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Speech on Iraq crisis to Sheffield anti-NATO demo

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

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
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

Thank you

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