Building the Case for War in Iraq, the U.S. Has Bigger Problems Than France
WASHINGTON, D.C.Whether or not Secrtary of State Colin Powell's presentation of "facts" at the UN yesterday delivered any real new information, they stocked the Bush campaign with plenty of ammunition to line up the nations of "old Europe," as Rumsfeld calls them, on our side.
Only the crazy Frenchies remain a problem. And with a quick rethinking of history, it becomes clear they have been the U.S.'s problem since the revolution.
It is easy enough for Americans to ridicule the French, the nation whose intelligence services alerted the Bush government to the potential threats of Al Qaeda before anyone else and beforenot afterSeptember 11. While the FBI and CIA were asleep at the switch, French intelligence provided early reports about Al Quaeda operations. French journalists reported the shocking news that major oil companies connived with Saudi Arabia to quash FBI efforts to get at Al Qaeda, beheading prisoners before we could talk to them. Where did these journalists get their information? From a former top FBI official. The crazy Frenchies reported what our own government and our own press never told us, and what did we do? Ignore them.
The U.S. is dogged not by European chickenshits but by its own duplicitous policies toward Iraq. When fundamentalist Muslim clergy took over Iran, we openly embraced Saddam Hussein as our surrogate to fight them off. Bush castigates Saddam for his hideous atrocities on the Kurds and others of his own population, of crimes against humanity and building weapons of mass destruction. Rightly so. But the U.S. played an important role in supplying Saddam with tools of genocide. We provided Iraq with ingredients for the poison gas used against the Kurds and in the war against Iran. In 1979 Jimmy Carter's administration labeled Iraq a terrorist state and prohibited the sale of many U.S. goods, including civilian aircraft and military equipment of any kind. In 1983 that great Republican hero, Ronald Reagan, lifted the sanctionsthe same year Iraq was using chemical weapons in the war with Iran.
Despite continuing human rights abuses, those great patriots on the Republican right who were running the country expanded our credit-guarantee programs with Iraq. We pumped modern machinery and food into Saddam's war machine. We were instrumental in modernizing Iraq's agriculture into a thriving business that became a major market for U.S. farm surplus. After the first Gulf War and all through the '90s, American prosperity was due in large part to quantities of cheap foreign oil. Iraq was among our largest suppliers.
Through the years the U.S. has sought to manipulate and use Iraq for its own purposes. Even now, despite all the hot air from Donald Rumsfeld, we pursue a policy of containment. We have bombed Iraq over the last decade. Our warplanes have the country boxed in. Saddam has no air force. His army was decimated in the first war. Now, however, the press reports Saddam is readying his defenses for the siege of Baghdad with battalions of child suicide bombers, and a corps of millions of civilians equipped with broken-down rifles. These are the armies our missile barrage on "A Day" is meant to take out. Our problem is not the French. Our problem is our own foreign policy.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.