Not Shock And Awe, But Stop And Pause As The US Tries To Prompt
Military Coup In Iraq
WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 19
THE 'NUDGE, NUDGE' ULTIMATUM
Roula Khalaf, well-informed columnist at the Financial Times,
reports: 'With his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his sons to
leave Iraq or face war, President George W. Bush appeared to be
encouraging a last minute coup more than the Iraqi leaders departure
from Baghdad, diplomats and analysts said yesterday [18 Mar.]
... Western diplomats in the region said the ultimatum was designed
to raise the internal pressure on insiders in the regime to move
against the Iraqi leader. "A number of messages are being
passed to Baghdad from Arab and other countries telling them [Saddam
and his family] to spare the country and the region and step aside.
That doesn't seem to be working but exile might be read as another
form of exit," said a senior diplomat in the region.' (FT,
19 Mar., p. 3)
' Iraqi exiled opposition figures in London yesterday said they
hoped that the deadline set by President Bush for Mr Hussein to
quit Iraq might hep provoke a coup against him. "There is
a possibility that a faction of the regime will move against Saddam,"
said Zuhair Al-Naher of the Iraqi Islamic Dawa party.' (FT,
19 Mar., p. 3)
So, the last few days have seen the US issue a coded call for
a military coup in Baghdad (early Tues. GMT) and a US missile-strike
assassination attempt against the Iraqi leader (early Thurs. GMT).
Some regime change.
Roula Khalaf notes that 'political analysts said the administration's
hope for a coup were undermined by mixed messages. Mr Bush appealed
to Iraq's military commanders and included only Mr Hussein's sons
in his ultimatum, but US officials have referred to the "senior
leadership" that would have to leave Iraq. The White House
yesterday also indicated that the list of officials who would
have to leave Iraq was longer than the Iraqi President's immediate
family. Mr Bush made no mention of any amnesty offer, either to
the Hussein family or to other insiders who might be tempted to
remove the Iraqi leader. " Clearly the message is that if
the three are gone everything is up for grabs. But there is also
the message that US troops would still be there and possibly that
there would still be an occupation. This muddies the waters,"
said Raad al-Kadiri, a political analyst at The Petroleum Finance
Company in Washington.' (FT, 19 Mar., p. 3)
The issuing of an amnesty offer to the Iraqi leader seems to have
been entrusted to the British Foreign Secretary. In response to
a totally unrelated (friendly) question from Jim Dowd MP, Jack
Straw said, 'We have done all that we can to secure a peaceful
resolution to the crisis. It is still possible, let me say, for
it to be resolved peacefully by Saddam Hussein's agreeing to go
into exile. Should that be the case, as I have said on a number
of occasions, we would support a United Nations Security Council
resolution to provide Saddam Hussein with immunity from prosecution
so that he could go into exile and enjoy a retirement of the kind
that he has denied to so many of his own people. I am willing
to accept that terrible compromise to try to avoid a war. I hope
and believe that the whole House would also do that.' (Hansard,
17 Mar., Cols. 710-711) Another blow to the 'moral case' for war.
As for the threat that US occupation would follow even in the
event of a coup, 'The White House said last night [18 Mar.] that
US forces would enter Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction
even if President Saddam complied with the deadline to leave.'
(Independent, 19 Mar., p. 6) Not mentioned in President
Bush's original ultimatum. Some weapons of mass destruction must
be found, in order to provide a retrospective justification for
the war - and it is the US military that must find the smoking
gun, it seems.
THREE/FOUR/FIVE STAGE WAR
As noted in a previous Briefing, Patrick Bishop, Telegraph
reporter in Kuwait, reported a few days ago, 'The war in Iraq
is expected to be a two-stage operation with a pause to allow
time for Saddam Hussein to be toppled by his own people... Allied
planning appears heavily weighted towards an incremental strategy
that applies mounting pressure and allows time for Saddams henchmen
to decide their self-interest lies in risking a move against him.
"This is all about getting someone to tip him over,"
said the source.' (Telegraph, 15 Mar., p. 10)
The first night's bombardment of 40 cruise missiles was a pinprick
in comparison to the plans for 'shock and awe'. The second night's
bombardment also appears limited at the time of writing (21.20
GMT), proceeding on a stop-start basis completely different from
the all-enveloping 'shock and awe' tactics that had been threatened.
'A senior [US] defense official with direct knowledge of the operation
said the attack included sea-launched cruise missiles fired at
Special Republican Guard strongholds in Baghdad. But two [US]
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the night
strikes were not the beginning of the massive air assault that
Pentagon plans to unleash.' Rear Adm. Barry Costello, commander
of the USS Constellation, said the air strikes were part
of a "transition period" in which U.S. planes "continue
to prep the battlefield, to clear a path for further air strikes
and ground operations." (Associated Press newswire,
20 Mar., 3:57pm, US time)
RUMSFELD DROPS A HINT
Time for another brusque Rumsfeld intimidation session: ' "What
will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict",
Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon briefing, the first after
the United States and coalition forces launched a "decapitation
attack" against Iraq. "It will be of a force and scope
and scale that has been beyond what has been seen before. The
Iraqi soldiers and officers must ask themselves whether they want
to die fighting for a doomed regime or do they want to survive,
help the Iraqi people in the liberation of their country and play
a role in a new free Iraq?" ' (CNN)
This seems to be another broad hint to the military leadership
in Iraq to do Washington's dirty work.
REGIME STABILISATION NEEDS A MILITARY FOUNDATION
'According to US officials, military intelligence from the field
suggests 75 to 85 per cent of Iraq's regular army will surrender'.
What will happen to these footsoldiers of Saddam? '[T]he regular
army will be paid by the US and put to work rebuilding the country
on tasks such as road construction and demining'. That isn't all.
'There is another idea that officials so far have not said much
about: turning the Iraqi army into policemen. "Our plan is
basically to put them into a constabulary force. We are not going
to make them POWs," says a senior US official.' (FT,
19 Mar., p. 4)
' This idea is more fraught than it sounds: occupying powers are
governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and troops cannot
be made to fight their own people.' (FT, 19 Mar., p.
4) A hint there of the real meaning of the term 'constabulary
force'. In other words the US is preparing for a re-run of 1991,
with Iraqi forces putting down insurgent popular movements with
US support (last time it was tacit and discreet - see War
Plan Iraq Chapter VII - this time it could be overt and directive).
There are precedents for all this. In Vietnam after World War
II, the British and US ordered the Japanese occupation forces
to continue in government and to disarm the Viet Minh anti-fascist
resistance, and used Japanese troops to enforce a curfew in Saigon.
(Peter Dunn, The First Vietnam War (1985), pp. 132, 173)
Elsewhere, after the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Allies 'explicitly
ordered the Japanese to maintain the status quo in Indonesia before
the arrival of Allied troops.' (Robert J. McMahon, Colonialism
and Cold War (1981), p. 85) Lord Mountbatten, commander-in-chief
of the region, noted in his diary after a visit in April 1946,
'I, of course knew that we had been forced to keep Japanese troops
under arms to protect our lines of communications and vital areas
in Sumatra, for which the British Indian troops did not suffice;
but it was nevertheless a great shock to me to find over a thousand
Japanese troops guarding the nine miles of road from the airfield
to the town, and to find them drawn up in parties of 20, presenting
arms, the officers saluting with swords which long since should
have been our war souvenirs.' (cited in Oey Hong Lee, War
and Diplomacy in Indonesia 1945-50 (1981), p. 82)
In fascist Japan itself, General Charles Willoughby, head of intelligence
in the US Occupation government, said that the bloodless invasion
of Japan was accomplished by 'the shatteringly simple formula
of utilising the existing Japanese Government, the person of the
Emperor, and the psychic force of tradition. No other formula
was practicable.' (Charles Willoughby and John Chamberlain, MacArthur
1941- 1951 (1956), p. 291) The equivalent of the Emperor
is to be removed from the scene, but otherwise the US appears
to be applying the same shatteringly simple formula of regime
This halting series of attacks is not 'shock and awe'. This is
stop and pause. This is not about 'regime change'. This is about
a military coup - achieving 'regime stabilisation and leadership
change' without the use of massive force by the US and UK, and
without any risk of being drawn into urban warfare.
It takes real discipline to miss this interpretation of the otherwise
mystifying turn of events, and the non-appearance of 'shock and
awe' in the much- touted 'critical' opening 48 hours of conflict.
The mass media is rigorously oblivious to US intentions, and to
the non-liberatory strategy being attempted (thus far unsuccessfully)
by Washington and London.
This is not a war. This is the most costly, dangerous and reckless
assassination attempt in world history.
Why The War Was Wrong by
Milan Rai (2003)
War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldn't Launch Another War
Against Iraq by Milan Rai (2002)
'An excellent weapon for all those opposed to Bush's war'.
'Excellent'. Alice Mahon MP
'Required reading for anyone concerned
about the risk of war'. Professor Paul Rogers, Bradford
School of Peace Studies
'Timely and important'. Hilary
Please make cheques to JNV, and send with your address to 29 Gensing
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For more analysis on the UK Government's
dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, view the Counter-Dossier
on the Labour
Against the War website.
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