The Consequences of War With Iraq
Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report
“Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq’s borders–and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?” asks James Fallows in his article, “The Fifty-First State?” in the November 2002 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
He says that some of America’s wars of the past generation–in Grenada, Haiti, Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan–have turned out far better–tactically at least–than many experts predicted. But when fighting, not organized armies, but stateless foes, as in Vietnam and “Black Hawk Down” in Somalia, we have underestimated our vulnerabilities. In the Vietnam War the public couldn’t imagine how badly combat would turn out for the United States. Wars change history in ways no one can foresee, as in the1967 Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel. No one who had accurately foreseen what World War I would bring could rationally have decided to let combat begin. Retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak has misgivings about an invasion of Iraq, largely because of how hard it is to imagine the full consequences of America’s first purely pre-emptive war–and our first large war since the Spanish-American in which we would have few or no allies.
“The day after a war ended,” says Fallows, “Iraq would become America’s problem, for practical and political reasons. Because we would have destroyed the political order and done physical damage in the process. The claims on American resources and attention would be comparable to those of any American state. Conquered Iraqis would turn to the U.S. government for emergency relief, civil order, economic reconstruction, and protection of their borders. They wouldn’t be able to vote in U.S. elections…But they would be part of us. “
According to dozens of knowledgeable people whom Fallows interviewed before writing his article, America, after defeating Iraq, would face the following problems:
What would Saddam, facing defeat and perhaps death, have decided to do with the stockpiled weapons of mass destruction? All Pentagon battle plans leaked to the media assume Iraq would use chemical weapons against U.S. troops. Both of the chemical weapons thought to be in Iraqi arsenals–“GB” and “VX” can be absorbed through the lungs, the skin or the eyes and can cause death from amounts as small as one drop, GB quickly and VX less quickly. U.S. troops would be equipped with protective suits, which are cumbersome and retain heat, a fact that is used to argue for not attacking in the summer. Also, Saddam might use chemical weapons strategically, not just tactically, to lash out beyond his borders, in particular, against Israel. During the Gulf War Iraq launched 42 SCUDS against Israel, but Israel, under Yitzhak Shamir, did not respond, complying with a U.S. request. Fallows remarks, “nothing in Ariel Sharon’s long career suggests he could be similarly constrained. A U.S. occupation of Iraq could begin with the rest of the Middle East at war around it.
Immediately afterward many Iraqis would be desperate. “You are going to start out with a humanitarian crisis,” says William Nash, a retired two-star army general, who is on the Council on Foreign Relations and served in Bosnia and Kosovo. “In the drive to Baghdad, you are going to do a lot of damage. Either you will destroy a great deal of infrastructure by trying to isolate the battlefield–or they will destroy it, trying to delay your advance.” Postwar commerce and recovery in Iraq will depend, of course, on roads, the rail system, air fields and bridges across the Tigris and the Euphrates–facilities that both sides will have incentives to blow up.
“So you’ve got to find the village elders and say, ‘Let’s get things going. Where are the wells? I can bring you food, but bringing you enough water is really hard.’ Right away you need food, water, and shelter–these people have to survive. Because you started the war, you have accepted a moral responsibility for them. And you may well have obliterated the social and political structure that had been providing these services.” Most of the military and diplomatic figures Fallow interviewed stressed the same thing. It has been estimated that the cost of restoring the infrastructure would be $16 billion dollars for security and $1 billion for reconstruction–presumably all from the United States, because of the lack of allies in the war.
It would be a problem finding both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, both of whom would be out there achieving heroic mythical status in the Arab world just by surviving. McPeak says, “My concern is that he [Saddam] is smarter individually that our bureaucracy is collectively. Bureaucracies tend to dumb things down.”
Some other huge problems would be police control, manpower, intelligence, forming a government, territorial integrity, de-Nazification and loya-jirgation. Simply manning a full occupation force would be a challenge requiring 50,000 soldiers. There would be little help from allies. In the short term there would be a need for people trained in setting up courts and police systems, restoring infrastructure, and generally leading a war-recovery effort. The occupying force would face the challenge of understanding politics and rivalries in a country whose language few Americans speak. Inability to communicate could be disastrous. Following the Gulf War there were some near riots among Iraqi prisoners in American camps when it was thought Saddam’s agents had infiltrated. Iraq has no obvious sources of new leadership such as Corazon Aquino was in the Philippines, Charles de Gaulle in postwar France, Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Kim dae-Jung in South Korea. The former monarchy is too shallow-rooted to survive reintroduction, and Saddam has had time to eliminate nearly all sources of internal resistance. There appears to be no one of promise from the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group which survives on money from the U.S. government. The first major test of the occupiers’ exercise of power may come in protecting Iraq’s territorial integrity. Iraq has grown out of three provinces which existed under the Ottoman Empire. One, Baghdad, is the stronghold of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority, comprising only 20% of the population, which has dominated the army and government since the Empire collapsed. The second, Mosul, is the stronghold of Kurds, who make up 15-20% of the population. Through the years they have both warred against and sought common cause with other Kurdish tribes across Iraq’s borders in Turkey, Iran, and Syria. The third province, Basra, consists mainly of Shiite Moslems, who comprise a majority of the country as a whole but have little political power. Geographic, ethnic and religious forces tend to pull Iraq apart. The strains will be real.
Iraq’s missiles cannot reach Europe or America. But, I point out, America has 15,000 operational nuclear missiles. In view of these facts, is Iraq really a clear and present danger to us, as the Bush administration has claimed?
The above information describes the downside of the war with Iraq. Fallows believes there is also a positive theme, which comes from some of the most dedicated members of the war party. They claim that forcing regime change would create the possibility of bringing to Iraq, and eventually the whole Arab world, something it has never known before: stable democracy in an open market system. James Woolsey, a former CIA director, says that in three world wars–two hot and one cold–we’ve achieved this objective for two thirds of the world. At the beginning of World War I there were eight or ten democracies. Now there are around 120. “An order of magnitude! It is said about the natural world that small disturbances to complex systems can have unpredictably large effects…Merely itemizing the foreseeable effects of a war with Iraq suggests reverberations that would be felt for decades. If we can judge from past wars, the effects we can’t imagine when the fighting begins will prove to be the ones that matter most.”
By the time you read this article, a definite decision about whether this war will occur may have already been made. I comment that the decision to go to war will begin a new direction in foreign policy that is a radical departure from a policy regarding major wars that we have followed the past. The new path will call for preemptive strikes against other nations when our national Administration deems them a danger. Former President Carter says this posture is dangerous. George Bush may come out of this war hailed as a great visionary. Or he may come out of it as a president who led us into troubled waters that we may wish we hadn’t gone into.
The Value of Literacy
I would like to comment on a much-valued human asset in our society: literacy. Since colonial times, literacy has been given great emphasis. In the early 1800’s, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error”, and, a century later, Thomas Mann saw education as a means of “elevating conditions of the poor” and “Americanizing the collection of varying cultures and religions.” Today there is not a politician who fails to exploit the notion of the power of literacy, and the precious gift of reading. So, with such strong support over three centuries, why is the quality of our literacy relatively poor? Just HOW has reading been used over 300 years? How does it empower us?
According to historian Harvey Graff, author of Perspectives of Literacy (1988), reading in colonial schools meant scriptural study, with the specific aim of inculcating rigid values in a united citizenry. The New England primer was used for 150 years and sold 3,000,000 copies. It reminded students they were in need of salvation. Students read couplets such as, “In Adam’s Fall/We sinned, all.” The reasons for imparting reading skills were clearly NOT emancipation or creative empowerment of the reader.
In today’s schools, there is also a catechism, a political one. Our country is the bastion of human rights, the lade of equal opportunity. The exercise of free inquiry through reading is subtly compromised by the demand for adherence to ideology and cultural conformity. This compromise is an effective silencer of opinions. Students learn about John D. Rockefeller, but not Mother Jones, about Teddy Roosevelt but not Eugene V. Debs. The context of education is political, and political agendas pervade students’ lives from an early age and, too often, usurp their ability to be empowered, galvanized, vocalized by literacy. According to John Fiske in his book Reading the Popular (1989), “Knowledge is never neutral. It never exists in an empiricist, objective relationship to the real. Knowledge is power, the circulation of knowledge is part of the social distribution of power.
Actual empowerment through literacy, that is, gaining insights and understanding from reading, is really NOT what government seeks, as this would threaten the grip of corporate, social and religious status quo.
Thus, literacy programs, historically, have had a very different intent from the purported objectives. It hasn’t really been the aim to create an informed, CONFIDENT, free, thinking populace, able to spot propaganda or commercial jargon, and thus avoid being prey to manipulation or exploitation, in other words, to read intelligently. Michael Apple, of the University of Wisconsin, argues in his book, Democratic Education in a Conservative Age (1993): “Our aim should be to create critical literacy, powerful literacy, political literacy which enables growth of genuine understanding and control of all the spheres of social life in which we participate.”
I have some texts of letters published in Harper’s Magazine, November, 2002, from U.S. citizens to J. Edgar Hoover. I feel they illustrate the failure to read with genuine understanding and control of these social spheres. The letters, dated 1955 to 1971, were found last year in Mr. Hoover’s files, courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act. The finder was Ed Norris, publisher of a newsletter for Mad Magazine collectors, called The Mad Panic:
Dear Mr. Hoover,
I have read many issues of this Mad Magazine and I would like to pass my observations on to you. First of all, you will notice there are no advertisements and no photographs in the entire magazine. It costs millions of dollars to produce this kind of magazine and the single copy costs only .25 cents, which leads me to believe that someone is subsidizing the cost of this publication. Second, this magazine attacks every phase of our American way of life, such as churches, police departments, armed forces, television, radio, doctors, professional men, politics etc.etc. I feel this magazine is a diabolical form of Red propaganda used to infiltrate the minds of our teenagers and destroy our American way of life. A word used at the bottom of the first page by their own admission is a good way to describe what they are trying to do: “Satiric.”
During an Anti-Communist Study Course at Sylvania Heights School, the speaker named Mad Magazine as a Communist Front publication, giving as her authority a Naval Training Unit film she had seen. Please tell me whether it is true that the magazine is a front for Communists, subtly influencing our youth away from good American ideals; or whether it is just the satiric comedy it appears to be, panning the foibles of humanity wherever they’re found. Our PTA wishes to take up the cudgel against Mad, and I want to be sure it’s the right information I have.
(I see that writer didn’t trust her common sense too far–but came dangerously close!)
The final letter is from a sixth grade class:
Dear Mr. Hoover,
It has been said that Mad Magazine is either Communist-controlled or has Communist articles. We would like your help in clearing up this rumor. If it is true, we shall take action against the sale of this magazine. If it is not true, we shall feel free to buy it. Could you please explain the truth to us?
2003 Business Meeting Report
Humanists of Utah held their annual business meeting and winter social at Distinctive Catering on February 13, 2003. The food and entertainment were marvelous. The company was even better.
Elections were held and the following people were chosen to serve:
- Heather Dorrell, President (2 years)
- Robert Lane, Vice President (2 years)
- Wayne Wilson, Secretary (2 years)
- Leona Blackbird, Treasurer (2 years)
- Joyce Barnes (1 year)
- Richard Garrard (2 years)
- Rolf Kay (2 years)
- Helen Mulder (1 year)
- Earl Wunderli (1 year)
Results of Survey on Monthly Programs
Those who attended our dinner in February filled out a survey on subjects and speakers of interest to them for our monthly programs. This is a report on the results of that survey.
The survey asked about your interest on a scale of 1 to 5 in twelve different subjects. The subject of most interest was humanism itself, followed by history, philosophy, and national politics. Close behind were ethics, literature, and science. A call to action came eighth, which would include such past programs as encouraging us to contact Congress to support the National Endowment for the Arts and to provide free air time for political candidates. Local politics came in ninth, followed by religion, Mormonism, and opposing views. These last four may perhaps be explained by one responder’s comment on opposing views that “we are saturated with this viewpoint.” So maybe we hear plenty of local politics and religion in our daily lives and not enough of history, philosophy, and things beyond our Utah culture.
Far and away the most popular of the six categories of speakers was university professors, of which we have had quite a few over the years. In second place were debates, although we have had few if any of these. This interest does, however, belie a close-mindedness that some might infer from our lack of interest in hearing opposing views. A close third were experts other than university professors. The final three were local politicians, panels, and chapter members. These last three are interesting because responders were asked about their favorite meetings, and five of them named Rocky Anderson’s (local politician), two of them mentioned the program featuring Richard Garrard, Helen Mulder, and Robert Lane (both a panel and chapter members), and others mentioned meetings featuring chapter members Paul Trane and Richard Tierlink, Hugh Gillilan, and Bill Mulder (also a university professor). The Rolly and Wells meeting tied with Rocky Anderson’s for favorite meeting.
Other responders wrote that there were too many good meetings to single any out; that the responder liked variety and had no favorites; that seeing fellow humanists is reason enough to attend the meetings; and that we can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time, and to keep up the good work. This we intend to do. With your interests in mind expressed through this survey, a program committee consisting of Flo Wineriter, Joyce Barnes, Earl Wunderli, and Heather Dorrell (ex officio) will identify speakers and subjects for our monthly meetings. If you want to comment on this report, contact Earl Wunderli or, better still, write a letter to the editor. Also, please contact any member of the committee with any ideas you have about speakers, subjects, or anything else to do with our monthly meetings.
Letter to the Editor
Women’s rights are absolutely protected under the Constitution and should be largely defended from that point of view. Too many women having access to the media are wasting valuable airtime debating whether polls support their position or whether Roe vs. Wade will be upheld. I say they should go directly to the Constitution for the defense of their rights.
What does the Constitution have to say? I refer you first to Article XIV under the AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION. It states: All persons born (not about to be born) are citizens of the United States. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens (people who are born) .nor shall any State deprive any person (born) of life, liberty, or property .nor deny the equal protection of the laws. Now take a look at the Preamble to the Constitution. We the people (breathing, walking, talking people, not the unborn) of the United States in order to promote the general welfare (of the people and certainly women qualify) and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves (again women qualify) and our posterity (those who will inherit constitutional rights equal to their mothers only after being born) do establish the CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.
Certainly the whole absurd idea of rights of the unborn being separate from and superseding women’s rights as citizens is a Christian notion. Certainly they are in the majority but we also have separation of Church and State. Americans should know that when it comes to abrogating individual rights it takes a great deal more than a simple majority. In my view a state that oppresses even 20% of its citizens is not a state worthy of our Constitutional ideals. It would take something greater than an 80% majority before I would believe we are talking about a universal morality shared by all good people.
Christians need to be taught a constitutional morality. Christian fundamentalists are determined to change America in ways never envisioned by our Founding Fathers. That fundamentalism is little different from the Muslim fundamentalism that motivates bin Ladin, and we have a devastatingly costly and unnecessary war to show for it today.
Salt Lake City Marches for Peace
Photographs and Notes by Richard Garrard.
January 18, 2003, saw a gathering for peace in Salt Lake City. Beginning at the Jubilee Center, a crowd of hundreds assembled; they marched (in a jubilant but orderly fashion) down Second East to Washington Square and met in front of the Salt Lake City and County Building.
By the time the speakers began, between one and three thousand concerned citizens, old, young, in between, of every race and gender and type, stood in the bright and beautiful day to hear folk songs, rousing speeches, poetry, and personal experiences.
The people assembled, the people spoke, the people were heard. “We the People” met in a mutual hope and harmony, toward a common purpose: to affirm a love of peace and denounce the rush to war.
Humanist of Utah members Heather Dorrell, Earl and Corinne Wunderli, Richard Garrard, and Eve O’Neill joined the rally and march for peace. If other chapter members were there, we welcome your stories and photographs.