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Britain's secret war on Saddam costs taxpayer £1m a week The Independent - 30 Jan 2000 By Jo Dillon, Political Correspondent Intense military activity over Iraq during the past month has increased concern among back-bench Labour MPs that the Government's campaign against Saddam Hussein is gaining pace. The MPs are dismayed that the "hidden war" in the Gulf - which is costing British taxpayers £4.5m every month - shows no signs of abating. The military campaign, being waged by Britain and the United States, has been going on since the end of Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. Yesterday, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that British aircraft are flying in "dangerous" conditions almost every day. In the final month of last year, a higher than average 200 sorties were flown by RAF pilots - a period in which six laser-guided bombs were dropped on strategic targets in Iraq. In the past year, the RAF, patrolling the northern "no-fly zone", has been threatened by the Iraqis 570 times and has dropped a total of 134 bombs in response to hostile fire. The Americans, patrolling the south, have taken action 69 times in response to more than 420 incidents of Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery fire or surface-to-air missile fire. But there is growing concern among a group of Labour MPs that the military action is unnecessary and costly as well as having an adverse effect on ordinary people living in Iraq. They are now demanding that the international community rethinks its policy in the Gulf, and Britain and the US pull out troops, numbering more than 20,000, out of the region. Labour's Alan Simpson is a leading critic of the war. "This is the hidden war against Iraq which is now almost akin to punishment beatings," he said. "This is what is going on and the firing of missiles which rain down on Iraq are just acts of punishment and it is difficult to see what moral, ethical or military sense any of it makes." According to Mr Simpson, the level of child mortality in Iraq has doubled since the end of the Gulf War in 1996 due to a combination of air strikes and economic sanctions. He said: "I think the international community really needs to step back and ask itself what the hell is going on." In Britain, he said, people were not being told about the situation, despite the huge publicity surrounding the air strikes against Saddam's Iraq in 1998 and the campaign in Kosovo. "No one knows, no one cares and we are currently spending a colossal amount of money peppering Iraq on a daily basis." But the MoD insists the continued military presence in the Gulf and the attacks on Iraq are a direct response to violations of the no-fly zones; the fear that Saddam Hussein will continue to build up weapons of mass destruction without the supervision of UN inspectors; threats to allied aircraft, and a response to the persecution of Kurds and Shia Muslims. "We would always target the Iraqi integrated air defence system, radar and surface-to-air missile sites. We take every care to avoid civilian casualties," an MoD spokesman said. "We will be maintaining these patrols and as long as Saddam continues to threaten our aircraft we will be forced to take defensive action. We have been fired on on many occasions. Fortunately, to date, we have not lost crew but it is a very dangerous environment for our pilots to be operating in." -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi