Unprovoked Attack on the UN in Iraq?
Ask the Iraqis!
by Jerre Skog
August 23, 2003
"Even when I had resigned and the secretary- general, encouraged by the French, the Russians, by the Malaysians, by the Chinese, [asked] for me to come and brief the Security Council, the British and the Americans tried to prevent that. They didn't want to hear what we had to say -- what I had to say at the time -- about the conditions."
-- Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq
The American-led quagmire in Iraq keeps sucking down ever more participants and more or less implicated bystanders. That the UN should be targeted might come as a bit of surprise, but the reality is that for most Iraqis the UN is not entirely the just and well-meaning world organization it might be for most westerners (except those Americans, of course, who either hate it, laugh at it or dismiss it). There is a cruel logic -- Iraqis may say justice -- behind the attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. The UN was just never there for them!
The attack on the 19th of August has so far, according to the latest reports, cost more than 20 lives (Robert Fisk has reported 23) and more than 100 wounded. What the final count will be we don't know. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described the bloody act, after someone blew up a cement truck filled with explosives in or near the UN hotel, as "an act of unprovoked and murderous violence". (The expected clichés from Rumsfeld and Bush are best forgotten like all else they say!) The coalition of master and puppet US/UK media and the usual "experts" blame the atrocity on "Saddam loyalists" or Al Qaeda-linked groups. For once Iran and North Korea are not blamed. Yet!
That Al Qaeda is accused is no surprise. According to many reports, individuals and groups, often with the standard alleged "links to Al Qaeda", are these days said to be drawn to Iraq in the hope of dealing the American/British occupiers a blow. Whether these individuals or groups really have any "links" to a central organization is not known and perhaps more of an American invention than the hard truth. If we are to believe what comes out of the White House, Al Qaeda and groups with "links" to Al Qaeda are to be blamed for every act of transgression in the world going beyond overdue library books and littering and it is probably just a question of time before we will be told that this ideal (and elusive) scapegoat has "links" to Pol Pot, Attila the Hun and Hitler. Should Bin Laden’s boys really be guilty of all they are accused of or linked to, the Pentagon would be too small to hold their planning department. But sure, imported warriors is a possibility. People who hate America and its client regimes are no scarce commodity in the Middle East. American president Bush has made sure that though Iraq was not earlier a hotbed of terrorism, at least now it is an irresistible magnet for it. Big surprise!
Saddam loyalists are another possibility, if we define those loyalists as all Iraqis who found life under Saddam Hussein, however troublesome, to be preferable to life under the American proconsul L. Paul Bremer, the American military commander and his trigger-happy boys and the profit-seeking American companies. Contrary to the White House myths, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wants to live under arrogant American rule. Especially since this for Iraq came to be at the price of 10,000 Iraqi lives and an untold number of wounded, and entails a standard of living where the crime rate, the blackouts and the water supply is even worse that in the US itself.
So, no surprise that things blow up now and then. Iraqis of all sorts have the same tendency to undermine the success of the occupier, by blowing up valuable facilities, even if it is detrimental to the Iraqi economy, as the Dutch or French had when they blew up railways, harbours and factories to sabotage the Nazis. The message to the occupier was and still is: GET OUT!
Whoever was behind the attack on UN's Baghdad HQ -- with biased American investigation seeking to pin the deed on "suitable" enemies with the usual catchy labels, not real ones -- might never be known. The possibilities are as plentiful as explosives in an Iraq that has been the target of sinister American manipulation and intervention since the 50's for its oil reserves.
The attack surely was, as Annan said, murderous! But was it unprovoked? Only if you see the individuals and not when you see UN-personnel as the UN, an organization that acts in certain ways. Do a lot of Iraqis have a reason for not loving the world organization that is supposed to bring peace and justice? The UN is in Iraq to provide humanitarian aid and protect the Iraqi people so how could it provoke anyone? Well an Iraqi might see it very differently. At least those with functioning memories
Eight years of Iran-Iraq war in the 80's, that killed perhaps half a million Iraqis, was engineered and supported by the US. In those days the main US enemy wasn't Iraq. The Iranian mullahs who kicked out America’s favourite dictator, the Shah, were #1 target at the time and good friend Saddam received plenty of hardware, toxins, anthrax and what have you from his American and British friends. Ordinary Iraqis were sent out to kill and play cannon-fodder for Saddam's imperial dreams and America's Iran-paranoia. The US acted and the UN was helpless. Those half a million killed might have had friends and relatives who don't easily forget.
There was a Gulf War I following the (very possibly invited by the US) Iraqi taking over of Kuwait. The UN was blackmailed, bribed and threatened to approve it. Yemen, which didn't, was punished by the US to the tune of several million dollars in stopped aid. According to many reports, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in that war, which might linger in some Iraqi minds. Perhaps a few future suicide bombers were born when they found out their fathers or relatives had been bulldozed, possibly alive, into a sandy mass grave by American forces in a UN-approved war.
For eleven years after that, the UN administered what can only be described as murderous sanctions on Iraq. Pressed by the US and the British, the UN sanctions took such a terrible toll on innocent civilian Iraqis that it makes 9-11 look like tea party. Life saving medicines were denied them, as were parts for repair of the bombed water-purification plants (another American violation of the Geneva convention). Ambulances bought within the food-for-oil programme couldn't have communications equipment. School children didn't even get pencils. (Some paranoid American genius imagined Saddam's scientists could split the pencils open, take out the graphite and use it for producing nukes.) The list of things the US blocked for sale to Iraq was as ridiculous as it was non-efficient in toppling Hussein. It succeeded in killing ordinary Iraqis though! Most estimates number the resulting victims between 500,000 and one million during the 11 years the sanctions were in place. Could maybe a father who saw his kid perish in a disease caused by unclean water, turn hateful and nourish a wish to hit back on UN who administered the sanctions and America/Britain who pressed for it? Would a "Saddam-loyalist" emerge after an Iraqi teenager boy had seen his favourite sister being operated on without anesthetics blocked by UN sanctions?
During the sanctions American and British aircraft regularly attacked "targets" in Iraq. (Without UN mandate, but with the UN staying silent.) Just during 1999, according to UN Coordinator Hans von Sponeck, no less than 132 airstrikes took place while a world stood by and watched. The number of civilians killed and maimed during 11 years of repeated bombings must be in the thousands. Good enough to bring hate to the hearts of some surviving loved ones?
UN weapons inspectors included for some time American spies informing Pentagon and the CIA of important details of Iraqi defence. What the spy satellites didn't get, some American spies in UN uniform probably found out. Sold out and disarmed by the UN? That might be how many Iraqis see things. If that wasn't enough, after the war was "won", the UN Security Council gave the US/UK approval for its occupation of the attacked country. An understandable reaction but still a blank check for the aggressor to continue its rape of Iraq. Abandoning the victim in the hands of the perpetrator is a good parallel but hardly an act that puts the UN in good light where the victim is concerned.
And the final insult!
Israel has for decades, just like Iraq, flouted repeated UN resolutions and has without a doubt, and unlike Iraq, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Israel has for thirty years illegally occupied Palestinian land! So where are the UN sanctions on Israel? Where are the regular bombings? Where are weapons inspectors? Where are the American assaults? Where is the American/British occupation under an arrogant American administrator, house-searches in the middle of the night (another favourite Nazi-method) and the rebuilding of a land bombed back to the 20's? Or should we ask ourselves: Where is the OIL? The Iraqis know!
When the US was hit and 3000 died in the attack on the World Trade Center, a majority of Americans rallied (around the worst president so far to soil the carpets of the White House) and screamed for revenge. After wars and sanctions for a decade in Iraq, the country has lost something in the region of TWO MILLION countrymen. Bombed, gassed, bleeding to death, burning to ashes or simply quietly succumbing to illness and disease caused by lack of medicines and equipment withheld by American directive and obediently administered by UN. The number of wounded temporarily or forever could be double, triple or quadruple that number. After 9-11 the US had to turn Afghanistan into rubble to feel revenge had been done, well for a bit at least. The criminals in the White House and Pentagon might try to figure out how many Americans have to die for Iraq to get even! Kofi Annan might contemplate all those times when he should have opened his mouth in condemnation and resigned instead of staying silent and allowing the US to blackmail the world organization into being an accomplice to murder.
UN's former humanitarian co-ordinators for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck and Dennis Halliday, spoke out against the murderous sanctions and resigned in protest to what was being done in the name of the world community. For the sake of truth and justice, many more ought to have had the same courage!
Many Iraqis know that the UN, at least halfheartedly, tried to do what it could to stop the war and the American aggression. Countries like France and Germany objected in spite of strong American threats and, the UN Charter being what it is, the situation is often impossible. Many understand the complicated game of power played in the Security Council and know what blackmail, threats and bribes can do when wielded by a country like the US, prepared to use every dollar and every bomb at its disposal to get its way.
Some Iraqis don't accept that the UN allows itself to be dominated by a rogue US violating all rules of international law. They will not forget the sanctions imposed on them by a UN too cowardly to speak up. They will not forget how American might, fuelled by lies, turned the most modern and prosperous country in the Middle East into ruins!
That's why the American-led quagmire in Iraq will for a long, long time take its toll in human lives. Iraqi, American and others. After all what's a few more lives compared to the millions already in their graves? What's a few more buildings compared to the devastation caused by American and British bombs?