Saturday, September 04, 2004

Why we invaded Iraq

I’ve been asking for some time why the neo cons and President Bush wanted so badly to invade Iraq when it didn’t seem to make sense. Iraq was not connected with Al Quaeda nor did it have the weapons of mass destruction our President was saying it had. The arguments for invasion evolved to the public idea that Saddam Hussein had ignored U.N. resolutions which appeared to me as something the U.N. should be required to handle if anyone did. It was not ours to do unilaterally.

So, my brother and I are talking about this at coffee the other day, and my brother, I think, finally answered the question. I find others out in the web who seem to agree with him. The answer starts by considering the reaction to our bases in Saudi Arabia. They were intended to be temporary. The Saudis did not envision permanent installations that would continue to make many Muslims unhappy. One reason is that the Saudi government controls the two holiest sites in Muslim history, Mecca and Medina, and many Muslims apparently think the presence of nonbelievers in the country, even if not within sight of the holy shrines, is a form of blasphemy.

More important, perhaps, is the second problem. That is the strict fundamentalism that exists in the minds of a large number of Saudi citizens. It is part of the Sunni faction of Islam proposed in the 1800s called Wahabism that has to do with an ascetic, strict construction of the Koran to include Jihad against nonbelievers. Bin Laden is a Wahabi believer. He not only dislikes the influence of U.S. culture on the world, extended to western culture, he also believes that the Saudi government is not strict enough. As a result, he is acting against that government as well as the U.S., and the bases are a constant irritant in the minds of those who follow Wahabi.

But the U.S. needs bases in the area if we are to safeguard our oil supply. (Again, it comes down to oil.) If we are not to have someone take over, for instance, Kuwait, then we have to be there to react to it. We have to have somewhere to keep our troops, bases, in other words. The emirates on the coast do not want us there either in the long term and we are vulnerable in those states, witness the attack on the Cole. But Iraq, which is right in the middle of the whole shooting match and also provides us with a large amount of oil, is in the right place. If we need to we can invade Iran, Syria, or any other Middle Eastern entity from secure bases in Iraq. I have suggested that Saddam Hussein could have been an ally in that situation. But we had alienated him.

My brother’s suggestion, which I adopt, is that eliminating Hussein and establishing a government favorable to us, put us in an advantageous position for advanced bases to deal with other problems in the area. But this works only if we have permanent bases in Iraq. There have been denials out of D.C. that we want permanent bases in Iraq.

But Doug Giebel of Big Sandy, Mont., wrote in Counterpunch in January, 2004, that bases being considered include
“Al-Habbaniyah Airbase [already an RAF airbase for much of the last century] near the city of al-Fallujah, 65km west of Baghdad;
“Ash-Sha'biyah Airbase in Basra, 600km south of Baghdad;
“Ali ibn Abi Taleb Airbase on the outskirts of the city of an-Nasiriyah, 400km south of Baghdad;
“al-Walid Airbase about 330km north west of Baghdad;
“al-Ghazlani Camp in the city of Mosul, 400km north of Baghdad;
“A permanent deployment of forces in the east of Iraq in what is known as the Hamrin mountain range that extends from Diyala Province, 60km east of Baghdad, and borders on Iran and extends to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, 260km north of Baghdad.”

And the great conservative newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, carried a story (March 23, 2004) that the U.S. was establishing bases in Iraq.
Christine Spolar, Tribune foreign correspondent wrote:
“To that end, the U.S. plans to operate from former Iraqi bases in Baghdad, Mosul, Taji, Balad, Kirkuk and in areas near Nasiriyah, near Tikrit, near Fallujah and between Irbil and Kirkuk.
“There also are plans to renovate and enhance airfields in Baghdad and Mosul, and rebuild 70 miles of road on the main route for U.S. troops headed north.
“Dollar figures have not been released. The Defense Department plans to build the bases under its own contracts separate from the State Department and its Embassy in Baghdad.”

There is also a base established in Kyrgistan, one of the former Soviet states, from which U.S. forces could reach into both Afghanistan and Iran.

How many of these bases are permanent, and what is the range of time that is to be considered permanent is not totally defined. But we have to remember that we still have troops in German and Japan 60 years after WWII ended.

So, the question becomes: Who’s next? Seems to me Tom Lehrer asked that about nuclear proliferation in the 1960s. And as an afterthought, we are beginning to hear the drums roll for Iran’s nuclear weapons potential to be the next target. Would it be as easy a target as Iraq? And where would Pakistan stand in that fustercluck? And where will we get the troops now that we've got our forces holding down Afghanistan and Iraq?

9 Comments:

Blogger David said...

I'm not sure they are as clever at thinking ahead as you suppose. They wanted to lash out at something, and wartime presidents tend to receive increased support. Al Qaeda is nebulous and hard to take out with military strikes. Viola!

6:38 AM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

David, take a look at some of the papers on The Project for the New American Century. It includes people such as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz on its lists of subscribers.

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