All You Wanted to Know About Iraq, But Your Government Did Not Tell You*
If a declared war against Iraq eventually starts, do not think Spain’s Prime Minister, Mr. Aznar, will say much about it. He did not say a single word about what the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported in 1999: “United States and British aircraft have continued to bomb targets in the north and south of the country nearly every day since the four-day ‘Desert Fox’ operation in December 1998” (ICRC: Iraq: 1989-1999, a decade of sanctions). However, many people want answers to the following questions:
Why was the embargo imposed on Iraq? According to the ICRC report mentioned above, before 1990 “ Iraq boasted one of the most modern infrastructures and highest standards of living in the Middle East. The world’s second largest oil producer, it had in recent decades used oil revenues for ambitious projects and development programmes, as well as to build one of the most powerful armed forces in the Arab world. It had established a modern, complex health care system, with giant hospitals built on Western models and using the latest equipment. It had constructed sophisticated water-treatment and pumping facilities. It had an extensive school and university system.” (www.helpicrc.org/) All was paid with oil. Those who say today that Saddam Hussein is cheating about his weapons of mass destruction know what they are talking about, they are the very same people who traded those for oil. Back in the eighties it did not matter if he used those weapons against Iranian people, since its president, Khomeini, and his Shiite revolution, was the arch-enemy of that age. Those were the days: both peoples bleeding to exhaustion and arms sales going sky high.
The United States, known not only in the Middle East for supporting and arming dictatorships and pseudo-democratic regimes that do not respect human rights and international law, are not willing to support a regime known by both its economic and military progress and its anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism Constitution and international stand. It also happens that this country does not trade bilateral aid and World Bank loans for puppet leaders and full compliancy with what the boss says. We have not yet heard Mr. Aznar ask for, or support, sanctions against Turkey and Israel.
Why the war in 2003? The embargo was aimed at forcing Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, a cheaper and politically more correct coup d’état than a foreign armed intervention in an already heated area and in the 21st century. Iraq is under the most comprehensive and longest embargo ever imposed against a country. This was of course condemned since the very beginning by Iraq’s government in several ways, included a document aptly entitled: “Bush kills Iraqi children” (Ministry of Culture and Information, Baghdad, 1991). In it, the government warned about the price the people was paying and was going to pay if the embargo remained for long. This has simply been although very slowly- recognised by the international community in hundreds of reports about the calamities the Iraqi people is undergoing: World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNESCO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a long list which also includes churches, political and solidarity groups and many NGOs.
Incredible as it may seems, the Security Council (SC) itself has also recognised it, although this does not mean it admits its own guilt, and much less that it asks for sanctions against itself and the main instigator. In the report commissioned by the SC on January 30th, 1999 to a panel of specialists (U.N. S/1999/100), one can read: “the country has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty. In marked contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world, low infant birth weight affects at least 23% of all births, chronic malnutrition affects every four child under five years of age, only 41% of the population have regular access to clean water, 83% of all schools need substantial repairs. The ICRC states that the
Iraqi health-care system is today in a decrepit state”. (www.cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/info/panelrep.html).
In spite of this deplorable state of affairs, the Iraqi people did not overthrow the regime. This is simply what the Spaniards would have made if, tempted to send General Franco to the dole in order to put an end to the dictatorship, they had accepted that United States divided Spain in three parts, bombed factories and stores, forbade the import of medicines, spare parts for the industry, essential products, and all these resulted in the death of a million and a half persons, half a million of them children. Imagine if on top of this there was the threat to send them back to the stone age.
So, once it is clear for everyone that Saddam Hussein has already resisted two United States presidents, and that the embargo has a lot of flaws and above all that the Iraqis are less fond of Bush Jr. than they are of Hussein Sr., sensible enough by the way, there is no other solution than dispose of the later. In United States and Great Britain merciless logic, it does not matter at all that this final war inevitably means that thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will be killed, the same way the embargo “against” Saddam Hussein has resulted in the death of five per cent of the Iraqi population, the destruction of an entire country, and in a totally gloomy future for the survivors.
What does Spain have to do with it? This is what Mr. Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s vice-prime minister, is also wondering. Last January, the second, he said to a Spanish delegation that was in Iraq to show solidarity to the Iraqi people: “Spain is our friend. If Spain sticks with the UN, we will understand; but if Spain sides with the United States, then it will not be our friend any longer”. Fair enough. He added: “That move not only
would be a moral and legal wrong, but it also would be bad for Spain. Does Spain think it will get oil contracts after the war? Will the United States share its riches with Spain?
However, Aznar’s words were not so restrained, not even so politically clever, not so morally balanced: “If war breaks out, Spain knows its place. Spain will side with its friend, the United States”. Does he know by chance that in any case Spain will have to side with the international law? Mr. Aznar does not realise he is not free to choose such dangerous liaisons as far as he is the president of a member State of the United Nations. The United Nations have not authorised the daily bombings against targets in Iraq. They have not authorised either the partition of Iraq, another member State, sovereign and independent nation. Is Spain going to side with a State that has already been condemned by the International Court of Justice, which stated that the United States have seriously breached the international law in its dirty war against Nicaragua, another member State of the United Nations? Has Mr. Aznar forgotten this delinquent past of his friend, and does not even want to see a foreseeable future of recidivism? United Nations resolutions have clearly stated Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
It will not be easy for him to convince us that it is better to side with Mr. Bush than with the international law, and it will be even more difficult if he simply parrots, as his Foreign Minister does, probably preparing in advance Spanish public opinion, Bush’ and Blair’s nonsense about weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s dirty tricks, serious concerns about the world peace and the rest of old stories. However, it could be the other way round, it could be not such a difficult task: the opposition - supposedly on the left -- is either silent or one of us, that is to say, them. The majority of the people is either ignorant or does not care enough for foreign problems. To sum up: bad luck for Spain’s international place, hundreds of years of Spanish-Arab friendship to the dustbin, the Spanish mediation card with countries south of the Mediterranean lost for good, and to hell with the Spaniards’ desires to live in peace with peoples who did not make them any harm.
What happens then with international law, human rights and world peace? We have already been informed a hundred times by the State media that Saddam is number one amongst evils, that Bush is number one amongst saviors, and that Aznar is number one amongst clever political leaders for taking us with Bush against Saddam and towards a better, happier new world, almost for free. Does it mean Mr. Aznar have not a single word of concern for the Iraqi children who are being killed every day because of new kinds of cancer caused by depleted uranium sprayed daily by the United States and Great Britain bombings against targets in Iraq? Are those children as evil as Saddam and consequently they deserve to be killed by the thousands because of an embargo that does not allow the import of chemotherapy drugs and equipment? Does Mr. Aznar ignore by chance that the use of depleted uranium ammunition is forbidden by the international law?
Mr. Aznar: sometimes you have mentioned Security Council resolutions. Then, are you aware that the United Nations Charter requires that the Security Council must act in accordance with the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights principles? Nobody, not even the Security Council, let alone your friend, can act against those principles. Neither the Charter nor the Declaration authorises the killing of a million and a half human beings, the subjugation of an entire population by famine and diseases, the preventive wars and the destruction of a whole country.
Why, Mr. Aznar, whenever you talk about Iraq you relentlessly mention its president, but you do not say a word about article two of the 1949 Convention on Genocide, applicable to Iraq, since its population is being subjected to a thirteen year long destruction?
You may choose not to answer these questions, or do it the American way. Let us be clear: whatever you do with your friend concerning both the embargo and the war against Iraq, you will not do it in our name. Not in the name of the Spanish people who have not been properly informed about the genocidal embargo, and who does not want to take part in a war a crime against humanity- presented as inevitable and necessary.
(*) This paper mainly deals with the Spanish government position on the war against Iraq, simply change the country and the president’s name to apply it to your setting.
Agustín Velloso Santisteban is a Professor of Education at the National University of Remote Education in Madrid, Spain. He is the author of The World-Wide Disorder and the Refugees. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org