Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
The following is part of a series of articles from Chris Tolworthy reposted here with kind permission. The articles together ask many questions about the September 11 atrocity and its aftermath, as well as looking into it from numerous angles. The articles are split into a number of pages on this site (which you can follow using the links at the bottom).
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
This page is about hypocrisy. Many nations are accused of killing others, or supporting such killing. Many nations have weapons of mass destruction and have threatened to use them. For example, the United States has the world's largest collection of weapons, and has often bombed or invaded other countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Grenada, etc.) Also, the United States and its allies have allegedly caused over a million deaths in Iraq alone, through these bombings and the economic sanctions that follow. Also, Iraq is accused of building weapons of mass destruction, threatening its neighbors, and killing several thousand innocent people. This is where the hypocrisy comes in. The strongest allegations are against America, but here we are told all the reasons why it is not really America's fault. The weakest allegations are against Iraq, but here we are told that Iraq is obviously an evil country that must be stopped, even if it means war.
It may be that Iraq is guilty of everything it is accused of. It may be the west's reaction is the right one. What is the evidence?
Is this page an apology for Saddam Hussein? No. It is simply a plea for consistency and reason. Perhaps the west is better than Iraq now? If so, that has not always been the case. In the nineteenth century, for example, America exterminated a large portion of it native peoples and drove the rest from their homes. Britain invaded numerous third world countries, killing thousands or millios along the way. Has Saddam Hussein done anything worse? When we look back at our own history, we try to be understanding. If we are consistent, we should also be understanding about other countries today. Please, let us have no double standards.
On this page:
Gassing the Kurds
The ultimate proof that Iraq (or its leader, Sadam Hussein) is monstrously evil that he gassed his own people (or rather, the Kurds who lived in the north of Iraq). But did this happen? This is from a 1990 Pentagon report, published just prior to the invasion of Kuwait, by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania:
I am no trying to apologise for Iraq. Perhaps the report was wrong. Perhaps Iraq did gas its own people. I just say that Iraq should be given the benefit of the doubt. We expect them to be understanding about our actions - which may have resulted in far more deaths (see below). Understanding should be a two way street.
Finally, it has been pointed out that America has also used gas against its own people.
After the Gulf War (a separate issue which is not discussed on this page), the west had two approaches. One was for UN weapons inspectors to find out what was going on. The other was for economic sanctions to reduce Iraq's ability to do very much of anything. The sanctions are intended to only stop military materials, but most of what is needed for war - basic roads, chemicals, machinery - is also needed for day to day life. When these"dual use" supplies are stopped, everyone suffers. In addition, the innocent material that should get through is often blocked, mainly by the United States:
The western officials who have to enforce this regime sometimes find it intolerable. Some resign. Here are two senior examples.
Scott Ritter was a senior weapons inspector of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). He attempting for several years to perform his task, initially with some success. However, his ability to act for the UN was compromised when the CIA tried to make him gather information for them. The UN is supposed to be independent, and this lost him the respect ad credibility he needed to do his job. He also realized that the sanctions against Iraq were not achieving their desired ends. Ritter concluded that the west had to make a choice:
1. Either use diplomacy (founded on trust and law) to gain greater access, or
2. Or, alternatively, send in massive amounts of ground troops to illegally conquer the nation.
As US policy prevented either option, he was unable to continue his job. He resigned. Eventually, in 1988, all the weapons inspectors left because they simply could not function.
Dennis Halliday was a UN humanitarian relief coordinator. He was responsible for making sure that the sanctions did not harm the poorest and most vulnerable people in Iraq. He found that it was impossible to prevent this. The sanctions automatically hit the poorest people hardest. (The rich can always find ways around these things.) The sanctions were causing the deaths of at least five thousand people each month. As a more recent comparison, the west has delivered a "September 11th" to Iraq every two weeks, year after year. Halliday resigned in protest.
Both men agree: the sanctions are not working. Ritter says we need either diplomacy or all-out war. Halliday says we ned diplomacy. (As a side issue, it is interesting to note that Ritter, who was sympathetic to war, received far more western media coverage than Halliday, who only wanted peace.)(4)
In effect, the US had chosen to prevent any serious weapons inspections, in order to punish Iraq in a slow, painful, and utterly pointless way. After 1998 the people of Iraq still suffered, but Saddam was free to develop his weapons. The whole situation angered Ritter and Halliday so much that they gave various interviews (they are entirely unconnected and have different approaches), hoping to wake up public opinion to what is happening.(5)
As a final comment, it should be noted that food is a biological material. Denying food results ina slow and painful death, just as does applying toxic gas. According to Ritter, Halliday and others, our sanctions have been causing those kinds of deaths. As one commentator noted:
Please note: HTML links were created between January-March 2002. Some of these links may have expired when you read this.
1. "United Nations: No Proof Saddam Gassed the Kurds" memo to Jess Helms from InfoTimes. The excerpt is from "Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East" chapter 5, by Stephen C. Pelletiere, Douglas V. Johnson II and Leif R. Rosenberger, of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
3. "Washington blocks $5bn supplies to Iraq" - Reuters, as reported in The Guardian, February 21, 2002. The UN reports the figure as $5 billion. Iraq includes other material that is not blocked but just delayed, and so reports a figure of $8 billion.
4. For a simple comparison of media coverage - a comparison anyone can do for themselves - see "The Media's Coverage of Iraq: Scott Ritter vs. Dennis Halliday" by Ali Abunimah
5. The Ritter material is mainly from Iraq Watch, PolicyWatch No. 377. However, there are several different interviews in various places. For more detail, search the Web for "Scott Ritter" or "Dennis Halliday."
6. From the InfoTimes report, referred to above.
This article is part of the following collection:
- War on Terror FAQs
- 45 Q & As: Intervention, Afghan and Iraq
- September 11th and Terrorism FAQ
- 47 Questions and Answers on the War in Afghanistan
- Questions and Answers on September 11 And Its Aftermath
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