After I have read your friend's long letter and all of his questions I really don't know where to begin. I really appreciate your friend's sincere desire to know more about this whole issue. He repeatedly expressed this desire when he said "give me some alternatives," I don't know what the answer is," "I am asking you for information," "I am trying to look at the big picture." Toward the end he finally admitted "I am ignorant and open to information." This is really a courageous statement. To me this is an implicit recognition of the fact the U.S. media is doing a lousy job or should I say an excellent job at packaging the information in a believable form while in fact giving incomplete and often inaccurate information. What is more encouraging is the fact that your thoughtful friend is open to information.
Let me try answering his questions in the following way.
1. Saddam Hussein is not loved by the Iraqi people. Contrary to what it being shown on TV where you see staged demonstration and people shouting in support of Saddam Hussein, people fear him. Given the fact that I have visited Iraq several times and talked to Iraqis in the privacy of their homes, I will insist that the Iraqis are the first to recognize the mistakes of their leader and his crimes. They are the first to admit that invading Kuwait was a huge blunder. But they are powerless. On the other hand, when their country is attacked the normal reaction is to "rally around the flag" and nobody can blame them for that.
2. Saddam Hussein is not Hitler and Iraq is not Nazi Germany. I am saying that because I keep seeing this comparison made, thanks to the U.S. media and the U.S. presidents. Iraq is still a third world country and will remain so for a long time. Iraq is not able to manufacture anything and it relies heavily on Western technology. All Iraq's factories are imported from the West. Whenever I visited a site with the inspection teams, I would check the labels on the heavy equipment to see their origin. Ninety percent of the time they were imported from the West, from countries like Germany, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, France, even the U.S. My point is that even with all those imported factories, Iraq is still not able to build a tank. This by itself puts a lot of limitations on Saddam Hussein. Obviously, the whole purpose of making such comparison is to demonize Saddam Hussein in the eyes of the public, especially in the West, and by the same token justify any military action taken against Iraq.
3. Saddam Hussein is not a mad man, he is a dictator. A dictator would not listen to anyone and would not take the advice of anyone; but he would do anything to remain in power. The fact that he has set the oil wells in Kuwait on fire doesn't mean that he is a mad man. This is what any army in retreat would do. By doing so, he might have wanted also to punish Kuwait. I don't think the environment was very much on his mind. Setting the oil wells on fire or killing his opponents, whether they are his relatives or not, is what all dictators do and should not be a surprise to anyone.
4. The U.S. was never under the threat of not having enough fuel "to get planes and ships into the air." This is another disinformation that the U.S. media is propagating. The U.S. is importing less than ten percent of its energy needs from the Middle East. Besides the fact that the U.S. has huge oil reserves, its oil imports are mainly from Mexico and Venezuela. But as your friend said: "Whoever controls oil controls the world;" and one of the goals of the Gulf War was to control the oil in order to control the world. Undoubtedly, "the stronger nation rules the world." It has always been like that and it is still true today. If the U.S. doesn't badly need the oil of the Middle East why then does it want to control it? The answer is obvious. It is ironic to note that 75 percent of the oil that Iraq is allowed to sell under the oil for food program is bought by U.S. oil companies.
5. Concerning the inspection teams that are "needed to keep the rest of the world secure" let me tell you from the outset that those inspections are right now a big farce. They have outlived their declared purpose. They have achieved what was possible to be achieved in the first few years. There is no way you can declare that Iraq, whose size is that of California, free of weapons of mass destruction without militarily occupying it. The U.S. implicitly recognized that when it decided to bomb Iraq on December 16 for four consecutive days. By doing so it sacrificed the inspection regime since Iraq declared that Richard Butler and the Special Commission, or UNSCOM, are not anymore welcomed in Iraq. In fact, at this stage of the game UNSCOM is more like a spying agency than an inspection agency. Many of the targets hit by the U.S. in this latest round were identified by UNSCOM which is in a close contact with the U.S. Furthermore, the type of questions asked by the inspectors in Iraq have nothing to do with eliminating weapons of mass destruction and everything to do with spying. For instance, Iraq has evacuated valuable equipment from their sites when it deemed that a strike was imminent. The question repeatedly asked by the Chief Inspector was: Where was this equipment stored? For all practical purposes, UNSCOM is now in the business of collecting all kinds of information on Iraq, ranging from weapons production to, believe it or not, topics of Ph.D. and M.Sc. dissertations prepared by graduate students in Iraqi universities.
6. Let me now address the comparison with Japan. Again, Iraq is not Japan. Iraq is a third world country. Even if we suppose that Japan wanted to conquer the world, which I doubt, Iraq is in no position to do so. Indeed, the U.S. went into Japan. "Was that wrong?" your friend asked. The answer is no, because the U.S. established a democracy and left. I wish the U.S. had done the same thing with Iraq after the Gulf War. The U.S. deliberately didn't do it because it is not in its interest to establish a democratic regime in Iraq, and for that matter, in any of the Arab countries. Having an Arab world fragmented to be able to manipulate it is very much in its interest. (The problem of democracy in the Arab world have already been discussed in a previous communication).
7. The Gulf War was a set up. To explain how this was done would take too long. It can be found in specialized literature published about the Gulf War. I can however elaborate a little bit about the goals of the Gulf War. I have already mentioned that a fragmented Arab world is very much in the interest of the U.S. and this fragmentation that we see now is the result of the Gulf War. More to the point, the U.S. has always wanted to control the area and its resources. It wanted cheap oil or at least an oil priced reasonably. It wanted also to make sure that the vast amount of money that the oil producing countries are getting from the sale of oil is channeled for the benefit of the U.S. This is why the U.S. is continually pressuring those states to buy weapons even though they and the U.S. very well know that they will never use them. Why would they need them anyway if the U.S. is present on the ground in all those states? The Gulf War is the perfect proof of what I am advancing. In spite of all the weapons they have been buying all those years, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, they didn't use them. The U.S. came immediately supposedly to liberate Kuwait. Also, Israel is an important element in the Gulf War equation. Israel had signed a peace treaty with Egypt which means that the only credible threat left to Israel was Iraq. This of course cannot stand.
8. Finally, your thoughtful friend insisted that war was not on his mind. He kept saying "I am not an advocate for war," "I am not saying going to war with them...." What he wanted was "a solution that doesn't involve war" and I could not agree more with him. This solution exists and it is called deterrence. Deterrence has worked between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for years. When China started on the path of developing nuclear weapons the U.S. didn't go to war to prevent China from acquiring those weapons. It relied on deterrence. The same can be said about India and Pakistan. What's wrong with using the same approach with Iraq? In fact, deterrence has already worked with Iraq. During the Gulf War, Iraq didn't use chemical weapons because it very well knows that any use of those weapons will be met forcefully and decisively. Obviously, the U.S. doesn't want to go along that path because it has other motives, mainly that the status quo serves its interest (see above). There is another reason that involves Israel. Deterrence by definition is mutual. Obviously, the U.S. because of its size, power and remoteness has nothing to fear from Iraq and mutuality is, by far, in its favor. Israel, on the other hand, rejects the concept of deterrence, precisely because it means mutual deterrence. Israel wants always to have the upper hand in order to impose its will. Being the only country in the Middle East with weapons of mass destruction, in addition to its superiority in conventional weapons, allows it to adopt a defiant attitude in any peace negotiations with the Arabs. This is the reason why Israel is adamantly opposed to the idea of declaring the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. In my opinion, Israel is making a big mistake because Iraq's neighbor, Iran, is rapidly developing all kinds of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Are we going to see the same scenario that was used with Iraq being applied to Iran?
December 30, 1998