excerpts from the book

Target Iraq

What the News Media Didn't Tell You

by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich

Context Books, 2003, paper


a reporter during the Gulf War in 1991 asked General Colin Powell if he knew how many Iraqis died in that war he replied:

"It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in."

IF Stone
Every government is run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed.


Solomon: Iraq at the Precipice

Senator Wayne Morse, 1964, as he voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution

"I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right."


Erlich: Media Coverage

The U.S. is supposed to have the best and freest media in the world, but in my experience, having reported from dozens of countries, the higher up you go in the journalistic feeding chain, the less free the reporting.

The typical would-be foreign correspondent graduates from college and gets a job with a local newspaper or broadcast station. The pay is low and the hours long. (Small town newspaper reporters can still start out at less than $18,000 a year.) But after perhaps two years, they advance up the ladder to bigger media outlets. After five years or so, some of the more dedicated and talented reporters get jobs at big city dailies or in major market TV/radio stations. A few start out freelancing from abroad and then join a major media outlet, but they are in the minority.

That first few years of reporting are like boot camp. Even the best college journalism programs give you only the sketchiest ideas about real reporting. I know. I taught college journalism for ten years. The university never teaches you to find sources on fifteen-minutes notice, how to file a story from the field when cell phones don't work, or how to write an 800-word story in thirty minutes. The journalist's best education is on the job.

In addition to journalistic skills, young reporters also learn about acceptable parameters of reporting. There's little formal censorship in the U.S. media. But you learn who are acceptable or unacceptable sources. Most corporate officials and politicians are acceptable, the higher up the better.

Every experienced reporter knows editors can set a standard of proof very low or impossibly high. If a reporter misquotes someone or gets some information wrong while writing an article critical of Saddam Hussein, editors back home

are not likely to raise significant objections, but if an article critical of U.S. policy contains the same errors, all hell breaks loose. At a minimum, someone from the State Department or Pentagon calls to complain. Conservative media groups and radio talk show hosts may bring additional pressure. Raymond Bonner, a New York Times reporter who wrote accurate articles critical of U.S. policy in El Salvador, was reassigned from that country in the 1980s during just that sort of conservative campaign.

By the time reporters are ready to become foreign correspondents-a process that can take ten years or more-they understand how the game is played. Becoming a foreign correspondent is a plum job. It's interesting and challenging. You travel frequently and meet international leaders. You may see your byline on the front page. The job has gravitas.

And then there's the money. I've conducted an informal survey of foreign correspondent salaries in countries I've visited. (Remember, reporters say things to each other they wouldn't tell the public.) Salaries of full-time radio and print reporters at the major media that I've met range from $90-$125,000 per year. That doesn't count TV correspondents, who can make twice that much or more.

One New York Times reporter based in Africa told me over a beer one night that being a foreign correspondent is a great step in the career ladder at the Times. After a few years in Africa, he planned to move onto a more prestigious foreign assignment before working his way up the various editors' desks in New York. Times reporters are acutely aware of international trends, and if they are to win a Pulitzer Prize, they must report from a place of major importance. Right now Iraq and the Middle East fill the bill.

Money, prestige, career options, ideological predilections-combined with the down sides of filing stories unpopular with the government-all cast their influence on foreign correspondents. You don't win a Pulitzer for challenging the basic assumptions of empire.

If a U.S. president doesn't like certain coverage, the administration can make it impossible for the offending reporters to get insider interviews or it can refuse to return phone calls. Foreign reporters may be forced to leave the country. Reporters quickly learn to self-censor, or they're taken off the beat.


Solomon: Media's War

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip," George Orwell remarked more than half a century ago, "but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip." No whips are visible in America's modern newsrooms and broadcast studios. There are no leashes on editors, reporters, producers, or news correspondents. But in mainstream media, few journalists wander far.

"In truth, the strength of the control process rests in its apparent absence," media critic Herbert Schiller observed. "The desired systemic result is achieved ordinarily by a loose though effective institutional process." Schiller went on to cite "the education of journalists and other media professionals, built-in penalties and rewards for doing what is expected, norms presented as objective rules, and the occasional but telling direct intrusion from above. The main lever is the internalization of values." Conformity becomes habitual. Among the results is a dynamic that Orwell described as the conditioned reflex of "stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought . . . and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction."

In contrast to state censorship, which is usually easy to recognize, self-censorship among journalists is rarely out in the open. Journalists tend to avoid talking publicly about constraints that limit their work; they essentially engage in self-censorship about self-censorship. In the highly competitive media environment, you don't need to be a rocket scientist, or even a social scientist, to know that dissent does not boost careers. This is especially true during times of war. The rewards of going along to get along are clear; so are the hazards of failing to toe the line.

Occasional candor from big-name journalists can be illuminating. Eight months after 9/11, in an interview with BBC television, Dan Rather said that American journalists were intimidated in the wake of the attacks. Making what he called "an obscene comparison," the CBS news anchor ruminated: "There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be 'necklaced' here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions." Rather added that "I do not except myself from this criticism," and he went on: "What we are talking about here-whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its proper name or not-is a form of self-censorship. I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend."

"The TV newsman comforts us as John Wayne comforted our grandparents, by seeming to have the whole affair in hand.... Since no one seems to live on television, no one seems to die there. And the medium's temporal facility deprives all terminal moments of their weight."

Major media outlets do provide some quality journalism. But the scattered islands of independent-minded reporting are lost in oceans of the stenographic reliance on official sources.

As any advertising executive knows, the essence of propaganda is repetition. Unless they're reverberating in the national media echo chamber, particular stories and perspectives usually have little effect.

In theory, everyone in the United States has freedom to speak his or her mind. Freedom to be heard is another matter. Sources of information and genuine diversity of viewpoints should reach the public on an ongoing basis, but they don't. Meanwhile, all kinds of pronouncements from official Washington take hold in news media while rarely undergoing direct challenge. The enormous distances between freedom of speech and freedom to be heard are partial explanations for why fervent belief in Uncle Sam's global benevolence remains so widespread among Americans. Laid on thick by the dominant voices of mass communication, the latest conventional wisdom flowing from the font of Pentagon Correctness swiftly hardens and calcifies. The mainstream news outlets are saturated with corporate sensibilities. The effects are such a matter of routine that we usually don't give them a second thought. While we might assume that coverage reflects the considered judgment of journalistic pros, those journalists are enmeshed in a media industry dominated by corporations with enough financial sway to redefine the meaning of functional professionalism.

We should never forget that war is big-very big-business.

William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute based in Manhattan, pointed out in late 2002 that "the Bush administration's strategy of 'preemptive war' in Iraq is the brainchild of a small circle of conservative think tanks and weapons lobbying groups like the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose members have been pressing this approach for over a decade." Hartung added:

In the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, PNAC published a report on "Rebuilding America's Defenses" which has served as a blueprint for the Bush/Rumsfeld Pentagon's military strategy, up to and including the coining of terms such as "regime change." PNAC's founding document-a unilateralist call for a return to the "peace through strength" policies of the early Reagan years-was signed by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and numerous others who have gone on to become major players in the Bush national security team. Like the Coalition for the Liberation of Iraq, a newly formed group of current and former Washington insiders designed to promote the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, PNAC draws its support from a tightly knit network of conservative ideologues, rightwing foundations, and major defense contractors. Bruce P. Jackson, a former vice president at Lockheed Martin who is a board member and a founding signatory of the Project for a New American Century's mission statement, serves as the chairman of the Coalition to Liberate Iraq. In adopting the strategy promoted by this conservative network, the Bush administration has successfully pressed for more than $150 billion in new military spending and arms export subsidies since September 11, 2001, much of which is going to major weapons makers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.

Such vested interests in the military business are powerful forces in a media industry propelled by the corporate drive to maximize profits. The main problem with the U.S. media is profoundly structural. The airwaves supposedly belong to the public, but huge companies control them. Most of mass communication media-such as broadcasting, cable, newspapers, magazines, books, movies, the music industry, and, increasingly, the Web-are dominated by huge corporate entities. More and more, "public broadcasting" is also in the sway of big money. Along with the politically appointed board of the nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting, corporate donors exert hefty influence on programs by "underwriting" specific shows.

And when war is on the agenda in Washington, news coverage gets skewed to an extreme.


Erlich: Depleted Uranium: America's Dirty Secret

During the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military wreaked havoc on Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles. The Iraqis didn't stand a chance because the U.S. tanks were protected with metal called depleted uranium. Depleted uranium (DU) armor and ammunition gave the U.S. a decided advantage. U.S. tanks fired DU shells, and helicopter Gattling guns sprayed .30 mm DU ammunition in a deadly rain that may well be killing U.S. veterans and Iraqi civilians years after the war ended.

Depleted uranium is the material left over from the processing of nuclear fuel. The U.S. military uses DU as a substitute for lead to fill the core of special ammunition. Depleted uranium is 1.7 times denser than lead, so it slices through enemy armor and fortifications with relative ease when compared to its lead counterpart. The same material is layered into tank armor to prevent penetration by enemy shells.

When DU ammunition hits a hard target, the impact causes intense heat, and the pulverized DU enters the air. Soldiers nearby breath it in. Winds can blow it miles away from the area of initial impact, so unlucky civilians also inhale it. DU remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years. It can contaminate soil and seep into the water table. Critics worry that DU is creating long-term environmental disaster areas in both Iraq and former Yugoslavia, where the U.S. also used DU. Doctors in both areas report huge increases in cancer rates, and Iraqis have seen a big jump in birth defects as well. Gulf War veterans report some of the same symptoms.

Any U.S. and Britain invasion of Iraq will almost certainly see the extensive use of depleted uranium ammunition once again. In addition to the many civilian deaths caused by direct hits, the ammunition may well cause great suffering and death long after the conflict.

Basra, Iraq

Something is very, very wrong in southern Iraq. At Basra's Children's and Maternity Hospital, doctors display a large photo album of hundreds of children born with horrible birth defects. One study conducted by Iraqi doctors indicated that 0.776 percent of Basra-area children were born with birth defects in 1998, compared to just 0.304 percent in 1990, before the Gulf War. Another study showed a rise in childhood cancers and other malignancies of 384.2 percent from 1990--2000.

According to Dr. Jinan Hassan, a pediatrician and assistant professor at the Basra University Medical College, "Iraqi women from the south are afraid to get pregnant because they are afraid of malformation.... At the time of birth, mothers used to ask if their child was a boy or girl. Now they ask 'Is it normal or abnormal?"'

Iraqi doctors, and an increasing number of western scientists, attribute the rise in diseases and birth defects to the U.S. and British use of depleted uranium. Iraqi doctors said they have found highly elevated rates of cancers in those parts of Basra where depleted uranium ammunition was used. The, Pentagon confirms firing 320 tons of DU ammunition during the Gulf War.

U.S. and British army veterans also suspect DU as a cause of Gulf War illnesses. Dr. Doug Rokke, now a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, was in charge of cleaning up twenty-four U.S. tanks hit by American DU shells during the Gulf War, casualties of friendly fire. He and his crew worked for three months shipping the armor back to the U.S. for special decontamination.

The exposure to DU contamination was so intense, Rokke told me, "We all got sick within seventy-two hours." Three years later, Rokke said, a urine test showed that he had 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in his body. A number of Gulf War veterans who worked in DU-contaminated zones have been diagnosed with the same kind of cancers as found in Basra civilians, and they also fathered children with birth defects.

Rokke, a physicist with a Ph.D. and the U.S. Army's former DU Project Director, studied the military's internal documents and prepared materials on how to clean up DU contaminated areas. Based on his experience, he says, "The United States military leaders knew that using DU would cause health and environmental problems."

The Pentagon argues, however, that DU ammunition poses no danger to civilians. Department of Defense literature notes that depleted uranium is less radioactive than uranium found naturally in the environment, and argues that even uranium miners regularly exposed to large doses of natural uranium suffer no ill health as a result.

The Department of Defense concedes that small amounts of depleted uranium are absorbed into the body when breathed or eaten. But "no radiological health effects are expected because the radioactivity of uranium and depleted uranium are so low." (www.gulflink.osd.mil)

Health trends in Iraq and former Yugoslavia indicate the Pentagon may be horribly wrong. Austrian oncologist Dr. Eva-Maria Hobiger has studied the link between depleted uranium, cancer, and birth defects. She won't draw any conclusions unless an extensive epidemiological study can be done in Basra. The Iraqi studies of birth defects and cancer rates have not been verified by outside scientists.

Hobiger notes, however, that if DU lodges in sensitive parts of the body such as lymph nodes or bones, it produces a low but steady stream of radiation. Over time, this could cause cancer, she says.

Dr. Hobiger and many others note that southern Iraq has been an environmental disaster area for years. During the Iran-Iraq War, some residents were hit with poison gas. After the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi troops set oil wells on fire and polluted the entire region for months. There is also an air pollution problem-largely from industrial plants and brick factories-in southern Iraq. Some scientists contend that these other environmental factors could be causing the health problems in Basra.

Dr. Hobiger argues that these other environmental factors, while dangerous, don't explain all the problems. Air pollution, for example, isn't known to cause birth defects. While some poison gases can cause birth defects among parents who breathe the gas, they are not known to cause malformations long after initial exposure.

She theorizes that DU in combination with the air pollution may cause the cancer problems. DU's chemical toxicity may also play a role. As a heavy metal, the DU can get into the ground water and soil. Once in the food chain, it can cause kidney cancer and a host of other ailments.

Until recently, however, scientists didn't know whether DU actually appeared in the bodies of people living in Iraq and the Balkans. That's because scientists must conduct a very sophisticated urine analysis of each patient to find the DU, and those tests were not available in Iraq.

The Pentagon and various other NATO armies did conduct such tests on their soldiers who fought in the Balkan wars and reported they found no traces of DU.

Then in 2001, BBC-TV in Scotland commissioned Professor Nick Priest to study the issue. He's a professor at the School of Health, Biological and Environmental Sciences at London's Middlesex University and a recognized expert in radiation issues. He took urine samples from twelve people from Bosnia and Kosovo who lived in areas hit with DU ammunition.

Some were cancer patients, and one was a child born after the Bosnian war. All showed some traces of DU in their systems. The test "most likely indicates that the metal [DU] is now present in the food chain and/or drinking water," Professor Priest wrote in a report for a scientific journal. In an interview in London, Priest said that the older the people were, the more DU they had in their systems, indicating that the contamination comes from DU particles in the environment that are slowly absorbed over time.

In October 2002, Professor Priest and scientists from Germany conducted a study with a larger number of Serbs and Bosnians to determine whether his original findings can be replicated. The results were expected to be released in 2003.

Professor Priest doesn't think that the amount of radiation emitted from depleted uranium poses a serious health hazard for civilians. The amount of DU he found, even in the cancer patients, was below what could be expected to cause such health problems. He noted that DU contains less radiation than natural uranium.

The controversy continues because no one can explain the sharp increase in Iraqi birth defects and cancers since the Gulf War. It's extremely difficult to link an individual's disease to a specific environmental factor. Scientists need to conduct a study to correlate the types of health problems and where they occur geographically. With a large enough sample, they could determine if the health problem was caused by exposure to DU, other environmental factors, family history, or something else.

At one time the World Health Organization was planning just such a study in Iraq, but couldn't find the funding. It was blocked by the U.S. and British, according to Dr. Hobiger.

Doctors are also troubled by reports of health problems in Bosnia similar to those found in Basra. U.S. planes fired approximately 3.3 tons of DU shells during the 1994-1995 Bosnian war and 10.2 tons during the 1999 Kosovo war, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

In interviews with doctors from Serbia and Bosnia who have examined patients living in areas where DU ammunition was extensively fired, they've seen a sharp increase in cancer cases, although so far, there has been no increase in birth defects.

Dr. Nada Cicmil-Saric is a medical oncologist who treated families from the town of Foca-Srbinje, Bosnia. The town's bridge was destroyed by U.S. attacks in 1994. She found numerous cases where two or more family members living near the bridge suffered from malignancies. While some cases might be attributed to genetic factors, in other cases husbands and wives both developed malignancies after 1994, a highly unusual occurrence, according to Dr. Cicmil-Saric.

At her hospital, which treats many people exposed to DU, she reports a five-fold increase in lung cancer and three-fold increase in lymph node cancers since 1994 both of which could be triggered by DU exposure. She has also seen a five-to- six-fold increase in breast cancer, which is generally not associated with DU, indicating other factors may be at work.

In the Bosnian war, as well as the 1998 NATO bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war, the U.S. hit factories and power stations, causing the release of carcinogenic smoke. As a result-much like the situation in Iraq-doctors say it's hard to isolate the impact of DU without a thorough epidemiological study.

Officials in the Yugoslav republics of Montenegro and Serbia aren't waiting for a final scientific assessment of DU dangers. They have already started to clean up DU contaminated sites.

Cape Arza is a spectacularly beautiful spot about 30 miles south of Dubrovnik, in Montenegro along the Adriatic coast. According to local myth, God was carrying treasure from the Middle East to Europe and dropped some of it on this land. In summertime, locals swim and fish in the azure sea.

On May 29 and 30, 1999-the closing days of the Kosovo war-two U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) planes fired DU rounds into Cape Arza. The Yugoslav Army built bunkers there in 1968, which had been used during the war with Croatia in the early 1990s. But there were no troops or weapons there in 1999, according to Tomislav Andelic, a physicist with the Center for Toxicological Research of Montenegro. "The U.S. just made a mistake," Andelic said, "they had bad intelligence."

The U.S. planes shot some 300 DU .30 mm bullets into Cape Arza, scattering them over 20,000 square meters of deserted land.

Over the past three years, the DU bullets have begun to oxidize and crumble. Montenegrin authorities worry that the DU dust could be blown by the wind or seep into the ground. Campers pitching a tent or children playing with the bullets could become contaminated. In addition, the existence of contaminated land will ruin any chance of tourism along this scenic stretch of seacoast.

The Yugoslav Army sealed off the area. The Montenegrin government kicked in $300,000 and the federal Yugoslav government another $100,000 to clean up Cape Arza. Soldiers holding gamma monitors on long wooden dowels painstakingly covered every inch of ground looking for DU bullets. They carefully pulled them out by hand like archeologists working an ancient dig. The contaminated bullets and radioactive dirt were shipped to Belgrade for storage with other low-level radioactive waste.

The federal Yugoslav government plans to clean up five similar sites in Serbia. But neither Serbia nor Montenegro can find a foreign government, international agency, or NGO willing to contribute money for the cleanups.

"If any country recognizes the need of cleaning up depleted uranium," said Andelic, "it would automatically mean they recognized the danger coming from DU. If this happened, we could have damage claims and nobody is ready to accept this."

If even some of the claims by Iraqi and Balkan doctors about DU prove correct, then the U.S. and Britain would come under tremendous pressure to stop using DU ammunition and could potentially be forced to pay billions of dollars in compensation to victims.

Somehow, this doesn't fit into U.S. plans to remain the world's only superpower.

In dosing, it is worth noting that both the U.S. and British armies have taken extensive precautions when test firing DU shells in their own countries. Soldiers are enshrouded in protective suits and use respirators when firing tank shells. The test areas are sealed off and soldiers isolate the destroyed armor and tank rounds after the tests.

Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times

"The Bush team discovered that the best way to legitimize its overwhelming might-in a war of choice-was not by simply imposing it, but by channeling it through the U.N."

Secretary of State [Colin Powell] on CNN

"If he [Saddam Hussein] doesn't comply this time, we'll ask the U.N. to give authorization for all necessary means, and if the U.N. is not willing to do that, the United States, with like-minded nations, will go and disarm him forcefully."

Pentagon's Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, speaking to some members of Parliament in Britain

"George Bush's top security adviser last night admitted the U.S. would attack Iraq even if U.N. inspectors fail to find weapons," the Mirror reported on November 20. "Perle stunned MPs by insisting a 'clean bill of health' from U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix would not halt America's war machine Evidence from ONE witness on Saddam Hussein's weapons program will be enough to trigger a fresh military onslaught, he [Perle] told an all-party meeting on global security."

British defense minister Peter Kilfoyle

"America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing. This makes a mockery of the whole process and exposes America's real determination to bomb Iraq."

Center for Constitutional Rights' president Michael Ratner

"What is going on here is completely outrageous. The Security Council, a body that was supposed to make war at the behest of one country illegal and impossible, is paving the way to a war of aggression. And worst of all, the U.S. will be able to argue that somehow it has its blessing."

Stephen Zunes, an associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, November 2002:

"There are more than 100 U.N. Security Council resolutions being violated by member states. Iraq is in violation of at most sixteen of them. Ironically, Washington has effectively blocked the enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions against many other nations, since they include such countries as Morocco, Indonesia, Israel and Turkey that are allied with the United States."

[Eric Leaver, a researcher with the Foreign Policy Focus Institute] was thinking outside the media box when he asked this vital question: "If the U.S. takes military action using the cover of the United Nations, what is to prevent other countries from launching their own military attacks in the name of enforcement of U.N. resolutions-against Turkey in Cyprus, or Morocco in Western Sahara, or Israel in Palestine? This is precisely the reason why the doctrine of preemptive force is a dangerous policy for the United States to pursue."

The media legend of Colin Powell celebrates his high jumps over low standards. Powell's record does not belong to a man of conscience. Avid participation in the deplorable has been integral to his career. A few examples:

* Serving as a top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Powell supervised the army's transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA in January 1986. Nearly half of those missiles became part of the Reagan administration's arms for-hostages swap with Iran. Powell helped to hide that transaction from Congress and the public.

* As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell became a key operator in U.S. efforts to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua. When he traveled to Central America in January 1988, Powell threatened a cutoff of U.S. aid to any country in the region that refused to go along with continued warfare by the contra guerrillas, who were then engaged in killing thousands of Nicaraguan civilians. Powell worked to prevent the success of a peace process initiated by Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias.

* When U.S. troops invaded Panama on December 20,1989, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had "emerged as the crucial figure in the decision to invade," according to British newspaper reporter Martin Walker. Hundreds of civilians died in the first hours of the invasion. Powell declared on that day: "We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, 'Superpower lives here."'

* In late 2000, while Bush operatives were going all-out during the Florida recount to grab the electoral votes of a state where many thousands of legally qualified African Americans had been prevented from voting due to Republican efforts, Powell went to George W. Bush's ranch in Texas to pose for a photo-op and show support for his presidential quest.

But the Gulf War in 1991, more than any other event, catapulted Powell to the top ranks of American political stardom.

Ron Kovic, a veteran of the Vietnam War and author of the autobiography 'Born on the Fourth of July', did not stop talking that afternoon. From his wheelchair, he struggled to be heard. "I want the American people to know what the general hid from the American public during the Gulf War," Kovic said. "They hid the casualties. They hid the horror. They hid the violence. We don't need any more violence in our country. We need leaders who represent cooperation. We need leadership that represents peace. We need leaders who; understand the tragedy of using violence in solving our problems."

How many Iraqi people actually died during the Gulf War in 1991? Powell and other American luminaries of the war have been notably uninterested in discussing that question. But scholar Stephen Zunes wrote in his 2002 book Tinderbox. Most estimates put the Iraqi death toll in the Gulf War in the range of 100,000. Due to the increased accuracy of aerial warfare, the proportion of Iraqi civilians killed was much less than it had been in previous air campaigns.... The absolute numbers were quite high. Most estimates of the civilian death toll are approximately 15,000."

During the last several months of 2002, journalists reported that the latest manifestation of Colin Powell's "moderate" resolve was his stance on Iraq within the administration of George W. Bush. But the secretary of state's determination to line up allies and U.N. Security Council backing could be understood as part of a solid commitment to make methodical preparations for the coming war. Powell was thinking very pragmatically in a global context. And so, during a lengthy and pivotal dinnertime presentation to Bush on August 5, he made a strong appeal for building coalitions. Later paraphrased by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, the Powell pitch to the president emphasized the practicalities of waging war against Iraq: "A successful military plan would require access to bases and facilities in the region, overflight rights. They would need allies."

In early September, four weeks after Powell made his case to Bush, the Wall Street Journal noted that "access to Qatar's al Udeid Air Base will be essential to an Iraq invasion." Away from the glare of major publicity, big deals were being cut. "Qatari officials have told U.S. officials that they want a guarantee that the U.S. military presence in Qatar would be permanent," the newspaper reported. "They also want the U.S. to assume a greater portion of the $400 million cost of upgrading al Udeid air base for the U.S. Air Force." As for reluctant members of the U.N. Security Council, some bloody quid pro quos were on the horizon. In the Journal's words, Moscow "is expected to seek an understanding with the U.S. that it will have a freer hand in putting down its rebellion in Chechnya and that it will get a portion of the postwar contracts for rebuilding Iraq." A new spree of atrocities by the Russian army in Chechnya was soon to follow.

As for diplomatic issues, Powell's approach was similar to the outlook of Fareed Zakaria, former managing editor of the elite periodical Foreign Affairs, who shared Powell's early interest in urging the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, a good public-relations step in the quest for a confrontation leading to war. "Even if the inspections do not produce the perfect crisis," Zakaria wrote in a September 2 Newsweek column, "Washington will still be better off for having tried because it would be seen to have made every effort to avoid war." Along similar lines, CNN reported Powell "is working to convince the president of the need to build a strong coalition, similar to the one that existed during the 1991 Gulf War, and win the support of the U.N. Security Council through a new resolution."

Deadly hawks come in many styles; some have polished talons.

Erlich: Sanctions

At the end of the Gulf War, the United States could have removed Saddam Hussein from power, but feared his immediate ouster would fracture the country. Pro-Iranian Shia Muslims would have taken over southern Iraq. Kurds would have seized power in the north, possibly leading to a Kurdish revolt in Turkey.

The U.S.-imposed sanctions have been brutally effective in bleeding Iraqi civilians. For five years, the domestic economy was in a state of near collapse. The medical system was ruined due to lack of equipment and medicines. Public water and sewage systems deteriorated to the point where children regularly suffered gastrointestinal diseases. Malnutrition became a serious national problem.

In 1990, Iraq was rated 50th out of 130 nations on the U.N. Human Development Index, which measures a country's overall development. By 2000 Iraq had plunged to 126th out of 174. UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children have died as a direct result of sanctions.

While the U.S. always stresses that sanctions are mandated by the United Nations, in fact, sanctions would have been lifted long ago were it not for U.S. and British pressure to keep them in place. Sanctions were promoted by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, who blamed Saddam Hussein for the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.


George Orwell
"Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past."


Solomon: March to War

Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw, December 2002

"Based on past performance, both by the current Bush administration and by its immediate Republican predecessors, there's every reason to think that if we go to war against Iraq, Washington will exert more control over the media than ever before, using every tactic from manipulation to deception to disinformation."

Patrick Sloyan, Pulitzer Prize winning gulf War correspondent for Newsday

"In manipulating the first and often most lasting perception of Desert Storm," wrote Sloyan, "the Bush administration produced not a single picture or video of anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by military briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a war without death."


Erlich" The Oil Issue

The U.S. government-under Republican and Democratic administrations- clearly promotes control of foreign oil resources as an integral part of U.S. "national interests."

Anthony Arnove

We should be skeptical of Bush's stated concern for the Iraqi people. His real interests in this war are not the Iraq people, or defending Americans from attack, but expanding U.S. hegemony in the Middle East.

Denis Halliday, a former U.N. Assistant Secretary General - headed the U.N.'s food-for-oil program in Iraq:

Have we really bought the fiction, the Washington propaganda, that Iraq is a threat? We all know-the issue is oil, oil, and more oil. And U.S. control thereof.

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