Washington's hidden war on Iraq

Issue 

Washington's hidden war on Iraq

Imagine the United States is involved in its most intense air war since the 1991 Gulf War, and its most protracted since the Vietnam War. As it bombs its “enemy” many times every day, it kills several dozen civilians, many of them children. Such an event would surely be on the front pages of every newspaper and the lead story on the TV and radio news, wouldn't it?

That is precisely what is happening in the skies above Iraq, yet Washington, governments throughout the world and the capitalist media are colluding to keep this brutal war out of the headlines so as to minimise debate and opposition within the US and neighbouring Arab countries.

Since December 28, US and British war planes have entered Iraq almost 3300 times, launched more than 100 separate attacks and dropped more than 300 missiles and bombs (many the size of Volkswagens).

The US claims its air raids are acts of “self-defence” in response to “provocations” by Iraqi pilots and air defence personnel — such as flying aircraft in the country's own air-space and detecting hostile war planes with radar!

Washington and London claim they have a right to patrol unilaterally declared “no-fly zones” in northern and southern Iraq. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf dictatorships allow US and British war planes to operate from their territory.

Despite US claims to the contrary, these zones have no legal standing. Washington cannot even point to a UN Security Council resolution as a fig leaf for its air piracy. The French military, which initially participated in the zones' enforcement after they were established soon after the 1991 Gulf War, pulled out last December.

The truth of Washington's claim to be acting in “self-defence” can be gauged by an account in the Washington Post on March 7: “A pilot ... peered out of the cockpit of his F/A-18 strike plane and saw the telltale puff of smoke from the launch of an Iraqi surface-to-air missile streaking toward his jet. The pilot ... calmly banked the aircraft away ... without firing a shot. It was left to other pilots, at another time, likely directed to another target, to retaliate.

“Calling up targets from pre-programmed lists in their on-board computers ... US and British pilots have for weeks answered such attacks by striking Iraqi military facilities ... tens or even hundreds of miles from the source of the provocation.”

Not a single US or British war plane has even been slightly damaged.

US and British pilots' “rules of engagement” have been expanded to allow them to hit any target believed to be associated with the Iraqi military, including civilian facilities with “dual-use” capacities, without even having to radio their commanders for permission! All they need is the slightest excuse — real or fabricated.

“Administration officials and military officers”, reported the Washington Post on March 3, “acknowledge they have deliberately sought to play down the scope of the operation ... to avoid antagonizing friendly Arab countries where sympathy for the Iraqi people runs deep, and to minimize questions at home.”

The media has played along, limiting its coverage to little more than bland paragraph-long news briefs. This pattern has only been disturbed when the attacks could not be ignored, such as in January when missiles smashed into people's homes near Basra, killing 17, or when a pipeline carrying oil exports for the “food-for-oil” program was attacked on February 28.

Washington's real goal is to systematically destroy Iraq's air defence systems and guarantee US and British air superiority over the more than 60% of Iraq covered by the no-fly zones. Beneath this shield, the emperors of the New World Order hope the Iraqi military can be encouraged to stage a coup, unseat Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-imperialist military dictator.

Washington knows that may be a long time coming, which is why it has budgeted $1.1 billion for no-fly zone enforcement for the year beginning October 1.

The fact that the US is forced to rely on such blunt instruments as massive air power and sanctions to encourage social unrest in the hope of provoking a coup shows US imperialism's weakness. Only a massive ground invasion can ensure Hussein's overthrow, yet Washington knows the US people will not accept the carnage that would entail.

In the meantime, the Iraqi people must endure a brutal air war, as well as the death and misery caused by sanctions. Activists must step up their efforts to expose this vicious US war against the people of Iraq and organise to end this terrible aggression against a crippled Third World country.