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In Gulf, Leave Well Enough Alone

By Alejandro Reuss

AS YOU read this, President Bush may be on the verge of plunging the United States into a brutal conflict in the Middle East. That he is undertaking such an action by lying to his own people is an immense tragedy. The press and the government have barraged the American public with halftruths and outright lies in order to perpetrate a crime that will only benefit a few moneyed oil tycoons. Statements that should be laughed at have, through biased coverage, become almost universally accepted "truths."

Bush claims that an international force has united against Iraq. Yet this force would not exist were it not for U.S. pressure. U.S. bribes and threats are all that hold this "coalition" together. The U.S. had to forgive Egyptian and Turkish debts to gain support. On the other hand, anticipating a "no" vote by Yemen on a recent U.N. Security Council resolution, the American ambassador was instructed to tell the Yemeni envoy that it would be "the costliest `no' vote you will ever make."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, supposedly one of the U.S.'s staunchest allies, has stated categorically that Egyptian troops would not invade Iraq.

When it is noted that the U.S. imports very little oil from the region, advocates of intervention respond that Western Europe and Japan depend on Gulf oil. The United States is allegedly acting to protect these economies by intervening. France and Germany, however, wish to negotiate with Iraq if the U.S. will not, offering to discuss the Palestinian issue of Iraq withdraws from Kuwait. Japan has offered Iraq aid in exchange for withdrawal.

Obviously, the main priority of these countries is to avert a war that would threaten the resources on which their economies depend.

ONE might argue that these countries still want Iraq out of Kuwait and fear that Iraq will gain control of Saudi Arabia's oil fields as well. This would give Saddam Hussein control of half of the world's known oil reserves, and make him capable of plunging the world's economy into massive recession by withholding oil or raising prices to a prohibitive level.

Even if Iraq were to annex Saudi Arabia, a dubious prospect at best, Hussein certainly would not ruin the world economy. Oil sales are a way of getting hard currency, which is what Saddam Hussein wants (to finance Iraq's debt). He certainly wants to sell oil, and excessive oil prices would force petroleum importers to tap other sources of energy, ruining the Iraqi oil economy.

Even if no economical alternatives existed, raising prices excessively would damage the economies of consuming nations, so they could not afford as much oil. Either way, Iraq would be subject to the same price constraints as the monopolies that currently control the world's oil. Europe and Japan do not care who is selling the oil they buy. If they want Iraq out of Kuwait, it is because the U.S. will start a war otherwise.

Why would the U.S. want to start a war? Though no one cares from whom they buy oil, some people care very much that they be the ones selling it.

The current oil monopolies, whose stranglehold over the "world's oil" is threatened by Iraq, are based in the United States. Before the invasion, April Glaspie, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, encouraged Saddam Hussein's threatening gestures toward Kuwait because "we have many Americans who would like to see the price of oil above $25."

Although, as Alexander Cockburn says, Saddam Hussein "overplayed the hand allowed by the United States," it is clear whose interests the U.S. government is protecting. Exxon, Texaco, Amoco and friends are the "many Americans" Glaspie referred to, and are the ones who would benefit from a war for control of the world's oil. The people--both American and Iraqi--who would die on the sand have been left out of the reckoning altogether.

SINCE Bush cannot come out and say what the war is really about, he conjures up red herrings such as the Iraqi nuclear threat. The countries that now condemn Iraq are responsible for giving it whatever nuclear technology it now has. If the world is unanimous in its opposition to Saddam Hussein, as Bush says, no country will export advanced nuclear technology to him.

Without such help, Iraq cannot build an atomic bomb. Senators who have access to the latest intelligence briefings say that Bush's alarmist rhetoric on the subject "has no substance," according to reports in The Boston Globe. Furthermore, no steps have been taken to stop the sales of advanced weapons components--biological chemical and conventional--to other such dictators. These are not mere oversights. The Department of Commerce approves such sales as a matter of routine.

The question of "national sovereignty" is another deception. Kuwait was created by Britain in 1932 without consideration of its people's history, specifically to block Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf. Iraq has been trying to take Kuwait back since Kuwaiti independence in 1961. The existence of independent states here does not constitute real nationhood. What we should really be concerned with is the welfare of the people involved.

Some might object that innocents have suffered from the invasion of Kuwait. This does not mean that intervention is justified. The United States is the main force propping up the existing order of sheiks and dictators. Any movement of the people to throw off this order will be opposed by any U.S. presence.

The people of the region can no more be served by the U.S. and its allies, which have sponsored such butchers as Syria's Assad, Pakistan's Zia and the Shah of Iran, than by Saddam Hussein, himself a product of Western interference.

Given the pernicious nature of U.S. policy in the Gulf, economic sanctions should not even be considered. But some discussions regarding the effects of such sanctions is in order. The sanctions are "working." The infant mortality rate in Iraq has doubled, and there has been a hepatitis outbreak in Baghdad. News of the hungry poor is now reaching the United States.

The first people to suffer from the embargo will be those who have no chance of organizing opposition, such as the rural poor. An embargo is simply a war with casualties on one side, and is as unacceptable as a regular war. If it is within our power to stop such a catastrophe, we must do so immediately.

Some people say that the United States has no business in the Middle East. On the contrary, the United States has nothing but business in the region. Big Business. The support that the United States has given dictators (in this region and all over the world) has not been a mistake or an accident. U.S. foreign policy has systematically served the interests of major U.S. corporations and will continue as long as these corporations control the economy through their investment decisions.

Until we change the way this country is run, U.S. policies toward other countries will not operate according to principles, but according to profits. As long as this is the case, it is our responsibility to oppose U.S. intervention.

Tom Garvey '92 and Alejandro Reuss '92 are members of Students Against War in the Middle East (SAWME).

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