NEW YORK — A crowd of 1000 filled Stuyvesant High School auditorium on May 17 to hear former US attorney general Ramsey Clark outline 19 specific violations of international law committed by the United States and its allies in the Gulf War.
Clark was joined in the opening session of the Commission of Inquiry on US War Crimes in the Gulf by Dr Nawal El Saadawi, the convener of the Egyptian Commission of Inquiry and Bill Bowring, chair of the commission in Britain.
Citing articles from the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the United States Constitution, Clark charged George Bush and other US officials with crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Saying that "we recognise our role in history to bring the transgressors to justice", Clark charged that the US and allied actions in the Gulf were not so much a war as "a use of technology to destroy a defenceless country".
For seven hours, evidence was presented on the extensive and deliberate destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, including electrical grids, water purification and pumping facilities, communications, roads and bridges, food supply, irrigation and sewage systems, health and other civilian centres by eyewitnesses who had travelled to Iraq during and following the war.
Compelling video testimony was shown including the footage from the bombing of the Al-Ameriyah air raid shelter on February 13 that incinerated hundreds of women and children who had taken refuge there from the round-the-clock attacks.
Images of destroyed neighbourhoods, shrapnel and burn victims, dehydrated and undernourished children in hospitals lacking electricity and necessary drugs were displayed in a photo exhibit.
Among the 25 people testifying at this first hearing were attorney Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Brian Becker, who travelled with Mohammad Ali to Iraq in November 1990; Ann Montgomery of the Gulf Peace Team; Adeeb Abed, member of the Commission fact-finding team to Iraq and Jordan; E. Faye Williams, participant of the Women's peace ship that was attacked by US military forces in the Gulf in December 1990; Paul Walker, a weapons expert; and Huda Gwazawneh, a Palestinian woman from the West Bank.
A panel on the domestic costs of the war testified to the cruel budget cuts that will affect millions of poor people, workers, students, and children as "collateral damage" in the US. Anti-Arab attacks and rising racism were detailed by speakers as part of the pro-war sentiment created by the Pentagon.
The Commission of Inquiry for an International War Crimes Tribunal was initiated by Ramsey Clark and the National Coalition to Stop US ddle East following Clark's February trip to Iraq, where he witnessed the severe civilian damage caused by the air war.
Evidence gathered at hearings in many countries will be presented to an international tribunal in January 1992.