the New World Order in Iraq and Afghanistan

Date: Mon, 24 May 1999

1] "Iraq is falling apart. We are ruined"

What is now happening in the Balkans was tried first on the Iraqi capital, a city being driven back into the Dark Ages, writes David Sharrock, special correspondent with The Guardian, in Baghdad [and before that in Afghanistan - see item 2 below]

Taking a walk in this benighted city is a lesson in modern warfare. What is happening in the Balkans was tested first in Iraq. You only need to take a few steps down any Baghdad street to feel the changes – feared by the majority and exploited by the profiteering few – creeping into every facet of life.

It is clear that something sinister and irrevocable is under way. Beneath the outward calm, chaos is bubbling. "Everything you see points to Iraq falling apart," says a Baghdad veteran. "This country is becoming a Third World nation." Grubby street children sell bubble gum or beg at traffic lights and prostitutes walk the major roads; this in a country that has undergone a religious revival!

"Iraq used to be a secular society with an educated population and a growing middle class," says a Baghdad professional. "It is simply impossible to believe what is happening. Tribalism and religion are asserting their old dominance. Urban society has been ruined, people are returning to the countryside to find food. We are utterly ruined."

Go and ask the traders on Rashid Street, known as the "thieves' market", what is going on. Or wait until they ask you to explain the"Anglo-American plan" for their liberation. You can find most things in this souk, from a video player to a corkscrew – everything that would have been commonplace in an average Baghdad household before the Gulf war. Now no item is too small for resale if it brings in a few US dollars.

Here I met Karim, a slight figure whose impeccable English betrayed his British university education – civil engineering at Birmingham. He was trying, without conviction, to sell black market cigarettes. "Please, I would like to ask you a question," he said hesitantly. "You are from England? It is a country I love. I made many good friends. I found they were gentle people. I want to know, do they know what is happening to Iraq? Do they know that our leaders are not getting hurt by the embargo, that it is only the ordinary people who you are harming?"

Quite simply, the West is conducting a monstrous social experiment on the people of Iraq. A once-prosperous nation is being driven into the pre-industrial Dark Ages. It will take years to fathom the harm being done to the lives of 21.7 million people here by a policy intended, according to its shapers in Washington and supporters in London, to bring Iraq back into the international community of nations by toppling Saddam Hussein. Karim is typical of thousands of members of the Iraqi middle class. He studied in Britain and returned home to pass on his knowledge. "My professor begged me to stay, he said I reminded him of [his] own son and that I could make a better life in England," he says. "But I was young and idealistic, I wanted to fight to improve my country. I now know it was the worst mistake of mylife." Karim married and found a job as a university professor with a salary of around $2,400 a month. That was plenty on which to raise his four children before the war, when a quasi- socialist system and vast oil wealth gave Iraqis one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. As long as the oil flowed and you kept your nose clean, the excesses of President Saddam's regime – the all-enveloping security services and the war with Iran – could be managed with little discomfort.

Nobody anticipated that President Saddam would invade Kuwait in August 1990, still less the consequences of his defeat. The West had long been an ally, arming Iraq for its proxy war with the Shia fundamentalist regime in Iran. Even in 1988, when sarin and mustard gas were rained on the Kurds, killing 5,000 in a day at Halabja, Western protests were muted. By challenging the regional order and threatening the status quo of the world's oil market, however, he was transformed overnight into public enemy number one.

United Nations security resolutions demanded that the Iraqi regime destroy its weapons of mass destruction, but Washington had bolder plans. Robert Gates, a deputy national security adviser under President George Bush, said that Iraqis would "pay the price" while President Saddam was in power. This presupposed that the Iraqi leader cared for his people. The economic blockade on Iraq was only partially relieved in 1996, when a UN oil-for-food programme was accepted after the World Health Organisation reported that most Iraqis had been on a "semi-starvation diet for years".

Within a year of the invasion of Kuwait food prices in Iraq increased by 2,000 per cent. Hyperinflation turned Karim's comfortable salary into the equivalent of $5 a month and everything was sold, even his wedding ring. The experience has left him deeply suspicious of the United States and Britain. "Do they really want to get rid of our friend [the euphemism Iraqis employ when they talk about their leader] by killing all of us first? Perhaps they are actually helping to keep him in power?" he says.

The strict rationing has certainly strengthened President Saddam's control over his people. On the eve of the 1995 referendum which asked, "Do you agree that Saddam Hussein should be president of Iraq?", security officers visited the 8 million eligible voters and asked: "Do you know how to vote?" and "Are you receiving your food rations?" President Saddam won 99.96 per cent of the vote.

Off Saadoun Street is a pharmacy run by Yussuf Kassab, who should have retired after a lifetime's work at the ministry of health. He is forced to work because his sons, one a dentist the other an engineer, cannot afford to live independently. Many of his clients leave empty-handed, unable to obtain even such ordinary items as antihistamines and cough linctus. The situation has improved slightly over the past six months, but Dr Kassab says: "There is a restricted amount of many of these products in circulation, so the patients . . . will just keep going round the city looking. Maybe they will be lucky."

Ominously, a recent UN security council report notes that as of late January $274 million of supplies and medicine purchased under the oil-for- food programme had accumulated in government warehouses – more than half of the supplies that have arrived in Iraq. Under the programme Iraq is in charge of distribution, not the UN. "According to information provided by UN observers, only 15per cent of all medical equipment received by the warehouses had been distributed," it says.

One officer in the relief field comments: "Two months ago I would have said point blank that I did not believe that the Iraqi government was deliberately starving its people or depriving them of essential medicines, but I'm coming round to the view that, as part of their plan, someone somewhere is not rushing these things through as much as they might."

Dennis Halliday, an Irish Quaker who was the UN humanitarian co-ordinator, resigned from his post last summer, bitterly observing that sanctions had killed a million Iraqis, including 500,000 children. But when this statistic was put to the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, in 1996, when she was US ambassador to the UN, she replied: "I think this is a very hard choice but the price – we think the price is worth it."

Today about 5,000 children are dying every month because of the poor water supplies, an inadequate diet and a lack of health care. Malnutrition among children under five, having fallen from 32 per cent since the introduction of the oil-for-food programme, is now stubbornly stuck at 23 per cent.

Pierrette Vu Thi, a planning officer for Unicef, has a different spin on one of the US military planners' favourite buzzwords – "degradation". While advocates of the military option talk about "degrading" President Saddam's capacity to threaten his neighbours, Ms Vu Thi says that the real "degradation" is occurring in Iraq's social fabric. Half of the country's schools are not fit for occupation, 10,000 teachers have given up their jobs because they cannot survive on the salary of $3.50-$10 a month, and 30 per cent of children have dropped out of school. "The oil-for-food programme has not addressed this degradation," she says. Ms Vu Thi is careful to stop short of Mr Halliday's assessment of the merits of the sanctions campaign, merely stating "Unicef's great concern".

Crime is rising as Iraq's infrastructure crumbles. Electricity supplies are running at only 40 per cent of their pre-war levels. Up to $41 billion is needed to restore an adequate supplies of water, electricity, education and health care.

Meanwhile continuing bombing raids in the "no-fly zones" in the north and south of Iraq are the heart of the latest phase in the US-British war on the country. A US assertion that around 200 bombs have been dropped in "self-defence" on Iraqi military installations since Operation Desert Fox ended is "far below reality", according to an independent observer. "The Iraqi claim that 3,200 sorties have been flown by the Americans and British since Desert Fox is accurate. It is very nearly the same number as in the whole of the air campaign during the Gulf war. They are fighting a low-intensity, high-technology, undeclared war."

Another Western source agrees, but doubts whether the Americans and British are any nearer to removing President Saddam from power. "The Americans are gaining much more by chipping away every day at his military infrastructure than with a four-day intensive blitz as in December," he says. "The air strikes are happening on a daily basis but are going virtually unreported . . . I don't know if they have a strategy, it just looks like lashing out."

The Iraqi people usually know what is going on, thanks to the Voice of America, the BBC World Service and the bush telegraph. They have just been told that the US is not at war with Iraq but rather, in the surreal phrase of Thomas Pickering, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, in a "state of animosity" with Baghdad. Intriguingly Mr Pickering also told a US senate hearing that the UN oil-for-food programme was a linchpin for Washington's efforts to maintain sanctions.

And according to the British junior foreign office minister Tony Lloyd, the UK government "has decided to launch a new policy of better-targeted, 'smarter sanctions', which will ensure that "the people who are hit are the ones who should be hit". "Ah, your Mr Robin Cook," said Karim, catching sight of the foreign secretary on an Iraqi news programme. "He said he was going to give Britain an ethical foreign policy, didn't he? Can you ask him for me, what is there ethical about what he is doing to me or all the other ordinary Iraqis?"

At the Saddam Hospital for Children there is ample opportunity to study the consequences of this ethical foreign policy. Ayat Abbad is a year old yet weighs a little more than 3kg, half her ideal weight. Like thousands of other babies she is suffering from marasmus, a type of malnutrition that was unheard of in Iraq before the Gulf war and the sanctions, and has suffered gastroenteritis and pneumonia The duty doctor holds out little hope for her survival. "She will either die before the end of the year or she will live and grow up stunted and with low intelligence," he says. "It is not just the lack of medicines, they have created an entire culture of embargo . . . we are not receiving new-generation drugs, advances in medicine, science, food, anything."

Besieged by US and British policy and by a government that treats its people as bargaining chips, the real casualties of this war are those who can least afford to pay the price or raise their voices to be heard. What poses the greater danger to the West's "vital regional interests" in the future: the survival of Presidents Saddam or a generation of Iraqis made bitter by the indifference of Western countries running daily raids in "self-defence"?

The Guardian Weekly Volume 160 Issue 18 for week ending May 2, 1999, P11

2] The Afghan Trap: Interview with Brezinski

Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76,
translation Bill Blum

Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs, From the Shadows, that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they [entendaient] to fight against a secret [ingérence] of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [intégrisme], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

Richard Moore notes [with my additional comments]

  1. The intentional setting of traps to achieve desired outcomes.
    [consider the parallels in Iraq and Yugoslavia]
  2. The explicit lack of concern regarding the pawns in the game, in particular, the lack of regret about the Taliban outcome.
    [the Kurds, Iraqi people, Serbs, Kosovars....]
  3. The admission that actual plans and goals, involving top levels of government, are routinely kept secret for years - covered over by PR lies. For nearly 20 years, B. tells us, a major conspiracy was successfully kept secret from the American people and the world. There were changes of administration, and changes of personnel in the various agencies invovled, and yet nothing leaked out of the mainstream media. People at the highest level of government were in the know, along with who-knows-how-many field agents, support personnel, administrative staff, media insiders, etc. etc.

There is an "official version of history" and then there is reality - the discrepancy is called "conspiracy" - and by some means or the other, such conspiracies can be kept secret successfully for decades. The Afghan Trap is only one of many that have come to light and been well documented, if not admitted outright as in this case.

Note from Jan: For those of you who are concerned about the allegations that medicines and supplies are not being distributed properly by the Iraqi government, the excerpt from the Voices in the Wilderness message below, which Richard sent to the cj list, is pertinent. (It is not impossible that the Iraqi goverment lacks zeal in getting what few supplies are allowed past the sanctions to the people. But this is no reason for us to forget our own responsibility in this crime.)

Subject: VItW: Meanwhile, crimes continue in Iraq...

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 15:53:06 -0600
From: Voices In the Wilderness

Dear Friends,

Upon return from Iraq, we learned about reports accusing the Iraqi government of deliberately withholding medicines, stashing them in warehouses rather than delivering them to needy people. Puzzled, we asked our delegation that's presently in Iraq, the Boston delegation, (March 15 - 28 1999), to doublecheck with UN authorities in Baghdad regarding these allegations. On March 18, Jennifer Horan, of the Boston delegation, called to say that she spoke with Dr. Habib Rejeb, MD of the World Health Organization, in his UN office in Baghdad, and that he urged nations not to throw stones at Iraq because it has problems distributing medicines. He detailed the litany of difficulties facing Iraqi workers responsible for food and medicine distribution. The Boston delegation will supply us with a full report, upon return. You may recall excerpts from a VitW November '98 interview with Dr. Rejeb in which he explained that Resolution 986, the oil for food deal, doesn't allow for any cash to purchase equipment needed to distribute relief shipments or to hire Iraqi relief workers. Many of you will have already heard Denis Halliday and Phyllis Bennis further describe the flaws in implementing current UN Resolutions.

Denis Halliday and Phyllis Bennis, nearing the end of their cross country tour, were enthused by the assortment of tenacious, creative groups they'd met, all dedicated to ending the sanctions against Iraq. Impressed by this compassionate network, they suggested that we change our name to "Voices," since we're no longer facing a wilderness. We're encouraged. Yet we still long for a time when Iraqi childrenís voices will reach us with exuberant laughter, energy and joy, unclouded by anguished affliction. Till then, we remain your companions in a determined struggle.


Kathy Kelly
for Voices in the Wilderness

Voices in the Wilderness
A Campaign to End the US/UN Economic Sanctions Against the People of Iraq
1460 West Carmen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
ph:773-784-8065; fax: 773-784-8837

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