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COLUMN LEFT : Is There a Map for This Free Fall? : If our government has considered the consequences of escalation, shouldn’t we be in on it?

<i> Marcus G. Raskin is co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington</i>

With the initiation of the ground war President Bush seeks to make clear that “what we say goes” in the world. Perhaps the President wants to test Lord Acton’s proposition that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But the war now gives rise to myriad other geopolitical, moral and economic questions that must be answered lest the war become an end in itself.

1) If the United States invades and occupies Basra or any part of Iraq, how long will allied forces stay in that nation? Will the United States have exceeded U.N. resolutions by entering Iraq? And if this results in a breakup of the alliance, what then?

2) If the Iraqis use chemical weapons in order to hold on to Kuwait or defend Iraqi soil, what are the numbers of casualties that the allied troops are likely to take?

3) Under what circumstances would the United States use nuclear or chemical weapons? What would be the world and domestic consequences?

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4) Is the United States (and by reference, other allied nations) prepared to begin back-channel discussions with Saddam Hussein so that negotiations might begin before Ramadan (March 17)? Is the United States prepared to undertake such discussions without the “permission” of its allies whether the war goes well or badly?

5) Suppose the war lasts into and past Ramadan; what guarantees are there that the alliance will hold? Is it not likely that the war will deteriorate into an American/British expedition? What then can be salvaged diplomatically?

6) If the war drags on, at what point will the United States have to return to a draft?

7) If the United States emerges as the most powerful nation in the Middle East by winning the war, how long does it intend to stay in the region and with how many troops? Does it intend to demand that Iraq have a representative government and similarly force the Gulf states to “democratize”?

8) Which country does the United States intend to use as its geographic deputy in the region--Israel, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Egypt?

9) Does the United States intend to control the oil production of Iraq, Kuwait and the other Gulf states after the war? What of Europe and Japan?

10) Suppose the Iraquis use chemical weapons against Israel, prompting Israel to enter the war full force: What are the political consequences for the alliance and for the shape of a Middle East settlement?

11) If the United States seeks to minimize American casualties, will it increase the use of carpet bombing and other means that generate a high level of civilian and enemy casualties? What will be the effects on food, water, medical and housing conditions for civilians and innocents?

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12) If the United States persists in the claim that Saddam Hussein should be tried for war crimes, what mechanism will be employed? Won’t U.S. leaders have to stand trial for bombing civilian targets when it is shown that “collateral damage” was part of its war-making pattern?

13) What are the consequences for the American economy if the war drags on for six months to a year? Which sectors will be hardest hit and which groups within our society are most likely to carry the burden of the war?

14) What are the long-term environmental effects of a ground war in which, as part of the strategy or military character of both sides, the Gulf waters continue to be poisoned and the air fouled by the burning of oil fields?

15) Does the United States intend to impose a peace settlement on the Middle East and would such an imposition include a Palestinian takeover of Jordan, an Israeli-Egyptian takeover of Jordan, or a separate Palestinian state in the occupied territories? Will the United States support an independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq? Will the United State insist that the Arab states sign a nonaggression pact among themselves and with Israel?

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16) Does the United States intend to let the U.N. Security Council be something more than a fig leaf for is own policy actions?

17) Will the United States continue to arm the Middle East or will it champion a regional arms-limitation program and an agreement among the militarily significant states to stop selling arms in the region?


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