War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq
by Milan Rai
Reviewed by Megan Shaw Prelinger
Tuesday, October 15 2002, 10:35 AM
This timely and substantial British book was published on September 11, 2002, just in the nick of time to pull readers into intensified opposition to the war. I believe that most people in the United States and Britain have a general aversion to making war on Iraq, but that few of them have access to the kind of detailed information presented here about why their impulse is correct.
I am in awe of the trove of facts the author had at the ready to make possible such a clear and thorough position document on a very short timeline. An outgrowth of the work of British activist group ARROW (Active Resistance to the roots of War), this book includes primary text by Rai, supplemental text by Noam Chomsky, photographs of everyday life in Iraq by Kim Weston-Arnold, and anti-war woodcuts by Emily Johns. The central text by Rai is bookended and interspersed by these and other complementary contributions.
Rai's first focus is to describe how the British and American governments have very carefully laid the groundwork for a new war against Iraq ever since the Gulf War of 1990. Its second focus is to refute the current (as of August) official justifications for this new war. The strength of both sections lie in their dense factual richness and their success at making the senselessness of this war very plain and simple.
Toward this first aim, Rai details the U.S. and Britain's private war on UNSCOM, the Iraq-specific U.N. weapons inspection program, and UNMOVIC, the U.N.'s monitoring, verification, and inspection committee. He explains how Iraq's supposed refusals and uncooperativeness regarding weapons inspections over the years have been substantially manufactured by British and U.S. intelligence forces. He then points out how the U.S. piggybacked its spying activity in Iraq onto the UNMOVIC operation, and then destroyed it through diplomatic means when it became clear that further weapons inspections might delegitimize Iraq as a future target of war.
The core of the book is Rai's top ten reasons to oppose the war. Although I balked at his weaving in the banality of "top ten" lists, the ten short chapters that form the persuasive center to the book are good reading. His ten theses range from the oft-stated (there is no evidence Iraq has these weapons) to the less heard: war could trigger a humanitarian disaster; there is no link between Iraq and 11 September; and U.S. and British generals oppose the war.
Rai's fact-packed prose is educative and persuasive. Yet an even greater strength of this book is that it also includes an array of appeals against the war. In addition to the visual anti-war statements made by the featured artist and photographer, the book also includes a chapter comprised entirely of anti-war statements made by families of victims of the World Trade Center attacks. A brief opening section is anti-war statements from prominent U.S. and British public figures, including unlikely statements from old hawks such as Brent Scowcroft, Lawrence Eagleburger, and James Baker to predictable peaceniks like higher-ups in the Church of England and Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter. Also important is an essay contributed by Noam Chomsky detailing how U.S./Israel-to-Arab foreign policies, particularly since 1980, largely conform to a dictionary definition of terrorism and how therefore the 9/11 attacks should therefore have been no surprise.
Of necessity, this book is already becoming outdated one month after publication. It takes aim at a moving target and does a great job of outlining the foreign policy reasons most critical to Britons to oppose the war as of September. Since then of course, the U.S. Congress has gone ahead and voted Bush the authority to make war without U.N. approval, and the schism within the U.S. over the war has continued its upward divide to the point where now even the CIA has registered its opposition to Bush's war.
This book will feel incomplete to American readers because it doesn't include much discussion of our domestic problems; problems that define our context for experiencing this war and fuel a huge part of our outgrage about it. Similarly, American audiences will be left hanging by the very brief chapter on the role of oil in this war. Rai entirely omits mention of the complex and repulsive network of relationships between the Bush family's oil connections, the uniquely American thirst for vast amounts of oil, and G. W. Bush's neurotic compulsion to finish off and upstage his father's war.
But for any reader who is compelled to develop their understanding of the historical trajectory that has led to this brink on which we currently stand, this book is recommended.
Published 2002 by Verso Books
Megan Shaw Prelinger is a member of the Bad Subjects collective.