Props for Theatre of War set up as Actors rehearse their lines

As the hours tick by, millions of Iraqis are agonising over the likelihood of their night skies being lit up with missiles as their blinding flashes carry foreboding messages of death and destruction. The fireworks, over the skies of Baghdad, are unlikely to be cheered and applauded – for far from being a celebration – it will herald a time for sorrow and mourning.

These innocent Iraqis, uncertain as they may be about the actual moment when American and British fighter jets invade their country, are fully aware that once all-out war breaks, their dreams and hopes of being allowed to live their daily lifes as any ordinary people in any other part of the world does, will be shattered, once again.

The population of Iraq, unwilling subjects of a brutal dictator whose ascension to power is directly credited to covert operations by the notorious CIA, way back in the early 60’s, are yet again confronted by an impending catastrophe too ghastly to contemplate.

As the White House fumbles with revised strategies and new disclosures in desperate efforts to woo the world to support its war in Iraq, the teeming millions of Iraqis confined to a land arbitrarily divided into three by the British and Americans following the first Gulf War of the 90’s, know only too well that their likely deaths will be written off as “collateral damage” at routine press briefings by the Pentagon.

Does any one really care for us, they would ask. Certainly their fellow Muslim neighbours would find it extremely difficult to persuade them that they do. After all, their death and destruction will be spearheaded from the territories of these American client-states which include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait.

Kuwait? Is Kuwait a neighbour or an intrinsic part of Iraq divested from it by the British a few decades ago, which Saddam Hussein tried to reintegrate leading to the first Gulf War and the cause for the present impending disaster? Iraqi claim to Kuwait is an historical one to which every single Iraqi regime has subscribed.

But more important, is the fact that Kuwait had agreed to federate with Iraq as recently as 1962. This would have resulted in Kuwait ceding the conduct of its foreign relations and control of its finances to Iraq.

Kuwait, originally part of the Iraqi vilayet (province) of Basra, was bound to Britain by an illegal agreement signed in 1898; after the First World War the British reconfirmed this agreement to keep Kuwait separate from Iraq.

Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait in 1990 was preceded thirty years earlier by General Abdul Karim Kassem, the leader of the successful anti-monarchist coup of 1958. A Kurd of humble background, Kassem was an intensely popular man, who lived austerely and had no known outside interests except the building of a people’s Iraq.

However, two distinct anti-British moves by Kassem led to his overthrow and public execution in 1963. He nationalised part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraqi Petroleum Company and resurrected the Iraqi claim to Kuwait. Like Saddam Hussein, he considered it a part of Iraq separated from it through British connivance and wanted it returned to its mother country.

With their oil interests inside Iraq and in Kuwait threatened, the British switched to an anti-Kassem stance and their position was reconciled with that of the Americans. Both sides knew that Kassem had to go.

The British resorted to something they had used in the past: they began to sponsor a new Kurdish insurrection against the Iraqi central government. Dislocating and costly to the Iraqis as this was, it was far less effective than the comprehensive anti-Kassem plans developed and carried out by the CIA.

Of profound relevance to the current beating of war drums is an important snippet of information either deliberately ignored or unknown by political commentators and other pundits eager to join the chorus of war songs sung by Bush and Blair. From 1961 until the overthrow of Kassem in February 1963, the Iraqi Section of Egyptian intelligence facilitated contacts between the CIA and Iraqi exiles in Cairo, including a then junior Ba’ath Party member by the name of Saddam Hussein.

Apart from new races and names in Downing Street and the White House, nothing much has changed. Not surprising therefore that Nelson Mandela found it necessary to remind America of its “serious mistakes” in the conduct of its foreign affairs and cited their immoral support for the Shah of Iran, who eventually was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution.

And on the issue of the real purpose of the war, Mandela correctly charges that it is a desire to please the arms and oil industries in the USA. This is borne out by the fact that after Gulf War of 90-91, an unprecedented shopping spree by Arab dictators resulted in multi-billion dollar contracts with British and US arms merchants.

The war theatre being set up will ensure that Arab leaders occupying the thrones which allows American military bases and troops, continue to suppress their people to stay in power and serve Western political and economic interests, within their countries and beyond.

(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)