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Review of Iraq Under Siege


Published March 2000 
Copyright © Socialist Review

Victims of the war for oil
Iraq Under Siege 
Ed: Anthony Arnove 
Pluto £10.99

Did you know that over the past year more than 1,800 bombs have been
dropped on the people of Iraq by the UK and US air forces in attacks that
take place almost every other day? It would be surprising if you did, as
this murderous campaign has been virtually ignored by the western media.
Nine and a half years of war and sanctions, instigated and led by the US,
have killed a million Iraqis, 600,000 of them children, and devastated a
once-prosperous country. Targeted air strikes have wiped out electricity,
transport, water and sewage networks’ cholera, typhoid and other appalling
diseases are widespread. Hospitals, schools, libraries and museums have
been obliterated. Around 300 tons of depleted uranium shells have
contaminated water, crops and people, resulting in massive increases in
birth defects and cancers.

The sanctions have destroyed Iraq's economy, agriculture, industry, health
service and education system’all once the envy of the region. Doctors and
teachers can barely do their jobs because of lack of equipment, and drive
cabs or sell fags to top up their miserable $3 a month wage. Medicines
that are allowed in cannot be transported, refrigerated or administered
because other necessary equipment is banned. Schools that have survived
have no desks, books, heating or lighting. Even pencils can't be imported
as graphite is deemed by the US to have military uses.

Today the vast majority of people are hungry, poor, unemployed and
desperate. The only thing preventing mass starvation is a reasonably
efficient and equitable system of rationing. Politicians here and in the
US claim that the suffering is unnecessary because the ban on Iraqi oil
sales was partially lifted in the £6 billion a year oil for food deal.
They do not publicise that a third of this goes to the UN compensation
fund (to compensate for the cost of 'liberating' Kuwait) and to pay for
all UN expenses incurred in relation to Iraq, including the US spies who
posed as inspectors with Unscom, the arms monitoring team.

What can possibly justify the infliction of so much misery on 22 million
people? The UK and US governments say their objective is to free Iraqis
>from an evil dictator and destroy Iraq's military capability. But this
claim does not stand up to a moment's examination. The same governments
armed and supported the same dictator when he was massacring and gassing
his own people. The same governments allowed Iraq's military to suppress
uprisings in the north and south of Iraq after the 1990-91 Gulf War,
uprisings that could easily have toppled the dictator. The same
governments allow their Nato ally Turkey to fly in the no-fly zone in
northern Iraq in order to attack the very people the west is supposed to
be protecting’the Kurds. This siege has had the consistent effect of
shoring up the dictator's popular support. As for Iraq's possession of
weapons of mass destruction, even the UN's own inspectors say they have
long been destroyed. The real reason for the siege is simple’oil. Iraq has
the second largest proven oil reserves in the world. Unlike Saudi Arabia,
Iraq is well populated and has long had the capacity and popular desire to
break free of imperialist domination. For the US to continue exploiting
and dominating this oil rich region, Saddam Hussein and the whole country
had to be cut down to size.

This marvellous collection of essays is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  
The many contributors who have visited Iraq in the past decade paint a
consistent and deeply disturbing picture of genocide. All are united by
their opposition to Saddam Hussein and their fury at the US and UK's
punishment of Iraq's people. Several of the contributors stand out for
their bravery: the Voices in the Wilderness group who openly break the
sanctions to take medicines to Iraq's sick; the former UN humanitarian
coordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday, who resigned from the UN after 34
years loyal service to protest against the sanctions; and writers such as
John Pilger, Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk, who go against the stream by
investigating the truth and then presenting the truth as they find it. Yet
all of the contributors have spoken out in an overwhelmingly hostile
environment in the hope that a movement can be built to stop the slaughter
in Iraq. This book will be of enormous help in that task, and should be
mandatory reading for Robin Cook and all the other people responsible for
the carnage.

Clare Fermont

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