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It was a one-sided slaughter

December 13, 2002 | Page 4

THE 1991 Gulf War against Iraq wasn't really a war at all. It was a one-sided slaughter in a country that was no match for the massive armed might of the U.S. military and its many allies.

During the month-and-a-half-long war, the U.S. military dropped 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq and Kuwait--the most concentrated aerial bombardment in the history of warfare. Despite all the hype about "smart bombs," 70 percent of all U.S. bombs missed their targets. In fact, "[p]recision-guided bombs, the icon of Pentagon briefings and the military's preferred image of the Persian Gulf War, made up barely 7 percent of the U.S. tonnage dropped on Iraqi targets," the Washington Post later reported.

Tens of thousands of civilians died in the air war. More than 300 civilians were killed in one attack alone--when two Cruise missiles hit the Amiriya bomb shelter on February 13, 1991. Many of the people in the shelter were killed from the direct impact of the missile. But others burned to death by a combination of fire and scalding water from burst pipes. To this day, the Pentagon claims that the shelter was a "legitimate military target."

U.S. bombs also destroyed essential Iraqi infrastructure to provide for civilian needs, particularly safe water and electricity--not as an accident, but as part of an explicit strategy. "Amid mounting evidence of Iraq's ruined infrastructure and the painful consequences for ordinary Iraqis, Pentagon officials more readily acknowledge the severe impact of the 43-day air bombardment on Iraq's economic future and civilian population," Barton Gellman of the Washington Post wrote a few months after the war.

"Though many details remain classified, interviews with those involved in the targeting disclose three main contrasts with the administration's earlier portrayal of a campaign aimed solely at Iraq's armed forces and their lines of supply and command. Some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create postwar leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself. Planners now say their intent was to destroy or damage valuable facilities that Baghdad could not repair without foreign assistance…Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as 'collateral' and unintended, was sometimes neither."

No one knows how many retreating Iraqis were slaughtered on the infamous "Highway of Death." U.S. forces openly boasted about a "turkey shoot" as they repeatedly strafed the line of people and vehicles traveling along the highway from Kuwait into Iraq.

"From the ground, I witnessed the savage results of American air superiority: tanks and troop carriers turned upside down and ripped inside out; rotten, burned, half-buried bodies littering the desert like the detritus of years--not weeks--of combat," one U.S. Gulf War veteran recently wrote of the aftermath of the attack. "The tails of unexploded bombs, buried halfway or deeper in the earth, served as makeshift headstones and chilling reminders that at any moment, the whole place could blow."

The media briefly showed the horrific images from the slaughter. But the reports were buried under pressure from U.S. officials.

The corporate media have also ignored the story of how more than 1 million rounds of depleted uranium (DU) shells were used by the U.S. in Iraq and Kuwait. The Pentagon uses these outrageous munitions because they can pierce tanks and other thick surfaces--but the shells leave behind a toxic disaster. "Today, nearly 12 years after the use of the super-tough weapons," the Settle Post-Intelligencer recently reported, "the battlefield remains a radioactive toxic wasteland."

"Iraqi physicians say depleted uranium is responsible for a significant increase in cancer and birth defects in the region. Many researchers outside Iraq, and several U.S. veterans' organizations agree; they also suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of veterans."

There's no reason to believe that Bush's new war on Iraq wouldn't produce similar atrocities. In December 1998, when the U.S. military was once again bombing Iraq, the Air Force dropped millions of propaganda pamphlets. One showed a picture of the "Highway of Death"--littered with burned vehicles and dead bodies--and warned: "If you threaten Kuwait, the coalition forces will destroy you again."

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