How the Bush Administration will React if No WMD is Found in Iraq

Thu Jan 30 13:44:34 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: 30 Jan. 2003

*The question was raised on a list of what would happen if the US invaded Iraq and found there were not weapons of mass destruction there. I fear I replied somewhat cynically, but also called it as I see it. If Iraq turns out not to have much WMD, the administration will fall back on its other main argument, that Saddam is a monster who has killed and brutalized his own people and repeatedly invaded his neighbors. We already have had Halabja survivors among the Kurds protest the doubts some Westerners have expressed about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and willingness to use them. They say, basically, *we* know all about WMD. And, given the thousands of Shi`ites the Baath killed in the south, there are almost certainly mass graves that will provide a macabre justification ex post facto for the removal of that regime. Footage of the Iranian vets injured by mustard gas could also be put on television. How wars are justified before they are launched and how they are justified afterwards is frequently different. If there is a relatively quick victory, no one will inquire into the justifications too closely. If it becomes a quagmire, it won’t matter what the justification was: the public will turn against the war anyway if it goes badly.

*The fundamentalist parties in Pakistan have called for all US visitors to that country to be fingerprinted and registered, in retaliation for how Pakistani visitors to the US are being treated. I’ve got news for them. When I visited Pakistan in the 1980s, I always had to register with the authorities, and I had to get a no objection permit from the police before I could leave Pakistan again. Fingerprinting is a different matter, but the registration of foreigners has been insisted on by Pakistan for a long time. It is not therefore such a big slap in the face for Pakistani visitors in the US to have to register. My objection is that the law should be for everyone, and if Muslims have to register, so should Chinese, Indians, etc.

*On another list someone raised the question about whether Sharon will attempt to expel the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, perhaps under cover of a second Gulf War. The American Friends Service Committee has spoken on this issue at:
[this site]

98 Israeli academics circulated a petition on this possibility recently. See:
[this site]

I think it is more likely that Sharon will simply continue to annex Palestinian lands to Israel and leave the Palestinians with weak Bantustans that cannot have a hope of coalescing into a real state –sort of like the US Indian Reservations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is not necessary to ethnically cleanse a people if you can corral and decisively cow them.

Expelling the Palestinians during a second Gulf War would be an even more extreme slap in the face to the US than any of Sharon’s provocations in the past 18 months, and I very much doubt he would risk it. Perhaps the extra $10 bn. the Israelis are asking the US for is in part a quid pro quo for avoidance of very bad behavior.