War College

67 things you might want to know before the bombs drop

The LA Times reported Feb. 17 that the U.S. buildup in the Middle East for a "possible" war on Iraq is depleting the nation's military reservists. Big deal, you say? Well, most of these folks actually moonlight as reservists; their real jobs are on first-response units here at home. That's right, we're sending our police, firefighters and other emergency-service workers—who could be, like, really useful here at home in case we get, oh, I don't know, bombed or anthraxed or kidnapped, raped and murdered—over to sit on their arses and wait to be killed in what promises to be a really meaningless World War III. See also BLOOD. Throughout the 1990s, Republicans accused Bill Clinton of "social experimentation" and "liberal nation building" for his intervention in social conflicts that threatened regional stability in Eastern Europe or the Horn of Africa. Now, these same Republicans talk of "regime change" in Iraq. Led by Bush deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the Republican nation builders have developed a strategy to limit Islamic fundamentalism by creating a powerful, moderate Muslim regime in the place where Saddam Hussein once ruled. They might take as their model the U.S. overthrow in 1953 of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. In his place, the CIA installed the Shah, whose slavishness toward the West led to the 1979 revolution in Iran, a country that President George W. Bush recently listed among the three nations in his Axis of Evil. See also REGIME CHANGE. The Pentagon insists it has no idea what the war will cost, but outside observers have taken some pretty good guesses. Late last year, Yale professor William Nordhaus estimated the conflict will cost between $120 billion for a quick-and-perfect war to a decade-long quagmire that swallows $1.6 trillion. Carried out the April 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the single-worst act of terrorism on American soil before Sept. 11, 2001. The explosion killed 168 and injured approximately 500 people; McVeigh dismissed those deaths as "collateral damage," borrowing a Persian Gulf War-era Pentagon term for dead Iraqis. During Desert Storm, McVeigh served as a gunner on a First Infantry Division Bradley fighting vehicle. He experienced combat and earned a Bronze Star for "flawless devotion to duty." But what he saw as the needless slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians began to turn him against his government. See also CASULATIES, COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

Former U.S. drug czar and a major proponent of another looming U.S. foreign-policy disaster—military involvement in the Colombian civil war. According to a May 22, 2000, New Yorker exposé by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who uncovered the 1969 massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in My Lai, McCaffrey was responsible for what was one of the worst atrocities of Desert Storm. McCaffrey was so desperate for battlefield glory on the eve of the Persian Gulf War cease-fire that he pushed his forces forward when other commanders were starting to back off—seemingly intent on wasting retreating Iraqis all the way to Baghdad. According to his own troops, McCaffrey ordered them to machine-gun 350 disarmed Iraqi prisoners. "Why are we shooting at these people when they are not shooting at us?" one of them exclaimed on a tape quoted by Hersh. Says another, "It's murder." Headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Virginia. Today, analysts here have largely discredited the theory that Iraq and al-Qaida are working together and in fact believe Hussein will not launch attacks with chemical or biological weapons unless attacked. But from the 1960s to the early 1980s, the CIA actually supported Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in an attempt to negate communist influence in Iraq. CIA also shared a great deal of its assessments and intelligence estimates with Baghdad during its war with Iran, all in the name of making sure those crazy Mullahs didn't beat Iraq. Twenty million strong, the Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic group in the world. They live mostly in Northern Iraq and Turkey, and it's hard to tell which nation abuses them more. Hussein tested nerve gas on them in the late 1980s, but Turkey has been at war with Kurdish guerrillas since 1984. In the mid-1990s, Turkey used its American-made Cobra helicopter gunships and tanks to attack Kurdish strongholds and villages, slaughtering hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. In any post-Hussein Iraq, the Kurds will demand their own state in northern Iraq, a wish that could make Iraq all but ungovernable. A devotee of realpolitik—the notion that, in matters of state, might really does make right. Realpolitik prompted the Reagan administration to arm Islamic fundamentalists, including Osama bin Laden, as part of a strategy to harass the Soviet Red Army in Afghanistan. Realpolitik animated the administration's decision to arm Saddam Hussein throughout the 1980s in order to draw out Iraq's bloody war with Iran. The fact that we now confront the nuts we've armed doesn't bother Kissinger's intellectual heirs. For more, read Christopher Hitchens' The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Philosophical principle made famous by the Catholic scholar/saints Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a war can be justly waged only if "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain" and "all other means of putting an end to [foreign aggression] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective." It has been cited by the Catholic Church in its opposition to Bush's proposed war on Iraq. Such a papal edict, however, did not stop the Bush administration from sponsoring a Feb. 10 trip to the Vatican by neo-con-Catholic commentator Michael Novak. The Holy See was not persuaded. Arabic word that translates as "struggle" and which, theologically, refers to a devotee's commitment to remain pure in thought and mind, particularly in the face of evil and/or temptation. Jihad also refers to the struggle of Muslims to retake Muslim holy land when it is besmirched, as some Muslims believe it was when U.S. military forces landed in Saudi Arabia before the Persian Gulf War—and never left. That's what originally got Osama bin Laden going with his idea of declaring total war on Saudi Arabia's ruling family—and America.

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