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John Cory In Saudi Arabia: The Games of War

The Games of War

By John Cory
t r u t h o u t correspondent in Saudi Arabia
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Sunday 19 January 2003

The game is afoot as they say. While Ari Fleischer keeps denying that the war is inevitable, you cannot walk around Kuwait, or parts of Bahrain, without tripping over American military equipment and personnel or reporter-celebrities in safari suits. I suppose this means the war games in Qatar were successful and Gen. Franks will not be wintering in Florida this year.

The Middle East Newsline reports that the U.S. has begun withdrawing non-essential government personnel from the Middle East. According to the article, "Officials said the effort is meant to avoid Arab or Islamic reprisals on U.S. personnel over the next few months amid tension in the Persian Gulf and Middle East region." According to the news article, "The biggest threat is that of kidnapping of Americans, particularly diplomats." A sure sign of coming war is when politicians evacuate, leaving the rest of us to face the consequences of their actions.

Meanwhile the business of war continues, even on the eve of invasion. In Abu Dhabi, the UAE defense show is on schedule for March 16-20. More than 850 defense contractors from Britain, the United States, France, Russia, Germany and Italy and elsewhere are expected to attend the sixth International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) despite the pending war. According to Ali Al-Tunaiji, the director general of General Exhibitions Corp. "The tension is increasing day by day, but we will go ahead in hosting the event even if there is an attack on Iraq." Obviously the profits of war must not be ignored during war.

This weekend there was a lot of coverage on CNN International of a Time magazine article suggesting that Saudi Arabia is quietly shopping a plan to offer exile to Saddam in exchange for him stepping down and avoiding war. Many of those interviewed said this plan has been around a long time and was not expected to actually happen, while some insist it is part of the overall game plan.

One of my fellow Americans who likes to gloat about his power connections, said he was golfing with the General and others (wow - a general), and they said that the Saudi's are actually offering money to Saddam's military staff to resign. A bribe to avoid war. How GOP.

In this morning's Arab News there is a page 2 story denying any such plan or offer from the Saudis. Prince Naif is quoted as saying, "As leadership and people we are with the Iraqi people in their suffering and, God willing, we will work to spare Iraq the miseries of war." He went on to say, "The Arab world should ensure that continued solidarity and cooperation prevail in order to serve their joint interests." Solidarity is a big issue in the Arab world.

Within the same article was an official denial from the Director of Intelligence Prince Nawaf. The prince stressed that what was published in Time magazine was untrue: "It is an Iraqi issue whether Saddam remains in power or not. This talk is totally baseless. The Kingdom would not interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq and has no contact with Iraqis inside or outside."

What would be the purpose of such a story leaked to the world press? One can only guess at the motives. Is it a means to put pressure on Iraq by showing the lack of support by other Arab nations? Is it intended to cut the legs out from under Saddam by revealing the weakness of his leadership? Or is it meant to show how Arabs are easily corrupted by money, willing to turn a blind eye, if the price is right?

One thing is for sure, and that is by revealing this story, it exposes Iraq's neighbors to possible retaliation. If it is true, then Saudi Arabia has made itself a target for attack by Iraq. If Saddam is on the verge of annihilation with nothing to lose, and he knows his Arab brothers are willing to sell him out - why not take some of them with him? A bigger war means more troops and more opportunity for American military installations in Arab nations - for a price.

A couple of my Jordanian friends believe that these "leaks" and "stories" are the work of the CIA and Bush to undermine Arab unity. Like the discovered warhead story, it is not the inspection team, but outisde sources leaking information in order to create a pretext for invasion. They believe these stories of Saudi bribery and Arab friction are intended to weaken opposition and generate internal confusion and conflict that will allow the U.S. to occupy and control Iraqi oil. As one of them so cleverly said, "This is a Mobil-Shell game intended to put the American Exxon Iraq." Who says Arabs have no sense of humor?

The game of numbers and spin control insists that the war will be short and decisive. American losses will be minimal and probably only 100,000 Iraqi lives lost. Sounds fair. After that, America will set up a military government until Iraq can present candidates that are malleable- er-acceptable to the U.S. and its business partners.

I am no geo-political whiz-bang, but occupation of an Arab country by the U.S. will never bring stability to the Middle East. The very notion that this will work like WWII occupations of Japan and Germany is absurd and reflects a total lack of understanding of this part of the world. Take a look at Afghanistan for answers. Success? Hardly. Peace? Not even. The Taliban is returning stronger than ever, and aided by Pakistan and local warlords, is creating havoc at every opportunity.

The occupation of Iraq will be like the very industry this war is all about. There will be leaks in the pipelines and harmful spillage that will ooze across the Middle East in an oil slick of disaster. Small groups will be emboldened and larger terrorist organizations will set fires of more and more conflict. Fueled by the arrogance of U.S. policies, the continued failure to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the conflagration of violence will flood onto the whole world.

And who will benefit? The defense contractors and the oil conglomerates. American lives will be endangered. Arab lives will be grist for more and more regime change. The already suffering poor, the medically needy children and orphans, the starving; all will be swept aside in the march of conquest and imperial domination. And for what? A substance made from the fossils of extinct life forms, which fuel the engines of greed, in a world choking on its own fumes.

War is now a game of monopoly, played on a lethal field, with no winners, and only the dead to keep score.


- John Cory is’s correspondent in Saudi Arabia.

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