This article has been reproduced from the Socialist Standard (April 1999), the monthly journal of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
In a letter of November 1998 to Sir John Weston at the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom at the United Nations (U.N.), former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark lambasted the sanctions decimating Iraqi society as a “violation of the Genocide Convention”. Iraq, he argued posed no real threat to the region and the idea that it did was a “false fantasy created by the U.S. to justify its vast military presence in the region, to dominate the oil resources and to contain Islam”.
Weston’s comments were not unique. He was quite simply echoing what others have been saying for some time, most notably Richard Halliday, whose high-profile resignation as head of the U.N.’s humanitarian relief programme in Iraq alarmed the warmongers in Washington and London.
Speaking through the Manchester Guardian in late February, Halliday voiced his belief that the military threat from Iraq was greatly exaggerated, a “cop-out”, before criticising the West for eight years of sanctions that have crippled Iraq far greater than any aerial bombardment endured by the country.
Halliday has pointed out that the sanctions violate the Geneva Convention as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child, that they have seriously disrupted the quality of life in Iraq and debased a general high standard of behaviour practised by the common Iraqi people.
If the bombing of Iraq no longer makes front-page news—the 8 March U.S. attack, for instance, only made page 12 of the Guardian under “News in brief”—then it can well be imagined that the common people elsewhere, particularly in Britain and the U.S., know little or nothing of the 1.2 million children who died as a result of the U.N. sanctions against Iraq between August 1990 and August 1997, or of the 6,000 who continue to die each week as a result of malnutrition and disease.
While the bombing of Iraqi sites has become an almost daily occurrence, the sanctions are the real weapons that continue to blight the lives of the Iraqi people.
Infant mortality rates have increased six-fold since 1996. Fifty percent of the Iraqi population has no access to clean water and the majority exist on a starvation diet, while sanitation has become a luxury.
Iraq’s per capita income has dropped from $2,900 a year to $60 a year and inflation has increased to unparalleled levels. According to the Food & Agricultural Organisation, the price of wheat flour, once part of the staple Iraqi diet, has gone up 1.16 million percent since 1990. The health service is in ruins with surgery often conducted in unsterile conditions and with no anaesthetic because of the embargo on supplies.
Meanwhile the aerial bombardment of Iraqi targets continues apace. Missile attacks are now almost daily occurrences and have been since Operation Desert Fox back in December of last year—incidentally the biggest U.S.A. /U.K. joint attack in the region since the Gulf War eight years ago and one that even the less cynical could not fail to notice came as we were expected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As he accepted his U.S. presidential nomination in 1988, George Bush had this to say:
“This has been called the American Century because in it we were the dominant force for good in the world. Now we are on the verge of a new century and what country’s name will be bear? I say it will be another American Century.”
These words, better than all the cant that has been used to justify U.S. aggression has against Iraq, best sum up the real U.S. mission in the Gulf. The U.S., and Britain for that matter—which never got used to losing its world power status after World War II—are defending no moral high ground. They police the no-fly zones on behalf of no neighbour of Saddam and certainly do not defend U.S. from someone who threatens global peace.
The U.S. attacks are being carried out to remind U.S. of their military prowess and at the bequest of their corporate elite. They are bombing Iraq to remind anyone watching that the 21st century—like the one we are witnessing coming to a close—will be ruled by force and that it will be they, the U.S., who will be calling the shots.
You don’t have to read many books by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and E.S. Herman to realise the U.S. has been, and still is, the number one rogue state this century, bullying its way across the international stage, imposing their will on anyone not tough enough to stand their corner. A cursory look at the black eyes dished out in the past 50 years by the U.S. and its sidekick is enough to tell U.S. which foot the boot will be on in the coming century.
Why Iraq? Well in place of the “Communist threat” what other propaganda framework best serves U.S. interests and kills two birds with one stone? Saddam, as the unpredictable madman the U.S. has conditioned U.S. to believe he is, has to be punished. He thus provides the U.S. with a perfect pretext for keeping the military machine alert on “our” behalf and to further condition U.S. to accept similar U.S.-led responses in the future. Moreover, the U.S. presence gives Washington tighter control over the region’s oil supplies—something the U.S. state department refers to as the “greatest material prize in world history”.
With a world shortage of not only oil but also water predicted for the 21st century, and with both resources high up on the agenda of all Middle East countries, it’s a certainty the coming century will see, if anything, an increased U.S. presence in the region and a more aggressive stance on the international stage.
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