Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project

October 2002

Invading Iraq: The Road to Perpetual War

by Ronald Bleier

The furious reaction by the Bush administration in September to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s justice minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin’s remark comparing Bush’s tactics to Hitler, made for good domestic politics in the United States. At the same time, the ill-tempered U.S. decision to personalize the dispute with the German Chancellor, an outspoken critic of Bush administration plans to invade Iraq, suggests that the comparison may have hit a nerve in Washington. Never before have the policies of an American president been so widely viewed as dangerous and provocative.

In August 2002, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused President Bush of using the same language as Adolf Hitler to bully the world. Without mentioning Hitler’s name, George Monboit in an article on "The Logic of Empire" for the Guardian, declared flatly "that the greatest threat to world peace is not Saddam Hussein, but George W. Bush. The nation that in the past has been our firmest friend is becoming instead our foremost enemy." [1]

In September 2002, Nelson Mandela, outraged at the U.S.’s declaration that it was unwilling to accept Iraq’s decision to accept international inspectors unconditionally, said of the Bush administration: "They think they're the only power in the world. They're not and they're following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world. We must not allow that." In January 2002, the Saudi Chief of Intelligence, Prince Nawwaf bin Abdul Aziz, in an interview with The New York Times, blurted: "Some days you say you want to attack Iraq, some days Somalia, some days Lebanon, some days Syria…Who do you want to attack? All the Arab world? And you want us to support that? It’s impossible. It’s impossible." [2]

Even Al Gore, while taking care to denounce the German minister’s comparison of Bush to Hitler as "reprehensible," in a September 23 speech sharply critical of plans to invade Iraq, complained that the American president "is proclaiming a new, uniquely American right to preemptively attack whomsoever he may deem represents a potential future threat."

Despite the clear personal differences between Adolf Hitler and George W. Bush and the different historical periods they represent, the comparison is a fit subject for dispassionate analysis because of the threat to world peace posed by the Bush administration. The late Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibovitz argued that precisely because Hitler was such an extreme monster, comparing him to current leaders was a legitimate use of political rhetoric in order to draw attention to dangerous policies.

For the purposes of comparison with other leaders, Hitler can be distinguished by the strength of his military power, his disdain for international law and his willingness to embark on unprovoked aggression. President Bush’s determination to preemptively attack Iraq absent a legitimate causus belli and the signals his administration has given of embarking on a course of perpetual war suggest that world civilization is facing a threat similar in significant ways to the one it faced sixty years ago.

The danger posed by the Bush administration is apparent in their National Security Strategy announced in September 2002 which proclaims that deterrence and containment are no longer valid. The Bush document was released as part of the effort to set the stage for an unprovoked invasion of Iraq. Despite a powerful public relations campaign and a largely compliant media and Congress, the Bush administration has been unable to present convincing arguments demonstrating that Iraq is a threat to his neighbors or to U.S. security. Administration justifications for its preemptive arguments are a farrago of outright lies, distortions and efforts to manufacture hysteria. As one analyst has observed, the assertion that "Saddam is only six months away from having nuclear capability is based on a supposed study done by the International Atomic Energy Agency a few years ago. The problem is that no such study exists. When informed of this minor impediment the Bush spokesman said he was really referring to a 1991 United Nations study. Same problem. There was no such study." [3]

Even the Israelis don’t find Saddam’s Iraq a serious security threat apart from the concern that they may be targets if and when the Bush invasion plan is carried out. In early October when President Bush was playing up the immanence of the threat from Iraq, The New York Times quoted senior Israeli military men such as Lt Gen. Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s Chief of Staff, who said he was not losing any sleep over the Iraqi threat because "the military strength of Israel and Iraq has diverged so sharply over the last decade;" and Maj Gen Aharon Farkash who disputed that Iraq was 18 months away from nuclear capability. Mr. Farkash said that "army intelligence had concluded that Iraq’s time frame was more like four years." [4]

As far as Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction is concerned, neither the Bush nor Blair governments have presented any evidence which contradicts the assertions of former UNSCOM weapons inspector, Scott Ritter who spent seven years tracking down and destroying Iraqi nuclear and chemical weapons programs. In a speech at Suffolk Law School in Boston on July 23rd , Scott Ritter declared that his team was 90-95% successful in finding and destroying Iraq’s nuclear and chemical weapons facilities. As to the other 5-10%, Ritter explained that they could be accounted for by a variety of technical factors such as the ravages of the Gulf War and the governmental chaos caused by the sanctions regime.

As Mr. Ritter stated on CSPAN on August 1st, Iraq’s factories producing enriched uranium were destroyed from 1991-1998 and reconstituting them would cost tens of billions of dollars. There’s no evidence that such a program has begun. With respect to Secretary Rumsfeld’s claim that Iraq might be hiding weapons programs underground, Ritter’s team found that Iraq's terrain is not conducive to such structures because of the high water table in much of the country. The pumping stations required to remove the water would be detectable by satellite photography.  

Ritter is also certain that Iraq currently possesses no usable chemical or biological agents. For example, he said that two of the three nerve agents that Iraq produced, Sarin and Tabou have a shelf life of only five years. And Iraq’s VX facility was totally destroyed by a Gulf War bomb on January 23, 1991. In Boston, Ritter also explained that the Iraqis could not have reproduced these facilities in the period since inspectors were pulled out in December 1998 because the vented gasses involved in such production could have been detected via satellite and other means. Likewise for the telltale gamma ray emissions involved in the production of nuclear weapons.

 High on the list of charges against Saddam are his invasions of Iran (1980) and Kuwait, (1990) and the gas attacks on Halabja (1988). Yet it is well known that in these cases he did so with a clear "green light" from the United States. The significance for U.S. security is that, unless attacked by the U.S., Iraq has never acted aggressively outside its borders without Washington’s knowledge. This suggests that he well understands the limits to his power, and thus poses no security threat to the United States or its interests.

The Bush administration misleadingly charges that that Iraq is in violation of Security Council resolutions especially those relating to weapons inspections. They also mistakenly assert, as President Bush did in his 2002 State of the Union address, that Saddam Hussein expelled the weapons inspectors in 1998, when in fact the weapons inspectors were withdrawn by the UN at the behest of the Clinton administration. The relevant context is ably summarized by Stephen Zunes writing in The Nation.

The periodic interference and harassment of UNSCOM inspectors by the Iraqis was largely limited to sensitive sites too small for advanced nuclear or chemical weapons development or deployment. A major reason for this lack of cooperation was Iraqi concern--later proven valid--that the United States was abusing the inspections for espionage purposes, such as monitoring coded radio communications by Iraq's security forces, using equipment secretly installed by American inspectors. The United States, eager to launch military strikes against Iraq instructed Butler to provoke Iraq into breaking its agreement to fully cooperate with UNSCOM. Without consulting the UN Security Council as required, Butler announced to the Iraqis that he was nullifying agreements dealing with sensitive sites and chose the Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad--a very unlikely place to store weapons of mass destruction--as the site at which to demand unfettered access. The Iraqis refused. Clinton then asked Butler to withdraw UNSCOM forces, and the United States launched a four-day bombing campaign, which gave the Iraqis an excuse to block UNSCOM inspectors from returning. [5]

The issue of Saddam’s subsequent refusal to allow the return of weapons inspections is muddled not merely because of U.S. misuse of the weapons inspections program, but also by the open insistence of both the Clinton and Bush administrations that introducing weapons inspections would not remove UN sanctions against Iraq and that their ultimate policy goal is regime change. Thus the major obstacle to satisfactory weapons inspections continues to be the United States. (At the time of writing, it appears that the Bush administration is determined to prevent weapons inspectors from returning to Iraq apparently because they understand that the return of a legitimate inspections regime would remove their pretext for war.)

The doctrine of preemption asserted by the Bush National Security Strategy represents in essence a challenge to the rest of the world. It is an invitation to global anarchy because it throws us back to the law of the jungle where the only consideration is the naked use of power. Through its unprecedented bland assertion of preemption, the Bush administration is discarding the painstaking network of international law created expressly to protect the world from the unprovoked aggression exampled by Adolf Hitler that played a key role in establishing the United Nations. As Tony Benn, a retired left wing member of Parliament said, "waging war in Iraq would amount to tearing up the United Nations Charter." Such a war would be regarded "as a total and absolute denial of the principles of the U.N." [6]

In his State of the Union address in February 2002, President Bush used the enormous boost that the September 11th attacks gave his administration to signal his agenda of perpetual war. He said that although "we are winning the war on terror…terror training camps still exist in at least a dozen countries… Tens of thousands of terrorists are still at large." The war on terror, he said, "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated… These enemies view the entire world as a battlefield, and we must pursue them wherever they are…The campaign may not be finished on our watch."

High on the list of countries to be targeted after Iraq are "axis of evil" notables, Iran and North Korea, but other targets of opportunity are Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. But there are even bigger fish in the pond: President Bush’s language points to confrontations with the two powerful countries that the U.S. envisions as potential adversaries, China and Russia. Both Russia and China (together with India) are specifically cited in the president’s National Security Strategy. China is warned that by "pursuing advanced military capabilities," it is following an "outdated path" that "threaten[s] its neighbors." And both seem to be the recipients of the following warning: "The president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago…The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy – whether a state or nonstate actor to impose its will on the United States, our allies, or our friends."

How are Russia and China expected to react to the challenge posed by George W. Bush? Must they not prepare for the day when inevitable conflicts of interest with the U.S. are backed up by the huge U.S. lead in military technology and our nuclear weapons arsenal? Can we expect them to back down indefinitely and defer to our greater power? As The New York Times editorialized, "when these pugnacious strategies become the dominant theme in American conduct, overwhelming more cooperative instincts, the nation risks alienating its friends and undermining the very interests that Mr. Bush seeks to protect." [7]

Why would the Bush administration risk alienating friends and undermining the national interest? NYT columnist Maureen Dowd suggests that the answer is ideological rather than rational.

This new fight [against Iraq] isn't logical - it's cultural. It is the latest chapter in the culture wars, the conservative dream of restoring America's sense of Manifest Destiny. The Bush hawks don't simply want to go back in a time machine and make Desert Storm end with a turkey shoot. They want to travel back even farther to the Vietnam War and write a more muscular coda to that as well. They want to stomp on Saddam to exorcise the specters of Vietnam and Watergate - the ethical relativism, the lack of patriotism, the postmodern angst, the loss of moral authority, the feeling that America is in decline or in the wrong… [8]

The wording of the Times editorial is a clue to the method and the madness of the Bush administration. Is their goal truly to protect American interests or is it rather to drive national and international insecurity? From the very beginning, the Bush administration has made clear that they were interested in bullying, belligerency, unilateralism, and instability in national and international affairs. They disrupted the positive movement that the Clinton administration had achieved in negotiations with North Korea, and through their egregious concept of an "axis of evil", they effectively undermined efforts by the moderate regime of Ayatollah Khatami to establish a basis for closer U.S. –Iranian relations. The Bush administration has allowed the Israeli Palestinian conflict to deteriorate to its current appalling level and has given the government of Ariel Sharon a green light to pursue its horrendous attacks on Palestinian civil and political life.

On the domestic front they have sought to roll back or delay scores of progressive environmental and regulatory advances through inappropriate appointments and bureaucratic maneuvers. They have used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to subvert civil liberties. They have succeeded in passing budget destroying tax cuts for the benefit of the wealthy; and their ongoing attempts to destroy the foundations of the social security system are all part of their recipe for national as well as international insecurity. Their agenda was so dramatically advanced by the September 11th attacks that it’s no wonder that many believe that the White House could have done much more to prevent them. The Bush administration’s opposition to an independent panel to investigate the attacks suggests that at the very least they would be embarrassed by the findings of an independent investigation. [9]

Effects of attacking Iraq

Not only would an invasion of Iraq be an example of unprovoked aggression, but it is imprudent and reckless on several other counts widely cited in Congressional debates and the media. An attack on Iraq is certain to inflame the Middle East and create a new generation of al-Quaeda supporters and increase the chances of more 9/11style attacks. The Bush administration plan to establish an American military government in a post Saddam Iraq, leaked after Congress voted to support his attack on Iraq, can only lend support to charges that the U.S. has been plotting to dominate the region and control Iraqi oil supplies. [10] An attack on Iraq is likely to exacerbate the ever-deteriorating Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and could provide the cover for the implementation of large scale expulsions of Palestinians by the Israeli authorities (see below). Nor has a clear plan to deal with a worsening U.S. and world economy been presented, and, aside from appropriating Iraq’s oil, no plan has surfaced to pay for costs of the war at a time when the U.S. is already embarking on $300 billion deficits. Worst of all, the terrible precedent of the U.S. engaging in unprovoked aggression cannot but embolden other irresponsible leaders to act in similar fashion.

These should be more than adequate reasons for avoiding the rush to war but for the Bush administration, they are instead the reasons for war. The cabal of ideologically-driven hawks who have hijacked U.S. policy operates more comfortably in a world of greater international disquiet and maximal preparations for war. In such a climate, it is easier to gain national consensus and to minimize and control domestic opposition. Moreover when tensions are raised, the right-wing agenda of increased military outlays, including spending for controversial programs like missile defense, the militarization of outer space and the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons is advanced.

The Israeli connection

Support for the Bush administration plan to invade Iraq has been immeasurably strengthened because effecting regime change in Iraq seems to serve Israeli political goals. Activist Ali Abunimah lists three ways in which Israel could hope to gain by a war against Iraq. First, it would eliminate Iraq as a potential rival. Second, by increasing "the already deep alienation between Arab and American societies, such a war [would be] good for Israel." Third, the U.S. war against Iraq might give the government of Ariel Sharon the cover it needs to implement mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, into neighboring countries. [11]

Abunimah writes that the dream of achieving "regime change by any means necessary in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority" have made their way "from the cold of Washington’s neoconservative think tanks into the heart of the Bush administration and are now directly informing U.S. policy." Abunimah quotes from an article in The Nation "The Men from JINSA and CSP" detailing the "dozens of members" of pro-Israeli think tanks who "have ascended to powerful government posts in the present U.S. Administration ‘where they’ve managed to weave a number of issues- –support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general--into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core.’" [12]

Thus sustaining Israel has merged with the goal of projecting American power in the service of perpetual war. This merger paves the way towards the eventual goal of fighting what Israeli supporter Norman Podhoretz calls in Commentary, "World War IV, the war against militant Islam." Podhoretz can’t understand why the "axis of evil" is limited only to three countries. He argues that it "should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘friends’ of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority whether headed by Arafat or one of his henchmen." [13]

This is an example of an extreme Zionist wish list. But Podhoretz is joined by many mainstream Zionists (those who believe in a Jewish state in the former Palestine) who disdain the view that "militant Islam" arose out of the historical reality of an Israel implanted by force into the Arab world. Israel’s remarkable military victories, especially in 1948 and 1967, and their aftermath which resulted in more than a million Palestinian and Syrian refugees, made it increasingly clear to the Arab and Muslim world that traditional, secular means of struggling for political rights would not fulfill their legitimate aspirations. Nor could they look to the West for practical assistance because the United States has always, in effect, supported Israeli expansionism and oppression of Arab peoples. Israel, widely cited as "the only democracy in the Middle East," has played a decisive role in subverting democracy in the Arab Middle East by uniting the peoples of the various countries behind a strong leader, required to struggle against U.S. backed Israeli political and military pressure. Arab leaders have been forced to block democracy and normal secular political and social options in their countries in order to stay in power and to maintain the best possible relations with Israel and the United States. Evidence that normally secular alternatives were blocked could be seen as early as the 1970s when college educated women in Egypt and elsewhere began taking the veil. Only in the mosque could many find hope for progress.

Many supporters of Israel like Podhoretz understand that continued American assistance for Israel faces ever more popular opposition in the Arab and Moslem worlds and so they seek regime change both in confrontational countries like Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Libya and also in insufficiently strict friendly countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. While even the Bush administration cannot openly embrace such a war on the Muslim world, their agenda of perpetual war meshes seamlessly with suppressing Israel’s "enemies." U.S. support for total Israeli hegemony in the Middle East has come back to haunt Americans as pro-Zionist cheerleading eases the way for the belligerency of the Bush administration.

Fealty to Israel and/or fear of the powerful Israeli lobby rather than due considerations of national and international security could explain why such high profile Democrat Senators like Tom Daschle, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Kerry, Robert Torecelli and others felt that they could not oppose the Congressional resolution for war sought by President Bush. Thus we have an example of how the division of loyalties between what’s best for America and what’s best for Israel plays such a malevolent role in the determination of U.S. policy. The drawbacks of supporting unprovoked aggression against Iraq and of supporting President Bush were subsumed in many cases to the perceived requirement to be on the correct side of this crucial issue pitting possible gains for Israel against the larger American interest.

Who is George W. Bush?

As a candidate and as president, George W. Bush has been consistently underestimated, and even today, more than a year after the 9/11 attacks that significantly added to his self-confidence, he is still viewed as an intellectual lightweight, even stupid. But such characterizations misread him and tend to minimize the danger he represents. It’s true that he’s inarticulate, anti-intellectual and remarkably parochial. But he’s far from stupid. On the contrary, he’s shrewd, ruthless, vindictive and cruel. In public appearances he uses his folksy, down home persona to advantage, sometimes even exaggerating his Texas drawl. Who could suspect him of malign or reprehensible motives? President Bush combines the focus of the true believer and the conscience of a war pilot who sleeps easy after bombing from 50,000 feet. An ugly side of his character was demonstrated as Governor of Texas where he didn’t see fit to pardon any of the 152 prisoners over whose executions he presided. As governor he "steadfastly opposed changing the clemency procedures in the face of stinging criticism by the courts." [14] A window into his cynicism was provided on July 30, 2002, when, after signing the corporate anti-fraud bill and remarking that from now on, those who commit securities frauds and shred documents are going to jail, he was caught off camera joking, "I can't believe I just said that."

A sign of his administrative skills, leadership qualities and sense of direction, is that he chose Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, et. al., to join him in his work. He and his team have used their considerable skills and their focused determination to successfully hijack the agenda of the United States in the service of unprovoked aggression against a helpless country in the midst of one of the world’s most sensitive flashpoints. And in doing so, the Bush team has compelled his political opposition to race to do his bidding. Under the president’s crafty leadership, as Maureen Dowd has observed, "Things are getting dangerouser and dangerouser." [15]



  1. London, August 6, 2002
  2. "Don't Weaken Arafat, Saudi Warns Bush," January 27, 2002.
  3. "Bush’s War on Iraq for Dummies", by Bernard Weiner, Truthout/Opinion, October 5, 2002, www.truthout.org.
  4. "Sharon Tells Cabinet to Keep Quiet on U.S. Plans", by James Bennet, October 7, 2002
  5. http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20020930&s=zunes, Posted online September 12, 2002.
  6. NYT, "Laborites Meet and Blair Takes a Beating," Warren Hoge, October 10, 2002.
  7. NYT, Editorial, "The Bush Doctrine," 9.22.02
  8. Maureen Dowd, "Culture War with B-52s," Op-ed, 9.22.02
  9. See "White House Blocks Deal By Congress on 9/11 panel," NYT, October 11, 2002.
  10. See "Saved by U.S., Kuwait Now Shows Mixed Feelings," NYT, October 12, 2002.
  11. Ali Abunimah, "Yearning for World War IV: The Israeli-Iraq connection," October 3, 2000, The Electronic Intifada.
  12. Ibid, quoting The Nation, September 2, 2002.
  13. Quoted in Abunimah, ibid.
  14. www.bushkills.com citing Time Magazine, February 21, 2000.
  15. NYT, September 22 2002, op. cit.

Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project