JSalloum on Fri, 18 Dec 1998 19:00:33 EST

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Syndicate: again

Press Release: immediate


On Thursday 17 December, Mick Hume, editor of LM magazine said:

'Are we supposed to believe that Baghdad is being blitzed because the
Iraqis refused to hand over some pieces of paper? Perhaps they are "memos
of mass destruction". It appears that, while the Americans only have
invisible Stealth bombers, the Iraqis must have an entire invisible nuclear
and chemical weapons industry.

'The new war on Iraq has all the hallmarks of a political stunt, staged
with Cruise missiles to suit the domestic and global agendas of the
American and British governments. If Saddam Hussein did not exist, Tony
Blair and Bill Clinton would need to invent him. After all, Batman and
Robin always need a cartoon villain to make them look the good guys.'

'Degrading' Iraq

Ignore all the hand-wringing about 'weapons of mass 
destruction'; the bombing of Iraq was driven by internal 
American politics, argues Brendan O'Neill

Tony Blair justified Britain and America's missile blitz on Iraq as an
attempt to protect the world from an evil dictator: 'Saddam's threat is now
and it is a threat to his region, to his people and to the security of the
world.' But this image of Iraq holding the world to ransom by developing
'weapons of mass destruction' turns reality on its head. As evidenced by
the Iraqi army's attempts to hold off US Navy cruise missiles with heavy
machine gun fire, it is Britain and America who have the weapons of mass

According to Blair and Clinton, the attack was a response to Iraq's
continual blocking of UN weapons inspectors UNSCOM. Blair describes Saddam
as 'a serial breaker of promises'. Dishonesty, it seems, is now a capital
offence (although not in Washington). The main complaint from UNSCOM is
that Iraq has been 'withholding documents'. Lacking any real evidence that
the Iraqi regime is developing weapons of mass destruction, UNSCOM demanded
that Iraqis submit documents from factories and suspected 'weapon houses',
which might shed light on what the regime is up to. They have even demanded
access to the Baath Party headquarters and the right to dig up the floors
of the presidential palaces. While American F117 Stealth fighters and RAF
Tornado GR1s drop bombs on Baghdad, perhaps the only thing the Iraqis can
be accused of is hiding 'memos of mass destruction'.

Blair and Clinton have the gall to depict Saddam as a threat, when in
reality the United Nations security council has spent the past seven years
forcing Iraq back to the stone age. Much of Iraq's industry was destroyed
in the Gulf War of 1991, when 250 000 bombs were dropped and, according to
the respected British Medical Journal, up to 180 000 Iraqis were killed;
there were only about 150 fatalities among the Allied forces. Since then, a
UN blockade on Iraqi oil sales - its principal export - has further
crippled the country's economy, leaving it desperately short of money to
buy food and medicine.

There is no evidence to support Britain and America's claim that Iraq is a
threat which must be crushed. So what is behind this latest attack? 

It clearly has nothing to do with the Middle East, where earlier this week
Clinton claimed he wanted to unite Arabs and Israelis as part of the
stalling 'peace process'; how could dropping bombs in the region be part of
this same policy? Rather the air strikes are driven by internal US
problems. The American government is seeking to assert its authority abroad
to help alleviate its problems at home. The transparent and self-serving
nature of the attack is illustrated by America's isolation in taking this
action. The UN secretary-general Kofi Annan registered his opposition to
the air strikes by saying that his thoughts are with the men and women of
Iraq. Other members of the UN security council are either openly hostile,
like China and Russia, or quietly hostile, like France. Such differing
views among the leaders of the 'international community' expose the
artificiality of the US campaign. 

But America's decision is not just about 'timing', as the 'wag the dog'
theorists argue, with Clinton supposedly bombing Iraq simply because he is
about to face impeachment procedures. Military intervention abroad points
to more deep-seated problems in countries like America and Britain. At a
time when hardly anything at home goes right for Clinton he needs the
international stage on which to assert his authority. He has clearly
decided that Iraqi lives are expendable in the attempt to bolster his
position as the world's moral policeman and to counter the American view of
the president as 'Sick Willie'.

What of Blair's role in all of this? Far from being America's poodle, Blair
has been the most aggressive advocate of attacking Iraq. He has assumed the
moral high-ground, looking down on Iraq as an inferior country that needs
to be taught a lesson or two. As politics' Mr Clean, Blair can get away
with anything; including demanding that Saddam follows orders and
threatening to 'degrade' him if he doesn't. Welcome to New Labour's
'humanitarian' foreign policy.

Groups opposing the bombing of Iraq are protesting outside Downing Street
on Thursday 17 December and Friday 18 December at 6.00pm GMT, and on
Saturday 19 December at 1.00pm GMT

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