The "Logic" of War
To effectively combat war in the Gulf we have to understand its
motives. Bush is seeking to get Iraq out of Kuwait. Possibly he is
seeking to reduce Iraq to rubble. But that is not the whole story.
Hundreds of U.S. bombers are not "storming" Iraq to maintain cheap
oil. (1) The cost of more expensive oil would be much less than the
cost of the military operation. (2) Oil prices have a marked-regulated
cap anyhow. If oil producers raise prices too high for too long, users
drift away which is self-defeating for oil rich countries. (3) Insofar
as high oil prices cause problems to industrialized economies, Europe
and Japan are more vulnerable than the U.S., so relative to these
countries higher oil prices often help our economy at a time of
its threatened dissolution.
Fleets of U.S. helicopters are not "storming" Iraq to honor
Kuwait's national sovereignty. U.S. history is a near continuous
chronicle of violating other countries' national sovereignty for even
less compelling reasons than those Saddam Hussein offers to
rationalize his militarism. For example, Kuwait's oil policies were
certainly more damaging to Iraq's economy than Panama's policies were
to the U.S. economy. No U.S. elected official or mainstream media
commentator has even hinted that our invasion of Panama was just as
much a violation of national sovereignty as Hussein's invasion of
Kuwait. Respect for national sovereignty is an after-the-fact
rationalization of Desert Storm, not a motive.
U.S. troops are not "storming" Iraq because we fear Hitlerite
expansionism. Iraq is only a local power, not pre-World War II
Germany. Iraq just spent the 1980s failing to conquer Iran
despite U.S. support.
The real reason for U.S. opposition to Iraqi occupation of Kuwait
is not to keep oil prices low, but to keep Washington, Wall Street,
and their allies in charge of setting oil prices. We are fighting to
maintain and even enlarge one of our few continuing claims to
international economic clout: control of oil prices. The Bush
administration and the New York Times alike view the
Mideast as an extension of Texas. It is "our oil," not theirs. The
U.S. oil posture is not a sober defense of countries dependent on oil.
It is a greedy offensive that pursues U.S. oil advantage. Most
countries, particularly Third World countries, suffer horribly for
But fulfilling our imperial need to control the "oil card" requires
only that Hussein be pushed out of Kuwait. A second question therefore
arises. Why not let diplomacy and sanctions push Hussein out? Why
escalate the war?
The answer is at the heart of understanding the U.S. role in the
so-called "new world order." George Bush wants Hussein out of Kuwait,
yes. But he does not want UN activism, international sanctions, and
multilateral diplomacy credited with causing withdrawal. From Bush's
perspective a diplomatic solution would be as bad as Hussein's
interference in the first place. Diplomatic success would undercut the
efficacy of U.S. military interventionism, now, and well into the
future. And it would add powerful fuel to calls for a "peace dividend"
and conversion here in the U.S.
On the other hand, the early dispatch of hundreds of thousands of
U.S. troops and immense firepower allowed Bush to enter what he
undoubtedly saw as a "win/win" game. If Hussein had withdrawn Bush
would have claimed he did so due to our military threat, thus
establishing the logic of continued military spending to maintain
peace. Now, the U.S. will forcibly annihilate Hussein, again
evidencing the necessity for military might. The goal of our drive to
war is to maintain the region's effective colonization while
re-legitimating militarism. Now Secretary of Defense Cheney will
argue not only for increased conventional military expenditures, but
also for nuclear and star wars expenditures to forestall future Third
World conflicts and/or smash future dictators who stray from doing our
bidding. Desert Storm is, therefore, also a war against the
redistribution of domestic wealth and power than conversion away from
militarism implies. It is a war against Iraq, but also a war against
the poor in our own country.
For years the U.S. has been the biggest economic power and has
shared contested military dominance with the Soviet Union. Now we are
alone at the top of the military heap with the biggest, best, and most
numerous weapons of every conceivable type. Moreover, our economy is
losing its ability to coerce international obedience. The U.S. is
climbing down the ladder of economic influence as U.S. military
stature rises without limit. Big guns and fewer dollars suggest a
warfare state hiring out as the world's enforcer. Now we fight Exxon's
wars and anyone else's, as long as they pay the proper fees,
either because they want to or, if necessary, because we force them
to. Have gun will travel. Destination: a warrior state domestically
The first battle over this scenario is unfolding now in the
Mideast, as well as here at home. Will militarism be re- legitimated
or will conversion gain momentum as a policy alternative? To reverse
Bush's war scenario social movements must explain the underlying
forces compelling Bush's violence and galvanize the deep-rooted and
sustained opposition needed to stop it.
Questions and Answers
1. Does the U.S. oppose aggression? No.
- Aggression is fine if it's in U.S. interests. It's bad only if
it's opposed to U.S. interests. The U.S. invaded Panama and imposed
a puppet regime still under U.S. control. The world objected so we
vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions.
- Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, broke it up, killed two thousand
people, tried to destroy relics of Greek civilization, drove out
200,000 people. That was fine. Turkey is our ally.
- Israel attacked Lebanon, killed about 20,000 people, bombarded
the capital, and still occupies southern Lebanon. The U.S. vetoed a
series of UN Security Council resolutions to terminate that
aggression. Israel holds on to the occupied territories. It has
annexed some of them. Fine. The U.S. supports Israel.
- Morocco invaded the Western Sahara, annexed it. The U.S. thinks
- Indonesia invaded East Timor. Two hundred thousand killed. The
worst slaughter relative to the population since the Holocaust. The
U.S. gives them aid.
- Iraq attacked Iran. The U.S. assisted them. Iraq gassed the
Kurds in the north of Iraq. Fine. After all, the Turks are having
problems with the Kurds too and the Turks are our ally.
- Iraq invades Kuwait. Outrage. Cries of Hitler reborn. Send
400,000 troops. Bomb Baghdad.
- The United States can claim it's opposed to aggression on ABC
News without ridicule because we have a disciplined intellectual
class who look the other way and/or lie as a matter of course. In
the Third World, however, the claim is seen as ludicrous. People
there consider the U.S. the major violator of the principle that
aggression is wrong.
2. Does the U.S. oppose proliferation of super-weapons? No.
- In April 1990, Saddam Hussein, then still the U.S.'s friend and
ally, offered to destroy his chemical and biological weapons if
Israel agreed to destroy its non-conventional weapons--- including
its nuclear weapons. The State Department welcomed Hussein's offer
to destroy his own arsenal, but rejected the link "to other issues
or weapons systems."
- Acknowledgment of the existence of Israeli nuclear weapons would
raise the question why all U.S. aid to Israel is not illegal under
1970s congressional legislation that bars aid to any country engaged
in clandestine nuclear weapons development.
- In December 1990, speaking at a joint press conference with
Secretary of State Baker, then Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard
Shevardnadze proposed a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East if Iraq
withdraws form Kuwait. Baker gave "qualified support," the press
observed, but "carefully avoided using the words nuclear-free zone"
-- for the reason just noted.
- A week later, Iraq offered to "scrap chemical and mass
destruction weapons if Israel was also prepared to do so," Reuters
reported. The offer seems to have passed in silence here. Weapons
proliferation for our allies -- including Iraq before August 2 -- is
- Iraq's more recent call for "the banning of all weapons of mass
destruction in the region" as part of a negotiated settlement of its
withdrawal from Kuwait evoked no Western support.
3. So what is Bush concerned about? Domination.
- Iraq violated a fundamental principle of world affairs -- that
the energy reserves of the Middle East have to be firmly in the
hands of U.S. energy corporations and trusted U.S. clients like
Saudi Arabia's elites.
- This means Mideast populations do not really benefit from their
own resource, but "so what," says Bush. The West benefits because
Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar are basically sectors of
London and New York. The U.S. government doesn't care if the Saudi
elite administers oil prices because that's like having it done on
- The U.S. does care if an independent Arab nationalist threatens
to use the resources for domestic purposes. The U.S. opposes that
kind of behavior anywhere in the world. That is why we "destroy
cities to save them."
- The State Department says Mideast oil is a "stupendous source of
strategic power" and "one of the greatest prizes in world history."
So what if it's in the Mideast?
- In Iran in 1953 we overthrew a nationalist parliamentary regime.
Now we threaten a murderous tyrant's regime, although Hussein was
just as much a murderous tyrant before August 2, when we supported
him because doing so furthered U.S. interests.
4. Why does Bush oppose negotiations? They might work.
- The U.S. is usually against diplomacy. If the U.S. can
establish force as the way to rule the world, the U.S. wins because
it's way ahead in force. If diplomacy succeeds, it delegitimates
militarism, reduces the relevance of military might and increases
the relevance of diplomacy.
- This is also why the U.S. adamantly opposes linkage between
Kuwait and the West Bank. The U.S. supports linkage when it benefits
us. But in this case we're against linkage, and the reason is not
just because Israel is our ally, but because linkage is a step
toward diplomatically resolving the Gulf and Arab-Israeli
crises. The U.S. opposes a diplomatic settlement of either
crisis and therefore certainly opposes a joint diplomatic settlement
of both of them.
- When Bush sent 400,000 troops instead of 15,000, which could
have been just as effective in preventing further Iraqi aggression,
he did it to scuttle negotiations and leave only military might as
the arbiter. His worst nightmare is a negotiated solution that would
legitimate the rule of international law rather than U.S. power.
5. What is the New World Order all about? Same as the old, with an
ominous new wrinkle.
- In the London Financial Times of November 21, 1990,
a respected commentator describes the Gulf crisis as a "watershed
event in U.S. international relations," which will be seen in
history as having "turned the U.S. military into an internationally
financed public good." In the 1990s, he continues, "there is no
realistic alternative [to] the U.S. military assuming a more
explicitly mercenary role than it has played in the past."
- The financial editor of the Chicago Tribune
recently put the point less delicately: we must exploit our "virtual
monopoly in the security marked...as a lever to gain funds and
economic concessions" from Germany and Japan. The U.S. has "cornered
the West's security marked" and will therefore be "the world's
- Some will call us "Hessians," he continues, but "that's a
terribly demeaning phrase for a proud, well-trained, well-financed
and well-respected military" and whatever anyone may say, "we should
be able to pound our fists on a few desks" in Japan and Europe, and
"extract a fair price for our considerable services," demanding that
our rivals "buy our bonds at cheap rates, or keep the dollar propped
up, or better yet, pay cash directly into our Treasury." "We could
change this role" of enforcer, he concludes, "but with it would go
much of our control over the world economic system."
6. Why is Bush so eager to wage war? Momentum and preference!
- Having sent a gigantic military force to ensure that any Gulf
resolution would be military, Bush left himself few options. Either
Hussein would withdraw, with or without concessions, or we would
bomb him out. Bush could not maintain so high a level of force
indefinitely nor withdraw without a resolution of the crisis.
- But Bush has shown that he actually favored war. Why was he so
eager to start a conflagration that could endanger oil supplies, our
place in the Mideast, and international alliances -- all things he
certainly holds dear?
- The answer has to be that there is something about the effects
of war that Bush finds desirable. In the "rubble" he wants to
"bounce" in Baghdad, Bush sees a prize worth struggling for.
- What could it be? Peace? No. Justice? No. Stability? No. So
- Bush is seeking the legitimation of war, the end of the "peace
dividend," and the elevation of the U.S. to the status of World
Mercenary Police, thus ensuring years more of U.S. international
domination even as our economy flounders. That's his preferred
- Additionally, many CEOs and other influential economic and
political figures fear a serious collapse of the U.S. economy. To
push up the price of oil dramatically and ensure that the super
revenues are then invested in U.S. banks is, they think, one way to
avert this collapse. They do not care if this approach will also
mean blood, gore, pain, retribution, and hate for years to come.
7. What will be the results of war? Rivers of blood.
- If the U.S. military is not curtailed, tens of thousands,
perhaps hundreds of thousands or even a million Arab lives will be
- Thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of U.S. lives will be
- Countless Third World lives will be lost via inflated oil prices
and international economic turmoil.
- There will be world wide economic recession. Mideast
destabilization with unknown repercussions. Increased nightmares for
Palestinians. Possible disaster for Israel. Possible ecological
- The peace dividend will be reduced or lost. Military
expenditures will be reenlarged.
- The Hessianization of the U.S. and subordination of
international affairs to U.S. mercenary might will proceed.
- A new "enemy," the Moslem world, will help scare the U.S. public
into tolerating outrageous defense appropriations.
- And, if all goes as planned, U.S. corporate officials and state
policy-makers will continue to oversee vast wealth and unfettered
power -- the real motive for U.S. intervention in the first place.
8. Why does the U.S. oppose linkage? Fear of isolation.
- There has long been a broad international consensus on a
political settlement of this conflict. The U.S. and Israel have
opposed it and have been isolated in this rejectionism, as numerous
lopsided General Assembly votes (most recently 151-3) indicate.
- President Bush likes to tell us how James Baker has labored for
peace, but remains silent about the terms of the famed Baker plan,
whose basic principles ban an "additional Palestinian state"; bar
any "change in the status of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza other than in
accordance with the basic guidelines of the [Israeli] Government,"
preclude any meaningful Palestinian self-determination; reject
negotiations with the PLO, thus denying Palestinians the right to
choose their own political representation; and call for "free
elections" under Israeli military rule.
- Regarding the Palestinian question, it is therefore the world
against George Bush and his predecessors. For this reason, since
long before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait the U.S. has consistently
opposed an international conference on the Middle East.
- Such a conference would lead to pressures for a just political
settlement that the U.S. rejects, since by force they can maintain
an unjust situation. For the same reasons the U.S. has vetoed
Security Council resolutions calling for a political settlement and
blocked other diplomatic initiatives for the past 20 years.
9. Why oppose war in the Gulf? It's wrong.
- Some liberals oppose a Gulf war on the grounds it will be too
expensive. Usually they mean lost stability, lost resources, or
heightened recession. Sometimes they mean lost U.S. lives. Rarely do
they mean lost Arab lives. While these costs are real, the best
grounds on which to oppose the Gulf War is that it is not just.
- It is not anti-interventionist. It is not pro-national
sovereignty. It is not pro-international legality. It is not pro-"a
new and more peaceful world order."
- This war is to reinforce U.S. control of Arab oil. It is to
crush Arab nationalism.
- It is to establish the U.S. as the world's policeman with the
bills paid, whether they like it or not, by whoever we pass them on
- This war should be opposed because it is wrong. We have no right
controlling oil prices. No right administering the future of the
Middle East. And no right becoming the world's Hessian state,
sacrificing much of the U.S. population to a Third World existence
in the process.
- We should oppose this war because we oppose militarism as a
solution to international conflict.
10. What is the logic of our antiwar activism? Raise the social
- Arguments that war is immoral will not deter Bush. Arguments
that he isn't seeing the costs will not change his mind.
- Pursuers of war, including Bush, don't care about Iraqi lives,
American lives, or anyone's lives. The same holds, by and large, for
U.S. media which has yet to discuss the potential loss of Arab lives
as a central cost of war.
- Nor do U.S. warmakers care about subtle concerns of culture or
history. They care about advancing the geopolitical interests of the
U.S. as they are understood by the White House and Wall Street.
- To get Bush to reverse his war policies requires that the public
raise costs that warmakers don't want to pay.
- Warmakers do not want to endure an end to business as usual.
They do not want war to cause a new generation to turn to activism.
They dread the escalation of dissent from events that oppose war, to
actions that oppose militarism, to projects that oppose capitalism.
- These costs curtailed U.S. militarism in Indochina. They can do
the same, and more, in the Gulf.
- Raise the social cost.
11. What should be the focus of our activism? Peace and justice.
- Antiwar activity needs to develop lasting consciousness of the
causes and purposes of U.S. war policies including understanding
underlying institutions. And it also needs to send a powerful
message of dissent.
- Events that focus on ROTC, on campus military centers, such as
military bases or the Pentagon, and that demand an end to war are
- Events that focus on centers of domestic suffering that demand
an end to war and and end to militarism and a
reallocation of military resources to social ends, are still more
- Multi-focused events will reveal and enlarge not only antiwar
militance, but militance extending to gender, race, and class
policies and institutions that war-makers hold even more dear.
Multi-issue events send an even more powerful and threatening
message than single issue efforts, and can have that much more
- They also have the capacity to build a movement that can last
beyond the Gulf crisis to attack the causes as well as the symptoms
of oppressive institutions. Build a movement not just for peace, but
for peace and justice too.
- Create a multi-issue focus.
12. What tactics should we use? Demonstrate, demand, disobey.
- A gathering of people at a teach-in to learn about U.S. policies
threatens leaders of a country who want people as ignorant as
possible. A march with many constituencies threatens the leadership
of a country who want people as passive and divided as possible. A
march that include civil disobedience and says that some people are
willing to break laws and, moreover, next time many more will do so,
is still more powerful.
- Create a multi-tactic movement.
- But lasting movements also have to develop a positive component
that can become a center of organizing energy and a place for
learning and support.
- In addition to teach-ins, marches, rallies, and civil
disobedience, we need to create lasting coalitions and institutional
centers of Peace and Justice in occupied buildings on campuses or in
community centers, and/or churches.
- Such student and community centers could be places for people to
do peace work: creating leaflets and banners and writing letters to
GIs. They could be places from which people could do systematic
coordinated canvassing and provide each other with support and help.
- Further, these campus and community centers could be places
where people consider how their universities or communities might
become centers of peace and conversion rather than militarism.
Create a long-term movement.