Another month, another foreign enemy. No sooner had Washington's war party completed its hysterical attempt to demonize China — calling its burgeoning prosperity a threat to world peace — than it featured another country in the bulletin of the War-of-the-Month club.
This month's selection is Iraq. It seems that Saddam Hussein is more than a little resistant to U. S. demands, among them that U2 spy planes should be able to fly around his country at the whim of the State Department. Hussein, you see, has the temerity to object to this, even threatening to toss a few of his dated missiles at these planes.
And talk about paranoid. Hussein also objects to having U. S. officials snooping around his country for evidence of nuclear capacity. How unreasonable. To hear Hussein talk, you would think the U. S. had it in for Iraq.
It was six years ago that the U. S. went to war with Iraq over its border dispute with Kuwait, and pounded Iraq into submission. It was the last hurrah of the Cold War mode, as George Bush tried, and failed, to ride his victory to a second term. Did former U. S. ally Hussein resent the U. S. attack? Of course, since he had been given official assurance that the U. S. would wink at his move against Kuwait.
The Gulf War was a gruesome conflict that the U. S. won handily and expensively. But the world's only superpower is not the most gracious of victors. Instead of allowing normalcy to be restored, the U. S. has retained wartime embargoes, forbidding the export of oil and the import of medicine and food, while pressuring countries around the world to do the same.
This has amounted to an attempt to starve out Iraq, and it has resulted in massive malnutrition, disease, and poverty, with some reports indicating that hundreds of thousands of children have died. Not all is fair in war, and a six-year-old policy to destroy an entire people because we don't like their leader is not the way civilized nations conduct their business.
When faced with this approach to post-Gulf War diplomacy, Iraq has been remarkably compliant. It allows UN inspectors to roam its country searching anywhere they please for nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, UN inspectors even invaded a convent of Catholic nuns, breaking down walls and digging up graves to discover Iraq's elusive nuclear weapons.
Even so, Iraq is not demanding that all inspectors leave its country. It is not forbidding planes with aerial cameras from looking around the place. What Hussein wants is that the foreign government that buried Iraqi soldiers alive in mountains of sand, and favors a policy of starvation over peaceful engagement, not fly its spy planes and not make its bureaucrats part of the inspection teams.
Saddam Hussein is, in other words, demanding what every American who cares about freedom should also be demanding: that the U. S. get out of Iraq.
Why has Iraq put up with the invasions of its sovereignty at all? The short answer is that it wants to sell oil, buy food, and have a chance to rebuild after the devastation of the Gulf War. Yet the U. S. will not allow that, no matter what kinds of concessions Hussein makes.
Jude Wanniski, the irascible supply-side economist, has another theory: "In a world with at least 40 years of proven oil reserves," he writes, "it is in the interest of the oil-producing countries and the oil companies who try to manage scarcity to keep Iraq and its oil bottled up."
No doubt economic motivations play a part. But there's a deeper explanation to U. S. belligerence. It goes to the heart of a fateful decision Washington's foreign policy elite made earlier in this decade: that no corner of the earth can be allowed to escape the ministrations of the U. S. empire. We proclaimed ourselves, in messianic terms, "the world's indispensable nation."
How must that sound to others? William Drozdiak, writing for the Washington Post from Berlin, provides an understated account. "Across Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa," the "United States finds itself increasingly accused of bullying the rest of the world." And much of the criticism comes "from friendly nations that no longer feel prevented by Cold War loyalties from expressing their disagreements with Washington."
Disagree with Washington? That's a trend at home as well. It appears that, in this instance, the American people have more in common with the rest of the world than they do with their own government.