Report from Iraq
U.S. drops bombs every day
By Brian Becker
A trip through Iraq in blistering late-August heat makes it
crystal clear that the Bush administration is already waging a
"pre-war" war that includes bombings almost on a daily
Designed to degrade Iraq's potential for air defense and to
monitor its military response to air assaults, these bombings
are taking a toll. People are getting killed and wounded
regularly, but you would never know it if your source of
information is the Western mass media.
This writer went to Iraq on Aug. 25 as part of a
fact-finding anti-war delegation led by former U.S. Attorney
General Ramsey Clark. The delegation flew into Iraq's "no-fly
zones" in the north and south of the country for five days. In
those five days, the U.S. bombed Iraq on five separate
True to form, the U.S. media said almost nothing about these
daily bombings. Each day after we returned from the site of the
latest bombing we would check the web sites of the Western
media. Nary a peep about the lawless aggression waged from the
skies by U.S. warplanes. Instead, the U.S. media focused its
coverage on "why Saddam Hussein is such a great threat to world
Bombs drop every day
On Aug. 25, U.S. planes bombed Basra, the second-largest
city in Iraq. Eight people died on the spot and 10 more were
wounded. When we arrived in Basra on Aug. 27, we learned that
one of the seriously injured had also died from his wounds.
When the U.S. press does mention the regular bombings of
Iraq, it usually buries the information in a small article far
from the front page. The Pentagon is almost always quoted,
explaining that the attacks were in self-defense. They say it
was against military targets and against Iraqi radar, which was
flipped on to trace U.S. and British warplanes overflying
Iraq's airspace in two large areas in both northern and
But civilians as well as soldiers are being hit.
"We heard a terrible explosion Sunday morning here in the
hotel," a worker at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Basra told
us. "It was close by and we could hear it and feel it.
Thousands of civilians live in this area, so naturally many of
the casualties were civilians."
The decision to create the "no-fly zones" was not authorized
by the United Nations. Rather it was the decision of the major
imperialist countries-the United States, Britain and France-to
refuse to allow Iraq to fly its own aircraft in the areas of
the countries where almost all of its oil is located. But of
course the imperialists could fly their planes in the zones.
These zones were created in 1992. France later changed its
policy toward Iraq and withdrew its warplanes in the
While the delegation was visiting one of the wounded at the
Training Hospital in Basra, U.S. warplanes struck
again-attacking Mosul in the north and Al-Nukhayb, south of
The delegation managed to fly into Mosul about 36 hours
after the strike. Mosul is a beautiful and historic city in the
far north of Iraq. It borders the predominantly Kurdish area
and is located inside the no-fly zone.
The civilian airport had been without radar since the 1991
Gulf War. It had been largely non-functional until recently,
when the government decided to defy the no-fly zone and resume
daily flights into the city from Baghdad. The assumption was
that U.S. aircraft would not shoot down civilian airliners.
U.S. warplanes have not yet shot down any passenger planes,
but on Aug. 27 two powerful missiles took out the airport's
radar that guides the civilian airliners in their takeoff and
landing and as they travel through the surrounding air
The delegation went through the wreckage of the totally
destroyed radar, which lay in crumpled ruins not far from the
runway. The radar was very old, made up of balkanized parts
from earlier rudimentary radar systems. Clearly, it was not a
sophisticated military-type radar.
The civilian terminal was about 200 yards from where the
missiles hit. The force of the explosion shattered the windows
along the waiting rooms.
Right to air safety
Barred from most trade and commerce for 12 years, Iraq has
had to submit potential contracts for equipment to a UN
sanctions committee. Iraq has had a pending request before the
sanctions committee to import a modern radar for Mosul airport,
but so far the U.S. has blocked the application. Iraqi
technicians cobbled the old radar pieces together and installed
this electronic relic on June 4. Now that U.S. missiles have
taken out the radar, Iraqi civilian passengers must fly blind
into Mosul-an area that has more bad weather than most parts of
As we walked through the snarled rolls of metal in the
airport, it was hard not to ponder what the effect would be if
the shoe was on the other foot. What would be the emotional and
psychological impact on the people in the United States if the
radar they depended on for air safety were destroyed without
provocation and without warning by fighter planes from a
Asking the question, of course, answers it. But the Bush
administration is hoping that the demonization and racist
images of Iraq will successfully prevent people from asking
Since December 1998, the U.S. has bombed Iraq regularly
without mass protest. The U.S. pulled UN weapons inspectors out
of the country on Dec. 16, 1998, and began a four-day campaign
that included the launching of 400 cruise missiles and dropping
of 600 precision bombs on Iraq.
Iraq claims that more than 1,500 people have been killed by
U.S. bombs since the Gulf War ended.
As the Bush administration prepares for a massive invasion
and bombing campaign under the doctrine of preemptive war, it
is clear to the people everywhere that these are just fancy
words for aggression.
Ramsey Clark's visit to Iraq included an explicit anti-war
message. The mass media around the world gave coverage to the
trip, and there was limited coverage in the U.S. Clark appeared
live on three consecutive CNN segments on Aug. 29, where he was
accused by CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer of being "used by
Clark ridiculed the accusation, replying: "You can still say
what you believe, you can still stand for what is right. If you
don't do that, who are you, what do you stand for, and what's
going to happen to the world?"
In his interviews in the media, Clark insisted that the
decisive factor in stopping the war was the mobilization of
opposition inside the United States. "We can stop the Bush
administration but we must act now. People everywhere must
mobilize for the Oct. 26 March on Washington. We cannot let the
government speak in our name and carry out this war that aims
to dominate the people of the Middle East and the natural
resources of this region."
Brian Becker is a co-director of the International Action
Center. He was a member of a U.S. anti-war delegation that
traveled throughout Iraq from August 25 to 30. The delegation
also included Ramsey Clark, Khadouri Al-Kaysi of the
International Action Center, Johnnie Stevens, co-director of
the Peoples Video Network, and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard,
attorney and co-founder of the D.C.-based public-interest law
firm, Partnership for Civil Justice.
Reprinted from the Sept. 12, 2002, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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