by Zafar Bangash (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 20, Sha'ban, 1419)
In a desperate bid to save his own skin and displaying total contempt for Muslim lives, US president Bill Clinton, a self-confessed liar and philanderer, unleashed cruise missiles against Iraq on December 16. He hoped to derail the impeachment proceedings against him in the US house of representatives for perjury and violating the US constitution. Trying to justify the attack, Clinton said on television that Saddam Husain of Iraq had obstructed UN weapons inspectors from carrying out their duties. ‘Instead of disarming Saddam, he had disarmed the UN weapons inspectors,’ Clinton said.
The attack was unleashed in conjunction with Britain even while the UN security council was hearing the report from UNSCOM chief, Richard Butler. The Anglo-Saxon duo showed scant regard for the very organisation in whose name they said they were carrying out the strikes. Not only did the US and Britain violate the UN charter, they also unilaterally expanded their own agenda in the process.
Aware that the American public can be aroused by raising the spectre of nuclear weapons, Clinton said the US would prevent Saddam from acquiring nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Further, the strikes, which he said would go on for several days, were meant to ‘degrade’ Iraq’s military capability by targeting strategic command and control posts so that Baghdad would not be a ‘threat to its neighbours.’ He added that he had acted to protect ‘American national interests.’
None of the arguments advanced by Clinton, except perhaps in a dubious way, the last one, holds ground. They are so spurious that they have failed to convince anyone except perhaps the most hardnosed American hawks. Within hours of the strike, a CNN survey found that 33 percent of Americans questioned the timing of the strikes, alluding to the imminent impeachment vote in the US house of representatives.
The Republican-dominated house was about to vote on four articles of impeachment when news of the strikes hit the airwaves. The proceedings were delayed by a day to show ‘solidarity’ with American forces involved in killing Iraqi civilians.
Jingoism is a peculiarly American trait. Even anti-Clinton Republicans felt compelled to express solidarity with the killers of innocent Iraqi children. It was grotesque to hear many American lawmakers say they would not want any harm befall their fighting men and women, especially those called upon to launch air sorties against Iraq. They risked being shot. Never in this entire debate was one word uttered about the hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent Iraqi civilians who would be killed by missiles and bombs raining down upon them from American and British ships and planes. Already, 7,000 Iraqis perish every month due to the crippling sanctions that have been in force since August 1990.
Once the house approves articles for impeachment, the matter would then go to the US senate for further deliberations. Even ordinary Americans questioned the timing of the attacks. Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, a Republican, said, it raises ‘questions about the timing.’
Responding to US allegations that Baghdad was not cooperating with UNSCOM inspectors, Iraqi foreign minister Saeed Al-Sayyaf on December 17 reviewed the five occasions out of 300 site visits between November 18 and December 15 on which they were allegedly obstructed.
These included visits to two sites on Fridays which were closed because it is a holiday in Iraq; visit to a building occupied by a non- Iraqi organisation which refused them permission to enter; refusal by the university to allow an American inspector to interrogate Iraqi undergraduate students; and Iraq’s inability to produce certain documents at one of the inspection sites when demanded. These, said the Iraqi minister, did not constitute obstruction of UNSCOM operations nor justification for their withdrawal, much less the launch of missile strikes.
Both Russia and China questioned Butler’s report and condemned US missile strikes. France also distanced itself from the attack while Germany called them ‘unfortunate’. China’s ambassador to the UN, Qin Huasun said Butler had played ‘a dishonorable role in this crisis’ and called the report ‘unfounded and evasive of the facts.’ Russian envoy Sergey Lavrov callad the report’s conclusion biased while his foreign minister Igor Ivanov was even more blunt. He said Butler should be removed from his position. Moscow also recalled its ambassador from Washington in protest.
Similarly, there was little support for the latest attacks in Middle Eastern capitals. Apart from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, there was general condemnation of US-British missile strikes. In the streets of the Muslim world, there was widespread revulsion at these latest acts of terrorism by the Anglo-Saxon mafia.
There were also protests in the western world. Many non-Muslims, especially students but also many professors and political activists found the attacks unjustified and a cynical manipulation of American public opinion to save Clinton’s skin. Francis Boyle, professor of International Law at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, called on the US house of representatives to impeach Clinton for the right reasons: violating the US consitution and the 1973 War Powers Act by launching missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan (August 20, 1998) and against Iraq on December 16.
In Toronto, there were vigils outside the US consulate on December 17 and 18. The Ontario New Democratic Party leader, Howard Hampton, on December 17 stood in the provincial legislature on a point of order to present a motion condemning the attack on the people of Iraq. The Tory and Liberal parties shot it down.
Clinton’s allegations against Iraq need closer scrutiny. During the 1991 Gulf War, the allied forces claimed to have destroyed 80 percent of Iraq’s military capability. In the eight years since, UNSCOM inspectors said they destroyed another 90 percent of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons. There is no Iraqi nuclear programme at this time. The nearly-completed Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak was destroyed by Israeli warplanes, with the help of French technicians, on June 6, 1981.
Given such depletion of Iraqi military capability, Iraq with or without Saddam is not a threat anymore. Nor had he threatened anyone. This is not to suggest that Saddam has become human. But the monster was actually created by the west - the US, Britain, France and Germany, which are today baying for his blood - by giving him money, weapons and the wherewithal to make chemical, biological and other weapons during the eighties. Then, he was fighting against Islamic Iran so it was considered alright.
The US even approved a US$5 billion loan from the Atlanta branch of Bank National da Lavoro in 1985. It was announced that the loan was to purchase US agricultural goods. It enabled Saddam to use cash from other sources to purchase weapons for use against Iran.
Cynical as these latest attacks on Iraq are, they will only add to the deepening sense of anger among deprived people worldwide against US gangsterism and total disregard for human, especially Muslim life. It needs repeating again, for those who refuse to learn: America can never be a friend of the Muslims. The same applies to Britain.
Muslimedia: December 16-31, 1998