Dubya finally got what he wanted: his own Iraq war. He went through the motions all right; he asked the United Nations nicely (and not so nicely). In the end, he did exactly what he wanted at the outset: go to war to effect regime change.

I am not naïve enough to buy the line that the aim of this war is to contain terrorism or to bring democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people. That is the propaganda American presidents must use to obtain domestic support for foreign wars. Bush is counting on the credulity and short attention span of the American people, that many won’t remember that it was Al Qaeda that was behind the 9/11 attacks, not Saddam Hussein.

The real reason why George Bush is waging war is oil. He has decided that independent-minded Third World governments are too risky, and that the American way of life demands a plentiful (but not cheap) oil supply.

Forty years ago, the U.S. effected another regime change in the region, for the same reasons. A CIA-engineered coup in Iran led to the assassination of Prime Minister Mossadegh (whose only crime was to nationalize the Iranian oil industry) and the installation of a dictatorship under the Shah of Iran. The pendulum in Iran swung the other way in 1979, when the Shah was toppled by a popular revolution, and the country became a fundamentalist Islamic state. What lessons did we learn from this? Are we about to make the same mistakes in Iraq?

The administration says it wants to liberate the Iraqi people and bring freedom to the Iraqi people, but already the chorus of anti-democracy voices has begun in America. Influential policy analysts have begun to argue that Iraq is not ready for democracy. The real question is: Is the United States ready for Iraqi democracy? Will we honor Iraqi public opinion more than we have world public opinion?

After 9/11, America had world on its side. In less than two years, we have traded that respect and goodwill for growing fear, mistrust, and resentment. By choosing war, the present administration seems to be saying that the heavies of the world don’t have to live by the same rules as the rest of the world. Are we the leaders of the world, or just its bullies?

Arvind Kumar