Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Are Iraqis better off as a result of the 2003 invasion and overthrow of Saddam?

This is the third of three posts on Tony Blair’s version of what happened in Iraq from the 1980s to the present – and what really happened; and on whether war on Iraq or Iran could be justified or necessary (the first two are here and here). This post looks at whether Iraqis have been better off since the 2003 invasion than they were under Saddam ; what Iraqis have said about it themselves in opinion polls; and what conclusions might be drawn.

Picture - Iraqi refugees. Many have been deported back to Iraq from the US and UK, whose governments claim Iraq is now a safe destination.

Using WMDs on Iraqis,
 supposedly to stop Saddam doing it – 15 years after he’d stopped

Bush and Blair and their supporters on Iraq claim they had to invade to save Iraqis from Saddam using WMDs on them. Yet Coalition forces then used WMDs on Iraqis, just as they had with napalm and Depleted Uranium shells and bombs in the 1991 war and in enforcing the ‘No Fly Zones’ from 1991 till 2003 (1) – (4). This, the fact that they provided Saddam with money, chemicals and hardware to produce and deliver chemical weapons before and after the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja ; and the fact that Saddam’s use of chemical weapons ended in 1988 with the end of the Iran-Iraq war, make it an empty claim.

It’s a constant refrain of the US and British governments in their foreign policy and wars that their enemies are responsible for everything; and that anything they did was to prevent the crimes of their enemies. In fact they are responsible for their own actions, which include using cluster munitions (effectively land mines deployed from planes or by artillery) and WMD such as Depleted Uranium shells and bombs and White Phosphorus in cities including Fallujah – along with new versions of napalm (5) – (8).  The results have been massively increased rates of cancers and birth defects among Iraqi babies and children from 1991 on (9) – (10). Since the April and 2004 Coalition assaults on the city of Fallujah it has the highest rates of all among babies and infants (11).

Many Iraqi, American and British doctors studying Iraqi children and British and American veterans of the 1991 Gulf War and the Bosnian and Kosovo wars also believe their illnesses are caused by exposure to residue from DU munitions used in these wars – and among some units the rate of cancers and birth defects among their children has been extremely high (12) – (15).

Killing and torturing Iraqis - supposedly to save them from Saddam doing it

Ending rape, torture and murder by death squads and secret police is also supposed to be a benefit of the US led invasion. Except they continued under Coalition forces and still continue under the new Iraqi government.

Actions of the US and British governments in Iraq which Iraq war supporters like to ignore also include approving and encouraging systematic torture , which, including beatings over nights and days, working in shifts , breaking arms and legs with baseball bats ; asphyxiation and electric shocks (that’s according to American and British Iraq veterans as well as Iraqis) (16) – (27), ordering the targeting of both ambulances and civilians in the assaults on Fallujah (according to American aid workers and Iraqis in Fallujah at the time) (28) – (29); and giving orders to force teenage looters into tidal canals to drown. All of this was afterwards covered up by military courts martial pretending either that nothing happened or else it was a few troops out of control, to avoid trials that might ask how high the orders had originated (30) – (31). Courts martial, unlike civilian courts, do not have any minimum legal standards and allow witnesses and evidence to be ignored.

Amnesty International’s annual report for 2010, like UN inquiries in earlier years, found Iraqi police rape women and employ the same torture methods used by Saddam (32) – (33).

Amnesty found that ‘Iraqi security forces committed gross human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, torture...and did so largely with impunity....Torture methods reported included beatings with cables and hosepipes, suspension by the limbs for long periods...electric shocks to the genitals...breaking of limbs, removal of toenails with pliers and piercing the body with drills. Some detainees were alleged to have been raped.’

And that

‘‘In May inmates of the womens’ prison in al Kadhimiya told members of the parliament’s human rights committee that they had been raped while held in prison or detained elsewhere’ (34)

 Iraqi US trained “police commando” death squads and other new elite US trained ‘counter-terrorist’ units torture and kill suspects at a whim, having been trained by officers like Colonel James Steele who trained the notorious US backed death squads of El Salvador in the 1980s, who, like Iraqi security forces today, targeted anyone critical of the US or it’s favoured government, including American nuns , not just armed enemies or terrorists (35) – (39). (for more on the ‘El Salvador Option’ from El Salvador to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan  see this post)

US Sanctions killed more Iraqis than Saddam after 1991,
Since Invasion food situation worse than under Saddam and sanctions

Keith Gilmour commendably mentions the sanctions on Iraq demanded by the US which were estimated by UN officials charged with enforcing them to have caused the deaths of around 5,000 to 6,000 children per month from 1991 to March 2003 (40). British and American government spokespeople will generally claim Saddam was to blame for these sanctions. Saddam was guilty of many terrible crimes, but the extreme sanctions imposed on Iraq at the demand of the US government weren’t one of them.

Many supporters of the Iraq war argue that the war was necessary to end deaths from sanctions without allowing Saddam to develop new WMD threats. Apart from the fact that Saddam had already proven he wasn’t willing to use WMDs on other countries (see conclusion) and hadn’t risked using them on his people since he lost the backing of the US after 1991, the invasion did not improve the situation once the sanctions were lifted, because the Coalition administration and the new Iraqi governments are so corrupt.

More Iraqis face hunger now even than under sanctions and Saddam. New Iraqi governments have cut food rations repeatedly (and again this year ), to a level around a quarter of that before the invasion,  reducing many Iraqis to scavenging in bins for food. This is despite the new governments having a larger budget than Saddam’s regime (41) – (49). Around $8 billion dollars that could have provided food and medicines went missing from Iraqi UN oil fund money appropriated by Bush’s ‘governor’ Paul Bremer (50) – (54).

What do Iraqis say?

It’s common for both sides in the Iraq war debate to point to the answers to some questions in some opinion polls as evidence that Iraqis did or didn’t support the invasion or do or don’t think they’re better off as a result of Saddam being overthrown. While the majority of polls seem to show a majority of Iraqis saying they backed the invasion and are better off as a result of the invasion, there is as much debate between Iraqis about these questions as there is in the US or the UK. Iraqis’. answers to different questions in the same poll are often contradictory, seeming to provide a majority in favour when a question is phrased one way; but when the same question is asked differently, providing a majority against.

It’s also worth considering the fact that Iraqis have grown up in a situation where answering a question about politics in a way that the current government disliked could end up in torture, jail or death for them and their entire families – and continue to live in such a situation today. This cuts both ways though as they may fear not only the coalition or the new government but their enemies too.

Overall though, from what poll results we do have, the majority of Iraqis do seem to think they’re better off without Saddam and to have considered having Coalition troops there as being less bad than not having them there (though a majority have negative views of coalition forces and governments and the new Iraqi governments). Their responses also suggest they do not approve of many the actions of the new Iraqi government or the Coalition – just that they consider the alternatives even worse (55) – (56).

For instance in a poll in 2007 63% of Iraqis said the invasion of Iraq was wrong, 58% said they had no confidence in US or UK occupation forces, with another 27% saying they had ‘not very much’ confidence in them; and 80% thought Coalition forces had done a ‘very bad’ job or ‘quite a bad’ job; while 79% said they opposed the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq; and 70% said Coalition forces had made security worse. However at the same time 63% did not want Coalition forces to leave Iraq; and 51% said attacks on Coalition forces were unacceptable (57).

During 2010 one poll showed more Iraqis now approved of their own government’s performance than of the US government’s performance (though only a minority approved of either) (58). Yet another poll in 2010 showed a majority thought US troops should not leave Iraq yet (59).

Polls are also a matter of perception and perception is shaped by propaganda by governments and their enemies and by what the media focus on and how they frame issues – as is shown by the fact that poll results in Iraq and elsewhere change massively on the same questions in just a few months. People who are very religious for instance may also consider freedom of religion as important as food supply or safety from torture or death. Even people who aren’t religious may consider the right to vote in elections in which different parties and candidates are allowed to be something they value, even if they’re worse off in other ways.

Conclusion – Murder, Torture, Rape and Theft
are the same whether you call them democracy or not

None of this can make torturing people or murdering them, or corruption reducing their food rations, justifiable on the grounds that they are now carried out by an elected government. People who are murdered or tortured in the name of “democracy”, by an elected government do not suffer less because the ideology used to attempt to justify the act sounds better on paper. Torture and murder are not democratic acts. A “democracy” which allows or orders murder, rape and torture on a large scale is a democracy in name only; and has more similarities to a dictatorship than a democracy in reality. The actions ordered by Coalition governments and the new Iraqi governments in Iraq do not differ greatly from Saddam’s when he was in power, except in exceeding the level of corruption under Saddam by several orders of magnitude and leaving more Iraqis suffering hunger and lack of medical treatment as a result.

Replacing a dictatorship is only a positive thing if you replace it with something better; and if you do so in a way that does not cause large numbers of unnecessary deaths. Neither requirement has been met in Iraq so far.

While many have claimed Saddam would still be in power if Coalition forces hadn’t invaded there is in fact no way to know whether he would have been overthrown instead – no-one expected the sudden and largely peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Communist Party or of the Soviet Union either, yet they still happened.

More than anything the facts on Iraq show we should beware of accepting the view of the majority as always (or even usually) being the reality given how quickly the views of the majority change – and how greatly propaganda can influence public opinion if it’s repeated enough times.

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

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

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

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

(5) = BBC News 29 May 2003 ‘Cluster bombs 'used in Iraq cities'’,

(6) = Observer 14 Dec 2003 ‘Army shells pose cancer risk in Iraq’,

(7) =  BBC News 16 Nov 2005 ‘US used white phosphorus in Iraq’,

(8) =  Independent 10 Aug 2003 ‘US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq’,

(9) = Independent 10 Jan 2001 ‘These children had cancer. Now they are dead. I believe they were killed by depleted uranium’,

(10) = BBC News 14 Apr 2000 ‘Iraq's ward of death’,

(11) = 13 Nov 2009 ‘Huge rise in birth defects in Falluja’,

(12) = BBC News 07 Jun 1999 ‘Depleted uranium: the lingering poison’,

(13) = BBC News 04 Jan 2001 ‘Q&A: Depleted uranium weapons’,

(14) = BBC News 18 Jan 2001 ‘Depleted uranium: The next generation’,

(15) = NYT 29 Jan 2001 ‘Doctor's Gulf War Studies Link Cancer to Depleted Uranium’,

(16) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 - ‘Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy’ -

(17) = Amnesty International 1 Nov 2005 ‘TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’’,

(18) = Amnesty International Annual Report 2006 - ‘Summary of Country report for Iraq’’,

(19) = Washington Post Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A21,‘ A Matter of Honor’,

(20) = ABC News 18 May 2004,‘Intel Staffer Cites Abu Ghraib Cover-Up’, and

(21) = ABC News 21 May 2004, ‘Military Punishes Abu Ghraib Key Witness’, and

(22) = Scotsman 27 May 2004,'Soldier left brain damaged after playing unruly prisoner at Guantánamo',

(23) = Independent 14 Oct 2006 - ‘Guantanamo guards 'admitted abusing inmates' -


(25) = Amnesty International 6 Mar 2006 - ‘Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq' -

(26) = Amnesty International 15 Mar 2007 - ‘United Kingdom Court Martial acquittals: many questions remain unanswered and further action required to ensure justice' -

(27) = Guardian 16 Sep 2004 - ‘UK officers linked to torture jail' -,3858,5017135-103550,00.html

(28) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Falluja siege’,

(29) = Guardian 17 Apr 2004 ‘'Getting aid past US snipers is impossible'’,

(30) = Guardian 03 May 2006 ‘Iraqi, 15, 'drowned after soldiers forced him into canal'’,

(31) = Guardian 07 Jun 2006 ‘Soldiers cleared of Iraqi teenager's manslaughter -Court martial absolves trio of 15-year-old's drowning’,

(32)  = BBC News Online 21 Sep 2006 - ‘Iraq torture 'worse after Saddam' ' -

(33) = Amnesty International World Report 2010 (covering 2009) – Country Report Iraq, ;(once pdf loads, scroll down to page 125 (by PDF page number) or 178 (number marked on page)

(34) = New York Times 03 Apr 1998 '4 Salvadorans Say They Killed U.S. Nuns on Orders of Military',

(35) = Joan Didion (1983)‘Salvador’ Granta Books, London, 2006, pages 15-17, 18, 38

(36) = New York Times Magazine 01 May 2005 ‘The Way of the Commandos’,

(37) = Guardian 20 May 2005 ‘British lawyers to pursue Iraqi security forces over killings’,

(38) = Washington Post 11 Mar 2005 ‘Suicide Bomber Kills 47 in Mosul’ ; ‘Third Mass Grave Found; Police Official Ambushed in Baghdad’,

(39) = Shane Bauer ‘Iraq’s new death squad’ in The Nation 6th June 2009,

(40) = Guardian 29 Nov 2001 ‘The hostage nation : Former UN relief chiefs Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday speak out against an attack on Iraq’,,,608578,00.html

(41) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 02 Apr 2006, ‘IRAQ: Food prices rise after reduction of monthly rations’,

(42)= UNOCHA IRIN news service 9 Sep 2007, ‘IRAQ: Food rationing system failing as Ramadan approaches’,  

(43) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 17 Oct 2007, ‘IRAQ: Hundreds forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins’,

(44) = UNOCHA IRIN news service 4 Dec 2007, ‘IRAQ: Government to cut items from its free food handouts’,

(45) = Allawi, Ali A. ‘The occupation of Iraq’ Yale UP, New Haven & London, 2007 (paperback edn)

(46) = Refugees International 04 Oct 2007, ‘Iraq: Fix the Public Distribution System to meet needs of the displaced’,

(47) = IPS/ Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail 03 May 2008, ‘Corruption Eats Into Food Rations’,

(48) = UNoCHA’s IRIN news 08 Nov 2009 ‘IRAQ: Food insecurity on the rise, says official’,

(49) = UNoCHA IRIN news 01 Apr 2010 ‘IRAQ: State food aid package slashed’,

(50) = CNN 31 Jan 2005‘Audit: U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds’,

(51) = Guardian 07 July 2005 ‘So, Mr Bremer, where did all the money go?’

(52) = ABC News 06 Feb 2007‘Waste in War: Where Did All the Iraq Reconstruction Money Go? : Congressional inquiry probes former Bush official's handling of billions ofdollars,

(53) = Guardian 08 Feb 2007 ‘How the US sent $12bn in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish’

(54) = Independent 28 Jul 2010 ‘US unable to account for billions of Iraq oil money’,

(55) = Iraq Analysis - Opinion Polls in Iraq, , (provides links to various polls conducted between 2003 and 2007)

(56) = Oxford Research International Feb 2004 ‘National Survery of Iraq’

(57) = BBC, NBC & AHK poll of Iraqis Aug 2007,

(58) = Gallup 26 Aug 2010 ‘Iraqis More Approving of Own Leadership Than of U.S.’,

(59) = AFP 24 Aug 2010 ‘Iraqis say 'wrong time' for US withdrawal: poll’,


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Risks of Action

The Risks of another unnecessary war on Iran are very real - the risks of not acting are proven by Iranian government actions (especially in 1988) to be propaganda, just as they were with Saddam - as proven by his actions in 1991 - when he did have WMD, but didn't use them

Tony Blair and others who called for "action" to prevent the supposed "threat" from Iraq and are saying the same about Iran now are calling for actions which risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of strengthening support for terrorist groups and letting them get access to WMDs during the chaos of war and "regime change". Saddam's actions in 1991 (when he did have WMD) proved he wasn't willing to risk using them on nuclear armed states or their allies (and was only willing to use them on his own people while the rest of the world looked the other way and kept funding and arming him against Iran). Iran's rulers similarly showed they have no appetite for glorious personal and national martyrdom in 1988. Weapons inspections in 2002 to 2003 were working. If Saddam had had large stocks of WMD the chaos after the invasion would have let looters steal and sell them, as they did with conventional munitions.

Weapons inspectors weren’t expelled in 1998 –
 and weren’t being duped in 2003

Tony Blair and his adherents still claim that Saddam “duped, bribed and expelled weapons inspectors”. In fact Saddam never expelled UN inspectors. The UNSCOM inspections teams present from 1991 were withdrawn in 1998 due to Clinton and Blair announcing bombing in ‘Operation Desert Fox’, giving them only hours notice ;and refused re-entry when it was found CIA agents had infiltrated UNSCOM to identify Iraqi air defence and military barracks sites to bomb , with only 13 out of the first 100 targets on the 'Operation Desert Fox' target list having any connection to suspected biological or chemical weapons or missiles that could deliver them (1) – (3).

UNSCOM from 1991 to 1998 certainly didn't get full, prompt and unrestricted access to all the Iraqi sites they wished to inspect, but things were different with UNMOVIC from 2002. The threat of war was getting results.

In February 2003 Hans Blix, head of the new UNMOVIC UN weapons inspection teams, reported to the UN Security Council that inspectors had destroyed mustard gas stocks and identified empty chemical warheads for scud missiles along with Iraqi missiles exceeding the permitted 150 kilometre range (4). Just three weeks later on 7th March he updated them on  the destruction of 34 Al Samoud 2 missiles, 2 combat warheads, 1 launcher and 5 engines” along with two missile casting chambers.” He added that inspections “faced relatively few difficulties and certainly much less than 1991 to 1998, perhaps due to strong outside pressure ”, estimating completion within “months”. (5).

The risk in Iran, as in Iraq, is chaos caused by war allowing terrorists to sieze of buy WMD - and the collapse of the Soviet Union shows even this risk is exaggerated

Instead Bush rushed to war, creating chaos in Iraq and leading Saddam's forces to mostly flee or go into hiding. As a result large amounts of conventional arms as well as ammunition, shells and mines were looted and likely eventually sold to terrorist groups and militias. Construction machinery which could potentially be used to make chemical and nuclear weapons was also looted from many sites long before US troops arrived (though as most of it was "dual use" it could equally have been sold to companies making civilian products) (6) - (8).

If the Bush administration genuinely believed Saddam had WMD and had - as it claimed - identified WMD sites, it's strange that they didn't bother to secure these sites right away with special forces air-dropped to them.

If Saddam had genuinely had large stocks of WMD and "active" WMD programmes then the invasion would have created the chaos in which they could sieze or buy them (with the same holding true for any planned invasion of Iran). The threat of terrorist groups getting WMDs during the chaos of war and "regime change" was always a much greater threat than the ridiculous claims that Saddam was about to committ suicide by proxy by arming terrorist groups with WMDs.

During the 1991 war, when Saddam did have over a dozen chemical warheads for his Scud missiles, he used none of them in attacks on Coalition forces, Kuwait or Israel. Instead he used conventional warheads (9). While the authors of the book ‘After the Storm’, who include former CIA man Joseph Nye, consider this to be one of the “great mysteries” of the war, there is nothing mysterious about it. Saddam was not willing to risk nuclear retaliation by using any kind of WMD on nuclear armed states or their allies.

That's why the original British MoD intelligence assessment said Saddam might use WMDs on coalition forces “if attacked” and on the point of being overthrown, but was unlikely to do so otherwise. Tony Blair and his advisers had the “if attacked” removed (10).

This is the vital point; and despite Tony Blair’s endless and typically wild eyed and alarmist claims about the “threat” from Iran holds good for Iran’s rulers too (11) – (13). However brutal they are, they have proven they aren’t willing to risk national annihilation by using nuclear weapons on nuclear armed states (who include Israel, France, the US and the UK) or their allies. If they wanted glorious national martyrdom they could have had it in 1988 when, after the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, they thought the US was joining the Iran-Iraq war directly on the Iraqi side with its own forces. Instead they accepted an ignominious peace – and the people who persuaded Ayatollah Khomeini to make peace included the generals of the Revolutionary Guard, Ayatollah Khameini and Ayatollah Rafsanjani – all senior figures in the current Iranian government (14) – (16).

That’s why Condoleezza Rice wrote in 2000 that :‘These regimes [rogue states] are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration.’ (17)

That, unlike some of the things she’s said since, was absolutely true. One of real questions we should have been asking about Iraq and should be asking about Iran (and Pakistan) is not "Do they have or want to acquire nuclear weapons or WMD?", but "Will they use them on us and our allies despite the risk of nuclear annhilation if they do so?". The answer has always been no. Since any government in the world has the capability to build WMD within years or decades if it chooses (chemical weapons at the least) the question is "would they use them?". The second question is "would they use them on their own people". In Saddam's case the answer was - only when the whole world was willing to look the other way as he did while fighting the Iranians. In the case of Iran's government there is no reason to think they would use nuclear weapons on rebels, dissidents and separatists in their own country even if they had them, any more than the US would try to use such weapons on similar militias and terrorist groups in Iraq or Afghanistan - because to do so in either case would kill their own troops along with their enemies.

Even the risk of chaos caused by war or revolution allowing WMDs into the wrong hands is greatly exaggerated. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 it had vast stocks of nuclear weapons, missiles and materials spread over a vast area now made up of dozens of countries, many of them in a state of civil war. Yet almost 20 years later, with Russia having fought a brutal war in Chechnya with many war crimes and acts of terrorism on both sides (and the Russian's enemies including many Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups), there have been no nuclear attacks by terrorists, no nuclear missiles fired by terrorist groups. This puts the risk in Pakistan and Iran into perspective. Though it should not be discounted entirely any war on either would almost certainly increase the chaos and so the risk rather than decrease it - much as in Iraq.

(1) = 17 Dec 1998 ‘Missile blitz on Iraq’, ; ‘The US and Britain unleashed air strikes against Iraq last night ... A few hours before the attack began, 125 UN personnel were hurriedly evacuated from Baghdad to Bahrain, including inspectors from the UN Special Commission on Iraq and the International Atomic Energy Agency.’

(2) = BBC News 23 Mar 1999 ‘Unscom 'infiltrated by spies'’, ; (summary of Panorama programme interviewing former UNSCOM personnel including Scott Ritter) ,‘US intelligence agents succeeded in smuggling into Baghdad a large and sophisticated listening device known as "Stephanie". The device was kept in the office safe of American weapons inspector, Scott Ritter.... In Operation Desert Fox last December, when the US and Britain launched sustained air strikes on Iraq, they used the "Stephanie" material to help them choose their targets, the programme says.’

(3) = Washington Post 16 Jan 1999 ‘Analysis - The Difference Was in the Details’, ; ‘It is clear from the target list, and from extensive communications with almost a dozen officers and analysts knowledgeable about Desert Fox planning, that the U.S.-British bombing campaign was more than a reflexive reaction to Saddam Hussein's refusal to cooperate with UNSCOM's inspectors. The official rationale for Desert Fox may remain the "degrading" of Iraq's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction and the "diminishing" of the Iraqi threat to its neighbors. But careful study of the target list tells another story.

Thirty-five of the 100 targets were selected because of their role in Iraq's air defense system, an essential first step in any air war, because damage to those sites paves the way for other forces and minimizes casualties all around. Only 13 targets on the list are facilities associated with chemical and biological weapons or ballistic missiles, and three are southern Republican Guard bases that might be involved in a repeat invasion of Kuwait.

The heart of the Desert Fox list (49 of the 100 targets) is the Iraqi regime itself: a half-dozen palace strongholds and their supporting cast of secret police, guard and transport organizations.’

(4) = Briefing of the Security Council, 14 February 2003: An update on inspections, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, Dr. Hans Blix,

(5) = Briefing of the Security Council, 7 March 2003: Oral introduction of the 12th quarterly report of UNMOVIC, Executive Chairman Dr. Hans Blix,

(6) = NYT 13 Mar 2005 'Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says',

(7) = United States Government Accountability Office Mar 2007 Report to Congressional Committees - Operation Iraqi Freedom - DOD should apply lessons learned concerning the need for security over conventional munitions storage sites to future operations planning,

(8) = Federation of American Scientists Security Blog 09 Apr 2007,

(9) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (Nye is a former CIA agent)

(10) = Guardian 24 Sep 2003 ‘Blair aide boosted dossier threat’,

(11) = Guardian Unlimited 19 Oct 2007, 11.30 am update, ‘Blair accuses Iran of fuelling 'deadly ideology' of militant Islam’,,,2195043,00.html

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

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

(14) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174

(15) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233

(16) = Rice, Condoleeza (2000) in Foreign Affairs January/February 2000‘ - 'Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest', - cited in Chomsky, Noam (2003) 'Hegemony or Survival' , Penguin Books , London & NY 2004, pages 34 & 260 citing Mearsheimer, John & Walt, Stephen (2003) in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2003

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’,