Sunday, September 05, 2010

Blair, the US, the UK and Saddam's invasions and massacres - the full truth

Iraqi Kurds collect the bodies of those gassed by Saddam's forces at Halabja in 1988. The full truth on this massacre and many others - and what the US and British governments and Tony Blair did and didn't do relating to them - is never mentioned by Blair or his supporters. The full facts show the British and American wars on Iraq have never been about protecting Iraqis from being massacred.

Tony Blair and his supporters have been in over-drive since the publication of his plan for Iraq War Disaster II – War on Iran – sorry, I mean his book ‘The Journey’.  (1) – (4).

The factual inaccuracies in Blair’s claims on Iraq and Iran and the lack of logic in his arguments are so numerous that i’ll be making a separate post to cover them

For instance Keith Gilmour, in a letter published in several newspapers (e.g The Independent, The Herald and The Scotsman) begins:

No interview with Tony Blair is complete without exhaustive attempts to secure new and deeper regrets and apologies over the Iraq war.

And these cannot just cover poor planning and tactical mistakes (sending too few troops, destroying too much infrastructure, neglecting to secure armouries and borders, disbanding the Iraqi army).

No, Mr Blair must be made to "regret" sending a volunteer army to help oust a genocidal, WMD-ambitious despot who had bombed and invaded his neighbours; repressed, tortured and gassed his opponents; harboured terrorists; sponsored suicide bombers; stoked ethnic hatred and extreme Islamist and anti-western sentiment; torched oilfields; destroyed marshlands; wrecked his country's economy; ignored UN resolutions; duped, bribed and expelled weapons inspectors; and provoked sanctions that killed 100,000 innocent Iraqis annually.

Regrets and apologies about the length and bloodiness of the war just will not do. Isn't Mr Blair now "sorry" he ever thought it the lesser evil to try and replace blood-soaked tyranny with fledgling democracy?

Like most supporters of the Iraq war, Keith Gilmour seems to either be unaware of many of the full facts on Iraq from the Iran-Iraq war and the genocide against the Kurds to the present, or else deliberately omits them. The many facts they don’t mention cast a very different light on the ones they do.

This first post will just cover the full facts on Saddam’s invasions of Iraq and Kuwait; his massacres of Iraqi Kurds, Shia and Marsh Arabs and what the US and British governments and Tony Blair did (and didn’t) do about them at the time ; plus the emptiness and dishonesty of the claim that the 2003 invasion was ‘necessary’ to prevent Saddam massacring and using WMD on his own people again.

British and American governments armed and funded during Saddam’s invasion of Iran and genocide against the Kurds - even after Halabja

Keith, like most Blairites and neo-conservatives, omits to mention that when Saddam was invading Iran; using chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds and Iranian troops; and massacring the Kurds in his genocidal Anfal campaign; the US and British governments were funding and arming him, including with chemicals and hardware such as pumps used in the production and use of chemical weapons. US funding continued in the guise of “agricultural aid’ even after the gassing of Halabja in 1988. The Scott Report in the UK showed the British government continued to allow the sale of equipment with military applications to Saddam after Halabja too. Iraq expert Efraim Karsh wrote that ‘Karsh says “Saddam was the favoured son of the West (and to a lesser extent the Soviet Union), the perceived barrier to the growth of Islamic Fundamentalism. Consequently, apart from occasional feeble remonstrations (notably after Halabja), western governments were consciously willing to turn a blind eye to Iraq’s chemical excesses.” (5) – (10).

Tony Blair, then a backbench Labour MP, refused to back parliamentary motions calling for an end to British and American support for Saddam at the time of Halabja, but he and Bush junior became very exercised about it 20 years after the genocide had ended (11).

How Bush Senior suckered Saddam into invading Kuwait in 1991
to try to boost his vote for the 1992 Presidential Election

Brent Scowcroft as a member of the Bush (senior) administration in 1990 was also a director of by Kuwait Incorporated's Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, whose U.S subsidiary Santa Fe International was involved in slant drilling across the border into Iraqi oil fields. Kuwait’s ruling monarchy were also selling more oil than agreed under OPEC quotas, which was pushing down the price of oil; as well as demanding Iraq repay loans made to it during the Iran-Iraq war (12) – (13).

Hussein consulted his patrons in the US government on his plan to invade Kuwait. According to a transcript released by the Iraqi government U.S Ambassador Glaspie in a meeting with the Iraqi dictator in 1990, eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, told Hussein  what US Secretary of State James Baker had directed her to say -  'We have no opinion on your dispute with Kuwait'.  US government officials have refused to answer any questions on the transcript.  Six days before the invasion US State Department Official John Kelly told congress that ‘the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq' (14).

So after the invasion Saddam was surprised to find the US declaring war on him and refusing to negotiate on a withdrawal. President Bush (senior) rejected five separate peace plans proposed by Iraq, Jordan, Morocco and France (15) -  (16).

Supposedly this was because Bush could not allow the sovereignty of any state to be violated - yet neither the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus nor the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, nor the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza seemed to warrant military action before or after the 1991 Gulf War.   The reality is that the Bush senior administration engineered a war on a proxy dictatorship it had built up itself. This was in a failed attempt to save Bush's Presidency from electoral defeat on domestic issues - particularly the economy.

 The 1991 Gulf War - Bombing civilians and forced conscripts ; encouraging and betraying Iraqi rebels; allowing Saddam to massacre them and their families

After Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, President Bush Senior’s administration began attacks by bombing and with ground forces, not just on Iraqi forces fleeing Kuwait, but on civilians and forced conscripts too.

Estimates made by aid workers in Iraq after the 1991 war put the number of Iraqi civilians killed directly by the US bombing campaign at between 10,000 and 25,000, with many civilian targets such as water treatment works being targeted (17). Estimates of indirectly caused deaths that include the secondary effects of bombing - for instance destruction and pollution of water supply systems through the bombing of chemical plants and nuclear reactors - put the figure as high as 250,000 by the end of 1991 – many more would die as a result of destruction of infrastructure and sanctions in the years ahead (18).

Meanwhile Iraqi conscripts, many of them recruited from Shia and Kurds who loathed Saddam, were under aerial attack from US forces with conventional bombs, cluster bombs, and even napalm. Bulldozer blades were fitted to American tanks - and used to bury the conscripts alive in their trenches. Iraqi conscripts attempting to surrender were shot in many cases (19) – (20).

President Bush (senior) told Iraqis there was one way they could end  bombing “ That is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands, to force Saddam Hussein the dictator to step aside ..” (21) .

So Iraqi Shia, Kurds and Marsh Arabs rebelled against Saddam, assuming  US forces would stop attacking them and aid them once they fought Saddam’s forces. Yet when Saddam brought his helicopters and Republican Guard elite troops out of reserve to crush the rebels, US forces were ordered back and allowed them to recapture arms and ammunition dumps and massacre the rebels and then their families and anyone suspected of belonging to a disloyal community, events recounted by both Iraqi defectors and US troops (22).

Patrick Lowe, a reconnaissance scout for the US 1st Armoured Division told former Bush administration diplomat Peter W. Galbraith:

“I watched as Iraqi helicopter gun  ships flew into the city and gunned down everything in their way. I watched as troops were sent in...I had to process the civilian refugees that fled the town. They pleaded with me to do something, anything to stop this..mass murder. I heard stories of women and children being burned alive in their homes. Women being raped to death, men being chopped up alive. I can hear their screams and wailing to this day...I had been pleading for almost three days with my chain of command to let me do something...The squadron commander...ordered me to do nothing...I [sent] a patrol see if the Iraqi troops would shoot at them so that I had a reason to engage and protect those...civilians.They did not engage and so we continued to sit and watch. I have never been more ashamed of my country’s actions...I sat and watched hundreds of thousands die in the most horrible ways possible” (23).

The Marsh Arabs, who also joined the rebellion, suffered the same fate, with an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 massacred (24).

So as a result of encouraging and then betraying the rebels Bush senior’s administration allowed them and their families to be massacred, the reasoning being that the Shia were the same type of Muslims as the Iranian regime and so their rebellion must be crushed to contain Iranian influence.

The other reason for allowing the rebels to be crushed was that both the Bush senior and Clinton administrations wanted a new military dictatorship in Iraq, not any kind of popular rebellion that might lead to a democracy that might actually put it’s own peoples’ interests ahead of those of US companies and US power.

US National Security Council director of Near Eastern affairs Richard Haas confirmed that 'Our policy is to get rid of Saddam not his regime' .In 1998 Brent Scowcroft , Bush's National Security Adviser in 1991 , defined the optimal outcome that had been desired in the Gulf War as 'a military government' (25) – (26). British and American officials briefings to journalists during Operation Desert Fox made it clear that a military coup leading to a new dictatorship was still felt to be the optimal outcome in 1998 (27).

The Kurds in the North were only spared a similar fate to the Shia in Basra by the presence of many TV crews, including British and American ones, calling for intervention to prevent a repeat of the Anfal massacres of the 1980s. This managed to get the Bush administration to order the US air force to prevent Saddam’s forces operating in the Kurdish North from the end of the 1991 war on.

No massacres or planned massacres after 1991 – so any war was bound to cost more lives than it saved

Gilmour also omits Human Rights Watch’s report there was no threat of massacres by Saddam’s forces in 2002 – 2003 and so war was bound to cost far more lives than non-intervention.  (28). In fact there were no large scale massacres at all after 1991. Marsh Arab rebels in the South were Saddam’s main victims on a much smaller scale from 1991 through to 2003, but his attacks on them took place in the Southern No Fly zone patrolled by the British and American air forces, who did not to intervene, probably for similar reasons to the betrayal of the Shia in 1991, under both Bush Senior and Clinton (29).

(1) = Times 30 Jan 2010 ‘Iraq inquiry: Tony Blair slated for Iran threat claim’,

(2) = BBC News 04 Sep 2010 ‘Radical Islam is world's greatest threat - Tony Blair’,

(3) = 01 Sep 2010 ‘Tony Blair: West should use force if Iran 'continues to develop nuclear weapons'’,

(4) = 04 Sep 2010 ‘Tony Blair interview: the full transcript’,

(5) = Karsh, Efraim (2002) ‘The Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988’ Osprey, London, 2002 p20 US & Soviet Union supplying arms and military advisers to Saddam, p42-44 USSR, France and Egypt Saddam’s main arms suppliers, p 44 1984 -1985 Reagan admin doubles financial aid to Saddam ‘for food products and agricultural equipment’ from $345mn to $675mn. 1988 US govt extends $1bn credit to Iraq, largest amount of US annual credit to any country in that year; p44-45 Israel along with N.Korea, Libya and Syria armed Iran. Last three complete armaments, Israel spare parts for jets and tanks (own note – doesn’t count Iran-Contra arms?); p53-55 Gassing of 20 Kurdish villages in 1987 by Saddam to prevent them aiding Iranians; p55 western governments attitudes

(6) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2002), ‘The Threatening Storm, Random House, New York, 2002 - pages 18-20

(7) = Washington Post 22 Mar 1992, ‘Gonzalez's Iraq Expose: Hill Chairman Details U.S. Prewar Courtship, Washington Post archive article here ; full article also reproduced at the Federation of American Scientists' website here ; This gives an account provided by A US Congressman based on information provided to congressional committees by the CIA.

(8) = Washington Post 5 Aug 1992, ‘GOP Seeks Probe of Gonzalez Over Iraq Data, Washington Post archive article here ; also reproduced at Far from disputing the accuracy of Gonzalez's claims the Bush (senior) administration and the CIA instead stopped providing Gonzalez with intelligence briefings and attempted to have him censured by congress for releasing the information to the public

(9) = 'U.S. chemical and biological warfare-related dual use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian Gulf War'/ A report of Donald W. Riegle, Jr. and Alfonse M. D’Amato of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with respect to export administration, United States Senate (1994) - Link to Library of Congress record

(10) = BBC News 27 Apr 2004 ‘Q&A: The Scott Report’,

(11) = Guardian 18 March 2003 , 'Diary' , ",,916313,00.html ; (see final paragraph)

(12) = Bennis , Phyllis & Moushabeck  , Michael (Editors) (1992)  ‘Beyond the Storm’  ; Canongate Press , London , 1992, paperback edition, p168

(13) = Aburish , Said K (1997) A Brutal Friendship Indigo , London , 1998 paperback edition, page 102

(14) = Bennis , Phyllis & Moushabeck  , Michael (Editors) (1992)  ‘Beyond the Storm’  ; Canongate Press , London , 1992, paperback edition, p 391 – 396

(15) = Bennis , Phyllis & Moushabeck  , Michael (Editors) (1992)  ‘Beyond the Storm’  ; Canongate Press , London , 1992

(16) = Chomsky (1991) ‘World Orders Old and New’

 (17) = Bennis , Phyllis & Moushabeck  , Michael (Editors) (1992)  ‘Beyond the Storm’  ; Canongate Press , London , 1992, p326 – 355

(18) = Lee , Ian (1991) ‘Continuing Health Costs of the Gulf War’, Medical Educational Trust , London , 1991

(19) = Blum , William (1995) ‘Killing Hope’,  Common Courage Press , Monroe , Maine , 1995, pages 334-338

(20) = Pilger , John (1998) ‘Hidden Agendas’ Vintage , London , 1998, pages 49 - 52

(21) = BBC News 21 Aug 2007 ‘Flashback: the 1991 Iraqi revolt’,

(22) = Aburish , Said K (2000) ‘Saddam Hussein - The Politics of Revenge’ Bloomsbury , London , 2000  - 2001 paperback edition, Ch11,p308 and footnote 60 p379

(23) = Galbraith, Peter W. (2006) ‘The End of Iraq’, Pocket Books paperback, 2007, Ch4, page 46

(24) = BBC News 03 March 2003 ‘Iraq's 'devastated' Marsh Arabs’,

(25) = Hiro, Dilip(2001) ‘Neighbours not friends - Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars’ , Routledge paperback , London , 2001, pages 37 ,343

(26) = Galbraith, Peter W. (2006) ‘The End of Iraq’, Pocket Books paperback, 2007, Ch4

(27) = Times 17 Dec 1998 ‘Raid planners hope to spark army uprising’

(28) = Human Rights Watch 2004 ‘War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention’, and

(29) = Guardian 17 Nov 1998 ‘Rebellion in southern marshes is crushed’,

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