Iraq - The great Cover-Up
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Iraq - The great Cover-Up

February 23, 2001

IRAQ: THE GREAT COVER-UP " economic embargo whose viciousness has been compared with a medieval siege.

CHECHNYA-DEPORTATION DAY "On February 23, 1944, Stalin deported nearly 500,000 Chechens to Siberia and Central Asia."

As terrible as what the Israelis, with their superpower American ally (and European connivance), are doing to the Palestinians, what has been and is being done to the Iraqis and the Chechnyans is also truly appauling. Today is Chechnyan "Deportation Day". And a few weeks ago the excellent British journalist and fim documentary maker, John Philger, wrote the following further exposing U.S. and U.K. complicity in the deaths of still more hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Friday, February 23, 2001 - 5:00-6:00pm
Russian Embassy, 2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW - Washington, DC

The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya will hold a candlelight vigil to raise concern about the humanitarian catastrophe in Chechnya and to commemorate Deportation Day, February 23. On February 23, 1944, Stalin deported nearly 500,000 Chechens to Siberia and Central Asia. One-third of the deported population died in transit or while living in exile. With this in mind, ACPC seeks to draw attention to the suffering caused by the current conflict in Chechnya.

The war in Chechnya has produced over 400,000 refugees (40 percent of the population) as Chechen civilians are being subjected to bombings, shootings, arbitrary arrests, summary executions and torture. Although the Russian government continues to argue that the aim of this war is to root out Chechen terrorists, it is clear that use of force is indiscriminate.

The vigil will coincide with events being planned by organizations in Denmark, France, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Turkey and Russia to commemorate Deportation Day in an international effort to raise awareness about ongoing human rights abuses in Chechnya.


By John Pilger*

[19 Jan. 2001] - On the eve of an election campaign, the Blair government is attempting, with desperation, to suppress a scandal potentially greater than the arms-to-Iraq cover-up. This is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps many more caused by decisions taken in Whitehall and Washington. Moreover, the evidence of deceit and lying points to at least two Cabinet ministers and three junior ministers. At its centre is the unerring, wilful destruction of a whole society, Iraq, the aim of which is to keep the regime in Baghdad weak enough to be influenced by the west and yet strong enough to control its own people.

This is longstanding Anglo-American policy. Contrary to the propaganda version about protecting Iraq's ethnic peoples, the objective is to prevent a Kurdish secession in the north and the establishment of a Shi'ite religious state in the rest of the country, while maintaining the west's dominance of the region and its access to cheap oil.

The victims of this policy are 20 million Iraqis, uniquely isolated from the rest of humanity by an economic embargo whose viciousness has been compared with a medieval siege. The word "genocide" has been used by experts on international law and other cautious voices , such as Denis Halliday, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, who resigned as the UN's senior humanitarian official in Iraq, and Hans von Sponeck, his successor, who also resigned in protest. Each had 34 years at the UN and were acclaimed in their field; their resignations, along with the head of the World Food Programme in Baghdad, were unprecedented.

After more than a decade of sanctions, no one on the Security Council wants them except the United States and Britain. The French foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, has called them "cruel, because they exclusively punish the Iraqi people and the weakest among them, and ineffective, because they don't touch the regime". Had Saddam Hussein said on television "we think the price is worth it", referring to UNICEF's figure of half a million child deaths, he would have been called a monster by the British government. Madeleine Albright said that. Whitehall remained silent.

The Blair government has played the traditional role of Washington's proxy with particular enthusiasm. The latest Security Council resolution, 1284, was drafted by British officials in New York. They are said to be proud of it. Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister, constantly refers to it as "Iraq's way out". In fact, it is a specious set of demands, requiring the return of weapons inspectors, but not offering any guarantee that sanctions will be suspended if the regime complies. Last year, Jon Davies, then head of the Iraq desk at the Foreign Office, admitted the "lack of clarity in exactly what the provisions will be". The suspicion all along, says Dr. Eric Herring, the Bristol University specialist, is that "US and British policy is one of continually moving or hiding the goalposts so that compliance [by Iraq] becomes impossible and so that the sanctions cannot be lifted.

In recent months, in the columns of the New Statesman and the Guardian, Peter Hain has defended a sanctions regime that, says UNICEF, is a principal cause of the deaths of at least 180 children every day. Hain's articles and letters are scripted by Foreign Office officials using the familiar, weasel lexicon that denied British support for the Khmer Rouge, the use of Hawk aircraft in East Timor and the illegal shipment of weapons parts to Britain' s favourite 1980s tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Sir Richard Scott's inquiry acknowledged their "culture of lying".

You get a sense of the scale of lying from Hain's latest letter to the NS (15 January) in which he claimed that "about $l6bn of humanitarian relief was available to the Iraqi people last year". Quoting UN documents, Hans von Sponeck replies in this issue (page 37) that the figure was actually for four years and that, after reparations are paid to Kuwait and the oil companies, Iraq is left with just $100 a year with which to keep one human being alive. That Hain does not appear even to question the competence of those who write his disinformation is remarkable. That he allows the bureaucracy of a rapacious order he once opposed to invoke his anti-apartheid record is a bleak irony. That he is said privately to have serious doubts about sanctions, which he rejected for Zimbabwe, saying they would "hurt the ordinary people, not the elite", is a measure of his ambition, and perhaps explains why he refuses to engage his critics, preferring rhetoric and abuse. Each time he calls a principled, informed critic, such as Halliday and von Sponeck, "a dupe of Saddam Hussein", there is an echo of the apartheid regime calling a young Hain "a dupe of communism".

The sanctions issue is one of three related scandals involving epic suffering and loss of life. The truth about the effects of depleted uranium in shells fired in the l99l Gulf War and NATO's 1999 attack on Yugoslavia, is that the Americans and British waged a form of nuclear warfare on civilian populations, disregarding the health and safety of their own troops. This was largely to test the Pentagon's post-cold war strategy of "all out war".

On 9 January, John Spellar, the Defence Minister, told the House of Commons that the conclusion of many years of research showed "there is no evidence linking DU to cancers or to the more general ill health being experienced by some Gulf veterans". This echoes Peter Hain, who said there had been "no credible research data". In fact, the data is credible and voluminous, dating back to the development of the atomic bomb in 1943, when Brigadier General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, warned that particles of uranium used in ammunition could cause "permanent lung damage". In 1991 the UK Atomic Energy Authority warned that, if particles from merely 8 per cent of the DU used in the Gulf were inhaled, there could be "300,000 potential deaths".

Spellar claimed there had been no rise in the number of kidney ailments or cancers among veterans of the Gulf War. The Ministry of Defence has been told by the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association of a dramatic increase in both diseases among veterans. Last year, Speller said: "We are unaware of anything that shows depleted uranium has caused any ill health or death of people who served in Kosovo or Bosnia." Again, this was false.

NATO's own guidelines include: "Inhalation of insoluble depleted uranium dust particles has been associated with long-term health effects including cancers and birth defects." It was only after six Italian soldiers, who had served in Kosovo, died from leukaemia, that the scandal caused panic in NATO, with the Defence Secretary, Geoffrey Hoon, contradicting himself, saying DU posed a "limited risk", then "no risks", then, bizarrely, that it is "protecting British forces".

For the Iraqi people, however, the cover-up continues. What has been striking about the political and media reaction over the past fortnight is that most of the victims of depleted uranium have rated barely a mention. Yet Tony Blair himself was made aware of their suffering when he was sent, in March 1999, UN statistics, published in the British Medical Journal, showing a sevenfold increase in cancer in southern Iraq between 1989 and 1994.

It is in southern Iraq that the theoretical figure of "500,000 potential deaths" can be applied, in a desert landscape where the dust gets in your eyes, nose and throat, swirling around people in the street and children in playgrounds. In Basra's hospitals, the cancer wards are overflowing.

Before the Gulf War, they did not exist. "The dust carries death," Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, a cancer specialist and member of Britain's Royal College of Physicians, told me. "Our own studies indicate that more than 40 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer in five years' time to begin with, then long afterwards. Most of my own family now have cancer and we have no history of the disease. It has spread to the medical staff of this hospital. We are living through another Hiroshima. Of course, we don't know the precise source of the contamination, because we are not allowed [under sanctions] to get the equipment to conduct a proper scientific survey, or even to test the excess level in our bodies. We suspect depleted uranium. There simply can be no other explanation."

The Sanctions Committee in New York has blocked or delayed a range of cancer diagnostic equipment and drugs, even painkillers. Professor Karol Sikora, as chief of the cancer programme of the World Health Organization, wrote in the British Medical Journal: "Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Sanctions Committee]. There seems to be a rather ludicrous notion that such agents could be converted into chemical or other weapons." Professor Sikora told me: "The saddest thing I saw in Iraq was children dying because there was no chemotherapy and no pain control. It seemed crazy they couldn't have morphine, because for everybody with cancer pain, it is the best drug. When I was there, they had a little bottle of aspirin pills to go around 200 patients in pain." Although there have since been improvements in some areas, more than 1,000 life-saving items remain "on hold" in New York, with Kofi Annan personally appealling for their release "without delay".

I interviewed Professor Doug Rokke, the US Army health physicist who led the "clean-up" of depleted uranium in Kuwait. He now has 5,000 times the permissible level of radiation in his body, and is ill. "There can be no reasonable doubt about this," he said. "As a result of the heavy metal and radiological poison of DU, people in southern Iraq are experiencing respiratory problems, breathing problems, kidney problems, cancers. Members of my own team have died or are dying from cancer.At various meetings and conferences, the Iraqis have asked for the normal medical treatment protocols. The US Department of Defense and the British Ministry of Defence have refused them. I attended a conference in Washington where the Iraqis came looking for help. They approached myself, officials of the Defense Department and the British MoD. They were told it was their responsibility; they were rebuffed."

The third strand in the cover-up is the killing of Iraqi civilians by RAF and American aircraft in the "no-fly zones". As Hans von Sponeck points out in his letter, these violate international law. In a five-month period surveyed by the UN Security Sector, almost half the casualties were civilians. I interviewed eyewitnesses to one of the attacks described in the UN report. A shepherd family of six - a grandfather, the father and four children - were killed by a British or American pilot, who made two passes at them in open desert. Pieces of the missile lay among the remains of their sheep. United Nations staff - not Iraqi government - confirmed in person the facts of this atrocity. The Blair government has spent (Pounds) 800 million bombing Iraq.

In his 15 January letter to the NS, Peter Hain described my reference to the possibility that he, along with other western politicians, might find themselves summoned before the new International Criminal Court as "gratuitous". It is far from gratuitous. A report for the UN Secretary General, written by Professor Marc Bossuyt, a distinguished authority on international law, says that the "sanctions regime against Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing human rights law" and "could raise questions under the Genocide Convention". His subtext is that if the new court is to have authority, it cannot merely dispense the justice of the powerful. A growing body of legal opinion agrees that the court has a duty, as Eric Herring wrote, to investigate "not only the regime, but also the UN bombing and sanctions which have violated the human rights of Iraqi civilians on a vast scale by denying them many of the means necessary for survival. It should also investigate those who assisted [Saddam Hussein's] programmes of now prohibited weapons, including western governments and companies."

Last year, Peter Hain blocked a parliamentary request to publish the full list of culpable British companies. Why? A prosecutor might ask why, then ask who has killed the most number of innocent people in Iraq: Saddam Hussein, or British and American murderous policy-makers? The answer may well put the murderous tyrant in second place.

* John Pilger is an internationally acclaimed documentary film journalist whose programs have been shown throughout the world.

February 2001


(February 27, 2001)
Was it the Likud Party, or the Labor Party, that authorized more illegal settlements in the occupied territories since the Gulf War and the Madrid Peace Conference?

(February 26, 2001)
For those who still needed proof of the cravenness and duplicity of Israel's Labor Party, the party that spawned "Peace Now" and "Oslo" among other gross deceptions, it came today.

Defectors say Iraq tested Nuclear Bomb
(February 25, 2001)
When Iraq was more overtly building nuclear weapons, the Israelis struck in 1981 destroying the Osirak reactor near Baghdad that could have provided the crucial processed uranium fuel.

"Go back, we don't want you"
(February 24, 2001)
General Colin Powell, now combining even more closely than usual the Pentagon with the State Department, was afraid to go to Gaza; and rightly so.

The Hebron MASSACRE - 7 long years ago
(February 24, 2001)
Abraham's dysfunctional family has had unbelieveable historical ramifications for which the focal point today is Hebron, site of Abraham's burial place, a religious site to both Jews and Muslim alike who are today quite literally at each other's throats.

Council on foreign relations help legitimize Sharon
(February 23, 2001)
The Council on Foreign Relations, New York-power elite-based but in recent years integrating more with the Washington government and corporate elite, has been for quite some time, to put it bluntly, a rather tricky and chicanery Israeli-oriented Zionist center when it comes to matters relevant to Israel.

Iraq - The great Cover-Up
(February 23, 2001)
As terrible as what the Israelis, with their superpower American ally (and European connivance), are doing to the Palestinians, what has been and is being done to the Iraqis and the Chechnyans is also truly appauling.

Arab expulsion admitted by Sharon Ally
(February 22, 2001)
One day maybe Israel -- like South Africa and Chile before it -- will have some kind of "truth finding" commission to try to purge itself of the past.

Protests in Jordan
(February 22, 2001)
If it weren't for the Hashemite Regime in today's Jordan, yesterday's Transjordan, and before that the East Bank of Palestine, the Israelis would never have been able to vanquish the Palestinian people in days past and would never be able to do to the remaining Palestinians what is happening today.

Powell and Sharon - Street protests?
(February 21, 2001)
Clearly, the US is rushing to court unpopularity across the world, contrary to expectations that the Bush national security establishment would conduct itself with a degree of sophistication.

"This is only the beginning"
(February 21, 2001)
The crippling is not just physical. Psychologically, culturally, economically, and even morally, the Palestinian people are being twisted and tortured beyond all recognition of their former selves.

Gaza Ghetto, Gaza Concentration Camp, Gaza Prison
(February 19, 2001)
For four months, the Gaza Strip has been effectively isolated from the world. Over 1 million Palestinians are caged in an area of not more than 365km2.

Locked in an Orwellian eternal war
(February 19, 2001)
President Bush Jr didn't seem so confident the other day as he told the world of the newly increased bombing of Iraq. But he made it clear that "until the world is told otherwise" the Americans are convinced they run the world and it is up to them to decide whom to bomb, whom to favor, whom to take out, whom to reward.

Arafat collapsing
(February 16, 2001)
The Arafat Regime is collapsing. Here are some of the details, twisted somewhat of course because the reports are from Israel's best newspaper, Ha'aretz, in view of the fact that Palestinian and Arab news sources are unable and unwilling to provide such insights.

The realization, "perhaps the dream"
(February 16, 2001)
Out of the cycle of violence the gradual, hesitant understanding - perhaps the dream - will grow, that the only way is through a struggle to create a land of Israel/Palestine that is undivided in both physical and human terms, pluralistic and open; a land in which civilized relations, human touch, intimate coexistence and a link to a common homeland would be stronger than militant tribalism and the separation into national ghettoes.

"Collective suicide" or Zionism united?
(February 15, 2001)
If there is a national unity government, it will be evident that the differences between Labour as the main branch of the left and the Likud as the main branch of the right are not that big.

Death and assissination
(February 14, 2001)
It didn't take long for the Israelis, now Sharon-led, to start creating the escalating provocations that will then bring about still more Palestinian rage which will then give the Israelis the excuse they seek to pulverize the Palestinians still harder, possibly destroying the regime they earlier created, and possibly leading to another Palestinian "nakbah" (disaster).

Israelis strike, Palestinians without strategy
(February 13, 2001)
The Israelis have had a long-term strategy for a very long time; and they have pursued it regardless of what party was in power and who happened to be Prime Minister of the moment.

Dozens of Palestinians wounded
(February 12, 2001)
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank Monday as Israel's rightwing Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon sought to forge a unity government.

"Holy war" is forever
(February 12, 2001)
Fifty four years ago when an international commission of that day was hearing from Jews and Arabs about what the new U.N. should do about Palestine there was testimony from very credible and very establishment Jewish Zionist sources opposing creation of a "separatist Jewish State" precisely because it would bring about an unending conflict with the Palestinian Arab population.

War preparations continue
(February 11, 2001)
The Arafat Regime, the "Authority", is near collapse -- not just financially, but credibility wise as well. The Israeli government is near "unity" -- with General Sharon in charge.

The PA is about to collapse
(February 10, 2001)
How ironic history can be. After generations of struggle and such suffering the regime that rules the Palestinians is now in the hands of Ariel Sharon representing Israel, the U.S. Congress representing the financial levers of the American Empire, and the European governments which in this situation operate on the pretense that they are better than either of the above.

Rocking Israel to its Biblical core
(February 9, 2001)
Well if King David was a nebbish (modern translation might be "nerd"), one has to wonder how history will record Ariel Sharon, the man with such a past whom the Jews of Israel have just overwhelming elected their leader.

Sharon maneuvers for starting position
(February 9, 2001)
It's time for serious political confusion and disinformation now. As the armies prepare themselves for the clashes likely to come in one form or another, the politicians maneuver for new starting positions.

Clinton pardoned Mossad spy for Israelis
(February 9, 2001)
The Israelis adore Bill Clinton, as all the pollsters know. Deep down even the common everyday Israelis know he was their man in the White House.

The many crimes of Ariel Sharon
(February 8, 2001)
Some incorrigible optimists have suggested that only a right-wing extremist of the notoriety of Likud leader Ariel Sharon will have the credentials to broker any sort of lasting settlement with the Palestinians.

Sharon wastes no time - Arafat bows
(February 7, 2001)
We will give him the benefit of the doubt. If he comes with good ideas that will bring us closer to the peace process, why not? The world has seen many such situations before.

Holy war for Jerusalem
(February 7, 2001)
We're on the way now to a new and expanded struggle, maybe even a religious war, Jerusalem the focalpoint.

The cold logic of Sharon
(February 7, 2001)
Many Israelis just stayed home. Others cast a blank vote. But a considerable minority thrust Ariel Sharon into the greatest electoral landslide in that country's history -- obviously as well an overwhelming majority of those who did vote.

Sharon wins and Peres wants in
(February 6, 2001)
He may be a brutish thug, he may fit the definition of war criminal, he may be a Jewish racist -- but now he is also the Prime Minister-elect of Israel, overwhelmingly swept into power in a way few imagined possible just a year ago.

All sides now committed to escalation
(February 6, 2001)
Now the real craziness begins. The Palestinians are committed to heating things up to demonstrate their resolve and their capabilities. The Israelis are committed to "stopping the violence" which means clamping the boot down on the Palestinians even more harshly.

The legacy of Ariel Sharon
(February 5, 2001)
This is a place of filth and blood which will forever be associated with Ariel Sharon. In Israel today, he may well be elected prime minister.

BBC casts doubt of Pan AM convictions
(February 5, 2001)
In advance of whatever the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is going to produce as "evidence" of innocence today, the BBC has published the following story quoting the very Scottish law professor who arranged the trial in The Netherlands casting great doubt about the veracity of the verdict reached:

What's left of Israel's left
(February 5, 2001)
What's left of Israel's left is in a fractured and demoralized state of affairs. Not only is Ariel Sharon about to become Israel's Prime Minister, but in all likelihood he is to be swept into power tomorrow in a landslide unprecedented in Israel's history.

The Pan Am 103 Verdict
(February 3, 2001)
The papers are filled with pictures of happy relatives of the victims of the 1988 bombing of PanAm 103. A Libyan, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, was just found guilty of the bombing by a Scottish court in the Hague, his co-defendant, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, being acquitted... What's wrong is that the evidence against Megrahi is thin to the point of transparency.

Rivers of blood
(February 2, 2001)
The bloodiness and racism of Sharon's past is fact. And these two articles help bring that past forward to the present.

Waiting for Sharon
(February 2, 2001)
They believe a Sharon victory will be a boon for their cause. 'He will expose the true face of Israel,' says an activist in Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement in Nablus, 'and force the world, including the US, to address its real responsibilities to the peace process...

Israeli Arabs boycott Barak, await Sharon
(February 1, 2001)
As the extreme right-wing revolution in Israel nears, as Ariel Sharon and friends prepare to take over political power, the "Israeli Arab vote" will not be enough to save Ehud Barak, and in fact it will not even be mobilized on his behalf this time, though Yasser Arafat and his friends have surely tried.

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