The Arab World Geographer
Forum on The 2003 War on/in Iraq

Is Devastation the Price of Democracy?: Operation Iraqi Freedom

Muhammad A. Shuraydi

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor, Windsor ON    N9B  3P4    Canada

The collapse of the Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime does not change the fact that the war on Iraq was waged in defiance of international legality (securing a second UN resolution) and of international public opinion, represented by the millions of anti-war protesters all over the world.  From the outset the Bush administration’s latent motive for the war was dismantling Saddam Hussein’s regime and unapologetically showing the world the new role of the U.S. as the sole, unchallenged global power.  The war is a clear message to the entire international community, including the UN, about “America’s mission” (Kaplan and Kristol 2003) in the 21st century.  This new vision of America can be traced to the 1997 “Project for New American Century” (PNAC).

Two heaven-sent landmark occasions facilitated the implementation of the project: first, the election of President George Bush Jr., a born-again Christian; second, 11 September, the “catastrophic and catalyzing event, a new Pearl Harbor” (Wolfowitz’s term in Hakki 2003 and Pilger 2002).

Members of the PNAC include a cabal of neoconservatives and Zionist extremists close to Israel’s Likud (Lind 2003; Seale 2003; Shavit 2003).  They include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Bill Kristol, just to name a few.  Their aim is to establish a new world order of uncontested American hegemony, whereby the United States must be sure of “deterring any potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”  They openly admit that the need for a substantial presence in the Gulf transcends the need to defeat the regime of Saddam Hussein (Pilger 2002; Hakki 2003; Johnson 2003).

Their message has been unequivocally reiterated in Kaplan and Kristol’s recent book, The War Over Iraq (2003, vii-viii): “The decision about what course to take in dealing with Iraq is particularly significant because it is clearly more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror.  It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the world in the twenty-first century.”  The war, therefore, is a joyful fulfilment of a long-awaited objective of the neoconservatives and sympathizers with Israel. 

Three noteworthy observations are relevant in the context of the present war.  These are

1          The intention to target the Saddam Hussein’s regime preceded September 11, 2001.  This explains the war fever by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who advocated a war on Iraq on the morning of 12 September, even before the identities of the hijackers were established (Woodward 2002, 49).  The tragic events of 11 September were manipulated and circumvented to reach this objective. One ventures to contend that even the whole original process of going through the UN Security Council was merely a staged theoretical act to influence public opinion domestically and internationally.

2                    The Bush administration was and still is hesitant and secretive to state the true motive for the war publicly.  Is it the elimination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? Is it the liberation and democracy for the Iraqi people?  Is it combatting international terrorism? These rationalizations together remain unconvincing and fail to justify war.  Only Powell’s “confession” to the Senate about reshaping the geopolitical contingencies in the Middle East has a bearing on the real motives for the war. 

3                    Because of the administration’s hidden agenda or latent motives for the war on Iraq, the public opinion campaign, which was originally called for by Powell, remained unconvincing and lacking marketability.  The CIA failed to provide factual substantiation to link Iraq to Al-Qaeda.  Powell’s endeavour to establish this by referring to Zarqawi, who is affiliated with Ansar Al-Islam (the supporters of Islam), still stands in need of corroboration, especially after the successful destruction of Zarqawi’s bases by the coalition of the U.S. and Kurds has failed to supply any evidence of their possession of WMD or of connection to Saddam Hussein’s regime. 

The Visibility of Victimization

One of the repercussions of the war will be an increase in international terrorism and a greater hatred for America, especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds.  Notwithstanding that Bin Laden’s fundamentalism and Saddam’s Baathist secularism are polar opposites, the war will bring about an amalgamation of the two phenomena into one whose shared objective will be to resist U.S. hegemony in the region.  The Arab and Muslim masses are already emotionally mobilized, in view of the history of the U.S.’s adopting a double standard vis-à-vis Israel – and in particular, in view of the Bush administration’s blunder in yielding to Sharon’s right wing, Likud agenda by equating Palestinian resistance to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza with international terrorism.  The Israeli occupation is the only one remaining in the 21st century.  Paradoxically, the war has already produced a public discourse about a second U.S. occupation, directly or by proxy, irrespective of the niceties of the masks with which it will be ultimately packaged, advertised, and marketed – Jay Garner, as the appointed American provisional governor, followed by an Iraqi Karazi or by a number of them representing different ethnic and sectarian factions.

The simultaneous, ongoing hyper-reality, imagery, or visual representation internationally televised by the electronic media of the devastation, destruction, victimization, and dismembered corpses of civilians, children, women, and the elderly, in both Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories – devastation, destruction, victimization inflicted by the technologically sophisticated, deadly “smart” weapons – will surely intensify inter-group conflict among the warring parties and consequently make the rosy promises of the so-called “road map” for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis almost an impossible task. Pressure is already mounting on President Bush to adopt a more staunchly pro-Israeli stance to change the non-negotiable nature of the document (VandeHei 2003).  Ironically, the failure of the road map will be a pleasing event for the neoconservatives-Likud alliance – their opposition to the peace initiatives, Camp David and Oslo, is a known and documented fact.   

The perception of the simultaneous, televised brutalization in both Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories and the psychological scars it leaves, coupled with the potential availability in the future of WMD from alternate sources, forces one to conclude painfully that it may turn out that the delay needed to allow the UN inspectors to accomplish their mission peacefully would have been far less costly than waging a pre-emptive war, with unforeseen, monumental repercussions regionally and internationally, involving the future roles of both the Arab league and the United Nations. 

Democracy As a Weapon of Mass Deception

The Bush administration’s attempt to see the war within the framework of liberation and democracy is the most laughable, not to say unimpressive and unpersuasive, of all the reasons given.  One finds it difficult to believe that the Bush administration’s magnanimous love for democracy is the underlying, motivating force for the war.  It is in doubt for at least two principal reasons.  First, Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime was happily embraced in the 1980s by key members of the current Bush administration, involving both Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense. It was through Rumsfeld that Iraq originally obtained its biological and chemical weapons, including the Nile virus, according to former U.S. senator Don Riegle of Michigan (Borger 2002; Riegle 1994).  Hussein was also financially and morally supported by the Gulf states, including Kuwait, in the first Gulf war between Iran and Iraq, 1980-1988.  Although Saddam Hussein’s use of WMD against his people, the Kurds, and Iran was a fact known since the first Gulf war, the U.S. did not call for democratic reforms either in Iraq or in the feudal monarchies where it has built military garrisons (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman).  Second, the U.S. has recently developed close ties with the post-Soviet dictatorships in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.  This is not surprising, since the record of U.S. sponsorship of “friendly tyrants” is documented (Pipes and Garfinkle 1991).  Above all, the objective of bringing liberation and democracy did not require a brutal war that itself constituted an undemocratic deviation from the international, UN norm of legality.  Didn’t both former President Bush Sr. and present Vice-President Dick Cheney claim that the battle was not extended to Baghdad in 1991 because the UN Security Council resolution id not authorize it?  Is the current, pre-emptive war justified because of the U.S. envisioned role as the sole uncontested global power, as explained earlier?  Furthermore, the control of Iraqi oil resources will reinforce and cement the global role of the U.S. and eliminate the potential threat that some OPEC countries may shift to the Euro in selling their oil, as Iraq effectively did in 1999.  Isn’t it reassuring that of all the looting that is taking place in Baghdad since the disintegration of Hussein’s regime, only the ministry of oil is protected by U.S. forces.

Some Questions and Reflections on the Post-Saddam Era

In the post-Saddam era, therefore, can one look forward to an improvement in the status of women, particularly in the Gulf region?  Will women in Kuwait, where the coalition forces are mainly stationed and from where the war was waged be elected to the male-only Kuwaiti Legislative Assembly?  Will women in Saudi Arabia, including university professors with PhDs, be allowed to drive their own cars?  They protested during the second Gulf war in 1991, and their protest then made headline news in the New York Times.

Will the third Gulf war enable the alienated, oppressed masses in the Arab world to elect their governmental leaders with support of less than 99%, or will these leaders be accepted and tolerated because they are “friendly tyrants,” serving the global role of the only superpower in the post-Cold War era?  Will the democratic model of democracy and nation-building be exported consistently to the other remaining tyrants in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, etc.?  Or, will the “McDonaldization of democracy” be selectively applied?  Finally, will the “clash of civilization” approach be transformed into “crush other civilizations including Mesopotamia” to build a peaceful new world order in the post-11 September era?

            The U.S., as predicted, has militarily won the war.  President Bush over and over again assured us that the outcome was never in doubt.  Will the U.S. politically win the peace in the post-Saddam era, especially if “a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet the standards of a just war” (Carter 2003)?  This is what the global village will witness in the short and distant future.  During this time, the role of the big corporations involved in the oil, weapons, and media production should not be underestimated.  Some of the key members of the Bush administration are or have been affiliated with these corporations. Condoleeza Rice is also the name of a Chevron Oil tanker.  Moreover, these corporations are active participants not merely in globalization, but also in the democratic process of the election and re-election of the president of the United States.

One genuinely and empathetically shares Senator Robert Byrd’s “weeping for his country, America” (2003).  Additionally, one weeps for humanity!


Borger, Julian. 2002. Rumsfeld ‘offered help to Saddam.’ The Guardian, 31 December.

Byrd, Robert. 2003. The arrogance of power: today I weep for my country. 19 March. (A speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate).;

Carter, Jimmy. 2003.   Just war, or just a war?  New York Times, 9 March.

Hakki, Mohammed. 2003. Wolfowitz’s America. Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 27 February; 5 March.

Johnson, Chalmers. 2003. The sorrow of empire: How the Americans lost their century. New York: Metropolitan Books (forthcoming).

Kaplan, Lawrence F. and Kristol, William. 2003.The war over Iraq: Saddam’s tyranny and America’s mission. San Francisco: Encounter Books.

Klare, Michael T. 2003.The coming war with Iraq: deciphering the Bush administration’s motives.  Interhemisphere resource center (IDC), January 16.

Lind, Michael. 2003.   The weired men behind George Bush’s war. New Statesman. 7 April.

Pilger, John. 2002. John Pilger reveals the American plan.  New Statesman (UK), 16-30 December.

Pipes, Daniel and Garfinkle, Adam, eds. 1991. Friendly tyrants: an American dilemma. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Riegle, Don. 1994. Congressional record (senate), 9 February.

Seale, Patrick. 2003.America’s dangerous wrong turning.7 March. 135. htm

Shavit, Ari. 2003. White man’s burden. Haaretz Friday Magazine, April 4.

VandeHei, Jim. 2003. Bush met resistance on mideast plan, Washington Post, April 4.

Woodward, Bob. 2002. Bush at war. New York: Simon and Schuster.

(Submitted 10 April 2003)
© The Arab World Geographer

Editorial: Falah 

Contributions: Dalby / Dijkink / Lustick / Hixson / Farhan / Shuraydi / Khashan / Reuber / Sidaway

Commentaries: Wesbter / Murphy / Agnew

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