death in the desert

As I sit to contemplate a count-down to war (D-38) I can’t help but be fragmented. Not in my persuasions but in my analysis.

More than ever this is a media war. A long build up. National interest. Daily coverage. It’s on the bark before the bark’s even paper. Left and right. So inevitably the details amass, and in every detail hides an analytical treasure. Break it down: we can read it in terms of Oil, Discourse, Sociology, Home Politics, Military, Feminism, Colonialism, Imperialism, The New Order ….

So I’m fragmented. But every little fragment shines with clarity. It juts out, like a shard, sharp, transparent, waiting to be pieced together with the rest of the mosaic.

There’s so much talk about the New Order, a term that the left-overs – the old lefties trying to come to terms with post-Perestroika, postliberation movement dilemmas – buy into. They buy into it with a defeatist air. But let’s think of the phrase. Was that not the key phrase of mid-century fascism? Is the US not in search of World Domination of the same order as Fascism – while reversing the image and painting the little dark moustache on the foe? Of course, the US is slicker than Blitzkrieging Belgium. Oil-slick, with all the cheap gallons it had ensured itself for over ten years since the last major hike; this at a time when all prices were rising save oil which collapsed from $27 dollars a barrel to$16in 1985. Thanks to Kuwait (and the UAE) for the most part.

Does the US want a war to maintain their highways? I bet the guys shot on the LA ways rally against cheap gas. Keep GM moving when the pressure from the Japanese car-makers is so unbearably high, when American gas-guzzlers no longer make the day. Would United States want a war for cheap bananas? Well, it’s had it, and United Fruit won.

No surprise that Iraq doesn’t want low oil prices after a war-devastated economy: every dollar in oil prices affects Iraqi revenues to the tune of $1 billion. It’s a sum of some concern. Perhaps not to Kuwait with the population of Geneva and the income and holdings of ….well, of Kuwait since no one seems to quite match it. Iraq’s population: 17 million.

Iraq made its position abundantly clear before the annexation of Kuwait. In

May 1990. In Geneva. Iraq confronts the Gulf states for flooding the market, and dropping the prices below the set $18 a barrel. Kuwait and UAE refuse to adhere to their quotas as determined by OPEC. Harsh and hidden back and forths ensue into July. Saddam Hussein then defines this as an “aggression no less effective than military aggression.” Read between the lines.

It makes one think: how much Arab brotherhood is felt between the two-century old ruling Al-Sabbah dynasty, and the revolutionary regime of 1958? Interesting footnote: when Iraq’s anti-monarchical revolution was taking place, Eisenhower worried about it spilling over into Kuwait! How much more invested in the West are the Kuwaitis? Just financially, the Kuwait International Co. holds billions in Europe and the US, as opposed to investing it in the Middle East. What kind of influence, then, do Western governments and oil companies hold in Kuwait to pressure the lower oil prices? Saddam Hussein, along with much of the Arab population, thought them orchestrated from Washington.

It also makes one think: did the Pentagon not know about the Iraq-Kuwait tiff? Impossible. Did it not predict action? Possibly. It would be typical of US Intelligence, an oxymoron that declared Iran an ‘island of stability’ in 1978.

Either way, ‘action’ on Saddam Hussein’s behalf seemed welcome in Washington. The day congress sat to sign for the peace dividend of demilitarization some poor bloke ran in to interrupt. Not now. We’re about to deploy. Massively. The military budget has to wait. Now, 4 months later, there will be a surtax (a read my lips type of surtax) to help finance Operation Desert Shield. Help only. The rest of the heavy bill is footed by the Saudis.

‘The Gulf Crisis’, both as an event and a euphemism, only began when Bush unsheathed his baton to police The gulf region. When Iraq moved into Kuwait, the oil prices did no more than to jump back at their 1985 level of $27. Once the US moved in they climbed up to the 30’s and 40’s, and in a concerted effort are being pushed back down again.

What would have been the crisis had Iraq rapidly and successfully annexed Kuwait? An open question. What’s sure, however, is that Iraq had laid a historical claim on Kuwait. Iraq did not recognize Kuwait as a nation until 1963. And it never settled border disputes. Until August 1990.

Kuwait, like all the Gulf states, is very much the production of post-colonial peace. A piece of this land, and a piece of that combined to form the post-WW1 piece treaties in which these nations were carved out territorially. This doesn’t warrant an annexation on its own. But the case becomes stronger when you see these tiny little states amassing wealth for their tiny little ruling populations, while Arab, South Asian and Philipino workers send home the cents; when you see the little states investing all their money in Europe, where they travel with their army of servants. When the shadow play of Imperialism appears, the case for annexation gets brighter.

These are the shards that jut out. Only a few of them. International, economic, colonial. What happens when we talk internally about the US, or about this almost primal urge of Bush and his Male Posse to deploy? The mosaic grows uncontrollably, a testimony of the post-modem. One we won’t engage. But let’s briefly look inside the lean mean US machine.

First word after GO is Vietnam. The ghost still haunts. Bush says “this will not be a Vietnam.” He means our boys won’t die over a seven year period, and you protestors won’t get a chance to impeach me. Instead, as James Baker 3d, Blue blood Secretary of State, confirmed the US would only attack “suddenly, massively and decisively.” Translated: Iraqis will die, Kuwaitis will die, “suddenly and massively”. If it’s not to be drawn out it would mean air attacks on specific targets, including Baghdad, possibly parts of Kuwait City. Although the military itself has not offered any estimates, independent sources put the casualties from a minimum of 10,000 and up Americans if war breaks out. If Baghdad is bombed it could mean over 50,000 Iraqis.

Warding off Death in rhetoric, though, doesn’t translate into reality for the American camp. Already preceding the bullets, 50 US soldiers are dead from accidents. (In Baghdad and/or Kuwait only one Westerner has been reported injured or dead: an old hospitalized man with a previous condition.) An ominously large shipment of body bags arrives in Saudi Arabia in almost daily consignments. The Army has ordered another 10,000. Do we anticipate seeing them returned full? Or will the procession of dead war soldiers be censored?

A large group of people in the US seemed determined to stop military adventurism. Often with little understanding of the history. Still, they have enough decency not to desire a holocaust. For many activists in this camp the ghost of Vietnam is also alive. The older protestors are either old anti-Vietnam protestors or war veterans. Others seem to grab onto the idealism embodied by protests in the Vietnam war era. But there are big differences. For one, you don’t need to be particularly radical to oppose this war or protest against it. 10,000 gathered on Dec. 1 in Boston alone. And the police didn’t have to do anything. America is more than 50% opposed to war. As I was saying you don’t have to be radical.

Few are. To date there have not been any major civil disobedience actions. One hunger strike by a Black activist that I’m aware of. Several peaceful, uneventful marches. Some arrests when protestors chained themselves to the gates of Westover Air force Base. 27 arrests in a NY demonstration organized by the War Resistors League. Then there are the conscientious objectors, with Jeff Patterson heading the list as the first and most famous, and consequently the court-martialled. A slew of others like Sam Lwin of Burmese origin, or Keith Jones, a Black New Yorker, continue to resist.

People of colour have the most to protest about. That’s one thing not changed since Vietnam: poor and Black people are the first sent to the front. Blacks, for example, constitute 31% of the Army’s ranks, compared to 15% of the population. As one protestor said, “I want to see Mr. Rockefeller’s son, and Mr. Bush’s son defending their nation.”

Of course, there is no draft anymore. But with so many troops ready to be pulled on there is no need for a draft. Those sent are often people who had banked on the army for education funds. Now, according to that contract they can be used as bodies to fill body bags.

The fragments accumulate daily. Bush rallying, bribing (reportedly, the day after the Soviet Union agreed to the use of force it received a $4 billion dollar loan from the Gulf states) to amass international support; the use of the UN as a Western force; Kuwaiti slave-holdings; the relation between Grenada, Panama and Kuwait; the role of Islam world-wide; the new US-Soviet alliance; Saudi business’ contacts with US military; using Muslim soldiers (Pakistani and Arab) on the front-line of the offensive …. The list goes on. Somebody will have to do a multi-dimensional study on the build-up because never has there been so much information available, so much focus on one issue from an international contingent.

(Meanwhile, I want to know who thinks up the names for these operations? Operation Just Cause sent troops to Panama to net Noriega and inflict death on an estimated 15,000 Panamanians in the Barrios. Operation Desert Shield …as one satirist hinted it sounds more like a brand of condoms. Sexuality in the war, that’s another one.)

In the states the protests continue. Increasing momentum. One is projected for “the day after war breaks out.” Let’s hope we can prevent that day and the one before it.