What You Aren't Being Told About Iraq
by Firas Al-Atraqchi
March 28, 2003
Remember all those "intelligence sources" who promised that Iraqis would be cheering as the U.S. and U.K. armies rolled into Basra or Nasiriyah or any major town in southern Iraq? Apparently, in day 7 of the invasion of Iraq, these intelligence sources and their data are proving to be fallible.
Unfortunately, the North American public is not told who the intelligence sources are. No, they aren't CIA, NSA, or the FBI. They aren't MI-5 or the SAS. They aren't even spies working in Iraq.
They are members of the Iraqi National Congress, an Iraqi opposition group made up of millionaires and businessmen, former Baathist henchmen, and generals who aided Saddam in his formative years but felt threatened by him and defected. Most of the INC's ruling hierarchy is comprised of people who have not set foot in Iraq in more than 30 years. Some, have never set foot in Iraq. And yet they claim to be experts.
Many members of the INC have personal vendettas against Saddam himself; former aides or accomplices who would believe they should be in his place. The INC has long believed that they can never wrestle control from Saddam (because no one in Iraq much cares for them and considers them charlatans) and must rely on outside help - the U.S. Consequently, the INC launched a massive public relations gambit to convince the U.S. that it should intervene in Iraq.
(Earlier in March, the CIA admitted that an invaluable document linking Niger with Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium had been forged - a claim initially made by IAEA head Mohammed Al Baradei. The CIA said that the document had been forged by a third party. Guess who? No, not Israel. The INC.)
They met with members of the neo-conservative lobby (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, etc) and gave them exactly the type of information everyone was waiting to hear. "Enter Iraq with a formidable army, and the people will greet you with open arms and cheers."
No one stopped to question whether the INC was really telling the truth or whether 13 years of sanctions, which have crippled Iraqi society, may have played a role in slightly altering this view.
So, with a valiant cheer letting loose the bastard dogs of war, the U.S. administration took the INC advice, sold the U.S. public on the idea and ignored the advice of most of the senior military brass warning that an invasion would not be a cake-walk.
Iraq scoffed at the notion of Iraqis embracing the invading armies and promised hell instead.
That may yet prove true.
In the first few hours of the war, Iraqis in Baghdad hinted to this writer that some would welcome U.S. forces. However, the night of "shock and awe" changed all that. Iraqi sources inside Iraq are now saying the bombing campaigns shocked the Iraqis to the spectre of annihilation as poorly equipped hospitals began to quickly fill up with civilian casualties and fatalities.
Iraqi doctors were awed by the lack of medicine and proper facilities to treat the wounded as U.N. sanctions have crippled the Iraqi health care system.
U.S. media, largely CNN, dedicated nearly 0.5 percent of their airtime to the civilian toll in Iraq. Instead, they showed us interviews with "Iraqis" living in the U.S. who were cheering the war. I recently asked a prominent Iraqi exile what he thought of the statements made by these Iraqis. He advised me to look at how long they have been outside Iraq and reminded me that bombs weren't falling on them.
Furthermore, what do you expect an Iraqi in the U.S. to say after hearing that the FBI was inviting some 11,000 U.S. based Iraqis to 'voluntary' interviews (MSNBC reports that the FBI has already interviewed 5,000 Iraqis in the U.S.) and that some Iraqis have been held for visa violations? As an Iraqi living in the U.S., a country about to invade your former country and sustain casualties, would you dare to say you oppose the war? Would you dare to say what you really felt in the post-9/11 frame of mind towards Muslims and Arabs?
No. You will tell them exactly what you know they want to hear, just like the INC, because you would fear for your future status in the U.S.
Another bit of misinformation that circulated is that once coalition forces 'liberate' southern Iraq, they would find the local populace taking arms up and fighting Saddam's loyalists forces. This couldn't be further from the truth. After their defeat in Kuwait in 1991, Saddam's forces launched a bloody campaign against what they termed "Iraqi traitors and insurgents" in the south of Iraq. Any Iraqi rebel forces that survived that onslaught either fled to Saudi Arabia and ultimately for other destinations, or to Iran. In Iran, most were given sanctuary and some joined armed Iraqi forces there. One such force is the Badr Brigade, which is currently in the north of Iraq and vowing to fight Saddam loyalists in their own private war.
Other survivors of the 1991 backlash flooded the U.K. and the U.S. where they have been ever since. So who remains to 'rise up'?
The people of Basra, say the INC.
Let me get this straight: the same people of Basra that were denied clean water facilities because the U.S. barred Iraq from importing vital water filtration systems for the past 13 years? The same Basra where the effects of depleted uranium used by coalition forces in the last Gulf war have been documented by dozens of investigative medical organizations as causing cancer, disease, and other deformities? The same Basra where typhoid and cholera have become rampant because of the U.S.-supported U.N. sanctions? The same Basra where U.S. and U.K. fighter jets have struck in the past 12 years of the no-fly zone and inflicted heavy civilian casualties?
Or is it the Basra where civilian casualties number in the hundreds in this current war? The same Basra where an Iraqi father carried the limp body of his daughter, her right foot, barely identifiable, shattered and barely attached by a piece of dangling flesh (picture published in Globe and Mail - March 24, 2003)? That Basra?
Or is it the Basra where the local Iraqis have been without water and electricity for the past three days and are facing a humanitarian crisis?
Iraqis want a regime change? Yes, possibly, but the better question is, do they want it imposed from the outside with set rules and regulations dictated terms? Then the picture gets a bit hazy.
Tell the Iraqis that it is the U.S., the country they have been led to believe is the cause of all their travesty and suffering, that is coming to liberate them, and the picture becomes even more blurry.
The millionaires of the INC didn't care to provide the coalition with the real picture of events and conditions in Iraq. They wanted a war at all costs.
Today, the U.K. military forces near Basra have reported that the city is witnessing a civil uprising. Within hours, an Al Jazeera reporter reporting from the heart of Basra refuted these claims. So did Iraqi TV.
At press time, Iraqi TV and all telecommunications facilities in Baghdad were targeted and knocked off the air.
Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. He is a columnist for YellowTimes.org, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org