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IRAQ SUPPLEMENT, 19/12/0014/1/01 * I fought apartheid. I'll fight Saddam [Peter Hain¹s reply to Hans von Sponeck¹s letter to the Guardian, which was in last week¹s news digest] * Admit you have failed, Mr Hain [H.von Sponeck¹s reply, and other replies, to Peter Hain (selection sent to list by Seb Willis)] * Fighting Talk [This is quite an interesting short account of the present state of the Iraqi economy, of the impossibility of trying to run an oil industry when one is only allowed to spend money on food and medicine] * Saddam Threat Looms, Thanks to Papa Bush [On the difficulties of being an upright, straight in the eye American living in a world full of devious and self serving Europeans and Arabs. Includes some intriguing gossip on the subject of economic relations between Iraq and Syria] * Albright regrets passing on Iraq problem [short extract complaining about the UN allowing Saddam some money to refurbish the oil industry] * Quiet...Then the Sky Caught Fire [account of what it was like in Iraq on the first day of the Gulf War] * Dunes of Glory [Scottish hero of the Gulf War. Only for readers for strong stomachs but the hero in question did see the aftermath of the massacre on the road to Basra: "When you see the carnage of the Basra road, it leaves a mark on you.²] * 10 years after Gulf War Kuwait opens up [but is still wholly dependent on foreign assistance for its defence] URL ONLY: http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=000579381554028&rtmo=wenKfMAb&atmo=99999 999&pg=/et/01/1/10/nblur310.html * Britain and US isolated over Iraqi sanctions by Anton La Guardia Daily Telegraph, 10th January [Daily Telegraph¹s mournful reaction to the tomato] URL ONLY: http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=6786 * Link survives between Iraq, Arab-Israeli conflict http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,418441,00.html * I FOUGHT APARTHEID. I'LL FIGHT SADDAM Letter from Peter Hain, Guardian, Saturday January 6, 2001 There is vigorous public debate about Britain's support for UN sanctions on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am convinced Britain's policy is right. Saddam Hussein's regime is a danger to its neighbours and to its people. That danger must be contained. Britain has a duty to play its role, as a supporter of the UN, a defender of human rights and an opponent of aggression. Hans von Sponeck (Foreign Office challenged on UN's Iraq sanctions, January 4) and other sanctions critics overlook the nature of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He has used chemical weapons against his own people and against Iran. He has invaded Kuwait. And he has terrorised his country, ordering political killings, torture and mutilations. Sanctions were imposed to force Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. The threat was real then. It remains real now. Iraq is still hiding weapons of mass destruction. It has admitted concealing chemical and biological weapons and missile parts in the desert, caves and railway tunnels. UN weapons inspectors have been unable to account for 4,000 tonnes of so-called precursor chemicals used in the production of chemical weapons, 610 tonnes of precursor chemicals used in the production of the nerve agent VX and some 31,000 chemical weapons munitions. Iraq retains a capacity to develop nuclear weapons. The consequences of ending containment by abandoning sanctions would be horrendous. One teaspoon of the nerve agent sarin can cause up to 10,000 deaths. The international community cannot walk away from this threat. Sanctions have contained the regime's threat to its people and neighbours. Since they were imposed, Iraq has not used chemical weapons against the Kurds or Iran or invaded its neighbours. Nor has it fired Scud missiles at Israel. Before sanctions Iraq did all of these. That is why Britain supports sanctions. Critics of our policy point to the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. But they move quickly and uncritically to the conclusion that sanctions are the cause of the suffering. This year the UN is making up to $17bn available to Iraq for the purchase of humanitarian goods. This is more than Egypt, Syria or Jordan have to spend in equivalent areas (eg health, education, housing). Yet critics never ask why the people of those countries do not suffer the same privations as the people of Iraq. Could the answer be to do with Saddam's brutal indifference to the condition of his people? In recent years, sanctions have been targeted more closely on items of potential use in weapons programmes. It is a myth that sanctions cover food and medicines. To export the majority of goods to Iraq - including food, medicines, agricultural, educational and water and sanitation goods - you need simply notify the UN. The Iraqi people continue to suffer because the regime is not spending the money made available by the UN on its people's needs. Iraq has ordered no medicines under the UN oil for food programme for the last six months. Iraq had put $1.1bn worth of goods on hold at the end of October. Iraq is exporting food and medicine. Why has Iraq blocked a team of experts from visiting the country to assess the humanitarian situation? Hans von Sponeck's open letter to me asserted that UK and US aircrews patrolling the "no fly zones" have no mandate from the security council. The "no-fly zones" were established in support of security council resolution 688, which called on Iraq to end its repression of Kurds and the Shia. Would von Sponeck have us abandon these people? He is wrong to suggest the UN has verified Iraqi claims about civilian casualties. UN staff witnessed only 28 out of 132 incidents in which UK or US aircraft allegedly took action. Of these 132 incidents, UK or US aircraft were not flying on at least 30 of the days mentioned. Iraq regularly reports bombings when UK or US aircraft have not been flying. He is wrong to say the UK holds up the UN humanitarian relief programme. The UK puts less than 2 % of all the contracts submitted to it on hold because of serious concerns about the goods' possible use in Iraqi weapons programmes. He gives no credit to this Labour government for taking UN resolution 1284 through the security council, lifting the limit on the amount of oil Iraq can exchange for humanitarian goods. This resolution offers a way out of sanctions. It allows for sanctions suspension in return for cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. Critics of sanctions should unite with us in calling on the regime to take up this offer. By aligning themselves with Iraq in opposition to the UN they are perpetuating a situation they claim to want to end. They offer no alternative. They simply want us to abandon Saddam's victims to their fate. This sounds to me like the kind of appeasement of oppression I fought against in my anti apartheid days and am fighting against today in my opposition to Saddam Hussein's brutality. € Peter Hain MP is a Foreign Office minister http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,419063,00.html * ADMIT YOU HAVE FAILED, MR HAIN The Guardian, January 8, 2001 The issue of Iraq in 2001 is too critical for the future of its people, Europe's relations with the Middle East and the standing of international law for us to remain silent about Peter Hain's article (I fought apartheid, I'll fight Saddam, January 6). We write from privileged experience since we were charged by the UN secretary general to oversee the oil-for-food programme soon after its inception, from 1997 until last year. We both resigned in protest against what we perceive as a failed Iraq policy, with all its tragic human consequences, and the violation of international law. Arguing for an end to economic sanctions is not at all about "propping up a dictator". Have sanctions targeted the proper parties? No. Have sanctions imposed in 1990 retained their legality? The UN Charter, the International Covenants on Human Rights and a host of other treaties allow only one answer: they have not. Peter Hain is indeed "ducking the debate". We all know, professionally and personally, how difficult it is to admit failure. What a powerful and honourable signal Hain would send, if such awareness of failure would translate into courage for change. Hain has been hiding behind a smoke-screen for a long time with his defence of an indefensible policy conducted with little respect for facts. "Iraq was a threat to humanity and this threat is real now," he maintains. This is a house of cards held aloft by those who want to maintain the status quo. Disinformation is morally and legally also indefensible. Hain's reference to UN resolution 688 as the legitimisation for the "no-fly-zones" in Iraq is an example. This resolution makes no reference to a right to take over Iraqi airspace, resulting in the tragic killing of civilians as detailed in the 1999 UN security reports. Hain repeatedly stresses that those who oppose sanctions offer no alternative. This is false. Both of us, for example, have said time and again that the UN security council should delink economic sanctions from the disarmament debate while imposing arms controls on Iraq and those countries which wish to sell arms to Baghdad, keeping in mind resolution 687, paragraph 14, which calls for the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction; we have argued that the hidden agenda of hardline geo strategic interests be dropped and a dialogue be started; we have also argued that the unrealistic demand for quantitative disarmament be replaced by negotiations on weapon systems containment. We, too, fight against "appeasement of oppression". Ours, however, is a fight against the violation of international law by the UN security council and the sacrifice of innocent civilians as pawns. Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1997-98 HC von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1998-2000 ----- "You simply have to notify the UN" to export food and medicines, writes Peter Hain. The tortuous bureaucracy of the UN is beyond the scope of a letter. Exporting anything takes many months, on the UN's own admission. If a patient needs medicine it is needed immediately. I was threatened with prosecution by the Department of Trade and Industry for taking a small package of chemotherapy to Iraq for a surgeon with cancer - who had worked here for many years saving the lives of British children. A London-based Iraqi sent insulin in a Jiffy bag to his diabetic brother in Baghdad. It was returned by the Post Office with a request for an export licence. Before the licence was granted, his brother had died. Felicity Arbuthnot London ---- Peter Hain's concern for the Kurds in Iraq would be touching if he extended it also to the Turkish Kurds. His support of UN resolutions imposed on Iraq would be more credible if he adopted the same attitude to those against Israel. His opposition to Iraqi weapons would be more justified if he condemned Israel's nuclear capability. Condemning Saddam Hussein is one thing but getting at him through the innocent children of Iraq is another. June and Tony Freke Newbury Peter Hain claims that the bombing of northern Iraq by British and US aircraft was "in support of security council resolution 688, which called on Iraq to end its repression of Kurds and the Shia". Nowhere in the resolution is there even a hint about using force against Iraq. But it makes the point that "all member states" are committed to "the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq and of all states in the area". So this is UN permission to bomb Iraq, is it? Brian Cloughley Thornhill, Dumfriesshire ---- Peter Hain has some nerve comparing the sanctions on Iraq to the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa. Whereas in South Africa it was the oppressed people who themselves called for sanctions to be imposed, there has been no such call from the Iraqi people. Whereas sanctions actually hurt white South Africa, they stand no chance of ousting Saddam. Indeed, sanctions have brought appalling hardship upon the people of Iraq and have served only to strengthen Saddam's grip on power. Timothy Walker London http://www.gulfbusiness.com/cgi-local/index.cgi?article=1&ID=579&ww=on&pg=1 * FIGHTING TALK by Riyad Mickdady Gulf Business, Vol. 5 | Issue 9 | January, 2001 Iraq's backing off from its latest decision to suspend oil exports is another implied admission of failure, in this new round of its continuous struggle to lift the sanctions imposed since the end of the Gulf War. This retreat came only a few days after senior Iraqi officials confirmed Baghdad's adherence to its position. The steep fall in oil prices, however, took Iraqis as well as other Opec members by surprise. It became obvious that Baghdad was betting that the suspension of oil exports would lead to a serious shortage of supply, and prices climbing to higher levels, thus bringing the issue of lifting sanctions back to the surface. During his visit to Dubai in early December 2000, Iraq's Trade Minister, Mohamed Mehdi Saleh confirmed this view, declaring that, "The shortage of oil supplies is becoming more serious as a result of rising world consumption, and there are just not enough additional production capacities around to make up for Iraqi exports." The minister told Gulf Business that his country's decision to suspend exports had political and economic implications, and that it will never retreat regardless of the consequences. He also pointed out that Iraq's imposition of a $0.50 surcharge on each exported barrel of oil is meant to be used to maintain oil production facilities, and is vital to maintaining oil exports. The minister considered the resumption of air flights to Baghdad as an important and positive step in Iraq's efforts to lift the sanctions, confirming that his country will take into consideration the political stand of other countries when granting reconstruction contracts upon the lifting of sanctions. He said: "Iraq represents a huge market for contracts and imports, because sanctions have suspended its regular development for the last 10 years. All economic sectors need development and modernisation. The car sector alone provides a glimpse of the sheer magnitude of expected demand. Iraq, for example, needs up to one million cars, because all of the cars available in the country are old and need replacement." However, chances of clinching lucrative Iraqi contracts will most probably not be equal for all interested parties. In addition to political considerations related to the stands of different countries concerning sanctions, it is obvious that due to Baghdad's financial and economic difficulties, companies able to provide finance for contracted projects will most likely benefit from major construction and rehabilitation projects expected to be launched in Iraq. Saleh said: "It is only normal that priority shall be granted to those who offer facilities." Although this means that Iraqi debts will grow, the Iraqi minister ascertained that debts would not handicap the development of Iraq's economy after the lifting of sanctions. He added: "Iraqi debts now stand at $42 billion only, which is not such a big deal, considering that our oil exports would reach $30 billion by the close of this year (2000). The whole debt issue is now on hold. Debts shall be subject to negotiations, case by case, once sanctions are lifted." Iraq's trade is now restricted to food and medicines only, according to the 'Oil For Food' agreement with the United Nations allowing Baghdad to export $3.7 billion worth of oil every six months. One third of this amount is allocated to cover United Nations costs and the Invasion Indemnity Fund, while the remaining two thirds covers imports. Although the minister ascertained that the costs of rehabilitating the oil sector during the last four years were met by printing uncovered dinars, in an operation he described as "costly, leading to continuous inflation, and adversely affecting citizens and their standard of living". Iraq's decision, however, raised questions about its efficiency and timing. Iraq complains that ever since the implementation of the 'Oil For Food' agreement in 1996 and until now, its allocations for food and humanitarian relief imports did not exceed $8.8 billion, representing 23 per cent only of its $40 billion oil revenues during the same period. The United Nations on the other hand, deducted $13.6 billion to cover its operational costs and invasion indemnities. The balance of $18 billion was in the form of Iraqi contracts, pending until now because of UN restrictions. On trade with Gulf countries, the minister said: "We do not restrict trade with any Arab country, and even have a developed trade with Saudi Arabia. Statistics show that trade within the framework of the 'Oil For Food' programme, reached $511 million with the Kingdom, $1.16 billion with the UAE, $1.48 billion with Jordan, $1.64 billion with Egypt and $500 million with Syria." http://www.nydailynews.com/2001-01-09/News_and_Views/Opinion/a-95144.asp * SADDAM THREAT LOOMS, THANKS TO PAPA BUSH New York Daily News, 9th January Believe it or not, it has been 10 years since the Gulf War. Now, despite the U.S.-led "victory" in 1991, Saddam Hussein is still in power and still dreaming of conquering the neighborhood ‹ and then some. To prove it, Iraqi tank divisions began moving recently onto the Jordanian and Syrian borders, within striking distance of Israel. That as United Nations sanctions have begun to crumble. Even the embargo on flights into Baghdad is falling apart. Worst of all, the Iraqi leader and his henchmen increasingly bypass UN restrictions on their oil exports by black-marketing fuel through Iran and other countries. Much of the gold Saddam and his family make on these illegal sales is being used to buy forbidden arms and military supplies and know-how on nuclear and chemical weapons. Saddam bypasses UN rules with a large contingent of European middlemen. But an equally big helping hand comes from some of Saddam's closest neighbors. Mideast intelligence sources say one of Iraq's most important contraband procurers is a Syrian with close family ties to ruling President Bashar Assad. The man's name, the sources say is, Ibrahim Makhlouf, a cousin of the Syrian president on his mother's side. The sources say a Damascus-based Iraqi government straw company called Matisco handles millions in payments that go to Makhlouf. Add to this all the other growing rogue military trade with Iraq, and you can understand why the Iraqis refuse to allow UN arms inspectors into their country. You also can understand why, when Iraq celebrated its annual Army Day on Saturday, there was an especially broad smile on Herr Saddam's face. Can the renewed threat from the Butcher of Baghdad be stopped? That depends whether our incoming President and his crew sustain the tough stance that the Clinton administration took. Saddam is no fan of the Bush family; he clearly remembers that it was the senior Bush who launched the war against him. But Saddam also remembers ‹ as do those like me, who covered the war in 1991 ‹ that it was Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, who then headed the U.S. armed forces, and then-Secretary of State James Baker who argued most fiercely against finishing off the job by chasing Saddam back into Baghdad and helping to throw him out of office. We've been paying the price for that Bush/Powell/Baker misjudgment ever since. I only hope Powell and George W. don't compound the error. http://www.vny.com/cf/News/upidetail.cfm?QID=150778 * ALBRIGHT REGRETS PASSING ON IRAQ PROBLEM by Eli J. Lake [.....] Saddam's diplomats last month restructured the oil for food program, a U.N. plan to allow Iraq to export oil in exchange for food, medicine and some infrastructure improvements. After threatening to raise the premium on his country's oil in that program, he convinced the United Nations to reimburse his local expenditures with hard currency, a move which gives Iraq the ability to refurbish the war machine Bush the elder sought to demolish. "When Clinton took office the situation was basically good, there was a strong anti-Iraq coalition in the region and internationally. There was a viable Iraqi opposition and there was a system for UN weapons inspections," said Iraq News [Œan e-mail news service critical of the government in Baghdad¹] editor Laurie Mylroie. "None of that exists now, they have frittered it all away." [.....] http://www.worldnews.com/?action=display&article=5217538&template=worldnews/ search.txt&index=recent * QUIET...THEN THE SKY CAUGHT FIRE The Associated Press, Wed 10 Jan 2001 The owner of the outdoor fish restaurant overlooking the Tigris asked whether I was there to watch Saddam Hussein's palace across the river get bombed. Yes, I answered. No fan of the Iraqi president, he said this was why he had stayed open that chilly night instead of fleeing. ``It's a historic moment never to be missed,'' he said as he served masguf, a river fish grilled over burning palm fronds and wood. It was Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1991, a day after the deadline the United Nations had set for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Last-minute peace efforts, including a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez De Cuellar, had gotten nowhere. We were expecting the bombing to begin at any moment. U.S. and other diplomats were leaving the capital of 4 million people, and so were tens of thousands of Iraqis, crammed into buses and cars. My mother, wife and two sons had stayed put through some 20 missile strikes in our neighborhood during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. They were at first reluctant to leave me alone in Baghdad. But this time Iraq was facing armies from some 30 nations and an awesome American arsenal within striking range on the Saudi border. My family finally agreed to join the exodus. Before sunrise Jan. 16, I drove them to my hometown of Karbala. The one-hour drive south tripled in length because the four-lane highway was jammed with cars, minibuses, trucks and even tractors carrying people ‹ some still in nightgowns. I installed my family with relatives. The less fortunate camped in the cold and rain, in palm groves on Karbala's outskirts, its public parks, even its narrow sidewalks. Even before it had started, the war was leaving its scars on Iraqis. Back in Baghdad that afternoon, I asked Minister of Information Latif Nessyef Jassim if the government had contingency plans in case the allies bombed out the phone lines. He answered: ``Let them try and they will see if they can return alive to their bases!'' As dusk approached, the streets were quiet. Troops manned roadblocks at main junctions of a city that history books call ``The House of Peace.'' The government confined the small contingent of Western reporters to the Al-Rashid Hotel. I, as an Iraqi citizen, could move around Baghdad, but it was confusing and frightening to cover war in a city that was my home. My last report on the night of Jan. 16 summed up: Saddam defiant, Iraq bracing for military showdown, Baghdadis cowering at home. Then I went to the fish restaurant to await the big bang. An hour after midnight, nothing had happened. Perhaps war had been averted by last minute diplomatic activity? I went home. At 2 a.m., I entered my house on 15th Street. Then my phone rang. My neighbor, Um Ali, had seen me parking and wanted to know what was happening. Had war been averted? I knew she would be extra-anxious, having a son commanding an anti-aircraft base. ``Not sure,'' I answered, then added, ``Inshallah.'' God willing. At 2:30 a.m., the first bombs fell. Um Ali screamed and the line went dead. Explosion after explosion rattled my windows. Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries on high buildings fired back nonstop. Over the city of ``a thousand and one nights,'' the sky looked as if tens of thousands of firecrackers had gone off. >From my second-story window I could see flames spilling from the Dora oil refinery and a nearby power station. From afar, I could see that part of Saddam's huge presidential complex was ablaze. Electricity and running water went off. A dawn tour of Baghdad revealed a ghost city with some of the main government buildings and communications centers either knocked out or heavily damaged. Iraq seemed on its way back to the Middle Ages. At the Al-Rashid Hotel, the Information Ministry officials seemed to have changed. Gone was the confidence; they looked nervous. Baghdad had hardly caught its breath when air raid sirens sounded at 10 a.m. Just as before dawn, no one could see any aircraft, only the tracers of anti-aircraft fire. The attacks came intermittently throughout the day while Iraqis continued to flee. Each raid brought the wail of ambulance sirens. A tour of downtown indicated a few old houses had collapsed after nearby communications facilities were knocked out. Police sealed off the area; few casualties were reported. >From the seventh floor of the Al-Rashid, I watched a Tomahawk missile hit by Iraqi gunners land close by. Had its warhead exploded, the hotel would have been blown up. Air raid shelters were scarce, so people sought cover on the ground floors of their own homes whenever the air raid sirens howled. As the days stretched on with no civilian targets hit, people began watching the attacks from their roof tops. But when bombs started falling on bridges over the Tigris and closer to civilian targets, fears increased. By nightfall on the first day, the city was in full darkness. The government's jamming equipment had been knocked out, and around a fire they had made of tree branches near my house, Iraqis gathered to listen to BBC and Voice of America reports of the bombing. Some argued about who was to blame, Saddam or the Americans. ``Both,'' said Abu Nizar, a retired teacher and my next-door neighbor. Then, realizing the danger of seeming to criticize Saddam, he quickly corrected himself: ``I mean, the Americans.'' ‹‹‹ The writer was an Associated Press correspondent in Baghdad when U.S. planes first attacked the city on Jan. 17, 1991. After the war, the Iraqi government, angered by his reporting, withdrew his journalist's accreditation and he left the country. He is now based in Cairo, Egypt. http://www.record-mail.co.uk/shtml/FEATURES/P31S1.shtml * DUNES OF GLORY Daily Record, 13th january 10 years after the Gulf War, we meet the man who led his troops against Saddam BENEATH a desert sky, the haunting strains of bagpipes prepared brave Scots soldiers for the battle of their lives. Inside their tanks and under canvas, they penned what may have been their final letters to loved ones. In war there can be no certainties, nobody knew if they would ever come home. It was February 23, 1991, hours before G-Day when soldiers from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards rolled into Kuwait in their mighty Challenger I tanks to spell the beginning of the end of the Gulf War. For almost four months they had waited, anxiously and eagerly, for what evil dictator Saddam Hussein had pledged would be the "mother of all battles". The megalomaniac Iraqi leader had promised the Allied forces that massed together after his invasion of his oil rich neighbour, that they would "swim in their own blood". There were fears that he had an arsenal of chemical, and possibly nuclear, weapons. Now it was time to call his bluff. For each and every soldier who sat in the darkness of that memorable night, their only thoughts were with their families back home. And their Commanding Officer, though he was responsible for all 550 in his proud Scots regiment, was no different. As they waited to go into battle, Lt Col John Sharples wrote to his wife and children. "It was a very emotional moment," he recalled. "All sorts of thoughts go through your head. You are just a frail human being." Ten years on, all will look back on a war that brought the biggest mobilisation of armed forces since the Second World War, with their own thoughts. But for those Desert Rats who were among the first to liberate Kuwait, it is a time that will live with them for the rest of their lives. For Lt Col Sharples, the anniversary is a time to reflect and to talk about it in an interview for the first time. As part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the famous Desert Rats, they were stationed in Fallingbostel in Germany when Saddam Hussein's tanks pushed their way into Kuwait on August 2, 1990. As diplomatic efforts to oust him failed, it became clear that force would have to be used. The Desert Rats were sent to join up with US Marine Corps to stop any further advance by the Iraqis into Saudi Arabia. As a tank regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards had never been to war, though they had trained for the ultimate day. Lt Col Sharples said: "There was a buzz of excitement and slight apprehension among the lads. You can imagine some young recruits at 18 who had just arrived in Germany and they are sent off to war. "But initially it was really a defensive move to make sure the Iraqis didn't attempt to take Saudi Arabia." The Challenger I tanks were the latest battle tanks the British Army had and they would be among the advance party who would move into Kuwait once the Americans had cleared the area. As Saddam's posturing and threatening continued into the autumn and winter, the military build-up near the Kuwaiti border was massive. An international coalition of unlikely allies included countries from Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates to Poland, Turkey and Bangladesh. Britain and the United States were the main task force who flooded the area with troops helping to build up a fighting force of 500,000 personnel. As the Dragoon Guards left Fallingbostel on that November morning in 1990, they said goodbye to tearful children and wives who really never knew if they would see them again. Lt Col Sharples said: "I remember at the time I told the lads that the army is a great career, but it's rather like being an insurance broker. You are happy to accept the premiums, but sometimes you have to pay up on the claim. "And, for some of the young boys, that claim came in very early on in their careers. But there was much excitement that they had been training hard and were now having to actually do it for real." Moving an entire brigade from Germany was like shifting a small town to the other side of the world. It had never been envisaged for a force that was really meant to be defending itself against the Soviet Union. When they landed, a massive camp had to be set up and the crews settled into the desert, tackling searing temperatures of 120oC while they unloaded gear and established themselves. Back home, the press pictures arrived of the boys in shorts and bare-chested, apparently enjoying the sunshine. But the reality was different. By Christmas 1990, they knew they were preparing for war and training heavily. It was only a matter of time. Lt Col Sharples told how the Scots were deeply moved by the support from Daily Record readers back home who sent them cards and messages. He said: "Christmas was a heartening time. We were really well supported by the Record and by the Scottish people. It was touching. "We got all sorts of letters and presents from everyone. Children sent their savings and old people who remembered World War II sent cards. It gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about it." Poised almost 100 miles from the Kuwait border, the Desert Rats were part of an enormous logistic and tactical exercise, preparing for battle. By January, 1991, they began to move slowly up and spread out towards the border. Within the first week of Allied air strikes, 4700 sorties were launched against the Iraqis. They responded with 11 Scud missiles and 10 coalition aircraft were shot down. As the air strikes intensified, thousands more sorties were flown with smart bombs causing maximum damage to Iraqi targets. It was the first time war had been watched on television and the world was fascinated at the pinpoint accuracy of some of the bombing. But, down on the desert, although they were prepared to die for a country so far from home, there were anxieties among the soldiers. Lt Col Sharples said: "The lads talked things through. They would speculate, wonder about their families and wonder what would happen to them. They would ask what are they doing here, defending somewhere so far away from home. They had to be convinced. "The reality slowly sunk in that this was it, they were going to war. There was speculation that there were going to be big casualties and that Saddam had chemical weapons and biological weapons. "Everyone had to reassure each other and it built up tremendous team spirit and bonding. The Scots soldiers were simply tremendous. They are so dedicated and committed." They lived in the total silence of the desert, a calm, unreal world. As the Scud missiles flew overhead, Lt Col Sharples would sit out under the stars in a folding chair listening to Mozart concertos on his personal stereo. Often at night, he would play the bagpipes, the stirring tones echoing for miles in the desolation. But during the final hours before the ground war began, every soldier was on equal terms, just ordinary men worried what the night would bring. They wrote letters to loved ones, hoping they would come out of the conflict alive. Lt Col Sharples wrote to his wife, Fee, his son, Edward, then seven, and daughter Sarah, who was five. Fee helped run the family centre back in Fallingbostel to keep spirits up for the folk back home. Lt Col Sharples said: "It was emotional. My children used to write letters with stories and pictures. I would read them and wonder if I would ever see them again. I was just like any other guy, as frail as the rest of the men. I remember the wife of one of our squadron leaders had a baby and we had a video set up so that he could see his child. We all watched, but it was so emotional we had to leave him to it." When the orders came, the Challenger tanks of the Desert Rats were on the move into the darkness. Like a tornado, the enormous force swept into Kuwait, witnessing the horrific devastation of a city in ruins. But, to everyone's surprise, they were met with little or no resistance. They were on top of the enemy before they even realised what was happening. It was all but over within 48 hours. Suddenly, the bedraggled Iraqi soldiers surrendered. They were a half-starved pathetic army, many with no shoes, who didn't even know they were in Kuwait. Lt Col Sharples said: "It was really pathetic to see them. I remember one Iraqi brigadier we captured who told us that they knew we were coming but they just couldn't adjust their guns fast enough. "The soldiers came out in the morning, just a sad, frightened lot of men and we really felt very sorry for them. But, at the same time, we had to be careful, because some of them did resist." The Desert Rats and the Allied armour headed towards the Basra road to Iraq. They were met with scenes of carnage they will never forget. The Iraqis had plundered everything they could from Kuwait, but as they drove north in a panic, Allied aircraft from Britain and the US covering the ground force simply strafed them. Lt Col Sharples said: "It was eerie. There were vehicles with their engines still running. Every so often ammunition kept popping from the fires. There were bodies everywhere." For the Desert Rats, the war was almost over. They hadn't lost a single man. But then news filtered back about the three Scots from the Queen's Own Highlanders who had died during a tragic friendly fire accident by a US warplane. Lt Col Sharples said: "Everyone felt the loss, even though they were not from our regiment. What made it galling was that there were so few casualties to enemy fire and these lads died in friendly fire." By the end of March, the Dragoon Guards were back in Fallingbostel and reunited with their families. But life for all of them would never be the same again. For Lt Col Sharples, now 52, the Gulf War convinced him it was time to move on. Now retired and running a care business for the elderly in Norfolk, he said: "Having commanded a regiment during the Gulf War, I felt that my military career had reached a pinnacle and I decided to retire and try something else." But, 10 years on, the scenes on the Basra road are still with him as a reminder of the futility of war. Lt Col Sharples said: "The war helped me to value life. Once you have been in a situation where your life is threatened, everything becomes more precious to you. "I wouldn't want to go through it again, because the experience brought home the futility of war, even though in the Gulf there was an inevitability about it. "When you see the carnage of the Basra road, it leaves a mark on you. And seeing fellow soldiers, innocent Iraqis who were really doing what they were told and had been misled, was quite upsetting. "They expected us to shoot them because that is how they get treated. They were astonished at our compassion. "But, if I had to, I would go to war again. I am a reservist and, if I was called up, I would do my duty." URL ONLY: http://www.cincypost.com/news/gulf011301.html * Gulf War changed young lives by Craig Garretson Cincinnati Post, 13th January [An American equivalent of the above, without any mention of the road to Basra] http://www.timesofindia.com/130101/13mide3.htm * 10 YEARS AFTER GULF WAR KUWAIT OPENS UP Times of India, 13th January KUWAIT CITY (AFP): A decade after a US-led international coalition unleashed a war on January 17, 1991, to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, the wounds have healed and the oil-rich emirate has started to open up. But Iraq's President Saddam Hussein remains an ogre in the eyes of a majority of Kuwaitis who lived through seven months of terror. For the first time, the Gulf Arab state will this year mark the liberation anniversary on February 26 with huge celebrations, rather than a sombre memorial. The economy is booming again on high oil prices, Kuwait City has been chosen Arab cultural capital for 2001 and the emirate is today more receptive to Arab reconciliation. Kuwait has gradually made friends again with a number of Arab states it accused of backing the Iraqi invasion. Even the official terminology referring to the invasion has changed from "Iraqi aggression on Kuwait" to the "Iraq-Kuwait case". "We are no longer in August 1990" when Saddam's tanks rolled over Iraq's southern borders to conquer Kuwait, state minister for foreign affairs Sulaiman Majed al-Shaheen stressed. "We are in 2001. Ten years have passed by and we do not want to isolate ourselves," Shaheen said in parliament last week when an MP strongly criticised the foreign policy makers who had accepted the change. Relations with Jordan, Sudan and Yemen, which were once called "adversary states", have been upgraded to pre-invasion levels in the past two years. But Kuwait, surrounded by big regional powers Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, has ruled out any reconciliation with Baghdad as long as Saddam remains in power. "We have not changed any of our basic policies," Shaheen said. Despite the strong US military presence in Kuwait and the Gulf region, Kuwaitis refuse to trust Saddam, or his blood-stained regime. "Ten years after the war, I don't feel secure as long as Saddam, or his regime, is sitting in Baghdad," retired Kuwaiti teacher Jassem Ashkanani told AFP. "In the last 10 years, he has shown no good intentions. It is a treacherous regime which can not be trusted at all. What's disastrous is that his sons are even worse than him," Ashkanani said. Security remains high on the agenda of every Kuwaiti even though billions of dollars have been spent on expensive armament programmes to rebuild the local army that failed to resist Saddam's might for more than one day. "We don't have the numbers (to face Iraq). If we hold the Iraqis for two or three days, it's excellent. We have to equip our military to help it stand for four or five days," before outside help arrives, Defence Minister Sheikh Salem said recently. The Gulf Arab state has set aside some 12 billion dollars until 2004 as a supplementary defence budget to rebuild the Kuwaiti army in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Kuwait signed "binding" defence pacts with Washington and London in 1991, as well as memoranda of understanding with France, Russia and China that are "more political in nature than military". The emirate has said it would renew the pacts when they expire at the end of this year. "The (Kuwaiti) army can put up a better fight now, but it (security) still rests firmly on the Americans," a Western analyst living in Kuwait said. But security concerns, coupled with red tape and political wranglings, have considerably slowed down economic recovery despite the emirate having posted the biggest fiscal surplus in almost two decades. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2000, Kuwait recorded a surplus of four billion dollars, thanks to high oil prices. And all signs indicate the emirate will report a similar bonanza at the end of the current year. The government has promised to carry out an ambitious economic reform programme, but has yet to put much of it into practice. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk