Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why sanctions on Iraq could have been ended without any war of invasion or occupation ; no threat from Saddam’s regime to Iraqis or other countries existed by 2000; the genocide against the Marsh Arabs was largely over by the late 90s and could have been ended by air strikes in the Southern No-Fly Zone

The tenth anniversary of the Iraq war has seen the repetition of many excuses for the invasion. One of the commonest is that UN sanctions on Iraq killed millions of Iraqi civilians, with the pretence that sanctions which killed millions of Iraqis through shortages of food and medicines couldn’t be lifted or else Saddam’s regime would become a serious threat. Another is that it was necessary to end Saddam's genocides and massacres. These are lies; the US could have stopped Saddam's genocides and massacres but either kept supporting him (while he committed genocide against the Kurds) or did nothing (while he massacred Shia and Marsh Arabs); and sanctions could have been lifted at any time ; here’s why.

Saddam couldn’t even defeat Iran in the 8 year Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s; and that was with almost the entire world’s governments supporting him with arms, funding, intelligence and political support. This included as Saddam used chemical weapons on Iranians and in his genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds, even after Halabja (see post on this link for sources and more details).

(The Halabja attack used US Apache Bell helicopters, whose sale was approved by the Reagan administration, supposedly for “crop spraying”, even though they already knew Saddam was using chemical weapons (1) – (3). After Halabja the US government issued one statement of condemnation, then continued supporting Saddam and suggested that maybe the Iranians had done it (4).)

Saddam showed during the 1991 war that he didn’t dare to use chemical weapons on other countries or the Iraqi Kurds after 1991. He had chemical warheads for his scud missiles, but only used conventional warheads (5).

He could only massacre Shia rebels and their families in Southern Iraq (including Marsh Arabs) at the end of the 1991 war because Bush senior ordered his troops not to intervene ; a massacre that would never have happened if Bush hadn’t given Iraqis the false impression that his forces would aid them if they rebelled (he actually wanted a military regime to replace Saddam) (for details and sources see this post).

Saddam did carry out one horrific campaign of torture, massacres and genocide against Iraqis after 1991; against the Marsh Arabs and other Shia rebels and their families who fled to the southern marshes in 1991 (6).

However US and British aircraft patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone could have stopped most of this by bombing Saddam’s artillery, trucks, tanks and bulldozers; but made no attempt to do so, probably for the same reason Bush senior didn’t help the other Shia rebels ; the Marsh Arabs are also mostly Shia and so they were seen as potential allies of Iran (7).

Throughout the 1990s Saddam’s forces shelled Marsh Arab villages and towns with tanks, artillery and mortars, including chemical weapons according to some reports, drained the marshes by diverting rivers, killed many rebels, bulldozed houses, left many civilians to die in deserts; and forcibly relocated most of those who didn’t leave to live elsewhere in Iraq, or weren’t among the unknown number who were killed (one estimate being 120,000), or the estimated 40,000 to 120,000 who fled to Iran (8) – (11).

By comparison dozens of Coalition offensives on Iraqi cities during the occupation killed hundreds of civilians in each assault – e.g  600 in the April 2004 assault on Falluja alone (12). Coalition offensives, Saddam’s earlier campaigns and sectarian fighting had left 2.8 million Iraqis “internally displaced people” (homeless refugees inside Iraq) and 2.2 million refugees in other countries at the highest point (during the occupation in the late 2000s). Today an estimated 1.3 million Iraqis remain “internally displaced” and 1.4 million are refugees in other countries While some have returned home , unfortunately other reasons for the reduced numbers include Iraqi refugees who fled to Syria deciding it’s even more dangerous there (13) – (15).

By the end of the 1990s Saddam’s campaign of genocide against the Marsh Arabs was complete. All but an estimated 20,000 Marsh Arabs were gone from the area they had lived in, compared to an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 in 1991, the last major rebellion being crushed in 1998. Only 1,600 still lived in their traditional reed houses on floating platforms in the marshes (16) – (18).

That’s why Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch concluded in 2004 that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “was not a humanitarian intervention” as no massacres or genocide were being planned or carried out by Saddam’s forces (19).

He could have added that none had been carried out or planned for over a decade. Any war was now bound to kill far, far more Iraqis than Saddam was killing. That’s before we even get into the constant firing on civilians and ambulances in many US offensives on Iraqi cities during the occupation which led western aid workers and Iraqi doctors and civilians to conclude they were being deliberately targeted – e.g Fallujah in April 2004 and in Samarra in October 2004 ; or the US trained Iraqi paramilitary torture and death squads, of which more in my next post  (20) – (21).

(Many Marsh Arabs, who have survived only by becoming bandits or extortionists, also went to war with Coalition forces after the invasion in a rebellion against attempts to disarm them – many joining Al Sadr’s Madhi army or other anti-occupation militias. (22)

Dennis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck, two successive heads of the sanctions programme who resigned in protest over it, said it was not Saddam's regime causing the starvation and shortage of medicines under sanctions, but that the sanctions imposed a limit on oil sales too low to support Iraq’s population ; both opposed the war (23) – (25).

The UN sanctions on Iraq had been demanded by the US and British governments at the end of the 1991 war – a war which began with an invasion of Kuwait which resulted largely from US and Kuwaiti co-operation to put economic pressure on Iraq by slant-drilling across the border into Iraq, by Kuwait exceeding it’s agreed OPEC quotas for oil sales and by it demanding immediate repayment of loans made to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war (see this post for sources and details).

We’ve already shown that their reason for not wanting them lifted was not that this would end Saddam’s “containment” and allow him to conquer the Middle East or massacre Iraqi rebels again.

The real reasons were avoiding loss of face; and ensuring US and British firms got oil contracts on favourable terms. The US had punished Saddam in 1991 and put him on their enemies list. If his regime now survived, the US would look weak and this would encourage other governments to defy it.

Even worse, after the 1991 war Saddam had negotiated oil contracts with Russian, French and Chinese oil companies. If sanctions were lifted and Saddam survived in power they would get the oil contracts, with US and British firms excluded.

As the Washington Post reported on the 15th of September 2002 A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition...."It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."’ (26).

The US however failed to get the Oil Law it wanted the Iraqi parliament to pass during the occupation (it’s main reason for it’s war with the Shia Iraqi nationalist Al Sadr, whose Shia Sadrist MPs joined Sunni parties’ MPs in opposing the oil law;) and as a result failed to get contracts on the terms it wanted for most US oil companies (27).

Anglo-American oil giant BP  has managed to get a very lucrative contract for one giant Iraqi oil field on terms extremely favourable to it ; and is seeking others in Iraqi Kurdistan which is in disputes with the central government in Baghdad over the regional government negotiating oil contracts rather than the central government ; and over how favourable the terms of contracts are to oil companies (28) – (31). BP took over the US oil firm Amoco (formerly Standard Oil of Indiana and one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ oil giants) in 2001.

Oil and arms company profits and global power were the US aims in Iraq, not protecting Iraqis or promoting democracy – as I’ll show in my next post on how US and Coalition forces and the new Iraqi government still torture and kill Iraqis using all Saddam’s methods short of actual genocide.

 (1) = Mark  Phythian (1997) Arming Iraq: How the U.S. and Britain Secretly Built Saddam's War Machine, Boston: Northeastern University Press

(2) = Washington Post $1.5 Billion in U.S. Sales to Iraq; Technology Products Approved Up to Day Before Invasion’,

(3) = LA Times 13 Feb 1991 ‘Iraq Arms: Big Help From U.S. : Technology was sold with approval--and encouragement--from the Commerce Department but often over Defense officials' objections.’, , page 3 of online version of article

(4) = Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting 01 Sep 2002 ‘The Washington Post's Gas Attack -Today's outrage was yesterday's no big deal’,

(5) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (Nye is a former member of the Clinton administration)

(6) = Chicago Tribune 05 Aug 1993 ‘Briton: Iraq Is Wiping Out Arabs In Marshes’, ; 3rd Paragraph ‘She said doctors and other experts aiding the Arabs estimate that 120,000 may die from the terror campaign being waged against them by the regime of Saddam Hussein. There are an estimated 200,000 marsh Arabs, and she said more than 300,000 other people from nearby towns and cities fled to the marshes for refuge when Hussein crushed a Shiite Muslim uprising after the Persian Gulf war.

(7) = 19 Nov 1998 ‘Rebellion in southern marshes is crushed’ ,

(8) = See (6) above

(9) = See (7) above

(10) = BBC News 03 Mar 2003 ‘Iraq's 'devastated' Marsh Arabs’, ; 6th to 7th paragraphs

(11) = The Oregonian 14 May 2003 ‘IRAQ'S MARSH ARABS, MODERN SUMERIANS’,

(12) = Iraq Body Count 26 Oct 2004 ‘No Longer Unknowable: Falluja's April Civilian Toll is 600’,

(13) = Internal Displacement Monitoring Center ‘Iraq: Response still centred on return despite increasing IDP demands for local integration’,

(14) = 2013 UNHCR country operations profile – Iraq,

(15) = BBC News 29 Oct 2012 ‘Iraqi refugees flee Syrian conflict to return home’,

(16) = Juan Cole (2008) ‘Marsh Arab Rebellion : Grievance, Mafias and Militias in Iraq’ Fourth Wadie Jwaideh Memorial Lecture, (Bloomington, Indiana : Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, 2008),   Page 7,

(17) = BBC News 03 Mar 2003 ‘Iraq's 'devastated' Marsh Arabs’, ; 7th to 8th paragrahs

(18) = 19 Nov 1998 ‘Rebellion in southern marshes is crushed’ ,

(19) = Human Rights Watch 26 Jan 2004 ‘War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention’,

(20) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Fallujah siege’,

(21) = Independent 04 Oct 2004 ‘Civilians Bear Brunt as Samarra 'Pacified'’, (no longer exists on the Independent newspaper’s website – is this connected to Tony Blair’s biographer and apologist John Rentoul being the paper’s Politics Editor?)

(22) = Juan Cole (2008) ‘Marsh Arab Rebellion : Grievance, Mafias and Militias in Iraq’ Fourth Wadie Jwaideh Memorial Lecture, (Bloomington, Indiana : Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University, 2008),   Pages 7-17,

(23) = BBC News 30 Sep 1998 ‘UN official blasts Iraq sanctions’,

(24) = BBC News 14 Feb 2000 ‘UN sanctions rebel resigns’

(25) = Guardian 29 Nov 2001 ‘The hostage nation - Former UN relief chiefs Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday speak out against an attack on Iraq’,

(26) = Washington Post 15 Sep 2002, 'In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue : U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool', ; or read full version at

(27) = Greg Muttitt (2011) ‘Fuel on the Fire – Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq’, Bodley-Head 2011

(28) = Observer 31 Jul 2011 ‘BP 'has gained stranglehold over Iraq' after oilfield deal is rewritten’,

(29) = Wall Street Journal Online 27 Jan 2013 ‘Iraq, BP Considering Kirkuk Field Deal’,

(30) = BBC News 20 Mar 2013 ‘Kurdish oil exports stall in row over revenue-sharing’,

(31) = CNN 12 Dec 2011 ‘Oil power struggle as U.S. leaves Iraq’,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Joining Politicus

This is just a short post to recommend the Politicus website. It’s a blogging and news website on UK politics which I found out about and joined recently.  Excellent for news and a wide range of political opinions from all kinds of viewpoints ; and you can remove any news or blog source you don’t want to read from your newsfeed on it. You can join here if you like the sound of it ; and if you’re a blogger then after joining you can also apply to add your blog to the newsfeed on the site if you want to.

US polls showed Bush couldn’t have invaded Iraq without Blair’s support ; and the Kosovo war cost at least as many civilian lives as it saved

The common claim by Blair’s supporters that Bush would have invaded Iraq whether Blair had supported the war or not was disproven by polls of Americans before the invasion, which consistently showed around 60% opposed to the US invading Iraq without the support of its allies, while 60 to 80% were in favour if allies supported or participated in the invasion (1).

Bush simply could not have got public support for an invasion if none of the US’s key allies supported the decision and none sent troops – and would practically have guaranteed himself a single term Presidency if he’d invaded without the support of the majority of Americans.

 The support of the British government under Blair, the Australian government under Michael Howard, the Spanish under Aznar and the Portugese government gave Bush enough long established allies supporting the invasion to point to to get public backing.

That’s why Bush held a televised joint press conference with the three main western European Prime ministers who backed the war 4 days before the invasion (2).

This makes David Milliband’s recent claim that Bush was “the worst thing that ever happened to Tony Blair” even more ridiculous. British Prime Ministers do not have to do whatever whoever currently happens to be President of the United States says they should do. Blair had the choice of what to do and chose to parrot Bush and Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s lies and get British troops and Iraqi civilians killed and tortured in a war that cost many lives but saved not one. Senior Labour MPs still talking as though they must do whatever the US government tells them to do suggests any future Labour government could have all the faults Blair’s did (3).

Milliband went on to add another ridiculous claim – that the NATO intervention in Kosovo “saved a lot of lives”. In fact it involved bombing from such high altitudes that it mistakenly killed many of the Albanian refugees it was supposed to protect (4) – (6). It also involved targeting civilian targets like party headquarters, television stations and the centres of towns and bridges on market days in Serbia, killing hundreds of Serb civilians in addition (7) – (11) .

It did have one effect – while before NATO ground forces went in more Albanian civilians were being killed or forced out of their homes by Serb forces or militias than Serb civilians killed by the KLA, afterwards it was mostly Serbian civilians in Kosovo killed or ethnically cleansed by the KLA (who include plenty of terrorists, drug runners and kidnappers; and who were classified by the US state department as a terrorist organisation until shortly before the Kosovo war) (12).

The KLA also disappeared at least 2000 people after the war, mostly Serbs, many having had their organs removed to sell on the black market (13).

When the Blairites can’t even face the truth about their past actions and their effects, how can we possibly trust their judgement to deal with current or future ones? Calling them ‘Walter Mitty types’ (their usual insult for people who disagreed with them, including Dr Kelly) would be an understatement, because Walter Mitty didn’t regularly get large numbers of people killed.

(1) = World Public Opinion ; Regional Issues ; Conflict With Iraq ; Importance of Multilateral Support,

(2) = The American Presidency Project 16 Mar 2003 ‘The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso of Portugal, President Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, and Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom in the Azores, Portugal’,

(3) = ITV 4 Mar 2013 ‘David Miliband: 'Bush the worst thing to happen to Blair'’,

(4) = Knightly, Phillip (2000) ‘The First Casualty’ , Prion, London, pages 501-526

(5) = BBC News Online 15 Apr 1999 ‘Nato Pilot bombed refugees’ ,

(6) = Independent 17 Apr1999 ‘This atrocity is still a mystery to Nato. Perhaps I can help...’,

(7) = See (4) above

(8) = 31 May 1999 ‘Planes buzzed overhead - and then death came’,

(9) = Independent  7 Feb 2000 ‘The bloody truth of how Nato changed the rules to win a 'moral war' in Yugoslavia’,’m forced to use a link to another website as The Independent newspaper’s website has not kept any link to this article)

(10) = Guardian 15 Mar 2000 ‘TV's silent warning - 15 died but no apology for bombing broadcasters’,

(11) = 16 May 1999 ‘Was she a human shield or just a Nato mistake?’,

(12) = Independent 24 Nov 1999 ‘Serbs murdered by the hundred since `liberation'’,

(13) = Human Rights Watch 04 Apr 2008 ‘Letter to Albanian Authorities Calling for an Investigation into Serbs Missing Since 1999’,

Monday, March 11, 2013

None of the inquiries that found Blair didn't lie on Iraq were independent - they were all full of political appointees ; John Rentoul and Tony Blair try to pass off political fixes as independent inquires

John Rentoul, Tony Blair’s biographer and mini-me, and politics editor for the Independent,  added another disingenuous denial that Blair and his associates were dishonest about Iraq last September. This time he echoed Blair’s claim that “every independent analysis” has found he did not lie about Iraq (1). Rentoul helps out by specifying what these supposedly independent analyses are

‘Foreign Affairs select committee inquiry, 2003.

Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry, 2003.

Hutton inquiry, 2004.

Butler inquiry, 2004.

General election, 2005.’ (2)

Yet not one of these supposedly “independent” inquiries was actually independent at all – they were all headed by appointees of Blair or had a majority of members appointed by Blair’s government.

The heads of the Hutton and Butler inquiries were appointed by Blair, who also decided what powers they would have, what their remit would be (i.e what they could as about) and what evidence they could and could not see. Not surprising then, since the accused got to appoint the judges, decide the charges and limit what evidence they could see, that the accused was found not guilty on all charges. If all trials were conducted that way, no one would ever be found guilty of anything no matter how much evidence there was of their guilt.

(The Chilcot Inquiry is similarly made up entirely of people who supported the war or who owe their positions in the House of Lords to Blair or Brown)

Parliamentary Select Committees like the Foreign Affairs and intelligence and Security Committees have MPs as members, in proportion to the number of MPs of that party in parliament. As Labour had a big majority after the 2000 General Election, that would mean that in 2003 the majority of MPs on those committees would be Labour – and so not inclined to criticise their own party leader too much. On top of that, in 2003 Select Committee members were still appointed by party leaders – so all the Labour members of those committees were appointed by Blair, so would not be rebels on Iraq. Most other MPs on those committees would be Conservatives – and the vast majority of Conservative MPs voted for the war. So the idea that these were independent inquiries is utterly ridiculous.

Citing the 2005 General election is particularly ludicrous, as an election is not an inquiry into anything ; and as no British general election in the last century has been decided by any foreign policy issue. Many people who voted Labour in 2005 were completely against the Iraq war and thought Blair had lied about it, but voted Labour as they thought Labour were less bad than the Conservatives on domestic policies.

It seems that the Independent newspaper’s politics editor doesn’t know the difference between independent inquiries and political fixes – at least certainly not where his hero Tony Blair is concerned.

(1) = John Rentoul ‘Eagle Eye’ blog 5 Sep 2012 ‘Monbiot: the big coward’,

(2) = Observer 02 Sep 2012 ‘Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu’,

Friday, March 08, 2013

There is a magic money tree for governments with their own currency - and Cameron has already used it in quantitative easing for the banks - so why not for things that benefit everyone?

Prime Minister David Cameron is completely wrong when he says there is “no magic money tree” – there is for any government that has it’s own currency which it can issue in any quantity it likes; and for private banks which can create money – but only create it as debt. Cameron’s government, like the last government, has used it’s “magic money tree” repeatedly in “quantitative easing” to pad the banks’ reserves. There is no reason he can’t use it to create money for more worthwhile causes that benefit everyone.

Vince Cable is right that we need stimulus spending, but why should we borrow it from banks and hedge funds, increasing our debts, when the government can print it or issue it digitally instead? It’s created out of thin air either way. The financial crisis was the result of most money being created as debt - loans and mortgages - by the banks, combined with deregulation, as Australian economics professor Steve Keen points out (1).

The government should print money and spend it on green energy research, investment in infrastructure (transport, education etc), plus grants and zero or low interest loans to small and medium sized businesses. If that creates a little inflation, that's not so bad, as devaluation of the pound will also reduce the size of our debts denominated in pounds.

The British government’s 2% inflation target and reliance on borrowing rather than printing money are the result of over-sized banks that can donate to much to party funds. Nobel prize winning economist Ha Joon Chang points out that even IMF studies suggest inflation doesn't negatively affect growth till it reaches 8% - other studies say 20%. (2)

Some will immediately cry hyperinflation, but in actual cases of hyperinflation, like Weimar Germany or Zimbabwe, the causes were French military occupation and control of the steel and coal output of the Rhur valley, and international sanctions, respectively, combined with political crises, not printing money (3). The bank executives and hedge fund managers would like people to believe otherwise because they profit from other peoples’ debts and don’t want those debts shrunk by moderate inflation.

If the government won’t do that we still have one other option – set up lots of small local or regional savings and loans companies like the “Bank of Dave” (Burnley savings and loans) set up by businessman Dave Fishwick (4) – (5).

This also has implications for the debate on whether Scotland should become independent. One potential advantage of independence would be that Scotland could print it’s own currency and spend it how it chose whatever the City of London financial sector said.

(1) Steve Keen (2011) ‘Debunking Economics’, Zed Books, 2011

(2) = Ha Joon Chang (2010) ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’, Penguin / Allen Lane, London, 2010, ‘Thing 6’, page 55 of Allen Lane hardback edition

(3) = Ha Joon Chang (2010) ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’, Penguin / Allen Lane, London, 2010, ‘Thing 6’, pages 51-62 of Allen Lane hardback edition

(4) = Burnley Savings and Loans,

(5) = Guardian 01 Mar 2013 ‘Bank of Dave: Fighting the Fat Cats; The Wedding Shop – TV review’,