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Report from Iraq

U.S. drops bombs every day

By Brian Becker
Mosul, Iraq

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 basis.

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 occasions.

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 peace."

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 southern Iraq.

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 mid-1990s.

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 Baghdad.

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 space.

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 the country.

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 foreign power?

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 this question.

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 Saddam Hussein."

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
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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