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After a decade of devastation...
Is Iraq the next target in Bush's war?

January 11, 2002 | Page 5

ELIZABETH SCHULTE reports on the Bush administration's plans for a future phase of the "war against terrorism"--against Iraq, a country already devastated by a decade of U.S. war.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the September 11 attacks, Washington sounded the charge against Iraq. The Bush administration started looking for any excuse to go after Saddam Hussein--from conjuring up secret meetings between al-Qaeda members and Iraqi intelligence officers to linking anthrax letters sent to Washington to Iraqi weapons arsenals.

Then again, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz didn't really care about evidence. "We need to destroy this regime that wants to destroy us and terrorize its neighbors," Wolfowitz told reporters. "Living with him is the most dangerous course to take. Give war a chance."

And Wolfowitz wasn't the only one. Al Gore's former running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), filled the airwaves with demands for Saddam's immediate ouster.

Other voices mask their support for a war on Iraq by proclaiming their "concern" for the Iraqi people. "If there is any joy at all in the business of war, it is the securing of a better peace," former Wall Street Journal correspondent Geraldine Brooks wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "Some in the Bush Cabinet want to strike Iraq to safeguard the West from future terrorism. That is a reason. But there is an even better one. It should be done for the sake of the Iraqis."

Statements like these are an outrage--because the terrible misery suffered by Iraq's people today is mostly the making of the U.S. government.

Before the U.S. government gave Saddam the title of the "new Hitler"--in order to prepare the ground for the 1991 Gulf War--it supported Saddam's regime during its eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s.

But when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S. changed its tune. George Bush Sr. claimed that the U.S. was responsible for defending "democracy" in Kuwait--a repressive monarchy--and teaching Saddam a lesson.

Beginning in January 1991, the U.S. bombarded Iraq for a month and a half, dropping 88,500 tons of cluster bombs and other explosives. Tens of thousands were killed, and the country was reduced to rubble.

Just to make sure the message was clear, the U.S. ignored Saddam's agreement to a UN resolution calling for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait--and launched a bloody ground war. The six-day attack ended in a gruesome slaughter, with U.S. planes relentlessly bombing retreating Iraqi troops on the road from Kuwait to Basra--a stretch that became known as the "Highway of Death."

According to news reports, today's Bush gang is planning for an attack on Iraq to promote an uprising that topples Saddam's regime. But it's worth remembering how the 1991 Gulf War ended.

With the war drawing to a close, Bush Sr. called on the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam. An uprising did take place, both among Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the south.

But U.S. forces stood by as Iraqi troops put down these rebellions. In fact, the U.S. even gave Iraqi generals permission to violate "no-fly" restrictions--and use helicopter gunships to put down the revolts.

The U.S. wanted a takeover that they could control, not a popular uprising--so they gave the green light for a crackdown to the very forces that they had defeated.

The Gulf War officially ended at the end of February 1991. But a silent and even more deadly war of economic sanctions continues to this day. Some 200 children die every day in Iraqi because of the economic embargo, carried out in the name of the United Nations, but at the insistence of the U.S. government.

The sanctions ban materials that could have a "dual use" for the Iraqi military--an enormous list that includes chlorine and other chemicals for water treatment, ambulances, pencils, fertilizer, pesticides, water pumps and more. The direct result is that Iraqi citizens die regularly of treatable diseases and malnutrition.

What's more, under the UN's oil-for-food program, which was supposed to help prevent some of the suffering, only two-thirds of the revenue from the sale of Iraqi oil is allocated for humanitarian supplies. The rest goes as compensation to the multibillionaire Kuwaiti royal family and Western oil companies--plus UN "expenses."

And recently released Defense Intelligence Agency documents show that the U.S. government knew full well what sanctions would mean. A 1991 document titled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities" states, "Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply…Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."

About a year ago, even members of Congress had begun to become queasy over reports of the devastating impact of sanctions. "More than nine years of the most comprehensive economic embargo imposed in modern history has failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power or even ensure his compliance with international obligations, while the economy and people of Iraq continue to suffer," read a letter to President Clinton from 70 members of the House.

What a difference a year makes. The Bush administration is now using the September 11 attacks as an excuse to do whatever it wants around the world.

Before the "war against terror," activists had succeeded in showing the horror of U.S. sanctions on the Iraqi people. We have to continue to expose Washington's lies--and organize to stop their war on terrorism from carrying into Iraq.

Biological weapons made in the USA

IRAQI PRESIDENT Saddam Hussein may be on Bush's most wanted list today. But he was on a different list in the 1980s. A list of countries to peddle weapons to.

During most of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran--which took about 1 million lives on each side--the U.S. funded both countries. When it looked like Iran might win, the U.S. tilted toward Iraq.

Washington likes to criticize Saddam for using chemical weapons "on his own people." But two months after Saddam used chemical weapons against the Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, Bechtel Corp.--one of the most politically connected companies in the U.S.--won a contract to build a petrochemicals plant where Iraq planned to produce mustard gas and fuel-air explosives.

The campaign to frame Saddam

THE BUSH administration is working overtime to come up with evidence against Iraq for its "war against terrorism."

Early on, the Pentagon issued reports claiming that one of the September 11 hijackers had a meeting in the Czech Republic with a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence officer. But even the British government, which has backed the U.S. war on Afghanistan to the hilt, says that it hasn't seen any evidence to back up this claim.

The administration also tried to link the anthrax letter attacks in the U.S. to Iraq's supposed "arsenal." But the Pentagon had to admit that the anthrax used in the letters sent to Democratic senators after September 11 came from the U.S. military itself.

Of course, this is what a former UN weapons inspector, responsible for disarming Iraq after the Gulf War, was suggesting all along. "Fears that the hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind these attacks are based on rumor and speculation that, under close scrutiny, fail to support the weight of the charge," Scott Ritter wrote in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

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