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Will the gates of Hell open in the Middle East?
By Karamatullah K. Ghori

Toronto: At the conclusion of the Arab League Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Cairo on September 4, its Secretary General Amer Musa, who was formerly Egypt’s Foreign Minister, warned the Bush administration that if carried out its threat to invade Iraq, "gates of Hell" will be opened in the region.

The Arab League may claim to be the umbrella organisation of all 22 of the Arab states in the world but its voice in world affairs can hardly be heard. It carries no weight in major chancelleries of the world. It is, therefore, highly unlikely that Amer Musa’s categorical warning will have much of an impact on the war lobby working in overdrive in Washington under the sheltering wings of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

The Arab League may be of no consequence to Washington’s arrogant warmongers. However, open opposition to the Bush administration’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric on Iraq is snowballing around the world. 

America’s next door neighbour, Canada, is skeptical of the Bush intent to violate the sovereignty of a state on mere suspicion that it is making weapons of mass destruction. Prime Minister Jean Chretien has questioned the wisdom of a belligerent mentality now holding Washington in its thrall.

Western Europe is pouring scorn on the Bush designs of war and its open contempt for the UN mechanism of enforcing peace and peace-keeping. France’s Chirac and Germany’s Schroeder have expressed total opposition to Bush’s unilateralism. Schroeder, facing general elections in Germany, has threatened to pull out Germany’s elite Chemical analysts unit, based in Kuwait, in the event of a US military invasion of Iraq.

The only exception to the EU defiance of Bush is Britain’s Tony Blair who is undoubtedly bringing ignominy and disrepute to the august office of a British Prime Minister by his unabashed pandering to Bush and his war machine. But Blair’s obsequiousness to Bush is prompting revolt and disgust in the ranks of his Labor Party against him. He may soon face a challenge to his leadership if he fails to mend his behaviour.

While Europe may still be distant from America—and it is spiritually a million miles from a unilateralist Bush with little concern for the outside world—opposition to the Bush belligerence and bellicosity is emerging within the Republican hard core itself. 

The sharpest denunciation, thus far, of the Bush war ambition has come from none other than the Republican elder-statesman, James Baker. He was not only Secretary of State to the elder Bush and thus played a pivotal role in the Gulf War of 1990-91, two years ago when Bush Jr. was locked in a legal and constitutional battle with Al Gore for the Presidency of United States Baker served as his point man in the painstaking tussle. Baker still enjoys an impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity and his words cannot be dismissed with disdain, as is the wont with the arrogant far right Republican hawks around Bush. 

Baker warned, without mincing his words, that the Bush proclivity to " go it alone" would cost U.S. heavily in both diplomatic and political terms. He insisted that there was no alternative to the need to muster another global alliance, like the one he and Sr. Bush assembled before the Gulf War. Failing that, Baker cautioned the foreign policy novice occupying the Oval Office, " the costs in all areas will be much greater, as will the political risks, both domestic and international, if we end up going it alone or with one or two countries."

Baker also advised Bush of the ineluctable need to take his case ( if there is any ) against Iraq and Saddam Hussain to the UN and seek a mandate there for whatever action was being contemplated against Iraq. Baker then came up with a convoluted argument that even if Bush failed to receive a mandate from the UN ( as is quite likely ) the US would still come out from the exercise holding the "moral high ground"( sic).

It is, however, highly improbable that the war-mongers whom Bush has given a free run of Washington’s power apparatus will be discouraged or daunted from carrying out their threat of war against Iraq. Those surrounding Bush are veterans of gross bunglings in the corporate world. These are the people who have made their careers by wholesale violation of laws, and they are extremely unlikely to be deterred from their diabolical scheme to carry war to the sands of Iraq by voices of opposition within the United States and from outside. The military-industrial complex which has invested so much in people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, expects them to make good on their commitments. In the event of war, it is the military-industrial complex that will reap the richest harvest. A part of the bonus they expected to garner through their wards in the Bush administration has already accrued to them from the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. However, expectations from war against Iraq are much greater, and so is the incentive.

The Jewish lobbies, which never relax in their perennial pursuit to tailor every US policy to suit Israel’s expansionist designs in its neighbourhood, are at par with the military-industrial complex and the powerful Oil lobby to egg on the Bush administration into top military gear. They have the services of the establishment news media—epitomised by the likes of CNN and Fox News—entirely at their disposal to paint a scenario of war in which Israel, much in contrast to the Gulf War situation, will be lock-in-step with the US against Iraq. This hopelessly pro-Israeli media has been painting boastful portrayals of Israel’s highly calibrated military juggernaut and warning Saddam Hussain not to take on an Israel under Ariel Sharon. Without, of course, even vaguely hinting at Sharon’s past war crimes, or his serial-killer nature, they hold out the spectre of Israel ready to obliterate Iraq completely if Saddam Hussain made the error of lobbing any kind of missiles against Israel. It is indeed a kind of propaganda blackmail which should be the envy of the Nazis.

The same establishment media does not, also, talk of the sordid past of the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who are spearheading the campaign to topple Saddam Hussain in Iraq. However, there are still a few voices of conscience left in the US which have been trying to tell the American people, and a world-wide audience beyond the US, of the shady and highly dubious dealings of these notorious characters in the backdrop of Iraq.

Dick Cheney’s shenanigans as the Chief Executive of Halliburten have already been chronicled. This company, under his watch, did at least 43 million dollars worth of business with Iraq in defiance of the US-insisted sanctions. But a far more vivid account of Rumsfeld’s dealings, with Saddam Hussain in particular, have recently been unveiled in an off-mainstream segment of the media.

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist who has been reporting frequently for Free Speech Radio News and Democracy Now in US. He came into prominence recently when in May and June of this year he visited Iraq and reported extensively on the suffering of the Iraqi people under the baneful US-imposed sanctions, now in their 13th year. Scahill wrote a well-researched piece for Znet Magazine recently on Rumsfeld’s Iraq connections under the caption, The Saddam in Rumsfeld’s Closet. 

According to Scahill’s findings, from US archives, of course, Rumsfeld was sent as a special envoy to Saddam Hussain by Ronald Reagan at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1983. Rumsfeld’s December 19-20, 1983 visit to Baghdad was the highest ranking US visit to Iraq in 6 years. Rumsfeld was sent there to assure Saddam that US was in his corner in his war against Iran. Just 12 days after his visit, the Washington Post of January 1, 1984, reported that the US " in a shift in policy, has informed friendly Persian Gulf nations that the defeat of Iraq in the 3-year-old war with Iran would be ‘contrary to U.S. interests’ and has made several moves to prevent that result." These "moves" included the provision of US satellite intelligence data on Iran to Iraq and a blanket approval of whatever military hardware Iraq needed to wage war against Iran.

Rumsfeld was back in Baghdad 3 months later, in March, 1984, for meetings with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. The day he met Aziz, on March 24, UPI reported from the UN in New York: " Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43-month Persian Gulf war between Iran and Iraq, a team of UN experts has concluded…"

Prior to the release of the UN report, the US State Department had issued a statement, on March 5th, saying " available evidence indicates that Iraq has used lethal chemical weapons." But Rumsfeld gave not an inkling of this "available evidence."

It is inconceivable that Rumsfeld, who had full access to US intelligence reports on the war front, was oblivious to the Iraqi use of chemical weapons. However, not a word was said by him on the subject. On the contrary, he later told the New York Times in an interview, "It struck us as useful to have a relationship ( with Saddam), given that we were interested in solving (!) the Mideast problems."

Two years later, when Rumsfeld was nurturing hopes of running for the 1988 Republican Party Presidential nomination, the Chicago Tribune Magazine claimed a feather in Rumsfeld’s cap for helping to " reopen U.S. relations with Iraq."

It was only when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August, 1990, that Rumsfeld suddenly realised that Saddam was a ‘dangerous man.’ Eight years later, in 1998, at the height of the stand-off between US and Iraq on the issue of UN arms inspectors, Rumsfeld joined the chorus of several other ‘prominent Americans’ to plead with Clinton in a joint letter to eliminate " the threat posed by Saddam…and provide the leadership necessary to save ourselves and the world from the scourge of Saddam and the weapons of mass destruction that he refuses to relinquish."

With such unprincipled and morally bankrupt people now occupying the centre stage in his administration, Bush is highly unlikely to be dissuaded from the course he has embarked upon, emboldened by the frantic proddings of Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. This would be despite an emerging backlash of opposition to his plans in the US Congress. 

For the sake of form, Bush has indicated that he may take the case against Saddam to the UN Security Council for a mandate. His apologists say that he will be in a win-win position in regard to the UN, whatever the outcome may be. If the Security Council gives him the mandate, so much the better. But if it does not, even then, in the opinion of James Baker and other sages, he will be on the morally high plateau, and carry on with his unilateral plans to his heart’s content.

In any case, his administration has shown scant regard for international mandates or commitments. His track record on international treaties and obligations is dismal, to say the very least. In the latest instance, he scorned the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, by staying away from it. However, on cue from him the US contingent to the summit led the charge against the developing world and callously sabotaged every single scheme designed to alleviate the sufferings and plights of the poor countries and their peoples.

How will the Arab world cope with the Bush belligerence is a very relevant question but hardly of much concern to many, including the Arabs themselves, given their endemic political paralysis. Amer Musa may have said the absolute truth when he warned of the gates of hell opening in the region around Iraq if war was thrust on that country. But it is certain that the power- that- be opening these gates will have no concern for the fate of millions of people who may be swept in the deluge, or, for that matter, for the fate that may befall the rulers in hock to the perpetrator of yet another crime against humanity. 

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