Sun, 08 Jun 2003

Behind the U.S. Invasion of Iraq By Elba Damhuri Senayan Abadi Publishing, Jakarta, March 2003 xiii + 119 pages

U.S. President George W. Bush achieved what he wanted in his ambition to attack Iraq for allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction and posing a threat to world peace.

Despite the UN inspection team's failure to prove Iraq possessed these weapons, Bush went ahead anyway, using the further justification of freeing the Iraqi people from the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein and crushing the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The big question is whether Bush was really driven by the intention to remove Hussein from power. Was the war really worth the US$200 billion the U.S. government has spent so far?

Or, as many have speculated, did the U.S. have an ulterior motive in invading Iraq, especially for economic gain?

The writer, in his capacity as a reporter responsible for the front-page content of Republika daily, has been able to see the issue from a deeper, more comprehensive perspective.

Iraq, the world's second-largest oil-producing country after Saudi Arabia, went to war several times during the rule of Saddam Hussein. It was at war with Iran during the 1980s and then invaded Kuwait, leading to the outbreak of Gulf War I, in which Iraq faced the U.S. and its allies.

Despite the subsequent UN sanctions, Saddam Hussein remained defiant against the U.S. He refused to sell Iraq's oil to U.S. companies; instead, he wrapped up trade deals with French, Russian and Chinese companies. Then, he shifted from the U.S. dollar to the euro in Iraq's oil transactions.

Damhuri argues that a humiliated U.S. was resolved to subjugate Iraq and control its oil deposits. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a boost to U.S. plans, giving it the pretext of attacking Iraq in the name of fighting terrorism.

The writer believes Bush wanted to exact revenge on Saddam Hussein as his father could not complete his mission to topple the Iraqi ruler during Gulf War I.

Others have said that Bush, a conservative Christian, was displeased with the growth of radical Islam, but Damhuri believes the quest for oil was the primary reason for the Iraq invasion.

This is a slim volume, but Damhuri makes a convincing argument that the U.S., while boasting to be the champion of human rights, is guilty of hypocrisy. Thousands have been killed in the war in Iraq for no other reason than that Washington wanted another lucrative source of precious oil.

-- Nur Mursidi