Reflections on the war in Iraq

Written by Alain Pilote on Saturday, 01 March 2003. Posted in War

The real motives: oil and money

Note: The aim of this article is not to question the sincerity and patriotism of those who supported the war in Iraq, but to try to find out the real issues at stake, which were rather passed over in silence under the main argument of the war on terrorism. There is absolutely nothing wrong in defending one's country against aggressors or terrorist attacks — in fact, this is a really noble and heroic task — but one has to wonder if this was actually what our “boys” fought for.

Saddam statue fallingOn April 9, 2003, after 20 days of battle, U.S. forces entered Baghdad and toppled Saddam Hussein's statue. However, it will still take several months to restore order in Iraq.

Despite the opposition of the United Nations and of almost every country in the world, U.S. President Bush decided to go ahead and “liberate” Iraq, under the pretext that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to the security of the Americans. Following a huge propaganda campaign in the U.S. news media in favor of military intervention in Iraq, almost nobody in America dared to question the motives for this war, for fear of being regarded as unpatriotic. It worked out so well that many Americans asked themselves, when they heard that the Pope and the Vatican were strongly opposed to this war, “How can the Pope be against freeing those people? Doesn't he want to end terrorism? Doesn't he want to get rid of Saddam Hussein?”

The truth is that the Pope is for peace and for the Commandments of God (will this surprise anyone?), including the Fifth Commandment, which says, “You shall not kill.” Moreover, it would seem that the real motives for military intervention in Iraq were not the war on terrorism, but oil and money. In other words, the whole operation was not so much about freeing the Iraqis as freeing Iraqi oil.

The war on terrorism was only used as a clever excuse to make this war accepted by the American people, who would otherwise have said “no” to it if they knew that their young people were to fight only for the financial interest of a few. (Curiously enough, many people from the oil industry, arms producers — “merchants of death” — and other companies who can make a buck with this war, have close ties with the Bush Administration...)

The Holy Father knows that peace cannot be brought by wars, which bring about havoc, hatred, and resentment. Peace is not only the absence of war, but the presence of just conditions of living. The most effective way to obtain peace is to eliminate injustices, excessive economic or social inequalities, which are the primary causes of war, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Peace is also a gift of God, which requires the conversion of hearts. It can therefore be obtained by prayer, and not by bombs, cannons, and guns.

What is a “just war”?

The only time a war can be legitimated, according to this Catechism, is when a nation is attacked. It then has the right to defend itself, but under strict specified conditions, the four traditional elements of what is called the “just war” doctrine:

1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation must be lasting, grave, and certain; 2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; 3. There must be serious prospects of success; 4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction (like nuclear bombs) weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

The U.S. Government claims its intervention is a just war because it was a pre-emptive one, to prevent Iraq from attacking America first, that Saddam Hussein had tons of weapons of massive destruction which, if not used by himself, could also be used by terrorists against the U.S.A. The Bush Administration pretends that not acting now would produce graver consequences, since it would allow Iraq to arm even more, thus causing more American casualties in future terrorist attacks than the number of people that will be killed in the present war.

innocent victims of this warOne of the many innocent victims of this war.

If one looks closely at these arguments, they are just bogus, and don't stand water. First, if you are the first to attack, even if you claim it is a “pre-emptive” attack, it is not legitimate defense: it is you who are the aggressor, you are the one who triggers the war. If all the countries that possess weapons of mass destruction are a possible threat to the U.S.A., then we are in for an endless series of wars... (Don't laugh! U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “If we have to go into 15 or more countries, we ought to do it.”)

On this account, North Korea is a more serious threat to the U.S.A. than Iraq since, contrary to Saddam Hussein, the North Korean leaders admit they have nuclear weapons, and would not hesitate to use them if they feel threatened. (What if they use the same logic as President Bush, and make a “pre-emptive” attack against the U.S.A., before the Americans destroy their nuclear facilities first?) However, U.S. authorities have no intention of attacking North Korea any time soon, for the simple reason that there is no oil to control there.

The United Nations did not approve of U.S. military intervention in Iraq, because it could not be proven that Iraq was a threat to the U.S.A. In fact, since the first Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqi army has been almost completely destroyed, the country being bombed almost every day by the Americans and the British forces for the last twelve years. As for the weapons of mass destruction, the U.N. inspectors could not find any, but the Americans could not wait to invade Iraq, because after April, it is too hot in the desert for the soldiers.

As for the claim that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, who did not hesitate to kill thousands of Iraqis with chemical weapons, it is proven that these chemical weapons were sold mostly by the Americans, at a time when Iraq was at war against Iran. The U.S.A. also failed to prove that Saddam Hussein was linked to Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network; Bin Laden even said that Saddam Hussein was a traitor to the Moslem cause, since he did not allow an Islamic State in Iraq.

The real motive: oil

Saddam, I want your oilThe real motive for war in Iraq is a strategic one, which involves a lot of money: oil. The United States relies on oil to supply about 40% of its energy requirements, more than any other source. At one time, it relied almost entirely on domestic oil to supply its needs, but the demand has grown rapidly, and the U.S. oil fields are rapidly being exhausted. Today, the U.S.A. now relies on imported oil for 55 percent of its requirements, and this percentage is expected to rise to 65 percent in 2020, and keep growing thereafter. The Persian Gulf area currently accounts for 30% of global oil production, but contains two-thirds of the planet's known reserves, so its access is vital to the Americans.

Saudi Arabia is America's largest supplier of imported oil. It has more oil than any other country — about 250 billion barrels, or one-fourth of the world's reserves. The Americans want to find an alternative source if access to Saudi Arabia is curtailed for any reason. The only country in the world with large enough reserves to compensate for the loss of Saudi Arabia is Iraq, with at least 112 billion barrels in proven reserves, and as much as 200-300 billion barrels of potential reserves.

At first, the United States relied on Great Britain to protect American access to the Gulf. But when Britain pulled out of the area in 1971, the U.S. chose to rely on the Shah of Iran. But when, in 1979, the Shah was overthrown by Islamic militants loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Washington decided that it would have to assume responsibility on its own to protect the oil flow. The result was the “Carter Doctrine” of January 23, 1980, which states that unrestricted access to Persian Gulf is a vital interest of the United States, and that, in protection of that interest, the United States will employ “any means necessary, including military force.”

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein

When Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, decided to start a war against Iran, America's number one enemy, Hussein became a friend of the U.S., which then removed it from the list of countries that support terrorism, and gave it billions of dollars in various forms of assistance. The one who bore this good news to Irak was none other than Donald Rumsfeld, the present U.S. Secretary of Defence, who traveled to Baghdad to shake the hand of Hussein in December 1983 as a special “peace envoy” of President Reagan (see picture).

Rumsfeld was also commissioned to win Hussein's approval for a $2-billion oil pipeline to be built by Bechtel, a large U.S. corporation. (Bechtel still has ties with the present U.S. Government, and won a big contract for the reconstruction of Iraq.) Rumsfeld said at that time: “Hussein is a good guy with whom we can do business.” In the end, Saddam decided that Bechtel was trying to charge too much for the project, and killed it. So, we have this same Rumsfeld who says now: “Hussein is an cruel dictator that must be removed at any cost.” The lesson is that when it comes to oil, a dictator is friendly to the U.S. when he is willing to do business, and he is a mortal enemy when he is not.

When Hussein became “uncooperative” to U.S. oil interests, the U.S. started playing both sides of the fence for a while, also helping the Iranians against the Iraqis, in order to weaken both countries. After eight years, Iraq and Iran commonly agreed to stop this disastrous war that had crippled their economy. The Americans then provoked the Gulf War in 1991, and now the present invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Defence Secretary Rumsfeld insists on saying that this war “has nothing to do with oil”, and that once the war is over, Iraq's oil assets will be used to benefit Iraqis, but the truth is just the opposite. These people who promote wars for business interests and play with nations and governments, like pawns in a game, have plenty of tricks in their hats. For example, they could very well arrange that the profits from the sale of Iraqi oil will be used to pay U.S. companies for the rebuilding of Iraq.

Another reason that may explain the “urgency” for the U.S.A. to invade Iraq is that Saddam Hussein had begun to parcel out concessions to the most promising oil fields to oil firms in Europe, Russia, and China, with an estimated potential of 44 billion barrels of oil — an amount equal to the total reserves of the U.S.A., Canada, and Norway (the number-one European producer) combined. At rates of about $25 per barrel, that makes these contracts worth an estimated $1.1 trillion. Here is the trick: those contracts signed by Saddam will be considered invalid unless endorsed by the new Iraqi Government... The Wall Street Journal reported that it has already been decided that Iraq's State-run oil company will be replaced by a private company headed by Philip J. Carroll, former CEO of Shell USA.

Why the Pope is opposed to this war

If the U.S.A. is interested above all in oil, the Vatican is interested above all in the well-being and security of people. In the beginning of 2003, when U.S. forces started to gather around Iraq, the Pope and the Vatican started to do everything they could to avoid this war, and until the last minute, hoped for a peaceful outcome to the crisis. Pope John Paul II even sent personal representatives — two cardinals — to meet with Saddam Hussein and George Bush.

John Paul II praying for IraqPope John Paul II has more confidence in prayer than in bombs to bring peace.

The Pope knows that the Iraqis had already suffered from a 12-year embargo, which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people, all of them children, through lack of medication, and that this new war would bring about the death of thousands of more innocent people. The war is over, and one can see a glimpse of its ugly face: a serious lack of water, medicine, electricity, and basic necessities everywhere.

But what the Pope and the Vatican feared the most was the backlash this U.S. military intervention in Iraq was to create in the Arabic world, a backlash that could lead to more terrorism against the U.S.A. and other Western nations, a backlash that creates so much resentment against the West that it could turn into an all-out war between Moslems and Christians. (This is exactly what the promoters of a world government want to create; it was one of their avowed goals set up a century ago.)

The Moslems resent the presence on their soil of American Christians (whom they call “the unfaithful”, since they are not Moslems). For example, it is the permanent presence of American soldiers and U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia since the 1991 Gulf War that triggered the creation of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist group. And now, it is said that the American soldiers will have to stay in Iraq for months (if not years) in Iraq, before order is restored! This is why Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that the U.S.-led war on Iraq will produce “100 new Bin Ladens”, as fighting fuels anti-Western militancy.

Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, number 2 at the Vatican, spoke his mind about Iraq on January 29 to a pool of journalists invited to lunch in his honor. Here are the pertinent quotes, which were reported the following day in the press:

“Some think the Church's representatives are idealists. We are – but we're also realists. Is irritating a billion Muslims worth it? This is the question I put to some of my American friends: is it advisable? Won't you have the hostility of that whole population for decades? If the Western military presence in the Arabian peninsula produced Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the September 11 attack, what infernal reaction would the occupation of Iraq produce?”

On March 29, Pope John Paul II said to visiting Roman Catholic Bishiops from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, that he prayed so that the tragedy of the war in Iraq will not set Christians and Muslims against each other and spark a “religious catastrophe”: “Let us not permit a human tragedy to become a religious catastrophe. War must never be allowed to divide world religions.”

In his speech to the world's ambassadors, on January 13, 2003, the Holy Father said: “No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons, and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity... I will simply add today, faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle East, that the solution will never be imposed by recourse to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be the solution.”

The Angelus of February 23, 2003: “For months, the international community has been living in great apprehension of the danger of war, which could unsettle the entire Middle East and aggravate the tensions that unfortunately are already present at the beginning of the third millennium. The believers of all religions must proclaim that we can never be happy if we are in conflict with one another; the future of humanity can never be assured by terrorism and the logic of war.”

The Angelus of March 2, 2003: “Peace, in fact, is a gift of God that must be invoked with humble and insistent trust. Without giving up in the face of difficulties, we must seek out and follow every possible way of avoiding war, which always results in sorrow and grave consequences for all.

Early in the morning of March 20, Pope John Paul II was informed that the United States had begun the war against Iraq. He went to his chapel and prayed. Hours later, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls expressed the Holy See's reaction in a poignant statement: “Whoever decides that all peaceful means of international law have been exhausted assumes a grave responsibility before God, before his own conscience, and before history.”

In the following days, the Pope expressed his “sorrow and pain” that the search for a peaceful solution had been abandoned. His comments were measured, being he urged Christians to “pray and fast” for peace in Iraq, and reassured the Iraqi people of his closeness and solidarity.

The Angelus of April 6, 2003: “My thoughts go in particular to Iraq and to all those involved in the war that is being waged there. I am thinking in a special way of the defenceless civilian population in various cities which is subjected to a harsh trial... Please God that this conflict ends soon in order to make way for a new era of forgiveness, love and peace.

Financial costs

You know when a war begins, but you never know when it ends... Even after the war is over, the presence of troops is still required. The war in North Korea ended in 1953, but about 30,000 soldiers are still there 50 years later. The war in Bosnia ended ten years ago, but U.N. forces are still needed there to keep the peace. The war in Afghanistan is over for a year, but between 7,000 and 8,000 American troops are still there, part of a coalition force of around 11,000 to 12,000. It costs billions of dollars to American taxpayers to support the presence of all these troops overseas.

It is not likely that U.S. forces will leave Iraq any time soon, despite Rumsfeld's reassurances that the Americans will leave Iraq once a democratic government chosen by the Iraqis is installed. There is a problem: 60% of the Iraqi population is made up of Shiites will never be happy with any secular government that respects all minorities, but they rather want an Islamic State, governed by the Koran. (Such a government, among other things, would forbid the practice of any other religion, including Chrisitianity.) The U.S. says they will never allow such a form of government, and will crush any attempt to install it, and the U.S. occupying force will have to govern in the meantime, fueling the anger the Islamic extremists. So it is easy to predict some trouble ahead.

U.S. authorities think that the present war will cost U.S. taxpayers about $75 billion. But as history shows, the cost of war has often been badly miscalculated by the authorities. According to a study of Yale University economist William Nordhaus. Abraham Lincoln's Treasury secretary estimated the direct cost of the Civil War (1861-1865) to the North would be $240 million (in 2002 dollars), but it ended up costing $3.2 billion, about 13 times the original cost. Even as the build-up occurred during the Vietnam War, the Pentagon in 1967 underestimated the war's cost by 90 percent; the conflict dragged on until 1973 and cost between $110 billion to $150 billion.

Retired U.S. General Wesley Clark said in an interview, “What we have to be prepared for is an indefinite stay in Iraq; at least 100,000 people there for the first year or two, several billion dollars a month in costs, continuing frictions, and problems politically as a result of this.”

Does Syria have chemical weapons? Is it hiding Saddam Hussein? Let's invade them to find out! Iran wants to interfere with the formation of Iraq's future government? Let's teach them a lesson! Never mind any Arab backlash and retaliation with terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The folly of the power-hungry knows no limit! The Financiers would be too happy to lend them all the money needed to finance these wars, but it could endanger U.S. security by reducing the number of military available at home, and create larger budget deficits and ruin the U.S. economy. (Note: The U.S. government has a record budget deficit of over $450 billion in 2004.) 

Let us refuse those wars that only serve the financial interests of a few. Let us work for peace by establishing just economic conditions for all, which can be done by the application of the Social Credit philosophy!

About the Author

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote

Alain Pilote has been the editor of the English edition of MICHAEL for several years. Twice a year we organize a week of study of the social doctrine of the Church and its application and Mr. Pilote is the instructor during these sessions.