Centre for Research on GlobalisationCentre de recherche sur la mondialisation
Iraq is not Grenada or Panama, and the consequences of invasion will not be Disney or Gilbert and Sullivan this time: they could well be apocalyptic
Nineteen years ago the then American President gave a major speech. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, he said, was “the focus of evil in the modern world” and “an evil empire.” Two weeks after the evil empire speech came the “Star Wars” initiative, as part of a nation-wide television broadcast in which Mr Reagan showed his citizens — and the world — pictures of Soviet aircraft on airfields in Cuba and Nicaragua, and extension of an airfield on the tiny island of Grenada in the Caribbean.
The British prime minister, Mrs Thatcher, was told by her intelligence agencies that the US was planning to invade Grenada, an independent, pretty and gloriously inefficient country of the Commonwealth. (Her pompous foreign secretary told parliament there was no such American intention but it is not known if this was normal incompetence or for other reasons.) She, however, realised there was no threat to American interests and that the whole affair was political grandstanding, so on 25 October 1983 telephoned Mr Reagan to try to stop his absurd war-comic assault. He paid no attention and 1900 US Marines and Rangers stormed ashore in what was probably the most bizarre, fatuous and unnecessary military operation in recent history. The gallant troops (there were twice as many medals given out than there were soldiers taking part) detained the 43 Cuban soldiers stationed at the airport, which was found to have a 9000 foot runway for tourist aircraft and not, as the US expected, a combat-aircraft-capable length. There were 70 Cuban army instructors training Grenadan soldiers in the hills, and they all fought back, killing 18 Americans, but were overcome within two days.
The UN Security Council moved to condemn the grotesque affair but the US used its power to stifle debate and its veto to kill criticism. Although the US behaved irresponsibly and illegally many times in the second half of the Twentieth Century — especially in Latin America and Vietnam — this absurd incident set the seal on its future policy. Indeed the New York Times commented that the pantomime was “a reverberating demonstration to the world that the United States has no more respect for laws and borders, for the codes of civilisation, than the Soviet Union.” My goodness; harsh words indeed from the NYT, and completely justified, because the US president had acted in a manner that placed Might above Right. It was a precedent of considerable importance, even if a silly farce: but worse was to come.
Many countries have what is called a “drug problem”. This means that large numbers of their citizens in every walk of life are addicted to drugs deemed illegal by their governments, and that their moronic dependency results in amazing levels of crime of every description. The problem is considered to be at its worst in the West, and, in the West, to be worst of all in America, the land that leads the world in market-driven economies. The American reaction (and that of almost every other country) to the problem that involves millions of citizens acting illegally is intriguing. Their solution is to throw druggies in the slammer at a cost of about $40,000 each a year; to attempt to stop drugs coming in to their country — which they have been trying to do for forty years without any diminution whatever in such imports; indeed there has been vast and lucrative growth — and, last of all, to neutralise the growers, processors and conveyors of the drugs in their various forms from raw plant to smart, up-market boutique merchandise. None of these solutions has worked. It was impossible that any of them could possibly work. Any international figure with basic knowledge of human nature and a tendency to honesty would have stood up decades ago and said that use of drugs is so widespread (especially in the vulgar grunge salons of Georgetown and Islington) that it cannot be defeated, therefore the only solution is to minimise use by legalising them and instituting control by market forces and subtle discouragement, as is taking place with tobacco.
But on 19 December 1989 the US invaded Panama, an independent country, to arrest its president, an undoubtedly revolting and wicked man called General Manuel Noriega, who had indulged in drug trafficking to the US on an impressive scale. Some 24,000 US troops assaulted Panama and bombarded Mr Noriega with amplified pop music, whereupon he screamed for mercy and surrendered. (Who wouldn’t?) But however ridiculous and preposterous the American action was — and it was the stuff of which, in a happier age, a duo such as Gilbert and Sullivan would have made merciless satire — the message was still there, and even emphasised: We, America, can get away with anything. The world must tremble, and, as the disgusting Kennedy might have said “Let every nation know that we can invade any country, assault any person, betray any friend, placate any foe, in order to assure expansion of American business and the success of the US economy.”
In 1990 the revolting Mr Saddam Hussein threatened to take over Kuwait. He seemed to have nothing to fear from such an adventure because there were so many precedents. America’s record of invasions of sovereign countries was enough to give encouragement to any lousy little latter-day Hitler.
When Mr Hussein received assurance from the American ambassador to Baghdad that his evil and illegal intentions regarding Kuwait were of no concern to Washington, he went ahead and invaded the place. (I have a copy of the transcript of the Hussein-Ambassador conversation, provided me by an American diplomat. Ambassador Glaspie said: “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait . . .”)
If Kuwait and the Gulf region were not of importance to the profits of US oil companies do you think that America would have interfered to restore the despotic Kuwaiti regime in 1991? If Iraq were not an important potential source of oil for America, do you think that the US would be so intent on removing its despotic regime in 2002? Carry on America, and invade whom you like. But do not be surprised if your assault on Iraq results in unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East, alienation of important nations dragged unwillingly in to the conflict, even worse upsets to financial markets, collapse of trust in US judgement (such as that might be) by Europe’s major powers, France and Germany, and an upsurge in terrorism that will feed upon itself for decades. Iraq is not Grenada or Panama, and the consequences of invasion will not be Disney or Gilbert and Sullivan this time: they could well be apocalyptic.
Colonel Cloughley writes extensively on military and international affairs. He is also the author of the book, “A history of the Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections.” His website is www.briancloughley.com Copyright © Brian Cloughley 2002. For fair use only
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CLO208A.html