New Delhi, 02
We are daily confronted by
headlines mostly emanating from the Western media about the
impending War with Iraq. The USA has vowed to go it alone even if no
other country supports it and even though the UN Inspectors have
found no evidence of WMD in Iraq.
The US military build up in the
Middle East is going ahead full steam and President Bush seems
determined to attack Iraq.
As suggested by us earlier the
war with Iraq appears to be designed to control the vast oil
reserves in Iraq by getting rid of Saddam Hussain. (See Why
USA Handles Musharraf With Kid Gloves.
More recently we received the
letter appended below from the most reliable sources. It describes
the present situation within Iraq and the views of the Iraqi people.
The writers suggest that the economic sanctions regime of the last
12 years has itself become a weapon of mass destruction for Iraq.
They have tabled several practical measures designed to prevent war
in Iraq and appealed to all to act quickly in this direction.
LETTER FROM BAGHDAD
From 3rd to 8th
January 2003, a group of NGO representatives and former UN officials
was able to meet with cabinet ministers in Baghdad including Deputy
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Foreign Minister Nagi Sabri and Oil
Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid, as well as to talk with doctors,
teachers and scientists. We had the opportunity to meet ordinary
Iraqis and visit sites recently inspected for weapons of mass
destruction. The aim was to contribute to efforts to prevent war and
to gather information not available in the western press,
particularly with regard to the human situation. Attached is a brief
summary of a very intense series of visits, as well as suggestions
responding to the frequent question asked by citizens of western
countries "What can we do to help prevent war?"
Please circulate these documents as
widely as possible, asking NGOs and individuals to act quickly on
the practical suggestions offered. Your help will be very valuable.
With warm wishes from,
Margarita Papandreou, former First
Lady of Greece
Scilla Elworthy, Director, Oxford
Research Group, UK
Denis Halliday, former Assistant
Secretary-General of the UN and UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq
Christian Harleman, the
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, Sweden
Jan Oberg, Director, the
Transnational Foundation, Sweden
Zeynab Oral, Winpeace and Peace
Omaima Rawas, peace activist and
Vice President of the Syrian Arabic League, Syria
Fotini Sianou, President, Women,
AEos Committee, European Trade Union Confederation
NEWS FROM BAGHDAD a visit to Iraq 3rd to 8th January
2003 including meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz,
Foreign Minister Nagi Sabri and Oil Minister Amer Mohammed Rashid,
as well as conversations with ordinary Iraqis in the street and
visits to sites.
Attitudes of Iraqis Today
We experienced a mixture of
fatalism, faith and defiance in the El-zahrawi tearoom. Watching
Saddam Hussains Army Day speech on television, we talked with
people at random, many of whom spoke English. They said that twice
now world opinion had predicted that Iraq would collapse after the
Gulf War in 1991, and in 1998 when 350 cruise missiles hit the
country and once again they will survive. Yes, their children are
afraid. Yes, the teenagers do not know if it is worth studying
seriously or not. No, they will not go to the shelters. They do not
talk so much of US or UK aggression but rather of Bush and Blair.
They do not resent the people of the countries about to bomb them,
nor the civilizations, but the leaders. In the words of Dr. Hoda
Ammash, People here bear every respect for western people and
western civilization. We respect your technological advancement, and
your values. We know that westerners are being given the opportunity
to learn about Arabic civilizations. Yet hatred is being
manufactured, by some, to engineer a clash of civilizations.
Iraqi households have been given
three months (and now a further two months') food rations in order
to get it out of the main storage sites to prevent them being
bombed. The food distribution programme, according to Denis Halliday
Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator
in Iraq (199798), is one of the most efficient in history,
involving 49,000 food distribution agents and minimizing corruption
through a system whereby if 100 people complain about an
agent, he or she is removed. Iraqis are also stockpiling water but
have no suitable large containers. People with gardens are being
asked to dig wells.
Under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme only about half the oil revenues
can be used for buying food and other necessities for the population
of the centre and South of the country; the rest being used for
compensation to Kuwait and the costs of the UN programme including
the UNMOVIC weapons inspections. Halliday concludes, The twelve
year sanctions regime has become a weapon of mass destruction, built
on the massive damage to civilian infrastructure by US bombing and
resulting in the deaths of over one million people since 1991, over
half of whom are children.
According to UNICEF 25% of Iraqi
babies are born weighing 2kgs or less, a key indicator of famine.
One million children under 5 suffer acute or chronic malnutrition.
Everyone we spoke to said they
would not use the 34 shelters provided for civilians in Baghdad
because of the 1991 bombing of Al-Amarya shelter when 408 out of 422
women and children in the shelter were burned to death.
Dr. Sami Al-Araji, a nuclear
engineer and Director General of Planning at the Ministry of
Industry, is facilitating the work of the UNMOVIC inspectors.
Everywhere we went there was a remarkable willingness to co-operate
with the inspections, but patience is being tested. During our visit
there was a routine inspection near the University of Baghdad where
there are 6 science centres. The inspectors wanted to investigate
one of these, but froze the entire complex meaning that nearly 3,000
people could not move for six hours, even though their place of work
was not under inspection. This meant that toddlers were left
uncollected at nursery schools.
Not even the Iraqi Ambassador to
the UN, there for a visit, was allowed to leave.
A professor of microbiology at the University of Baghdad told us
that during 199198 inspectors re-examined the university every
three weeks, searching minutely. They enter exam halls where
students are doing their finals and search under their chairs. Iraqi
people thought the inspections would last 23 years, and then they
could go back to normal life. The inspections are now into their
12th year, are more intense than ever, and there is no end in sight.
We visited the al-Dawrah Foot and
Mouth Vaccine Institute, which was high on the list in the UK
Government dossier (published September 2002) of biological weapons
sites. Since 1994 the site has been inspected 60 times, it has been
closed since 1995, when all the equipment was destroyed or removed
and there were cameras everywhere connected to the former UNSCOM
Monitoring Centre in Baghdad. The place was wrecked.
Civil and Political Rights
Since Oct 2002, laws and
regulations have been or are being revised as follows:
Amendments to the constitution to allow for a
Abolition of special security violations courts
which had no rights of appeal
Abolition of laws requiring cutting off hands of
Amnesty for political prisoners
Exiles not linked to intelligence services may
now return to Iraq with the right to criticise the government
Reduction of fee for exit visa from Iraq from
$200 to $10.
Current Iraqi production is approx
3 million barrels per day (current world production approx 77
million) but it has the second largest reserves in the world. If
controls were lifted, and with infrastructure investment, with its
immense reserves of easily extractable oil Iraq has the potential to
supply 10% of the worlds oil needs, and to continue to do so for at
least a century (since less than 1% of reserves are being used up
each year). Iraqis are very conscious of the energy needs of the
western economies the US has to import 60% of its oil needs
and know that the main reason for military invasion is to
gain control of its vast reserves of oil. Iraqi ministers fear that
if the US were to control Iraq's oil production, it would manipulate
the economies not only of the Far East, but also of Europe. Iraq
takes a long-term view, wants a stable oil price, and would like to
adopt normal trading relations rather than be subject to crises,
threats and manipulation.
Depleted Uranium (DU)
Water-borne and air-borne dust from
DU shells, used by the US and the UK in the 1991 Gulf war, is
spreading over vast areas of Iraq but the government has no way of
detecting the direction of the spread because airborne radiation
sensing equipment is prohibited. People are developing cancers by
consuming meat and milk from animals grazing in polluted areas.
Cancers of all kinds are increasing dramatically in Iraq
particularly amongst women with breast cancer and leukemia. Members
of our delegation have visited hospitals in Iraq since 1991 and
observed that current conditions in the hospitals have worsened.
Equipment needed for treatment lies idle because the computerized
controls have been removed due to sanctions. There is one nurse for
every 16 beds where previously there was one for every two beds.
Every child has a mother or grandmother giving full time care. Omar,
three years old has a plastino blastoma*, which attacks kidneys and
then destroys the brain and nervous system: his head is enlarged to
twice normal size, his face swollen unrecognizably out of shape and
his eyes blind. His mother sits with him like a madonna, waiting for
her child to die. Tiny Aia (Miracle) was born with a second head, a
brain sack attached to the back of her own head, a condition known
as meningoceal* and not seen in Iraq before the mid-1990s. Dr. Ahmed
Fadeh of the Baghdad Children Hospital told me there are unlimited
cases he simply cannot treat because his equipment is worn out or
lacks spares, and he has not got the drugs or even the suture thread
that he needs because of sanctions. This was told to us phonetically
in a hurry, we are not sure of the correct spelling
Implications for the Future
This visit was a shock treatment in
learning what it feels like to be an Iraqi. This is an ancient
people with a civilization 7000 years old (Iraqis point out that the
United States is barely 300 years old), an economy that until the
1980s was a model for the entire Middle East, and with a free health
service that was ahead of the National Health Service in the UK. The
streets are now rubble-strewn, most of the middle class people have
left, and people are selling their household goods on street corners
in order to survive. The currency has devalued 6000 (six thousand) %
in 20 years in 1981 one dinar bought three US dollars, today
one US dollar buys about 2000 dinars. To pay a modest hotel bill for
6 days, you need a pile of dinar notes two meters high.
Twelve years of sanctions, which were intended to make the Iraqi
people revolt against their leadership, have had the opposite effect
giving Saddam Hussein total control over his people through food
rationing. Sanctions have simply disabled Iraqi people through
hunger and the wholesale disintegration of their infrastructure.
Rather than rebel against Saddam Hussein, they feel defiance towards
Bush and Blair, which their leader can constantly reinforce, since
their sense of honour is continuously provoked. The humiliation is
very deep and very dangerous. In these circumstances a war and
subsequent occupation of Iraq will no doubt fuel the fires of hatred
and terror, and consequently the risk of attacks on the West.
more information see websites: www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
WHAT YOU CAN DO
is short. The UNMOVIC inspectors are due to report on 27th January
2003. Military preparations indicate that an attack may begin in
early February. A pre-emptive attack will be a clear-cut violation
of the UN Charter and international law. Medical and public health
experts in the UK estimate that between 48,000 and 260,000 civilians
could be killed in the first 3 months of conflict, and that if WMD
are used, there could be up to 4 million dead. What can be done to
move towards a genuine solution of this conflict other than war and
The free press and NGOs must speedily step up their analysis and
reporting to challenge disinformation about the realities in Iraq.
Please distribute this report to all your media contacts.
2. Whenever you hear a news broadcast on Iraq which does not mention
something about ordinary people, call them to ask for some human
interest stories. Iraq is not one man, it is 26 million fellow
citizens. They have points of views, hopes and fears like all of us.
A consistent well-structured mediation process has not been tried by
any government or international organisation so far. The European
Union has a substantial potential role to play. It could convene and
support a meeting between the most senior representatives of the
United States and of Iraq to explore whether all avenues short of
war have been exhausted. This meeting would need to be announced
before &nb!sp;27th January, perhaps to take place mid-February.
It would need to take place in a very safe environment and employ
state-of-the-art conflict resolution techniques. These moves could
be supported by France and by Germany in their chairmanship of the
UN Security Council in January and February 2003 respectively. Urge
your EU government to support such an initiative, and copy your
letter to Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece, 15 Vassilissis
Sofias Avenue, 10674 Athens, email@example.com
which has the current presidency of the European Union.
If you are yourself willing, go to Baghdad to become part of the
Civilian Protection that has already begun with contingents from
Spain, the US and Austria. 5000 people are needed to stay at
civilian sites such as electricity, water and telecommunications
facilities to try to prevent them being bombed. Individuals taking
this course of action should be aware of the serious risks involved.
either Voices in the Wilderness www.nonviolence.org <http://www.nonviolence.org>
or Dr. Al-Hashimi, President of the Iraqi Organisation for
Friendship, Peace and Solidarity in Baghdad, Silm@uruklink.net
Fax: + 964 1 537 2933 or + 964 1 8853298.
Call your foreign office to ask it you have an embassy in Baghdad.
Many governments do not have any representation and thus cannot
collect first hand facts and impressions on which to base an
independent analysis. Neither Britain nor the US has an embassy in
Baghdad, and communications have to go through the Polish embassy.
Ask your parliamentary committee for foreign affair s whether they
have visited Iraq to see for themselves and if not, why not. Ask
them to talk to Iraqi people at all levels.
Make it known that the 12-year sanctions regime has had the opposite
effect to that intended; it has put Saddam Hussein in total control
of the Iraqi people, through the rationing programme. He can
withdraw food from any person or group, and they will starve.
Prime ministers and presidents worldwide need to understand the
strength and urgency of public opposition to this proposed attack,
so that they will actively support mediation rather than allowing
themselves to be bribed or bullied into supporting an attack.
See George Monbiot article act now against war at:
ideas on how to get the message across, through non-violent civil
disobedience. He suggests disrupting the speeches of ministers,
blocking the roads down which they must travel, blockading important
public buildings, or airports from which troops take off.
What comes to pass does so not so
much because a few people want it to happen, as because citizens
abdicate their responsibility and let things be. Gramscii
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