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Institute for Policy Studies: Testimony Prepared for Hearings on Iraq Policy

Nelson Mandela was right when he said that attacking Iraq would be "a disaster." A U.S. invasion of Iraq would risk the lives of U.S. military personnel and inevitably kill thousands of Iraqi civilians; it is not surprising that many U.S. military officers, including some within the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are publicly opposed to a new war against Iraq.
nce in the 1980s, is simply unacceptable.


General Zinni has described an opposition-led attack on Iraq as turning the country into a "Bay of Goats." Nothing has changed since that time. Almost none of the exile-based opposition has a credible base inside the country. There is no Iraqi equivalent to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to serve as ground troops to bolster a U.S. force. Some of the exile leaders closest to the U.S. have been wanted by Interpol for crimes in Jordan and elsewhere. The claim that they represent a democratic movement simply cannot be sustained.


There is no democratic opposition ready to take over. Far more likely than the creation of an indigenous, pop ularly-supported democratic Iraqi government, would be the replacement of the current regime with one virtually indistinguishable from it except for the man at the top. In February 2002 Newsweek magazine profiled the five leaders said to be on Washington's short list of candidates to replace Saddam Hussein. The Administration has not publicly issued such a list of its own (though we should note they did not dispute the list), but it certainly typifies the model the U.S. has in mind. All five of them were high-ranking officials within the Iraqi military until the mid-1990s. All five have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by the military; at least one, General al-Shammari, admits it. Perhaps we should not be surprised by Washington's embrace of military leaders potentially guilty of war crimes; General al-Shammari told Newsweek he assessed the effect of his howitzer-fired chemical weapons by relying on "information from American satellites."

But the legitimacy of going to war against a country to replace a brutal military leader with another brutal military leader, knowingly promoting as leaders of a "post-Saddam Iraq" a collection of generals who have apparently committed heinous war crimes, must be challenged.

And whoever is installed in Baghdad by victorious U.S. troops, it is certain that a long and likely bloody occupation would follow. The price would be high; Iraqis know better than we do how their government has systematically denied them civil and political rights. But they hold us responsible for stripping them of economic and social rights -- the right to sufficient food, clean water, education, medical care -- that together form the other side of the human rights equation. Economic sanctions have devastated Iraqi society -- and among other effects, the sanctions have made the U.S. responsible for the immiseration of most of the entire Iraqi population. After twelve years, those in Washington who believe that Iraqis accept the popular inside-the-Beltway mantra that "sanctions aren't responsible, Saddam Hussein is responsible" for hunger and deprivation in Iraq, are engaged in wishful thinking. The notion that everyone in Iraq will welcome as "liberators" those whom most Iraqis hold responsible for 12 years of crippling sanctions is simply naive. Basing a military strategy on such wishful speculation becomes very dangerous -- in particular for U.S. troops themselves.

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. Her article was reposted from CommonDreams News Center at



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