FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Basra as Military Target

by RAHUL MAHAJAN

 

Iraq’s desperate humanitarian situation has suddenly become a retroactive justification for the war, even for the attacking of civilian targets. The need to get aid into Basra has apparently prompted a British military spokesperson to designate it as a “legitimate military target,” language reminiscent of Gulf War I, when the saturation bombing of Basra was justified on the same basis.

As verifiable civilian deaths mount toward 300 in this “war of liberation,” the need to establish American moral superiority is growing rapidly. Thus Donald Rumsfeld’s convenient rediscovery of the Geneva Convention and thus the American media hysteria over al-Jazeera, which has the temerity to provide balanced reporting of the war.

Thus also a recent press conference by the execrable Andrew Natsios, head administrator of USAID, in which he raised the already stunning mendacity of the Bush administration to new heights. While beating his chest over the massive preparations the United States has made to avert a humanitarian tragedy in Iraq (always assuming the Iraqis don’t screw things up by continuing unaccountably to resist their liberation), he touched on the problems of Basra, where only 40% of the people currently have access to potable water.

The genesis of said problems, according to him, is “a deliberate decision by the regime not to repair the water system or replace old equipment with new equipment, so in many cases people are basically drinking untreated sewer water in their homes and have been for some years.”

A deliberate decision by the regime. We’ve seen some remarkable lies about Iraq from this administration including Dick Cheney’s statement that Iraq has “reconstituted nuclear weapons”, Ari Fleischer’s that Iraq did not declare the range of its al-Samoud 2 missiles, and an attempt to pass off crudely forged documents as proof that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Niger.

But this. “A deliberate decision by the regime.” The mind boggles. Ever since Iraq’s water treatment system was left in shambles by the Gulf War, where the deliberate targeting of the entire electrical power grid caused water pumping to shut down and sewage to fill the streets of Basra, the Iraqi government has scrambled desperately to repair its water system, only to come repeatedly face to face with one huge obstacle: the United States government.

Joy Gordon’s excellent article, “Cool War: Economic Sanctions as a Weapon of Mass Destruction” (Harper’s, November 2002), documents at length her conclusion that “the United States has consistently thwarted Iraq from satisfying its most basic humanitarian needs.” Under the sanctions regime set up over Iraq after the Gulf War, any country on the Security Council could block or indefinitely delay any contract for goods submitted by the Iraqi government. The United States has imposed far more blocks than all other members put together; as of 2001, it had put half a billion dollars worth of water and sanitation contracts on hold. The water treatment goods it has blocked at one time or another include pipes (roughly 40% of the clean water pumped is lost to leakage), earth-moving equipment, safety equipment for handling chlorine, and no fewer than three sewage treatment plants.

But there can be no doubt that, in the inimitable words of Madeleine Albright, “we care more about the Iraqi people.”

If you’re not convinced yet, consider this. After coming under harsh criticism because of the frightful inadequacy of its humanitarian preparations, the United States has made some attempt to remedy the problem. The original plan was a reprise of the Afghan operation dubbed “military propaganda” by Doctors Without Borders, in which some tens of thousands of meals would be dropped out of planes every day, and, in the miraculous manner common in that part of the world, each meal would feed a multitude; now, some shipments of wheat have been added to the original plan.

The same Andrew Natsios wrote an indignant rejoinder to the Washington Post, claiming full readiness of the United States to “help Iraq.”. Tucked away in the middle of his missive: “Saddam Hussein has doubled monthly food rations since October, trying to buy the affection of his people. As a result, families have stored food at home.”

In other words, for all the humanitarian triumphalism of the “coalition,” for all its great desire to level Basra so that Iraqis can be fed, the agency that has taken meaningful steps to avert a catastrophe is the Iraqi government. It did so under the severest of constraints; for over a year, revenue has been depressed and the Oil for Food program is dramatically underfunded.

Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator who has subjected his people to horrible suffering. There is little doubt about that. The fact that on at least the grounds considered above he stacks up far better than the U.S. government, no matter which administration, does not bode well for the future of the Iraqi people.

Nor does this brave new humanitarian world being created by the exponents of water privatization and structural adjustment bode well for the future of anybody else. On Iraq, the New Humanitarianism is clear: we had to destroy Iraq (over the past 12 years, not just the last few days) in order to save it. Who will we save next?

RAHUL MAHAJAN is a founding member of the Nowar Collective. His latest book is “Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond.” His articles are collected at http://www.rahulmahajan.com He can be reached at rahul@tao.ca

Yesterday’s Features

Pablo Mukherjee
Watch Their Lips

David Krieger
Shock But Not Awe

Linda Heard
Winning Hearts and Minds Bush—-Style

Imad Jadaa
The Beautiful Face of America

Adam Engel
Buckets of Blood

Patrick Cockburn
Kurds Unimpressed

David Lindorff
POWs, Torture and Hypocrisy

Robert Fisk
The Coup That Didn’t Happen

April Hurley, MD
A Doctor’s Outrage in Baghdad

Gloria Bergen
Chretien’s Shame

Reema Abu Hamdieh
The Smell of Death Surrounds Me

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax—-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Rob Urie
Liberal Pragmatism and the End of Political Possibility
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Michael Hudson
The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Mike Whitney
Another Fed Fiasco: U.S. Bond Yields Fall to Record Lows
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Dan Bacher
Ventura Oil Spill Highlights Big Oil Regulatory Capture
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count If Everybody Leaves the EU
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
Julian Vigo
Xenophobia in the UK
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Eoin Higgins
Running on Empty: Sanders’s Influence on the Democratic Party Platform
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Matthew Stevenson
Larry Cameron Explains Brexit
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Missy Comley Beattie
A Big F#*K You to Voters
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
David Yearsley
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Walking the Bad Streets of Houston’s Super-Elites
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail