U.S. deploying 150,000 troops for war on Iraq
‘Inspectors’ step up provocations as invasion force grows
BY SAM MANUEL
Dozens of U.S. Air Force bombers are on their way to the Arab-Persian Gulf to further bolster the air power Washington has amassed against Iraq. At the same time the White House is preparing tens of thousands more troops for deployment in the region. The total number of soldiers and other military personnel is expected to reach 150,000 by mid- to late-February.
A political propaganda buildup is also occurring alongside the military one, as United Nations "arms inspectors" step up provocations designed to give political cover to a U.S. assault on Iraq.
Governments throughout the region are taking steps in anticipation of an imperialist onslaught.
Jordan, which relies on Iraqi oil, has built storage facilities to hold four weeks supply in addition to its normal two-month reserve.
For their part, Iran and Turkey have set up refugee camps just inside their borders. Iran has constructed 19 such camps at its western edge designed to accommodate as many as 1 million refugees. There are already 2.5 million refugees in the country, many from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-1B heavy bombers now being quartered in the Middle East have been fitted with 2,000-pound bombs, and are accompanied by manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. More fighter-bombers have also been deployed, adding to the aircraft in Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia that regularly attack in the so-called "no fly zones" in the north and south of Iraq.
The aircraft carriers these planes also use have been reinforced. Commenting on U.S. naval strength in the region--which includes several of the giant craft with their massively armed battle groups--Captain Stewart O’Bryan said, "We are spread from the Strait of Gibraltar all the way to the eastern Mediterranean."
Along with their U.S. Air Force, Army, and Special Forces counterparts, Navy commanders are assembling in Qatar. Last month these U.S. Central Command officers participated in a dry-run exercise to set up the new command post at the As Sayliyah encampment. This time, however, it is not an exercise.
Other naval forces are on the move. Marine Corps commanders have announced a halt to any active-duty members leaving the service for a year. The last time the Marines took such action was a decade ago during the buildup to the last war on Iraq.
Commenting up the impact of the accelerated deployments, one U.S. official said, "This will certainly put the president in a very good position to make a decision, and allow us to implement whatever he decides."
Much of the propaganda buildup to that decision has focused on the activities of the UN "arms inspection" teams. While Chief Inspector Hans Blix has stated that no "smoking guns" have been found in the search for alleged arms of mass destruction, he also insisted that Baghdad must provide "proactive cooperation by shedding light on the status of several banned weapons programs."
U.S. "intelligence" operators have put together a list of around 100 scientists and engineers to be transported out of the country for interrogation, offering them asylum in exchange for arms information. The interrogations are planned for UN facilities in Europe and Cyprus. "The idea is to make sure that life starts getting a lot hotter for Saddam in the next few weeks," said one official. Washington’s moves to speed this up led Blix to complain that the UN teams are not in the "abduction business."
The teams have begun using helicopters for "aerial inspections." UN officials said the aircraft would make it easier to "swoop" down on search sites.
Giving a glimpse of their arrogance, the inspectors closed the entrances and exits to an Iraqi manufacturing and research complex on January 5. Thousands of people were confined for almost six hours. Among them was the country’s ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Aldouri. "I think their behavior was unjustified, and the inspection teams could behave in a more civilized way," he said.
British troops assemble
While the French president instructed troops to stand by for possible service, saying that UN resolutions "had to be enforced," British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon announced the deployment of a task force of ships and 3,000 Royal Marines to the region. London also called up 1,500 reservists.
The move is "massively in our self-interest," said Prime Minister Anthony Blair. "The price of influence is that we do not leave the U.S. to face the tricky issues alone." British naval preparation for war with Iraq includes the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and a number of other vessels.
German ambassador to the UN Gunter Pleuger stated that his government would not insist on a separate resolution if there is a new debate on whether to authorize war against Iraq.
Washington and London, meanwhile, are placing pressure on governments in the region to lay open their facilities to the imperialist forces. Hoon visited Turkey to seek agreement for British troops to use its bases. Some 150 U.S. military officials will visit later this month.
The Gulf oil states are a particular target of this imperialist push. Speaking before a New York business audience last month, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger said that Washington is past "the point of no return with respect to Iraq," according to New York’s Sun newspaper. Arguing that the war against Iraq is an integral part of the "war on terrorism," Kissinger said, "How else can we convince the Saudi Arabias of the world that it is too dangerous to collude in challenging the United States?"
The potentially explosive impact of the war could be seen New Year’s Eve in Bahrain, a headquarters for both British and U.S. forces. Some 2,000 people rallied there, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," and demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. troops. Government officials expressed fear that this could be the first in a series of "massive" demonstrations against the United States and its Arab allies in the region.
U.S. pressure on north Korea
Meanwhile, Washington continues its pressure on north Korea. The U.S. government has frozen food shipments and accused the workers state of accelerating its alleged attempt to produce nuclear weapons. While stating that they are willing to enter talks--a long-standing demand of the north Korean government--U.S. officials have continued to insist that Pyongyang must end its nuclear weapons program and that such a move must be "verifiable" and "irreversible"--the words used by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer on January 13.
Answering those critics of Bush’s approach who call for Washington to shift its military focus from Baghdad to Pyongyang, the Wall Street Journal editorialized on January 13 that "the most important step President Bush could take to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions is to end the charade of inspections and speed up the war in Iraq." The editorial was headlined, "To Pyongyang Via Baghdad."
Repeating Bush’s slander that, together with Iran, north Korea and Iraq are members of an "axis of evil," the Journal claimed that "the faster Mr. Bush disarms the first member of that axis in Baghdad, the easier it will be to contain and disarm the others."
Three days earlier, the north Korean government had announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Pyongyang explained that it was acting in self-defense because it was "most seriously threatened" by the United States.
"Though we pull out of the NPT," the statement continued, "we have no intention to produce nuclear weapons and our nuclear activities at this stage will be confined only to peaceful purposes." The next day 1 million people mobilized in Pyongyang against the U.S. threats.
Imperialism drives to war