U.S. Pressure Against Iraq

(April 2, 2002)

Tens of thousands more U.S. troops are being sent to Kuwait and new U.S. bases set up in Oman, Jordan, the Arab Emirates, Qatar and elsewhere. U.S. officials admit that these forces are part of plans for a major military offensive against Iraq.

To prepare public opinion, the U.S. keeps up a constant stream of propaganda claiming that Saddam Hussein is building "weapons of mass destruction." The U.S. is demanding that Iraq allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country. Vice President Cheney recently declared that "it needs to be the kind of inspection regime that has no limitations on it, that is a 'go anywhere, any time' kind of inspection regime." U.S. government officials have openly admitted that if Iraq resists such an ultimatum -- which directly undermines that country's sovereignty -- the U.S. will use this refusal as a pretext for military attack.

Both the military threats and the demand for renewed weapons inspection are part of the continuing U.S. pressure against Iraq. Below we provide a brief history of recent U.S. policy.

The Gulf War claimed the lives of 75,000-100,000 Iraq soldiers and 35,000-45,000 civilians. A U.N. report observed that Iraq had been bombed back into the "pre-industrial age" and that its economic infrastructure, including electrical power, oil, water, sanitation, food, agriculture and health sectors, were largely destroyed. After the war the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council imposed a series of punitive, colonial treaties on Iraq to keep the country under the thumb of the U.S.

- The U.S. and Britain, unilaterally imposed "no-fly zones" over the north and south of the country denying Iraq access to its own airspace. U.S. and British warplanes not only fly daily missions over Iraq but have carried out hundreds of bombing runs, killing and wounding thousands of civilians.

- Economic sanctions were imposed, severely restricting Iraq's foreign trade, including its sale of oil, and preventing it from importing needed humanitarian supplies as well as materials to rebuild the country's infrastructure.

- A U.N. Commission (UNSCOM) was created allegedly for the purpose of insuring that Iraq destroyed any capacity to manufacture biological and chemical weapons. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was given a mandate to inspect Iraq's nuclear weapons.

The history of UNSCOM shows that it was used to afford U.S. unfettered access to all military and economic facilities and to provide pretexts for maintaining the sanctions and the periodic bombing of Iraq. For 8 years, UNSCOM had unrestricted access throughout Iraq and by 1998, had carried out thousands of inspections. In 1999, Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector for UNSCOM, declared "When you ask the question, 'Does Iraq possess militarily viable biological or chemical weapons?' the answer is a resounding 'NO.' 'Can Iraq produce today chemical weapons on a meaningful scale?' 'NO!' It is 'no' across the board. So from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses no meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability."

Similarly, as recently as January of this year, the U.N. nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected several undisclosed sites in the country over a 5-day period and found Iraq in complete compliance with IAEA regulations.

In fact, UNSCOM's director Richard Butler, as well as U.S. government officials, have admitted that weapons inspectors were employed as spies for the Pentagon and that on several occasions UNSCOM was used to manufacture pretexts to justify U.S. bombing. For example, Scott Ritter reports that in December 1998, Butler told the inspectors: "You have to provoke a confrontation...so the US can start bombing". On December 16, U.S. and British forces launched air strikes against Iraq on the heels of UNSCOM claims that Iraq did not cooperate with the inspection team.

These weapons inspections have been used not only to undermine Iraq's political and military sovereignty but as the main pretext for imposing economic sanctions. Again, the economic sanctions are punitive in character and, in direct violation of the Geneva convention and other international laws, deliberately target civilian populations and the infrastructure needed for survival.

The economic sanctions were first imposed in 1991 and slightly modified in 1995 under the so-called "oil for food program." Under this current program, as modified over the last few years, Iraq is permitted a yearly limit of $5.25 billion in oil sales. All proceeds from such sales are placed in a U.N.-controlled bank account, to which Iraq has no access. At least 25% of these funds go towards reparations from the Gulf War, 15% go towards humanitarian supplies for 3 million Kurds in norther Iraq, 5-10% pay for UN operations in Iraq, at least 5% covers repair and maintenance of the oil pipelines, leaving less than $1.6 billion (or $7.50/ month for each of Iraq's 18 million people), which can be used to import food, medicines and other vital necessities. Even these funds remain controlled by the U.N. which must authorize any and every Iraqi purchase. The U.S. has repeatedly placed arbitrary holds on Iraqi imports, preventing the purchase of such humanitarian supplies as diphtheria, typhoid and tetanus vaccines, water purification chemicals, chlorinators, etc., as well as infrastructure building materials.

These limits are enforced even though the U.N. Secretariat admits that Iraq requires at least $4 billion per year in food and medical imports alone (250% more than the maximum allowed under the sanctions). The U.N. Secretary-General has also said that restoring Iraq's infrastructure would require at least $22 billion in capital imports.

The Iraqi government estimates that, over the last 11 years, 1.5 million civilians have died as a result of the sanctions. Denis Halliday, former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, estimates that by 1999 the sanctions had directly caused the deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children and at least another 500,000 adults. A UNICEF report published in 1999 found that infant mortality has increased by 600% since the imposition of sanctions. 4,500 children die every month (150/day) as a result.