U.S. "Secret Air War" on Iraq

Revolutionary Worker #1020, August 29, 1999

Almost every day since last December, the United States and its close ally Britain have been relentlessly bombing Iraq and its people. In the last eight months, U.S. and British pilots have fired more than 1,100 missiles at over 360 targets in Iraq. U.S./British warplanes have already flown about two-thirds as many missions in Iraq this year as NATO flew over Yugoslavia in around-the-clock bombings from March to June. More than a hundred Iraqis have perished in these air attacks.

This is a mostly secret war--even though 200 aircraft, 19 warships and 22,000 U.S. troops are involved. The constant bombings are largely ignored by the bourgeois media in this country. No front-page headlines about Iraqi people killed and injured by the missiles. No public discussion by President Clinton or Defense Secretary Cohen about the nearly daily missions by U.S. pilots--except to claim from time-to-time that bombing Iraq is "justified" and that "no civilians are targeted."

Meanwhile, the human toll in Iraq keeps rising. A news report about one of the recent air strikes--on August 17 in the small town of Jesan--gave a glimpse of what the bombings mean for ordinary people in Iraq: "Friends and neighbors lifted chunks of concrete, pulled away bent metal and found bits and pieces of a family's life in the ruins of a home Iraq said was destroyed by U.S. planes, killing at least 12 people. Three brothers, their wives and four children died while they napped on a hot afternoon. Another man and woman, visiting relatives, also were killed. One of the women, 42-year-old Hakeema Aeedan, was more than eight months pregnant. Relatives wailed while friends and neighbors removed body parts from the home and searched for the remains of two missing family members--a woman and her child--who had been visiting and were presumed dead."

Thousands of miles away, at the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, a Navy officer claimed that the air strike had hit a military radar site near Jesan.

The U.S. government and military leaders say their pilots are acting in "self defense" against Iraq anti-aircraft defenses. "If only the Iraqis stopped trying to defend their territory, the bombing would stop"--this is the twisted logic coming out of the mouths of imperialist spokesmen. The U.S. and Britain have declared huge areas of northern and southern Iraq as "no-flight zones"--in effect stealing the skies over almost two-thirds of this country. Then they claim the right to fire their deadly missiles when Iraqi troops--who have yet to down a U.S. or British plane--dare to fire their guns or even turn on their radar.

Earlier this year, U.S. and British officials gave their pilots new "rules of engagement"--allowing them to bomb Iraqi targets even if they were not directly threatening U.S./British warplanes. Now, there is quiet discussion within U.S. ruling circles about a further escalation in the bombings. According to the New York Times (Aug. 13), the Clinton administration "is debating whether to step up its attacks, expanding the list of targets to include more significant military sites, moving from air defenses like radar installations to things like bases and headquarters..." And a group of top Senators and Representatives--Democrat and Republican--recently sent a letter to Clinton recommending "more potent" air strikes throughout Iraq and an expansion of the "no flight zones."

In 1969, U.S. President Nixon ordered secret bombings of Cambodia, as the U.S. military was suffering defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese liberation forces. When the truth came out, Nixon was righteously denounced and widely hated as a deceitful criminal, and millions protested. Now, Clinton is the commander-in-chief of the secret bombing campaign on Iraq. All those who want to be on the side of justice must oppose this criminal war.

War Through Economic Sanctions

There is another "front" to the U.S. imperialists' secret war on Iraq--the economic sanctions which deprive the Iraqi people of medicine, food and other necessities. Iraq's Health Ministry said recently that about 8,000 people died just in the month of June as a result of the sanctions. The sanctions are like a noose strangling the entire nation of Iraq.

The latest documentation about the suffering caused by the sanctions came from UNICEF, a United Nations organization focusing on children. In a report released on August 12, UNICEF recorded a marked rise in child mortality rates in central and southern Iraq, where 85 percent of the country's population lives. (The northern section of Iraq is now effectively controlled by the U.S./British forces and Kurdish groups allied with them.) According to UNICEF, Iraqi children under 5 are dying at twice the rate they were before the sanctions began 10 years ago. And UNICEF estimates that at least 500,000 child deaths could have been prevented in those years if there were no sanctions.

UNICEF's executive director said these findings of the report "reveal an ongoing humanitarian emergency."

Other powers, like France and Russia, are mainly partners in crime with the U.S. and Britain--but they also have their own imperialist interests in Iraq, and they are pushing for easing the economic sanctions. The U.S. and British governments refuse to loosen the sanctions--they have basically put forward the removal of Saddam Hussein as the precondition for removing the sanctions.

By any measure, the sanctions on Iraq are cruel crimes carried out by heartless monsters. But the U.S. and British governments have cynical justifications for this atrocity as well. They claim that the sanctions are aimed at stopping "aggression" by Iraq against other countries and at preventing Saddam Hussein from developing "weapons of mass destruction." But the U.S. imperialists have no right to attack anyone for aggression and weapons of mass destruction--when they go around the world using their huge, high-tech, nuclear-armed military to threaten, invade, bomb and kill.

U.S. and British officials claim they are not targeting the people of Iraq--and they say that the "oil for food" program is proof. Under this program, Iraq is allowed to sell several billion dollars of oil every six months to earn funds for purchases of food and other necessities. The U.S. and British governments say that if Iraqi people continue to suffer from malnutrition and preventable diseases, "Saddam Hussein is to blame."

But the money from the "oil for food" program is tightly controlled by the Western governments--it is another way to cut into Iraqi sovereignty. And Iraq cannot even pump all the oil allowed under the program--because the sanctions prevent Iraq from importing equipment and supplies to repair and maintain the oil facilities. Even if Iraq could pump all the oil allowed, the money would amount to only 60 cents a day for each Iraqi for food and medicine.

The secret war that the U.S. is carrying out in Iraq is totally, deeply unjust. These hideous crimes need to be dragged out to the light of day. And the people in the U.S. and around the world must demand that the U.S. and other imperialists get their bloody hands off Iraq.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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