The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020

Obama Speech and Iraq Realities


Today, Obama made remarks about Iraq to a veterans group convention in Georgia. The New York Times today published a piece titled "A Benchmark of Progress, Electrical Grid Fails Iraqis."

Obama made no mention of it, but today is the 20th anniversary of Iraq invading Kuwait and the beginning of the buildup to the early 1991 Gulf War.

Available for a limited number of interviews, Halliday is a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and headed the humanitarian effort in Iraq during the 1990s until resigning in protest over the economic sanctions on Iraq.

Gordon is author of the new book Invisible War: The U.S. and Iraq Sanctions. She said today: "Twenty years ago Iraq was subjected to the most severe economic sanctions in the history of global governance, followed by a war in which the U.S. and its allies systematically destroyed all of Iraq's infrastructure -- electrical generators, water treatment plants, roads, bridges. When the occupation began in 2003, also led by the U.S., there was massive corruption on the part of U.S. agencies, and virtually nothing was done to rebuild and to restore critical public services. For the last 20 years, the U.S. has continuously imposed destruction and hardship on Iraq. We must really consider that the U.S. presence is one of the significant sources of violence in Iraq, not a force for peace or stability."

Ditmars, author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone, has been reporting on Iraq since 1997 when she wrote a feature for the New York Times. As a co-editor at New Internationalist, she recently traveled to Iraq during the March elections to write and photograph the May issue, "Iraq, 7 Years Later, the Legacy of Invasion."

According to Ditmars, "Almost a fifth of Iraq's population are refugees or internally displaced, and almost half live in abject poverty -- despite $53 billion in 'aid' spent since the 2003 invasion (funds that lined the pockets of foreign military contractors and corrupt officials but left 70 percent of Iraqis without potable water or predictable electricity)."

BBC News recently reported: "A U.S. federal watchdog has criticized the U.S. military for failing to account properly for billions of dollars it received to help rebuild Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the U.S. Department of Defense is unable to account properly for 96 percent of the money. Billions have gone to rebuild Iraq but much of the money is impossible to trace, says a U.S. audit. Out of just over $9 billion, $8.7 billion is unaccounted for, the inspector says."

Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies; her books include the 2009 Ending the Iraq War: A Primer. She said today: "No question Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a violation of international law -- but it was hardly the first country in the region to invade and occupy a neighbor. Bush Senior's decision to use that violation as justification for a unilateral war, however masked in forced UN endorsements, was not about Iraqi human rights violations -- which the U.S. had long accepted and even helped by providing arms to use against Iran, money, and seed stock for biological weapons. Certainly it was about control of oil and preventing either of the two potential regional powers (Iraq and Iran) from challenging U.S. domination in the region. But the most important reason Amb. April Glaspie gave Saddam Hussein at least a 'yellow light' anticipating his invasion of Kuwait was to maintain Washington's position as a global super-power when its super-power rival, the Soviet Union, was collapsing.

"There is no question that the aftermath of that war, including the devastation caused by years of U.S.-driven sanctions and the invasion and occupation that began in 2003, was one of the major causes of violence against Americans in the Middle East and beyond."

For transcript of April Glaspie's meeting with Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, see Information Clearinghouse.

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