Fisk on Iraq

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Dec 18 16:48:37 PST 1998

[Scott Ritter, friend of the Mossad, is all over the various NBC outlets as an "analyst."]

The Independent (18 Dec 1998)

Robert Fisk - Deadly cost of

a degrading act

WE ARE now in the endgame, the final

bankruptcy of Western policy towards Iraq, the

very last throw of the dice. We fire 200 cruise

missiles into Iraq and what do we expect? Is a

chastened Saddam Hussein going to emerge from

his bunker to explain to us how sorry he is? Will

he tell us how much he wants those nice UN

inspectors to return to Baghdad to find his

"weapons of mass destruction"? Is that what we

think? Is that what the Anglo-American

bombardment is all about? And if so, what

happens afterwards? What happens when the

missile attacks end - just before the Muslim holy

month of Ramadan, because, of course, we really

are very sensitive about Iraqi religious feelings -

and Saddam Hussein tells us that the UN

inspectors will never be allowed to return?

As the cruise missiles were launched, President

Clinton announced that Saddam had "disarmed

the [UN] inspectors", and Tony Blair - agonising

about the lives of the "British forces" involved (all

14 pilots) - told us that "we act because we

must". In so infantile a manner did we go to war

on Wednesday night. No policies. No

perspective. Not the slightest hint as to what

happens after the bombardment ends. With no

UN inspectors back in Iraq, what are we going to

do? Declare eternal war against Iraq?

We are "punishing" Saddam - or so Mr Blair

would have us believe. And all the old cliches are

being trundled out. In 1985, just before he

bombed them, Ronald Reagan told the Libyans

that the United States had "no quarrel with the

Libyan people". In 1991, just before he bombed

them, George Bush told the Iraqis that he had "no

quarrel with the Iraqi people". And now we have

Tony Blair - as he bombs them - telling Iraqis

that, yes, he has "no quarrel with the Iraqi


Is there a computer that churns out this stuff? Is

there a cliche department at Downing Street

which also provides Robin Cook with the tired

phrase of the American Secretary of State,

Madeleine Albright, about how Saddam used gas

"against his own people"?

For little did we care when he did use that gas

against the Kurds of Halabja - because, at the

time, those Kurds were allied to Iran and we, the

West, were supporting Saddam's invasion of Iran.

The lack of any sane long-term policy towards

Iraq is the giveaway. Our patience - according to

Clinton and Blair - is exhausted. Saddam cannot

be trusted to keep his word (they've just

realised). And so Saddam's ability to "threaten his

neighbours" - neighbours who don't in fact want

us to bomb Iraq - has to be "degraded". That

word "degraded" is a military term, first used by

General Schwarzkopf and his boys in the 1991

Gulf war, and it is now part of the vocabulary of

the weak. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction

have to be "degraded". Our own dear Mr Cook

was at it again yesterday, informing us of the need

to "degrade" Saddam's military capability.

How? The UN weapons inspectors - led for most

of the time by Scott Ritter (the man who has

admitted he kept flying to Israel to liaise with

Israeli military intelligence), could not find out

where Saddam's nuclear, biological and chemical

weapons were hidden. They had been harassed

by Iraq's intelligence thugs, and prevented from

doing their work. Now we are bombing the

weapons facilities which the inspectors could not

find. Or are we? For there is a very serious

question that is not being asked: if the inspectors

couldn't find the weapons, how come we know

where to fire the cruise missiles?

And all the while, we continue to impose

genocidal sanctions on Iraq, sanctions that are

killing innocent Iraqis and - by the admission of

Mr Cook and Mrs Albright - not harming

Saddam at all. Mrs Albright rages at Saddam's

ability to go on building palaces, and Mr Cook is

obsessed with a report of the regime's purchase

of liposuction equipment which, if true, merely

proves that sanctions are a total failure.

Mr Cook prattles on about how Iraq can sell

more than $10bn (£6bn) of oil a year to pay for

food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. But

since more than 30 per cent of these oil revenues

are diverted to the UN compensation fund and

UN expenses in Iraq, his statement is totally


Dennis Halliday, the man who ran the UN

oil-for-food programme in Baghdad, until he

realised that thousands of Iraqi children were

dying every month because of sanctions, resigned

his post with the declaration that "we are in the

process of destroying an entire society. it is illegal

and immoral." So either Mr Halliday is a

pathological liar - which I do not believe - or Mr

Cook has a serious problem with the truth -

which I do believe.

Now we are bombing the people who are

suffering under our sanctions. Not to mention the

small matter of the explosion of child cancer in

southern Iraq, most probably as a result of the

Allied use of depleted uranium shells during the

1991 war. Gulf war veterans may be afflicted

with the same sickness, although the British

Government refuses to contemplate the

possibility. And what, in this latest strike, are

some of our warheads made of? Depleted

uranium, of course.

Maybe there really is a plan afoot for a coup

d'etat, though hopefully more ambitious than our

call to the Iraqi people to rise up against their

dictator in 1991, when they were abandoned by

the Allies they thought would speed to their

rescue. Mr Clinton says he wants a democracy in

Iraq - as fanciful a suggestion as any made

recently. He is demanding an Iraqi government

that "represents its people" and "respects" its

citizens. Not a single Arab regime - especially not

Washington's friends in Saudi Arabia - offers such

luxuries to its people. We are supposed to

believe, it seems, that Washington and London

are terribly keen to favour the Iraqi people with a

fully fledged democracy. In reality, what we want

in Iraq is another bullying dictator - but one who

will do as he is told, invade the countries we wish

to see invaded (Iran), and respect the integrity of

those countries we do not wish to see invaded


Yet no questions are being asked, no lies

uncovered. Ritter, the Marine Corps inspector

who worked with Israeli intelligence, claimed that

Richard Butler - the man whose report triggered

this week's new war - was aware of his visits to

Israel. Is that true? Has anyone asked Mr Butler?

He may well have avoided such contacts - but it

would be nice to have an answer.

So what to do with Saddam? Well, first, we

could abandon the wicked sanctions regime

against Iraq. We have taken enough innocent

lives. We have killed enough children. Then we

could back the real supporters of democracy in

Iraq - not the ghouls and spooks who make up

the so-called Iraqi National Congress, but the

genuine dissidents who gathered in Beirut in 1991

to demand freedom for their country, but were

swiftly ignored by the Americans once it became

clear that they didn't want a pro-Western

strongman to lead them.

And we could stop believing in Washington.

Vice-President Al Gore told Americans yesterday

that it was a time for "national resolve and unity".

You might have thought that the Japanese had just

bombed Pearl Harbor, or that General

MacArthur had just abandoned Bataan. When

President Clinton faced the worst of the Monica

Lewinsky scandal, he bombed Afghanistan and

Sudan. Faced with impeachment, he now bombs

Iraq. How far can a coincidence go?

This week, two Christian armies - America's and

Britain's - went to war with a Muslim nation, Iraq.

With no goals, but with an army of platitudes,

they have abandoned the UN's weapons control

system, closed the door on arms inspections, and

opened the door to an unlimited military offensive

against Iraq. And nobody has asked the obvious

question: what happens next?

---------------- End Forwarded Message ----------------- =====================================

From: David Johnson <djohnson at> Subject: CDI Russia Weekly-#28 CDI Russia Weekly #28 18 December 1998 Edited by David Johnson Center for Defense Information 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW Washington DC 20036 phone: 202-332-0600; fax:202-462-4559 djohnson at The CDI Russia Weekly is an e-mail newsletter that carries news and analysis on all aspects of today's Russia, including political, economic, social, military, and foreign policy issues. With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, CDI Russia Weekly is a project of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information (CDI), a nonprofit research and education organization. CDI Russia Weekly web page:

#1 Moscow Times December 18, 1998 Raids Unite Russian Politicians In Outrage By Melissa Akin Staff Writer Led by President Boris Yeltsin, officials across Russia's political spectrum loudly condemned the airstrikes against Iraq, calling them unprovoked and outrageous. Despite the outpouring of rhetoric from democrats, nationalists and Communists, Russia's ability to oppose the strikes with more than words remained limited by economic troubles and the need for foreign loans, analysts said. Yeltsin called in a statement for "an immediate end to military action, to show common sense and restraint and not to allow further escalation of the conflict." He said the strikes "could result in the most dramatic consequences, not only for the Iraqi settlement, but for the stability of the entire region.' Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, a Middle East expert acquainted with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, called the attacks "outrageous." Russia has opposed the use of force against Iraq and has said that any military action must be coordinated by the United Nations Security Council, where it has a veto. But several analysts said Russia's need for assistance from the International Monetary Fund - where the U.S. has considerable clout - to deal with its financial turmoil meant it could do little to oppose the U.S. action. "Russia is very weak politically. It depends very much on IMF credits and World Bank loans. Both politically and militarily, it can't really retaliate," said Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation. The main consequence of Russian displeasure is likely to be postponement of a ratification vote on the START II arms control treaty, signed in 1993 but still not ratified by the Communist-dominated Duma, where some members say it favors the U.S. Prodded by Primakov, the Duma had been moving toward passage in the past few days, but deputies said ratification was a lost cause for now in the wake of the attack. Another potential result of the attack was the strain in the relationship between NATO and Russia, with Yeltsin ordering Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev not to attend a Friday meeting at the Russia-NATO consultative commission in Brussels, according to Russian news agencies. The raids, however, were not a NATO operation. Russia's relationship with Iraq goes back to Soviet days, when Hussein was an ally against the United States in the Middle East. Iraq also has an important place in Russia's post-Soviet foreign policy, which seeks to counter U.S. influence in Asia and the Middle East. In addition, cash-strapped Russia is owed about $8 billion by Iraq in Soviet-era debts - money it is unlikely to see while Iraq remains under UN economic sanctions. The rhetoric was fierce. The State Duma, usually bogged down in partisan squabbling, cleared its agenda Thursday for an unusual show of unity as deputies condemned the attacks. "This is absolutely intolerable," said Deputy Vladimir Lukin, a former ambassador to the United States and a member of the liberal Yabloko fraction. "A debate on whether Iraq has fulfilled this or that UN resolution is no grounds for the bombing of a country; moreover, it is no grounds for the unilateral bombing of a country." Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov branded the strikes an "act of state terror against the sovereign state of Iraq." "The United States does not reckon with the Security Council of the United Nations, nor with the world community, nor with Russia as a major nation," Interfax quoted Zyuganov as saying in the Duma. Just like some U.S. legislators, deputies said the strikes were a cynical attempt by U.S. President Bill Clinton to distract attention from his domestic political troubles. "In the final analysis, it's all Monica Lewinsky's fault," Lukin said.The deputies passed a harshly-worded resolution condemning the attacks by a vote of 394 to one with two abstentions. The resolution calls for Russia to unilaterally stop observing economic sanctions against Iraq imposed after the 1991 Gulf War and to increase military spending to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. Other high-profile political figures of widely varying stripes joined the chorus of condemnation, including Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, former Prime Ministers Sergei Kiriyenko and Viktor Chernomyrdin and Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Lebed,. Foreign Ministry officials summoned U.S. Ambassador James Collins and British Ambassador Andrew Wood and complained the United States and Britain had violated the UN Charter by acting unilaterally, Russian news agencies said. "The unprovoked use of force by Great Britain and the United States crudely violate the UN Charter, as well as generally accepted principles of international law, norms and rules of responsible behavior in the international arena," a foreign ministry statement said. On Yeltsin's orders, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev called off a visit to Brussels for a session of the NATO-Russia consultative council. But in one of several signs that Russia's opposition is not as staunch as it looked, NTV television reported later the meeting would go forth without Sergeyev. There were voices of moderation. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who had criticized UNSCOM chief Richard Butler the day before for escalating the confrontation when he ordered UN inspectors out of Baghdad, told the Duma the dispute wasn't worth a return to "total confrontation" with the United States. Anton Surikov, a spokesman for First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov, said START II should still be ratified, though he said it was not appropriate to do it against the background of the air strikes.Russia has few cards to play. The proposal to increase defense spending, for example, is impractical while the budget lacks funds to pay government workers salaries and social benefits. Analysts say the START II agreement had become more a political bargaining chip than a real step in the disarmament process, since Defense Ministry officials have said Russia's missile forces will be reduced by lack of funds and attrition to the numbers prescribed by the treaty, ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. The Heritage Foundation's Volk said, however, that the strikes might provide a temporary domestic boost to the government by distracting the country from economic woes and uniting it against the United States. "It's easy to build up anti-American sentiment in order to divert attention away from the failures of economic policy," he said. One potential windfall for Russia - a rise in oil prices due to Middle East turmoil - appeared not to be happening Thursday, with crude prices falling slightly. Oil and gas make up half of Russia's exports, and a fall in world oil prices contributed to the Aug. 17 ruble collapse and government debt default. Financier Boris Berezovsky, executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States, said the strikes highlighted just how weak Russian was. "Today we witnessed the rise of a new order," he was quoted as saying by Interfax. "There is one country that can independently make and implement any decisions it considers necessary." "Last night Russia joined a number of other countries who don't have to be reckoned with." *******

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