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Articles from the Independent (7th March)

Two letters about Iraq in today's independent - one by me and one (much
better one) by Stephanie Al-Wahid. Keep writing !

The e-mail address for letters is

Here are the articles (both highly recommended).



 Iraq's weapons not effective, America admits

By Patrick Cockburn and Charles Glass 

A senior American ambassador in the Middle East is reported to have told
American citizens that Iraq's biological and chemical warheads were "very
ineffective" just at the moment when the US and Britain were saying they
posed a real threat which would justify airstrikes on Iraq. 

The Independent has obtained a memo from an American businessman who
attended a briefing at the US embassy in Kuwait on February 3 at which Jim
Larocco, the ambassador, downplayed the threat from Iraq, although Kuwait
City is the only foreign capital close to the Iraqi border. 

"Gas masks are not required," the memo reports Mr Larocco to have said.
"No one at the American embassy has gas masks and the American embassy
does not recommend any. They are not even interested in finding out a
source for gas masks. 

"The main reasons for this decision are the new interceptor missiles in
place in Kuwait and the fact [that] the biological and chemical warheads
are very ineffective." 

This private advice on the real extent of the danger posed by Iraqi
biological and chemical weapons is in sharp contrast with the picture
presented by President Clinton and Tony Blair. Robin Cook, the Foreign
Secretary, writing in the Independent, said the threat posed by the
weapons was "terrifyingly real." 

Mr Larocco confirms that he gave several briefings to American citizens in
Kuwait in February and told them that Iraqi chemical and biological attack
was "an extremely remote possibility." 

He said he recommended that anybody wanting a gas mask get training for
it. But he flatly denies saying that Iraqi warheads were ineffective. He
says: "I never said anything like that at all. I'm not an expert." 

Nevertheless, the memo, drawn up by an experienced American businessman,
who does not want to be identified, was written immediately after the
briefing. If Mr Larocco and the US State Department believed that Iraqi
warheads were effective he is unlikely to have said that American citizens
need not acquire gas masks. 

But British experts on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction say that Mr
Larocco's comments at the briefing are a better analysis of the extent of
the Iraqi threat than the far more menacing picture given by President
Clinton and Tony Blair. 

Mr Blair, citing figures from Porton Down, the government scientific
establishment which tests biological and chemical weapons, said that a
teaspoon of botulinum toxin could cause seven million deaths and the same
amount of anthrax 100 million. 

Dr Julian Perry-Robinson, a senior fellow at the Science Policy Research
Unit and an expert on Iraqi biological and chemical weapons whose
existence he helped establish in 1989, says of Mr Blair's figures: "It is
a nonsense comparison. It is like saying 50,000 tons of bullets are enough
to kill the entire world. Most larger armies have that number, but it does
not mean the earth's population is going to die." 

He says the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons depends on
the ability to deliver them and this is very uncertain in Iraq's case. For
instance, in the case of anthrax if it is fired in an explosive shell then
only a tenth of a per cent of the spores will survive the explosion. The
US spent twenty years perfecting a programme to deliver such organisms. 

At the core of the search of the UN weapons inspectors is the hunt for
information on how far Iraqi scientists had got in perfecting an effective
method of delivery through an 'aerosol' device. Dr Perry-Robinson says
that Mr Larocco's reported remarks about warheads suggest that the US does
not really believe Iraq can deliver its biological and chemical weapons.
Otherwise it would have made more systematic efforts to protect its
civilians in Kuwait. 

Ironically, ten years ago at the end of Iraq's war with Iran and its
extermination campaign against the Kurds, Washington was denying that
Baghdad was manufacturing biological weapons. 

When one plant at Salman Pak, south-east of Baghdad, was identified by ABC
News, which had received information from Iraqi defectors, from a
satellite photograph it had commissioned, the US State Department refused
to credit it. 

 Innocent victims made to suffer for the sins of Saddam

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad 

THE DISNEY PARK is empty and the government has banned the export of
school textbooks - because not a single Iraqi schoolbook has been printed
since 1990. Nor has a single school been built anywhere in Iraq since
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Lack of funds, is the reason it seems
(though not enough to stop Saddam building more palaces). 

The Internet is a mystery to Iraqi children. New computers are banned
under UN sanctions; they may have a dual military purpose. So, it appears,
may cotton - because there are no more cotton sheets for hospital wards -
and paper, too. Exercise books have run out; in Baghdad, one young mother
admitted that she tells her children only to write in pencil, so that she
can erase their work and give them back their exercise books to use again.
Always supposing the children have pencils, which are subject to UN
restrictions because they contain graphite, which could be used for
military purposes. 

The idea of Saddam's legions stripping the wood off school pencils to get
at the graphite would be funny if the effect of UN sanctions was not so
immoral. In the Basra General Hospital, children are suffering from
typhoid, almost certainly from drinking water contaminated by sewage. 

And who is to blame? Well, once we have gone through the Saddam routine -
it is he, we are told, who is really being punished for his wickedness -
we find that Iraqi water treatment plants are not being repaired. And why
not? Because each individual item of machinery has to be manufactured
specifically for the plants. 

Technology that was up-to-date in 1990 is now obsolete. It is becoming
ever more difficult to obtain spare parts. Iraq used to build its water
plants with machinery from Spain, Italy and France. And UN sanctions
committee approval is needed for each spare part. So the tap water is

When I ask a doctor at the Basra General Hospital why there are no
children in the Disney Park, he replies: "Because they are all sent out to
work by their families." On every street, children sell cigarettes, nuts,
matches; or just beg. Others claw through rubbish tips for resaleable
goods. They are being punished, you see, because of a man called Saddam

Independent Iraq Appeal 

Readers who wish to help the cancer-stricken children of southern Iraq can
send cheques made out to The Independent Basra Fund, to PO Box No 6870,
London E14 5BT. 








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