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[casi] A powerful article...

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To Iraq and Ruin:
Oh, What a Lovely War

by Luciana Bohne

The Bush drummer-boys in the American press are getting ready to beat their
drums for war in Iraq. At the moment, they are merely publishing
conveniently leaked secret government plans of war. These plans don't look
significantly different from the ones "leaked" last October, January, and
March. It is safe to assume that they are feelers supposed to test public
opinion. We should take the opportunity to inform our representatives in
Congress that war on Iraq lacks a justifying motive (self-defense would be
good), is unpopular with the whole globe (except for Sharon's Israel), has
no plan for results, and would be terribly expensive. Of course, it would
be illegal, genocidal, and immoral, too, but I don't know if the frightened
rabbits in Congress could take this strident, biased language, clearly
tainted with leftist propaganda. Go for the pragmatic approach. It's more
patriotic. Also safer.

The New York Times (5 July) reports that the umpteenth secret government
war plan for an Iraqi slaughter (they call it by its old-fashioned and
grandiose term "war") has plopped down on its desk, leaked by the usual
free-press angelic intervention. This spirited document reveals the
proverbial three-pronged attack by land, air, and sea-forces from the
north, south, and west. It may only sound proverbial to me, who has never
played with toy soldiers or collected war medals. It may actually play
better than it sounds. Not that the dead will be able to judge objectively.
But they won't be asked.

My doubts about this plan emerge as soon as I read that eight countries,
including Turkey, in dire economic straits, soon to go the way of Argentina
it would appear, and Qatar are to provide "staging areas" for the slaughter
but haven't yet been asked. The idea is to topple Saddam Hussein, by
finishing off a good portion of his sick and starving 22 million
victims--the Iraqi people. The document assumes that the eight unconsulted
countries will be overcome with pride for the honor of being asked to join
such a noble and courageous feat. True, Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit is
begging Russia to intervene to persuade the US not to invade Iraq, but he
may be out of power soon, so we need not dwell on his bizarre burst of
pacifism. He's said to be very ill and thus not quite right in the head.

Besides, what's the point of asking anyway. They all say "no"--like the
blushing virgins they are. They soon learn to enjoy the force of the
master. On his recent visit to Europe, President Dumbo got a categorical
"no" from Putin, Schroeder, and Chirac (or "Shrak," as Dumbo called him,
when he didn't get addled and called him "President Jacques"). Saudi Arabia
will not let US forces use Arabia as a "staging area." No way. Plucky
folks, the Saudis. They live next door to the Iraqi version of the
Unabomber and they won't help us take him out. Curiouser and curiouser.

About 140 British members of Parliament have signed a petition condemning
an offensive against Iraq. The British public's love affair with Tony
Blair's love affair with Dumbo's love affair with military antics is over.
Everyone is out of love. Except Sharon's party in Israel. They want war
with Iraq. However, the Israelis are not sure about Sharon. Israeli
newspaper, Ha'aretz, confesses that "recent public opinion surveys show
that the public's love affair with Sharon is over. More people are worried
about security and the economic situation. More people believe he has no
solution to Israel's economic and defense problems. More people want a
different prime minister." This falling-out-of-love business is serious
stuff, for there is no purer hatred than the hatred of people who had once
been in love.

It is reported in the press that Israel has just bought three
nuclear-capability vessels. Handy for the sea part of the three-pronged
attack on Iraq but not dependable if someone other than the "man of peace"
rules Israel.

So the situation is a mess. And, since the media won't do their job
responsibly, it's up to us to decide if we should enter into a new love
affair with this old war in Iraq--which we've been bombing almost daily
since 1991 anyway.

Aside from the issue of the murder of innocents, do we care if we become
not just the rogue state, but the pariah state?

Washington has the gall to pose as potential victim of Iraqi aggression.
The world knows better. And it has a slighly better short- and long-term
memory than does what Gore Vidal calls the United States of Amnesia. The
1991 Gulf "War," the largest military operation since WW2, went like this:
the US gave signals to Hussein that his invasion of Kuwait would not phase
it. Then it dropped 80,000 tons of explosives, the equivalent of 7
Hiroshima nuclear bombs, in 42 days of consecutive bombing. 50% missed the
intended targets and hit schools and hospitals, with people like children
in them. The American people saw the "war" as an endless, boring title
sequence of "Star Wars" with tiny flashes of light zizzing and flashing in
the night sky over an invisible Baghdad. They never saw the bodies; never
heard the cries; never felt the tears; never answered the old man asking ,
"what do the women and children have to do with this?" But the rest of the
world saw the footage of the killing. They know that the reality of every
war is in the killing, as Leo Tolstoy said.

100,000 people were killed.

US forces (and their allies) destroyed the Iraqi water supply, sewerage,
power generators, transport, health care, agriculture, and communication
systems crucial to the prevention of disease and the maintenance of life.
This vital infrastructure has never been repaired. Our sanctions have
crippled the economy. There simply isn't any money for reconstruction on
that scale. Nor is there the possibility of buying supplies for repairs.
Sanctions don't permit it. Yet Iraq is a desert country. Its modern cities
are completely dependent on the West for replacement parts and equipment--a
situation which Western colonialism has fostered and continues to foster.
Dependency is the legacy of underdevelopment, which is the only thing
capitalism develops at the periphery of the industrial world. It's a
strange paradox, but capitalism underdevelops the world. India in the 18th
century had the largest, most sophisticated iron industry in the world.
Until Britain underdeveloped it.

In December of 1999, The International Committee of the Red Cross observed
that "just a decade ago, Iraq boasted one of the most modern
infrastructures and highest standards of living in the Middle East, with a
modern, complex health care system, and sophisticated water treatment and
pumping facility" (ICRC, "Iraq: A Decade of Sanctions," December 1999).

In the 1991 Gulf Massacre, 300 tons of depleted uranium in warheads were
dumped on Iraq. This made it a nuclear war. The Iraqi desert glows in the
dark--and not just from the jeweled sky. The effects of the dumping of DU
are documented (as they are in Serbia). Dr. Janan Hassan, a pediatrician in
Basra Maternity and Children's Hospital, says that instances of cancer have
increased fivefold since 1991. In Iraq (as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after
1945), young people are afraid to marry. Birth defects occur at epidemic
rates. Babies are born without eyes, genitals, heads even; heart on the
wrong side; no thyroid; hands growing out of shoulders. Our own Gulf
veterans have babies with the same defects. 100,000 veterans are DU
contaminated and may die. The scientist who developed DU weaponry is dying.
The 26th victim of DU contamination--in the Bosnia campaign--just died in
Italy. The DU story exploded in Europe in January 2000; there was a squeak
in the New York Times about the "alleged" Balkan syndrome. Then, the story
died. Americans seem to act like children playing hide and seek: they
think, if they cover their eyes, they can't be seen.

After we carpet-bombed Iraq, we imposed sanctions. They have prevented the
free-flow of food and medicines and the recontruction of infrastructure,
without which the economy cannot recover. A Humanitarian Panel convened by
the UN Security Council has found that the oil-for-food program is
inadequate. Dennis Halliday, who ran the UN's program, said that of the $20
billion acquired over 3 years, $7 billion went for reparation to Kuwait and
other compensations. The remaining $13 billion amounted to $190 spent per
Iraqi head per year over 3 years. Not exactly abundant. The situation can
only improve if we lift the sanctions. But no one is talking about that.
Only of war.

Human-rights workers and advocates say that sanctions are a genocidal
weapon. In a statement addressed to President Clinton, 54 US bishops
maintained that "this bombing campaign, together with the total embargo in
place since August 1990, was and is an attack against the civilian
population of Iraq. Such counter-population warfare has been unequivocally
condemned by the most authoritarian teaching body of the Catholic Church,
The Second Vatican Council (1962-65)." The UNICEF of November 1997 wrote
that "the number of malnourished children represents an increase of 72%
since international sanctions were imposed on Baghdad." The UNICEF Report
of 30 April 1998 has observed that "in those five years of age, the
increase (an excess of some 50,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is
associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, liver or
kidney diseases."

Washington knew that sanctions would take lives--especially children's. A
Defense Intelligence Agency document ("Iraq Water Treatment
Vulnerabilities") admitted the effects of sanctions on keeping Iraqi water
non-potable and possibly lethal on a massive scale: "With no domestic
sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential
chemicals, Iraq will attempt to circumvent United Nations' sanctions to
import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a
shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead
to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease" (Thomas Nagy, "The
Secret behind the Sanctions: How the US Intentionally Poisoned Iraq's Water
Supply," The Progressive, September 2001).

More than 500,000 children have died in Iraq because of sanctions that
forbid the import of chlorine and other water-purifying agents (reported by
UNICEF, Human Rights Watch). 5,000 per month continue to die. I've seen
pictures of shoe-box-sized little containers stored in Basra's hospitals'
refrigeration units in the heat of summer last year. The units ran out of
space.At a House Hearing on 7 June 2001, Representative Cynthia McKinney,
Democrat of Georgia, referring to the DIA document, said, "Attacking the
Iraqi public drinking supply flagrantly targets civilians and is a
violation of the Geneva Convention and of the fundamental laws of civilized
nations." McKinney could have reminded her colleagues that treaties, signed
in the name of the people of the United States, are the supreme law of the
land. In the internationalist 18th century, our constitution said so.
Sanctions that violate the Geneva Convention Treaty are, therefore,
unconstitutional. Do you think the press bothers to remind the
patriots-for-war that bitof sane Americana?

Bullying its way to war with Iraq, the Bush White House insists that Iraq
possesses and intends to use weapons of mass destruction. So does Israel,
Pakistan, India, China, Russia, France, Britain--and the US. But, in fact,
Iraq is disarmed. Its nuclear force has been annihilated. At best, so
France's respected Le Monde diplomatique (23 June 2002) reports, Iraq still
has 6 SCUD missiles (some say two), and they may not be functional.
Delivery capability is limited or non-existent. Even UK Prime Minister,
Tony Blair, has admitted that the UN's weapon inspection unit, UNSCOM, has
done a thoroughly good job and has been able to eliminate more weapons of
mass destruction than the Gulf "War." The nuclear and chemical arsenal has
been shut down. The biological contingent is a black hole, but Unscom has
installed hundreds of TV monitors to inspect sensitive sites (Le Monde
diplomatique, 23 June 2002).

None of this matters. President Dumbo's Cold-War coterie of "advisors" know
that President Hussein is not a threat. The US is the biggest donor to The
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a
multilateral, international commission charged with enforcing chemical
weapons conventions. Its former head, Jose Bustani, a "workaholic
Brazilian," so columnist George Monbiot, of the UK's daily, The Guardian,
designates him, "has done more in the past five years to promote world
peace than anyone on earth. His inspections have overseen the destruction
of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world's chemical
facilities. He has so successfully cajoled reluctant nations that the
number of signatories to the convention has risen from 87 to 145 in the
past five years."

In April, this indefatigable champion for peace was fired by the commission
under intense pressure from the US White House. His crime? Allegedly, bias,
bad bookkeeping (proven to be untrue), and other irrelevancies. His true
failure? Bustani almost persuaded Iraq to sign the OPCW convention, which
would have made Iraq subject to international inspection. Monbiot can't
help but conclude from this irrational action that the dismissal of Bustani
"will shut down the peaceful options for dealing with the chemical weapons
Iraq may possess, helping to insure that war then becomes the only means of
destroying them."

Dumbo's gang wants war. Why? Jason Vost ("Saddam in the Crosshairs,"
Village Voice, 20 November, 2001) writes, "Donald Rumpsfeld's Pentagon [is]
increasingly seen by some as an asylum where, a coterie of vengeful Cold
War unilateralist relics plot a return to a forceful, Reaganesque Pax
Americana broadening the war [on terror] to encompass military action
against Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon--essentially fusing Israel's national
security agenda with that of the United States."

At this time, the European press reports that Sharon wants to invade
Lebanon for the second time in his dubious military career. Hezbollah, in
interviews, has said it will not strike first, but it will be ready.
Sharon's coalition in Parliament wants to "transport" Palestinians to
Jordan. A war against Iraq would provide cover for both actions. Strangely,
Israel, like Saudi Arabia, is not worried about being mass-destroyed by
Iraq in retaliation for the US attack.. Curiouser, don't you think?

Russia's daily newspaper, Pravda, offers another theory. In an opinion
article, "Washington's Next Fable: Iraq to Launch Missiles with the
Smallpox Virus" (8 July 2002), Pravda's columnist argues that "the US
economy is going to pieces;the country is shaken with loud scandals
connected with corruption and profit overestimation by US corporations; and
the dollar is slowing down and will soon be equal to the euro. . . . The
American President, to keep the country from a default, resolutely
increases the US national debt. . . . A small-scale triumphant war can be a
solution to domestic problems. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is believed to
be the best enemy for this war. The solution is brilliant and simple."

Brilliant and simple. And the consequences? As things stand now, a
practically disarmed Iraq (it hasn't bought a single tank, plane, or
helicopter since the "war") can barely manage to keep up the brutal
repression against dissent. The destroyed infrastructure impedes fully
lucrative extraction of oil--which is why money for the oil-for-food
program is not as large as it could be if things were in good repair.
Hospitals and doctors have--nothing. Parents watch their children dying of
leukemia without pain killers. Epidemics go on rampage. DU contaminates DNA
and Sci-Fi babies are born. Housing is ramschackle and crowded. Prices of
food are sky-high. If we bomb, what else can happen?

Accident like the infamous bombing of a Baghdad air-raid shelter will
inevitably happen. 450 people died in the shelter hit by a not-so-smart
American missile. It has become a shrine. A woman who lost 8 children and
her husband visits it daily. She says she feels sorry for Bush--Senior. Her
humanity is intact--she is not devoured by the desire for vengeance. And
she utterly condemns the man responsible by not deeming him worthy of her
vengeance. Such a tragically mature, civilized, and magnificent contempt.
The missile which graduated from The American Weapons Academy with a hidden
C-average penetrated the shelter through its upper floor. Those who were
not hurled out the windows by the blast died. The missile continued,
piercing through to the lower floor. Here, the boliers burst and flooded
the shelter with hot water. The people were boiled to death. After the
water receded, you could trace the outlines of children's bodies through
the films of flesh stamped on the wall. Doctors had no victims to work on.
Simply medieval.

What other suppressed guilt could trouble our sleep with nightmares--here
in the land of the brave and the free?

The UK's weekly,The New Statesman, recently related testimonies of how the
women of Iraq feel. A former teacher begs in the streets of Baghdad to feed
her daughter. Her teaching salary of 3,000 dinars per day could not sustain
them. On the street, she can get 10,000 dinars per day. Asked if her
daughter begs too, she protests, "May I go blind if I ever allow my
daughter to beg. No, she's in school and I'll do whatever I can to keep her
there." And to think that in the 70's and 80's, though the regime was
undeniably repressive, women were working in great numbers in the public
sector. Iraq had free child care and transport. Our war and sanctions ended
all that. Public-sector salaries remained fixed. Prices hurtled to the
stratosphere. They still have repression.

Today, as one Iraqi woman is quoted as saying, surviving in Iraq is not
easy. "We're surviving the sanctions, not living a life exactly, but
surviving. But a war will finish the children off. . . . Don't they realise
[sic] that a war won't hurt him [Saddam Hussein] . . .it will only hurt

America needs her people. No one and nothing in power now will help her to
regain her sanity, dignity, sense of justice, kindness, and self-respect.
All she has to speak out for her wounded honor is--us.

We must stop this war. The Iraqi people are not our enemy.

Luciana Bohne is founding editor of Film Criticism. She teaches film and
literature at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania; she writes in Italy;
paints in Croatia, and has been running from war all her life

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