War: who is it good for?


As war looms in the Gulf again we can be sure that, whatever the outcome, hundreds of thousands of lives will be destroyed by the conflict. A UN report leaked in December estimated that the war will cost the lives of half a million Iraqi civilians and create a million refugees as a result of both direct deaths and the deliberate distruction of infrastructure. Furthermore the unwilling soldiers of Saddam's conscript army face whole-scale butchery at the hands of the powerful US war machine.

Regardless of the outcome of the war, Iraq will emerge as a devastated country, strewn with rubble, corpses, depleted uranium and other long-term environmental toxins. In the unlikely event that the US invasion is defeated, all they have to look forward to is more of the same, suffering under the twin evils of a brutal dictator and an "international community" that makes the people pay for the existence of this dictator through sanctions and bombing.

If the US wins, as it surely will, the only difference will be that the name of the dictator will change and instead of the economy being ruined by sanctions, it will be ruined by the burden of repaying the American war costs. Senior figures in Bush's administration openly state their intention of installing a friendly dictator, occupying the oil fields and using export revenues as "reparations" for the enormous cost of the war.

US soldiers are likely to suffer far fewer casualties on the battlefield. However, many of them will still return home with their lives in ruins. 36% of US soldiers who saw conflict in the first Gulf War have filed compensation claims for "Gulf War syndrome" and 87% of claims have been granted. This syndrome has multiple causes, from psychological ('shell-shock') to exposure to toxins (depleted uranium...) and experimental vaccines.

The effects on the 'grunts' underlines just how little the US leadership cares about the soldiers who do their bidding. The only people who have anything to gain from this war are the elite. Saddam may get to hang onto power, Bush may extend US control over the world and its oil supplies, but whatever the outcome, it will come at the expense of millions of ruined lives, lives which are of no concern in the power games of Bush and Saddam. Both armies would be much better off turning their guns around and saving their bullets for their billionaire rulers and their war-mongering cronies.


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This edition is No74 published in Feb 2003

War - what is it good for