The war on terror - is Iraq next on death row?

A history of the current situation in the war on terrorism - half a year after the war started.


With the threat of Afghanistan and the Taliban regime as good as erased, the attentions of the US and Great Britain have turned to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the war against terrorism.

Between the dates of the 8th and 18th March 2002, this was the premier story, dominating the political coverage in newspapers and Internet news sites worldwide.

This write-up intends to review the media coverage given to the event. From Tony Blair’s MP’s displaying “deep unease” about the PM’s position on a military attack on Iraq on Friday March 8th, to The New York Times' debate on whether President Bush would unleash his nuclear arsenal if needs be on March 18th. It shall directly compare reporting from both sides of the Atlantic, with the Guardian and The Daily Telegraph forming the greater part of the content from the UK, with the highly respected websites of CNN and the New York times configuring the reporting in the US

In earlier days, it had come to light that Iraq and the dark, yet looming shadow of a seemingly forlorn Saddam Hussein had become the latest target of the trigger-happy United States president George W Bush. In an archetypal response from the British PM, he is right behind the US call to action against Iraq.

The cases

Friday March 8th and the Guardian tells of the “deep unease” sweeping MP’s as Blair makes clear his stance on action against Iraq. Over 60 MP’s at Westminster yesterday urged their restraint. However the foreign secretary told of the regimes “obsessive interest in biological weapons and it’s determination to obtain missiles” (,4273,4370320,00.html)

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, I was wrong in my assumption that the approach would be a little more gung-ho so to speak as reports. Somewhat surprisingly they play down rumours that vice president Dick Cheney’s sole purpose of his 12-nation middle east trip was to “build support for imminent military action” against Iraq. Perhaps the American tabloids would see this a little differently. CNN’s Washington Bureau also reports that the new weapon’s inspections for Iraq “must be unconditional” In a somewhat more aggressive piece of Journalism words such as “confront” “violation” and “sanctions” are used to describe the process. As expected the approach of CNN is more aggressive than the laid back outlook provided by the Guardian.


The next big news arises two days later as classified information comes to light about likely US nuclear targets. In a report taken from the previous days LA Times it is revealed that “nuclear weapons could be used against Libya, Syria, China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea” This prompted a worldwide outrage including several outbursts at trigger-happy President George W Bush.

CNN jumps to the defence of the US, with a report suggesting that they were not a guide to US plans. A statesman for the Pentagon commented that “It does not provide operational guidance on nuclear targeting or planning” and is simply “the latest in a long series of reviews since the development of nuclear weapons”.

The report was also played down on CNN TV’s “late edition with Wolf Blitzer” as Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff points out; "This preserves for the president all the options that a president would want to have in case this country or our friends and allies were attacked with weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, biological, chemical or, for that matter, high explosives”


Back home, the approach is a little more reserved and not so quick to just to the defence of the Americans, with the Daily Telegraph calling it a “serious concern”


Moving forward to March 13th the Guardian Unlimited website, reports on a possible marriage between the Al-Qaida and Iraq. Again the report is centred around vice president Dick Cheney who without evidence suggests that the mere possibility of this “Marriage” “is enough for the United States to threaten war - and to corral the rest of the world into a coalition to fight it” This article is a little more anti the American policy, claiming their motives are simply to enforce a re-enactment of the Gulf war. The Guardian, known for their independent views, has gone out on a limb here. (,4373,4373202,00.html)

A similar piece appeared on the telegraph’s website, which said that; “Britain and America have compiled an intelligence-based dossier alleging that Saddam Hussein has developed increasingly close links with the al-Qa'eda terrorist group” This article presents a far more united front against Saddam, who allegedly had given shelter to 100’s of Al-Qaida soldiers. (

That Day’s edition of the Daily Mirror, features a defiant Saddam Hussein on its front page, uttering the words “They don’t scare us” in referring to the US threats.

(Daily Mirror, 13th March 2002, page 1)

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, CNN reports that President Bush has once again refused to rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons. And in his press conference admitted that “Iraq and Saddam Hussein are a big problem…but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction." I, for one, sense a certain amount of irony in this. (

March 16th: An Article entitled “End Iraq threat now, Pentagon official says” from CNN’s Washington desk reports that “what we can’t do is just wait another 10, 20 years and hope nothing happens” as Iraq harbour weapons of mass destruction that “would make September 11th look tame by comparison” (

Over the last week CNN’s approach has certainly become more gung-ho as I mentioned earlier, however the Guardian remains slightly cautious about any military action against Iraq. They reveal that Britain’s growing rift with Europe in the war against Terror is set to grow further as German chancellor Gerhard Schröder informs the UK that “he had no intention of participating in any unilateral military action launched against Baghdad by the United States” the word “Isolated” which dominates the headline, reflects the concern held by The Guardian.


Moving forward to the 18th March, their has been no major developments as Americas and ‘Dubya’ continue to keep their nuclear weapon card close to their chest as The New York Times reports. Cheney and Bush have been quick enough to warn Saddam Hussein they will do “whatever it takes” to stop him “would the president ever consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike?, the answers have ranged from ‘not likely’ to ‘no comment’” and concluding that ambiguity is everything in Nuclear deterrence.


Very little was settled during the ten days spanning the 8th-18th March 2002. What remains is simply a great deal of threats made by both sides, mostly the by American’s who seem to believe that only they have the right to possess these weapons of mass destruction.

The American Media have failed to pick up on this hypocrisy and by supporting the very same hypocrisy the Guardian starts to become a little concerned by it all, especially as Europe continues to distance itself from US policy.

Simultaneously, the bombing in Afghanistan still continues, although nobody seems to know what is actually being bombed, because there can hardly be anything left to bomb by now.

With thanks to the custodian, the oolong man and albert herring, I spotted a few mistakes, both factual and linguistic, in my w/u. They have been corrected

While the above writeup by Palmaceous does an excellent job of summarizing much of the relevant recent history, there are (I believe) a few problems with hi/r position and argument. Unfortunately for hi/r (and all of you, no doubt), the writeup has pushed my 'International Security Teaching Assistant' button. Heh.

To start with, the writeup begins with a red herring; the use of the phrase 'possibly nuclear,' especially as a dashed interjection and in italics, draws the eye and gives the impression that it's indeed quite possible that the 'War on Terrorism' is going or has gone nuclear. The title and tone also fall into a fairly classic trap, one which (I believe) the writer does in fact see and is trying to discredit. That trap is to associate the 'War Against Terror' with the United States' obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. While the 'attentions of the United States and Great Britain' have, in fact, turned towards Iraq and Hussein in recent days, to describe this as part of the 'War against Terror' is to in fact buy into the Bush administration's positioning and marketing of their actions, wholesale.

Note: I don't think this is a flaw in the writeup; rather, it merely serves to illustrate how pervasive the disinformation by the Bush crew has been.

I'll confine the remainder of my comments to the writeup's stated purpose, its review of the media's coverage of the whole shebang. The links offered and points drawn are excellent in general; there is one other 'trap,' however, which the author may have been caught in. That trap involves nuclear weapons and their use, as well as the recent 'leaked report' on the U.S. Nuclear posture.

Let me state my point clearly: that report does not, in fact, contain any relevant deviation from likely actual U.S. nuclear policies of the past fifteen years. In point of fact, the U.S. nuclear reviews have been in the main unswervingly critical of any policy of first-use versus a non-nuclear attack; however, the reviewers have been (and were in this last case) instructed to evaluate the use of said weapons by the U.S. in a myriad of possible situations - typically, situations devised and laid out by the administrations requesting the report.

Ever since their introduction, the nuclear weapon has been explored as a tactical option. In the 1950s, the U.S. military tested a live nuclear artillery round, fired from a rail-based cannon. The debate over nuclear weapon first-use during the Cold War was not so much over strategic pre-emptive strikes, but over the viability of using tactical nuclear weapons on the Central Front to stave off a conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact. The USSR developed the now-infamous Atomic Demolition Munition, known by the media as the 'suitcase nuke.' The U.S. swiftly followed suit.

In the case of the Central Front, the reasoning behind such winners as a tactical strike and the Neutron Bomb was that the U.S. would be 'forced' by circumstance to use these weapons to perform tasks that it was otherwise unable to manage. This is the same reasoning that has gone into the posture review, time after time. While I don't want to sound like I'm uncritically 'defending the Americans,' I must point out that it is the job of those impanelled to perform said reviews to think up and outline all possible scenarios for the use of U.S. existing and planned nuclear forces. They are not writing this report as a recommended action. They are writing it as a studied response to regularly-asked questions handed them by the Executive Branch and the military command: What are these things good for, and why might I use them? Will they help me solve any of the problems I'm currently dealing with or might be in the near future?

Moving on, the 'leak' of said report is highly suspicious to say the least. The obsession with Iraq exhibited by Cheney and company (I'd say Bush, but I don't think he can spell it much less devote ten consecutive minutes of thought to it or anything) long predates the War Against Terror (I love using CNN taglines). It dates back to even before the first incarnation of their obsession - the Gulf War. Cheney and cronies are the surviving members of the foreign-policy geniuses that gave us both a militarily strong Iraq as well as an Afghanistan awash in and expert in the use of terrorism. They created both problems, to a degree; they've solved neither. However, Daddy's War (as I tend to call the Hussein obsession) is not nearly as popular as the War Against Terror for obvious reasons; thus, in order to pursue the former, they must associate it with the latter.

I'm not saying Hussein isn't connected with terrorism against the U.S. There is strong evidence that, in fact, Iraq was and perhaps is a strong supporter of the Al-Qaeda organization (multiple reports of training camps that included parked airliners for hijack training, high-quality arms and ammo transferred to terrorist organizations, money transfers and the like). What I am saying is that the focus on Iraq isn't new; the administration knows that it will damage support for the president, and that it can't really be done at all without a lot of maneuvering. Step one: distract the debate from the real questions with a sure-fire hot button topic like nuclear weapons. That report (in the works for months) was a non-secret; the existence of it, and the existence and likely contents of its myriad predecessors had never really raised any ruckus unless they described a reduction in nuclear forces. This one created a storm pretty much solely because the administration explicitly asked for nuclear weapon options to deal with 'conventional' threats...something which they knew was going to touch off a stink.

So where are we? The waters have been tested. As noted by Palmaceous, VP Cheney (the real obsessor in this case) recently made a junket to try to garner support for his pet project. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for a lot of other people, the governments he consulted typically wanted no part of the U.S.'s continued tilting at Iraq. It should be noted that the initial reports, which described how unhappy the Cheney handlers were with the unwillingness of his Mid-Eastern hosts to discuss anything but the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, were soon shifted to a more 'pro-Israel/Palestinian' focus. Cheney hadn't been 'blindsided' by his inability to focus on what he feels is the main problem - he's just frustrated that no one will listen to his carping and won't stop talking about a problem that frankly he couldn't give a damn about.

To say that the point of recent weeks is the possibility of nuclear use in the War Against Terror misses the point in just the way they'd like. The real point is that the War Against Terror and the Iraq Obsession have suddenly become the same thing in the eyes of the press - and that's dangerous. The current administration's hard-on for Iraq is an older and much less rational agenda than the operations being carried out in Afghanistan and its neighboring areas.

What should be more frightening to people (especially when married with the red-herring-but-still-written nuclear posture review) is that the U.S. in no way possesses even 2/3 of the force structure that it did during Desert Storm, and of those forces, fewer are heavy armored units. Finally, there aren't entire stood-up Corps of units in Europe, a convenient train-ride from Turkey and the Mediterranean ports. The US DOES NOT possess the sorts of conventional forces it did back then. While technology may have increased the capability of those that it does retain, as we're finding in Afghanistan, a few determined low-tech adversaries are still an awful pain to deal with. If Hussein makes the smarter decision in this round not to stand up to us for an open-ground armor rumble but goes instead for the terrorist occupier model used by the Viet Cong in Vietnam, the U.S. would swiftly find itself at a loss to do anything except think about tossing nuclear weapons to 'break' the situation.

Think about that. Cheney and company are so obsessed with this notion of 'finishing off Saddam' that they are willing to commit to paper the request for the posture review to consider explicitly first-use tactical nuclear attacks against a Mid-Eastern opponent who may or may not even have the things themselves.

There's the problem. These idiots are crazy.

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