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Hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction

Yesterday (May 4) Swedish Ambassador to the US and former UNSCOM chairman
(1991-97) Rolf Ekeus was in Oxford to give the 1998 Cyril Foster lecture.
The event was highly formal and quite well attended (100+ people).
What follows are some brief notes concerning Mr Ekeus' talk which I
thought might be of interest to people on the list.

Gabriel Carlyle, Magdalen College, Oxford.


(a) The first thing that I would like to note - and to my mind it is the 
most shocking - is Ekeus' casual description of the
deaths of over a million people (UN FAO 1995) as
"difficulties of the Iraqi people", "hardship" and
"some belt tightening". That such gross misrepresentation
was allowed to pass unchallenged and without a ripple of outrage running
the audience was, I think, a pretty damning indictment of those present
and, more generally, the role that the media has played in [not] covering
the story [with one or two honourable exceptions, most notably Robert

(b) Ekeus gave an account of SC Resolutions 706 and 986 which was wholly
Thus SC 706 was portrayed as a serious effort by the Security Council
to address the suffering caused by the embargo,
inexplicably rejected by Saddam ("why did he reject it ?")
In reality 706 and 986 were little more than a cynical exercise in public
The June 1991 investigatory mission led by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (then
Secretary-General's executive delegate) to Iraq reported that Iraq was "on
the brink of calamity" and estimated that Iraq required $6.8 billion over
twelve months to provide for food, medicine and to restore some basic
services. In stark contrast SC 706 provided for the sale of $1.6 billion
worth of oil every 6 months - to be paid into a UN administered account, 
with only a fraction of this allocated for
humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people. Thus the UN was well aware at
the outset that the provision that would have been afforded by 706 was
grossly inadequate. Similar  remarks apply to 986 - where only 40 % of the
proceeds of the oil sales are allocated (by the UN) for humanitarian
relief for the people of central and southern Iraq (where the vast
majority of the population lives).

(c) Most bizarrely Ekeus contended that the US had, from the beginning, 
wanted  the embargo to be lifted at the earliest opportunity. The question
I wanted to ask him [though I wasn't one of those chosen in the question
session] was, of course, how could he
reconcile this analysis with the statements made in 1991 by
both John Major and George Bush to the effect that sanctions
would not be lifted as long as Saddam remained in power ?
In reality, for various reasons having nothing to do with WMD, or
human rights or whatever the US wanted [and wants] the oil embargo [or
at least the bulk of it] to remain in place for as long as possible and
the issue of weapons of mass destruction provided and provided the perfect
pretext for
its indefinte perpetuation - which is we've seen. This is not to say
that WMD's aren't a serious and terrible problem - they clearly are - but
the US has no principled objection to their existence or use [see below
for an ironic example].


Nuclear Paranoia in the Persian Gulf
Bill Weinberg 

In the media saturation about oral sex in the Oval Office, it has gone
almost unnoticed that Bill Clinton is considering use of nuclear weapons
against Iraq *to take out Saddam's underground complexes, or retaliate for
an Iraqi chemical or biological attack. 

Every president since Truman has considered the nuclear option that's what
Nixon's 'secret plan' to end the war in Vietnam was. This time it only
took two months for November's Presidential Policy Directive 60, defining
circumstances for use of nuclear weapons against Iraq, to appear in the
press. But PPD 60 has not become a household name like Monica Lewinsky. 

Following a brief, sparse flicker of PPD 60 coverage in early February,
Boris Yeltsin warned that escalation in the Persian Gulf could lead to
World War III. The US press portrayed the statement as irresponsible
alarmism. PPD 60 is already down the memory hole. 

Threatening nuclear strikes to fight weapons of mass destruction is a
concept straight out of Orwell. True to the principles of doublethink, we
remain blind to Desert Storm's 400,000 civilian casualties in 1991. The
violence of Desert Storm dwarfed that of Saddam's troops in Kuwait.
Saddam's torching the oilfields and dumping crude into the Gulf were
vengeance and, as a secret Energy Department study leaked to Science News
in 1991 revealed, Bush knew that Saddam would retaliate with that kind of
environmental terrorism. Saddam's gassing of the Kurds at Halabja, his
most clearly genocidal act, was back in 1988 when he was still a US
client. A bill calling for sanctions in the wake of the atrocity never
made it out of Congress. 

Saddam is not this generation's Hitler. Like Noriega, Saddam is a
US-groomed client supposedly gone bad. Does the White House really want
him overthrown? Saddam humbled and distracted the Iranian Revolution for
eight grueling years of war. Then, when the price of oil and George Bush's
political fortunes needed a jolt, he conveniently invaded Kuwait. 

Now, developments in post-Soviet Central Asia threaten to bring down the
price of oil by bringing a new global supplier on line in Kazakhstan. The
latest flare-up of the permanent Gulf Crisis will jack up oil prices,
allowing the Saudis and Kuwaitis to infuse vulnerable global financial
institutions with petrodollars. These infusions will stabilize the
turbulent Asian financial markets, propping up the teetering US-supported
Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, where riots are now spreading across
the country in response to the economic chaos, and quieting the labor
unrest which threatens the regime in South Korea. The oil shock will also
effectively sideline environmentalist or other opposition to the Central
Asia oil developments, as well as those planned for Alaska's North Slope,
and the James Bay hydro-projects in Canada. 

Saddam's violations of UN resolutions against his bio-chem weapons
capabilities are real. So is Israel's violation of resolutions against the
West Bank occupation. We could also mention Indonesia's bloody occupation
of East Timor in defiance of the UN. 

To state the fact that Saddam Hussein is a brutal tyrant requires no
courage outside the borders of his tyranny. What takes some guts is to
view our own leaders with a ruthless disregard for double standards.
Clinton took the oath of office as US warplanes were bombing Iraq. He has
aerial-bombed civilian neighborhoods in Mogadishu, Somalia. He has done
nothing to diminish the Pentagon's titanic arsenals or expansion of the
federal prison archipelago, while 'ending welfare as we know it' (read:
dismantling the New Deal) in the name of the victory over fiscal excess.
He has overseen an eroding of civil liberties in the name of bogus wars on
drugs, terrorism and cyber-smut. From Baghdad to Waco to the death
chambers of Arkansas, Clinton is a murderer. Apply your own logic to the
Enemy's perspective and you start to see through the propaganda charade. 

Einstein warned that our leaders are motivated by the same instincts as
Iron Age kings, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. Perhaps
we citizens are little developed beyond Iron Age peasants. We are more
interested in sex scandals, Seinfeld and the Spice Girls as the world
takes a step closer to its end. The war drive has neither, this time, our
jingoistic approval nor our outraged protest. It has merely our
indifference, another spectacular distraction, if less titillating than
recent ones. 

Where are the voices pointing out that Clinton has crossed a dangerous
threshold? This is the normalization of nuclear warfare. 

What was unthinkable in the Cold War because it assumed a 20-minute war
that would leave the Earth in cinders is now thinkable, a continuation of
policy by other means. Today's tactical nukes, the kind fitted onto a
Cruise missile for use against an Iraqi bunker, deliver the kind of punch
that wiped out Hiroshima. Today's strategic nukes, the kind on the ICBMs
are ten times more powerful. Even a battlefield mini-nuke, dropped from a
plane, would release deadly fallout. 

After use of tactical or battlefield nukes, the next threshold in the
acceptable level of global violence is use of strategic nukes. So
Clinton's nuclear threat brings us a step closer to that Earth in cinders. 

If the Cold War was a dualistic balance of terror, now globalized
violence, mirroring the Internet and market forces, is also atomized
everywhere and nowhere. There is no monolithic enemy; nuclear capabilities
are no longer the exclusive domain of superpower brass and bureaucracy.
Breakdown of command and control over the Soviet arsenal is well-advanced. 

And now, with nuclear materials available to the highest-bidding militia
or terrorist group, the US has crossed the first line, legitimizing
nuclear warfare thus increasing the likelihood that someone, whether a
jihad extremist or an Arkansas boy who made good, will cross the next
terrible threshold within our lifetimes. 

Bill Weinberg is author of War On the Land: Ecology & Politics in Central
America (Zed 1991). 

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