Lies, Damn Lies, and Terror Warnings
By John Pilger
The American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that no final decision has been taken, Royal Air Force and U.S. fighter-bombers have secretly changed tactics and escalated their patrols over Iraq to an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets.
American and British bombing of Iraq has increased by 300 per cent. Between March and November, according to Ministry of Defense replies to MPs, the RAF dropped more than 124 tons of bombs.
From August to December, there were 62 attacks by American F-16 aircraft and RAF Tornadoesan average of one bombing raid every two days. These are said to have been aimed at Iraqi air defenses, but many have fallen on mostly populated areas, where civilian deaths are unavoidable.
Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no different, in principle, from the German Luftwaffes bombing in Spain in the 1930s as precursor to its invasion of Europe.
The bombing is a secret war that has seldom been news. Since 1991, and especially in the last four years, it has been unrelenting and is now deemed the longest Anglo-American campaign of aerial bombardment since World War Two.
The U.S. and British governments justify it by claiming they have a UN mandate to police so-called no-fly zones which they declared following the Gulf War. They say these zones, which give them control of most of Iraqs airspace, are legal and supported by UN Security Council Resolution 688.
This is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any Security Council resolution. To be sure about this, I asked Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was Secretary General of the United Nations in 1992 when Resolution 688 was passed. The issue of no fly zones was not raised and therefore not debated: not a word, he said. They offer no legitimacy to countries sending their aircraft to attack Iraq.
In 1999, Tony Blair claimed the no fly zones allowed the U.S. and Britain to perform a vital humanitarian task in protecting the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the ethnic Marsh Arabs in the south. In fact, British and American aircraft have actually provided cover for neighboring Turkeys repeated invasions of northern, Kurdish Iraq.
Turkey is critical to the American world order. Overseeing the oilfields of the Middle East and Central Asia, it is a member of NATO and the recipient of billions of dollars worth of American weapons and military equipment. It is also where British and American bombers are based.
A long-running insurrection by Turkeys Kurdish population is regarded by Washington as a threat to the stability of Turkeys democracy that is a front for its military, which is among the worlds worst violators of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish Kurds have been displaced and an estimated 30,000 killed. Turkey, unlike Iraq, is our friend.
The U.S./UK charge is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any Security Council resolution.
In 1995 and 1997, as many as 50,000 Turkish troops, backed by tanks and fighter aircraft, occupied what the West called Kurdish safe havens.
They terrorized Kurdish villages and murdered civilians. In December 2000, they were back, committing the atrocities that the Turkish military commits with immunity against its own Kurdish population.
For joining the U.S. coalition against Iraq, the Turkish regime is to be rewarded with a bribe worth $6 billion. Turkeys invasions are rarely reported in Britain. So great is the collusion of the Blair government that, virtually unknown to Parliament and the British public, the RAF and the Americans have, from time to time, deliberately suspended their humanitarian patrols to allow the Turks to get on with killing Kurds in Iraq.
In March last year, RAF pilots patrolling the no fly zone in Kurdish Iraq publicly protested for the first time about their enforced complicity in the Turkish campaign. The pilots complained that they were frequently ordered to return to their base in Turkey to allow the Turkish air force to bomb the very people they were meant to be protecting.
Speaking on a non-attributable basis to Dr Eric Herring, a senior lecturer in politics at Bristol University and a specialist on Iraqi sanctions, the pilots said whenever the Turks wanted to attack the Kurds in Iraq, RAF patrols were recalled to base and ground crews were told to switch off their radarso that the Turks targets would not be visible. One British pilot reported seeing the devastation in Kurdish villages caused by the attacks once he had resumed his patrol.
American pilots who fly in tandem with the British, are also ordered to turn their planes around and turn back to Turkey to allow the Turks to devastate the Kurdish safe havens.
Youd see Turkish F-14s and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with munitions, one pilot told the Washington Post. Then theyd come out half an hour later with their munitions expended. When the Americans returned to Iraqi air space, he said, they would see burning villages, lots of smoke and fire.
The Turks do no more than American and British aircraft in their humanitarian guise. The sheer scale of the Anglo-American bombing is astonishing, with Britain a very junior partner. During the 18 months to January 1999 (the last time I was able to confirm official U.S. figures) American aircraft flew 36,000 sorties over Iraq, including 24,000 combat missions.
The term combat is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no air force and no modern air defenses. Thus, combat means dropping bombs or firing missiles at infrastructure that has been laid to waste by a 12-year-old embargo.
The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment, described this eloquently when it reported that the U.S. faced a genuine dilemma in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few targets remain. Were down to the last outhouse, one U.S. official protested.
I have seen the result of these attacks. When I drove from the northern city of Mosul three years ago, I saw the remains of an agricultural water tanker and truck, riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel from a missile, a shoe and the wool and skeletons of about 150 sheep.
Last year, RAF pilots patrolling the no fly zone publicly protested about the Turkish campaign.
A family of six, a shepherd, his father and his wife and four children, were blown to pieces here. It was treeless, open country: a moonscape. The shepherd, his family and his sheep would have been clearly visible from the air.
The shepherds brother, Hussain Jarsis, agreed to meet me at the cemetery where the family is buried. He arrived in an old Toyota van with the widow, who was hunched with grief, her face covered. She held the hand of her one remaining child, and they sat beside the mounds of earth that are the four childrens graves. I want to see the pilot who killed my children, she shouted across to us.
The shepherds brother told me, I heard explosions, and when I arrived to look for my brother and family, the planes were circling overhead. I hadnt reached the causeway when the fourth bombardment took place. The last two rockets hit them.
At the time I couldnt grasp what was going on. The truck was burning. It was a big truck, but it was ripped to pieces. Nothing remained except the tires and the license plate.
We saw three corpses, but the rest were just body parts. With the last rocket, I could see the sheep blasted into the air.
It was not known if American or British aircraft had done this. When details of the attack were put to the Ministry of Defense in London, an official said, We reserve the right to take robust action when threatened. This attack was significant, because it was investigated and verified by the senior United Nations official in Iraq at the time, Hans Von Sponeck, who drove there especially from Baghdad.
He confirmed that nothing nearby resembled a military installation.
Von Sponeck recorded his finding in a confidential internal document entitled, Air Strikes in Iraq, prepared by the UN Security Section (UNOHCI).
He also confirmed dozens of similar attacks and these are documentedattacks on villages, a fishermens wharf, nearby a UN food warehouse. So regular were the attacks that Von Sponeck ordered UN relief convoys suspended every afternoon.
For this, Von Sponeck, a senior United Nations civil servant with a distinguished career all over the world, made powerful enemies in Washington and London.
The Americans demanded that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, sack him and were surprised when Annan stood by his chief representative in Iraq.
However, within a few months, Von Sponeck felt he could no longer run a humanitarian program in Iraq that was threatened both by the illegal bombing and by a deliberate American policy of blocking humanitarian supplies.
He resigned in protest, just as his predecessor, Denis Halliday, a Deputy Under Secretary of the UN, had done. Halliday called the U.S. and British-driven embargo genocidal.
It is now clear from official documents that the United States is preparing for a possible slaughter in Iraq. The Pentagons Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations says that unless Baghdad falls quickly it has to be the target of overwhelming firepower. The resistance of Stalingrad in World War Two is given as a lesson.
Cluster bombs, deep penetration bunker bombs and depleted uranium will almost certainly be used. Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction. Coated on missiles, and tank shells, its explosive force spreads radiation over a wide area, especially in the desert dust.
Professor Doug Rokke, the U.S. army physicist in charge of cleaning up depleted uranium in Kuwait told me, I am like most people in southern Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation in my body. What were seeing now, respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers are the direct result.
The controversy over whether or not its the cause of these problems is a manufactured one. My own ill-health is a testament to that.
The most devastating weapon of mass destruction was briefly in the news last week when UNICEF, the United Nations Childrens Fund, released its annual State of the Worlds Children report.
The human cost of the American-driven embargo of Iraq is spelt out in statistics that require no comment.
Iraqs child mortality rate has nearly tripled since 1990 to levels found in some of the worlds least-developed countries, said the report. The countrys regression over the past decade is by far the most severe of the 193 countries surveyed. UNICEF said that a quarter of Iraqi babies were now underweight and that more than a fifth were stunted from malnutrition.
Under the rules of the embargo, Iraqis are allowed less than £100 per person with which to sustain life for an entire year. To date, the cost of the current, secret and illegal British bombing of Iraq is a billion pounds.
The Mirror, UK, December 20, 2002