Swans Commentary » swans.com Special Issue on Iraq - February 2, 2004  








Gilles d'Aymery




(Swans - February 2, 2004)   In December 2002, as the U.S. and the UK were preparing to invade Iraq, South End Press published an updated edition of Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War, a remarkable collection of fifteen essays edited by Anthony Arnove. (1) This invaluable volume documented the human, environmental, economic, structural, and social destructions inflicted by the US-led strangulation of Iraq through implacable sanctions and relentless bombing campaigns. Late October 2003, Tanweer Akram, an economic consultant to a major international institution, contacted me and inquired whether I would be willing to work on a follow-up to Arnove's collection that would cover the occupation of Iraq and the growing resistance to American hegemonic policies. This was a big challenge. We purposely set out to encompass a wide range of opinions, political inclinations, and people of all walks of life. Some authors who had contributed to Iraq Under Siege (Anthony Arnove, Naseer Aruri, George Capaccio, Denis Halliday, and Rania Masri) graciously accepted our invitation. Other leading voices against the occupation, such as Justin Alexander, Sara Flounders, Edward Herman, Thomas Nagy, Michael Parenti and John Sloboda, as well as regular contributors to Swans, also answered our call very generously. By the end of November, we had over twenty commitments. Each author chose his or her topic without editorial interference. Two months and 800 e-mails later, here is the result of their collective efforts.

Follow the Thread

The collection begins with historical perspectives of US hegemony thanks to Edward Herman's superb essay, Milo Clark's perception of actuality and US systemic existentialism, and Michael Parenti's description of raw power. Jan Baughman and Gerard Donnelly Smith demonstrate how the war was "sold" to the public by playing on fear and demonization. This war, fought against the latest "Untermenschen" in the name of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nation-building and "Democracy" galore (with oil in the background), entailed appalling human costs to Iraqis and US/UK soldiers that will reverberate for years. They are amply catalogued, from the horrendous consequences of Depleted Uranium (Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto) to civilian deaths (John Sloboda), testimonies of Iraqi suffering (George Capaccio), and women's ordeals (Gregory Elich). Michael Stowell brings his own perception of the abysmal conditions children have had to endure, and Tanweer Akram, through a review of Tariq Ali's latest book, Bush in Babylon, presents an Arabic perspective of the conflict. Rania Masri and Louis Proyect write about the spoils and the exploitation of nationalism in the name of profits, and Justin Alexander makes a strong case against Iraq's "odious" debts. Naseer Aruri and Manuel García focus on the ongoing and impending negative consequences on the American comity. Finally, Thomas Nagy et al., Anthony Arnove, and Denis Halliday look toward a future that calls for personal action, resistance to the American Hegemon, and cooperation with all our earthly brothers and sisters.

The Struggle Forward

These essays were written and submitted between mid December 2003 and January 19, 2004.

Since then, the stupefying depravity of the US political elite was once again exemplified by the few words uttered by David A. Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, on January 28, 2004. "It turns out that we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment, and that is most disturbing," he said. (2) What did Dr. Kay mean by disturbing? A slight inconvenience? A tiny embarrassment to our moral tranquility and certainty? He could as well have said, "sorry mate, we went to war on skewed intelligence...we invaded, destroyed, maimed, killed and occupied Iraq on the basis of wrong, souped-up evidence...too bad...let's call for an independent inquiry...let's investigate and hopefully we won't be disturbed again..."

It further turns out that Iraq had most probably destroyed its so-called weapons of mass destruction by the mid '90s, (3) which means that for a decade or so, under the Anglo-American aegis and the wink of the "International Community," the country was bled to death, asphyxiated through relentless bombings and one of the most cruel sanctions regime ever imposed, and finally invaded and occupied, for no credible reason.

And we know that the first Gulf War, in 1991, was also based on slanted, when not blatantly false, evidence (4) that keeps being regurgitated by politicians, semi-prophets, corrupted intellectuals, despicable journalists, and other full-fledged members of the punditry. (5) It was then, as now, a war of choice that could and should have been avoided.

Adding the 8-year long Iran-Iraq war, which was fueled by the two meddling superpowers of that time, the former Soviet Union and the United States, the Iraqi people have been living in hell for almost 25 years.

Perhaps Madame Albright will reiterate that "the price is worth it," (6) but one can legitimately ask, for whom and for what? You don't go about ravaging an entire nation and decimating its people without justifications that transcend the rhetoric of evil, of "us versus them," the freedom and democracy shibboleths, and the intelligence failure shenanigans. This orgy of violence did not begin on September 11, 2001. The policies were carefully planned and meticulously implemented with significant bipartisanship for a long while, from the Kuwaiti trap, the use of Depleted Uranium ordnance (WMDs par excellence), the obliteration of Iraq's water and sanitation infrastructure, the beastly sanctions, the recurring bombing raids, year after year after year. Why? For whom? For what?

Richard Manning, in an essay published in the February 2004 Harper's Magazine avers:

The common assumption these days is that we muster our weapons to secure oil, not food. . . . Ever since we ran out of arable land, food is oil. Every single calorie we eat is backed by at least a calorie of oil, more like ten. . . . In the 1940s we got about 100 barrels of oil back for every barrel we spent getting it. Today each barrel invested in the process returns only ten. . . . David Pimentel, an expert on food and energy at Cornell University has estimated that if all of the world ate the way the United States eats, humanity would exhaust all known global fossil-fuel reserves in just over seven years. Pimentel has his detractors. Some have accused him of being off on other calculations by as much as 30 percent. Fine. Make it ten years. (7)

Scores of studies have shown that by 2020 the Asian nations, in particular China, will tip the balance of oil consumption and that the world will experience a drastic shortage of the black gold. (8) Robert Kagan, mulling over the transatlantic schism in The New York Times, refers to China when he writes:

In [the Europeans'] effort to constrain the [US] superpower, they will lose sight of the mounting dangers in the world. In their nervousness about unipolarity, they may forget the dangers to a multipolarity in which nonliberal and nondemocratic powers come to outweigh Europe in the global competition. (9)

How many "nonliberal" and "nondemocratic" powers capable of competing globally exist in the world, besides China? Compete for what? Food? Oil? Our Western way of life?

This, in a nutshell, and put bluntly, sums up the rape of Iraq: Control over resources. That's why the US military is in Iraq for the long haul; that's why the Bush-Kerry-Dean triumvirate has no interest in Iraq's real democracy, whose leaders would immediately ask the foreigners to leave their country, but only a desire to install some kind of "freely" elected body that can "legally" invite US troops to remain there for the foreseeable future; (10) and that's why the stakes go far beyond the Iraqi resistance. The Western way of life and thinking, not just American hegemony, must come to a halt, here and now.

If we cannot shift from the devastating competition-confrontation model of thought processes to a cooperation-negotiation paradigm, and if we are not willing to revolutionarily -- I use this adverb consciously -- reassess our modes of production and consumption, we are destined to witness more Iraqi tragedies and, in the not so distant future, world-wide mayhem. There will always be well-paid lackeys and guard dogs that will defend the indefensible and the status quo. But notwithstanding their egos, their bank accounts, and their cultivated sophistry, humanity indeed needs to urgently move beyond competition to a cooperative world and to fundamentally change its thinking for the sake of future generations. The Earth will bring us back to reality much faster than all the so-called "terrorists," whether we like it or not.

This Special Issue is dedicated to all the children in the world.




Nota Bene: As said, this work is the result of a collective effort. The whole undertaking could not have occurred without the generosity and the patience of all the authors. I wish to particularly acknowledge Tanweer Akram, who coordinated the project and provided me with countless suggestions; Manuel García, who reviewed all the essays and sent his liberal and appreciated advice; Michael Yates, who advised me on ways to have this issue printed in book format as well as Anthony Arnove who is helping in this endeavor; and last, but definitely not least, my companion, Jan Baughman, who checked and rechecked every essay with the help of her eagle eyes and The Chicago Manual of Style, and had to bear the brunt of my daily doubts and anxieties. I extend my heartfelt thanks to all.

We are looking for a Publishing House willing to print this collective work in book format. It deserves much wider dissemination to students, activists, and people with an inquisitive mind than Swans can provide at this time. If we do not find a willing publisher, we will create a booklet in Adobe Acrobat Reader format that anyone will be able to order and download, print, and disseminate as widely as possible. However, please do not repost this work on the Web. Kindly point to its URL at,

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Navigate this Special Issue

By topic: Previous || Next || Issue Cover Page || Contents

Or jump to any one author (in alphabetical order): Tanweer Akram || Justin Alexander || Anthony Arnove || Naseer Aruri || Jan Baughman || George Capaccio || Milo Clark || Gregory Elich || Sara Flounders & John Catalinotto || Manuel García || Denis J. Halliday || Edward S. Herman || Rania Masri || Thomas J. Nagy, et al. || Michael Parenti || Louis Proyect || John Sloboda || Gerard Donnelly Smith || Michael W. Stowell



Iraq on Swans (all articles regarding Iraq published on Swans)

Outside Resources on Iraq (Web sites of interest)

Additional Resources (compiled by Tanweer Akram)

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1.  IRAQ UNDER SIEGE: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War, edited by Anthony Arnove, South End Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, ISBN: 0-89608-698-4 (cloth), 0-89608-697-6 (paper). See, http://www.southendpress.org/books/iraq.shtml  (back)

2.  FDCH Political Transcripts
January 28, 2004, Wednesday
COMMITTEE: Senate Armed Services Committee
HEADLINE: US Senator John Warner (R-VA) Holds Hearing on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction and Related Programs
SPEAKER: US Senator John Warner (R-VA), Chairman
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
WITNESS: David Kay, Former Head, Iraq Survey Group  (back)

3.  Assuming that the possession of WMDs by a country is a justification to devastate that country and its people, then the U.S. has a lot more on its plate. According to David Kay, responding to a question by US Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN), there are "about probably 50 countries that have [weapons of mass destruction-related] programs." Kay's answer prompted Sen. Dayton to comment: "So if we're going to take out those countries or their governments which are engaged in what we would call weapons of mass destruction-related program activities, we're going to be cutting quite a world swathe." (See, FDCH Political Transcripts, Senate Armed Services Committee, January 28, 2004.)  (back)

4.  See, "The 1991 Gulf War Rationale," by Gilles d'Aymery, August 26, 2002 (revised February 1, 2003).  (back)

5.  One recent example of false statements came from the would-be Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, who recently asserted on national TV, "Saddam Hussein took us to war once before. In that war, young Americans were killed. He went to war in order to take over the oil fields. It wasn't just an invasion of Kuwait. He was heading for the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. And that would have had a profound effect on the security of the United States." Senator John Kerry to Tim Russert, on "NBC News' Meet The Press." January 11, 2004,
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/Default.aspx?id=3916793&p1=0 (last visited, January 15, 2004).  (back)

6.  60 Minutes, CBS News, May 12, 1996:

Lesley Stahl [on US sanctions against Iraq]: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?"

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."

See also, "'We Think the Price Is Worth It:' Media uncurious about Iraq policy's effects - there or here," by Rahul Mahajan, Extra! November-December 2001,
http://www.fair.org/extra/0111/iraq.html (last visited, January 18, 2004).  (back)

7.  Manning, Richard; "The Oil We Eat," Harper's Magazine, February 2004, page 42.  (back)

8.  See, "The Black Golden Spigot: To Saudi Arabia and China via Iraq," by Gilles d'Aymery, Swans, September 23, 2002.

See also, "United States' Gargantuan Energy Appetite," by Gilles d'Aymery, Swans, October 21, 2002.

See also, Cordesman, Anthony H.; Geopolitics and Energy in the Middle East, Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 1999,
http://www.csis.org/stratassessment/reports/MEenergy.html (last visited, January 28, 2004).  (back)

9.  Kagan, Robert; "A Tougher War For the U.S. Is One Of Legitimacy," The New York Times, January 24, 2004.  (back)

10.  No WMDs... Saddam in the dock... One would think the US military should head home in a hurry, no? Didn't we hear someone crow about "Mission Accomplished" some time ago?  (back)

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URL: http://www.swans.com/library/art10/iraq/intro.html
Published February 2, 2004