The Times of India, September 12, 2002
Say No to Bush
The World Must Stand by Iraq
By Siddharth Varadarajan
Here’s a simple quiz to mark the anniversary of 9/11. (a) Who is threatening to use aeroplanes to attack civilians and civilian installations like water treatment plants and power stations? (b) Who is refusing to rule out using nuclear weapons in his ‘holy war’? (c) Who is using television for a messianic propaganda campaign justifying this plan-ned terrorism? (d) Who is saying his fatwas count for more than international law? The correct answer to all these questions is not Osama bin Laden but George W Bush and the US administration.
One year after terrorists killed more than 3,000 innocent people in New York and Washington, the world is waiting nervously not for another murderous strike by Al-Qaida but for the bombs the US plans to drop on the equally innocent people of Iraq.
Regardless of the scripted dissension within, the Bush administration’s drive to open the Iraqi front in what is wrongly called the ‘War on Terrorism’ has crossed the point of no return. Massive US-UK air attacks have already taken place at al-Nukhaib, al-Baghdadi and the ‘H-3’ air defences in western Iraq. The war is already on.
And if you don’t believe the nukes threat, consider the August 27 interview given by the ranking US official on ‘arms control’, John Bolton, to Fuji-TV. Question: Is it possible that nuclear weapons will be used against Iraq? Bolton: Since there’s no decision on the use of military force, there’s no decision on exactly how it would be carried out.’’ Washington says the ‘crisis’ has been provoked by Saddam Hussein’s failure to allow UN inspectors to certify Iraq has rid itself of all proscribed weapons. ‘News’ is leaked to scare the world into believing Iraq has nuclear arms. At the same time, Mr Bush openly talks about ‘regime change’ as if it were the God-given right of the US to decide how the Iraqi people are to be governed.
Even on the weapons issue, the dishonesty of the US stand is self-evident. UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 687 mandates Iraqi disarmament, and for more than six years the UN Special Commission (Unscom) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited suspected weapons sites in Iraq to ensure compliance. On April 13, 1998, the IAEA certified that
Iraq had compiled a ‘‘full, final and complete’’ account of its previous nuclear projects and that there was no evidence of any prohibited activity. In December 1998, Unscom volun-tarily pulled out of Iraq on the eve of the US attack codenamed ‘Operation Desert Fox’. In its last month of inspections, according to Unscom head Richard Butler, the commission carried out as many as 427 inspections and reported Iraqi non- cooperation in only five of these. The truth is the US has never been interested in an objective, UN-run disarmament programme for Iraq. Washington deliberately pushed the limits of Iraqi tolerance by using Unscom inspections for espionage. Rolf Ekeus, a former head of Unscom, told Swedish Radio in July 2002 that at times, intrusive inspections were deliberately used by the US to create a crisis that could possibly form the basis for military action. Scott Ritter — a US marine who was part of Unscom and later admitted the CIA used him to spy against Iraq — has written that Iraq no longer has chemical and biological weapons programmes. ‘‘In all of their inspections, the (Unscom) monitors could find no meaningful evidence of Iraqi circumvention of its commitment not to reconstitute its biological weapons program’’, he wrote in Arms Control Today in June 2000.
Eleven years after Iraq was evicted from Kuwait, the country is subject to the tightest regime of economic sanctions ever imposed on any country. Despite the so-called ‘smart sanctions’ introduced by UNSC resolution 1409 in May this year, Iraq’s capacity to provide clean drinking water, electricity and sanitation is hampered by US objections to machinery imports. If food imports and the public distribution system are disrupted by a full-scale US attack, there will be a massive food shortage in Iraq.
Every UN resolution mandating Iraqi compliance with disarmament also explicitly states that Iraq’s sovereignty has to be respected. The US flouted these resolutions to establish illegal ‘no-fly zones’ over Iraqi airspace and has bombed the country hundreds of times in the past dec-ade. In March this year, Iraq submitted a list of 19 questions to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. Among these were (i) Can the UN guarantee the elimination of the two no-fly zones? (ii) How do you explain the stance of a permanent member of the Security Council which openly calls for the invasion of Iraq? Baghdad has yet to receive an answer.
The world has a right to demand that Iraq comply with its disarmament obligations but it must not legitimise US contempt for international law. Iraq has said it will allow UN weapons inspectors back provided they do not indulge in espionage and work according to a time-bound plan, and also provided there is synchronicity between the degree of Iraqi compliance and the phased elimination of sanctions. This is a reasonable proposal. The US, for its own domestic economic and political reasons, wants to press-gang the world into war. The UN must not allow its mandate of ensuring peace and security to be subverted by Washington. Under no circumstances must it be pushed into providing a ‘multilateral’ cover for US aggression.