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Published on Wednesday, August 2, 2000 in the Manchester Guardian (UK)
Time To See The Truth About Ourselves And Iraq
by Denis J Halliday
Here we are in the middle of the millennium year and we are responsible for genocide in Iraq. Saddam Hussein certainly gave Bush and Thatcher a gift when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. He facilitated the opening of the much-needed respectability of a UN umbrella for a US-led alliance to destroy Iraq.

Why? Because despite the costly debacle of the war with Iran, Saddam Hussein remained the only Arab head of state capable of providing Arab leadership and resistance to neo-colonial US/UK and western domination of the Middle East, and its oil.

The war was always about controlling oil supplies, and never really about Kuwait. But Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, in breach of international law, provided the opportunity for showing American military muscle, damaged by the Vietnam defeat; for experimentation with depleted uranium; and for the destruction of Iraq, combined with impoverishment of the rich Arab world.

All of us that live in the silent democracies are responsible for sustained genocide in Iraq. Today the prime minister, Tony Blair, is on the defensive on a range of largely domestic issues. He does not appear to be on the defensive over genocide. His unending endorsement of the Clinton/Albright programme for killing the children of Iraq is seldom mentioned.

Have decision-makers learned nothing from the Pinochet humiliation? Or do they still feel immune under international law for crimes against humanity?

What does that say about us all? Does it say that, after 10 long decimating years of the UN economic embargo on the people of Iraq, we simply do not care? We do not care when Unicef reports that 5,000 children under five years old die each month unnecessarily from embargo-related deprivation. And Unicef does not count the teenagers, the adults and the aged that die.

Do we not care that the UN allies, in breach of Geneva conventions, destroyed the lives of civilians through direct bombing and destruction of electric power capabilities, clean water systems, sanitation and health care?

Do we not care that Iraqi society, culture and learning, rooted in the cities of Mesopotamia, is dying alongside its people? Are we really that racist? Are we really that anti-Islamic? Could Britain stand by and watch the same holocaust within a white Christian state?

What can be done? Why not set aside US propaganda and demonisation and do a Nixon to China, or a Clinton-Putin outreach to Pyongyang - ie, communicate. Begin to understand what is happening in Iraq, and begin perhaps to influence change and better relations within the Middle East.

Why not address the concerns of the Kuwaiti and Saudi leadership, who fear a resurgence of Iraqi regional ambition, by encouraging their political collaboration with Baghdad? At the same time ease fears through control of purchasing by, and sales to, Iraq of offensive weapons of mass or other forms of destruction. Demand the removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region, including Israel, as in the US-drafted paragraph 14 of UN Resolution 687.

Critically, end the economic embargo and allow the Iraqi economy to resurface. End malnutrition and high child mortality rates. Get people back to work. Re-establish the dinar and its purchasing power. Repair the power, water and urban sewage systems. Rebuild agricultural production, health care and education.

End the killing now. Remove any excuse that Baghdad has today for the ongoing catastrophe. End human rights abuses by the UN via the embargo. Demand an end to civil and political rights abuses by Baghdad.

Acknowledge we have reduced the Iraqis to refugees in their own country, being fed inadequately despite use of their own oil revenues.

Let us not be blinded by wasteful expenditures on palaces or luxury cars. Should we expect a higher standard in Iraq when the UK spends millions of pounds on a dome while British people are homeless and hungry?

Let us be honest. We do not care for democracy in the Middle East as much too threatening to that oil cow Saudi Arabia and its offspring Kuwait. Admit the US/UK governments want country stability so that they can invest profitably and be sure of oil but regional instability so that demand for arms manufacturing and sales is sustained.

Let us invest in people and peaceful coexistence in the world, including the Middle East. Let's rally around the world as the one small threatened unit it is today, just as the Iraqis have rallied around Saddam Hussein under western attack.

Let us recognise the calamity of the US/UK- driven UN economic embargo on Iraq. Calamitous not only for Iraq and its people, but for us all, including the very survival of the UN itself as a credible instrument for peace and security.

Let us take some risks. Let us even remain ultimately self-serving and yet visionary - by responding to such global crises as Africa, global poverty, HIV-Aids, the environment, globalisation ills - the things that really matter, while allowing the children of Iraq to live.

Denis J Halliday, a visiting professor at Swarthmore college in Pennsylvania, is a former UN assistant secretary general and UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq 1997-98

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000


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