I had breakfast with US Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) one morning before the holidays, along with several members of the Greater Portsmouth, New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce. A few of us from our local peace group, “Seacoast Peace Response”, decided that since it was a public event, we would attend because we hoped to express some very deep concerns to Mr. Gregg.
From the beginning of Mr. Gregg’s speech, I could hear the language of racism and fear mongering. In his speech, and in response to my question later on, Mr. Gregg invoked all of the now standard responses of the hawks who are benefiting from the so-called war on terrorism.
He echoed George W. Bush’s first speech following the attacks of September 11, 2001 saying that “Islamic fundamentalists” hate our way of life, hate our freedom, we are at war, etc.
When I had my chance to ask Mr. Gregg a question, I first thanked him for being there and wished him happy holidays. I then expressed my concern for our troops over seas, and also for Iraqi civilians. I asked him to urge the Bush administration to reverse the new policy of not counting Iraqi civilian casualties, and explained that I understood that this policy announced the day before came from an Iraqi ministry, but it was, of course, subject to the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority. Mr. Gregg said he wasn’t aware of the change in policy and that he doubted the administration would approve of such a policy. As if the Bush administration doesn’t have control over all policy moves in Iraq today.
I went on to my question. I noted the disparity in resources being put into Afghanistan and Iraq. These were both countries which were beaten down and suffered for years under repressive regimes. The main significant difference between the countries that jumped out at me is that Iraq sits on the second largest oil reserve in the world. So, I asked, are US service people dying every day in order to make Iraq a safe place for companies like Halliburton to make hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mr. Gregg explained that we are first fighting the war on terrorism. He then said that we are talking about “an entire culture” that hates us and wants to kill us. When he took a breath I stood back up and said, “But, Mr. Gregg, with all due respect, we are not talking about an entire culture here by any means. We are talking about a very tiny percentage of people who are willing to resort to this kind of violence.” He said that he was just going to say that. He then went on to say that there are “over a billion Muslims in the world. If we’re talking 10%, that’s 100 million people who are willing to resort to this kind of violence. Even if we’re talking about just 1%, that’s 10 million people who are willing to fly planes into buildings and kill Americans.” The language of racism and fear mongering come together.
He then discussed the need to stabilize the Middle East. The way they are doing this is to rebuild Iraq and show them that our way of life works best. “Market economy”. “Democracy”. He finished his statement by saying that “oil has absolutely nothing to do with it.” Holding the party line. So, while he never directly addressed the part of the question about Halliburton, in a sense he confirmed that it is about making lots of money. That’s why young men and women in the US armed services, as well as uncounted Iraqi civilians are dying.
After the program was over, I went over to speak with Mr. Gregg. His face turned a slightly deeper shade of red when he saw me. I shook his hand and thanked him for addressing my question, and I told him that I had concerns over many aspects of his response. I expressed my opinion that Hussein and anyone else responsible for the gassing of the Kurds should be tried for war crimes. One of my greatest concerns related to his response, I explained, was that in 1988 after Hussein gassed the Kurds, the United States actively blocked other countries that wanted to bring sanctions against Iraq at that time. At this point Mr. Gregg turned an even deeper shade of red and began to turn away from me. I asked him how we could account for such hypocrisy. He told me in an annoyed voice that “the point is, he has weapons of mass destruction”, and for some reason_perhaps his use of the word “has”— I thought he had jumped into the present tense. “We haven’t found them,” I countered. “Why don’t you go tell a Kurd that,” he spat, and walked off. To anyone who’s paying attention, this kind of jumping back and forth between historical realities and policies is absolutely bizarre. Unfortunately, many in the US public know very little about the history of US-Iraq relations or anything about the treatment of the Kurds, so hawks have been able to blur reality, successfully avoiding the issue that it took the US government almost 15 years to at least pretend that they were outraged over the gassing of Iraqi Kurds.
Does Judd Gregg really care that much about the Kurds? In 1988, Mr. Gregg was a House Representative for New Hampshire. He had the chance to stand up for the Kurds then. Right after the Hussein regime gassed the Kurds (remember, that was in 1988), the US Senate unanimously passed The Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988, attempting to bring US economic sanctions against Iraq for their actions. On went the bill to the House. The Reagan administration launched an aggressive campaign to kill the bill. With the help of leading House Republicans and some Democrats, the administration succeeded in killing the bill on the final day of the legislative session. No heroics from Mr. Gregg. Apparently the gassing of the Kurds only angers him when he’s told it should.
Mr. Gregg’s silence in 1988 is not the only indicator with regard to his real or feigned righteous indignation over the fate of Iraqi Kurds. During his 1997-98 campaign for Senate, Mr. Gregg accepted large amounts of campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers who were bidding at the time for one of the largest weapons contracts in history, to sell weapons to Turkey, which were ultimately used against the Kurds.
The Turkish government has committed some of the greatest acts of terrorism against the Kurds. According to the US State Department, the Turkish military destroyed or forced the evacuation of over four thousand Kurdish towns in southern Turkey throughout the 1990s and into the current decade, killed thousands of Kurds and made refugees of 2 million Kurds. The State Department estimates that 1 million Kurds remain refugees because of these attacks.
Two State Department reports from the mid-1990s admit that U.S. military equipment has been used by Turkey against innocent Kurdish civilians, including Turkish attacks on civilians in northern Iraq, in the so-called “No Fly Zone”, which was supposedly created by the United States to protect the Kurds.
Weapons manufacturers, Sikorsky, Boeing, Bell Textron, and Northrop Grunman competed since 1995 for one of the largest arms deals in history— a $4 billion dollar contract to construct 145 attack helicopters for Turkey. From 1995 to 2001 these companies lobbied congressional candidates for support of the deal. The contract, opposed by human rights groups monitoring Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds, was awarded in late 2001 to Bell Textron.
During his 1997-1998 campaign for senate, Judd Gregg accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Boeing, Bell Textron, Northop Grunman Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
By accepting money earned through the sale of arms to Turkey for use against the Kurds, Senator Gregg endorsed the murder of innocent Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, and personally profited. Mr. Gregg may deny any knowledge that weapons produced by companies that contributed to his campaign would be used against the Kurds, but that is specious at best. Even if he didn’t know about the blood on these campaign contributions, any responsible leader should check his sources. But, based on everything that I heard during my breakfast with Judd, I am convinced he either doesn’t want to know, or worse.
The level of hypocrisy, racism and fear mongering emanating from Washington is absolutely astounding. As long as crucial facts are kept out of the public eye, as long as some people profit from letting the dogs of war run free, the language of hate_the language of racism and fear mongering_-will continue to shape tragic destinies for people world wide, including here in the United States.
Nick Copanas contributed research & writing on Kurdish and campaign finance issues in this article.
TOM JACKSON produced “Greetings From Missile Street“, a documentary video that shows Voices in the Wilderness delegates living with families in Basra, Iraq in the summer of 2000. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org