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Between Iraq and a hard place: The truth behind the Iraqi situation

by Rania Masri


Over the past few weeks, the cries for war have been echoed throughout the mainstream media. Democrats and Republicans have united forces in support of military force against the Iraqi people. The mood became reminiscent of the weeks and months prior to the military war against Iraq in January 1991.

The Pentagon coalesced over 200 warplanes in the region and 22,000 troops. It has the Aircraft Carrier Nimitz in the Persian Gulf, and it continues to fly more fighters (B-52s and Stealth bombers) to the region.

What (officially) caused such an uproar? In brief, this current crisis began when the Iraqi government no longer wanted to allow American personnel to participate in the UN Disarmament Inspection Teams (UNSCOM). The stated reason was the belief that some or all of the US personnel on the inspection team were CIA or Pentagon agents, and that these inspectors were negatively dominating the team. The Iraqi government also said that after more than six years of at least partial compliance with UN demands, Iraq should have a timetable for the lifting of the strict economic sanctions. UNSCOM leader Richard Butler responded by removing the entire inspection team. The UN Security Council issued a resolution condemning Iraq's expulsion of the US weapon inspectors and demanding it rescind its decision immediately. The United States administration responded with threats of unilateral military force (more accurately, "military violence") against Iraq. And, for the first time in UN history, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan refused to allow Iraqi Deputy Minister Tareq Aziz the opportunity to voice his grievances to the Security Council.

No serious evaluation and consideration of Iraq's grievances and concerns were made, although their concerns had reasonable validity. "The failure of the US press to even ask whether the [Iraqi] charges are true, and if they are, to discuss the ethical implications of using an instrument of the UN for American intelligence or operational activities, should illustrate how pliant and unquestioning our so called free press has become," commented Eduardo Cohen, a media-analyst of US policy in the Gulf.

When discussing Iraqi charges about CIA operatives on UN inspection teams, Jackson Diehl, Assistant Editor for Foreign News of the Washington Post said on C-Span, "US Inspectors could be using the team to seek. . .information that could be critical to any plans to launch an assassination attempt against [Saddam Hussein]." (It is important to remember that assassinating the leader of any country is illegal according to US law.) With regards to the U-2 spy planes, Diehl stated that these flights "could easily be providing critical information to the Pentagon for further bombing mission."

In addition, covert agents in the inspection team would also be positioned to create or manipulate evidence to prolong the embargo indefinitely should that be a goal of US policy. None of this information was ever printed in the Washington Post.

Instead of questioning Iraq's charges, or evaluating the legal and moral implications of additional military violence against the Iraqi people, most reporters and commentators were uncritical and supportive of US military action. Concern about who might be killed was rarely, if ever, voiced.

And what is the reasoning behind the US administration's zeal for military violence? The US administration wants to stop Iraq's potential ability to manufacture "weapons of mass destruction." The chemical and biological weapons in Iraq were destroyed, by UNSCOM, by 1994. What the US administration wants to further destroy is the capability to produce such weaponry. For example, Washington wants to stop Iraq's capability of manufacturing VX gas. But the ingredients of VX gas are the same as those for pesticides. Iraq has to somehow prove it is 'incapable' of making or using pesticides. This is a ridiculous demand, given any country's need for pesticides in agriculture.

Although the Iraqi government had chemical and biological weapons in 1990, it did not use them in the military Gulf War, whereas the US dropped more than 350 tons of depleted Uranium on the Iraqi people. Depleted Uranium is the radioactive by-product of the uranium enrichment process. As described by the US Army Environmental Policy Institute, depleted Uranium is a "low-level radioactive waste, and therefore, must be deposited in a licensed repository." Instead, 350 tons of this "inherently toxic" material were "deposited" on Iraqi soil. While the United States is exporting these radiological weapons to other countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait, the US condemns Iraq for possibly having the capability to produce basic biological weaponry.

If the US is sincere about securing the region from "weapons of mass destruction," then it must also demand that Israel and Turkey get rid of their nuclear weapons, as well as their biological and chemical arsenal. Anything less would be hypocrisy and domination.

Turkey and Israel are prime aggressors in the region. Turkey is invading northern Iraq, and brutally killing the Iraqi Kurds. Israel, which is in gross and direct violation to dozens of UN Resolutions, is illegally occupying approximately 15% of Lebanon, the Golan Heights of Syria, and the West Bank in Palestine. Almost daily, Israel bombards Lebanon and terrorizes Palestinians. (Last week, Israeli soldiers used live ammunition against Palestinian children in two separate incidents, and killed a nine year-old and seven year-old boy.) Clearly, it is not Iraq that is threatening the region, but Israel and Turkey.

For more than six and a half years, Iraq has been complying, more than partially if not completely, with UN resolutions. The Iraqi government has already complied with at least 90% of these illegal and arbitrary resolutions. Instead of easing, or lifting, the siege on the Iraqi people, the UN continues to insist on strengthening the deadly blockade on the people of Iraq. The UN, under the strong leadership of the US, recently passed Resolution 1134, calling for more sanctions on Iraq. Furthermore, the US administration has stated that it will not lift the blockade so long as the Iraqi regime remains. Such a demand by the US is contrary to UN resolutions against Iraq.

President Clinton says he wants to stop Iraq from manufacturing so-called weapons of mass destruction. But the seven-year blockade against the Iraqi people is the real weapon of mass destruction. According to UN reports, more than one million Iraqis, including more than 750,000 children under the age of five, have lost their lives, and 5,000 children are dying every month.

President Clinton states that he is worried about the future of the children of the 21st century, yet he is currently killing hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq by his obstinate support of the illegal sanctions on the 22 million Iraqi people. Until when will the US continue to support a siege on millions of innocent people? Until when will the deadly, arbitrary sanctions be imposed? How many more children will die?

Protests were held, in more than 30 cities worldwide, against the US threat of military violence and the continuing blockade on the Iraqi people. In Raleigh, approximately 50 people, picketing on Hillsborough Street, demanded the implementation of peace and justice: No to War; No to Sanctions.

The zeal for war, for military violence, can be felt once again, and once again, vigils and protests for peace were held in the face of the pro-war rhetoric. In more than 30 cities worldwide, protests were held against the US threat of military violence and the continuing blockade on the Iraqi people. Thousands of people worldwide demanded an end to US/UN aggression against the Iraqi people. Thousands united - from Occupied Palestine, England, Japan, Italy, Finland, South Africa, Canada, and numerous cities in the US from coast to coast - to call for peace and justice.

The accusations, the threats, and the ultimatums are heard from almost every US official. And the prayers continue. Any day, we can still awake to the news that the US has bombed Iraq, or is bombing Iraq. And more Iraqis will die. Even without the bombs, the Iraqis are dying. More than 5000 children under the age of five are dying every month as a result of the sanctions. One child dies every ten minutes in Iraq.

Black ribbons need to emerge onto the streets now, black in mourning for the souls of the innocent people that are dying from the sanctions. I imagine the streets filled with black ribbonsthe university campuses, the suburbs, and the downtown streetsnationwide, and throughout every city in the world. Black ribbons on every tree until the war ends, until the sanctions are lifted.

  Rania Masri is coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition.  

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