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In March I gagged when Newsweek had the gall to declare “Victory at Last” in Iraq as its cover story. The “victory” is that few U.S. soldiers are being killed there lately. Somehow I couldn’t grow merry. All I could think of was the endless number of dead Iraqis who made Newsweek Editor Fareed Zakaria’s “victory” possible.
Where do we start? Do we recall the help U.S. President’s gave to Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, or the chemicals sold to Saddam by “the West” that he used against Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, or the bloodbath that occurred after the refusal of U.S. armed forces in Iraq to help Iraqis when they revolted against Saddam in 1991 or Bush’s “shock and awe” invasion, and its fracturing of Iraq along religious lines that “accidentally” ignited civil war.
What about the greatest crime, the U.N. sanctions that the U.S. imposed that lasted from 1990 to 2003? Does anyone remember them? For years virtually no Iraqi oil could be sold and Iraq didn’t have the money to buy enough food, and medicine and necessaries. Every item imported into Iraq had to have permission from the U.N. sanctions committee and decisions there were made with stone hearted sadism. The committee would endlessly object to imports, out of their supposed deep concern over “dual use”, the possibility that equipment or supplies let into Iraq could be used in some military sense. Heart and lung machines, firefighting equipment, wheelbarrows, detergent all were held back. Vaccines would be permitted in, but no equipment to repair refrigeration would be allowed, so the vaccines would go bad.
And the people died and died and died. Babies starved to skeletons, suffered, perished. The numbers were immense, unbelievable.
Reacting to a report from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization that over 500,000 children had died Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes” asked then U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright about it On May 12, 1996 the program broadcast this conversation.
Leslie Stahl: We have heard that a half a million children have died. I’m mean that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. You know, is the price worth it?
Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price we think, we think the price is worth it
Stahl pressed on
Stahl: Even with the starvation?
Albright: I think Leslie it is hard for me to say this because I am a humane person, but my first responsibility is make sure that United States forces do not have to go and refight the Gulf War.
That was the only time a major American journalist grilled a U.S. official about the sanctions. And it had no effect. The sanctions ground on for seven more terrible years. How many Iraqis died all told? A million, a million and a half? No one knows. How many children were stunted from their years of malnutrition? Conveniently most Iraqi government medical records were burned up in the looting after Bush “liberated” the country.
What was the reason again for the sanctions? They were originally levied to get Iraq out of Kuwait, but they continued 12 years after Kuwait was restored. We were told the sanctions had to continue because Saddam Hussein was hiding masses of weapons of mass destruction and was a “danger to the world”.
How pathetic the charge seems today. How absurd the notion that his army, totally routed in 1991 and under strict sanctions, could be hiding mountains of secret weapons like a villain from a James Bond novel.
But the charge was repeated constantly by the media, with endless variations. Saddam had VX gas weapons. Saddam had a secret nuclear program. Saddam had SCUD missiles in caves. The U.N. inspection teams that covered Iraq? Oh, these naïve people were just being fooled by Saddam. Everyone knew that the inspectors were being delayed at the front door while Saddam’s men were taking out the WMD from the back door. That hundreds of thousands of civilians were being wiped out in violation of international law and basic human decency was of no matter in the face of this obvious menace.
Were our leaders under some mass delusion? Perhaps they sincerely believed Saddam was a menace. Bull! After leaving the U.N.’s employ Scott Ritter explained how his inspection forces conclusively proved in the mid-90’s that Saddam had no SCUD missiles left. He was told his report was irrelevant, that the U.N. intended to stick with its story about a menace from SCUDS’s and that was that. Our leaders were not idiots. General Schwartzkopf told them in 1991 that Saddam could no longer even menace his neighbors. They knew and they didn’t care.
So I would propose that rather than celebrate a “Victory in Iraq” day, we instead mark May 12 (the day of Albright’s admission) as Genocide in Iraq Day. Using Mark Twain’s ideas for a memorial to the millions killed in the Congo as inspiration, why not bulldoze Lafayette Park near the White House and construct on the land a pyramid of a million baby bottles and toys for our Presidents to view during their morning constitutionals and for school children to wonder at on their trips to D.C.
Well, that will never happen, but at least let people of human feeling can seriously mark May 12 by some grim ceremony. And let our historians collect and publish the names, the U.S. and European officials who made the decisions to murder the Iraqis. Certainly lead the list with Bush father and son, Bill Clinton and their Secretaries of State, but add to it the thousands of who created and enforced the sanctions, from the members of the U.N. Sanctions Committee to the Senators and members of Congress who voted their enforcement. And make another list of shame with the names of the newspaper editors and columnists who deceived the public and dehumanized the Iraqi people.
It’s too late to have a proper memorial this year. However, May 12, 2011 will be the fifteenth anniversary of Albright’s admission of mass murder. Let’s think of ways to memorialize the day.