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Texas Observer Interviews



Texas Observer interview with Denis Halliday and Phyllis Bennis
(http://www.texasobserver.org/).

The Texas observer web-site also carries a photo-essay by Alan Pogue:
"The Salt on the Wound": http://www.texasobserver.org/iraq.html (text
printed below Halliday interview).

 ********************
 The Texas Observer Interview: Denis Halliday (former U.N. Assistant
Secretary General and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq) and Phyllis
Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies)
 Wednesday, February 24
 Interviewer: Michael King
 Austin, Texas

 Texas Observer: What do you make of the current situation? Two
 things have happened since the December bombing: the bombing has
 become ordinary, almost daily; and the Turkish army has been allowed
 free access to the northern "no-fly" zone to attack Kurdish refugee
 camps.

 Denis Halliday: Including bombing northern Iraq. I know the Kurdish
 area well. I've been there many times. These incursions have taken
 place before, many times.

 This gets into the domestic politics of Iraq. There's an assumption
here,
 in the U.S. and Europe as well, that Saddam Hussein is a one-man band.
 There's no other force in town -- that's not correct. I've heard from
 members of his own cabinet that there's a growing force within the
 Ba'ath Party for change. These are younger politicians coming up, who
 are totally frustrated with the compromise, as they see it, of the
Saddam
 Hussein government, vis a vis the United Nations. The backing down,
 the constant reaction to threats by this country, the meetings with the
 Secretary General, all that sort of stuff, is driving these people
further
 and further to the right. People who have been frustrated and angered
by
 this appalling program of sanctions for many years. So I think we're
 seeing that coming up.

 There were parliamentary discussions, you may recall, about a month
 ago, castigating the other Arab leaders around the neighborhood and so
 on. We've seen since December the total humiliation of the regime, with
 those 400 missiles -- a reaction to the no-fly zone activity [by the
U.S.],
 which is not new after all. They've been flying over these zones for
 years, with no reaction from Iraq. Suddenly now you see it -- and
 though it's ineffective, it satisifies the need [for Saddam] to say,
"Well,
 we're doing something, guys. Give us a break." And that's also from
 domestic pressure. The final and most dangerous point, in my view, is
 these threats -- verbal threats on the military bases in Turkey and
Saudi
 Arabia also. That they would damage these bases because that's where
 the [U.S.] military aircraft are coming from, to attack. On The News
 Hour with Jim Lehrer, Jim Hass [?] accused me of libel and slander --
 because I accused he and General Neal of "glee" when they anticipated
 that the Iraqis might be foolish enough to do something to these bases,
 which would then give the United States a glorious invitation to go
back
 in there and really destroy what is left of this country. I complained,
I
 said I thought that was appalling. I went on to accuse them -- all of
us,
 you, us, them, Europe and America together -- of being responsible for
 the sanctions regime, which is a form of warfare, which is killing
 thousands of people every month. That caught the libel and slanderous
 accusation.

 The Turkish connection is an interesting one, because we have the
 Ocalan arrest, then we suddenly have this extraordinary and arrogant
 aggression on the part of Turkey. Now they're not just going over with
 tanks and troops. Last spring, when I was up there, they had 5,000
 troops, I counted personally sixty tanks in Iraq. Now they're going in
 with fixed-wing aircraft and strafing and bombing or whatever they do
 up there in the hills. In [Dahuk] and [Habir] right over into the area
close
 to the Iranian border. This is very disruptive to this humanitarian
 program that we're all trying to operate to feed these people and keep
 these people fed. It's very disruptive; we can't operate under those
 conditions. The arrogance of it I find appalling. The only reason they
can
 do it is because they are a N.A.T.O. ally, they know they have the
 support of Europe and North America -- they feel free, nobody cares. As
 Phyllis has said, many times, they are flying into the no-fly zone with
 complete abandon. They're doing it, of course, with American advisors
 and Israeli advisors.

 Texas Observer: Under U.N. rules, how are the no-fly rules supposed
 to affect other countries?

 Phyllis Bennis: There is no U.N. involvement in the no-fly zones.
 These are imposed by the U.S., Britain, and France -- France has since
 pulled out, it is now a U.S./U.K. operation. The claim that the U.S.
 makes is that we're doing it to enforce the human rights protections of
 the Kurds in the north and the Shiite population of the south, but it's
 false. It's a false claim, because it was imposed without any kind of
 international legitimacy, without any international connection. There's
 been very little, almost no coverage in the press, in this country or
 Europe or anywhere else, about that fact. It's asserted as if it were a
 U.N. no-fly zone -- and it's not, and people don't know that it's not.
 Even U.N. officials, unfortunately, have been very reluctant to kind of
 identify this as something outside the parameters of U.N. operations.
It's
 bad enough that the U.S. is operating in many ways through the United
 Nations by using various kinds of pressures, threats, bribes, and other
 kinds of pressures to force either unanimous or else majority votes in
the
 Security Council to get its way on some of the issues around sanctions
 and other things. This one, there's not even the pretext, on the no-fly
 zones; there's not even the pretense of international credentials on
this.
 This is solely a bi-lateral, U.S./U.K operation. 

 Denis Halliday: But shouldn't you add that it is an extension of
 Resolution 687 -- that's their rationale for doing this. That 687
 somehow, although Kuwait was left by the Iraqis in 1991, they've
 stretched the resolution to authorize, as they see it, this program of
 bombing the no-fly zones.

 Phyllis Bennis: Actually, it's 678. 687 is the sanctions; 678 is the
 authorization of the use of force. It get's confusing because they're
so
 close.

 That's absolutely right. And I think this has been a consistent pattern
of
 U.S. interpretations. We see it also on the issue of sanctions. What
the
 U.S. has said about economic sanctions is that although 687 calls for
the
 lifting of sanctions when Iraq can be certified to have completely
abided
 by UNSCOM regulations regarding the elimination of weapons of mass
 destruction, the U.S. position is, We're not going to do that, we're
going
 to leave sanctions in place until Saddam Hussein is out of power, until
 the middle of the next century -- there's been this grandiose
assessments
 of how long the U.S. intends sanctions to be kept in place. And the
result
 is, an extraordinarily negative incentive for the Iraqis, who look at
this
 and say, "Why should we comply? They're not going to lift the sanctions
 even if we comply, so why should we?" The notion that diplomacy is
 based on carrots and sticks is a long-standing assumption. It's gone
here.
 There's no carrot, it's all stick.

 Denis Halliday: I would even add to that, the language that's been used
 recently, by Tony Blair, by Clinton: "Rattling his cage, put him back
in
 his cage" -- It serves to un-dignify an Arab leader like this -- that's
 humiliation, big-time, and it's totally redundant. It's upsetting the
whole
 Arab world. Anytime you insult Saddam Hussein, you insult the Islamic
 world. It's a stupid and unnecessary policy. [Moreover, the language
 used is] absolutely racist, and xenophobic. 

 Phyllis Bennis: One of the effects is that while, in Iraq, people
 understand that this is not a good or progressive regime, or one that
they
 want to maintain -- they are becoming more dependent upon it, through
 the sanctions program, that makes them dependent on the government
 for everything they can get, which isn't enough, but whatever it is, it
 comes from the government. That's not a recipe for trying to challenge
 the government.

 ...In the rest of the Arab world, where people might not be aware how
 repressive that government really is, what they see is that this is the
man
 being demonized by the United States, and is standing up to them. So in
 the rest of the Arab world, we're, through the sanctions program,
 actually building support for Saddam Hussein, political support. That's
 coming not so much here in Iraq, but in other countries, not so aware
of
 the problems of the Iraqi regime.

 Denis Halliday: But underline that the political support is with the
 people, not with the regimes that run these countries, which are so
 beholden to this country.

 Texas Observer: Alan Pogue suggested that the bombing has had the
 effect that most bombing has, which is that this guy may be a bum, but
 he's our bum.

 Denis Halliday: They have to support him -- that's what happens, they
 rally around him. Of course, they're forced to. Particularly in that
part of
 the world, where democracy, and the tradition of attacking the
leadership
 is not one that goes very far. They really are obliged to support their
 leadership under these conditions....

 I think we saw it recently -- a couple of weeks ago, perhaps three
weeks
 ago, there was a meeting in Cairo, of Arab foreign ministers. Al Sahaf,
 the Iraqi foreign minister was there, and made a case for ending
 sanctions, for ending military attacks, and so on. He didn't do very
well
 -- in fact he left in a fury, apparently. But at the end of the day --
they
 threw him out because they were sick and tired of Saddam Hussein
 criticizing their monarchies, their dictators, whatever system they
have --
 but at the end of the day they came out with a resolution that hasn't
 gotten much international coverage, which condemned the military
 attacks, the violence, the strikes and the no-fly zones, and called for
a
 lifting of the sanctions. Not for Saddam Hussein, of course -- but they
 said because "the people," our Arab brothers are being destroyed --
 slaughtered, killed, whatever else, by the imposition of sanctions,
which
 for many of us, is a form of warfare. A particularly devastating form
of
 warfare.

 I had trade union leaders coming to me in Iraq -- three, four, five of
 them came together -- they said, "For God sake, Mr. Halliday, can you
 tell the Secretary General, please send in the bombs, send in the
missiles
 -- just kill us, because under sanctions they're killing us every day,
and
 it's hell." So we saw that Cairo conference and the resolutions coming
 out against the attacks -- but it was very underplayed in the
international
 media, and there is much more support for Saddam [from other
 countries] than people imagine.

 And I know why. They're worrying about the future. They know that
 someday this country is going to walk away somehow. Saddam Hussein
 may be restored. Maybe Iran will rattle the sabre so much that this
 country will turn around and make Saddam Hussein into a good guy
 again. And then they're going to have to live with that, and they're
 worried about the future. Even Turkey is a little nervous. The regime,
 the country of Iraq, was big money for Turkey until sanctions came
 along -- huge tourist industry, huge trade industry, which is lost, and
 they're really hurting in Turkey. Jordan, the economy was almost
 destroyed, because of the sanctions. Syria lost out, Iran lost out,
others
 in the Gulf -- even Kuwait. The traffic between Kuwait and Basrah was
 tremendous. The Kuwaitis poured into Iraq for a good time, for
 nightclubs, for food, trade with Basrah -- all that's lost. So the
 neighborhood is putting a lot of pressure, for their own selfish
reasons,
 on Saddam, to restore an economy that they can do business with.

 Phyllis Bennis: I was just going to add one thing about the bombings. I
 think people inside Iraq are very aware that the target of the U.S.
 bombings is not anything that can be used offensively that Iraq may
have
 left. It has some aging Mirage jets, and that sort of thing. They're
not
 being targeted. What's being targeted is defensive capacity --
anti-aircraft
 sites, that sort of thing. And I think that the consistency of that --
it's not
 as if there's some wider range of targets -- it's communications of the
 military, and their defensive sites. And I think that leads as well to
this
 sense of the effort by the U.S. to strip Iraq of any presence, of any
 dignity in the region. People inside Iraq know that, so that how they
see
 it leads to more support for the regime. 

 Denis Halliday: That's an interesting point, and she's right. I mean, I
 know where these Mirage jets are, and where the MIGS are. I've been
 there many times. It's Habaniya airfield. The U.N. plane I used to fly
 out is there. You'd go there, there'd be dozens of these aircraft
around
 the place. Often they'd put on air shows for us, which I always thought
 were some sort of gesture of defiance. And of course it's only a
 half-hour extra flight from the Gulf, and they [the U.S.] could destroy
all
 these aircraft. And yet they do not.

 Texas Observer: Looking at it from the U.S./U.K. point of view, does
 this policy have any logic other than a sort of pure imperial military
logic
 ? Does it have a geopolitical logic?

 Phyllis Bennis: The old geopolitical logic still stands, as a
potential.
 Now, it's so far in the future it's almost hard to imagine. But the
 geopolitical aspect in the region, was always the reality that Iran and
Iraq
 were the two countries in the region with the three requisites for
 indigenous power, as two emergent regional powers: land and
 population; water; and oil (for money). They're the only two countries
in
 the region that have all three. As a result, they're the two likely
countries
 that could potentially emerge as regional powers, who could well
 challenge U.S. hegemony in the reason. It's not likely to take the form
of
 keeping oil off the market or something like that -- if they want to
make
 money they have to sell the oil. They can't eat it. So that's not the
issue.
 The issue is, under whose control will that oil be sold, under what
terms?
 All those kinds of questions.

 Theoretically, Iraq could recover -- it would fifteen to twenty years
at
 the earliest, I would say, and maybe far longer that that if this kind
of,
 what the New York Times called "low-grade warfare" and continuing
 sanctions continued -- it could take much longer than that. But
 eventually Iraq will recover; this is a country with an extraordinary
past
 in terms of its capabilities in education and culture and literature
and all
 those areas, science and technology. So, there's no reason to think
that it
 won't recover, and theoretically that geopolitical reality still
exists.

 But in any real sense, of what's real now, Iraq is a stripped country.
It
 has virtually nothing left of a serious military capacity. UNSCOM has
 said that in terms of weapons of mass destruction, as of a little over
a
 year ago, that if the disarmament of Iraq was a five-lap race, we'd be
 three-quarters of the way through the final lap. This is not a country
that
 exists as a military power. There are regional powers surrounding it
that
 are far more dangerous militarily. It's a dangerous neighborhood:
Israel
 has nuclear weapons; Saudi Arabia has a huge missile system and
 chemical weapons; Syria has chemical weapons; Egypt has chemical
 weapons. This is very dangerous neighborhood. Turkey, which is
 bombing Iraq with impunity on a daily basis, under the watchful eyes of
 the U.S. So this is an unstable neighborhood, it's one in which I think
 part of the problem has been that the U.S. has not taken seriously the
 need for real disarmament as called for in Resolution 687. One of the
 things that's often ignored in Resolution 687 is that while it's the
 resolution that calls for sanctions against Iraq, it also calls for the
creation
 of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East; it calls for the
 creation of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone throughout the
 Middle East, and it calls explicitly for Iraq's disarmament to be
placed in
 the context of regional disarmament. The U.S. signed on to that -- the
 U.S. wrote that resolution. So we have every sort of legitimate basis
to
 say to them, to say to Washington, "You signed this, you're on record
of
 this. Let's hold your feet to the fire until you start implementing
it."

 Denis Halliday: More difficult to explain is the U.K. position. I think
 they've screwed up because of the colonial history, the imperialist
days
 of the past, when they controlled Iraq, they created Iraq, they stole
the
 oil. They've never forgiven Iraq for nationalizing the oil ... They
created
 Kuwait to give them access to the Gulf, to control the Gulf access, to
 keep Iraq maybe out of that area, and so on. It's an interesting
problem.
 They're still very bitter about Iraq. Two or three years ago the Iraqis
 executed a British businessman for spying -- that was an uproar in the
 United Kingdom -- whether the charges were legitimate or not I have no
 idea. The history of Britain and Iraq is an interesting one, and the
Iraqis,
 I think, feel much more angry and negative towards the U.K. than they
 do the U.S. I often say, the average Iraqi still has a love affair
going with
 the United States -- they respond to all the rich cultural life of this
 country. They're really hurt -- there are more violent terms, which I
 reject. They're hurt by the fact that they now have to realize, have to
 accept, that the American people, given this democracy and so on, are
 behind the sanctions regime. They can't just claim Clinton. It must be
 the American people. And that is really difficult for them to accept.
They
 don't want to accept that.

 Texas Observer: The kind of conversation we're having right now is
 invisible in the American media. We could devote every issue of the
 Texas Observer for the next two years to nothing but this subject, and
it
 would not make a dent in the unanimity of opinion in the media,
 supporting the U.S. policy.

 Phyllis Bennis: But that's beginning to change, it really is. It's
changing
 slowly, it's not changing enough, but there's a tiny change. We're
seeing
 it when we travel around. The alternative media of course is in the
lead
 on this -- Pacifica Radio has paid far more attention to this than
anyone
 else. NPR still doesn't. But, for example, Denis has been on
 McNeil-Lehrer ... 

 Denis Halliday: I've been on NPR perhaps a dozen times. Three times
 on the News Hour [McNeil-Lehrer]. You get so little time that you don't
 have enough time to explain.
 Phyllis Bennis: No. But what it says is, that they're feeling the
pressure,
 that they have to have this voice when they have [Richard Hass and
 General Neal]. And this last time, it was not only Denis but Edmund
 Garib who's an analyst at American University, with very similar
politics
 to ours. They had two people on each side, which is quite unheard of,
to
 have an equal balance on that show. It means they're feeling some
 pressure. It's changing very very slowly. But we met with the editorial
 board of the Houston Chronicle, and they ran an article on our
 appearance yesterday in Houston, and then agreed to take an op-ed. It's
 slowly changing -- they ran op-ed last month by Peter Pelled, who's a
 nutritionist who's worked with the food and agriculture organization,
 exactly about the impact of sanctions.
 Denis Halliday: I called the Lehrer Hour yesterday, and spoke to a
 producer. And he was saying, he's feeling guilty, that sanctions per se
 could not be discussed. He had been upset with me, for bringing the
 discussion of no-fly zones and bombings back to the sanctions. We
 reintroduced sanctions and talked about the killing, which they didn't
 actually want in the program, which was supposed to be focused on
 Turkey and blah blah blah. So he wasn't actually happy with my
 performance -- but he got the message. He said, "We know you're right,
 we know there should be [discussion of sanctions]." He didn't promise
 anything, but it's a start.

 Phyllis Bennis: It's small, but it's a start. The question everywhere
we
 go, is the frustration of people working on this issue, is the lack of
 response of the media. And it's absolutely right. It makes the work of
 activists very difficult. But the reality is, there is information out
there,
 so there has to be a two-track effort. On the one hand, there has to be
 massive pressure on the media to change this, and to put alternative
 voices on the mainstream, so that it's not just on Pacifica or smaller
 outlets, and at the same time, using the information that is available,
with
 a little more work -- through web sites, through magazines, through the
 various coalitions working on the issue, to say, "Okay, the media's not
 doing the job, we've got to do it, while we continue to lambast the
media
 and pressure them and push them to do better."
 [break]

 Phyllis Bennis: There's an AP story today, in which a bunch of U.S. oil
 industry people are claiming that Iraq is responsible for the low price
of
 oil. The Clinton administration came out yesterday and vehemently
 denied it, and said Iraq is not responsible for this. It was a very
 interesting claim, and the article went to say that it seems to reflect
a
 mood within Congress, to oppose what the Clinton administration is
 doing with Oil-for-Food, and because the Clinton administration's
 response to the French proposal, in the Security Council -- which is a
 rather substantive proposal calling for the end to economic sanctions
and
 the creation of a new, international arms control regime -- it was
serious
 enough that the U.S. felt it had to respond. Unlike in the past, at
various
 points, the U.S. had just ignored or dismissed out of hand other
 proposals. Two days after the French introduced their proposals, the
 U.S. introduced a counter-proposal, which said Oil-for-Food should stay
 in place, and be expanded -- that the sanctions should remain, but the
 Oil-for-Food ceiling should be lifted. Now, of course, everyone knew
 (the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy actually called it a
"great
 propaganda victory" for the U.S.) -- because what it did is raise an
 artificially high ceiling, even higher. It had no effect on the ground,
 because Iraq cannot even pump enough oil to meet the first ceiling.

 But this AP story said there are forces in Congress opposed to what is
 being perceived as the U.S. softening by the Clinton administration,
but
 calling for a lifting of the ceiling on Oil-for-Food, and that there's
going
 to be an effort to tighten that in Congress....

 I think the root of this movement in Congress is as politically driven
as
 the policy itself. If indeed there is a move, and it isn't just some
 reporter's speculation, the move to stop any effort to raise the
ceiling --
 the proposal itself by the U.S. is politically driven, not
strategically
 driven. It's a propaganda exercise, public relations: trying to get out
from
 under the accusation that the U.S. is responsible for the suffering and
the
 deaths of the population. In that context, any move to further raise
it, is
 a further effort of propaganda, because it's not answering the real
 problem.

 Oil-for-Food cannot solve the problem of the Iraqi population starving
to
 death. It just doesn't have the capacity to do it. If there's a move in
 Congress, it's responding to that appearance, that propaganda. The U.S.
 effort as such, is not any longer rooted in a geopolitical strategy.
The
 sanctions don't help what the U.S. claims to be interested in -- it
 consolidates support for the regime rather than undermining the regime.
 It does nothing to deal with the issue of disarmament, inside or
outside
 or regionally, and it's isolating the role of the U.S. in terms of the
 reputation, the standing of the U.S., certainly among the civilian
 populations in the region, but as well within the regimes, who,
whatever
 the level of democracy they may feel willing to deny to their
populations,
 have to deal with the threat of instability in their countries. And as
the
 populations get more and more outraged in the Arab streets, those
 regimes have to begin to pay attention. 

 So I think there's a political investment that the U.S. is responding
to --
 the political investment is that they're not willing to say, "We were
 wrong, and we have to try something else."
 
 Texas Observer: Once the politics get put in place, then they get
frozen,
 and everybody tries to run to the right. We were talking earlier about
the
 journalistic response -- when the bombing took place in December,
 amidst all the speculation that this was related to Monica Lewinsky,
you
 had journalists excoriating the White House, "Well, why don't you go in
 and kill Saddam Hussein?" Those were the available alternatives:
 bombing, or bombing and assassination. In Congress, the choice is much
 the same: "We have to prove we're more right-wing than the White
 House."

 Phyllis Bennis: It's not even right wing, exactly. There's been such a
 huge investment in sanctions of political capital by the Clinton
 administration, as it was for the Bush administration. This has been
the
 centerpiece of their strategy for Iraq. Earlier, they claimed it was
helping
 to prevent the further acquisition of military weapons, keeping money
 out of the military, that sort of thing. But later, they could no
longer say
 that, but they were not prepared to take the political consequences for
 that. And I think it's really that political investment, rather than
any
 strategic illusions, that is keeping the policy in place.

 Texas Observer: One theory occasionally raised is that the Hussein
 regime is useful to the United States.

 Denis Halliday: There is a great fear that Iraq might fall apart. That
 doesn't suit the allies of the United States. The Saudis and the Gulf
 States are terrified at the thought that Iraq might fall apart, and
there
 would be no sort of "natural" containment for Iran.

 But to go back a bit: the present $10.4 billion ceiling of Oil-for-Food
is
 already an artificial propaganda creation. I negotiated the increase in
the
 ceiling with Tariq Aziz through the Russian ambassador in Baghdad, and
 they reluctantly agreed to 8. They told me, "If you will push it, we
will
 accept it, a total of ." I sent that off to the Secretary General, and
I lost
 control of it. Washington upped it to $10.4 -- to embarrass Iraq, to
 suggest, "At $10.4, they have no excuse to complain, they can run the
 whole country at that rate." But of course they can't produce that
 amount -- that's the point. They now can produce 6 billion barrels per
 year, under current prices. But they don't get $6 billion per year --
they
 get $4.1. The difference between net and gross? Thirty percent goes to
 compensate those who lost property, real estate or whatever in Kuwait
 [out of a compensation fund in Geneva]. It's legitimate, but it's not
 legitimate now, when you've got children dying from starvation. It
needs
 to be moved backward.

 The other part of that money goes to run UNSCOM -- military
 inspection is financed by the impacted government, just to rub it in
 perhaps. And then the balance goes to shipping and piping to oil to
 Turkey, the overhead of the U.N. agencies. And really, the money
 doesn't get to Iraq at all -- not a penny of it. It buys commodities
which
 are then delivered to Iraq.

 That's something that people always ask me: but then where does
 Hussein get the money he has? Of course he has money -- he's
 smuggling into Turkey, he's smuggling into Iran, Syria, a lot of
 smuggling into Jordan. So the family is selling gasoline,for example,
to
 Turkey, to the Turks. That money is going back into the regime. We
 reckon it's $400 or $500 million a year; that's just a guess. But
that's
 not big money in the world of military spending, but it's enough if you
 want to patch up your palaces and pay for cars.

 Phyllis Bennis: Let me just add one thing about the way the
 Oil-for-Food program is working that is often forgotten. There's often
 the assumption that somehow it's other countries' aid that is the basis
for
 Oil-for-Food. There's no aid, other than small amounts from UNICEF
 and some other agencies, in small, pre-existing programs. The money is
 all Iraqi money, that does not go to the government....

 This country that has been bombed back to the Stone Age, and then has
 suffered under economic sanctions for eight years, and has received no
 outside economic aid from international sources, to recover from that.

 Denis Halliday: I'm upset as well that the U.N. has failed to
adequately
 explain this. Today the paper noted a U.N. statement that there are
 foods and medical supplies in Iraqi warehouses. The reason there are
 food and drugs in warehouses, are some good reasons. The doctors in
 Iraq, in the hospital system, need some security, knowing that there
will
 be drugs tomorrow and the day after. In the past that wasn't the case
--
 whatever drugs were there were gone on Monday, and on Tuesday there
 were none. Children were dying because there was nothing. So they
 were very insecure -- there's also no inventory system operating.
 There's no computer systems. Why? Because they can't get computers
 through the sanctions committee. Secondly, another problem is the lack
 of refrigerated trucks to distribute some of these drugs and medicines
--
 the trucks, again, have been blocked by the sanctions committee. Again,
 the U.N. is not explaining this -- my old bosses in the Secretariat.
It's
 really very unfortunate.

 There's been charges of massive diversions of food to the military, but
 the soldiers are entitled to food just like everybody else. I think
[the
 charges] are garbage myself.

 And again, when you're feeding 22 million people, you can't have an
 empty warehouse on the third of March to feed people until the first of
 April. It just doesn't work that way. You can't take food off the ships
 straight to 22 million people in twenty-four hours. You have to build
up
 your warehouse, you must have supplies on hand.

 Texas Observer: Do you think these charges are part of a demonization
 campaign against Iraq and Hussein?

 Phyllis Bennis: It's not just demonization. It denies history. If you
look
 at the history throughout the 1980s, for example, when Iraq was at war
 and spending a huge amount of money on its military, the population,
 while being denied virtually civil and political rights except the
right to
 travel, did very well in terms of economic and social rights. They were
 well fed, they were well-treated medically, they had a terrific
education
 system, the availability of luxuries, all of that was highly available.
This
 is the same regime, that's in power now. It was at a time when they
 were committing terrible crimes, against the Kurds in the north, in
 Karabja, against Iranian troops on the border with the use of poison
gas,
 all of that. Nonetheless, throughout that period, the Iraqi population
as a
 whole was in very good shape.

 That's what gets forgotten. The country is not a one-man show. It's got
 22 million people, a huge bureaucracy, a huge level of technicians who
 were involved in this stuff. And there's reason to think that it
wouldn't
 be back there, because people would demand it and expect it, and expect
 better when sanctions are lifted.

 Denis Halliday: Politically, Hussein cannot afford to starve his own
 people. The Iraqis, by and large, are so close to the edge -- the only
 constant thing in their lives is the food supply, which believe me has
 been imperfect. There's only a few months they get an absolutely full
 supply. We're not talking fancy food; we're talking basic wheat, flour,
 rice, tea, sugar, cooking oil, soap, lentils, beans. We're not talking
 chicken, fish, all the good things in life. Only the necessary things,
the
 sure things. If that was taken away, he would then have a riot on his
 hands -- I have no doubt that people would finally go berserk. They are
 so close to the edge, I would say. When you see your own children
 dying, when doctors see their own children dying for lack of
antibiotics,
 because there's none to be had, imagine what that does. And there isn't
 a soul in Iraq who hasn't seen a son or a daughter, a niece or a
nephew,
 some relative, dying unnecessarily.

 We met a woman who had just lost her mother -- she had diabetes; in
 Iraq there is no treatment for diabetes. So they just watched her die.
 Simple as that.

 Texas Observer: Did you see evidence that the distribution system was
 competent?

 Denis Halliday: I had 150 people reporting to me, who did nothing but
 observe the distribution system -- interviewed the citizens,
interviewed
 the agents -- there are about 45,000 agents to distribute the food
where
 people go to collect the food. We interviewed at the warehouses, the
 mills, we were in the ports, we had a British agency at the ports
(Lloyds
 of London) to monitor the distribution. We even had people in there who
 were moles (I think I had a couple of moles in my own shop) who were
 looking for trouble. The man who wrote the reports when I arrived, is
 from military British intelligence, sitting in New York. He's still
there. I
 sort of disarmed him by bringing him to Baghdad, told him to draft the
 report with us, in Baghdad. By the time he was done, he could see what
 was happening with the aid, that it was getting where it was intended
--
 he became, in a sense, an ally. I have no doubt that there's no serious
 diversion of any large quantity.

 It's more difficult in the medical field, because people accuse us of
 allowing the Iraqis to have a couple of really high class hospitals in
 Baghdad. Well, it's true. Military regimes protect themselves -- show
me
 a country where they don't. And they finance this, probably from the
 $400 or $500 million that comes in through smuggling. Not from the
 U.N. funds -- because they don't get one penny of that money; they
 never see it.

 Texas Observer: What made you finally decide that you could not stay
 within that system, and try to improve it? That you had to wash your
 hands of it?

 Denis Halliday: Well, you see the Oil-for-Food program is not the
 solution. It just will never meet the needs of this country. Doubling
it is a
 move in the right direction, but it doesn't begin to resolve it. The
only
 solution is to remove sanctions altogether, and get this country back
on
 its feet. And as a loyal civil servant, of thirty-four years, I
couldn't
 accuse the U.N. member states [of wrongdoing]. The only way to do
 that is to resign. And I was doing a lot of inappropriate things during
 those months -- I was leaking information to Le Monde, I used the
 French, Russian, and Chinese ambassadors, who were very careful, and
 went back to the Security Council, focusing on the humanitarian
 program, to support the increase [in the ceiling]. But you know, you
 can't take on your masters, the member states, who are your employers.

 There's no big deal in it, it was not a heroic act. It's not. After
 thirty-four years, it's time to step out and do something that you
believe
 in. You go to bed at night with yourself. You have to live with
yourself.
 After a certain point, as Noam Chomsky said, Silence is complicity.
 Remaining silent about the impact of sanctions is complicity, and I was
 in a unique position to see what was happening, and there was no way I
 was going to continue.

 Texas Observer: What do you think are the best possibilities for
positive
 change in the next year to two years?

 Denis Halliday: That's precisely why the work has to go on now -- why
 we need to go on tour now, to a bunch of different cities, partly to
bring
 information that isn't easily available because of the failures of the
 media, and partly to be able to bring ideas to one another. For
organizing
 strategies, new constituent ideas, all of that. I think there is room
for
 some change. There are forty-four congresspeople who signed on to the
 Conyers letter to Clinton, calling for a de-linking of the sanctions,
calling
 for ending the economic sanctions and tightening the military
sanctions,
 by going after the suppliers....

 Senator Paul Wellstone, despite the fact that he took a terrible
position in
 support of the bombing, and severely antagonized his constituents, his
 staff is arranging a set of new briefings with new approaches, and
 thinking about new ways of dealing with the sanctions. He's taking it
 quite seriously. I don't think he understood how important it would be
to
 his longtime supporters.

 People like Wellstone, I think, assumed that while some people might
 not like it, it wouldn't be that big a deal for anyone. He was assuming
 that his constituents instinctively would not want the bombing, but
it's
 not that important to them -- they're going to be working on a host of
 other issues. What we're finding is that more and more people are
taking
 strong positions against this. We're finding the most amazing responses
 in the religious communities. We spoke in Houston with a number of
 religious leaders, the local Catholic bishop, and several other
 denominations were represented -- and in that context we're seeing an
 amazing consistency of positions, from kind of moral stance: that this
is
 evil. The Mennonite pastor spoke over and over again about how the
 sanctions are evil: "It's doing an evil thing because it's killing
children." It
 was a very powerful image, and the kind of creative energy that's
 coming out of a number of religious communities. A black minister that
 we met with in Los Angeles is organizing other black clergy around the
 country to pressure the Black Caucus to take a more consistent role
 against this. Some leaders of the Black Caucus -- John Conyers, Cynthia
 McKinney, Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, others -- have been very
 very good on this issue. But the Caucus isn't consistent. A number of
 them have not taken it up at all, only a handful have acted. 

 Voting against the bombing was different. There were only five who
 voted against the resolution supporting the bombing in December. But
 that was a set up in a sense, and I think we have to be a little
cautious
 how we assess it. Three very brave progressives voted against it --
John
 Conyers, Barbara [Lee], and Cynthia McKinney. Two kind of
 mavericks: Ron Paul and another one like him. But it was set up in a
 way that made it extraordinarily difficult for them to vote against it.

 First of all, it didn't say, "Support the bombing." It said, "Support
the
 troops," which makes it almost impossible, unless you're very very
 brave, to oppose it. And the second paragraph supported the condition
of
 overthrowing the regime. That was the really dangerous one, because I
 think even most of the congresspeople who signed on to it, did not
 understand the consequences of signing on the overthrow of the ruler of
 a sovereign nation, whatever they may think about that ruler. It was
 quite shocking, it was done in haste, in the middle of the impeachment
 stuff, so I think we have to be a little cautious about what kinds of
 conclusions we draw about what that says.

 More significant if the fact that forty-four congresspeople signed the
 Conyers measure, which shows that it's not an isolated fringe. And it's
 particularly important that of those, less than half are members of the
 progressive caucus. The Progressive Caucus has fifty-eight members,
 and most of them have not been approached yet on this issue. But now
 we're hearing that they want to be approached, that they want to take
up
 the issue of sanctions. So there's room for work, for pressure.

 Texas Observer: Has the White House reacted to the Conyers letter?

 Phyllis Bennis: It did, the day before it issued its response to the
French
 proposal. And it was completely different, completely disconnected. It
 essentially said, "We're not responsible for the sanctions, we know the
 Iraqi people are suffering, we like the Iraqi people, we're not against
the
 Iraqi people. They have Oil-for-Food, we're even supporting lifting the
 Oil-for-Food ceiling so they can do more." It was a non-responsive
 response.

 Texas Observer: Assuming that by some magic the economic sanctions
 were to end tomorrow, and yet Iraq remains without the capacity to sell
 enough oil to feed it's own people, what could be done to improve the
 situation of the ordinary people in Iraq? What would have to happen
 after eight or nine years of devastating sanctions?

 Phyllis Bennis: I spent four or five days in Paris, and met some
 members of the French National Assembly. I tried to point out very
 clearly, lifting sanctions is not the answer. Iraq will need a lot of
help.
 They're going to need extensive credit. They're going to need resources
 to sustain recurring budgetary expenditures, of something like $15 to
$20
 billion a year. Today they can produce $6 billion, gross [from oil
 production] -- there's a real shortfall there. Without that they can't
begin
 to import the foodstuffs, medicines, drugs, all the basics for cancer
and
 leukemia -- which is of course on the rise because of the use of
depleted
 uranium by the coalition forces [during the Gulf War]. Secondly, to
 really start rebuilding the damaged infrastructure, of water systems,
 sewage systems, housing production, agriculture, education, health
care,
 they need $50 to $60 billion (U.S. dollars). Massive resources: where's
it
 going to come from?

 I think I got the French to recognize, we've got to get this in there.
 Because if we think we're going to solve the problem and then walk
 away, because sanctions are gone, Iraq is not going to make it. It's
not
 going to make it for a very long time -- unless oil prices now change.
But
 there seems to be no speculation that prices are going to change in the
oil
 industry. So you can't just abandon them.

 Thirdly, perhaps, which nobody wants to recognize, Saddam Hussein
 will be under tremendous pressure, domestic pressure, to produce a
 miracle. For the ordinary Iraqi is saying, "The moment sanctions are
 over, I can get a new car, the house will be fixed, the school will be
built,
 the hospitals will work" -- it will be a miracle. So the pressure on
the
 government in power is going to be relentless. Certainly much worse
 than Mandela faced in South Africa [Phyllis Bennis: whoever's in
 power]. They won't settle for going back the way they were. (The black
 South Africans were never there, so you get the point.) So there's
going
 to be a real crisis there. They'll have to ask for it, but there's
going to be
 a real problem, because they owe money already, all over the place. 

 Texas Observer: What of the reactions of not just the U.S. media, but
 even presumably progressive American readers: this is just Iraqi
 propaganda, you guys fell for it, the French want to get in on the oil
 business, that's what this is all about. I understand the ordinary
reaction
 -- it's very difficult to get any kind of real Iraq news in the
American
 media, but this instinctive reaction is strong.

 Denis Halliday: But why should we look for altruism? The U.S. policy
 is not serving the American citizens, nor the country.

 Phyllis Bennis: It's true about the French. That's absolutely right.
But
 the U.S. policy is also not in the interest of the American people.
There's
 no link, there's no connection between the economic sanctions and what
 the U.S. claims to be interested in. The accusation that the French are
 calling for the lifting of sanctions for their own commercial reasons,
in
 my view, is absolutely accurate. But that doesn't make it wrong. The
 fact that they have another reason for calling for it, that's there
business
 and it doesn't mean that keeping the sanctions on are right, because
the
 French want to lift them for bad reasons. The U.S. is maintaining them
 for bad reasons. What we have to look at is this issue of demonization,
 that we spoke of earlier -- that whatever people may think about the
 regime in Iraq, and much of what they think they know is accurate: that
 it was a terrible regime, that it did violate human rights insistently,
and
 that the U.S. helped. The U.S. made Saddam Hussein something more
 than a petty tyrant, by providing him with weapons of mass destruction
 throughout the 1980s. It was the U.S. that shipped biological weapon
 seed stock to Iraq in the 1980s, under license by the Commerce
 department. So this is all true -- but Iraq has a population of 23
million
 people, not 23 million Saddam Husseins. So the question of what do we
 do about that set of violations of human rights, and so on, is a very
 different question, and I don't quite understand the notion that people
 think it's Iraqi propaganda: do they think that people are not dying?
That
 that's the propaganda, or do they think that its Saddam Hussein's fault
 that they're dying?

 Texas Observer: The extreme version of the argument is that this guy is
 a Hitler, and we have to do whatever we can to stop Hitler. We didn't
 do it the first time, and with the likely results. That's part of what
I guess
 is the ordinary person's logic -- I think the elites here (in the
U.S.), part
 of the logic is: we want to dominate that region. That's our region,
that's
 our oil, that's our resources, and the Iraqi people do not figure into
the
 equation.

 Denis Halliday: And they dared to stand up and start producing an
 economy, they created a petrochemical industry. That's unacceptable --
 as you say, it's our oil. What does it have to do with them -- they
just
 happen to be sitting on top of it, that's all.

 Phyllis Bennis: And that's a longstanding position -- as Jimmy Carter
 said, the oil in theGulf, that's our oil. That wasn't just Bush, or
just
 Clinton. It was old Human Rights Jimmy. 

 Denis Halliday: And there's also another economic pattern. What
 you're saying is what Eisenhower said. When he left office, he warned
 this country -- the economy is good because it's a
military/manufacturing
 economy [the "military-industrial complex"]. And that clearly was the
 case, and still is. If you'll notice, since that war was over, we had
the
 Korean War, then we got into Vietnam, then we had a few other
 skirmishes, and now we have this wonderful selling market in the Middle
 East. Saudi Arabia has just purchased $75 billion of arms. So the
health
 of this economy, under Clinton also, is largely based on this massive,
 military sales program. That's where the big money's coming from -- it
 keeps the whole economy booming, with no inflation, and we're all very
 happy, and gas prices are down.

 Phyllis Bennis: And I keep coming back to this notion of demonization
 -- a sense that people have that "they're only Iraqis, they're only
Arabs,
 they're only Muslims." That is real -- we do see that across the
country.
 It's partly a reflection of the media, it's partly a reflection of how
the
 government has orchestrated its propaganda, it's partly how they
portray
 the consequences of war. During the war, I traveled around a lot, and
 was speaking about it, and after the war I started asking people, "Who
 here knows how many people were killed during Desert Storm?" Lots of
 hands would go up, people saying, "I know, I know." They would say,
 "344." They were all very proud of knowing that number. What they
 know, are American deaths, just as in Vietnam: they know 55,000
 American deaths, and they forget about the 1.5 million or more
 Vietnamese and Cambodians. Exactly the same thing. That's the
 demonization, that these are not people who figure into any equation.
 But that can be confronted -- how do we do that, how do we reach
 those people? That's the urgent business.
 
 Texas Observer: There is also the conventional political wisdom is that
the "hard
 decisions" require much sacrifice (by other people), that we can't
worry about casualties
 because if ordinary people knew everything the government knows, they
would make the
 same decisions. That's a hard wall to break through.

 Phyllis Bennis: I think the way to break through it, one thing that
Denis says very
 powerfully, is the description of the way sanctions are in fact
strengthening the regime of
 Saddam Hussein. It's not a hard one to figure out. It's not a hard one
to figure out -- it
 makes perfect sense when you just say it. The second is sort of to look
someone in the
 eye, and say, "There is no U.S. national interest that I can accept, at
the cost of killing
 thousands of children every month. Period. So that you bring it back to
the moral reality.
 And then, it puts people in the position of having to at least think
about the question of
 what is the national interest, or what's worth it? Madeline Albright
said, "It's worth it," to
 kill 15,000 children I think is the number she had been given for that
question....

 And if it were her children? She's a mother. Would it be worth it if it
were her children?
 That's a very powerful image. Is it only worth it because it's their
children?

 Denis Halliday: And it's certainly not worth it to the Arab neighbors,
either the people or
 their leadership, who have asked for the bombing to end. There's also
the historical
 argument that we helped create Hitler, to a certain extent, by
destroying Germany [in
 World War I] and then the Versaille treaty. We're also pushing Iraq to
more and more
 extreme responses.

 Phyllis Bennis: But the big one that's not similar, and here's where we
have to be very
 careful -- when Bush used the Hitler analogy for this demonization
campaign, it came
 within two or three months of the last arms shipment by the U.S. to
that same regime.
 That's number one. And number two, Iraq never had the potential for
global reach that
 Germany had. So the fact that it could invade Kuwait, this tiny little
protectorate that used
 to be part of it, is not quite the same as the occupation of Europe.
It's just not. We just
 have to be careful to bring down the level of rhetoric.... It's not
realistic parallel in terms
 of power.

 Texas Observer: Can you speak for a moment about U.N. politics? From
the perspective
 of many Texans or for that matter Americans, the U.N. is nothing more
than a stalking
 horse for the New World Order, and an insult to American sovereignty,
even that we
 shouldn't belong at all. Yet it seems to anyone who looks closely, the
U.N. does largely
 whatever the U.S. tells it to do. What's your perspective as an
insider?

 Denis Halliday: Well, there's an important distinction between the U.N.
directorate, the
 Security Council, and the member states. We get blamed for everything
the U.N. does,
 but in fact most of the controversial actions are carried out either by
the member states or
 by the great powers on the Security Council, with their veto power and
so on.

 Phyllis Bennis: Let me speak to that as well. There's an illusion about
how much
 anti-U.N. sentiment there is, even in places like Texas. There was a
study done recently
 by the University of Maryland, six or eight months ago, that indicates
that nationally, 68
 percent of the American people hold the U.N. in higher esteem than any
other major
 institution. Higher than the White House, higher than Congress, higher
than anybody.
 They did a breakdown, and they went to the districts of the
Congresspeople most
 identified with the black helicopter, get the U.N. out of the U.S., all
that side of it -- and
 found that their districts were absolutely the same.

 This [anti-U.N.] is not a popular view. This is the work of a small
group of very
 committed right-wing activists; these withdraw-unilateralist types --
who are not
 anti-intervention, but are in favor of unilateral rather than
multilateral interventions around
 the world. But it's not something that reflects American opinions. What
I do think is clear
 (this is the name of my book, "Calling the Shots: How Washington
Dominates Today's
 U.N.") -- it's been a consistent pattern, since the U.N. was founded in
1945, that the U.S.
 was going to be running the show. And it's used at times for direct
internal manipulation
 within the U.N., but far more often, the price that would be paid
outside the U.S., by
 another country outside a U.N. structure -- say a World Bank loan, or
development aid, or
 some diplomatic recognition they're trying to orchestrate, this or that
-- that's what they're
 afraid of losing if they challenge the U.S. So most of the time, the
power of the U.S. is a
 reflection of its power in the world. The punishment of Yemen ... when
Yemen voted no
 [on sanctions], didn't take place in a U.N. context, it was a
U.S.A.I.D. grant that was
 withdrawn. It had nothing to do with the U.N. but it was in the context
of U.S. power that
 the U.N. was undermined. When you combine that with the refusal of the
U.S. to pay its
 $1.5 billion dues in arrears, what you have is a scenario where the
U.N. is now
 economically undermined as well as politically undermined, by the U.S.
on both counts.

 There is tremendous anger toward the U.S. in U.N. headquarters. All the
representatives
 are furious, because the U.S. is throwing its weight around, demanding
to get its own way,
 orchestrating everything in its interests -- and refusing to pay the
bills. The price gets paid
 by other countries. Many times it means that peacekeeping countries,
the countries
 providing peacekeepers, don't get paid. And those tend to be the small,
neutral, relatively
 poor countries, who provide the actual soldiers. The U.S. doesn't --
the U.S. provides
 material, communications equipment, planes, and demands payment on time
and up front.
 So it's a terrible reversal of what the U.N. was supposed to be, as a
global protectorate of
 people individually, and nations collectively against the ravages of a
single power that
 might emerge. The U.S. has become that ravaging power. 

 The End

********************
The Texas Observer 
Alan Pogue ("The Salt on the Wound"): Interview

 POGUE: The delegation flew into Amman, Jordan, and traveled by car to
Baghdad (a
 thirteen-hour trip). They arrived in Baghdad on the night of December
19.
 When we were coming into Baghdad we went through the final military
 checkpoint at the city limits. There was a group of rather
tough-looking Iraqi
 soldiers, with their AK-47s. They looked at our passports and they
said, "Ah,
 Americans," and with a twinkle in their eyes and a smile on their
faces, they
 looked up and said, "We kill all Americans. Welcome." They were making
 fun of the whole situation...

 INTERVIEWER: From U.S. news reports, it appeared that the most recent
 bombing was mostly outside of Baghdad. Is that what you
 saw? 

 POGUE: There was not much new bombing in Baghdad, but some. The U.S.
bombed
 the old Defense Ministry - I stress, the old ministry - nothing there
now but
 a bunch of records, and a half-dozen clerks who work there. It was
leveled, to
 rubble. But across the street was the largest hospital in Baghdad, the
 Baghdad teaching hospital in the Saddam medical complex. It's ten
stories
 high and a long city block long, the whole hospital. Every window was
blown
 out of it. There was a lot of structural damage, and the ceilings on
all the
 levels, the tiles were falling from all of them. All of the patients
had to be
 evacuated to other hospitals. Across the river from the ministry, was a
 maternity hospital - all of the windows were blown out of it, and a lot
of
 women lost their babies to spontaneous abortions, due to the shock of
the
 blast and the terror. In another part of Baghdad, a missile just
slammed down
 in the middle of the street, in a marketplace.

 I went to a middle-sized hospital in the suburbs - Yarmouk Hospital. I
 photographed sixteen people from Baghdad, civilians, hurt in the
 neighborhoods by falling shrapnel and debris. I was told that sixteen
people
 had died in that hospital alone. I photographed another sixteen people
who
 had been severely injured.

 INTERVIEWER: How much can the doctors do for them?

 POGUE: The one doctor I spoke with was just beside himself, he was so
incensed. He
 showed me these children whose legs were in casts. They had external
 fixators (rods with pins to hold the broken bones together). He said
they only
 had two of these appliances, and the only reason he had the two is
because
 they were given to him by some French doctors. The two were in use, and
he
 had no others, because of the sanctions. He said, "Look, first you have
the
 sanctions to keep us from getting medical supplies, and then we're
bombed,
 so we can't do anything."

 Even on a day-to-day basis, people are dying for a lack of very simple
drugs.
 For instance, the children who have diarrhea, will develop acidosis of
the
 blood, due to the dehydration. All they need is sodium bicarbonate.
They
 don't have any sodium bicarbonate, so many of them die for a lack of
 sodium bicarbonate. This doesn't even touch on the more expensive and
 hard to get drugs, like anti-leukemia medicine. [According to U.S. news
 reports, the lack of medicine for childhood leukemia has reduced the
cure
 rate in Iraq - which was about 70 percent - to zero.]

 INTERVIEWER: Were you able to get any sense of the overall casualties
 from the December bombing?

 POGUE: I was trying to figure out just out how many people were hurt,
because we
 didn't have many figures. There were sixteen people in just this one
hospital,
 and there was a dormitory in Kirkut, in northern Iraq, which was
struck.
 Twenty or twenty-five freshman college students were struck and killed
 instantly, in this one dormitory. It wasn't possible for me to come up
with a
 good figure, overall, but just from the people I was able to talk to,
it was two
 hundred - so it would have to have been several times more than two
 hundred.

 INTERVIEWER: Were you able to determine the sort of targets selected
for
 bombing?

 POGUE: What I saw that was specifically targetted was communications.
The Post
 Office in Basra was struck, and levelled. The Post Office also houses
 telecommunications, and that's why it was hit. So that cut off all
telephone
 communications between Basra and anywhere. Then outside of Basra, a
 microwave relay station, tiny, was struck.

 That explosion caused two spontaneous abortions, at least one man died
of
 a heart attack, all the windows in the neighborhood were blown out in
all the
 houses, structural damage in many of the houses, at least one man was
 killed by falling debris - everyone was traumatized. All for this dinky
 microwave relay station which could be replaced in two days.

 There were some military supply depots, of course, and some barracks
that
 they tried to hit. The Iraqi government claims they had that figured
out and
 evacuated everybody from those places ahead of time, knowing they would
 be targets. In the middle of Baghdad, they blew up the television
station,
 which supplies the civilian population with news and programs. It was
 replaced in two days, and they had it back on the air.

 INTERVIEWER: What's your strongest impressions of what's happened in
 Iraq, and what the bombing means?

 POGUE: Well, to me, the bombing is the salt on the wound. The wound is
the
 sanctions. Because, if two hundred and fifty children under five are
dying
 every day because of the sanctions, because of lack of food and
medicine,
 then the bombing is really minimal in relation to the sanctions. The
effects of
 sanctions are tremendous. So the bombing is terrorism - people are
 terrified, and rightly so. But the sanctions are the real destructive
force. What
 I did notice specifically, though, even in the short span between July
and
 December, there was a marked increase in children begging on the
streets.
 Coming up to the taxi and asking for money. Shoeshine boys out during
the
 middle of the day - kids that should be in school, not being in school.
The
 level of desperation is just mounting.

 INTERVIEWER: Yet the people welcomed you?

 POGUE: That was the other overwhelming thing. The only negative thing
that anyone
 ever said to me was in one of the hospitals. An Iraqi woman was there
 because one of her close relatives had been injured in the bombing. She
 said, "Well, first the Americans bomb us, then you come and take
pictures of
 us." I thought it was a pretty mild response in relation to the reality
she was
 living in....

 Some of the doctors used us as a sounding board to complain about the
 lack of medicines and supplies. But that's the worst - other than that,
 everyone was very friendly, and were glad that we were there. And
several
 people remarked that they were thankful that we were willing to be
there
 during the bombing....

 Their message was, basically, that they had nothing against the
American
 people. They just wish that the American people would realize that the
Iraqi
 people are suffering, and have nothing to do with the military or
government
 decisions. So they should not be made to suffer. One man said, "My
children
 were not even born during the Gulf War. Why are they being killed now?"

 INTERVIEWER: What of the argument that the sanctions are aimed at the
 Hussein regime?

 POGUE: The effect the sanctions have is the opposite to that the U.S.
government
 says it intends. The U.S. government is doing this to the Iraqi people,
the
 U.S. Government is bombing the Iraqi people - so really they have no
 alternative but to support the Hussein government, against the
aggression of
 the United States. No one ever told me they were interested in getting
rid of
 the Iraqi government in order to make the situation better.

 It's just like the bombing of Berlin or London - in both of those
instances, all
 the people could do is rally around the authority that existed there at
the time.
 That's been the experience over the years in reaction to bombing -
there's
 no reason to expect anything different.

 INTERVIEWER: How does the situation in Basra compare to Baghdad?

 POGUE: People in Baghdad are just better off. Basra is a port city, and
there's just
 nothing happening in a port city, because there's no trade. It was a
city of
 one million, and then after the war, 600,000 people descended on Basra
 from the south. There's all these people in these internally displaced
camps
 that don't have any water or sewage....

 Most of the water sources are contaminated, although you can get
bottled
 water if you can pay for it. Most cannot. For mothers with infants -
can they
 get enough nutrition to nurse? Then if they need to be put on formula,
that
 requires water, so if the children get bad water their immune system
 crashes, and they're a lot more likely to get infections, so it's just
a whole
 downward spiral. In Basra, there's a hospital dedicated solely to the
 rehydration of children, put up by the Italians (through Bridges to
 Baghdad).... Typhoid and cholera are common.

 INTERVIEWER: What's your sense of the overall effect of the sanctions
and
 the attacks?

 POGUE: It's the destruction of a generation. All of these childrens are
not going to
 school, and since they were born, they've been living under sanctions.
Their
 horizon is different from other Iraqis - from the perspective of an
older Iraqi,
 or the people that were even ten or twelve years old in 1990, they were
living
 in a prosperous, first-world country. They had free universal
education, free
 universal health care - there were no epidemic illnesses. A lot of the
oil
 money was spent on the Iraqi people.

 INTERVIEWER: What do you think should be the response of U.S. citizens
to
 the situation?

 POGUE: I think American citizens should be asking to halt the bombing.
Ninety
 percent of the casualties are civilians. Ask yourselves how much
influence
 they really have over the government - ask yourselves how can it be
right, to
 bomb civilians in order to change the policies of their government?

 And the sanctions are killing the equivalent of bombing a large day
care
 center every day. Two hundred and fifty young children, every day, die
 because of the sanctions - just like dropping a bomb on a day-care
center,
 every day.

 The End

 To contact Voices in the Wilderness: 1460 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago,
 Illinois 60640. Telephone: (773) 784-8065. Website:
 www.nonviolence.org/vitw.

 To send an email message to Alan Pogue or Observer staff you can reach
 them at Observer@texasobserver.org

********************

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