Iraq: Living in the Crosshairs

Revolutionary Worker #944, February 15, 1998

The people of Iraq are living in the crosshairs of the U.S. war machine.

The U.S./British naval force of four aircraft carriers and many warships cram the waters of the Persian Gulf. Troops ready Tomahawk cruise missiles and bomber planes for targets in Iraq. Each day brings news of more troops, more ships and more planes deployed in the Gulf.

Pentagon war planners speak of precise hits on weapon sites and Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces--as if only things will be destroyed when the U.S. launches an air assault. This is the talk of cold-blooded murderers who carried out techno-genocide during the last Gulf War. The Iraqi people know from their own experience that once the bombs and missiles start coming down, many, many human beings will be killed and hurt.

In the street markets of Baghdad and other cities, people anxiously follow the news of U.S. war moves--as they try to deal with the harsh effects of the U.S.-imposed sanctions which have made the price of meats, fruits and vegetables out of reach for most people.

In the hospitals, the beds are filled with children suffering from malnutrition and l<%1>ife-threatening diarrhea. Doctors and nurses try to cope, but the sanctions deprive them of much-needed medicine and sterilization equipment. At the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, hundreds of women mourned at the gravesites of babies sent to early deaths because of the sanctions.

Thousands volunteering for civilian defense squads are given rifles and handguns. This is a relatively small and poor Third World nation, up against a high-tech enemy who likes to commit mass murder from a safe distance.

"Life is like a nightmare," said a young woman in Baghdad of what it's like under the sanctions and threat of a new U.S. attack.

The memories of the 1991 war haunt the people of Iraq.

They remember the round-the-clock bombings that hit civilian areas for a month --blowing up hospitals, bridges, sewage and water plants, a baby milk factory.

They remember the night when bombs penetrated into the civilian air-raid shelter in the Amiriya neighborhood of Baghdad--killing hundreds of women and children who slept in the bunker, believing they were safe.

They remember the "highway of death" near the end of the Gulf War. Iraqi soldiers were fleeing Kuwait City in panic. Hardly soldiers any longer, they were farm boys in uniform hoping to escape capture and death. Many civilians joined in the growing column, since the U.S. had threatened to make the city a major battleground. They did not get far. The U.S. warplanes blocked their way with a few bombs, and the highway became a seven-mile traffic snarl. Then U.S. pilots took their time, swooping in low to attack--again and again and again. It was like "shooting fish in a barrel," some said later. The highway became one seven-mile-long fireball. No one knows how many died in this U.S. killing floor.

The U.S. actions were like a slow, calculated gang rape--performed before the eyes of the world.

It was a war of shame that will be marked down in history with other infamous crimes: the U.S. cavalry massacre of Indians at Wounded Knee in 1890, the U.S.-backed massacre of peasants in El Salvador in 1932, the invasion of Ethiopia by the Italian fascist Mussolini in 1935, the Nazi bombing of Guernica, Spain in 1937, the Japanese rape of Nanjing in China in 1939, the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the U.S. massacre of Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968...

But even the bloody Gulf War did not satisfy the beastly appetites of the U.S. powers. They continued to hit Iraq with periodic drive-by bombings. And they are choking the people of Iraq with heartless sanctions, causing hunger and disease that have claimed the lives of over half a million children.

Preparing for War of Shame 2

Now, the U.S. rulers and their British partners-in-crime are getting ready for a War of Shame 2. And they claim to be acting in the interests of the people in the U.S. and even of the world.

But the great majority of the people around the world, including here in this country, have no interests in common with the class of exploiters and oppressors ruling the U.S. Iraq may be thousands of miles away, and most people in America may not know much about the lives and culture of the Iraqi people. But the basic people here have much more in common with the masses in Iraq than we will ever have with the powers that rule this country. The Iraqi people are NOT our enemy--they are our sisters and brothers. We share a common enemy--the U.S. and other big powers and their imperialist system.

Clinton and other U.S. officials sometimes pretend to be sympathetic to the plight of the Iraqi people--but they blame Saddam Hussein for the killer sanctions and any deaths resulting from a new bombing campaign. They say: If only the Iraqi government would capitulate completely--or better yet, if Hussein was "eliminated" and replaced by someone more obedient to the U.S.--the Iraqi people could live in peace. This is the logic of a savage rapist: If only the victims submitted quietly, they would not be hurt so badly.

Can anyone with a sense of right and wrong allow the U.S. imperialist gangsters to speak in the name of the people--as they commit more war crimes in Iraq?

The Real Issues Behind the
"Weapons of Mass Destruction" Hypocrisy

The U.S. government says that the central issue is the danger posed--to the neighboring countries and to the world--by Iraq's alleged nuclear, biological and chemical weapon programs. But this is smoke to cover up the real issues involved.

First point. Not even the U.S.-controlled weapons inspectors from the UN can seriously say that Iraq has developed usable nuclear weapons. As for chemical and biological weapons, if Saddam Hussein has any, he originally got them from the U.S., Germany and other major powers. During the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies helped Hussein build a powerful military, because the Iraqi regime served Western interests at that time. They raised no protest when Saddam Hussein used poison gas against Iranian troops and Kurdish people. He was "their man." Now that they want to get rid of him, they call him a "madman."

Second point. Who has actually injected major "weapons of mass destruction" into the Gulf? The U.S. is the only country in history which actually used nuclear weapons in war. During the last Gulf war, President Bush warned Saddam Hussein that the U.S. might use nuclear bombs. Current U.S. war doctrine still includes the threat of "first use" of nuclear weapons. The only other country in the region known to possess nuclear weapons is Israel, which acts as a U.S. fortress in the Middle East. Israel has stockpiled at least 400 nuclear bombs and constantly threatens neighboring countries with them.

Third point. The U.S. government says its aim is to deprive Saddam Hussein of the "capacity" to produce any "weapons of mass destruction." This amounts to a pretext to ban just about any kind of economic or scientific activity by Iraq. Just recently, the U.S. stopped a shipment of powdered milk to Iraq, claiming it could be material for biological weapons. The Iraqi government has offered to open up key presidential sites and other restricted areas for inspection. But the U.S. has so far brushed aside all talk of compromise--and demands that Iraq submit to unlimited access to all military and government areas.

This demand reveals the real U.S. intentions in the confrontation with Iraq. The U.S. has already stolen the skies over large areas of Iraq by imposing "no fly zones." It has crippled Iraq's economy with the sanctions. Now the imperialist bully aims to rob the nation of Iraq of any claim to sovereignty and independence.

And if the Iraqi government does not comply with this humiliating demand, the U.S. will use this to justify bringing their people-killing power down on Iraq. This military action will not be about "stopping weapons of mass destruction." The U.S. will be using its weapons of mass destruction to deliver a message: America is the top power in the world--don't even think about opposing it.

Playing "cop of the world," the U.S. thinks that beating up a small Third World country will "keep everyone else in line." They think such actions will make it easier for them to bully and dominate other oppressed people around the world. They hope that their extreme anti-people methods can help hold their prison-empire together.

And they also want to send a message to other powers like Russia and France who are doing their own maneuvering in Iraq: the Persian Gulf is still an American gulf--the U.S. still controls the oil lifeline of the world imperialist economy.

The extreme brutality and ruthlessness of the U.S. in Iraq arise out of the nature of this system, the essence of the beast we are up against: organized greed, backed by weapons of mass destruction. It is a system based on robbing, fooling and downpressing billions of people throughout the world. Their lies and crimes against Iraq shine a light on all the injustices they carry out against the people around the world.

U.S. Hands Off Iraq!

No New Bombings!
End the Sanctions Now!

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