RN: Instead of more bombing!


Jan Slakov

Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 01:38:04 -0800
From: •••@••.••• (Joyce Lydiard)
Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: iraq & kosovo


I was impressed with Phyllis Bennis when she spoke with Dennis Halliday in
Seattle about the situation in Iraq. I feel in this article her suggested
options to continued bombing need serious consideration.

In peace, hope and love,

-----Original Message-----
From:   Phyllis Bennis [SMTP:•••@••.•••]
Sent:   Wednesday, April 07, 1999 8:58 AM
To:     •••@••.•••
Cc:     •••@••.•••; •••@••.•••
Subject:        iraq & kosovo

Dear folks - a beginning. Unfortunately I'm afraid we're going to have lots
of time to work through analyses like this before the crisis ebbs...

IRAQ AND KOSOVO:  Two Regional Wars and a Global Pentagon Budget

(for Middle East International - 6 April 1999 - 1715 words)

Bill Clinton has switched TV channels from the largely hidden, but still
lethal, crisis in Iraq to the far more visually compelling disaster in

The U.S.-British bombing of Iraq, halted for more than two weeks in the
run-up to NATO's bombing of Serbia, resumed at the beginning of April.
Among the targets destroyed on April 1st was the communications station
controlling the flow of Iraqi oil to the Mina al-Bakr terminal south of
Basra, Iraq's main Persian Gulf port. The still-sanctioned oil is shipped
out from the port as part of the Oil for Food program; senior oil ministry
officials said repairs had been made and oil was flowing as of April 3rd.

With the domestic and global media focused on the humanitarian and
political crises in Kosovo, little American attention was paid to the
resumption of bombing in the U.S.-British imposed "no fly zones" in Iraq.
U.S. officials issued no explanation for their attack on the oil
communications center, an economic installation whose targetting is
therefore prohibited under international law. And little press interest has
emerged in the latest documentation of the sanctions-driven human toll in
Iraq. In fact, the most recent UN report acknowledges that little has
changed.  "Under current conditions the humanitarian outlook will remain
bleak and become more serious with time," the humanitarian impact panel
reported to the Security Council on March 30. "Infant mortality rates in
Iraq today are among the highest in the world. Low infant birth weight
affects at least 23 percent of all births, chronic malnutrition affects
every fourth child under 5 years of age; only 41 percent of the population
have regular access to clean water; 83 percent of all schools need
substantial repairs. ... The gravity of the humanitarian situation of the
Iraqi people is indisputable and cannot be overstated."

The continuing human catastrophe must, at this moment of proving the U.S.
ability to wage two regional wars simultaneously, inevitably link Iraq with
Kosovo (although so far, at least, the civilian deaths in Kosovo fall
dramatically behind the sanctions-driven toll in Iraq). But the political
and strategic parallels emerge as perhaps even more direct analogues.

The crucial parallel begins with Washington's undermining and marginalizing
of the United Nations. In the case of Iraq, especially in the last year,
the U.S. has replaced UN primacy with an unabashed unilateralism in Iraq
policy. For Kosovo, Washington's international agency of choice to provide
an international imprimatur is NATO -- a military alliance without a shred
of authority to make the decisions the UN Charter claims as its own. In
both Iraq and Kosovo the UN's role was degraded and ridiculed by U.S.
diplomats; when Council members insisted that Resolution 1159 of February
1998, calling for "severest consequences" in the event of future Iraqi
violations of  UNSCOM access agreements, did not provide automatic U.S.
authority for military strikes, then-Ambassador Bill Richardson simply
shrugged and said the U.S. believes it does have the authority. More
recently, when France proposed a Council debate on how to respond to
Kosovo, the U.S. simply refused, placing the matter in NATO's hands.

The two wars together give the Pentagon long-sought evidence that it can
indeed fight two regional wars at the same time -- at least wars in which
the opposition is weak to non-existent. Logistics officers are showing off
their ability to, for instance, shift EA-6B planes, used to destroy
anti-aircraft batteries, out of Turkey from where they attacked Iraqi
"no-fly zones," to the Balkans. The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt,
heading towards the Gulf, was diverted to the Adriatic. And Iraq and Kosovo
jointly provide a pretense to continue a bloated arms budget. Just as one
example, the claimed "shortage" of million-dollars-each cruise missiles, as
a result of the hundreds used up in Iraq during and since December's Desert
Fox operation and in Kosovo just in the first days of the air war, means
increased Pentagon leverage on Congress for new funding for more missiles,
and for over $50 million more to convert 92 nuclear cruise missiles into
conventional models. (It should be noted that the Pentagon's $270 billion
budget contains virtually no budget lines to actually fight a war. One
wonders whether Congress might decide to simply swap its recent $50 million
refugee assistance grant for the $50 million needed to convert the
once-nuclear missiles into conventional [and thus economically as well as
politically usable] missiles.)

Other political parallels abound. In both Iraq and Kosovo bombing campaigns
consolidate, rather than diminish, political support for appalling leaders.
Even reluctant citizens, once made victims of U.S.-British-NATO bombing
campaigns, tend to respond with a circle-the-wagons reaction that only
heightens xenophobia and nationalism. In both cases U.S.-orchestrated
demonization of brutal (and certainly deservedly demonized) leaders is
deliberately widened to demonize entire populations, thus weakening
potential anti-bombing sentiment in the U.S. while heightening popular
solidarity with Saddam Hussein or Slobodon Milosevic inside Iraq or Serbia.

In both cases direct U.S. actions made bad conditions significantly worse.
In both Iraq and Serbia, massive violations of civil and political rights
by each country's dictator were answered with a U.S. response that actually
strengthened the existing denial of political rights, while stripping the
victimized people of their economic and social rights, the little that
remained of their human rights. In Iraq, economic sanctions have subjected
an entire population to disease, loss of education, insufficient food,
unclean water and possible death -- while doing nothing to restore their
political rights. Similarly, the NATO bombing that was supposed to force
Milosevic to grant political rights to the Albanian Kosovars actually led
to a massive escalation in the Serbian government's brutal expulsions, a
tough crack-down on Serbia's anti-war opposition, and exacerbation of a
humanitarian crisis of gargantuan proportions.

The governments of Iraq and Serbia were both formerly tied, one through
military partnership, the other through a grudging diplomatic alliance, to
the U.S.  But both governments eventually proved unwilling to play by U.S.
rules. U.S. policy towards both brutal dictatorships then focuses on
economic sanctions and bombing - not diplomacy. In Iraq, the world's most
comprehensive sanctions continue to slaughter civilians and prevent any
hope of the rehabilitation of Iraqi society. In Serbia, like in Iraq,
sanctions have helped create a powerful anti-Western, "us against them"
dynamic that fuels a spiralling political extremism. And in both Iraq and
Serbia the U.S. claims it had "no alternative" but to bomb -- bombing to
force Saddam Hussein to allow UNSCOM promised access, bombing to force
Slobodon Milosevic to sign the Rambouillet agreement. In both cases the
U.S. failed.

In both cases the U.S. deliberately undermined the potential of flawed, but
at least partially effective, international instruments. In Iraq, UNSCOM
had succeeded, despite Baghdad's obstructionism, at finding and eliminating
the vast majority of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But the discovery
that Washington had placed spies within UNSCOM, and had used its technology
to provide intelligence that may well have assisted U.S. military assaults
against Iraq, led to UNSCOM's functional demise. Similarly, the withdrawal
of the 1400 OSCE monitors (however limited their efficacy because their
mandate allowed only an unarmed observer presence rather than a serious
protection force) on the eve of the NATO bombing at the moment their
presence might have made the greatest difference, allowed the violent
escalation of attacks on the Albanian Kosovars to take place without a
watchful international presence.

In neither Iraq nor Kosovo was a real effort made to use international war
crimes charges as a means of deterrence. U.S. diplomats have long insisted
that Milosevic was a "necessary partner" in Balkan diplomacy, and protected
him from indictment by the war crimes tribunal sitting in The Hague. As for
Saddam Hussein, while some U.S. officials have recently made oblique
references to war crimes, it has been obvious for years that Washington had
no stomach for a serious investigation. Such an effort would inevitably
implicate the U.S. government and U.S. weapons dealers who had armed and
backed Saddam Hussein as part of official U.S. policy throughout the 1980s,
when Iraq's worst war crimes were carried out: the Anfal campaign that
destroyed thousands of Kurdish villages, and the use of poison gas against
Kurdish civilians and Iranian troops in 1988.

In both Iraq and Serbia, when Washington turned on its former allies, no
political alternatives were sought, no negotiation was allowed. And
certainly, in both cases, negotiation is still vitally needed; diplomacy
must be returned to center stage. With the Security Council deadlocked, the
General Assembly has the right, under the Uniting for Peace precedent, to
consider issues of peace and security that ordinarily lie in the Council's
domain. While bringing NATO to heel, let alone the Milosevic-led Serb
military, would by no means be guaranteed by such a UN resolution, a
specific Assembly demand for an end to the bombing would go far towards
delegitimizing NATO's role, challenging the U.S., and reasserting the
centrality of the UN in dealing with the latest instance of ethnic
cleansing. The Assembly could thus craft a policy with at least a better
chance to, in the Hippocratic sense, "first, do no harm.".

And certainly it is not too late for the Assembly to authorize a combined
UN-OSCE protection force, an armed force prepared to provide real safe
havens for Albanian Kosovars -- to make real the unrealized promise of
Srebrenica. Certainly it is not too late for the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees to claim the initiative as the official coordinator of the refugee
assistance campaign -- in which NATO may be pressed into service providing
cargo or human transport planes or logistical assistance, but in which the
United Nations maintains the overall authority.

Finally, the General Assembly can go beyond calling for a resumption of
serious diplomacy, to name its representatives to carry out such  missions
in the name of the international community. Such an effort might best be
carried out by Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan -- African statesmen who
together empower the international legitimacy of the United Nations with
the internationally recognized credibility of the South African president.

It is long past time for serious resources -- financial, political,
intellectual -- to be put into efforts towards making real a UN capacity
for preventive diplomacy. Until such time, however, pick-up diplomacy will
be called on every time. Under those circumstances, in both Kosovo and
Iraq, who knows what such a Mandela-Annan diplomatic 'dream team' might be
able to accomplish, that economic sanctions and NATO bombing could not?