U.S. Threatens Iraq
with Weapons of Mass Destruction

U.S. Hands Off Iraq!

Revolutionary Worker #943, February 8, 1998

The United States recently blocked a delivery of supposedly dangerous material to Iraq--as part of the economic sanctions against that country. What was in this shipment that was so threatening? According to the New York Times (1/4/98), the shipment consisted of whole-cream powdered milk for children! The U.S. claimed that the powdered milk could have "laboratory use"--that it could be part of an alleged biological weapons program of the Iraqi government. The Times wrote, "This was only one of many purchases relief officials support that will not reach Iraq because of Washington's intervention."

The sanctions against Iraq can only be described as vicious and vindictive. For over eight years, the U.S. has taken the lead in imposing this embargo, which prevents the Iraqi people from obtaining much-needed food, medicine and other essential goods. The sanctions--and the effects of the U.S. coalition's massive bombing during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War--have caused widespread malnutrition and disease. Over half a million children in Iraq have been killed as a result.

Now, in the early weeks of 1998, the U.S. is threatening another one-sided war against Iraq. Two U.S. and one British "battle groups" are in the Gulf, including several aircraft carriers, warships bristling with cruise missiles, hundreds of bomber planes, and tens of thousands of troops. This time, U.S. officials warn, the attack will not be "pin prick" bombings that the U.S. has carried out against Iraq since the Gulf War. They talk of a sustained aerial bombing that would be the heaviest military assault since the Gulf War--when six weeks of intense bombing killed some 200,000 people and left Iraq in a state that some observers described as "near-apocalyptic."

While the U.S. moves toward war against Iraq, Russia--an imperialist power with its own interests in the Persian Gulf--is opposing a new military assault and calling for a "diplomatic solution." Russia has economic and financial ties to Saddam Hussein and wants to counter U.S. power and influence in the region. The French imperialists also have some differences with the U.S. over Iraq. And most pro-Western Arab regimes--which joined the U.S. in attacking Iraq in 1991--are silent now, afraid of unrest and opposition among the masses if there is another war on Baghdad. But the U.S.--and its close ally Britain--say they are willing to "go it alone" and bomb Iraq without official United Nations approval.

In the name of stopping so-called "weapons of mass destruction," the U.S. is preparing for a military strike that could bring down more mass destruction and murder on Iraq and its people--an oppressed nation already devastated by the U.S. coalition's gang rape eight years ago and the choking noose of economic sanctions.

No one who has any sense of justice can stand silently in the face of such bloody war crimes. U.S. Hands Off Iraq!

U.S. Hypocrisy on Weapons
of Mass Destruction

In his January 27 State of the Union speech, Clinton claimed to be speaking for the "will of the world" when he declared that the U.S. was moving to deny Saddam Hussein the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction. And the Republicans expressed total support for the war moves against Iraq. But for people around the world, the term weapons of mass destruction conjures up a very particular image--the horrible devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the U.S. atomic bombs at the end of World War 2.

The U.S. is still the only power that has used nuclear weapons in actual war. For over 50 years, the U.S. has been holding the world hostage with its huge nuclear arsenal--and still does. Last year, Clinton signed a Presidential Decision Directive to update the U.S. guidelines for the use of nuclear weapons. The new guidelines drop the Pentagon's need to prepare for a long, all-out nuclear exchange. But, according to a report in the New York Times (12/8/97), "The United States will continue to maintain nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of the nation's strategic defense." And further, "The United States still reserves the right to be the first to use nuclear arms during a conflict...."

The same article notes that in January 1991, President Bush sent a warning to Saddam Hussein "indirectly threatening nuclear retaliation" if Iraq used chemical or biological weapons.

This nuclear bully has absolutely no right to slam anyone else on the issue of weapons of mass destruction!

Although the U.S. has not dropped nuclear bombs in a war since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it certainly has used other types of weapons to cause destruction and death on a massive scale. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military carpet-bombed and napalmed huge areas of Indochina and used chemical poisons like Agent Orange.

And during the Gulf War, the U.S. and its allies dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq--equal in explosive power to seven Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. Water treatment and sewage plants, irrigation facilities, electrical lines, bridges and factories were destroyed. Bombs slammed into residential areas and killed many people--including at a civilian air raid shelter in the Amirya neighborhood of Baghdad where hundreds perished in a "smart bomb" attack.

The U.S. government accuses Iraq of possessing chemical and biological weapons that "threaten the world." These accusations are accompanied by much hype. U.S. Defense Secretary Cohen claimed that Iraq had produced so much nerve gas that it was "theoretically enough to kill every man, woman and child on the face of the Earth." He also accused Iraq of developing weapons using anthrax, a deadly biological agent. Standing before news cameras, Cohen produced a sack of sugar--and declared that if the sack was filled with anthrax, it could be used to wipe out an entire city. It was a scene that could have been from the current Hollywood movie Wag the Dog, a biting satire on the government use of the media to manipulate public opinion.

Behind the hype whipped up by the U.S. is a mountain of hypocrisy. Saddam Hussein did use chemical weapons during the war with Iran in the early 1980s, and against the Kurdish people in the late 1980s. But during that period, the U.S. ruling class considered Hussein a useful strongman in the region. So his use of chemical weapons in those cases received little or no criticism from the U.S. government.

There appears to be no clear evidence that the Iraqi military currently has a significant amount of chemical weapons. However, it is documented that the U.S. has over 1,000 tons of chemical weapons in its own military stockpiles--enough to kill countless millions of people if they were used.

As for biological weapons, it was the British military that first developed the use of anthrax for military use after World War 2. Britain used an island off the coast of Scotland as testing ground for anthrax--the island is still toxic almost 60 years later. The U.S. also carried out many years of research and developed a stockpile of biological weapons. The Iraqi government reportedly imported raw materials from the U.S. and Germany to conduct its own research in the 1980s.

Weapons Inspection Team--
Spies for the U.S.

The current escalation of military threats against Iraq began when the Hussein regime declared that the United Nations weapons inspection teams would no longer be allowed back into the country, unless the sanctions were lifted. Iraqi officials said that the teams were dominated by officials from the U.S. and Britain. And they accused the head of one team, William Ritter, of being a U.S. spy. The U.S. said the charge was "ridiculous." But in fact, Ritter was a military intelligence analyst stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War!

Since the end of the Gulf War, these inspection teams have nosed around everywhere, from government offices to factories. The teams have set up video cameras to directly monitor activity at over 100 sites around the country. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Britain have set up "no fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq to prevent flights by Iraqi aircraft in those areas. Under the cover of the UN, the U.S. has been brazenly trampling on the sovereign status of the nation of Iraq.

As Palestinian scholar Edward Said recently pointed out, the reports from the UN teams make it clear that Saddam Hussein "neither has the missile capacity, nor the chemical arms, nor the nuclear arsenal, nor in fact the anthrax bombs that he is alleged to be brandishing." But under U.S. manipulation, the weapons inspectors continue to claim that the Iraqi government is hiding important information.

The inspection teams are now demanding access to Saddam Hussein's presidential buildings and other sensitive areas. The Iraqi government has refused--although it did allow reporters to tour the sites and offered to arrange a tour for diplomats. The Iraqi refusal was perfectly understandable and reasonable, considering the fact that the U.S. has openly talked of assassinating Hussein or backing a coup against him. (Imagine the response of the U.S. government to a demand that it open up the White House and the Pentagon to an international inspection team!) But the U.S. points to Iraq's refusal to open up any and all sites as "evidence" that Hussein is developing banned weapons. And this is then used as justification to keep strangling Iraq with sanctions.

As the U.S. war vultures circle around Iraq, the people of Iraq continue to starve and suffer. Just in the month of December, over 6,100 children under five died of diarrhea, pleurisy and malnutrition--compared to about 300 children in the same month in 1989. And almost 2,500 people over 50 died in December, compared to 420 in the same month in 1989. This rise in death rates among children and older people can be directly tied to shortage of food and medicine caused by the sanctions. The food rations that the Iraqi people receive do not include any meat, fish, poultry, fruits or vegetables. According to UN estimates, one-third of all the children in Iraq today suffer from malnutrition.

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