President George W. Bush’s “routine” bombing attack on Iraq should come as no surprise. It is a conscious and systematic continuation of the Bush I-Cheney-Powell-Clinton policy of keeping steady pressure on Saddam Hussein to sustain U.S. hegemony in the Persian Gulf. Iraq has the second largest oil supply in the world. Humanitarian rhetoric notwithstanding, the unlawful bombing and sanctions regime serves to maintain the United States as the dominant force in the region.
The Pentagon says our bombers were acting in “self-defense” when they struck near Baghdad Friday, because Iraq has been resisting U.S./British patrols in the “no-fly- zone” over Iraq’s airspace. Our leaders are using this outlandish theory to avoid charges that we’re violating the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force against a sovereign nation except in self-defense or when authorized by the Security Council. The no-fly zone has never been sanctioned by the Security Council, and the killing and wounding of civilians clearly violates international law.
The U.S. government justifies its strategy to overthrow Saddam Hussein as necessary to prevent him from proliferating weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, it was the United States that gave him the technology to develop chemical and biological weapons in the first place, according to a 1996 Associated Press report.
The only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are the U.S./British bombers and the crippling sanctions. Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector in Iraq recently said, “There is absolutely no reason to believe that Iraq could have meaningfully reconstituted any element of its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities in the past 18 months.” But, in spite of UN Resolution 687, which calls for the creation of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone throughout the Middle East, the United States ignores Israel’s large stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Shortly after Operation Desert Storm in 1991, where U.S. and British bombs killed 100,000 Iraqi men, women and children, and destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney expressed his desire to broaden the United States’ military role in the region to hedge future threats to Gulf oil resources. Between his service in the Bush I and Bush II administrations, Cheney served as CEO of Halliburton Co., the biggest oil-services company in the world.
For the past two years, the United States and Britain have continued to bomb Iraq, as frequently as every other day, without UN authorization. And we have prosecuted a campaign of economic sanctions that, according to UNICEF, has killed 4000 Iraqi children every month since 1991. When confronted with these figures in 1996, Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on 60 Minutes, “We think the price is worth it.”
Evidently, her successor agrees. When he accepted Bush’s nomination for Secretary of State, Powell stressed his support for maintaining and strengthening the sanctions against Iraq. He must be aware that although these sanctions are aimed at Saddam Hussein, it is the people of Iraq who suffer from them.
General Colin Powell was also impervious to the suffering of thousands of U.S. vets who contracted Gulf War Syndrome following Desert Storm. Charles Sheehan-Miles, a director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, said that four or five years ago, Gulf War vets were refused treatment by the VA. “We got silence from Powell, Schwarzkopf and Cheney. We wrote a couple of letters to Powell asking for help and never got a response. That was a severe disappointment.”
With Friday’s stepped-up bombing, the U.S. is sending a message to Saddam Hussein that the pressure’s still on, in spite of widespread Arab opposition to the bombing and the sanctions. Colin Powell, who will visit the Persian Gulf next week, said our goal is to “keep the pressure on” Hussein. As Captain Genter Drummond, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who flew bombers during Desert Storm said on CNN Friday night, George W. Bush is “the new teacher on the playground.” The Commander-in-Chief has changed but the policy remains the same.