A reader's letter published in the Los Angeles Times said it
all: "We have learned two things from the war in Iraq. We have learned that
the Tigris flows through Baghdad, and the Hubris flows through the White House.
Where's The Next War?
April 13, 2003
By GWYNNE DYER
A reader's letter published in the Los Angeles Times said
it all: "We have learned two things from the war in Iraq. We have learned
that the Tigris flows through Baghdad, and the Hubris flows through the White
House." Hubris - the belief that you are so clever and so powerful that you
can get away with anything - was certainly the prevailing state of mind in
Washington this past week as the Iraqi regime collapsed before the U.S.
onslaught. So where is the next war?
There was never any doubt that the United States would win this war: The U.S.
defense budget last year was 250 times bigger than Iraq's. Resistance was
futile, and most of the Iraqi soldiers who fought and died did so knowing that
they were throwing their lives away in a gesture of defiance.
But the next phase of the drama is already taking shape offstage, and is likely
to be more painful and difficult for the United States than simply smashing up a
Third World army. In the north of Iraq, the Kurds want to control the mainly
Kurdish cities of Mosul and Kirkuk because the surrounding oilfields would place
an independent Kurdish state on a sound economic footing. Kurdish fighters have
already seized Kirkuk - but Turkey, anxious about the influence of an
independent Kurdistan on their own huge and restive Kurdish minority, have said
that if the Kurds take Mosul and Kirkuk, they invade.
The United States is trying to limit the damage, promising that the Kurdish
fighters will be replaced by "coalition" troops in Kirkuk and inviting
Turkish army observers to the city, but it won't find it easy to get the Kurds
out. This is their best chance for independence in the past 80 years, and they
would be mad not to try for it. They have been betrayed by the United States so
many times that they feel they owe it nothing, and they say they would resist a
Turkish invasion whether the United States helps them or not. There is no sign
that Washington has thought this through any better than it did the request
(ultimately rejected by the Turks) to let U.S. forces use Turkish territory for
the invasion of Iraq.
It gets worse. Any Shiite resistance movement in Iraq is bound to get support
from Iran, and there will soon be U.S. troops all along the Iran-Iraq border,
only a few hours' drive from Iran's main oilfields. Even if the Bush
administration isn't planning another war before the next election, U.S.
attempts to stop infiltration across the border from Iran could easily lead to a
U.S.-Iran war much sooner than that - and Iran has a relatively united
population three times bigger than Iraq's.
Above all, there is the fact that the United States, abetted by Britain and
Australia, has launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state. That is why
most other governments are deeply worried: The American attack on Iraq could be
used as a precedent to justify an Indian attack on Pakistan or a North Korean
attack on South Korea. The U.S. action in Iraq has fundamentally challenged the
rule of law in the world, which is a problem no matter how happy most Iraqis are
at the moment - and Washington clearly meant to do just that.
Consider the remarks of former Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey, a Bush
administration insider who was recently mentioned in a leaked Pentagon document
as one of the possible administrators of post-war Iraq. Last week in Los
Angeles, he described the war in Iraq as the start of the Fourth World War (the
Cold War being the third), and warned his audience that "this Fourth World
War, I think, will last considerably longer than either the First or Second
World Wars did for us."
The real enemies this time, he explained, were the religious rulers of Iran, the
"fascists" of Iraq and Syria, and the Islamic extremists of al Qaeda.
He made no distinctions between them (though in real life they have very little
in common), and he promised a long crusade against them. There was no suggestion
that the United States would bother to get legal authority from the United
Nations before attacking the sovereign states on his list.
"As we move toward a new Middle East over the years and the decades to
come," he said, "we will make a lot of people very nervous. Our
response should be, `Good! We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for
the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the
Eventually the American public is likely to rebel against the continual flow of
casualties and the higher taxes that come with this new role of global
vigilante, but in the meantime, it is going to be a wild ride.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist in London.
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