Socialist Worker

Besieged

Issue No. 1845

THE BOMBING of Basra put 100,000 children under the age of five at imminent risk of killer diseases from unsafe water, says the United Nations Children's Fund. Those lives and many more hang by a thread as the US and Britain turn to the cruellest and crudest form of warfare, the siege.

Two weeks ago US and British forces put out of action the Wafa Al Qaed water treatment plant, which supplied over 60 percent of the city's needs. Bombing also wrecked electricity cables, shutting down pumping and treatment facilities at the plant. The Red Cross commented, 'There are reports of people drinking river water that has sewage flowing in it. That is an alarming sign. For the children, the elderly and the more vulnerable, it could be serious.'

This is biological warfare. It is the deliberate creation of the conditions for humanitarian catastrophe through measles, diarrhoea, respiratory infection and other diseases. Bush and Blair are saying that if the people of Basra or, in the future, Baghdad want food and water then they must surrender, cooperate and greet those who bombed them as liberators.

If they don't, they can thirst and starve. The entire US invasion plan for Iraq depended on civilian suffering. US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld expected civilians to take on Iraqi troops and security forces while US and British troops sped through the empty desert. Now there is Iraqi resistance. So the order is to besiege civilian areas and use food and water as a weapon.

Before the war, sanctions meant some 16 million Iraqis were dependent on the UN's Oil for Food programme for food, medicine and other essentials. Some 16,000 tonnes of food were shipped and distributed every day. The invading forces tried to manipulate the arrival of a meagre aid shipment aboard the Sir Galahad last week.

The Sun claimed they had been welcomed by cheering Iraqis. In fact only tame sections of the media were allowed near the dock. It brought in, at most, 500 tonnes of supplies for Iraqis. It would take an average of 32 Sir Galahads a day to match the pre-war programme. No such dramatic shipments are in place. And much of the space on the Sir Galahad last week was stuffed with military supplies.

As Nick Guttmann of Christian Aid wrote last week, 'So what will be the priority in the minds of generals faced with the need to deploy a new armoured division or land dozens of aid shipments? We've all answered harder ones than that.'


The thirsty don't get the water

SPECIALIST contractors from Texas received thousands of gallons of water last Thursday to put out oil well fires in southern Iraq. The nearby town of Safwan has not had water supplies for a week. People have been living on handouts and rainwater.

Meanwhile secret documents leaked from the US State Department's 'future of Iraq' office show plans to privatise Iraq's state-owned oil company.


Market WAS hit by the 'coalition'

THE US and British government's are still claiming that the bombing of Shu'ala market could have been the result of malfunctioning Iraqi air defence equipment. Shards from the fuselage of the missile were recovered by a local resident, and have been found to contain a code number, MFR 96214 09. This was reported by Robert Fisk in the Independent on Sunday. He wrote: 'The missile was guided by computers and that vital shard of fuselage was computer-coded. It reads: 30003-704ASB 7492. The letter 'B' is scratched and could be an 'H'. It is followed by a further code which arms manufacturers usually refer to as the weapon's 'Lot' number. It reads: MFR 96214 09.'

Dr Glen Rangwala, an academic at Cambridge University, has received an analysis that MFR is code in defence contracts for 'manufacturer'. 96214 is a manufacturer identification number, a so-called 'Cage Code'. The number is allocated to Raytheon, a Texas-based arms manufacturer. Dr Rangwala says, 'There seem to be four possibilities: that the shard did not come from the missile that hit Shu'ala marketplace. That Robert Fisk is having us on. That the Iraqis smuggled a missile in from Texas. That the missile was made in Texas and fired by US forces.'

Journalists were quickly on the scene after the bombing and Fisk found the shard without the Iraqi authorities knowing.


The myths of precision

US TOMAHAWK cruise missiles have actually missed Iraq entirely. In the first ten days of the war five of the missiles hit Saudi Arabia, two hit Turkey and three landed in Iran. You'd be hard pressed to discover that last week in the media, which was faithfully repeating Blair's spin about the 'inaccuracy' of Iraq's air defences.


Terrible toll of bombing

THE US and Britain rained down 8,700 bombs on the people of Iraq over the first 12 days of the war. Bombs ripped through two crowded markets in poor, working class areas of Baghdad last week, killing and wounding over 80 people. The Independent's Robert Fisk described the carnage at Al Shaab market on Wednesday:

'The severed hand on the metal door, the swamp of blood and mud across the road, the human brains inside a garage, the incinerated, skeletal remains of an Iraqi mother and her three small children in their still-smouldering car.' British forces are now targeting the city of Basra. The International Committee of the Red Cross said preliminary inspections revealed over '150 casualties in each of the city's hospitals'.

Other victims of the bombing raids last week include 26 civilians killed by cluster bombs in an attack near Najaf and 35 in the city itself. Some 28 people were killed in Anbar, six in Karbala and three in Babel. Then the US bombed civilian facilities in Baghdad - the telephone exchanges and television centre.


Support for the war falls

SECTIONS OF the media say the anti-war movement has collapsed. The supposed evidence is a poll in the News of the World that showed a 2 percent rise in the number of people who say 'Britain and America should see the war through to a successful conclusion' - though it is unclear what that means.

Two other polls revealed a fall in support for the war. One in the Telegraph on Monday showed the number thinking the war was right had fallen from 59 percent to 54 percent in the previous week. The number saying it was wrong rose to 38 percent.

The next day a poll in the Guardian showed support for the war down to 52 percent with 34 percent against the war, a rise of 4 percent. Newspaper polls are far from reliable. But they do not show the war is getting more popular.


The poison factory lie

KURDISH AND US forces seized the area held by the Islamist group Ansar Al Islam in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq on Sunday. They did not find an 'Iraqi poisons HQ' or 'proof' of a link to a ricin plot, which the Sun proclaimed on its front page on Monday.

The BBC's Robin Denslow said he saw no evidence of weapons of mass destruction and that only a couple of bottles had been 'taken away for analysis'. Nothing had come from that analysis by Tuesday. And the Kurdish and US forces that took the area did not once reach for chemical weapons protection suits.


We're paying

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last week increased the government's budget for war on Iraq from £1.75 billion to £3 billion. He says he will 'spend what it takes' on attacking Iraq. The US has already pumped £50 billion into the invasion. The amount Britain spends on the war is likely to rise. Economics commentator Hamish McRae says:

'If you take as a rule of thumb that we are supplying one fifth of the troops, and therefore will be paying one fifth of the bill, the figure looks close to £10 billion. Assume a longer war and the costs rise.'


Salute your new governor

LEAKED PLANS this week show the US wants conquest and then a colonial-style administration for Iraq. The proposed government will consist of 23 ministries, each headed by an American.

The man in overall charge would be the arms-dealer and 'Star Wars' weapons enthusiast, retired general Jay Garner. He would be advised by Ahmed Chalabi. He is head of the Iraqi National Congress, an outfit named and promoted by one of the Pentagon's favourite PR firms, the Rendon Group.

Chalabi is also a member of the imperialist Project for a New American Century. He hasn't been to Iraq for 47 years. Garner is an ideological soulmate of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.

He retired from the military in 1997 to become President of SY Technology, an arms contractor specialising in missile defence systems. The company soon landed contracts as part of the Star Wars program that Pentagon whistleblower, former Lt Colonel Baker, alleged were procured through Garner's influence.

SY Technology was also awarded a $1.5 billion contract this year to provide logistics services to US special operations forces. It also has contracts to help build Patriot missile systems for Israel and Kuwait. Garner has said, 'A strong Israel is an asset that American military planners and political leaders can rely on.'


US's poison shells

BRITISH soldiers donned chemical warfare suits last week to protect themselves from radioactive depleted uranium in US weapons. Journalist Audrey Gillan reports how soldiers put on the suits in order to recover the body of Corporal Matty Hull whose vehicle was fired on by US planes.

Depleted uranium was used in the last Gulf War and is the most likely cause of a staggering increase in deadly cancers in Iraq. So British soldiers need chemical suits to protect themselves from US munitions, but defence secretary Geoff Hoon can claim similar suits in Iraqi barracks are 'categorical' proof Iraq is going to use chemical weapons. He was forced to admit last week that the evidence was 'obviously not conclusive' proof of this.

But he didn't say the US has shipped CS gas and pepper spray to the Gulf. Donald Rumsfeld said in February that US forces could use such weapons. The Pentagon has spent years researching 'non-lethal' chemical weapons. Most are of the type the Russian army used to end last year's siege in a Moscow theatre when it gassed over 120 people to death.


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Sat 5 Apr 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1845
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