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A Primer on Iraq War

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A Primer

By Phyllis Bennis

A publication of the Institute for Policy Studies, January 2003

Adobe Acrobat Version / Summary / Contents / About the Author

Sections:I. The U.S. Rush to War / II. The World's Response, the UN & International Law / III. The Consequences of War: Iraq and Beyond / IV. The History of U.S.-Iraq Relations / V. Alternatives to War / Resource Guide

  • Would you like the bound, printed version of this pamphlet? $2 for one copy, $1.50 each for 2-5, $1 each for 6-49, $.75 each for 50-249, and $.50 each for 250 or more. Contact Dorian Lipscombe at 202-234-9382 or dorian@ips-dc.org


The current crisis between the U.S. and Iraq continues more than a decade of antagonism between Washington and Baghdad, involving three U.S. administrations. To truly understand why we stand now at the brink of war, however, one must look closely at the goals of the current Bush administration, which is drawn to conflict by Iraq's massive oil reserves and the goal of expanding U.S. military power around the world.

The Iraqi government's record is undeniably brutal, and the U.S. and its allies should never have facilitated its access to weapons of mass destruction, as they did during the decade of the close U.S.-Iraqi alliance in the 1980s. However, there is no evidence that Iraq currently has viable weapons of mass destruction, or that it presents an imminent threat to the United States.

Nor, despite Bush administration claims, is there any link between Iraq and the events of September 11. A U.S. war against Iraq would violate international law and worsen our global reputation as an arrogant, unaccountable superpower. The effects would be particularly dire in the Middle East, where many governments hang in the balance between increasingly outraged populations and the demands of Washington, on whom they rely for economic and military support. A war would cause great suffering within Iraq, already devastated by the 1991 war and years of crippling economic sanctions, and would put many others at risk, including tens of thousands of American troops.

A forward-looking United States would work through the United Nations to promote disarmament, human rights, and democracy at home and throughout the region, and pursue domestic energy policies that reduce our dependence on oil and thus our interventions in the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere.


I. The U.S. Rush to War

II. The World's Response, the UN & International Law

III. The Consequences of War: Iraq and Beyond

IV. The History of U.S.-Iraq Relations

V. Alternatives to War

Resource Guide

About the Author

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, is a well-known writer and expert on the Middle East. Her recent books include Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis and Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN. She has debated top administration officials and appears regularly on U.S. and international television and radio. In 1999 she accompanied the first U.S. Congressional staff delegation to Iraq.

About the Institute for Policy Studies

The Institute for Policy Studies is an independent, multi-issue think tank founded in 1963. At a time when other think tanks celebrate the virtues of unrestrained greed, unlimited wealth, and indefinite war, IPS strives to create a more responsible society - one built around the values of peace with justice, sustainability, and decency. IPS, as I.F. Stone once said, is "an Institute for the rest of us."

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