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August 12, 2014

Mission impossible: Peace with justice in the age of American imperialism

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Examining any of the world hot spots lead to two important conclusions: it is impossible to achieve a peaceful settlement with justice and the reason is that we are living in the age of American imperialism; exploiting the resources of other countries using American violence facilitated with a super military, political and economical power, and aided with a Western alliance.

After the invasion of Iraq, President Bush addressed the Security Council, but his speech was not well received. 

At the time, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made it clear that the role of the United Nations had to be clearly defined before he could put his personnel at risk.  But Resolution 1511 unanimously passed and did not allay these concerns. 

In practice the military responsibilities of the occupying powers had to stay with the Coalition, or in reality with the U.S., and there was little support forthcoming from other countries or the United Nations itself.

The Bush administration was eager to get the United Nations more involved but was unwilling to make the necessary concessions.

Welcome to the age of American imperialism in Iraq.

The American armed forces have been programmed to bring overwhelming power to bear, as indicated by the code name for the Iraqi invasion: Shock and Awe.  They were not trained to perform occupation duties or nation building.

American presence in Iraq was intended to pacify the Middle East; using the invasion of Iraq as a frightening example and Iraq as a military base, Americans wanted to put pressure on neighbouring countries.

But 11 years later, the invasion of Iraq had achieved the opposite result.

Today Iraq is run over by Muslim extremists, Syria is unstable, the Israeli-Palestine issue has not been resolved, Libya is a failed state, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and broke diplomatic relations with Qatar as state sponsoring terrorism, Egypt suffer from daily terrorist attacks but the U.S. and its Western allies declare Hamas a terrorist group but not the Muslim Brotherhood. 

In addition the American ability to project power elsewhere has been greatly reduced since the invasion of Iraq as evident in dealing with the crisis in Ukraine.

The other important consideration in the Middle East was, and still is, Israel. 

A large number of religious fanatics in the U.S. believe that the rebirth of Israel presages the apocalypse and the second coming of the Messiah.  Hence, in addition to the traditional pro-Israel lobby, Israel also has strong support from the evangelical right.

The wisdom then was by establishing a strong military presence in Iraq would help to transform the political complexion of the entire region.  This would reassure Israel and weaken the Palestinians on terms acceptable to Israel and its U.S. supporters. 

At the time, all of Europe, including Britain’s Tony Blair, considered the issue of Palestine the top priority, but President Bush wanted to deal with Iraq first.  This was a major source of conflict between the U.S. and Europe and led to an American commitment, which has not been kept, to give high priority to a Middle East peace settlement after the American invasion of Iraq.

The invasion itself was a resounding military success. Moreover, after the military victory, the Security Council passed a second resolution (1483), which recognized the occupation of Iraq and provided a legal basis for it. 

Neither France, where President Chirac was under fire for hurting French commercial interests, nor Germany, which was eager to mend fences, dared to raise any objections. 

Indeed, Resolution 1483 went further than any previous UN resolution in retroactively legalizing unauthorized military action.  In effect, the resolution conferred most of the attributes of Iraqi sovereignty upon the occupying powers for an indefinite period. 

It can be argued that this goes beyond the limits of existing international law, but the resolution cannot be deemed illegal because under international law, the UN Security Council has legislative powers. 

The ideologues of American supremacy have been arguing that international relations are relations of power and that international law merely legitimizes what power has wrought; with regard to Iraq, they were proven right.

In other respects, however, they were wrong.  The arguments they used to justify the invasion – Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and his connection to al Qaeda – turned out to be unsubstantiated or downright false. 

When the weapons of mass destruction could not be found, President Bush fell back on the justification of liberating Iraq from a heinous dictator and introducing democracy. 

That was indeed a noble cause, which could have justified the invasion if the president had made a case for it.  But that was not the case that President Bush had presented to Congress, and presumably, Congress would not have endorsed it.

Democracy and open society are very difficult to establish, even if people have the best of intentions.

Iraq was the last place to choose for a demonstration project.  Iraq has no experience of democracy, and it is rife with latent ethnic and religious conflicts.  Like many states of the Middle East, Iraq was artificially created by the Western powers after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire so as to allow the greatest possible scope for Western influence. 

Three vilayets of the Ottoman Empire were combined to form Iraq.  The Kurds, who constituted a majority in the north, were divided between Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.  A Sunni majority around Baghdad was combined with a Shiite majority around Basra and the marshlands. 

A number of other ethnic and religious minorities were dispersed throughout Iraq.  A Sunni-Hashemite king, brother of the king of Transjordania, was imposed on this concoction. 

When the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, the subsequent regimes maintained the political domination of the Sunni minority with ever-more repressive methods.

In light of the ethnic and religious divisions, the introduction of democracy would lead to the disintegration of the country as we witness today. 

It was this consideration, reinforced by pressure from the neighbouring Arab rulers that stopped the first President Bush short of unseating Saddam in the first Gulf War. 

That was the hornet’s nest that the second President Bush stirred up when he invaded Iraq.  Introducing democracy was clearly not uppermost in his mind.  As mentioned before, the real motives remain shrouded in mystery but nation building could not have ranked high among them. 

Today we know circumstances were not much better in Afghanistan, and later in Syria or Libya. The American invasion of Iraq has given nation building a bad name.

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