Pity the Poor Iraqi

by Philip Greenspan

December 2, 2002


Pity the poor Iraqi. He is potentially a very rich man. His country sits on the second largest pool of oil assets in the world. But since 1980 he has suffered from wars and sanctions that brought poverty and misery to his people. Supposedly his misfortunes arose when Iraq's ruler, Saddam Hussein, did a no-no. He attacked and occupied neighboring Kuwait. But the US, the country most offended by that dastardly act, is the outstanding advocate and practitioner for regularly attacking a small weak country. Why? The country was showing signs of independence. Amongst its gallery are the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Cambodia and Grenada. In numerous other situations it calls on its puppet or surrogate to provide the muscle. Examples: Nicaragua, Guatemala, Columbia and Indonesia. (1)

No, Iraq's unprovoked attack against its neighbor was not the real reason. Ten years previously that same ruler had attacked a different neighbor, Iran. Not only did the US not object but was so delighted that it took Iraq off its shit list and became Iraq's major supplier of the war materials Iraq needed to wage its war. Anything and everything that Saddam wanted was available. Weapons of mass destruction? No problem!

The arming of a nation that had been designated previously as a terrorist state was a serious violation of US laws. But the Reagan and Bush administrations were just too happy that the upstart Iran, the country that had so humiliated the US, was getting it's comeuppance that it couldn't do enough for its new friend. Many good and loyal employees in the various government departments who became aware of these illegal activities were shocked but reluctantly fulfilled their bureaucratic duties.

An ingenious plan was devised to provide the credits for Saddam to pay for all his new playthings. The Agriculture Department approved federally guaranteed loans for Iraq to purchase American farm products. Iraq resold them at a profit and used the proceeds to pay for the armaments.

The US-Saddam love affair was so formidable that when Iraq's Soviet equipment -- the Soviets had previously armed Iraq -- needed replacement the US went out and bought what was needed through the gray channels of Eastern Europe.

These clandestine operations eventually came to light. A federal attorney in Atlanta was tipped off by suspicious employees at the Italian bank that was processing the Agricultural loans and he commenced a lawsuit. With the cat out of the bag Congressman Henry Gonzalez, head of the House Banking Committee, conducted hearings. Papa Bush was able to limit the exposure by invoking the old reliable 'national security' ploy. But some information did leak out and the Commerce Department's top export expert was canned after he testified honestly before the committee.

Iraqgate, a major scandal, received scant coverage in the mass media. Not unusual when the media is simpatico with the government policy. The complicity in our supposedly free press is in itself a scandal. The complete sordid media cover up was revealed in an article in the Columbia Journalism Review. (2)

Alan Friedman was the only reporter who gave the scandalous Iraqgate drama adequate coverage -- stories appeared in The Financial Times -- and in his book Spider's Web. (3)

It is ironic that after arming Saddam with all those weapons the US should now be so alarmed about his possession of WMD. Not ironic at all if the concern is intended to convince an uninformed and gullible American public, as it appears to be doing, that they are threatened by Saddam.

Fear of nuclear weapons that admittedly Saddam does not yet possess is incredible. The US currently has over one thousand; the US is the only country that ever used them, and the US frequently proclaims that it may use them again. Other countries in possession of these weapons are Israel, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea. It is ridiculous that with so many outstanding nuclear bombs, the nation that does not have any such weapons is the one to be feared.

Some of the other countries that now possess WMD have also been condemned, but they insist that they possess them for strictly defensive purposes. This is essentially the same argument repeatedly proclaimed by the gun lobby. Everyone should have a gun -- a personal WMD -- to protect oneself. Logically it makes sense. Statistically a small nation in this peaceful world is more likely to be attacked than a US citizen.

Obviously there is something in Iraq's past that initially caused it to become a villain. The infamous act that installed it on the US list of nations supporting terrorism was the nationalization of its oil industry in 1972. (4) It did not engage in any war, it did not kill any people, it proclaimed that the oil within the geographical boundaries of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq. HORRORS!

About twenty years previously another oil rich Middle East country, Iran, nationalized its oil industry. The western powers clamped an embargo on the country, plunging it into economic collapse. But that strong medicine was insufficient. So the CIA was unloosed to perform its magic and presto-chango, the Shah was placed on the throne and Iran became a model state. (5)

Unfortunately for the west, when Iraq nationalized its oil, the blockade was broken by the Soviets. Income from oil was no longer siphoned off to western corporations but went to Iraq. With so much wealth now pouring into the country, existing social programs for the people that provided for free education, universal health care, extensive women rights, etc., were greatly expanded; and large scale development projects were undertaken. It became the most advanced country of the Middle East. (6)

Iraq as we know it did not exist until the end of World War I. Prior to that time the Middle East was a part of the Ottoman Empire. The British promised the Arabs their freedom if during the war they would fight against their Turkish overlords. (7) The British reneged on their promise however. Instead of granting freedom Britain and its ally France cut up the Middle East to form new countries that the two of them now controlled in a new type of colonialism called a mandate. (8)

By creating Iraq with three diverse ethnic groups, a small Sunni group that could prevail over the majority Shiites and Kurds, the British applied the colonial powers 'divide and rule' technique to effectively control it. A puppet king was placed on the throne (9) and Britain with its allies France and the US made claim to the country's resources.

Unrest amongst the ruled arose from time to time but Britain was there to put things back in order. It was during some of these times that to stifle the rebelling Kurds Churchill remarked "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes." (10)

When Saddam took on the hated Iranians he got high marks from the US knowing that he was committing all sorts of crimes -- torture, persecution, mutilations, sending terrorists abroad to bomb and kill, and slaughtering his own Iraqis (Kurds) with a gas attack. (11) Apparently, the use of WMD is O.K. under the proper circumstances. Not all bad guys are considered the same under all circumstances.

After becoming a US favorite, being granted whatever he wanted, and going to extreme measures to accommodate him, he suddenly became a monster again. What atrocity precipitated this action?

With the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had much to do to return to its pre-war position. A study by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, understanding its dire straits opined, ". . .it is our belief that Iraq is basically committed to a nonaggressive strategy, and that it will, over the course of the next few years, considerably reduce the size of its military. Economic conditions practically mandate such action. . .' Iraq was heavily in debt and was hoping that its oil revenues would adequately solve that problem. (12)

But these goals were being thwarted by its small neighbor Kuwait. It appeared as if Kuwait was deliberately antagonizing a bigger and stronger Iraq. Kuwait substantially exceeded its OPEC quota causing a lowering of the oil price. It siphoned Iraqi oil by slant drilling along its border with Iraq. And it adamantly refused to negotiate these disputes with Iraq.

Historically, Kuwait was a province of Iraq. It was created by the British to effectively maintain control of Iraq by cutting off Iraq's access to the Gulf and by pumping Kuwaiti oil thereby lessening the oil it would extract from Iraq. All Iraqi regimes considered Kuwait a part of their country as did numerous citizens of Kuwait itself. (13)

With his patience at an end and ready to take drastic action Saddam sought the opinion of the US. US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie advised Saddam that 'We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait . . . . [Secretary of State] James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.' (14)

Congressional hearings and a news conference repeated those sentiments. Surely he could not be condemned by attempting to solve his problem by force. (15)

As soon as that fatal step was taken, however, Iraq was reinstated on the US shit list and papa Bush could not be deterred from any action other than war. (16) What could be the reason for such an irrational reaction? Why would the US want to go to war?

It was only a year since the Soviet Union collapsed and the evil empire was no more. The menace that had existed for so long and kept the military-industrial complex humming was gone.

Remember all those promises of the peace dividend? They sounded just wonderful. Not to the war industry, however. To them it meant hard times -- a gloomy prospect, indeed.

After World War II a similar situation arose for the aircraft companies that grew from miniscule businesses to a mighty industry. When they could not successfully compete in producing consumer products they ran crying to the government for help.

Just before a Congressional appropriation bill was to be enacted, guess what? A war scare developed. The Soviets, who had been devastated by the Nazi war machine, were going to attack.

Accordingly the budget insured that America would be protected. Sizable orders for defense were inserted into the budget. That surely must have frightened the Soviets because right after that the war threat disappeared. (17)

Might it not be possible that a similar situation arose with the collapse of the evil empire? For years its existence insured that ever higher military budgets would be churned out as the US and USSR competed in their buildups.

It was imperative for the military-industrial complex to get a new enemy. Lo and behold our good old friend Saddam who was previously designated a terrorist would fill the bill; but his small country was no substitute for the Soviets. This enemy was just short term.

9/11 was a gift from on high. The US now has the ideal devil. Not a tangible country, but a concept 'terrorism' that can be expanded indefinitely to encompass any and every country that the US might get a yen to attack.

Right now it's Iraq. But people in the know are aware that it is absolutely no threat. Who are they?

A US marine major, Scott Ritter, who was chief of the weapon's inspection team 1991-1998. (18) He has been speaking out wherever he can. His message: Iraq is no threat; and yes, we should continue to inspect but right now it can do no harm.

The two former UN heads of the sanctions team, Denis Halliday (19) and Hans von Sponick. (20) Both were stationed in the country during their tour and revisit it frequently. Their message is essentially the same but they put added emphasis on the humanitarian crisis that exists in Iraq and that will be compounded by expansion of the war.

James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration. (21) He has been getting support and encouragement from Naval officers whom he has addressed on his opposition to the administration's Iraq policy.

The CIA.(22) In spite of tremendous pressure it has maintained its claim that Saddam is only dangerous if provoked. The former head of the CIA's anti-terrorism unit Vincent Cannastraro (23) reiterates that position and points out how strongly the agency must feel to oppose this administration policy.

General Anthony Zinni (Ret.). (24) An expert on the Middle East warns of the numerous undesirable side effects and alludes to a US attack as a "Bay of Goats," a comparison with the disastrous Bay of Pigs decision.

And then there is an insider, Imad Khadduri, a nuclear scientist who worked with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission from 1968 till 1998 and now teaches and works in Toronto, Canada. His article, Iraq's nuclear non-capability, reveals that there is no longer a credible Iraqi nuclear capability. (25)

Do we heed these knowledgeable voices or do we follow the corporate proponents and the major media whose wealthy owners and directors are of course linked to those very same corporations? None will be sacrificing their lives, but they are already counting their wartime profits.

The Gulf War was over quickly but for Iraq it was a disaster. Estimates of the Iraqi military deaths are as high as 200,000. (26) Tons of depleted uranium that the US employed to fight that war still lie across the country spewing radioactivity to the unsuspecting, substantially increasing leukemia, cancer and gross birth defects. The sanctions and the bombings that continue to this day make death, sickness, destitution, and hunger a routine plight for Iraqis. (27) To eliminate one individual, twenty-two million Iraqis -- most of them innocent men, women and children -- have been plunged into a life of misery and despair. What must an Iraqi think when he contemplates the future. "No, no, no," I imagine he'd sob, "let's n-n-not th-th-think of the f-f-f-fu. . . "

Pity the poor Iraqi.

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References and Notes

1.  William Blum, "Killing Hope"; Publisher: Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME; c1995  (back)

2.  The Big One That (Almost) Got Away: Who Chased it -- and Who Didn't http://www.cjr.org/year/93/2/iraqgate.asp  (back)

3.  Alan Friedman, "Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq"; Publisher: Bantam Books, New York; c1993  (back)

4.  Ramsey Clark "The Fire This Time"; Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press, New York, 1992. page 7  (back)

5.  Blum, Chapter 9  (back)

6.  William Spencer, "Iraq Old Land, New Nation in Conflict"; Publisher: Twenty-first Century Books, Brookfield, Connecticut, 2000. Pages 76-80,107-8  (back)

7.  Ibid. pages 54-6; Geoff Simons "Iraq: from Sumer to Saddam", St. Martin's Press New York,1994. pages 1581-61  (back)

8.  Simons, pages 164-168  (back)

9.  Spencer pages 56-63; Simons page 195-199  (back)

10.  Simons, page 177-179  (back)

11.  Simons, page 291  (back)

12.  Clark, pages 11-12  (back)

13.  Clark, pages 14-9. Simons, pages 304-311  (back)

14.  Clark, page 23  (back)

15.  Simons, Pages 315-317  (back)

16.  Simons, Pages 319-342; Clark pages 32-35  (back)

17.  Frank Kofsky, "Harry S Truman and the War Scare of 1948"; Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 1993.  (back)

18.  "Former weapons inspector: Iraq not a threat", CNN.com, September 9, 2002 http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/09/08/ritter.iraq/ ; "Help us to stop the war," Guardian Unlimited Special Report, October 7, 2002 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,805900,00.html  (back)

19.  "The Salon Interview - Denis Halliday" by Hadani Ditmars, Salon.com, March 20, 2002 http://www.salon.com/people/feature/2002/03/20/halliday/?x  (back)

20.  "Call In the Real Iraq Experts'. by Sean Gonsalves, AlterNet.org, August 7, 2002 http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=13788  (back)

21.  "At Navy school in Monterey, voices of skepticism about Iraq war" by Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2002,
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/11/10/MN190150.DTL  (back)

22.  "White House-CIA rift on Iraq seen" by Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, The Seattle Times, October 11, 2002 http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/134552856_cia11.html  (back)

23.  "CIA warn that US should not attack Iraq" The World Today Broadcast, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 11, 2002 http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/s699193.htm  (back)

24.  "Gen. Zinni Says War With Iraq Is Unwise" By Mike Salinero, The Tampa Tribune, Aug 24, 2002 http://tampatrib.com/News/MGA65V9295D.html  (back)

25.  "Iraq's nuclear non-capability," Imad Khadduri, YellowTimes.org, November 21,2002 http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=874&mode=thread&order=0  (back)

26.  Clark, page 43  (back)

27.  "Inside Iraq" by John Pilger, Sunday Herald (Glasgow), September 1, 2002; http://www.sundayherald.com/27335;
"U.S. Ignores Wake-up Call on Sanctions" by Phyllis Bennis, Baltimore Sun, February 20, 2000 http://www.ips-dc.org/comment/Bennis/bennissunwakeup.htm
"Ten Years After" by Michael Parenti, Toward Freedom Online Magazine, March/April 2001 http://www.towardfreedom.com/2001/mar01/iraq.htm
"Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium," Larry Johnson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 12,2002 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/iraq2002/95178_du12.shtml  (back)


Philip Greenspan's bio is concise and right to the point: 76 years old, married 50 years, 2 children, 3 grandchildren. Veteran World War II Army of the U.S. Graduate Brooklyn Law School, member of the NY bar. Private law practice, followed by employments in the motion picture industry -- distribution and exhibition, and data processing industry -- retailing and stock market; retired 6 years.

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Published December 2, 2002
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