THE SECRET WAR ON IRAQ
By John Pilger
The Mirror, UK, 19 December 2002:
THE American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the
Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that "no final
decision has been taken", Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have
secretly changed tactics and escalated their "patrols" over Iraq to
an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets.
American and British bombing of Iraq has increased by 300 per cent.
Between March and November, according to Ministry of Defence replies
to MPs, the RAF dropped more than 124 tonnes of bombs.
>From August to December, there were 62 attacks by American F-16
>aircraft and RAF Tornadoes - an average of one bombing raid every
>two days. These are said to have been aimed at Iraqi "air defences",
>but many have fallen on mostly populated areas, where civilian
>deaths are unavoidable.
Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and
international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no
different, in principle, from the German Luftwaffe's bombing in Spain
in the 1930s as precursor to its invasion of Europe.
The bombing is a "secret war" that has seldom been news. Since 1991,
and especially in the last four years, it has been unrelenting and is
now deemed the longest Anglo-American campaign of aerial bombardment
since World War Two.
The US and British governments justify it by claiming they have a UN
mandate to police so-called "no-fly zones" which they declared
following the Gulf War. They say these "zones", which give them
control of most of Iraq's airspace, are legal and supported by UN
Security Council Resolution 688.
This is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any
Security Council resolution. To be sure about this, I asked Dr
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was Secretary General of the United
Nations in 1992 when Resolution 688 was passed. "The issue of no fly
zones was not raised and therefore not debated: not a word," he said.
"They offer no legitimacy to countries sending their aircraft to
In 1999, Tony Blair claimed the no fly zones allowed the US and
Britain to perform "a vital humanitarian task" in protecting the
Kurds in the north of Iraq and the ethnic Marsh Arabs in the south.
In fact, British and American aircraft have actually provided cover
for neighbouring Turkey's repeated invasions of northern, Kurdish
TURKEY is critical to the American "world order". Overseeing the
oilfields of the Middle East and Central Asia, it is a member of Nato
and the recipient of billion of dollars' worth of American weapons
and military equipment. It is also where British and American bombers
A long-running insurrection by Turkey's Kurdish population is
regarded by Washington as a threat to the "stability" of Turkey's
"democracy" that is a front for its military which is among the
world's worst violators of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of
Turkish Kurds have been displaced and an estimated 30,000 killed.
Turkey, unlike Iraq, is "our friend".
In 1995 and 1997, as many as 50,000 Turkish troops, backed by tanks
and fighter aircraft, occupied what the West called "Kurdish safe
They terrorised Kurdish villages and murdered civilians. In December
2000, they were back, committing the atrocities that the Turkish
military commits with immunity against its own Kurdish population.
For joining the US "coalition" against Iraq, the Turkish regime is to
be rewarded with a bribe worth $6billion. Turkey's invasions are
rarely reported in Britain. So great is the collusion of the Blair
government that, virtually unknown to Parliament and the British
public, the RAF and the Americans have, from time to time,
deliberately suspended their "humanitarian" patrols to allow the
Turks to get on with killing Kurds in Iraq.
In March last year, RAF pilots patrolling the "no fly zone" in
Kurdish Iraq publicly protested for the first time about their
enforced complicity in the Turkish campaign. The pilots complained
that they were frequently ordered to return to their base in Turkey
to allow the Turkish air force to bomb the very people they were
meant to be "protecting".
Speaking on a non-attributable basis to Dr Eric Herring, a senior
lecturer in politics at Bristol University and a specialist on Iraqi
sanctions, the pilots said whenever the Turks wanted to attack the
Kurds in Iraq, RAF patrols were recalled to base and ground crews
were told to switch off their radar - so that the Turks' targets
would not be visible. One British pilot reported seeing the
devastation in Kurdish villages caused by the attacks once he had
resumed his patrol.
AMERICAN pilots who fly in tandem with the British, are also ordered
to turn their planes around and turn back to Turkey to allow the
Turks to devastate the Kurdish "safe havens".
You'd see Turkish F-14s and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with
munitions," one pilot told the Washington Post. "Then they'd come out
half an hour later with their munitions expended." When the Americans
returned to Iraqi air space, he said, they would see "burning
villages, lots of smoke and fire."
The Turks do no more than American and British aircraft in their
humanitarian guise. The sheer scale of the Anglo-American bombing is
astonishing, with Britain a very junior partner. During the 18 months
to January 1999 (the last time I was able to confirm official US
figures) American aircraft flew 36,000 sorties over Iraq, including
24,000 combat missions.
The term "combat" is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no air
force and no modern air defences. Thus, "combat" means dropping bombs
or firing missiles at infrastructure that has been laid to waste by a
The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American
establishment, described this eloquently when it reported that the US
faced "a genuine dilemma" in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a
no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few targets remain.
"We're down to the last outhouse," one US official protested.
I have seen the result of these attacks. When I drove from the
northern city of Mosul three years ago, I saw the remains of an
agricultural water tanker and truck, riddled with bullet holes,
shrapnel from a missile, a shoe and the wool and skeletons of about
A family of six, a shepherd, his father and his wife and four
children, were blown to pieces here. It was treeless, open country: a
moonscape. The shepherd, his family and his sheep would have been
clearly visible from the air.
The shepherd's brother, Hussain Jarsis, agreed to meet me at the
cemetery where the family is buried. He arrived in an old Toyota van
with the widow, who was hunched with grief, her face covered. She
held the hand of her one remaining child, and they sat beside the
mounds of earth that are the four children's graves. "I want to see
the pilot who killed my children," she shouted across to us.
The shepherd's brother told me, "I heard explosions, and when I
arrived to look for my brother and family, the planes were circling
overhead. I hadn't reached the causeway when the fourth bombardment
took place. The last two rockets hit them.
"At the time I couldn't grasp what was going on. The truck was
burning. It was a big truck, but it was ripped to pieces. Nothing
remained except the tyres and the numberplate.
"We saw three corpses, but the rest were just body parts. With the
last rocket, I could see the sheep blasted into the air."
It was not known if American or British aircraft had done this. When
details of the attack were put to the Ministry of Defence in London,
an official said, "We reserve the right to take robust action when
threatened." This attack was significant, because it was investigated
and verified by the senior United Nations official in Iraq at the
time, Hans Von Sponeck, who drove there specially from Baghdad.
He confirmed that nothing nearby resembled a military installation.
Von Sponeck recorded his finding in a confidential internal document
entitled, "Air Strikes in Iraq", prepared by the UN Security Section
HE also confirmed dozens of similar attacks and these are documented
- attacks on villages, a fishermen's wharf, nearby a UN food
warehouse. So regular were the attacks that Von Sponeck ordered UN
relief convoys suspended every afternoon.
FOR this, Von Sponeck, a senior United Nations civil servant with a
distinguished career all over the world, made powerful enemies in
Washington and London.
The Americans demanded that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General,
sack him and were surprised when Annan stood by his chief
representative in Iraq.
However, within a few months, Von Sponeck felt he could no longer run
a humanitarian programme in Iraq that was threatened both by the
illegal bombing and by a deliberate American policy of blocking
He resigned in protest, just as his predecessor, Denis Halliday, a
Deputy Under Secretary of the UN, had done. Halliday called the US
and British-driven embargo "genocidal".
It is now clear from official documents that the United States is
preparing for a possible slaughter in Iraq.
The Pentagon's "Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations" says that unless
Baghdad falls quickly it has to be the target of "overwhelming
firepower". The resistance of Stalingrad in World War Two is given as
Cluster bombs, deep penetration "bunker" bombs and depleted uranium
will almost certainly be used. Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass
destruction. Coated on missiles, and tank shells, its explosive force
spreads radiation over a wide area, especially in the desert dust.
Professor Doug Rokke, the US army physicist in charge of cleaning up
depleted uranium in Kuwait told me, "I am like most -people in
southern Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation
in my body. What we're seeing now, respiratory problems, kidney
problems, cancers are the direct result.
"The controversy over whether or not it's the cause of these problems
is a manufactured one. My own ill-health is a testament to that."
THE most devastating weapon of mass destruction was briefly in the
news last week when Unicef, the United Nations children's Fund,
released its annual State of the World's Children report.
The human cost of the American-driven embargo of Iraq is spelt out in
statistics that require no comment.
"Iraq's child mortality rate has nearly tripled since 1990 to levels
found in some of the world's least-developed countries, " said the
"The country's regression over the past decade is by far the most
severe of the 193 countries surveyed.
Unicef said that a quarter of Iraqi babies were now underweight and
that more than a fifth were stunted from malnutrition."
Under the rules of the embargo, Iraqis are allowed less than #100 per
person with which to sustain life for an entire year.
To date, the cost of the current, "secret" and illegal British
bombing of Iraq is a billion pounds.