DEEP REASONS AND OTHER REASONS FOR BUSH'S WAR ON IRAQ

The deep reasons for Bush's Iraq war (i.e. the unacknowledged or suppressed reasons: notably oil and the defense of the dollar) are not the only ones. There are also other reasons which to a greater or lesser degree are overt, and need to be addressed, above all by those opposed to the war.

The most overt reason given is to deter terrorism. This reason has lost credibility with the public, because of the Administration's repeated attempts to construct a direct link between Iraq and 911, based on dubious reports, some apparently obtained from witnesses who were tortured. I doubt that these dubious reports existed when the Administration (as the Guardian and others have pointed out) considered an invasion of Iraq in 2001, in retaliation for the 911 attacks. The thinking was not that Iraq itself was responsible, but rather that an overwhelming illustration of US strength and determination would deter anyone anywhere from attacking again.

US geostrategists, such as Stratfor.com, 2/26/03, also believe that a subsequent US military presence in Central Asia could have a deterrent effect on neighboring countries, notably Saudi Arabia, which have been unwilling to crack down on their citizens who, for whatever reason, have been giving financial support directly or indirectly to terrorist organizations.

The same belief in the efficacy of overwhelming response underlay the US attack on Libya in 1986. I was then and remain opposed to that attack, partly because there was considerable evidence that Libya was not responsible for the terrorist incidents which gave rise to it. It was however my subjective impression over the next few years that the US attack on Libya, justified or not, was followed by a temporary decline in terrorist incidents against the West.

Equally overt is the doctrine that the US, as the world's dominant superpower, should now assert its strength unilaterally over residual nations, such as Iraq, that plot against US hegemony. As I wrote here in 2001 Wolfowitz first articulated his vision of the US as a great power which should tolerate no competitors in a draft Defense Policy Guidance statement [for Donald Rumsfeld] ten years ago. The draft explicitly called for the US to exercise its power unilaterally, adding that it "must sufficiently account for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership" (New York Times, 3/8/92). This unilateralist doctrine has since been echoed and emphasized by a number of neocons inside and outside the present administration, such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan. The Democrat Zbigniew Brzezinski has voiced similar views in his book The Grand Chessboard (see my Drugs, Oil, and War, due out March 2003).

The neocon case for unilateralism is often linked, by both proponents and opponents, to the defense of Israel. I am myself in favor of seeing Israel abandon the settlements, return to its pre-1967 borders (possibly renegotiated by mutual consent), and give reparations to those Palestinians dispossessed of their land (the Tikkun position). But opponents of violence in the Middle East, from whatever side, must recognize that Saddam's policy of rewarding the families of suicide bombers has involved him conspicuously in the subsidization of terrorism. If war is not the solution, we must help encourage another.

The internal thinking of the Bush administration along unilateralist, neocon, and pro-Israel lines, and also the domestic political reasons for it, are astutely analyzed by Ed Vulliamy, "Two Men Driving Bush into War," Observer, 2/23/03. This article helps explain why the US heartland, traditionally isolationist, has supplied the core of support for Bush's hegemonism; and also, more importantly, why the antiwar movement of the coastal states must speak to this heartland in language that will persuade rather than alienate.

The Vulliamy article also points to the quiet role of Enron and other petro-corporations in assembling and financing this new heartland coalition. Vulliamy focuses on the organizing genius of Karl Rove, backed by the financial power of Enron, to redirect the political energies of the Christian right.

The following passage is particularly germane:

"By the time George W. became President, Rove was the hub of a Texan wheel connecting the family, the party, the Christian Right and the energy industry. A single episode serves as metaphor: during the Enron scandal last year, a shadow was cast over Rove when it was revealed that he had sold $100,000 of Enron stock just before the firm went bankrupt.

"More intriguing, however, was the fact that Rove had personally arranged for the former leader of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, to take up a consultancy at Enron - Bush's biggest single financial backer - worth between $10,000 and $20,000 a month.

"This was the machine of perpetual motion that Rove built. His accomplishment was the 'Texanisation' of the national Republican Party under the leadership of the Bush family and to take that party back to presidential office after eight years. Rove is unquestionably the most powerful policy adviser in the White House."

Thus, as is always the case in deep politics, the deep and overt reasons for the Iraq war are complexly interwoven. To give just one prominent example, the unilateralist case for a permanent US base in Iraq has been made overtly, without reference to the obvious significance this would have for US dominance over Middle Eastern oil. Because of the plurality of reasons and constituencies for this war, no one should make the mistake of attributing the pressures for war uniquely to oil or any other single cause.