Bush-Blair blunder ignited ME wars


Rashid A Mughal

IN the early seventies, when all the Arab states jointly and successfully imposed oil embargo, the west, particularly America, was stunned. Perhaps they never thought it could ever be done. But the Islamic summit in Pakistan in 1974, which was a huge diplomatic achievement for Zulfikar Bhutto, galvanised the Muslim world and brought them on a common platform. It was there, where the idea of using oil as a weapon and instrument of foreign policy was floated and the events following the conference and subsequent imposition of oil embargo proved it was not only extremely successful but gave jitters to west. From that time on, west, led by America, embarked upon a strategy to deal with such situation and find a permanent solution to prevent recurrence of such events. The purpose was to control the Middle East oil to ensure un-interrupted and safe flow of oil for them.
In the aftermath, think tanks and research centres were established in America to find ways and means to counter such an eventuality, in future. What we are witnessing today is perhaps the result and findings of those research studies which laid the framework for control of oil by any means- waging wars, stirring political unrest, economic strangulation, dividing Muslims on sectarian basis and regime changes. Anyone who is familiar with history and the chain of events that followed, is perhaps aware of the great grand game. Z.A. Bhutto, who brought all the Muslim leaders on one platform, was warned by the then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger that “he would be made an example for others”. Bhutto paid the price, resulting in his hanging.
The murder of Shah Faisal, the overthrow of Saddam Hussain, the killing of Ghaddafi and wars in Middle East are all parts of a pre-conceived strategy to occupy, control, manipulate Muslim countries with proven billions of barrels of oil to ensure continuous flow of oil to them and installing favorites at the top in those countries to implement their agenda of ensuring running of their arms industry and supplying those to warring factions by provoking regional conflicts. Twenty years after the United States invaded Iraq and left behind a trail of destruction and chaos in the country and the region, one aspect of the war remains criminally under examined: why was it fought in the first place? What did the Bush administration hope to get out of it ?
The official and widely-accepted, story remains that Washington was motivated by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. His nuclear capabilities, especially, were deemed sufficiently alarming to incite the war as the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We do not want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Despite Saddam not having an active WMD programme, this explanation found support among some International Relations scholars, who say that while the Bush administration was wrong about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, it was sincerely wrong to attack Iraq. Intelligence is a complicated murky enterprise, the argument goes and given the foreboding shadow of the 9/11 attacks, the US government reasonably, tragically though, misread the evidence on the dangers, Saddam posed.
There is a major problem with this thesis: there is no evidence for it, beyond the words of the Bush officials themselves. And since we know the administration was engaged in a widespread campaign of deception and propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war, there is little reason to believe them. The truth, however, finally came out directly from horse’s mouth. Both Bush and Tony Blair, the main and prime movers of the Iraq war, finally themselves admitted that Saddam had NO WMD and that starting Iraq war was a big mistake .Good, but it took them 15 years to admit and speak truth and at the cast of over 3 million human lives. What a tragedy !
The idea was that a quick and decisive victory in the heart of the Arab world would send a message to all countries, especially to recalcitrant regimes such as Syria, Libya, Iran, or North Korea, that American hegemony was here to stay. Put simply, the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to (re)establish American standing as the world’s leading power-one and only one- and control ME oil, as Trump too has admitted, recently.
Indeed, even before 9/11, the then-Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld saw Iraq through the prism of status and reputation, vigorously arguing in February and July 2001 that ousting Saddam would “enhance US credibility and influence throughout the region” and “demonstrate what US policy is all about”. These hypotheticals were crystallized into reality on September 11. Driven by humiliation, the Bush administration felt that the US needed to reassert its position as an unchallengeable hegemonic power. The only way to send a message, so menacing, was a swashbuckling victory in war. Rumsfeld declared on the evening of 9/11, “We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kinds of attacks.”
Attacking Afghanistan , was a tit-for-tat response to the Taliban’s provision of sanctuary to al-Qaeda’s leadership. Rumsfeld’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, and Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith considered restricting retaliation to Afghanistan war as dangerously “limited”, “meagre”, and “narrow”. Doing so, they alleged, “may be perceived as a sign of weakness rather than strength and prove to embolden rather than discourage regimes”, opposed to the US”. They knew that sending a message of unbridled hegemony entailed a disproportionate response to 9/11, one that had to extend beyond Afghanistan. Iraq fit the bill both because it was more powerful than Afghanistan and because it had been in neoconservative crosshairs since George HW Bush declined to press on to Baghdad in 1991. A regime remaining defiant despite a military defeat was barely tolerable before 9/11. Afterwards, however, it became untenable. That Iraq was attacked for its demonstration effect is attested to by several sources, not least the principals themselves – in private. A senior administration official told a reporter, off the record, that “Iraq is not just about Iraq”, rather “it was of a type”, including Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
In a memo issued on September 30, 2001, Rumsfeld advised Bush that “the USG [US government] “should envision a goal along these lines: New regimes in Afghanistan and another key State [or two] that supports terrorism [to strengthen political and military efforts to change policies elsewhere}”. Feith wrote to Rumsfeld in October 2001 that action against Iraq would make it easier to “confront – politically, militarily, or otherwise” Libya and Syria. As for then-Vice President Dick Cheney, one close adviser revealed that his thinking behind the war was to show: “We are able and willing to strike at someone. That sends a very powerful message.”
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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