Hypocrisy, Lawlessness, and the Rape of Iraq
By D.L. O'Huallachain, J. Forrest Sharpe
IHS Press Copyright © 2007 IHS Press
All rights reserved.
The Thirteen Years' War .........
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
The "war," officially designated by the U.S. government as such and inaugurated with the "decapitation" strike of March 19, 2003, was really only a change of tempo in the overall war on Iraq. It commenced with the sanctions imposed by the UN and by a separate U.S. blockade in August of 1990, stretching through the first "hot" attack of January 16, 1991, on through the next twelve years, 1990–2003: a long war, and a terrible one for the Iraqi people.
On April 3, 1991, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 687, the so-called mother of all resolutions, setting up the Sanctions Committee, dominated by the United States.
It is vital to understand that the first "hot" Gulf War was waged as much against the people of Iraq as against the Republican Guard. The U.S. and its allies destroyed Iraq's water, sewage and water-purification systems and its electrical grid. Nearly every bridge across the Tigris and Euphrates was demolished. They struck twenty-eight hospitals and destroyed thirty-eight schools. They hit all eight of Iraq's large hydropower dams. They attacked grain storage silos and irrigation systems.
Farmlands near Basra were inundated with saltwater as a result of allied attacks. More than 95 per cent of Iraq's poultry farms were destroyed, as were 3.3 million sheep and more than 2 million cows. The U.S. and its allies bombed textile plants, cement factories and oil refineries, pipelines and storage facilities, all of which contributed to an environmental and economic nightmare that continued nearly unabated over the twelve years.
When confronted by the press with reports of Iraqi women carting home buckets of filthy water from the Tigris river, itself contaminated with raw sewage from the bombed treatment plants, an American general shrugged his shoulders and said: "People say, 'You didn't recognize that the bombing was going to have an effect on water and sewage.' Well, what were we trying to do with sanctions: help out the Iraqi people? What we were doing with the attacks on the infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions."
After this first "hot" war in early 1991, with Iraq's civilian and military infrastructure in ruins, the sanctions returned, as an invisible army of what we could call "external occupation," with a vise grip: the intent was to keep Iraq from rebuilding not only its army but the foundations of its economy and society.
Despite the efforts of outfits such as Voices in the Wilderness, embargoes don't draw the same attention as salvoes of cruise missiles or showers of cluster bombs. But they're infinitely more deadly, and the perpetrators and executives deserve to end up on trial as war criminals as richly as any targeting officer in the Pentagon.
By 1998, UN officials working in Baghdad were arguing that the root cause of child mortality and other health problems was no longer simply lack of food and medicine but lack of clean water (freely available in all parts of Iraq prior to the Gulf War) and of electrical power, now running at only 30 per cent of the pre-bombing level, with consequences for hospitals and water-pumping systems that can be all too readily imagined.
Many of the contracts vetoed at the insistence of the U.S. by the Sanctions Committee were integral to the repair of water and sewage systems. By some estimates, the bombings from the Gulf War inflicted nearly $200 billion worth of damage to the civilian infrastructure of Iraq. "Basically, anything with chemicals or even pumps is liable to get thrown out," one UN official revealed.
The sanctions, then, served as a pretext to bring this hidden war home to the Iraqi people, to "soften them up" from the inside, as one Pentagon official put it. The same trend was apparent in the power supply sector, where around 25 per cent of the contracts were vetoed. This meant not only were homes without power, but also hospitals, schools, the infrastructure of everyday life.
But even this doesn't tell the whole story. UN officials referred to the "complementarity issue," meaning that items approved for purchase would be useless without other items that had been vetoed. For example (as CounterPunch reported at the time) the Iraqi Ministry of Health ordered $25 million worth of dentist chairs. This order was approved by the Sanctions Committee, except for the compressors, without which the chairs were useless and consequently gathered dust in a Baghdad warehouse.
These vetoes served as a constant harassment, even over petty issues. In February 2000 the U.S. moved to prevent Iraq from importing 15 bulls from France. The excuse was that the animals, ordered with the blessing of the UN's humanitarian office in Baghdad to try to restock the Iraqi beef industry, would require certain vaccines which (who knows?) might be diverted into a program to make biological weapons of mass destruction.
For sheer sadistic bloody-mindedness, however, the interdiction of the bulls pales beside an initiative of the British government, which banned the export of vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and yellow fever on the grounds that they too might find their way into the hands of Saddam's biological weaponeers. It had been the self -exculpatory mantra of U.S. and British officials that "food and medicine are exempt from sanctions." As the vaccine ban shows, this, like so many other pronouncements on Iraq, turns out to be a lie.
Indeed, the sanctions policy was always marked by acts of captious cruelty. Since 1991, the U.S. and Britain slapped their veto on requests by Iraq for infant food, ping-pong balls, NCR computers for children's hospitals for blood analysis, heaters, insecticide, syringes, bicycles, nail polish and lipstick, tennis balls, children's clothes, pencil sharpeners and school notebooks, cotton balls and swabs, hospital and ambulance radios and pagers, and shroud material.
But the prolonged onslaught on the Iraqi people by the sanctions did not mean that direct military attack stopped in March of 1991. Indeed, though it received scant attention in the press, Iraq was hit with bombs or missiles an average of every three days since the ceasefire that purportedly signaled the end of the first Gulf War. Its feeble air defense system was shattered and its radars were jammed and bombed; its air force was grounded, the runways of its airports were repeatedly cratered; its navy, primitive to begin with, was destroyed. The nation's northern and southern territories were occupied by hostile forces, armed, funded and overseen by the CIA.
Every bit of new construction in the country was scrutinized for any possible military function by satellite cameras capable of zooming down to a square meter. Truck and tank convoys were zealously monitored. Troop locations were pinpointed. Bunkers were mapped, the coordinates programmed into the targeting software for bunker-busting bombs.
Iraq after the Gulf War wasn't a rogue state. It was a captive state. This daily military harassment was the normal state of play, but there were also more robust displays of power. In June of 1993, Bill Clinton okayed a cruise missile strike on Baghdad, supposedly in response to an alleged and certainly bungled bid by Iraqi agents to assassinate George Bush the first on his triumphal tour of Kuwait.
Twenty-three cruise missiles were launched at Baghdad from two ships in the Persian Gulf. With deadly imprecision, eight of the missiles hit a residential suburb of Baghdad killing dozens of civilians, including one of Iraq's leading artists, Leila al-Attar.
Then in December of 1998 another raid on Baghdad was launched, this one timed to divert attention from the House of Representatives' vote on the question of Clinton's impeachment. This time more than 100 missiles rained down on Baghdad, Mosul, Tikrit, and Basra, killing hundreds. Clinton's chief pollster, Stan Greenberg, imparted the welcome news that the bombings had caused Clinton's poll numbers to jump by 11 points. When in doubt, bomb Iraq.
The message was not lost on Bush. In late February of 2001, less than a month into office, Bush let fly with two dozen cruise missiles on Baghdad, a strike that Donald Rumsfeld described as an "act of protective retaliation." And alongside these attacks the CIA was busy sponsoring assassination bids and, with sometimes comical inefficiency, trying to mount coups against Saddam Hussein.
After five years of sanctions Iraq was in desperate straits. The hospitals filled with dying children, while medicines necessary to save them were banned by the U.S. officials in New York supervising the operations of the Sanctions Committee. Half a million children had died in the time span. The mortality rates were soaring with terrifying speed. The infant mortality rate had gone from 47 per 1,000 in 1989 to 108 per 1,000 in 1996. For kids under five the increase in the rate was even worse, from 56 per 1,000 in 1989 to 131 per 1,000 in 1996. By 1996 the death count was running at 5,000 children a month, to which Madeleine Albright made the infamous comment, "we think the price is worth it."
One might think this carefully planned and deadly onslaught on a civilian population, year after year, surely was retribution enough for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. But what allowed the ultra-hawks in Washington to press for another hot war on Iraq was Saddam's personal survival as Iraqi dictator. Though the aims of the war party were much broader, the brazen survival of Saddam was always the pretext.
On July 8, 1996, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies sent a strategy memo to Israel's new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Grandly titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" (the realm in this instance being Israel), the memorandum had among its sponsors several notorious Washington characters, some of them accused more than once down the years of being agents of influence for Israel, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.
Among the recommendations for Netanyahu were these:
... roll-back some of [Israel's] most dangerous threats. This implies a clean break from the slogan "comprehensive peace" to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power....
Change the nature of [Israel's] relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self-defense into all Palestinian areas....
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions.
Within a few short months this strategy paper for Netanyahu was being recycled through the agency of a Washington bucket shop called the Project for a New American Century, which was convened by William Kristol with infusions of cash from the right-wing Bradley Foundation. The PNAC became a roosting spot for a retinue of DC neocons, headlined by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz.
On the eve of Clinton's 1998 State of the Union address, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz sent Clinton a letter on PNAC stationery urging the President to overhaul radically U.S. policy toward Iraq. Instead of the slow squeeze of sanctions, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz declared that it was time for Saddam to be forcibly evicted and Iraq reconstructed along lines favorable to U.S. and Israeli interests. The UN be damned. "We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the cold war," the letter blared.
In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim above all at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power. ... American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.
In all likelihood, the strategy outlined in the letter was aimed not at Clinton, the lame duck, but at Gore, who Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, et al. believed might be more receptive to this rhetoric.
They had reason for hope. One of the PNAC's members was James Woolsey, former CIA head and long-time Gore advisor on intelligence and military matters. And it worked. As the campaign season rolled into action Gore began to distance himself from Clinton on Iraq. He embraced the corrupt Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, indicted the Bush family for being soft on Saddam and called for regime topple.
Had Gore been elected he likely would have stepped up the tempo of military strikes on Iraq within weeks of taking office.
After seizing power, the Bush crowd didn't have to wait long to draw Iraqi blood. Less than a month after taking office, cruise missiles pummeled Baghdad, killing dozens of civilians. Then came the attacks of 9/11. Just hours into that day of disaster, Rumsfeld convened a meeting in the war room. He commanded his aides to get "best info fast. Judge whether good enough to hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only U.B.L." – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden. "Go massive." Notes taken by these aides quote him as saying: "sweep it all up. Things related and not." The notes were uncovered by David Martin of CBS News.
The preparations for overthrowing Saddam began that day, under the pretense that Saddam was somehow connected to bin Laden's Wahhabite kamikazes. Rumsfeld knew then that the connection was illusory, and, despite lots of bluster and digging, it didn't become any more substantial over the next year and a half.
In the months that preceded the second "hot" war, started on March 19, 2003, many a theory was advanced for the prime motive of the war party. Was it the plan of the pro-Israel neocon hawks? Was it all about oil and (a sub-variant) because Saddam was insisting on being paid for his oil in euros? Was it, in the wake of 9/11, a peremptory message about U.S. power (this is the current White House favorite)? Was it essentially a subject change from the domestic economic slump?
The answer is the essentially unconspiratorial one that it was a mix. Bush's initial policy in his first fumbling months in office was far from the chest-pounding stance of implacable American might that it became after 9/11 changed the rule book. 9/11 is what gave the neocons their chance, and allowed them to push forward and eventually trump the instincts of a hefty chunk of the political and corporate elites.
For many in these elites, the survival of Saddam Hussein was a small blip on the radar screen. For a résumé of what preoccupied these elites, here's a useful account from Jeffrey Garen, who was Clinton's first under secretary of commerce for international trade, writing in Business Week:
The biggest issues the administration faced were not military in nature but competition with Japan and Europe, financial crises in Latin America and Asia, negotiations over the North American Trade Agreement, and the establishment of the World Trade Organization and China's entrance into it. In Washington's eyes, the policies of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO were bigger issues than the future of NATO. The opening of Japan's markets was more critical than its military posture in Asia. The rating that Standard & Poor's gave to Indonesia was of greater significance than sending our military advisers there. We pushed deregulation and privatization. We mounted massive trade missions to help U.S. companies win big contracts in emerging markets. Strengthening economic globalization became the organizing principle for most of our foreign policy. And American corporations were de facto partners all along the way.
That's a fair account of how the agenda looks, from the imperial battlements. Run the show as best you can, but don't rock the boat more than you have to. Acting too blatantly as prime world gangster, dissing the Security Council, roiling the Arab world, prompting popular upheavals in Turkey, all counted as boat-rocking on a dangerous scale. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Neo-Conned! Again by D.L. O'Huallachain, J. Forrest Sharpe. Copyright © 2007 IHS Press. Excerpted by permission of IHS Press.
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