U.S. aims 125,000 troops at
Iraq, boosts Korea forces
Conflicts intensify between Washington,
and Paris and Bonn
U.S. soldier carries grenade launcher at Camp Coyote in Kuwait. Washington has stationed 125,000 troops in the Arab-Persian Gulf as it accelerates toward war.
BY PETER THIERJUNG
AND PATRICK O’NEILL
The deployment of the 101st Airborne regiment to the Arab-Persian Gulf, along with a fifth aircraft carrier, will give Washington the troop strength and firepower to get its assault on Iraq off to a "rolling start" at any time, say U.S. officials.
"We could go today if somebody told us to," a defense department official told the February 7 Washington Post.
Set up for air-based attack, the 15,000 troops of the 101st will bring the total number of U.S. troops poised to attack in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf to 125,000 and rapidly rising. In addition, the United Kingdom and Australia are deploying 42,000 and 2,000 troops, respectively.
Aiming to bring their weight to bear as part of the coming assault, the rival powers of France and Germany have continued to try to assert their own imperialist interests.
The resulting clashes between U.S. officials and those from Berlin and Paris intensified over the last week.
The sharpest exchanges came as the two governments rejected a Washington proposal that the NATO military alliance provide missile defense assistance to Turkey. Rumsfeld called the refusal "shameful." One way or another, he said, "Turkey will not be hurt." If NATO continues to stall, he emphasized, "the United States will go right ahead and do it."
NATO secretary general Lord Robertson quickly invoked Article IV of the military pact, a clause forcing a consultation on the dispute.
The two European rivals of Washington have also drawn up a plan for "blue-helmeted" United Nations occupation troops to be installed in Iraq as an extension of longer-term "arms inspections." U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell called this "a diversion, not a solution."
According to Die Welt, the plan would make all of Iraq a "no-fly zone." Thousands of UN troops would be sent to Iraq for several years as part of a "robust inspection regime," the German paper said. Berlin would supply troops as part of the UN force, while Paris would provide spy planes to assist the weapons "inspectors."
In response to Rumsfeld’s jibes during the annual international "security conference" in Munich, German foreign minister Joshka Fisher recited a list of his country’s military interventions abroad, from Kosova and Macedonia to Afghanistan, where German troops now number 3,000. A German general took over joint command of the foreign forces there on February 10.
Rumsfeld has repeatedly contrasted the stance of the "Old Europe" of France and Germany with that of London and the 17 other states largely in Eastern and southern Europe that have declared less reserved support for the U.S.-led course.
French carrier heads toward Gulf
Even as the political clashes escalated Paris’s only aircraft carrier set sail for "exercises" near the Gulf. The French air force has been refitting planes with satellite bomb guidance equipment to help them coordinate with U.S. forces more easily.
Opinion columnists in the U.S. big-business press have noted the extent of the tensions between Washington and its European rivals. Referring to the 18 European countries that have backed Washington’s stand in the Middle East, the New York Times’s William Safire wrote gleefully that "the notion that Paris and Berlin could take charge of a ‘common foreign policy’ for all of Europe turns out to be pipe-dreaming by presumptuous bureaucrats."
Thomas Friedman, another Times columnist who, unlike Safire, takes a liberal stand, recommended that Paris be removed from its position as a veto-bearing permanent member of the Security Council.
"I would certainly vote France off the Council and replace it with India," he wrote. "Then the perm-five would be Russia, China, India, Britain and the United States. That’s more like it.
"France is so caught up with its need to differentiate itself from America...it’s become silly," claimed Friedman.
Turkish parliament okays U.S. troops
The dispute around providing missile defenses to Turkey remains a source of growing friction. Iraq’s northern neighbor will be, along with Kuwait, the staging post for the imperialist ground invasion.
On February 6 the Turkish parliament gave Washington the go-ahead to station tens of thousands of troops in the southeast.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said that the government has asked for $14 billion in U.S. aid. Prime Minister Abdullah Gul also proposed that Turkish troops occupy northern Iraq behind advancing U.S. troops.
Turkish officials say they aim to stop an influx of refugees like the one that occurred during the first Gulf War. The troops would serve as an armed warning to the Kurdish people of the area, who have a long history of fighting for an independent state in spite of repression by Turkish and other governments in the region (see article page 7.)
Meanwhile, liberal voices like the New York Times have hailed the speech by Colin Powell to the UN Security Council in which he presented "evidence" of Iraq’s alleged duplicity over its weapons stocks. The Times editors called the presentation "compelling."
Other liberals have come on board the war train, noted veteran Times staff writer William Keller on February 8. "The president will take us to war with support--often, I admit, equivocal and patronizing in tone--from quite a few members of the East Coast liberal media cabal," he wrote. "The I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club includes op-ed regulars at this newspaper and The Washington Post, the editors of The New Yorker, The New Republic and Slate [and] columnists in Time and Newsweek."
U.S. reinforcements head to Korea
50 years of U.S. aggression against Korea