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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 67/No. 6February 17, 2003


Contribute to the Books for Cuba Fund

lead article
Washington and London
ready brutal war on Iraq
U.S. military beefs up air forces
to threaten north Korea
With Britain’s prime minister Anthony Blair at his side, U.S. president George Bush said January 31 that he will give the other governments on the United Nations Security Council a deadline of no more than a few weeks to back an invasion of Iraq. "Saddam Hussein is not disarming," claimed Bush. "This issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months."

As Washington steps up what White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the "final phase" of this political preparation, the war planners have released more details of the coming air assault. Some 3,000 bombs and missiles--touted as being "precision-guided"--will be hurled within the first 48 hours, reported the New York Times. The barrage will include the launch of hundreds of cruise missiles and strikes by 500 U.S. and British planes. Many pilots have already put in hours of training in the unrelenting bombing attacks on the "no-fly zones" of northern and southern Iraq.

UK firefighters oppose gov’t intervention
Militant/Anne Howie
Firefighters rally in Glasgow, Scotland, February 1 during latest in series of strikes. The Labour government has announced that it will ask parliament to impose a settlement on the union in the long-running dispute, and has said the strikes are an obstacle to mobilization for war in Iraq. See article.

The U.S. command has acknowledged that Special Operations forces are already operating in northern Iraq. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Richard Myers told a January 29 press briefing that the troops will work with CIA teams to train volunteers from Kurdish groups opposed to the Iraqi regime.

A key objective of U.S. forces in the area is to secure the abundant oil fields in the northern region. The Washington Post report of the press briefing added that Washington warned the Kurdish leaders "not to seize new territory.»

The kind of activity the U.S. forces are involved in could be glimpsed in a January report that a U.S. «intelligence» team visited an abandoned airstrip in the north at Bakrajo, only a thirty-minute drive from the front lines of Iraqi defenses. The two-mile long airstrip where bunkers are being built is capable of landings by heavily-laden transport aircraft, reported the January 22 Times. The Kurdish authority in the autonomous region has no aircraft.  
Pressure on imperialist ‘allies’
Blair and Bush’s joint statement on January 31 opened their intensified campaign to pressure members of the security council to approve a resolution authorizing military force.

Blair met with French president Jacques Chirac on February 4. The French President continued to insist that the "inspections" be allowed to go on. "There is still much to be done in the way of disarmament by peaceful means," he said.

Officials in Washington and London have expressed confidence that in the end France will join the war effort. "We don’t view anyone on the Council as a lost cause," one administration official said. Advisors to Blair were more blunt, stating that Chirac would back down because the war is now "inevitable."

Due to give a report to the security council February 14, leading UN "inspectors" have refused consultations with Baghdad, saying they will proceed only if Iraq agrees to allow the use of U.S.-piloted U-2 spy planes over its territory. They also insist on having the option of interrogating Iraqi scientists outside Iraq, and that the government pass legislation outlawing chemical and biological weapons.

Former secretary of state James Baker indicated the kind of deadline that Washington is imposing on its security "allies" in a February 4 Wall Street Journal column.

Baker served under the administration of the first President Bush. A few months ago he expressed modest tactical disagreements with the course of the Bush administration, urging it to press its case more energetically before the United Nations. This time he said that the "case for military action is...compelling."

Baker endorsed the decision to go before the Security Council February 5, saying that Washington thereby "gains by creating the broadest possible coalition." Such backing would "deflect criticism--false but pervasive--that we are intervening in Iraq from selfish imperialist motives," he wrote.

"Consulting yet again with the Security Council will give its members a last chance to ‘do the right thing,’" Baker added. Otherwise, "it risks becoming a toothless debating society."

On January 30 the heads of state of the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic issued a call for "unity" between Europe and the United States, delivering a rebuff to the governments of France and Germany, both of which have expressed disagreement with the U.S.-led drive to war.

Writing in the January 30 National Post, Jan Cienski noted that the French "opposition is qualified. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is heading toward the Gulf and French forces could swiftly be in place if Paris chooses." Cienski also observed that when U.S. troops move "out of Germany, their bases will be protected by German forces and the move will be facilitated by German logistics."

Up to this point, reported the Post "only two [allies] look sure to provide troops that could come into harm’s way, Britain and Australia." London has 30,000 troops on the way, and the Australian military is sending a transport ship, special forces, and a dozen fighter jets. "The Czech Republic and Poland have small groups of specialized troops in the area as well," wrote Cienski, adding that the "number may increase if the UN Security Council backs" the attack.

The article also noted that "every Arab nation on the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, is either on board politically or has offered use of its bases, crucial for the U.S. military, which needs local staging points to launch an invasion." Of the regional allies, Kuwait and Turkey have both agreed to station tens of thousands of U.S. troops on their soil.

For many government leaders--especially those in the imperialist countries--the decision to join or back the assault will be mixed with resentment over the display of U.S. military predominance, wrote New York Times contributing columnist Sergue Shmemann in a February 2 piece entitled, "America’s War Train Is Leaving The Station." Shmemann commented, "Most world leaders are thinking less about how best to deal with Mr. Hussein than how to deal with an unstoppable superpower."

While they continue to use Iraq’s alleged possession of "weapons of mass destruction" as the principal pretext for their hostile stance toward Iraq, U.S. officers are reportedly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in the assault.

"Military planners have been actively studying lists of potential targets and considering options, including the possible use of so-called bunker-buster nuclear weapons against deeply buried military targets," wrote Paul Richter in the Los Angeles Times.

"In the last year, Bush administration officials have repeatedly made clear that they want to be better prepared to consider the nuclear option against the threat of ‘weapons of mass destruction,’" Richter wrote. He noted that "the Pentagon has changed the bureaucratic oversight of nuclear weapons so that they are no longer treated as a special category of arms but are grouped with conventional military options."  
Increased pressure on north Korea
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has further ratcheted up the pressure on north Korea. In the latest move, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced February 3 that 24 long-range bombers had been put on alert for "possible deployment within range" of the workers state, reported the Times.

U.S. officials have floated the option of an air strike against the Yongbyon nuclear power plant (see article page 3). The north is restarting the plant to partially compensate for the cutoff in fuel oil shipments by Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul.

In the budget it has just presented to Congress, the Bush administration has cemented this cutoff, eliminating virtually all funding for the 1994 agreement that initiated the supply of fuel, and adding to the economic pressure on Pyongyang.
Related articles:
War drive stirs many to protest
The fraud of ‘disarmament’

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