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During the recent bombing offensive I kept a close eye on the media (not including the tabloids) and thought it might be good to share my impressions here. I have also included some facts about US government messages to Iraq prior to the invasion of Kuwait, some of which overlaps Colin Rowat's discussion of Ramsey Clark's book. "DESERT FOX" IN THE MEDIA Through the tide of jargonistic propaganda statements - "degrade" "threaten his neighbours" "weapons capability" "weapons of mass destruction" "achieved our military objectives" etc etc, I was particularly struck by the number of contradictions rooted in official statements to the press. Occasional small glimpses of the possible ground reality did pop up quite often, but usually occupying stunted paragraphs towards the end of lengthy articles. The Iranian incident was mentioned several times and, while I did not get the impression that the allies were very keen to dwell on it, I did not get the impression that there was any sort of distinct 'cover-up' about that. One of the issues that were (and still are) particularly badly dealt with is that of civilian casualties. Patalability of journalistic body-counting aside, this was all very disturbing. The official figure is still 68 non-military (I guess this was all that the Brits could be expected to swallow in the season of goodwill to all men), but that was from Baghdad alone. References to the reality of civilian deaths have been conspicuous by their absence (compared to the medium-scenario 10,000 that was admitted at the beginning of the offensive). The families of the innocent victims of the Lockerbie atrocity were acknowledged at Christmas, while the families of the innocent Iraqi victims of "Desert Fox" were not. What left me really gobsmacked was the stuff being churned out about the accuracy of the weapons. At one point very early on in the offensive it was stated that, despite claims to "surgical precision", the accuracy of the new "smart" weapons is still only in the region of 85% (can't call to mind where I heard this but I can find it if anyone is interested). Virtually all the bombs dropped on Iraq this time were "smart", which is almost a 100% improvement on those dropped in 1991, but this still means that at least 15% were going to miss their targets. The reality of the anticipated hit-rate of around 85% was announced in the press soon after "Desert Fox". What boggled me was hearing the UK's equivalent of General Henry Shelton (can't remember the name) stating on BBC TV after the end of the campaign that "none of the missiles had hit civilian targets". This was an extraordinary statement to make considering that many homes had evidently been destoyed and that reports were already leaking out that a grain silo and even civilian institutions such as hospitals were at least severely damaged. The use of the phrase "civilian targets" was questionable since international law forbids the use of civilian or civilian-related "objects" as military targets. (In the case of doubt, an object will be assumed to be civilian or civillian-related and will not be used as a military target. So what was the Baghdad natural history museum, right there on the official list of "targets", if not an institution with a primarily civilian function?). Downing Street was very keen to emphasise that any reports coming out of Iraq "ought to have a health warning" attached. At the risk of descending into outright cynicism I'll make one more point about the British media and "Desert Fox". It concerns the premature leak of news of the attack to the Sun on the first night of the strikes. A spokesperson for Blair was reported to have said that during times of crisis the British government believes in "the necessity of communicating key message to prime audiences" (i.e. the Blitz-Saddamers). A few days later I read in a book of quotations that Adolf Hitler once made the point about the power of words to mobilise the masses. Interesting. GO-AHEAD FOR THE INVASION OF KUWAIT Below are some more objective and worthwhile bits of information (from a book called "Saddam's War", by John Bulloch and Harvey Morrris) relating to the so-called 'Green Light' given to Saddam for the invasion of Kuwait. February/March 1990 After Iraq had launched a formal complaint against Voice of America for broadcasting on February 15 a statement comparing the Iraqi regime to the Ceaucescu one - and look what happened to that -April Glaspie wrote to Tariiq Aziz that: "It is absolutely not United States policy to question the legitimacy of the government of Iraq nor to interfere in any way in the domestic concerns of the Iraqi people and government.". 12th April 1990 A US delegation (consisting of Senators Bob Dole, Alan Simpson, Howard Mitzenbaum and James McClure) visited Saddam Hussein, being concerned about the threatened imposition of sanctions since their grain states had quite a large stake in Iraqi imports, to express concern about Iraq's development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and about the recent threats against Israel.... Senator Alan Simpson explained to Saddam: "Democracy is a difficult thing. I think the troubles you have are with the Western media, not with the American government. the press is full of itself..." 25th July 1990 Ambassador Glaspie was summoned to see Saddam Hussein at one o'clock. This was one week before the invasion. The transcript of the meeting is incomplete but has not been challenged. In this meeting Saddam makes very clear that a conflict could result from his invasion of Kuwait and warns America not to get involved. Glaspie's assurance that Washington regards the dispute as an inter-Arab affair is totally unambiguous. She does not express US approval for his aggression, but she does give the distinct impression that America is unlikely to intervene: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." He then spelt out to her the possible consequences of conventional (non-nuclear) war should America decide to intervene: "Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 dead in one battle... we know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size.... We cannot come all the way to you in the United States but individual Arabs may reach you... We know that the United States has nuclear weapons but we are determined either to live as proud men or we will die." Glaspie was concilatory in her responses to Saddam's obsessions with the western media campaign against him, saying that the administration had rejected the idea of trade sanctions (this in 1988, after the gassing of civilians during the Kurdistan offensive, due to serious opposition from the White House) and saying (with regard to the offending Voice of America editorial): "I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media. If the American president had control of the media, his job would be much easier." She assured Saddam that Bush wanted better and deeper relations with Iraq and an Iraqi contribution to peace in the Middle East. She also said: "President Bush is an intelligent man. He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq." Glaspie went on to express her personal admiration for Saddam's "extraordinary efforts" to rebuild Iraq, and reaffirmed that the US had not opinion on the Kuwait border issue: "I was in the American embassy in Kuwait during the late sixties. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesman to emphasise this instruction." Saddam told her that there was still a chance for peace, having agreed with Egypt's President Mubarak to hold talks between Iraq and Kuwait in Saudi Arabia (these failed). Glaspie told Saddam that, in view of the tension between Iraq and Kuwait, she had been thinking of postponing a scheduled trip to Washington, but after their discussions (having been reassured, I suppose) she would now travel on 30 July with the intention of speaking to Bush. She left Baghdad, and three days later Kuwait was invaded. 27 July 1990 US State Department criticised a Senate vote banning US agricultural loans to Iraq, in response to Iraq's bullying tactics against Kuwait. Richard Boucher, the State Department deputy spokesman, acknowledged that Iraq's recent behaviour had "caused us concern" and that the White House was looking at possible export controls, but that the administration felt that Congress's actions "would not help us achieve our goals." 31 July 1990 Two days before the invasion, the Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly declared at the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee (when asked what precisely was the US committment to supporting its friends in the Gulf): "We have no defence treaty relationship with any Gulf country. That is clear. We support the security and independence of friendly states in the region... we have historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on internal OPEC deliberations, but we have certainly, as have all administrations, resoundingly called for the peaceful settlement of disputes and differences in the area." All of this sounds like a guarantee of non-intervention, but I do not think that too much emphasis should be placed on the idea that it was misleading to the Iraqis. Surely Saddam would not have been swayed by such a 'go-ahead' from a handful of senators and a conciliatory ambassador, given the obvious US interest in Israel and in Middle Eastern Affairs in general? E.g. Carter's 1980 warning to the Soviet Union that: "Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including force.". Saddam is a great manipulator of international relations (at least, he aspires to be) but he does not seem to be especially vulnerable to influence by or sensitive to the opinions or diplomatic statements of other nations. ______________________________________________________ Harriet Griffin Research Assistant Environmental Change Unit University of Oxford 5 South Parks Road Oxford OX1 3UB United Kingdom Phone: ++ 44 (0)1865 281210 Fax: ++ 44 (0) 1865 281202 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ______________________________________________________ -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html