U.S. spreads misery through Middle East

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Last November, while Newsweek investigated the “dark threat” posed by Saddam Hussein, President William Clinton dispatched weapons of mass destruction to the Persian Gulf, and 4,500 Iraqi children died because of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Since Desert Storm and the start of the U.N. embargo in 1991, more than one million Iraqis have died from malnutrition and disease – 750,00 of them children under age five. More than five million Iraqis have fled, many of them to neighboring countries like Jordan, whose own economy is also devastated because of the sanctions against Iraq.

Iraq’s infrastructure – bridges, water purification plants, factories, bus depots, trains and more – is in ruins. In hospitals, lighting is dim and wards are cold. And in Baghdad, raw sewage dumps into the Tigris River.

U.N. resolution 986 enables Iraq to exchange two billion dollars in oil for basic necessities every six months. (This amount may increase due to political deal-making by the U.S. with France and Russia.) But after war reparations to Kuwait and oil production costs are deducted, little money is left to buy food.

Now, under the accord struck by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) will resume its bomb hunt. Yet UNSCOM, with 88 percent British and American personnel, has overlooked the mass destruction of Iraq.

The welcome news is that if the horror and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy is lost on UNSCOM, it isn’t lost on the public. Clinton’s campaign for another bloody siege of Iraq was preempted by antiwar protest, like that broadcast live from Ohio State University. Growing worldwide opposition won a White House retreat. Now is the time to intensify the pressure and stop the warmongers for good.

 

White House double-dealing. In his mid-February address to the nation, President Clinton claimed that an attack on Iraq would “protect the stability and security of the Persian Gulf.”

But, as Ohio showed, the public isn’t buying. Too many Americans remember how the Pentagon armed Saddam in the 1981-88 war against Iran, even as he gassed the Kurdish national minority.

And while Clinton rants about the danger posed by Saddam, two U.S. allies in the Middle East stockpile nuclear arms. One of them, expansionist Israel, keeps its weapons of mass destruction aimed at Arab countries, while the other, Turkey, slaughters its own Kurdish population on a level rivaling Saddam.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials, who are supposed to allow the U.N. to monitor a U.S. chemical weapons stash, are refusing to allow Iraqis or Cubans on the inspection team.

Back in 1914, radical Black sociologist W.E.B. DuBois wrote an antiwar essay that explains the huge gap between governmental rhetoric and reality. In “The African Roots of War,” he observed that World War I had nothing to do with making the world safe for democracy – as President Wilson claimed – but instead had to do with imperialist rivalry over human and natural resources.

Eighty-four years later, only the names and faces have changed.

No blood for oil! Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia. Today’s struggle is about who will control the region’s oil and the profits derived from it.

Great Britain, Canada, and Australia are lining up behind U.S. military might. Meanwhile, France and Russia are employing a softer approach, and no wonder. Profits hang in the balance.

At the end of October 1997, Iraq granted large oil concessions to two French oil companies in defiance of U.N. sanctions. A few days later, a Russian concern negotiated the exploitation of an oil well that would produce 600,000 barrels of oil daily. And as soon as U.N. sanctions are lifted, forty international oil companies await potential contracts to be granted by Iraq.

The U.S. developed its antagonism toward Iraq after the Iran-Iraq war, when Iraq emerged as a strong regional power – one capable of acting independently of U.S. interests. The U.S. financial stake in the Middle East depends on pummeling the Arab revolution and maintaining political control. Therefore, Iraq cannot be allowed to become a flashpoint for growing dissent among Arab workers against an imperialist status quo that offers them no prospects for peace, prosperity or justice.

 

Bring the war home. However, the powers-that-be can’t shed blood without cooperation from the working people who pay for and fight their wars.

In the Middle East, thousands mobilized against Clinton’s war plans despite bans and curfews, thus persuading their governments to refuse permission for Arab land to be used as a launching pad for another slaughter of Iraqis – and possibly even the opening salvo for World War III.

The revulsion was echoed internationally. In Australia, rallies were held in all the state capitals to protest government support, backed by the Labor Party, for the bombing campaign. In France, the beginning of the bombing was to be met with mass demonstrations.

And in the U.S., repeated protests in New York City, Minneapolis, Seattle, and elsewhere forced Clinton to reconsider whether war was a viable political option.

Antiwar forces around the world won round one, temporarily preventing the bombing. The crucial next step is to build a cohesive, anti-capitalist, antiwar movement that will level its guns at the source of war – the profit system.

  • Stop the war on working people at home and abroad!
  • End U.N. sanctions against Iraq!
  • No U.S. military presence in the Middle East! Fund social services and jobs – dismantle the Pentagon!

Contributors to this report: Stephen Durham, New York City, and Alison Thorne, Melbourne.

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