The bombing of Iraq last weekend was soaked in hypocrisy. Bush and Blair talk of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and his evil rule. But this week the US was involved in joint military exercises with the one certain nuclear power in the Middle East-Israel. The Israeli government is now headed by Ariel Sharon, a war criminal. He was responsible for the murder of 2,000 Palestinians in 1982. They were raped, knifed or shot as they washed their clothes and cooked their food in refugee camps in West Beirut.
Sharon led the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 during which 20,000 people died. The US will overlook virtually any crime by an Israeli government because it is part of an alliance to protect oil supplies for the multinationals. The state of Israel was founded on the basis of the forced expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes and their land. They have been dispersed in rotting refugee camps ever since.
But there are no words of condemnation from George Bush and Tony Blair. There aren’t any ‘no-fly zones’ over Israeli air space. Instead the US has given Israel over $80 billion in aid since 1974. The US and Britain are also silent about repression and the lack of democracy in Middle Eastern states such as Qatar and Kuwait because they support the West. Bush and Blair claimed last weekend’s bombing was to protect the ‘no-fly zones’ over northern and southern Iraq.
These were established by the US and its allies at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, supposedly to protect the Kurds in the north and Shia Muslims in the south. But Bush and Blair are silent about the bombing, persecution and repression of Kurds unleashed by the Turkish state.
The Turkish state has launched at least 12 bombing raids against Kurds inside Iraq. It has destroyed 3,000 villages, killed 30,000 people and created three million refugees as a result of its 15-year war against the Kurds. But Turkey is another Western ally, and a loyal member of NATO. Shia Muslims in the south and Kurds in the north rose up against Saddam Hussein at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
They wanted to overthrow the ‘evil tyrant’ the US and Britain told us that war was all about. But in another sick display of their hypocrisy, the US and Britain sat back and watched while Saddam Hussein brutally crushed both risings. Whatever they say today, they preferred Saddam Hussein in office to the prospect of a popular rising.
The US dropped vast amounts of weaponry made from the deadly depleted uranium during the Gulf War. The depleted uranium entered the lungs of Iraqi soldiers who were the first to become ill.
Tomatoes, onions, potatoes and meat for local people were drenched in uranium dust. There is a fourfold increase in cancer today in the south of Iraq, and children are dying of leukemia and lymphoma cancer.
‘We will return you to the pre-industrial age.’
JAMES BAKER, then US Secretary of State, January 1991
Saturday 17 March Assemble 11am, Hyde Park Speakers: Tony Benn, George Galloway, Afif Safieh, Bruce Kent and others End the occupation, support the right to return
Called by the Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Saddam Hussein is a dictator, but one who was built up by the very Western powers that say today they want to bring him down. They provided the deadly gas that he used against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. They armed both sides during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s-which saw one million dead.
And when Iraqi diplomats first hinted to US officials about invading Kuwait, they said they would turn a blind eye. In 1990 the US and its allies fell out with Saddam only because they thought he had got too big for his boots, and because at the start of 1990 the US was ready to seize an opportunity to prove itself.
The USSR was collapsing. The US wanted the world to know it was now top dog, the dominant power everywhere. We were told the war in 1990-1 was to restore democracy to Kuwait. But Kuwait did not have democracy in the first place. It was a war for oil and power.
Then President George Bush wrote in a secret memo, ‘Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to US national security.’ And Robert Kimmett, a US State Department official, said in 1991 that the aim of the bombing was to secure the ‘free, uninterrupted flow of oil from the Gulf’.
Between 16 January and 27 February 1991 80,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Iraq, the equivalent of seven Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered. US military planners later admitted to the Washington Post that ‘some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create post-war leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself’.
1922: Iraq set up as a monarchy under British control.
1958: Monarchy overthrown by nationalist army officers headed by Karim Qasim.
1962: Kasim overthrown by CIA-backed coup. Its leaders include Saddam Hussein.
1979: Saddam Hussein becomes Iraqi leader.
1980: Start of Iran-Iraq war. During the war US shoots down Iranian airliner.
August 1990: UN begins sanctions against Iraq after Iraq takes over Kuwait.
September 1990: US-led alliance begins assembling invasion force for Iraq.
January 1991: Aerial bombardment of Iraq begins.
February 1991: Ground forces invade Iraq.
1992: ‘No-fly zone’ imposed by US, Britain and France.
1993: US launches cruise missile attack on Iraq.
1996: No-fly zones are extended.
1998: US and Britain bomb Iraq.
2001: Latest bombing.
Iraq has the second largest proven oil reserves in the Middle East. It controls 11 percent of the world’s oil supply. The US State Department noted back in 1945 that oil ‘has historically played a larger part in the external relations of the United States than any other commodity’.
It also said that the Arabian peninsula and the Persian Gulf were ‘a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history’.
Bush and Blair tell us they bombed Iraq because they care about standing up to dictators who unleash death and destruction. But they are themselves responsible for terrible death and destruction. Since 1991 sanctions against Iraq have killed 5,000 to 6,000 Iraqis every month. Iraq used to have modern schools. It used to have a modern health service.
The infant mortality rate was one of the lowest in the world. Today it is among the highest. Cholera and typhoid are endemic because of the dumping of raw sewage in the waterways.
Hospitals do not have electricity and basic medicines. The UN’s Sanctions Committee has vetoed baby food, rice, water purification chemicals, medical gauzes, swabs, syringes, disposable surgical gloves, bandages, stethoscopes, dialysis equipment, drugs for angina, blankets, nail polish, lipstick, soap, sanitary towels, deodorants, toilet paper, shampoo, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, ping-pong balls and badminton rackets.
Dennis Halliday, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, resigned in 1998 because of sanctions. He said, ‘We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral.’
Halliday’s successor, Hans von Sponeck, then resigned as well. Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, was asked on television in 1996 about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of sanctions. She said, ‘We think the price is worth it.’
Two inspiring strikes show the way forward
We shouldn’t let them hide from the truth