who prided themselves on their intellectual brilliance and who so openly despised the supposedly bureaucratic, cautious, liberal and inept CIA and State analysts – had been had. Chalabi’s intelligence was worthless…Yet, as noted military analyst William Lind of Washington’s conservative Free Congress Foundation has tellingly observed: ‘The entire US war plan against Iraq was designed and based on the assumption that the Iraqis would not fight and that the Iraqi Army would fall apart’. And this assumption itself was entirely based on the flood of supposedly priceless inside information that Chalabi had provided to his eager audience in OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense)" (United Press International, 7/3/03, "Why Defense Hawks Cut Chalabi", Martin Sieff).

Outright American Colonisation,

Having sidelined the stooges (the sort of people that Lenin defined as "useful idiots"), the decision was then made that post-war Iraq would be run as an open US colony (a "protectorate"). It will be headed by a retired US general, Jay Garner, and occupied by tens of thousands of American troops for several years. This may, or may not, be followed by an American civilian ruler (they’ve probably saved themselves some money – their Afghan puppet leader, Hamid Karzai, has to be protected by American bodyguards, after his Afghan ones proved to be untrustworthy and more interested in killing him). Details emerged that the government would consist of 23 ministries, each headed by an American, who would oversee four Iraqi advisers. This is where the INC comes into the picture – they would supply the advisers. Chalabi had hoped to be Prime Minister in an interim government. But the Americans don’t plan to create any such post, and the best they offered him is an advisory job in the Finance Ministry (and that was over the objections of both the CIA and State Department). None of this went down well with the stooges. A INC official said: "It is certainly not the INC’s intention to advise any US ministers in Iraq. Our position is that no Americans should run Iraqi ministries. The US is talking about an interim Iraqi authority taking over, but we are calling for a provisional government" (Guardian, 1/4/03; "US Draws Up Secret Plan To Impose New Regime On Iraq", Brian Whitaker and Luke Harding). Dream on, puppets.

Colin Powell has ruled out handing it over to the UN: "We didn’t take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant dominating control over how it unfolds in the future" (Press, 28/3/03; "US Seeks ‘Dominating Control’ On Iraq"). The US will, however, graciously allow the UN to clean up the mess it has created, by distributing humanitarian aid. Nation building and peacekeeping are not America’s strong points – too boring and time consuming.

This naked imperialism is a public relations nightmare for the US, not to mention earning it the undying enmity of the Iraqi opposition. Iraq is an artificial nation, cobbled together at the end of World War 1 from the ruins of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The US is now considering dismembering it. As well as the likelihood of Turkey seizing part of the north, "it (the US) has been considering the restoration of the Hashemite kingdom that ruled Iraq until 1958, on behalf of an earlier cabal of Western oil companies. Last June (2002), Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan met with Iraqi opposition groups in London to explore this option. Such a plan would entail peeling off the central part of Iraq populated by Sunni Arabs and joining them to Jordan to form one Hashemite kingdom, with Amman as its capital. Longer term, this option could also tempt Israel to forcibly expel the Palestinians from the West Bank, into Jordan. Tiny Gaza could then be announced as the Palestinian state, thus enabling Israel and the US to declare peace in the Middle East – entirely on their terms" (Listener, 1/3/03, "Great Games: Many Fear That We Are Reverting To The Old Imperial Habit Of Drawing Lines On Maps – And We All Know Where That Led", Gordon Campbell).

Bush & Co: Liars, Thieves, Armed Robbers, Mass Murderers, War Criminals

At the time of writing, Saddam Hussein’s fate is unknown. Nobody will shed any tears for him regardless of whether he is dead or alive. He, like other tyrants of his ilk, was a murderous monster. Saddam modeled himself on Stalin (including the cult of the personality, the totalitarian police state, and even the moustache) with the same fondness for slaughter and torture. He and his cohorts deserve everything they get.

To use a Bushism, it is obvious that the American ideologues grotesquely "misunderestimated" the Iraqis. Strangely enough the ungrateful buggers fought for their country, to the extent of thousands of expatriates flocking home to join the fight. They fought as the Russians fought the Germans, the Vietnamese fought the Americans and as the Americans themselves fought the British in their own War of Independence. And just like those American patriots, the Iraqis fought "dirty", as guerillas, using whatever tactics and weapons came to hand in defence of their country, their towns, their homes and their families. Generals of all invading and occupying armies have always complained that their guerilla enemies are cowards who won’t stand still, out in the open, to be killed. It took the Americans several years to start regarding all Vietnamese as enemies to be killed on sight. It took less than a fortnight for them to start indiscriminately murdering Iraqi women and kids. Not to mention killing their own troops and those of their allies, in the panicky bloodlust of war.

There were no cheering throngs waving US or UK flags, to welcome their "liberators". It was nothing like Kabul in 2001. The Iraqis, both military and civilians, fought as hard as possible for their country. The captured Americans shown on Iraqi TV didn’t look heroic, but rather just like the frightened poor who join armies the world over. Back in 1941 the Nazis kidded themselves that the Russian people would welcome them as liberators from the tyrant Stalin – they too learned the hard way that people actually fiercely resist foreign invaders of their homeland.

When the Yanks reached Baghdad they managed to round up a very small "crowd" to cheer and perform for the tame TV cameras while US troops toppled a Saddam statue. Anyway, cheering crowds have been the response to conquering armies from time immemorial. It’s always prudent to be seen to back the winning side of any war. If the Japanese Imperial Army had marched into New Zealand in WW2, they would have been cheered down Queen Street too. The British Army remembers only too well that in the other country it occupies – Northern Ireland – it was greeted by cheering Catholic crowds in the 1960s, when it was sent to protect them from rampaging Protestants. Catholic women didn’t strew the soldiers with flowers – they did something much more British and gave them cups of tea. But it wasn’t very long at all before those same women were banging dustbin lids and painting walls white to give IRA snipers and bombers a better chance of killing those soldiers. The British had ceased to be saviours and had become a highly partisan occupation army.

Despite being murdered by the hundreds of thousands, bombed and starved for more than a decade, Iraqis still proved difficult to conquer. Amidst the orgy of triumphalism at this great "victory", the question remains – why did it take so long to defeat a country one tenth of the population of the US, one which had been bled to death over such a long period?

And let’s speak some plain truths here, avoiding the mealy mouthed diplomatic niceties about the invasion being "unfortunate" and "regrettable". Bush, Blair, Howard and all the rest are liars, thieves, armed robbers, mass murderers and war criminals. They deserve to stand before the same court that tries the leaders of the Saddam Hussein regime and to share the same fate. To my mind, the most fitting punishment would be for the whole lot, from both sides, to be locked up together in perpetuity. Its completely fitting when you consider that the last country to invade and occupy another was none other than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq when it went into Kuwait in 1990.

Where to next for this bunch of killers (I’m sorry, the Good Guys, Our Boys)? Syria seems to be the bookies’ favourite. Colin Powell, old Mr Good Cop himself, has signalled that. "From Powell, the reluctant hawk, this counts as an unambiguous warning of American inclination. If a new Baghdad government is formed as planned, then Syria will be surrounded by countries sympathetic to the US: Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Turkey. Its own people are impatient for change. From Washington’s perspective, this makes regime change look ‘doable’; in Iran, political complexity, size and nationalism probably do not" (The Times, reproduced in the Press. 11/4/03; "US Dream Or Nightmare?", Bronwen Maddox). Righto then, point the tanks towards Damascus.

But first there is the matter of digesting Iraq. There is one major difference with the Vietnam War – although the Yanks bombed North Vietnam relentlessly for years, they never attempted to invade or conquer it. Thus begins a whole new ball game for the Americans – outright colonisation of the kind they haven’t practised since forcibly relieving Spain of its colonies such as Cuba and the Philippines more than 100 years ago. All empires and megalomaniacs (Hitler and Napoleon are two who come to mind) sooner or later collapse from overreach, the necessity to keep subduing more and more troublesome barbarians on the frontier, the need to keep on occupying and oppressing more and more peoples. This mad dog may very well have bitten off more than he can chew – with any luck he will choke on it.

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