It’s become rather predictable.
"A routine mission was conducted to enforce the no-fly zone. It was a mission about which I was informed and which I authorized,” President Bush assured the press shortly after the Friday U.S.-British air raid that targeted five Iraqi command and control centers.
Routine? Since when did two countries dropping bombs a short distance from another country’s capitol city become routine?
I had held out hope that things could be different this time. I was naïve. How could I expect the devoted son of George Bush Sr. to undertake an initiative of change in our policy toward Iraq?
Since the Persian Gulf War that policy has been devastatingly consistent: Iraq has the right to obey. America has the right to kill.
And kill we do. Even if one dismisses the U.S.-spearheaded UN sanctions that have directly resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million people in Iraq since 1991, the death toll is unforgivable. As of Feb. 13, when another U.S.-British air raid left 15 people – including women and children – injured, Iraq claimed 323 people had been killed by air raids since the 1998 bombardment.
Conveniently, any seasoned U.S. or British political commentator would brush off death tolls given by the Iraqi government as pure propaganda. Conversely, they would assert that their respective governments would never engage in such deception.
Or would they?
"But obviously if our air crew come under attack,” said British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, “we allow them to protect themselves as they are allowed to do legitimately in international law.”
It’s interesting that Hoon brings up the notion of international law. You see, the oft-repeated mantra has been that the U.S.-British alliance had to bomb Iraqi installations to defend its pilots who were in turn defending the two no fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. He fails to note that these two no fly zones are almost universally recognized as violations of international law. Even the few countries that lent their early support to the formation of the no fly zones have abandoned the U.S.-British policy.
One could conceivably call this illegal policy terrorism. Is it any different when Osama bin Laden targets a U.S. government installation and kills a few civilians in the process? He could easily argue that he was only protecting himself from aggressive U.S. forces that would like to see him dead.
Allegedly, the no fly zones are enforced to protect Shiite Muslims in the south of Iraq and Kurds in the north. Strangely enough, after Bush Sr. called for the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam shortly after the Gulf War, we made no attempts to protect them from Saddam’s wrath after they failed. They were effectively massacred right under our noses. Furthermore, we have no problem in letting neighboring Turkey venture into the north of Iraq to kill Kurds.
Think for a minute of Saddam’s situation: Two countries that have in the past shown little or no respect for international law are routinely – approximately every three days – bombing his country from what is supposed to be his sovereign air space. In addition, one of these two countries, the U.S., recently announced a $29-million aid package to the so-called Iraqi National Congress to help it overthrow his regime. Can you blame him for having the gall to try to defend himself from two countries who have basically called for his assassination?
I can only wonder if, when former President Bush prayed as tears ran down his cheeks prior to the Gulf War as he claimed, he acknowledged his part in unleashing the full power of this monster. After all, the U.S. government from at least 1985-9 licensed private American companies to sell a veritable number of biological components to Iraq. Among them were anthrax, histoplasma capsulatam (which attacks the lungs, brain, spinal cord and heart) and brucella melitensis (which can damage major organs).
During this period, America was enthusiastically supporting Iraq in its war with Iran. We knew very well that Saddam was using biological and chemical warfare and encouraged it. Even after Saddam had done the unthinkable -- used these weapons on his own people and thus decimated Iraq’s major agricultural producers -- the U.S. and Britain called for increased agricultural aid for their good friend.
Once Saddam invaded Kuwait, a minor offense compared to his earlier atrocities, we decided he was Hitler reincarnated. It’s interesting how quickly threatened oil interests can produce a change of heart.
In the end, the American-British alliance cares nothing about the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Its routine bombing of civilian areas and support of the oppressive sanctions is sufficient evidence of that. It isn’t seriously concerned about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” If it had been so concerned about them, it would not have initiated the bombing of Baghdad in 1998, an action it knew would end weapons inspections.
Saddam needs to be punished, but does that give us the right to punish every Iraqi citizen, including those who weren’t even born during the Gulf War?
With every bombing, we further alienate ourselves from the world community. Beyond England, there is very little support for our aggression against the people of Iraq. With every bombing, Saddam becomes more powerful in the world community because he is effectively exploiting his position as a victim. But it is not for Saddam that I mourn. It is for the millions of Iraqi citizens – babies, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters – that have died as a result of policies we have enforced. It is easy for us to forget them. They do not appear on our nightly news. They are not Americans. In all likelihood, they are not our own family members. Does that make them any less important?
America has blood on its hands – a sickness in its very soul. When will Americans wake up? When will we demand that our leaders end this needless killing? Will we? Or will we be content to let the killing continue in the name of whatever reason happens to be convenient at the time? Whatever our individual opinions, the official American policy speaks for us. We are all a part of the ensuing carnage.
Nathan Johnson writes for the Yankton (S.D.) Daily Press & Dakotan. He can be contacted at email@example.com