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WHAT WE THINK
The bullied and the bought off

February 14, 2003 | Page 3

FORGET ALL that rhetoric about "international community" and "keeping the peace." U.S. officials are working overtime to manipulate, browbeat or bribe enough world leaders to rig a vote for a war on Iraq in the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

Angola and Guinea--two countries that happen to be serving two-year terms as temporary members of the Security Council--have been promised millions for refugee settlements. Turkey negotiated a multibillion-dollar aid package--and an incredible offer from U.S. officials for Turkish troops, which have been carrying out a scorched-earth war on Kurds, to occupy northern Iraq to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state. And rumors abound of backroom U.S. offers to France and Russia, carving up Iraq's vast oil wealth in a post-Saddam Iraq.

Despite all this, though, Washington still hadn't won over key allies--especially France and Germany--to its war plans as Socialist Worker went to press. So the Bush White House was threatening to tear up 50 years' worth of alliances with the main powers of Europe to get its way.

This only underlines what the war drive against Iraq has been about all along--the U.S. government expanding its power around the globe to head off any challenges, not only from so-called "rogue states," but from longtime allies as well.

As of the beginning of the week, Germany, France and Belgium had succeeded in holding up approval of NATO plans to bolster Turkey's defenses against an attack from Iraq in the event of war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was so incensed that he put Germany alongside traditional U.S. bogeymen Cuba and Libya as appeasers of Iraq!

Behind the war of words lay real and escalating tensions between the U.S. and its European allies. Like China and Russia, the Europeans see the U.S. drive to seize Iraq's oil as a threat, since they are far more dependent on Middle Eastern oil than the U.S.

None of these governments think that they can stop the U.S. from going to war. But they will use the maneuvering at the UN to preserve as much influence as they can. That's how last week's proposal from France and Germany for a vastly increased UN intervention should be viewed.

The two countries presented the plan--which calls for greatly stepped-up weapons inspections, increased deployment of UN troops and expansion of the U.S.-imposed "no fly zones" to cover all of the country--as the last chance to avert a war. But it's certainly not a proposal for "peace."

If it were implemented, Iraq would be left as "little more than a UN protectorate," as Britain's Independent newspaper put it.

Antiwar activists may be tempted to support this lower-intensity war as an alternative to the slaughter that the Bush White House is demanding. But there is no justice in maintaining the stranglehold that the U.S. has imposed on Iraq for 12 long years--all in the interest of oil profits and political power games.

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