From Fort Russ
February 23, 2017
From Fort Russ
February 23, 2017
Once again, US-led coalition targets local infrastructure in Syria causing damage to civil life instead of eliminating terrorism. Yet, marches worldwide continue to support redundant causes that ignore lives of millions besieged in their own homes because of terrorism.
The city under the terrorist colonization of DAESH for over three years now is disconnected from the entire country living under the mercy of the radical group.
According to SANA, Warplanes of the US-led “international coalition” destroyed the old and new Raqqa bridges and the drinking water lines causing the stopping of pumping water for the entire city of Raqqa.
Local and media sources said that warplanes affiliated to the US-led coalition on Friday morning launched a raid on the new and old Raqqa bridges in Raqqa city, destroying them totally.
The sources added that the airstrikes also targeted the main water line which supplies the city of Raqqa with drinking water which led to cutting off drinking water to the whole city.
In the northern countryside of the province, the sources said that the airstrikes also destroyed the bridges of al-Kalta and al-Abbara completely.
The blockade of water from Wadi Barada to 5 million people in Damascus is taking an interesting turn. The U.S. and UK financed White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it. This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a organized campaign under U.S. command. The campaign is designed to block utilities to government held areas as revenge for the liberation of east Aleppo.
As we described it yesterday:
After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.
Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.
The Syrian government is ready to send repair teams to rehabilitate the water flow to the millions of civilians in Damascus. But access to the site is denied and the Syrian army is now trying to push al-Qaeda and its allies away from it.
Curiously some “civil” groups today offered access under several (not agreeable) conditions:
Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha – 2:10 AM – 3 Jan 2017W
adi Barada statement: we will let teams to fix water spring if SAA-Hezb stop attack, siege lift & monitor ceasefire by intl observers
EHSANI2 @EHSANI22 – 6:43 AM – 3 Jan 2017
Offer by opposition to trade access to water source for #Damascus with halting of military operations by army
Here is the attachment to both tweets. Note who signed it:
Check the logos of the undersigning organizations You will probably recognize the middle one in the second row. Here it is magnified.
And here is the original of that logo taken directly from the website of the Syrian Civil Defense organization aka The White Helmets:
The organizations who make an offer to lift the water blockade of Damascus obviously think they have the power to do so. They then must also be held responsible for keeping the blockade up. They must also have intimate relations with the al-Qaeda fighters who currently occupy the damaged water facilities.
The U.S. and UK government created and paid White Helmets are “impartially”, “neutrally” and “for all Syrians” blocking the water supply to 5 million Syrians in Damascus. U.S. military and CIA officers run the “operations rooms” in Jordan and Turkey that direct the insurgency.
This increases suspicion that the blockade is part of an organized response by the enemies of Syria to the recent liberation of east-Aleppo. As noted yesterday:
This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts of lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.
Even after 14 days of water crisis in Damascus the “western” media are not reporting about the al-Qaeda blockade of water for 5 million Syrians. We can be sure that not a word will be written by them about this illegal hostages taking of millions of civilians in Damascus by their favorite propaganda organization White Helmets.
From Fort Russ
It became clear that regime change could only be achieved by a military invasion.
After a protracted public relations campaign—demonizing Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders, attempting to link Iraq to the Sept. 11 attack, fabricating claims that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” including nuclear weapons—U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003.
How many times will Americans allow this to go on?
This article was originally published in 2011 by Liberation School website.
You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own,” President Barack Obama told hundreds of cheering U.S. troops in Baghdad on April 7, 2009, his first visit to the country after being elected. He added that now, “Iraqis need to take responsibility for their country.
For brazen hypocrisy and condescension, these words—repeated in essence by virtually all the top civilian and military officials of the Bush and Obama administrations over the past eight years—are hard to beat.
The implication is that before the U.S. invasion and occupation in 2003, Iraq was not able to “stand on its own,” and now the Iraqi people must be prodded to “take responsibility for their country.” This theme is really no different than the racist propaganda used by the colonial powers to justify their murderous exploitation in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East over hundreds of years.
The real history of Iraq is deliberately distorted or completely ignored by the corporate media and officials here for the simple reason that it utterly demolishes this colonialist narrative.
July 14, 2016, marks the 58rd anniversary of the Iraqi Revolution. The 1958 revolution ended four decades of British domination and marked the beginning of Iraqi independence. The fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, reduced Iraq once more to colonial status, now under U.S. rather than British rule.
Iraq before the 1958 revolution
Iraq is one of the oldest continually inhabited centers of human civilization, long known as Mesopotamia or the “land between the [Tigris and Euphrates] rivers.” Modern Iraq came into being in the aftermath of World War I (1914-18), a war of empires vs. empires. At the end of the war, the winners took over the colonies of the losers. Britain and France took over much of the Middle East from the defeated Turkey-based Ottoman Empire, and divided it up between them.
The former Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul became the new British “mandate” of Iraq. The British were also awarded Palestine by the just-established “League of Nations.” France was given “mandates” over present-day Lebanon and Syria. All were in reality colonies. The mandate system was justified on the supposed basis that the Arab people needed the tutelage of the British and French to prepare for “self-rule.”
The Arab people did not see it that way. In 1919 and 1920, revolts swept the region, from Egypt (also under British control) to Iraq, where the heaviest fighting took place, leaving thousands dead including the British commanding general. In 1925, another uprising, centered in the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq, was answered by the British dropping poison gas from planes on the population.
Because of the fierce resistance to colonial domination by Arabs and Kurds alike, Britain granted Iraq its nominal independence in 1932. But it was independence in name only. The country was ruled by a British-installed monarchy, and continued to be occupied by British military bases.
Intifadas (uprisings) against the rule of British and their Iraqi collaborators, like Nuri as-Said, continued and intensified after the end of World War II.
To fortify their domination, the British promoted the development of a class of big landowners in Iraq, who exported grain, dates and other products. The peasants, who constituted the majority of the population, were treated as serfs–bound to the land and living in utter poverty.
In the 1950s, life expectancy in Iraq was 28-30 years. Infant mortality was estimated at 300-350 per 1,000 live births. By comparison, infant mortality in England at the time was around 25 per 1,000 births.
Illiteracy was more than 80 percent for men and 90 percent for women. Diseases related to malnutrition and unsanitary water were rampant.
A statistical survey at the time showed income of less than 13 Fils—4 cents—per day for individual peasants in Diwaniya, one of the more prosperous agricultural regions.
According to a 1952 World Bank report, the average yearly income for all Iraqis was $82. For peasants it was $21. (“Revolution in Iraq,” Society of Graduates of American Universities in Iraq, 1959)
Neocolonial and landlord rule was maintained by a ruthless secret police/military regime that tortured, murdered and imprisoned countless thousands of Iraqis. Still, the resistance was strong, as evidenced by the fact that Iraq was placed under martial law 11 times between 1935 and 1954, for a total of nine years and four months.
Underlying Iraq’s extreme poverty was this simple fact: oil-rich Iraq owned none of its own oil.
The United States and Iraq
U.S. involvement in Iraq began after World War I. U.S. corporations were granted 23.75 percent of Iraq’s oil as a reward for having entered World War I on the side of the victorious British and French empires. British, French and Dutch oil companies also each received 23.75 percent shares of Iraq’s petroleum resources. The broker of the deal, an Armenian oil baron named Calouste Gulbenkian, got the remaining five percent.
In the latter stages of World War II (1939-1945), the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, dominated by big banking, oil and other corporate interests, were determined to restructure the post-war world to ensure the dominant position of the United States.
The key elements in their strategy were: 1) U.S. military superiority in nuclear and conventional weaponry; 2) U.S. domination of newly created international institutions like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and establishment of the dollar as the world currency; 3) control of global resources, particularly oil.
In pursuit of the latter, the U.S. government was intent on taking control of certain strategic assets of the British Empire, the war-time alliance between the two countries notwithstanding. Among those assets was Iraq.
And the people of eastern Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, etc., etc., etc.
The Anglo-American bombing of water supplies, sanitation plants, and the power plants that are necessary for their functioning, constitutes a biological attack.
This article was first published by the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2003 in the immediate wake of the war on Iraq
The only property of micro-organisms that enables them to be used as biological weapons is their capacity to cause infectious disease. People may be deliberately exposed to pathogenic micro-organisms in a variety of ways but it is the fact of exposure rather than the method of delivery that determines whether disease will result. Because the ability to cause infection is the defining aspect of a biological weapon, then any malevolent intervention that causes infection in the civilian population constitutes an attack with a biological weapon.
Micro-organisms are necessary but not sufficient in the causation of infectious disease and other causal factors are required for infection to occur.1 Host resistance is an important factor in the chain of causation leading to clinical infection.2 Whether or not exposure to a micro-organism causes disease depends on whether or not the exposed individual is susceptible or immune. Dietary deficiency of key vitamins and micronutrients increases susceptibility to a number of infectious agents and also increases the likelihood that infectious disease will result in severe illness and death. Vitamin A and zinc deficiency impair the ability of the immune system to fight infection and the ability of mucous membranes to resist infection.2,,3 Indeed, the decline in infectious diseases in high-income countries is more readily attributed to increased host resistance from better nutrition than to a reduction in the virulence of the relevant micro-organisms. It follows that any malevolent intervention that impairs the ability of a civilian population to resist infection constitutes biological warfare.
In public health practice, prevention involves removing one or more of the components in the chain of causation leading to disease. From an epidemiological perspective, causation and prevention are two sides of the same coin.1 For this reason, a consideration of the actions that can prevent infectious disease from occurring after exposure to a biological agent can help to identify the other components in the causal chain. For example, following an attack with anthrax, spores can be washed off with soap and water and oral antibiotics can be given to prevent infection from developing.4 If an anthrax attack occurred in situations where antibiotics were unavailable then some cases of anthrax infection would be attributable to their absence. Consequently, any malevolent intervention that destroys a population’s ability to respond effectively to infectious diseases constitutes a biological attack.
These rather mundane scientific considerations have important implications for how biological warfare is defined in the context of the current conflict in Iraq. First, it implies that the Anglo-American bombing of water supplies, sanitation plants, and the power plants that are necessary for their functioning, constitutes a biological attack. Standard texts on biological weapons point out that three factors must be taken into account in selecting a biological agent for a biological attack: ease of manufacture, stability, and lethality. Despite widespread public concern about the use of anthrax, smallpox, and plague, all three are difficult to manufacture and disseminate. Anthrax requires sophisticated methods of manufacture and virulent stock is hard to find. The only confirmed sources of smallpox are in the US and Russia, and plague is both difficult to obtain and difficult to weaponize.4
On the other hand, the microbial agents that can cause devastating epidemics of diarrhoea are ubiquitous, lethal, and are readily disseminated by destroying the civilian sanitation infrastructure by bombing or otherwise destroying water sanitation and sewage disposal systems. These actions will ensure that food and water supplies to the civilian population will quickly become contaminated. Because the faeces of infected people will further contaminate the water supply and because there will be extensive person-to-person transmission this strategy has the potential to result in extensive, population-wide, and self-propagating epidemics. The scope for civilian casualties with such an approach is massive in comparison with the use of agents such as anthrax for which there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. Declassified documents from the American Defense Intelligence Agency show that during the 1991 Gulf War, the ‘Allies’ deliberately targeted Iraq’s water supply. Twelve years later, half the water treatment plants are still out of action.5
Second, the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council that have caused widespread dietary deficiencies throughout the civilian population, seriously reducing the ability of the population to resist infection, constitute a form of biological warfare. Micro-organisms that pose little threat to those with intact immune systems can be highly lethal to those with impaired immunity as a result of micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition. For example, life-threatening diarrhoea can be caused by ubiquitous microbes such as Escherichia coli that reside in the gastrointestinal tract and common respiratory viruses can cause highly lethal pneumonia. As a result of the sanctions against Iraq there has been a more than doubling of the infant and under-5 mortality rates, with most of the excess child deaths being due to diarrhoea and pneumonia exacerbated by malnutrition.6 The imposition of economic sanctions in Iraq is as much a form of biological attack as was the distribution of anthrax in the US mail system.
Third, the destruction of the Iraqi population’s ability to respond to outbreaks of infectious disease by restricting the import of essential medicines and medical equipment, by destroying the public health infrastructure, and by overwhelming the capacity of the healthcare system to respond effectively constitutes a further biological attack.
Fourth, having destroyed Iraq’s water and sanitation systems, leaving the civilian population highly vulnerable to major epidemics of infectious disease, the failure to restore the public health infrastructure and provide safe water supplies to homes and hospitals constitutes a biological attack. In this context, recent reports that reconstruction contracts may be awarded to the US company Bechtel are a particular cause for concern. In 1999, a Bechtel subsidiary took over the control of the public water system in Cochabamba in Bolivia and within weeks doubled and tripled the water rates for some of the poorest families in South America resulting in massive public demonstrations.7 Also, we must not forget that in the case of Afghanistan, despite the Bush administration’s claim that ‘the US will not walk away from the Afghan people’, the administration subsequently forgot to ask for any money for humanitarian and reconstruction costs in its 2003 budget.
The full extent of civilian casualties resulting from the war on Iraq will become clear in the coming weeks and months. An effective humanitarian response must be mounted urgently to reduce the death toll from this appalling episode in the history of biological warfare.
Defying the Sanctions: A Flight to Iraq
January 2001 [written 8 months before 9-11]
Upon disembarking from the Olympic Airways plane that brought me to Iraq in November 2000, I could see some of the effects of the Western-imposed sanctions. What was once a busy international airport is now a desolate strip. Two lonely planes sit as if abandoned on the vast tarmac. There are no airport personnel to speak of, no baggage carts or utility vehicles, not even any visible security. On a wall inside the empty terminal is a handmade sign in Arabic and imperfect English; it reads: “Down USA.” A large portrait of Saddam Hussein gazes down upon us. His image can be found along the road to the city, in the hotel, and on various public buildings.
I am part of an international delegation of Greeks, Britons, Canadians, and Americans. Included are journalists, peace advocates, and members of the Greek parliament. Margarita Papandreou, former first lady of Greece and devoted political activist, leads the group. It is an especially moving moment for her. It has been her dream for ten years to be able to fly directly to Baghdad. And ours is the first flight to Iraq by a state-owned commercial airline from the West in defiance of US/UN sanctions. The Iraqi officials who greet us do not try to hide how pleased they are about our arrival. “Your presence is a statement against the inhuman means used against us. Iraq is a prosperous country capable of fulfilling the basic needs of the people but we are being prevented from doing so by the UN sanctions,” one of them says. “Feel free to go anywhere and speak to anyone.”
Most Americans do not know that Saddam Hussein was put into power by a CIA-engineered coup to stop the Iraqi revolution—which he did by massacring the communists and the left-wing of his own Baath party. But in time Saddam proved to be a disappointment to his mentors in Washington. Instead of becoming the comprador ruler who opened his country to free-market capital penetration on terms that were thoroughly favorable to Western investors, he devoted a substantial portion of Iraq’s export earnings to human services and economic development. In 1972, Iraq nationalized its oil industry, and was immediately denounced by US leaders as a “terrorist” nation.
Before the six weeks of air attacks known as the Gulf War (which ended in February 1991), Iraq’s standard of living was the highest in the Middle East. Iraqis enjoyed free medical care and free education. Literacy had reached about 80 percent. Most Iraqi youth were educated up through secondary school. University students of both genders received scholarships to study at home and abroad. In the eyes of Western leaders, Saddam was that penultimate evil, an economic nationalist, little better than a communist. He would have to be taught a lesson. His country needed to be bombed back into the Third World from which it was emerging.
The high explosive tonnage delivered upon Iraq during the Gulf War was more than twice the combined Allied air offensive of World War II. Within the first few days of bombing, there was no running water in the country. More than 90 percent of Iraq’s electrical capacity was destroyed. Its telecommunication systems, including television and radio stations, were demolished, as were its flood control, irrigation, sewage treatment, water purification, and hydroelectic systems. Farm herds and poultry farms suffered heavy losses. US planes burned wheat and grain fields with incendiary bombs, and hit hundreds of schools, hospitals, rail stations, bus stations, air-raid shelters, mosques, and historic sites. Factories that produced textiles, cement, chlorine, petrochemicals, and phosphate were hit repeatedly. So were the refineries, pipelines, and storage tanks of Iraq’s oil industry. Iraqi civilians and soldiers fleeing Kuwait were slaughtered by the thousands on what became known as the “Highway of Death.” Also massacred were Iraqi soldiers who tried to surrender to US forces on a number of occasions. In all, some 200,000 Iraqis were killed in those six weeks. Nearly all US planes, Ramsey Clark notes, “employed laser-guided depleted-uranium missiles, leaving 900 tons of radioactive waste spread over much of Iraq with no concern for the consequences to future life.”
Our delegation got a grim glimpse of the war’s aftermath. We visited the Al-Amerya bomb shelter where over four hundred civilians, mostly women and children were incinerated by two US missiles. Blackened ossified body parts, including a child’s hand can still be seen melded into the ceiling. Along one wall is the irradiated shadow of a woman holding a baby in her arms, a ghoulish fresco created by the heat blast of the missiles. The shadow of another figure can be seen on the cement floor. The shelter has been made into a shrine, with candles, plastic flowers, and pictures of the victims. The guide notes that US reconnaissance saw civilians using the shelter on a nightly basis during the early days of the bombing, yet it was still chosen as a target.
In the ten years of “peace” since February 1991, an additional 400 tons of explosives have been dropped on Iraq, three hundred people have been killed and many hundreds wounded. The United States and United Kingdom, with the participation of France, imposed a no-fly zone over the northern region of the country, ostensibly to protect the Kurds. This newly found humanitarian concern did not extend to the Kurds residing on the Turkish side of the border. The next year, another no-fly zone was imposed in the south, reputedly to protect Shiite settlements, effectively dividing the country into three parts. By 1998, the French had withdrawn from both zones, but US and British air attacks on military and civilian targets have continued almost on a daily basis, including strafing raids against Iraqi agricultural developments. Baghdad’s repeated protests to the United Nations have gone unheeded. Since 1998, three members of the Security Council—Russia, China, and France; and various nonpermanent members have condemned the raids as illegal and unauthorized by the Security Council.
To drive the point home to us, on the second day of our visit, US warplanes fired four missiles at the village of Hmaidi in the southern province of Basra, one of which struck the Ali Al-Hayaini school, wounding four children and three teachers. Several homes were also hit.
Picking Up the Pieces
Despite the years of bombings and the even greater toll on human life taken by the sanctions, visitors to Baghdad do not see a city in ruins. Much of the wreckage has been cleared away, much has been repaired. In our hotel there is running water throughout the day, hot water in the morning. Various streets in Baghdad are lined with little stores, surprisingly well-stocked with household appliances, hardware goods, furniture, and clothes (much of which has a second-hand look).
We see no derelicts or homeless people on the streets of Baghdad, no prostitutes or ragged bands of abandoned children, though there are occasional youngsters eager to shine shoes or solicit spare change. But even they seem to be well-fed and decently clothed. Obviously, despite all the destruction wrought by the sanctions, Iraq still has not undergone sufficient free-market “structural adjustment.”
A British member of our delegation who has made more than a dozen trips to Iraq over the past decade sees some changes for the better. A few years ago, the cars all looked like “death traps”; tires were patched beyond recognition, windows were cracked, and doors were falling off the hinges, she tells me. Now the Iraqis seem to have procured vehicles that are in better repair. In addition, large swaths of the city used to be shrouded in complete darkness; now there are lights just about everywhere, though mostly on the dim side. There are more shops with more goods, “although 70 percent of the people can’t buy anything.” Still, “people used to feel hopelessly isolated and now there seems to be more hope and better morale,”[and the worst was to come in two years — Shock and Awe] she concludes.
The Silent Cries of Children
Not everyone shows better morale. It is said that the most depressed officials in Iraq can be found in the Ministry of Health, not surprisingly given the tragedies they confront. Aside from the 200,000 Iraqis slaughtered during the Gulf War, an additional 1.5 million civilians have died since 1991 as a result of the sanctions, according to UNICEF reports and the Red Cross, many from what normally would be treatable and curable illnesses. Of these victims, 600,000 are children under 5 years of age. Maternal mortality rates have more than doubled, and 70 percent of Iraqi women suffer from anemia. Given the tons of depleted uranium used during the Allied attacks, cancer rates have skyrocketed: the childhood leukemia rate is now the highest in the world. Most of the leukemia increase is in southern Iraq where the bombing was heaviest.
We visit a children’s hospital in Baghdad. The familiar sight of skeletal-looking infants, racked with diseases that make it impossible for them to retain or digest nutrients are no longer evident. Such dying children still can be found in parts of Iraq but not at this hospital. Instead we encounter something equally ominous: children suffering from acute forms of multiple malignancies. Shrouded mothers stand by the beds like mournful sentinels, their eyes filled with unspoken grief. The journalists, photographers, and TV crews in our delegation descend upon these sad people, clicking and flashing away with that intrusive irreverence that is the press’s modus operandi. A mother weeps quietly against the wall. One of the doomed children smiles up at us—which almost causes me to start weeping.
Things are getting worse, a doctor tells us; more and more children are turning up with leukemia. The medical staff is overwhelmed. One doctor says he sees three hundred patients in three hours: “We cannot treat them properly.” Some of the hospital rooms are lined with incubators that contain what look like premature births. These turn out to be infants who are the products of depleted uranium, born with serious deformities and malfunctions, urgently in need of surgical intervention. The hospital lacks the special instruments needed to operate on infants, not to mention ordinary medications, anesthetics, antibiotics, bandages, intravenous sets, and diagnostic equipment. Iraq’s excellent national health care system, with its universal coverage, is now in shambles because of the embargo.
Things were supposed to get better when the sanctions were eased in 1996, allowing Iraq to make “oil for food” sales. Since then, $32 billion in oil was sold abroad but only $8 billion worth of materials has reached Iraq, less than $5 or $6 a month per person. Another $10 billion has been allocated for “war compensation,” in effect forcing the Iraqis to pay the costs incurred by the UN aggressors when destroying Iraq. Another $11 billion in cash sits in Western banks. Worse still, many essential things needed to rebuild the infrastructure—including the technological, medical, educational, communicational, and industrial systems of the nation—are still not available. Under the deleterious “dual use” doctrine, many vital commodities and materials needed for humanitarian and civilian purposes are banned because they conceivably could also be used by the military: computers, components for electrical transmitters and water pumps, even glycerin tablets needed for heart ailments. (It would take millions of glycerin tablets mixed with nitrogen to make one small explosive.)
The Foreign Minister Speaks
Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tariq Aziz, a calm congenial man, meets with our delegation. [Tariq Aziz died June 5, 2015, in prison, convicted on trumped up charges. His abusive treatment in prison included being denied visitation, adequate food, and access to medication. His imprisonment and death at the hands of the U.S. and “interim” Iraq vassal government are chronicled here] In clear and precise English, he makes the following points: Before 1990, the United Nations had placed sanctions upon only a few nations, such as Rhodesia and South Africa, on a voluntary basis. “It was left to the countries themselves and the world to implement those sanctions or not implement them.” Hence the effects were mild. But since 1990,US leaders with their so-called New World Order have imposed the severest embargo, “encircling Iraq with warships and airplanes that prevent even ordinary trips and ordinary cargoes.” As with the sanctions against Yugoslavia, the minister notes, this policy has created a lot of suffering. “Therefore, when we say that this embargo is an international issue, it’s not just anti-American propaganda. It’s the truth. And it is quit horrid.” The collapse of the Soviet Union has created a different international scene, he adds. With the end of the Cold War, “a new hot war and warm war” has been imposed on many nations, with Iraq as a prime target.
In spite of all the reports made by United Nations agencies themselves “informing the Security Council about the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and the deaths of so many children, and the deterioration of the Iraqi economy,” Aziz reminds us, there is no likelihood of any change in UN policy on sanctions because of the Security Council veto wielded by the United States and Britain. Still the people of Iraq have not been merely passive victims. They have “refused to yield to American pressure and American blackmail.” In addition, there is “the will of other peoples, the free women and men in this world” who refuse to support injustice and imperialism. After ten years, US propaganda “is wearing thin,” and “a lot of facts have become known to the peoples of the world” bringing a dramatic increase in support for Iraq—as measured by the growing number of air flights from various nations in defiance of the sanctions. Not only Iraq but its trading partners have sustained substantial commercial losses because of the ten-year embargo. In 2000, more than 1,500 international companies from forty-five countries participated in the Iraqi trade fair. So, for both moral and legitimate commercial reasons, “the embargo is beginning to crack.”
Ten years ago, concludes Aziz, we were told: history is over; from now on we will live according to the diktat of US leaders in a Pax Americana. And those who do not accept this are “rogue nations.” But US leaders are beginning to realize “that this new imperialism is not working. . . . Despite all its power, the United States is not God. It’s not the Almighty. It’s an imperialist force.” And “when a nation succeeds in refusing the dictate of imperialists, [and] succeeds in preserving its sovereignty, and its independence and dignity, that is an achievement.” Aziz’s closing plea was that we not rely on “the manipulated media” of the United States, Britain and Canada. “One of the basic human rights is that you have the right to make your own judgment, not to buy judgments made by others that might not be honest and true. So I hope that you will use this short visit to know what is going on in this country and what the realities are.”
On the closing day of our trip, members of our delegation lay plans to carry on the battle against sanctions. These include: lobbying the UN Compensation Committee, which refuses to release the $11 billion in Iraqi oil-for-food earnings; joining with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and other NGOs to lobby the UN Security Council; lobbying the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the parliament of the European Union; lobbying elected representatives and religious leaders in various countries; and sending messages through the Internet.
The sanctions wall is not about to crumble but it is showing cracks. In 1998 Scott Ritter, chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq since 1991, resigned and accused the US government of undercutting UN weapons inspectors. Meanwhile US leaders and the press continued to portray Iraq as bent on nuclear aggression, despite the fact that Baghdad cooperated fully with UN inspectors who scoured the country in a vain search for weapons of mass destruction or the capacity to build them.
Also in 1998, Denis Halliday, UN Assistant Secretary General and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, resigned in protest of what the sanctions were doing to that country. In early 2000, Hans von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq and Jutta Burghart, head of UN World Food Program in Baghdad, resigned in protest of the sanctions.
Still, the State Department and the US media continue to blame Saddam, not the sanctions, for the misery endured by the Iraqi people. The claim that sanctions hurt ordinary Iraqis “is outweighed by the sad truth that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep portions of his population in poverty,” intones a Washington Post editorial reprinted in the International Herald Tribune (November 14, 2000). The Iraqi leader, the Post assures us, is a “warmongering dictator” who needs to be contained by a still more severe application of sanctions. Upon being selected as the new US Secretary of State in December 2000, General Colin Powell echoed this position, announcing that he would strive to “reenergize” the sanctions against Iraq.
The Iraqi leadership could turn US policy completely around by uttering just two magic words: “free market.” All they would have to do is invite the IMF and World Bank into Iraq, eliminate free education and free medical care, abolish the minimal food ration that goes to every Iraqi, abolish the housing subsidies and transportation subsidies, and hand over the country’s oil industry to the corporate cartels. To lift the sanctions, Iraq must surrender to the tender mercies of the free-market paradise as Yugoslavia has recently done under the newly minted, Western-sponsored president, Kostunica, and as so many other nations have done. Until then, Iraq will continue to be designated a “rogue nation” by those policymakers in Washington who themselves are the meanest profit-driven, power-mongering rogues on earth.