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Voices short briefing on strikes

Dear all

A formatted version of this briefing (a double-sided A4 leaflet) should be
available for download from the Voices site soon.

Please feel free to forward it outside the list.

A longer analysis of the origins and implications of the strikes is in the



A voices in the wilderness uk briefing

Anonymous British minister: "Bombs before polling day.
How cynical can you get?" (Sunday Times, 18 Feb. p. 15)

When Britain and the US bombed Iraq in 1998, Lord Healey, former Labour
Defence Secretary, said, 'It is illegal to attack with bombs targets in a
sovereign country without direct authorisation from the Security Council.'
(Telegraph, 21 Dec. '98) No such authorisation was granted for the bombing
of Iraq on Friday 16 February 2001.
In fact, far from consulting or seeking authorisation from the UN, 'The US
did not warn the United Nations that it would launch attacks on military
targets near Baghdad, although the world organisation has more than 100
staff in the region. Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, met Kofi
Annan, the UN's secretary-general, [two days before the bombing], but never
mentioned that Washington planned to extend its bombing outside the no-fly
zones.' (Financial Times, 17 Feb. p.6)

'Within Iraq, strikes only make Saddam stronger.' (Observer, 18 Feb. p.21)
'Far from reminding Saddam of his enemies' power and resolve, every sortie
reminds a watching world of America's bankrupt policy of bombs and
sanctions.' (Guardian editorial, 19 Feb.)
 "Washington may have thought this was the way to send a signal to Iraq, but
Iraq will be less willing now to play ball with the UN or the US," said Raad
al-Kadiri, analyst with The Petroleum Finance Company in Washington. "If the
US thinks this is how you get Iraq to co-operate, they have learned nothing
from the past 10 years."' (FT 17 Feb. p. 6)

'In briefings, the defence ministries in Washington and London have accused
Iraq of upgrading its air defence system to improve its chance of hitting an
Anglo-American plane  enforcing the no-fly zones in northern and southern
Iraq. But since December 1998, when Saddam ordered his forces to stop what
he calls foreign violations of Iraqi airspace, his air defence personnel
have failed to score a single hit, while Anglo-American aircraft have
carried out 30,000 sorties into Iraq.' (Observer, 18 Feb. p.21)

The no-fly zones do not 'protect'. They do not stop the activities of Iraqi
ground forces. And they do not stop the Turkish air force or army.
 The first major Turkish incursion was in October '92, when 20,000 troops
invaded northern Iraq. In late 1993, Turkish air and ground forces attacked
alleged PKK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. In March '95, 35,000 Turkish troops
backed by tanks, helicopters and F-16 aircraft remained in the no-fly zone
for almost two months. In May '97, 50,000 Turkish troops invaded the area
again, for another extended occupation.
 Former Christian Aid worker Sarah Graham-Brown concludes, 'the zone offered
no protection whatever from air or ground attacks on northern Iraq from the
neighbouring states of Turkey and Iran.' (Sarah Graham-Brown, Sanctioning
Saddam, I.B. Tauris, 1999, pp. 227, 111)

'The Commons foreign affairs committee said last year that "at the very
least, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention has a tenuous basis in
current customary law", while the defence committee said: "The precise legal
basis for the no-fly zones is controversial."' While legal advisers to
successive governments have reassured ministers on the legality of the
no-fly zones, 'authoritative sources said last night, "They are less
confident in private".' ('Raid shows Bush-Blair bond on Iraq', 'Doubts over
Iraq air strikes', Guardian website, 19 Feb.)
 'Contrary to claims yesterday by the government - including Brian Wilson,
the new Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq - the no-fly zones are
not sanctioned by any UN security council resolution.' ('Raid')
Mr Wilson has referred to UN Security Council Resolution 688 in
justification. But as Dilip Hiro, author of Desert Shield to Desert Storm,
points out, 'there is no provision for air exclusion zones in Resolution
688. At the Security Council, Russia and China have repeatedly pointed this
out, adding that the US-UK action is a violation of international law.'
(Observer, 18 Feb. p. 21)
Furthermore, UNSCR 688 not only does not call for the setting up of no-fly
zones in Iraq, it does not authorise the use of force inside them - for any
purpose whatsoever. Certainly not for pre-emptive strikes to ensure the
safety of US and UK aircraft illegally overflying Iraq.

Leaving aside all the other issues, were the airstrikes the only way of
ensuring the safety of RAF pilots? There were at least two other options:
fly above the range of Iraqi Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), or to end the
air patrols completely.

'Military sources said if the aircraft flew above the missile's maximum
operational range, they would not be able to see the ground and fulfil their
mission.' (Times 17 Feb. p. 3) But why do the aircraft need to see the
ground in order to maintain the no-fly zone?
'Since Saddam defied the UN to expel its inspectors in 1998 [not true - they
were withdrawn, not expelled], the patrols have been the West's only form of
direct surveillance of his continuing efforts to rebuild his conventional
forces and the capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction and missiles
to deliver them.' (Times 17 Feb. p. 25)
So it seems that the radar and command and control sites attacked were
destroyed not to enable US/UK jets to keep Iraqi aircraft out of the air,
but to enable them to fly low enough to monitor Iraq's military.

Interestingly, the option of withdrawing the RAF was actually emerging
British government policy until this airstrike. 'Reports in America
yesterday revealed that Britain had threatened to pull out of further air
strikes against Iraq because of increasing military concern that it was
difficult to see what they were achieving. "Frustration quickly set in as
pilots understood they were taking risks over Iraq for no real military
purpose," the Washingon Post said. "Britain, the last ally willing to fly
with the Americans over Iraq quietly passed the word to Washington that a
more focused and effective strategy was needed to justify continued military
action."  (Observer, 18 Feb. p. 20)
 The Guardian has pointed out that while the British government has duty to
protect British personnel, 'it has an equal duty not to put them in harm's
way unnecessarily. Paradoxically, Britain recently warned the US that the
no-fly zone patrols were becoming unacceptably hazardous, even pointless.
But instead of taking the rational course and ending them, George Bush
decided to use new, secretly agreed rules of engagement to expand them.'
('This man is dangerous', editorial, Guardian website, 19 Feb.)

While the weekly, sometimes daily US/UK airstrikes in the no-fly zones have
killed many civilians over the years - the official death toll is 317 -
economic sanctions have contributed to the deaths of over 500,000 children
under the age of five, according to UNICEF. (August 1999)
 According to former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck,
who resigned in protest against the sanctions in Feb. 2000, 'Some 167 Iraqi
children are dying every day.' (Toronto Star 25 June 2000)

'This American president is dangerous.' (Guardian editorial, 19 Feb.)
And so is his lackey.

Fax your protest to Tony Blair on 0207 925 0918.
Demonstrate every Monday 5.30-7pm, Foreign Office, corner of King Charles St
Petition Get the Constituency Petition against economic sanctions on Iraq
from or 0845 458 9571.
Contact voices for briefings, leaflets, newsletters, speakers, videos,
badges, a monthly letter-writing group, sanctions-breaking.

voices in the wilderness uk, 16B Cherwell St, Oxford OX4 1BG Phone 01865 243
232   Email
voices breaks UN/US/UK sanctions by delivering medicines
to sick children in Iraq without export licences.

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