Wallowing In Hypocrisy


Rarely has the world seen such a one-sided war. In the first two weeks of the campaign, coalition forces had fired more than 725 Tomahawk missiles and dropped more than 12,000 precision-guided bombs on Iraq. About half of these munitions fell on Republican Guard units.

The military outcome of the war was never in doubt. How could a third-world country that had been under 12 years of sanctions take on the world’s mightiest nation? Iraq had no operational navy or air force and its army’s T-72 tank was no rival for the American M-1 tank. Most of the T-72s were taken out by A-10 aircraft before they even got close to an M-1. Those that survived were taken out by the M-1 tanks before they got within the T-72’s gun range.

The performance of the Republican Guard during the First Gulf War had been much reviled in the media. But Stephen Bourque found that “They did not run away and fought with extreme bravery.” Indeed, after enduring weeks of air strikes from a vastly stronger enemy, they fought with extraordinary tenacity. He says that their Tawakalna Division, facing a massive attack from several directions, “had little opportunity to do anything but surrender or fight and die in place. They chose the latter.”

After being mauled in the first Persian Gulf War, and fully aware that their tanks were still out-ranged and outgunned by US armor, the Republican Guard must have foreseen the outcome when this war began. But, in contrast to 1991, they never had a chance to fight this time around. According to Paul Koring, their predicament was similar to that of the Light Brigade: “Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die.”[1] The Iraqi Republican Guard has set a new standard for courage and bravery that will that will inspire armies for decades to come.

The war is almost over now, and an American victory is at hand. But events will show that it was a hollow victory. To quote Quentin Peel of the Financial Times, “The danger for Mr. Bush is that he will win the war, eventually and unpleasantly, but he will never be seen as a liberator. If he had understood that, he might never have gone to war.”[2]

But let us grant Mr. Bush his right to fight Saddam, since he had a bone to pick with him. But what can one say about the Muslim leaders whose countries border Iraq. History will record that while Iraq was attacked and run over, they were wallowing in hypocrisy.

Abu Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, warned several months ago that a war against Iraq would “open the gates of hell.” His warnings, like Cassandra’s in mythology, were ignored. Amid rising anger in Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak has implored the US to end the war, saying it would create a hundred bin Ladens. When asked why Egypt had not closed the Suez Canal to British and American naval vessels journeying to the Gulf, he replied that that Cairo could not deny other countries the use of the Suez Canal under the terms of a 19th century treaty unless Egypt was at war with them.[3] Mubarak has in public urged an immediate end to the conflict while in secret he opened Egyptian airspace to the coalition forces.

In a similar vein, after meeting the French president Jacques Chirac in Paris in January, Saudi foreign minister Saud al Faisal said that a US attack on Iraq would result in “a calamity of immense proportions.” As war became imminent, he noted that, “Saudi Arabia will not join the conflict and will not [allow its territory] to be used to attack Iraq.” Saudi Arabia has secretly allowed its airspace to be used by cruise missiles, and made a northern airbase available to coalition forces. The prince has now asked Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq, but not even dropped a hint of imposing an oil embargo. This comes as no surprise to Saudi watchers.

Many people expected the Saudis to impose an oil embargo in support of their March 2002 peace plan, once it became clear that the Israelis had responded to it by stepping up their reprisals in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the Saudis flatly rejected the use of oil as a weapon, disowning completely the policy King Faisal had used in 1973. Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon reminded the prince about his father’s conduct, who gave his life by daring to say that he would stop oil supplies to the West and that he wanted to liberate Jerusalem and pray there.

King Abdullah of Jordan, whose heavily accented Arabic betrays his western upbringing, said he had contacted other countries before the war started in an attempt to prevent the conflict. Claiming that he was “a Muslim, an Arab and a Hashemite,” he asserted, “Nobody can outbid my concern for my people and my (Arab) nation.” He said that coalition forces had asked Jordan for use of its airspace, a request he “adamantly rejected” because a war with Iraq would breed “extremism.” Yet he has allowed Patriot batteries to be placed on Jordanian soil, and permitted Special Operations Forces to launch operations into Iraq.

Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, former CIA director James Woolsey said recently, “We want you [to be] nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you-the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family-most fear: We’re on the side of your own people.” Woolsey noted proudly that the US was engaged in fighting World War IV. That term was introduced by Elliot Cohen to describe the global war against terrorism, but it has now been expanded to include changes of tyrannical regimes that have access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The import of his remarks will not be lost on Muslim and Arab leaders. A fundamental change has occurred in the tactics of implementing regime change. What was formerly accomplished through covert “black” operations is now being accomplished through overt military operations. In the near future, regime change may be expanded to include not just those un-elected despots with access to WMDs but any rulers who stand in the way of the neo-conservative agenda of global domination. Then the hypocrites will taste their just desserts.


[1] Paul Koring, “Analysis: A tenacious stand, doomed from the start,” The Globe and Mail, April 3, 2003.

[2] Quentin Peel, “The perils of wartime wishful thinking,” Financial Times, April 1, 2003.

[3] James Drummond, “Mubarak fears war may increase terrorism,” Financial Times, April 1, 2003.

The author is an economist in Palo Alto, California.  He lived in Pakistan during the 1965 and 1971 wars.  He has written on Pakistan’s Strategic Myopia in the RUSI Journal, and reviewed Mazari’s book, Journey to  Disillusionment for International Affairs. He has authored “Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan.” He is a Fellow of the American Institute of International Studies in California.

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