vol.9, no.2, (July 2003)


Why the War on Iraq? An Open Letter to the European Peoples

John Gerassi



The Bush Administration is itching to invade a country. Any country.  Iraq. Yemen. Perhaps Cuba, which has just been accused of aiding terrorists[1] because it gave tips to US intelligence services on how to catch them. Colombia may survive since it does US bidding. It has now even authorized its police to arrest anyone without a warrant, just like in the US.[2] But Venezuela? To get rid of President Chavez, whose supporters,  the NYTimes admits, “are mainly among the 80 percent of Venezuelans who live in poverty, most of them, like Mr. Chavez, of mixed-race heritage”[3] Washington will surely organize a better coup than last time. After all, as the Times continued, our friends there are “the predominantly white middle and upper classes.” Iran, against which US sanctions are causing scores of innocent deaths[4] is also on the list. So are the Philippines. And then who?

Of the rich and for the rich, the American government has established a corporative state dedicated to making the rich richer, knowing full well that it means the poor will get poorer. If you’re poor, underdeveloped, trying to gain enough capital accumulation to built your infrastructure so as to help your people achieve a better life, the US will impose sanctions on you (Cuba, Iran) or will bomb you (Iraq), or invade you (Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Afghanistan) until you become a US puppet totally dependent on American largesse or until your economy is totally ruined.

Because the US is so rich and powerful, it can get proxies to do its dirty work. Money does buy lots of allies. Like the Russians. Not so long ago, the CIA and Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda were bosom buddies fighting the mean old Russians in Chechnya (after driving them out of Afghanistan) so US oil companies could take over the oil pipeline snaking its way from Baku (on the oil-rich Caspian Sea) past the Chechen capital of Grozny to the Black Sea (and on to the Mediterranean). Then Prime Minister Putin got smart and offered the US a deal[5]. Chechnya could get 16 percent, the US and Russia 23, and the oil companies the rest. If Chechnya remained Russian, the former KGB leaders would collect a nifty 39 percent. So suddenly Russia and the CIA became loyal pals, and the CIA turned against Al Qaeda and the Chechen rebels. (As a corollary, ExxonMobil got the contract to develop the huge oil and gas fields in Eastern Russia[6].

Of course this is typical of US operations. Back in June 2001, not long before 9/11, the US gave Taliban $44 million and invited its top leaders to visit the US. The CIA had decided that only Taliban could control Afghanistan, so the US should help it do so. Unocal could then outbid Bridas, the Argentine oil company, which was there first, to build a pipeline through the Khyber Pass and on to Pakistan and ocean transport. (Of course to achieve this, the US needed a friendly government in Pakistan, so a coup by General Musharraff seemed a very democratic thing to do.). But Taliban balked, so Unocal’s president concluded a war was necessary. Mr. Bin Laden gave Mr. Bush the excuse he needed to put in a friendly government in Afghanistan and get himself and his republicans reelected.

It also gave Bush the excuse to “talk” the various countries surrounding Afghanistan to “cooperate” with America’s “anti-terrorist” campaign. US bases were quickly set up (a total of 60,000 US troops) in the former Soviet Muslim states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, (and Azerbaijan to the north of Iran and south of Chechnya). Run more or less viciously by ex-communist dictators who torture and murder their dissenters[7], these “democratizing” strongmen, as our media now dubs them, get CIA and US military help to crush their independence movements because all of these countries are rich in oil (Azerbaijan is ideally situated for a pipeline from Babu to Turkey), which the US covets. It’s a great “way for Bush,” said the Village Voice, “to prosecute a war for oil in the name of God.” [8]

Furthermore, 9/11 gave Bush the gumption to demand, and Congress to quickly pass, the “Authorization for Use of U.S. Military Force” resolution, which gives him carte blanche to wage war on anyone or any country he alone holds responsible for hijackings. A month later, with almost no debate (indeed few had even read the 342-page document), Congress gave Attorney General Ashcroft permission to wipe out most of our civil liberties; the absurdly jingoistic “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (or USA Patriot) Act” let him deny attorney-client privilege and remove restraints on the FBI, allowing its agents to spy on community meetings, religious activities, the internet, every citizen’s emails, and plant listening devices in any home, even in bathrooms, on the simple hunch that something illegal may be afoot over the toilet or in a shower.

Not to be outdone, Bush then decreed that any American he or Ashcroft deemed an “enemy combatant” could be secretly arrested, secretly tried without a lawyer, secretly convicted, secretly condemned to death, and without judicial review, secretly executed, all by the military. This is a country where 121 prisoners condemned to death for rape and/or murder all but one non-white have been proven to be totally innocent after research by pre-law students. God knows how many more innocents have already been executed.

In one such case, the Boston office of the FBI has been found guilty[9] of knowingly allowing its informants to commit scores of murders[10], and of deliberately framing an innocent man for them. (He was finally released this summer after spending 30 years in jail.) When Republican Representative Burton, a Bush conservative, asked that all the FBI papers on the Boston office be released to his investigating committee, Bush refused on “executive privilege” grounds and issued an executive order forbidding the release of any government documents.

Most Americans love it. “There’s too much freedom in America,” they shout. Over 60 percent of Americans think we should get rid of the first, fourth, fifth and any other amendment which stops their government from jailing (if not killing) blacks, browns, yellows, reds and any other color save whites. And dissenters of any color. And defense attorneys. (As it is, US jails are over-filled; 60 percent of the more than two million inmates are black; there are more young blacks in jail than in school) “If you’re not with me, you’re against me,” Bush says over and over again, and most Americans, and our mainstream media, cheer. Bush can jail any American who calls him a power-mad fascist. On what grounds? Read the “USA Patriots Act,” passed almost unanimously by Congress. Anyone supporting terrorism is defined as an enemy of the state. To criticize Bush, says the FBI, is to help terrorists, hence to be an enemy of the state who has no right to a lawyer and can be executed on Ashcroft’s whim. The Bill of Rights? Says Martin Garbus, one of America’s foremost constitutional lawyers in his new book, “Courting Disaster”[11]: basically, just plain dead!

For the time being Ashcroft’s whim is limited mostly to Middle Easterners (and a few Latinos) who are arrested on mere looks, and immediately judged guilty by the press and people. The American Civil Liberties has been able to document that 1600 have been arrested, jailed secretly somewhere, and held incommunicado. My old colleagues at Time and Newsweek where I was an editor for almost ten years, tell me the figure is really 5000, but “shush, don’t say it out loud, or we’ll be in trouble.” Meanwhile every yokel interprets the Patriot Act as his right to denounce his Muslim neighbors as “pro-terrorist,” causing them to lose their jobs, be driven from their homes, have their stores burned or looted, and their kids so ostracized in school that they refuse to continue to attend.

In Georgia, that bastion of jingoistic hypocrisy, the  “denouncer” who smeared three Muslim medical students driving to their Florida hospital internships, probably because their car was nicer or newer than hers, was hailed as a hero, and the media congratulated her civic responsibility. The three students were fired from their hospitals. Most officials applauded. New York authorities asked all citizens to do the same. And advertised the number to call if you see a suspicious Muslim: 1-800-SAFE-NYS – on television[12]. Even the NYTimes now worries that we may have become “a nation of informers.”[13]

Why do you think the US wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein? He may be a despicable human being, but far less so than the ruling family in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. At least Saddam allows women to wear the clothes they wish, to get an education, to drive, to talk to men, to get jobs, to become doctors, scientists, teachers. Do you really believe the lies that Washington has been spewing up about Iraq? Take the claim that each time US planes “patrolling” the “no-fly” zone have dropped bombs on Iraqi citizens it was out of self-defense. No less than 90,000 sorties in five years by US and occasionally British planes! Always self-defense? When 120 academics asked the New York Times to explain how come no US or British plane has ever been shot down or even just scratched if Iraq always fires first, the Times dutifully ignored our question. Without blinking an eye-lid, Secretary of Defense  Rumsfeld shamelessly gloats that he has ordered more bombs, on more targets, because “I don’t like the idea that our planes go out and get shot at with impunity.” Of course, the New York Times, which quoted him[14] did not mention that not one single US plane had ever been shot at over Iraq, nor that the US (and England) have dropped more bombs on Iraq in the last five years than they did during the whole Korean war.

A few years ago, the UN documented, and LBJ’s former press secretary Bill Moyers duly reported on public television,  that no less than half a million children had been killed by the sanctions on Iraq, which of course did not hurt Saddam one bit. Now Bush & Co. want to kill more Iraqis (or Yemenites) on the grounds that sanctions are not enough. They say that Saddam is building weapons of mass destruction, that he is a liar, a thief, a murderer.

Perhaps. But only one country has ever used weapons of mass destruction: the United States.

Bush repeats endlessly that “I don’t trust Saddam Hussein.” Ok. But you certainly should not trust Bush, a consummate liar who demands inspection without conditions and when he gets it says, no, no, we said disarmament.  Bush has campaigned for more money for his party by claiming he wants US capitalists to be transparent, to tell all about their business machinations to the American people.

Yet he and his vice-president Cheney (who ran ENRON for years) have steadfastly refused to reveal the outcome of the investigation of their own business shenanigans. And it was Cheney who ordered his Halliburton oil company to rebuild Iraq’s oil production system and even today is one of five US companies which buy Iraq’s oil cheap. What gets me, and should shock you, is that most Americans don’t give a damn if their president and vice-president are crooks.  

Congressional investigations have now revealed that both the FBI and the CIA, America’s two biggest organized crime syndicates, knew a hell of a lot about 9/11 before it happened; no surprise. What Americans are not told but all my contacts at Time and Newsweek tell me is that they are convinced that Bush too knew (not the date, but the manner) and kept it secret so as to use it to crush his opponents. It’s easy for him to conceal his crooked deals: just cry about those who died on 9/11 and demand vengeance by bombing innocent children.

You cried for the 3000 innocent folks who died at the World Trade Center. Did you cry for the two million the US pulverized at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or the thousands that the US and England snuffed out at Dresden, for no military reason. Do you ever whisper to your friends that the US twice seriously considered using nuclear bombs in Vietnam.

Remember the millions who died in Cambodia? The murderer was Pol Pot, right? Yes, but who gave him the arms and the intelligence because he was a US ally fighting America’s enemy, the Vietnamese who, by the way, never got credit for putting an end to the killing fields. And what about Indonesia where the CIA helped Gen. Suharto, who had collaborated with the Japanese during World War II, murder at least a million followers of Sukarno, who had fought the Japanese with us. In l990 the CIA finally admitted its complicity in that mass extermination[15]; did you demand retribution? When Suharto decided to wipe out East Timor independence fighters, who gave him the arms?

And who created, trained, armed and financed Latin America’s death squads? The men who murdered Bishop Romero in El Salvador were trained and indoctrinated at America’s infamous School of the Americas. So were those who murdered the Jesuits in Nicaragua or raped and murdered the nuns in Salvador or murdered almost a thousand old men, women and children in the horrendous El Mozote massacre, actually supervised from helicopters by two US colonels. In l999, the Truth Commission concluded that Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, which killed more than 200,000 people, was planned, started, financed, armed, and led by the CIA, contradicting “years of official denials of torture, kidnapping and executions[16]” Did you demand UN sanctions against the US?

During “Operation Just Cause” – what a euphemism ! – US soldiers killed between four and seven thousand innocent dwellers of Panama’s El Chorrillo neighborhood on the excuse that General Noriega (a CIA agent for 17 years who would not give asylum to Nicaragua’s torturing “contra” scum bags) was hiding behind it when, we now know, the US had the precise information that Noriega was in refuge at the Papal Nuncio’s home. Did you ignore those deaths because the US was justified in slaughtering these poor folk because they were against US domination of Panama (and were all black to boot).

Did you cry when the US found a gangster named Savimbi to do its bidding in Angola, armed and paid him, got the apartheid army of South Africa to wage war with him against his own people, murdering at least two million and maiming an estimated five million more? When Congress investigated and asked CIA chief Colby why we supported Savimbi, he answered honestly: because the Russians support the MPLA government. What if Russia supported Savimbi, a Senator asked him. Then we would support the MPLA he said. “Our goal is to suck the Russians into spending men and money,” Colby replied[17]. That openness cost him his life. Colby was assassinated. The US government ruled it a suicide.

True, the 30,000 tortured and murdered by Gen Pinochet in Chile, on orders, in effect, from Secretary of State Kissinger who told the world that no country so “irresponsible” to freely vote socialist had a right to survive, did arouse a few complaints in Europe. In fact, today he faces indictments in Spain and France, hence cannot risk to dilly-dally in Torremolinos or in Juan les Pins. But he can go lecture in Oxford as the personal guest of his friend British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Bush may say out loud that if you are not with us you are against us and we will destroy you. But he merely says it louder. Every American leader said the same thing, at least under his breath. And used the cold war as an excuse to fight the poor who rebelled. We Americans don’t allow real dissent. After all, we are the chosen of the chosen. We’re the best. And if you don’t agree, it means you are an idiot, or sick. That was how the Puritans justified killing Native Americans. They were “hostiles” – the Puritans’ actual word – which means not quite human, so it was ok in god’s eyes to kill them all. Facts have nothing to do with what we Americans have: a god-given right to remake the world in our image (and benefit, of course). And we will do it, whether you like it or not, because god is on our side, not yours. That’s why Americans repeat ad nauseum: “God Bless America.”

What are those facts, concerning Iraq? To begin with, Saddam was set up to invade Kuwait which was stealing Iraq’s oil by drilling at an angle. Read US Ambassador April Glaspie’s interview with Saddam when he made that complaint. It was published, probably by mistake, in the New York Times’ fat “Gulf War Reader.” She says very clearly that the US does not take sides in Arab country disputes (after the US helped Saddam massacre thousand of Iranian and Kurdish kids by giving Saddam arms and poison gas). Then read Scott Ritter, the team leader of UNSCOM weapon inspectors in Iraq; in l993 the NYTimes did run his statement[18] that the CIA had completely infiltrated the Iraq weapons inspection teams and in l998, when the US ordered him out (the inspectors were never kicked out by Iraq, another lie), it did make him a hero. But now it won’t run his interviews, because he says: “By 1998, we were disarming Iraq. This, of course, was the last thing the United States wanted, because if you disarm Iraq you have to lift economic sanctions.”[19]

Why does the US want to clobber Saddam? For the same reason it went after Argentina’s Peron, Brazil’s Vargas, Quadros and Goulart, Guatemala’s Arbenz, Ecuador’s Arosemena, Guyana’s Cheddi Jagan, Egypt’s Nasser, Iraq’s Kassem, Libya’s Kaddafi, Kurdistan’s Barzani and Ocalan , Haiti’s Aristide, Jamaica’s Manley, Indonesia’s Sukarno, and on and on. Whatever their politics, whatever their ideology, whatever their narcissistic motivations, they hoped to better the lot of their people by buying from the cheapest seller and selling to the highest bidder. They wanted their country to be independent. If they followed the dictates of the US they knew it would make their own oligarchy richer and their poor poorer.

Saddam may be a bastard, but he wants the same for Iraqis. That’s why he sold oil to the highest bidder, which of course was never the US. Even the Washington Post admits that when it said [20]

A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for U.S. oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries and reshuffling world petroleum  markets. 

Oil and the bases to guarantee US access to it, that’s what causes all the murders. The US even went after the president of the tiny Pacific island of Palau, ordering the president’s murder because he did not want to change the country’s constitution making the atoll nuclear-free. The US wanted the island because it had a potential deep-water harbor (assuming its protecting coral reef was destroyed, as it was). It doesn’t matter where, today US power is unchallenged and it has upped its ante: obey, buy and sell by our criteria or die.

And Americans are perfectly willing to kill (as long as their own don’t die) The favorite slogan in America is “kick ass.” Americans have never been for the underdog. That’s propaganda. We hate losers. When we wanted Saddam Hussein to destroy the Iranian Revolution, and gave him the “weapons of mass destruction” (anthrax and gas), which Bush & Co. now cite as a reason to kill Iraq’s children, we covered the bumpers of our cars with signs that read “Nuke Iran.” Now our bumper stickers say Nuke Iraq. And people wear an American flag lapel insignia with the same belligerent pride that Nazis wore the swastika. 

Prime Minister Schroder’s Justice Minister Daubler-Gmelin was perfectly correct: the Bush Administration is full of Nazis. Certainly, US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his top aide, Deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and of course, Attorney General Ashcroft are modern-day nazis. No wonder Schroder had to fire her for voicing her perspicaciousness.

Most Americans don’t know what really goes on. They never heard that the US violated every single treaty it has signed, beginning with land for Native Americans up to the World Court. When that court ruled that mining Nicaragua’s harbors, which caused the death of four Dutch sailors when their ship was blown up, was an act of terrorism, and fined the US a mere $400,000, President Reagan said go to hell. When our cowboy pilots flying barely a few feet off the ground to have fun, killed 20 Italians on a ski gondola and President Clinton promised compensation, Congress said go to hell (If Italy had any honor it would have closed all US bases then and there and ordered all US soldiers out of the country). When Costa Rica, which has an extradition treaty with the US indicted John Hull, a CIA contract flunky, for murder and demanded his extradition, the US said go to hell.

When US servicemen rape and kill local young women in Okinawa, or Serbia or Afghanistan, and local governments demand justice, the US says go to hell. On the contrary, the US is now demanding and, it looks, will get total immunity for American soldiers and politicians or else no help and no money. What about the World Court treaty, signed by the US, which the CIA used as an excuse to overthrow the legally elected government of Milosevic in Yugoslavia? Does that mean the US now recognizes the Court? Go to hell!

Our Congress, which by all definitions except those of our media, is made up of whores, sold out to the corporations which can guarantee their re-election by giving then enough money to buy up the airwaves for their slogans at election time ($150 million just for the gubernatorial election in New York,[21]), is too intimidated to vote no to any of Bush’s repressive measures. So they go along, and hope to get quietly reelected. And the media repeats the lies that this is a democracy where all measure are heatedly debated. They even claim that the secretive, unelected WTO organization is democratic, and those opposed to it who agitate precisely to force it to be more open are not. Example from Newsweek [22]

In Quebec, historically left-wing forces have joined hands to oppose the strengthening of democracy in the Western Hemisphere (...) the anti-globalization crowd is antidemocratic (...) trying to achieve, through intimidation and scare tactics,  what it has not been able to get through legislation (...)

Since when is the WTO open to legislation? These flagrant lies by the media would be laughable, if only the American public knew what really happens in their country and in the world. Every reporter, every editor knows that there are no elections at the WTO. That all is secret. That there is no democracy in the organization. But no one in mainstream America dares to call Newsweek a liar.

Once the Transnational Capitalist Class wins total economic domination everybody will have to privatize everything, beginning with schools. The pride of Europe, for instance,is that its best schools are public. In the US they’re the worst. Here public schools are financed by local property taxes, so they’re not bad in white, rich Westchester, where each student is allotted $17,500 per year. But they are dismal in black, impoverished Bayou, Mississippi, where the total amount available per student is $60 a year. No public school there has been able to buy a science book since 1963, or a computer.

All utilities, transportation, nursing homes, health centers will have to be private, and run at a profit. The US has not yet privatized its unemployment benefit system, but it will. Its statistics are one of America’s most outlandish lies. Every country of the world counts its unemployed as people looking for a job. In the US only those who receive unemployment stipends are counted. And they get it only for 26 weeks. If you are unemployed 27 weeks, you don’t count. Nor if you are a college grad looking for a job. Or a mother who has not worked for years but now must go back into the labor market. America claims around 5 percent unemployed. Triple it, if you want to be accurate.

And no unions, please. If you make demands, American businesses simply close down and move to Indonesia or Honduras, where the governments will kill any organizer trying to get workers a minimum wage. Or China too. As a result only about 11 percent of US workers are unionized. Most get lousy pay and no benefits. That’s why US products are cheaper than European.

And that’s not all. European Union’s representatives to the World Trade Organization, where no minutes are taken and everything is secret, have agreed to destroy the Maastricht treaty, according to the wishes of the transnational capitalist class. Their most evil decision: to privatize social security. Everything must run at a profit, like in the US, the only country in the world where there is no form of national health. No less than 40 percent of Americans have no health benefits at all. The private companies that run them in the US are called Health Management Organizations, better known as HMOs. They charge huge sums to belong and give their top brass millions and millions of dollars in salaries, benefits and bonuses. But if too many old folks require their services, they simply dump them from membership rolls. No one corporate system is more evil, no HMO officers greedier, no so-called “service” more vicious. But that’s what you’ll get when the transnational capitalist class wins. And since Signa or Blue Cross/Shield or Oxford health organizations will buy Europe’s “mutuels” once they are privatized, Europeans will suffer like we suffer: 60 percent of Americans cannot afford preventive medicine or cancer check-ups or prescription drugs.

That’s only the beginning. No more vacations guaranteed by law: the US doesn’t have any (although for the time being most companies allow employees two weeks off after a year of work). No more paid pregnancy leave.  No more free dental care or free eye exams or glasses. No more free child care. The poor are just plain lazy; they deserve to be poor, said Reagan. Republicans believe that too. So do many democrats. Bush certainly believes it.

Do Europeans really want to be like America? A fundamentalist country where doctors who perform abortions are murdered on the grounds that they are murderers! And the real murderers get away with it because Bush, Ashcroft & Co are all against abortions, despite the fact that abortion is legal in America.

Is America the most alienated country in the world? Some 70 percent are armed, and they will shoot you if you make a mistake, like the hapless Japanese student going to a Halloween party in Texas, killed by a red-neck because the kid stepped on the yokel’s property. Absolutely justified, ruled the court. No wonder that every year more than 20,000 Americans are shot dead.




[1]NYTimes, 18-09-02

[2] NYT: 12-09-02.

[3] NYT  22-09-02,

[4] NYT 11-09-902,  

[5] NYT, 19–10-01.

[6] NYT, 30-10-02

[7] New Yorker, 14-01-02

[8] Village Voice 11/17-09-02

[9] NYT, 17-09-02

[10] repeatedly documented on CBS’ “Sixty Minutes”

[11] Martin Garbus, Courting Disaster:  The Surpreme Court and the Dangerous Unmaking of American Law (New York: Times Books, 2002)

[12] Evening News, Channel 7, 17-09-02

[13] NYT 22-09-02

[14]  NYT 17-09-02,

[15] NYT, 12-07-90

[16] NYT, 26-02-99.

[17] The Nation, 20-05-96, 10-10-97.

[18] NYT 23-02-93

[19] Extra! July/August 2002

[20] Washington Post, 14-09-02:

[21] NYT 29-09-02

[22] Newsweek, 30-04-01