Iraq: public opinion campaign under way

The campaign to win over public opinion in the USA and the United Kingdom regarding a military strike on Iraq is under way.

In April, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair will have a summit in Washington, at which it is expected that the plan to attack Iraq will be drawn up, if Baghdad does not yield to pressure to destroy its weapons on mass destruction.

The British Sunday Observer newspaper quotes a Downing Street source as saying that “The meeting will be to finalise phase two of the war against terrorism: action against Iraq is on the top of the agenda”.

While some military sources considered that an attack on Iraq would be imminent this April or May, in the Washington Post on Sunday, it was claimed that such an attack would take around a year to plan, because the USA and UK would only launch it once they were sure it would be successful. US Defence Secretary declared on Sunday that “You can be sure that the United States is not going to engage in something we are not ready to engage in”, and more ominously, “We are rapidly replenishing the things we need”.

These “things” would be smart bombs in sufficient quantity to destroy the Iraqi war machine, first, which would be followed by an extensive high-altitude bombing campaign, before a land offensive would drive for Baghdad. It is rumoured that Pentagon sources claim that at least six months will be necessary before they have a sufficient quantity of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to launch a successful campaign against Iraq.

On the other hand, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, claimed that “We are ready to do whatever the commander in chief asks us to do and we will be ready. We may not have all the preferred munitions, in terms of JDAMs that you would want, but we have other munitions we can substitute”.

In London, Tony Blair’s press campaign goes into top gear to try to convince an unconvinced population that a military strike against Iraq is justified. It is claimed in the Observer that there is documentary evidence that the regime of Saddam Hussein has a rudimentary nuclear programme, which includes “dirty bombs”. These are bombs charged with radioactivity, which are not able to produce nuclear fission but which would spread poisonous radioactive particles over a wide area.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is compiling a list of alleged terrorist links with Baghdad in attempt to convince his country, and his party, that an attack on Iraq is necessary. In a recent opinion poll, 86% of labour Members of Parliament declared themselves to be against such an attack, seven per cent were undecided and only 8% in favour.

Asked if they agreed to US military forces using British bases for a strike on Iraq, 78% of the MPs said “No” while only 18% agreed. Downing Street made its future policy on Iraq clear through a spokesperson: “We have always made clear that we share the United States’ determination to continue the war against terrorism. We share their concerns about Baghdad’s support for terrorism and its development of weapons of mass destruction. The best way forward is through close consultation with our allies, including the United States”.

Should this attack go ahead and were Saddam Hussein to see that his regime was threatened, it is feared that he would go down fighting, taking as many with him as possible, even if this meant the deployment of chemical and biological weapons in the theatre of war and “dirty” missiles against Israel’s population centres. This time, Gulf War Syndrome will be the least of the worries by an invasion force.

At a time when the notion of diplomacy is being pushed aside, it would appear that the world’s diplomats have much to do, if they do not want to become redundant.


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