THE IRAQ WAR — 16 YEARS AND COUNTING
Phase One of the continuing war started with Desert Storm on Jan. 17, 1991, followed by Phase Two, the sanctions, and Phase 3, the invasion — this last being the "three week war" that has so far lasted three years and 10 months, with no end in sight.
THE IRAQ WAR — 16 YEARS AND COUNTING
By Jack A. Smith
Hudson Valley (NY) Activist Newsletter, Jan. 4, 2007
This month, on Jan. 17, marks the 16th anniversary of the U.S. war against Iraq. So far, a total of 2.25 million Iraqis have died, the great majority of them civilians, in all three connected phases of the war. U.S. battle deaths throughout these years amount to about 3,200.
PHASE ONE: "Desert Storm" lasted from Jan. 17 to March 2 of 1991 after a six-month buildup. This is the war that put Pentagon Inc. back in the destruction business after declaring bankruptcy in Vietnam.
The U.S. Army hung its head for 15 years after Vietnam while a select group of generals led by Colin Powell figured out how to win the next unjust war without encountering massive resistance from the American people. Powel invented the doctrine named after him which was tested in Iraq 1991: Use overwhelming force to bomb the civilian and state infrastructure to kingdom come until the enemy died from within; avoid ground fighting, especially in a guerrilla environment; use professionals, not politically unreliable conscripts; make the war very short; keep the press away from the front lines except under Pentagon supervision; enlist plenty of allies to convey the impression the war is popular and moral; keep U.S. casualties very low so the civilians back home don't get upset by American deaths; and pile up the dead on the other side so there can be victory parades, backslapping and spirited chanting of USA!, USA!, USA!
Desert Storm resulted in the deaths of between 150,000 to 200,000 Iraqis, soldiers and civilians. Over 500,000 U.S. military personnel were engaged in Desert Storm. The Pentagon lists 148 as battle deaths, including 37 who died from "friendly fire." The U.S. never occupied Iraq but bombed it continuously for 42 days with 110,000 aircraft sorties dropping almost 90,000 tons of explosives. Thousands of missiles were launched from the sea.
Iraq was decimated. Iraq's entire civil and state infrastructure was shattered — transportation, telephone service, water supplies, hospitals, military facilities, schools, stores, farms, everything. More than 90% of Iraq's electrical power was destroyed the first day of the bombing. In some cases it took years to restore electrical power; in some cases, because the war never ended, it's still not operating. Ramsey Clark told the whole real story about Desert Storm in "The Fire This Time." It's so honest and revealing it will never be on a high school reading list.
On Feb. 26, 1991, the U.S. Air Force vindictively attacked Iraqi soldiers, mostly very young draftees, after they withdrew from Kuwait to southern Iraq, backs to the war, heading home. Clark wrote "Iraqi forces began retreating along the Basra Road. U.S. planes bombed both ends of the road [so the vehicles and troops couldn't move] and proceeded to attack the long rows of cars along a 7-mile stretch. The U.S. killed thousands in the 'turkey shoot,' including many civilians fleeing Kuwait." On Feb. 28 the U.S. agreed to a ceasefire, but on March 2, the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division slaughtered thousands more Iraqi soldiers in a post-ceasefire attack.
Asked how many Iraqi civilians died, Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered disdainfully, "It's not a number I'm terribly interested in." And why should he — the proud symbol of resurgent American militarism, the man who made it possible for the officer corps to once again strut and preen — why should he have an interest in counting yet another superfluous Iraqi family torn apart by cluster bombs?
Dick Cheney was President George H. W. Bush's Defense Secretary at the time. A few days after Desert Storm ended the man who now functions as White House puppet master told the Los Angeles Times, in regard to Iraqi deaths, "If anybody is curious about what we think happened, we think there were a lot of Iraqis killed." Great joke, Dick. Great little war.
PHASE TWO : The draconian U.S.-UN sanctions against Iraq actually began in August of 1990, soon after Iraqi troops entered Kuwait, but didn't become seriously effective until the day Desert Storm ended. The deaths caused by the war were but a prelude to much worse horrors caused by the sanctions, which ultimately killed at least 1.5 million Iraqi civilians, according to UN estimates. We look back at that "moderate" sector of the U.S. antiwar movement which in the days leading up to Desert Storm put forward the demand, "Sanctions , Not War," and can only shake our heads.
One of the main purposes of the sanctions was to force the Baghdad regime to hand over its weapons of mass destruction. Remember them? Another purpose was to prevent Iraq from ever rebuilding its civil infrastructure or its military prowess. It still hasn't. Baghdad was denied the ability to import materials to reconstruct the electrical grid, to clean up and pump potable water supplies, to repair wrecked transportation, to rebuild factories, to import fertilizers, medicines and foodstuffs. Much of Iraq is desert. It always imported food. But its ability to sell oil, its one big export, was severely curtailed by the sanctions. Children starved. America watched, and all it saw was the White House Propaganda Department's larger than life, demonized figure of the Arch-Fiend, the Devil Himself, Hitler Incarnate, the Baby-Killer-of-Baghdad, and he's coming after us — SADDAM !
During the mid-1990s the UN officially estimated that half the Iraqi civilian dead from the sanctions were very young children suffering from malnutrition, water-borne diseases, and lack of medications due to U.S. embargo. It was at this time, in May 2006, when U.S. UN Ambassador Madeline Albright was asked by "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl, "We have heard that half a million children have died [in Iraq]. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied: "I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it." President Bill Clinton, the iron-willed enforcer of killer sanctions and the original champion of regime-change in Iraq, soon named Albright Secretary of State, and not one senator at her confirmation hearing inquired about her well-known remark.
Untold thousands more Iraqis, who are not included in our death count because no figures exist, were killed in continuous bombings by U.S. and British fighter planes from the spring of 1991 until the invasion of March 2003. They attacked at least once a month, sometimes in murderous attacks for several days. The Clinton Administration recalled the weapons inspectors from Iraq before launching a long series of deadly bombing raids starting in December 1998. We held a small protest in Kingston, about 100 people. A passing motorist shouted "Go Back to Iraq." Clinton's bombings lasted to the summer of 1999, amounting to 10,000 sorties that killed hundreds of Iraqis. The newspapers to this day say President Saddam Hussein kicked the inspectors out but he just didn't let them back in after it was revealed in January 1999 that Clinton planted spies among the inspectors who secretly informed Washington about what targets to bomb.
Interviewed about the long bombing campaign by the Washington Post on Aug. 30, 1999, U.S. Brig. General William Looney declared: "If they turn on the radars we're going to blow up their goddamn SAMs [surface-to-air missiles]. They know we own their country. We own their airspace.... We dictate the way they live and talk. And that's what's great about America right now. It's a good thing, especially when there's a lot of oil out there we need."
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter began speaking out frequently about Iraq in 2000. He insisted that all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed by the end of 1997. He even said this information was in Washington's possession for two years. Few paid attention. Only the left seemed to be listening, as it always does when it senses the warmakers are about to run amok once again.
President George W. Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the neocons almost attacked Iraq before the smoke cleared from the World Trade Center on 9/11, but decided to hit poor, bedraggled Afghanistan first because nobody in the rest of the world would care enough to complain, and they needed more time to plan for the Big Oil Grab. Everything was flags and yellow ribbons in those dreadful days. We held another demonstration in Kingston against the new war. A passing motorist in a two-flag SUV yelled, "Go back to Afghanistan."
During the nine months leading up to the 2003 invasion, while President Bush was insisting he had "no plans" to attack Iraq, the U.S. flew nearly 22,000 sorties over Iraqi territory, destroying Iraqi air defenses in preparation for the impending new war that had been on the neoconservative hit list since late 1991.
PHASE THREE: The antiwar movement was wonderful then, in the months leading up to phase 3. ANSWER brought over 100,000 antiwarriors to Washington in October 2002 and then came back with a million more of us in January 2003, among many pre-emptive peace protests against an impending pre-emptive war. We got 2,000 peace people to Kingston that October as well, and of course some clown suggested that we "go back to Iraq," but we were strong then, and laughed as we marched through uptown streets.
The details about the Bush Administration's fabrications that paved the way for the March 2003 invasion need not be repeated. The U.S. assertion of its imperial imperative started with the rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air, producing those abrupt flashes of bright light exploding over the Baghdad night, illuminating the grinning skull of Rumsfeld the Great, mumbling "bubble, bubble toil and trouble" as he savored the shock, the awe, the magnificence of his plan, his war, his triumph.
Congress wrapped itself in red, white and blue bunting as always, and caved in as always, so it ended up a bipartisan war as always, and it still is bipartisan once we examine the tiny print on the back of the ballots many so hopefully cast last November, reading in the case of 90% of the candidates: "Redeemable in deeds at one one-hundredth of expressed value."
Bush ended the sanctions shortly after the U.S. toppled the Baghdad government, planning to have Iraqi oil money pay for the entire "three-week war." Rummy forgot the Powell Doctrine — crush 'em fast and get out before the roof collapses — and three weeks turned into the three years and 10 months to reach where we are today, and there is still a long war to go.
The number of Iraqi dead in this the latest phase of the war is over 600,000, mostly civilians of course. Iraq is still a ruin from 1991 compounded by the attacks of 1992, '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99, 2000, '01, '02, '03,' 04, '05, '06, '07... .
So Happy New Year Baghdad! Revel in your new democracy. Please, please, don't thank us. We have been only too glad to help out. And we have a surprise New Year present for you: All together now — Ding-Dong, Saddam is dead, the Wicked Saddam is dead! — killed on the orders of George W. Bush, our hangin' president, and Prime Minister al-Quisling of your collaborationist government. [Boisterous applause]
Bush had the effrontery to describe President Hussein's murder, accompanied as it was by taunting and humiliation from a death-squad of official executioners, as "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself." The trial of Saddam Hussein was a sham and a shame. The European Union, the UN Human Rights Commission and hundreds of human rights and progressive groups denounced the execution as barbaric and many also slammed the trial as a mockery of justice.
Bush has chosen to ignore the verdict for peace in the November elections and to continue the quest for victory and its spoils. The White House is planning to increase the number of troops in Iraq and to authorize a substantial permanent jump in the size of the Army, Marines and Special Forces. The new Democratic-controlled Congress will push aside its small minority of progressives and refuse to erect any barriers Bush cannot easily sidestep in terms of funding the war, or enlarging the size of he Armed Forces.
In a statement on the war in late December, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, with words reminiscent of an earlier Secretary of State, said Bush's fiasco in Iraq was "worth the investment" in American lives and dollars, reminding us of the Vietnam War slogan, "War is good for business, invest your son." She didn't mention Iraqi lives. Hardly anyone does now. It's always American lives that count. Even many in our peace movement seem to express public grief only for their own. Maybe it's unpatriotic in these conservative and ultra-nationalist times to mourn the victims of American aggression, when they have had the gall over these 16 years to kill one of our troops for every 703 of their children, women and men. Iraq is bleeding to death as America watches on TV, yawns and switches stations.
Today we're learn that Bush's speech next week "will reveal a plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq." Today we learn that "American Generals agree: Bush doesn't want withdrawal, he wants victory." Today we learn that the Democratic Congressional leadership has reaffirmed its commitment not to block the next "emergency" war appropriation. Today we learn from the latest opinion poll in Iraq that "90% of those polled said life was better before the American invasion." Today we learn that Baghdad has "ordered an investigation into the abusive behavior at the execution of Saddam Hussein." Today we learn that the new U.S.-backed UN Secretary-General "Defends Death Penalty for Hussein." Today we are told that "more than 108,000 Iraqis left their homes and registered as refugees last month." Today we learn that "in the last 10 months, 432,000 Iraqis have left their homes."
We can't wait for tomorrow's headlines: Bush Ponders New War Moves; Dems Ponder New War Moves; Blair Ponders New War Moves. Paris Hilton Ponders New War Moves; Gerald Ford Arises From Dead, Ponders New War Moves.
Every day it gets worse for the Iraqi people, just when it seems it can get no worse. Every day for almost 16 years these people have suffered as a result of actions taken by our government in our name and with our money.
If an American baby was born on Jan. 17, 1991, that child will be 16 in a few days. Happy Birthday, kid, and don't forget to thank God you are an American because we're number one. It's a great age to be, 16, unless that baby was born in Iraq and may be long dead by now — starved, bombed, caught in a crossfire. Who knows, who mourns, who cares, in the home of the brave and the land of the free in the midst of an endless war for profit and plunder to benefit corporate tycoons and a ruling class that wouldn't even think of having us at their dinner table.
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. You got 16. Wanna try for 32?
Jack A. Smith
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