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Speech to April 23 anti-NATO demo in Sheffield People involved in the campaign against sanctions and war on Iraq have been trying to figure out how our campaign for the people of Iraq is affected by the crisis in Kosova and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. We have decided that developments in Yugoslavia make it even more important that we continue to campaign on Iraq. The truth about what Britain and the US have done and are doing to Iraq is vital information which people in this country need to know about at a time when the same powers are using the same barbarous methods against another sovereign state. Sheffield campaign against war in the Gulf is a single-issue campaign which does not adopt policy on other conflicts, but we see our campaign as part of a broader movement against war and military aggression which we hope and are sure will grow into a mighty force. In the past few weeks, supporters of SCAWG have been out in the streets collecting signatures on our petition against sanctions and war on Iraq. Some of us have also been collecting signatures on the petitions opposing NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. We have found it easier, much easier, to get signatures on our Iraq petition. There are many reasons why this is so, and the situation may already be changing, but there is one clear reason for this contrast: UK/US policy towards Iraq has been widely and comprehensively discredited in the eyes of many people. Why is this policy so discredited? First, more and more people have heard about what sanctions and bombs have done to the Iraqi people. Now that an air-war has been unleashed against another state, it is important to remember what happened in Iraq in 1991 and what is still happening there. Many things in my brief description will remind you of events now taking place a few hundred miles north of Iraq, in Yugoslavia. The so-called Gulf War of 1991 was not a war, because one side was doing all the killing and the other side was doing all the dying. For forty days and nights, Iraq was subject to a merciless bombardment in which 150,000 – 200,000 Iraqis died: on the US-led coalition's target list, in addition to military targets, were every single telephone exchange, TV stations, sewage and fresh water facilities, civilian electricity supplies, even baby-milk factories. The UN’s own report on the aftermath found that Iraq had been bombed back to a pre-industrial age”. Draconian economic sanctions in force ever since have prevented Iraq from repairing the damage to Iraq's devastated economy, civilian infrastructure and basic means of life support. Detailed, carefully researched reports by the UN’s own agencies show that at least 1.25 million Iraqis, including 750,000 Iraqi children, have died as a result of policies imposed on the UN in by the US and UK governments. The second reason why US/UK Iraq policy has become discredited is because many people are angered by the utter criminality and lawlessness of the US/UK assault. Former chief UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter has revealed that the US infiltrated the UN weapons inspections programme with its own spies, and in 1998 completely subverted this UN body, using it not for its stated aim of disarming the Iraqi regime, but instead to engineer the conditions for a resumption of bombing and to help Pentagon to target those bombs. US and UK warplanes started bombing before UNSCOM’s report even reached the security council. They bombed because they knew that they had lost control of the Security Council. The US is not prepared to allow the likes of France, Russia and China to tell it who it can and cannot bomb. In this context, we must condemn the proposal which the US and UK are fighting to impose on the NATO summit currently under way in Washington. They are proposing that NATO widen its field of operations from Europe to include the whole world. This would allow the US to dispense entirely with the United Nations, giving it the option of using NATO to attack such countries as Iraq. The third reason why more and more people are rejecting UK/US Iraq policy is because the policy has not worked and is not working. After nine years of sanctions and war, the US and UK are no nearer their goal of installing a pro-western regime in Baghdad. The Iraqi people have not lost their dignity in the face of attacks on their sovereignty and the attempt to crush their spirit. A world-wide consensus has developed that sanctions must be either modified or lifted, but the US and UK governments are terrified at having to admit to such a costly and disgraceful failure. They continue to veto any change in the policy of bombing and economic strangulation. But they are more and more isolated and their Iraq policy is in deep crisis. This is what makes us believe that we can make a difference. There is another part of the Iraqi experience which has relevance to the crisis in Yugoslavia. The entirely predictable result of the UK and US policy against Iraq has been to unite Iraqi people against the aggressor. It has closed down the space for the people to fight for democracy or to make a revolution. All reports from Belgrade indicate that the same thing is happening there. This has led many to think that the US military planners keep on making the same mistake, by strengthening, not weakening, the enemy government with their bombs and aggression. There is another explanation for this. The one thing that the US and UK governments fear above all else is the democratic and revolutionary struggles of the peoples. They don’t want people anywhere to liberate themselves oppression or to win the right of self determination. This is why their bombs and guns and sanctions are not only or even mainly aimed at the regimes in these countries, but against the people. They are prepared to kill as many civilians as it takes to drive the rest of the population out of their wits and their homes, to beg for mercy; they demand that not just the government surrenders, but that the people also surrenders. It is, therefore, completely wrong to use the term “collateral damage” to describe civilian deaths, because civilians themselves are the target. This is one of the lessons of Iraq which people need to know about as they attempt to figure out what stance to take on the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Thank you -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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