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A closer look at the Bush record
W.'s War on the Environment
Going backward on the environment
The 2000 Campaign
Recounting the controversial presidential campaign
Is the national media a danger to democracy?
The Clinton Scandals
The story behind President Clinton's impeachment
Nazi Echo (Pinochet)
The Dark Side of Rev. Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics
Contra drug stories uncovered
How the American historical record has been tainted by lies and
The October Surprise "X-Files"
The 1980 October Surprise scandal exposed
From free trade to the Kosovo crisis
Other Investigative Stories
February 5, 2003
"Day of Liberation" -- as George W. Bush calls it -- is set to
begin with a bombardment of 3,000 U.S. missiles delivered over 48 hours,
10 times the number of bombs dropped during the first two days of the
Persian Gulf War in 1991.
Officials who have been briefed on
the plans say the goal is to so stun the Iraqis that they will simply
submit to the overwhelming force demonstrated by the U.S. military.
Along with the destruction of buildings and the death of thousands from
the explosive power of the weapons, the U.S. invasion force intends to
paralyze Iraq's electrical and water systems, supposedly leaving Iraqi
soldiers and civilians alike with no choice but to throw up their arms and
Never before in world history will a dominant world power have struck at a
much weaker nation in a preemptive war with such ferocity. The strategy
could be called liberation through devastation.
the war plan also carries with it the potential of spiraling out of
control, as Bush secretly brandishes nuclear weapons as a threat against
the Iraqi government if it unleashes biological or chemical warfare
against U.S. troops. There is the possibility, too, that Saddam Hussein's
government has already pre-positioned some weapons of mass destruction
outside of Iraq as a retaliatory threat against Bush's planned war a
kind of poor man's mutual assured destruction. [More on this possibility
even if the war does not bring the world a big step closer to the
apocalypse, it is certain to mean the death of hundreds, if not thousands,
of Iraqi non-combatants, no matter how targeted or precise the U.S.
weapons. For those civilians, their end may come in the dark terror of
crushing concrete or the blinding flash of high explosives, as it did for
about 1,500 Iraqis who were crushed and incinerated in the early morning
hours of Feb. 13, 1991.
These civilians were hiding in the al-Amariyah bomb shelter in a suburb of
Baghdad at 4:30 a.m. when the first U.S. bomb ripped a hole in the
shelter's roof. Neighborhood residents heard screams as people - mostly
women and children struggled to push aside rubble and escape. Then,
the second bomb zipped through the hole created by the first bomb. That
explosion was followed by silence, with fewer than two dozen people
Although there are no precise figures on the total number of civilians who
died during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, most estimates put the toll at
between 5,000 and 15,000. Besides the civilian dead, Iraqi military
casualties are placed at between 100,000 and 300,000. [See Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists.]
According to international relief agencies, the suffering has continued
over the following decade. Since the war's end, Iraqi civilians have
continued to die as a result of a badly damaged civilian infrastructure,
crippling economic sanctions and high cancer rates attributed to hazardous
chemicals released during the war, including the Pentagon's use of
radioactive depleted uranium shells.
The United Nations predicts that the civilian casualties of a new war will
likely be even higher than in 1991, since the impoverished population is
heavily dependent on government handouts to survive and those supplies
will be disrupted by a U.S.-led invasion. In a confidential report, UN
planners say the coming war and its aftermath could injure more than
500,000 civilians and leave nearly 1 million as refugees. About 3 million
Iraqis - out of a population of 23 million - will suffer severe hunger, the
As many as 7.4 million people will need immediate humanitarian relief.
"The nutritional status of some 3.03 million persons countrywide will
be dire," the UN report said, adding that beyond hunger, disease will
sweep the country in "epidemic, if not pandemic" proportions.
are already in a humanitarian crisis," said Margaret Hassan, Iraq
director for CARE, the U.S. relief organization. "Frankly, these
people can't take another one." [Boston Globe, Jan. 31, 2003]
Those warnings are echoed by other independent studies.
A report by the International
a Canadian non-governmental organization, says "because most of the
13 million Iraqi children are dependent on food distributed by the
Government of Iraq, the disruption of this system by war would have a
devastating impact on children who already have a high rate of
The report says the physical state of Iraqi children makes them much more
vulnerable to war than they were in 1991. Besides their physical weakness,
the children are already fearful, anxious and depressed, with many
suffering from nightmares. The report concluded that war on Iraq will
cause a "grave humanitarian disaster," with potential casualties
among children in "the tens of thousands, and possibly in the
hundreds of thousands."
According to a Boston Globe article, the combination of the 1991 war and a
decade of UN sanctions has transformed Iraq from a relatively prosperous
Middle Eastern country - where a chief health concern had been childhood
obesity - into a Third World nation where even casual observers can't miss
how Iraqis struggle to survive.
"In Baghdad, women with babies in their arms beg on the
streets," the Globe reported. "In cities like Basra to the
south, poverty is inescapable. Raw sewage and trash choke the streets of a
city once known for its glimmering, Venetian-style canals."
"Iraq was not a Third World country in 1990," said Denis
Halliday, a former UN assistant secretary general who quit over UN
sanctions. "Now you have this vulnerability out there."
Even in a short war, the civilian population will be put at risk. Pentagon
planners have confirmed that shutting down important city services, such
as water and electricity, will be one of the early goals of the U.S.
assault. The planners say the strategy calls for using high-powered
microwaves and other high-technology weapons to disable these vital
services without permanently destroying them. [NYT, Feb. 2, 2003]
If the war doesn't end quickly, however, the interruption of these
services can be expected to spread disease and death among the civilian
population. If Iraqi troops withdraw into Baghdad and other major cities,
forcing the U.S. military to wage time-consuming urban warfare, the lack
of clean water and the absence of medicines could prove as deadly as the
U.S. bombing campaign also will surely claim many civilian casualties.
While the Bush administration stresses that its planned bombardment of
ancient Baghdad and other cities will concentrate on military and
government targets, the Pentagon's track record for precision bombing
doesn't instill confidence. In recent conflicts, U.S. warplanes have
inflicted substantial civilian death, either accidentally or on purpose.
For instance, in 1999 during the Kosovo crisis, U.S. warplanes killed
non-combatants when going after civilian targets in Yugoslavia, such as
bridges and even a television station that was deemed a government
propaganda outlet. The lethal attack on the TV station was intentional. An
international uproar followed the apparently accidental bombing of the
Chinese Embassy. The CIA blamed an "outdated map" for that fatal
In the Afghan bombing campaign, U.S. warplanes struck two wedding parties
and twice bombed the headquarters of the International Red Cross. It is
estimated that the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan has killed about 4,000
A major difference between Afghanistan and Iraq, however, is that
Afghanistan consists of a mainly rural population and Iraq has a largely
urbanized population, with Baghdad alone crammed with about 5 million
There is also no telling how out of control the war could spin, with Bush
determined to destroy Saddam Hussein's government to avenge what many
conservatives view as George H.W. Bush's failure to finish the job in
younger Bush even has approved the use of nuclear weapons if Iraq uses
chemical or biological warfare. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Bush's
order, signed last September, reverses a decades-old U.S. policy of
creating deliberate ambiguity about how Washington would react to a
situation in which unconventional weapons were deployed against U.S.
forces or their allies. "The United States will continue to make
clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -
including potentially nuclear weapons - to the use of [weapons of mass
destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and
allies," the presidential document states. [Washington Times, Jan.
In addition to an "overwhelming" retaliatory nuclear strike,
Bush also is considering plans to use "tactical" nuclear weapons
to destroy underground bunkers and similar critical targets.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon is hastily developing
computers to help decide when nuclear weapons would be used against
fortified bunkers and how to measure collateral effects from radiation and
"From the start of the Bush administration, we have seen increasing
interest in 'usable' nuclear weapons," said Christine Kucia, analyst
at the Arms Control Association, a research group that studies
tailoring nuclear weapons for tactical warfare situations, such as
bunker-busting, Kucia said the Bush administration is changing the status
of nuclear devices that "have been reserved for decades as the
absolute weapons of last resort.
To put them in the realm of usable
weapons is to take on a whole new definition that has never been explored
and, frankly, should not be explored." [L.A. Times, Feb. 3, 2003]
'Poor Man's MAD'
also may find that his goal of destroying Hussein and his government has
been countered by Iraq's suspected pre-positioning of chemical and
biological weapons outside Iraq for use only if the United States invades.
In other words, Bushs strategy might touch off precisely
the nightmare scenario that he says he is trying to prevent.
Last October, the CIA judged the likelihood of Iraq attacking the
United States without U.S. provocation as "low" but rising
dramatically if the U.S. prepared for a preemptive strike. "Baghdad
for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks
with conventional or C.B.W. [chemical or biological warfare] against the
United States," wrote CIA director George Tenet in an Oct. 7 letter
to Congress. "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no
longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in
adopting terrorist actions." [See Consortiumnews.com's "Misleading
the Nation to War."]
the CIA's assessment, the Bush administration has received specific
warnings from abroad that easily transportable stockpiles of chemical and
biological weapons indeed have been moved outside Iraq so they can be
deployed against Western targets as retaliatory weapons.
the U.S. news media has largely kept this devastating possibility away
from the American people, the Washington Post made an oblique reference to
this potential danger in a Feb. 4 article entitled "CIA, Allies
Tracking Iraqi Agents." The article states, "U.S. allies also
are on alert for signs that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has sent agents
abroad to arm Iraqis or terrorist groups with conventional, chemical or
biological weapons, officials said. They said some of the weapons may
already be in place outside Iraq's borders."
"poor man's MAD" for mutual assured destruction should
be a major element in an informed debate inside the United States
especially since Bush outlined the ease with which these weapons can be
moved and deployed. In his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, Bush
said "it would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into
this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
what if the vial, canister or crate is already en route? Might that
"day of horror" actually be precipitated by Bush's invasion of
Iraq, not delayed or prevented by going to war? Certainly, if one accepts
the "evil" portrait of Saddam Hussein as painted by Bush, you'd
have to assume that Saddam has long ago moved these dangerous weapons into
positions where they can be of the most use to him as a retaliatory
weapon against a U.S. invasion.
Yet even assuming U.S. forces succeed in eliminating
Saddam Hussein and his army without a catastrophic escalation, the
post-war period promises to be complicated and dangerous. The Bush
administration has sent out mixed and confusing signals about what a
"liberated" Iraq will look like.
At times, the administration has outlined plans to occupy Iraq for at
least 18 months, possibly installing a military governor in the style of
Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Japan after World War II. But it is not clear
how the U.S. will police a population that is certain to include
anti-American radicals ready to employ suicide bombings and other terror
tactics against an occupying force.
Some of Bush's political allies also have urged pumping Iraqi oil to
compensate the U.S. government for the war's cost. While this idea might
play well with Americans wary about paying billions of dollars in scarce
tax dollars to occupy a foreign country, it won't sit well with many
Iraqis and millions of others across the world, especially Islamic
populations that already suspect a Western imperialist motive behind the
The war's devastation and the U.S. occupation also could play into the
hands of the terrorist leader who had been the focus of the war on terror
before Bush shifted his attention to Iraq.
The still-at-large Osama bin Laden spelled out in a
recent message that he plans to gain a propaganda advantage from any
U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, by presenting himself as the
defender of the Arab people.
who tries to destroy our villages and cities, then we are going to destroy
their villages and cities," the al-Qaeda leader said. "Anyone
who steals our fortunes, then we must destroy their economy. Anyone who
kills our civilians, then we are going to kill their civilians."
George W. Bush drew his own line in the sand during his State of the Union
address. "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is
not a strategy, and it is not an option," Bush declared as the U.S.
built up a vast military force surrounding Iraq.
With that buildup in mind, Bush addressed what he called the "brave
and oppressed people of Iraq." He told them, "Your enemy is not
surrounding your country - your enemy is ruling your country." He
then added, "the day [Saddam Hussein] and his regime are removed from
power will be the day of your liberation."
Bush also pledged that while he would use the "full force and might
of the United States military" to disarm the Iraqi government, the
U.S. will fight "by just means - sparing in every way we can, the
How many of those innocents are not
spared in the impending invasion and the numbers of dead are likely to
horrify the world may become the new measure of how dangerous the
post-war period will be for both the American and the Iraqi people.
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