Socialist Worker

What is the truth on Iraq's weapons?

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1791

The US government is unleashing a flood of lies to pave the way for attacks on Iraq. We are told that Iraq threatens the world with weapons of mass destruction. But a US State Department official revealed four weeks ago that the US wants war even if Iraq allows weapons inspectors in. He said of discussions between Iraq and United Nations officials over inspections, 'We will not take yes for an answer.'

US president George W Bush claims that the 11 September attacks justify his widening 'war on terror'. There is no evidence that Iraq was in any way involved in the destruction of the World Trade Centre.

An unsourced story appeared in some newspapers last October that Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers on 11 September, had met an Iraqi intelligence agent in the Czech Republic. The Czech police themselves dismissed the story in January. US politicians and the press suggested Iraq was responsible for the spread of anthrax in the US last year.

Now even the FBI agrees it was probably the work of a former US military scientist. All the evidence also suggests that any capacity for 'weapons of mass destruction' Iraq ever had has been destroyed. Until August 1998 Scott Ritter was chief inspector of the United Nations Special Commission, the arms inspectors sent into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War. He said in 1999, 'From a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses no meaningful weapons of mass destruction.'

Ritter can in no sense be described as 'soft' on the Iraqi regime. He revelled in gung-ho confrontations during his time in Iraq. Another former inspector, Raymond Zilinskas, wrote in February 1998: 'Ninety five percent of the inspectors' work proceeds unhindered. 'Although it has been theoretically possible for the Iraqis to regain such weapons since 1991, the duplicity would have been risky and expensive, and the probability of discovery very high.'

What is certain is that Iraq does not have the kind of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that the US and its allies have. Israel, for example, has over 200 nuclear warheads aimed at Arab cities.


No better than Saddam

US LEADERS are divided about how to launch war against Iraq. Some are calling for a full-scale invasion. Others believe the 'Afghan model'can work in Iraq. That is devastating aerial bombardment coupled with support for a local military force similar to the Afghan Northern Alliance.

The US does not want to see a popular rising by ordinary Iraqis. It fears that could spark similar uprisings against other repressive regimes in the Middle East which are allied to the US, or to gains for neighbouring Iran, which is also on Bush's hit list.

So the US wants to replace Saddam Hussein with another strongman who will keep the brutal regime intact but tilt it towards the US and its oil companies. The Iraqi 'oppositionists' the US is courting are every bit as repressive as the regime they oppose.

AHMED CHALABI is the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the main Iraqi umbrella group sponsored by the US. He is a multi-millionaire banker who left Iraq in 1958 after the fall of the pro-Western British-installed monarchy. He made a fortune running the third largest bank in Jordan in the 1980s.

He had to leave that country in the boot of a car in 1989, facing charges of embezzling tens of millions of dollars. The US Congress passed the 'Iraq Liberation Act' in 1998 pledging $97 million, mainly to Chalabi's organisation.

Chalabi is, however, from the 55 percent of the population of Iraq who are followers of the Shia version of Islam, which is also the religion of Iran. He has little support from the Sunni Muslim elites in central Iraq who have always dominated its government since Britain set the state up at the end of the First World War.

GENERAL NIZAR AL KHAZRAJI is one of about 50 Iraqi army officers who have defected to the West. All of them oversaw bloodshed and torture while in Iraq. Khazraji himself was chief of staff of the army between 1988 and 1990. That was the period in which the army gassed the Kurdish village of Halabja. Kurdish groups independent from the US have called for Khazraji to be prosecuted for war crimes.

BRIGADIER HAJIB AL SALIHI is a former chief of staff of the Republican Guard. This is the force that is routinely described in the Western press as responsible for the worst atrocities in Iraq.

KURDISH OPPOSITION: the two main Kurdish groups in northern Iraq-the PUK and the KDP-have conspired against each other and with every neighbouring state while leaving Kurds in poverty. The two leaders, Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani, have each made deals with Saddam Hussein to attack the other.


Gas attacks that the West ignored

'SADDAM Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction against his own people.' That cry is coming from those who now want to see cluster bombs and Cruise missiles rain down on ordinary Iraqis. It is the most sickening attempt to justify war. When Saddam Hussein was known to have used chemical weapons, Western leaders remained silent.

The US backed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980. It then threw its support behind Iraq at decisive points in the eight-year war that followed. This was in order to defeat the Iranian regime which opposed US interference in the Middle East.

Iraq launched chemical weapons attacks on Iranian troops in 1984. A few weeks later the US reopened its embassy in Iraq and began supplying Saddam Hussein with satellite intelligence on Iranian troop deployments. In March 1988 the Iraqi military used poison gas to kill 5,000 villagers at Halabja as part of a drive to crush resistance by the Kurdish population in the north of the country.

The only government in the world to condemn the atrocity was Sweden. A month later Iraq unleashed gas attacks on Iranian troops who had occupied the Fao peninsula. Western governments said nothing, and the US continued attacking Iranian oil installations. Three months later the US shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing all 290 civilians on board. Iran sued for peace the following month.

Major figures around the US government at the time included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. They now lead the current US drive for war.


Inspectors a sham

The media repeats the lie that Iraq expelled United Nations weapons inspectors in December 1998. In fact they were withdrawn in order to allow US president Bill Clinton to unleash massive bombing. Inspectors provided the target list, which involved sites which had nothing to do with weapons.

Clinton had by then decided that sanctions, which have killed over 500,000 Iraq children, would stay as long as Saddam Hussein did. For the US the weapons inspections were part of war.

Former arms inspector Scott Ritter admits in his book Endgame that he also passed information from inspections to Israeli intelligence. And Ritter describes how the head of the UN arms inspectorate, Richard Butler, held regular meetings with US government officials and coordinated his teams' activities with US agencies.

In November 1998 US government official Sandy Berger 'immediately met with Butler to coordinate inspection schedules in the framework of all but inevitable military strikes'.


War means bombing children like these

OVER 500,000 Iraqi children have died from the effects of sanctions. Millions are living in poverty. Yet Bush and Blair now want to bomb them.

Stop the War Coalition

STOP BUSH AND BLAIR'S WAR

NO TO ATTACKS ON IRAQ RALLY

Tuesday 26 March, 7.30pm

Speakers: TONY BENN, BOB CROW RMT union, Louise christian civil rights lawyer, MARK STEEL writer, BRUCE KENT CND, SHAHEEDAH VAWDA Just Peace Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, London WC1 Phone 07951 235 915

www.stopwar.org.uk Email office@stopwar.org.uk


DEMONSTRATE-DON'T START WARS

Saturday 30 March, 12 noon, Hyde Park, London

Called by CND and supported by the Stop the War Coalition


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Article information

Features
Sat 16 Mar 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1791
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