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Iran and Iraq news.

                Thought this might be of interest to the list. 

[This is a courtesy copy of an article posted to Usenet via Deja News]

The Independent
February 12, 1998

Bombs are not the way to peace - Robert Fisk on the drums
of war

I have been reminded of some familiar odours these past few
days. The first is the terrible, nauseous stench I endured
for hours on the overnight train from Ahwaz to Tehran back
in the Eighties, as I shared a carriage with dozens of
young Iranian soldiers. All of them were coughing up Saddam
Hussein's poisons from their lungs into blood-red swabs and
bandages. And the mustard gas that was slowly killing them
permeated the whole great 20-carriage train as it thundered
up from the desert battlefields of the first Gulf War,
through the mountains to the city where almost all these
men would soon die and be buried. After only an hour into
the journey, I was forced to throw open the carriage window
to avoid vomiting.

No sooner had I filed a series of reports to London on this
new and terrible war crime of Saddam Hussein than a British
diplomat, lunching with one of my editors in London,
remarked that "Bob doesn't seem to understand the
situation." True, he said, gas was a terrible weapon. But
Saddam was fighting the West's war against Iranian
fundamentalism - a danger which might set the whole Middle
East ablaze and which could threaten the entire world.
Wasn't The Times - the paper for which I then worked -
putting a little too much emphasis on Saddam's sins?

So the other smell I recall this week is the stink of
hypocrisy when - in 1990 - the world's statesmen began to
whip their people into line for war against the man they
had supported in his conflict against Iran. The French had
sold Saddam Mirage jets. The Germans had provided him with
the gas that had me almost wretching on the train from
Ahwaz. The Americans had sold him helicopters for spraying
crops with pesticide (the "crops", of course, being human
beings). The British gave Saddam bailey bridges. And I
later met the Cologne arms dealer who flew from the
Pentagon to Baghdad with US satellite photos of the Iranian
front lines - to help Saddam kill more Iranians.

And oddly enough, whenever I mentioned this back in 1990,
after Saddam had invaded Kuwait, I was admonished by
diplomats. There's no point in dwelling on the past, I was
told. The only way to deal with Saddam now was war. Did I
have any better ideas? And within a few weeks, Saddam - and
yes, he is a venal, cruel, wicked, evil man - was being
transformed into the Hitler of Iraq, just as the Israelis
had called Yasser Arafat the Hitler of Beirut in 1982, and
just as Eden has called Nasser the Mussolini of the Nile in
1956. Normally quite rational individuals became
cheerleaders for war, shouting hysterically when I
suggested that the results of this war might not quite
match the expectations. Serious newspapers began to
advocate the occupation of Baghdad and a war crimes trial
for Saddam.

And once that battle was over and Saddam was expelled from
Kuwait, we were told by our leaders that Saddam had been
"defanged". Our smart bombs and guided missiles had
destroyed his army, our Patriot missiles had protected us
from his Scuds - and at little cost to the Western
alliance. Then it turned out that all this was untrue. But
at least we never claimed then that he was capable of
harming more than the Middle East.

So what madness is seizing Messrs Clinton and Blair today?
After seven years of inspections - seven years, for
heaven's sake - UN arms inspectors have not been able to
find all of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Thousands
were dying of malnutrition and lack of medicine, a million
if you believe some UN officials. Mass funerals for babies
(70 in one cortege on the last count) made their way
through Baghdad. Propaganda for the odious Saddam, of
course; but few thought the coffins were empty. And then
Saddam - shrewdly appreciating that America's craven
surrender to Israel's settlement building had convinced
Arab leaders that the "peace process" was a betrayal of the
Palestinians - decided to ban the UN inspectors from his

And what happened? Our masters informed us that Saddam was
even worse than he was before we beat him the first time.
Far from just threatening the oil rich Gulf, the chief UN
inspector informed us that the Iraqis had enough anthrax
"to wipe out Tel Aviv" (note the city he chose - not
Dhahran or Riyadh but Tel Aviv, although all three had been
rocketed in 1991). And then our own trustworthy Foreign
Office announced that Saddam now posed a threat to "the
whole world". In Washington, Mr Blair repeated this, saying
that he had enough weapons "to wipe out the world's

The whole world? Is this true? In Beirut these past few
days, I have been trying to remember where I last heard
these words. It took me some time before I recalled where.
I last read them when I was at school, reading the Eagle
comic, wherein a space hero called Dan Dare - a kind of
1950s version of Tom Cruise - would regularly do battle
with the Mekon, a green and ectoplasmic alien creature who
had the ability to wipe out the entire world (unless he was
first destroyed/defanged/put back into his box or
whatever). Has it really descended to this? The Middle
East, with all its complexities and dangers and religious
tension - yes, and its evils - is being turned into a comic
strip in which Dan Dare will launch his space-age high-tech
at the Mekon of Baghdad.

Perhaps the American public and its pro-Israeli
representatives in Congress and the Senate accept this
nonsense? But do we, whose Prime Minister is chanting all
this at Bill Clinton's side? British readers should be
aware of what US columnists are demanding. In The New York
Times, William Safire has been recommending "sustained
bombing of all suspected weaponry sites, including palaces
occupied by civilians used as hostages", while in The
Washington Post, Richard Cohen has been saying of Saddam:
"He is not . a mole but a rat. It would be best to
exterminate him ." And last weekend, when I recalled the
1991 war and its rhetoric to an American radio commentator,
I heard the same weary response. "Let's not talk about the
past, Bob. What do we do now?"

Well, the world might, after all, demand that all Middle
Eastern states apply all UN security council resolutions -
which include an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land
as well as the disarming of Saddam Hussein. It could insist
that within five years, all weapons of mass destruction in
the region - not just Iraqi weapons but Syrian missiles and
Israeli nuclear weapons and possible Iranian rockets - be
destroyed. It could offer a real peace in the Middle East,
based on human rights, justice and a Palestinian homeland.

But no, like Dan Dare we prefer to do battle with monsters.
And we are beating the old 1991 drums of war, our claims so
preposterous that they bury the real viciousness of the
real Saddam. For war is not primarily about victory or
defeat. It is about death. It represents the total failure
of the human spirit. And if we really are going to
participate in this obscenity again, is it not possible to
do so with the humility of men who know what we are doing?

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