Gulf War I: Bush Snr's shameful Holocaust in Iraq
DAWN MAGAZINE -- Pakistan Sunday February 12, 2006-- Muharram 13, 1427 A.H.
Remembering the holocaust in IraqBy Asma Rashid
That the UN should have chosen as its humanitarian envoy in Pakistan, George Bush, the man responsible for the 1991 Gulf War, is not very surprising, considering that it provided the fig leaf for his imperialist-Zionist venture and, more recently, legitimized the illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign country by his worthy scion in 2003. But that Dawn should choose to publish on its front page a picture of its author, “exchanging pleasantries” with our president, on the 15th anniversary of the Iraqi holocaust on Jan 17 came as a shock.
As may be recalled it was in the early hours of that day in 1991, that Iraqi cities were hit almost simultaneously by hundreds of deadly bombs and missiles. Within an hour, 90 per cent of all electric power generation was destroyed; several thousand bombing sorties cut the major arteries of the nation’s vital services in the next 48 hours, with catastrophic results on civilian life.
Starting with 2,000 aerial sorties a day, total US over-flights would exceed 109,000 in the 43 days of assault. Some 88,500 tons of bombs equalling the power of seven Hiroshima bombs, on an average of one every second, smashed the cradle of civilization.
No target was considered sacrosanct; factories, schools, universities, mosques, historical sites and hospitals, all came under incessant bombing. At al-Rashad mental hospital, southwest of Baghdad, ceilings collapsed on patients’ beds. The entire food chain from farm to market came under attack irrigation and water supply, fertilizer, pesticide and tractor assembly plants, grain silos and food warehouses were methodically picked out and destroyed. Farm herds were decimated and flourishing fish and poultry farming destroyed. Even a baby formula-producing plant was not spared.
In the densely-populated cities where 72 per cent of the Iraqi population lives, entire areas were carpet bombed. Baghdad was hit for 39 consecutive days. It was also the site of the barbaric aerial attack on the Amariya bomb shelter where nearly 1,500 civilians, mostly women and children, had taken refuge. Two guided missiles hit the shelter in the early hours of February 13. Neighbourhood residents heard frantic screams as the first bomb ripped open a hole in the shelter’s roof. Then the second bomb, much bigger and more powerful, blasted its way through the hole to the bottom floor where it exploded, killing almost everyone. The western public saw only the carefully sanitized view of the shelter. Unedited scenes of the carnage shown in Baghdad and Amman were unbearable. Another mass killing occurred at about the same time in Fallujah when in two separate attacks, British RAF dropped precision guided bombs on a market and a row of modern apartments, killing at least 200 civilians and wounding 500.
By Feb 24 no possible targets, civil or military remained, yet spurning last-ditch international attempts for a ceasefire. Bush ordered the ground offensive. The subsequent wholesale slaughter of Iraqi military units and convoys as they withdrew from the battlefield defies description. One account said: “Hundreds, possibly thousands of unarmed Iraqi soldiers, began walking toward the US positions with their hands raised in an attempt to surrender. However, the orders for this unit were not to take any prisoners. The commander of the unit began firing by shooting an anti-tank missile through one of the Iraqi soldiers. This missile is designed to destroy tanks, but it was used against one man. At this point everybody in the unit began shooting. Quite simply, it was a slaughter.”
New York’s Newsday obtained army footage showing scores of soldiers of the Hammurabi Division of the Republican Guards being slaughtered by laser-guided Hellfire missiles on March 2, two days after the ceasefire: Say hello to Allah, an American soldier was recorded as saying moments before a Hellfire missile obliterated one of the 109 vehicles raked up by the Apaches.
Months later, the most horrifying story of the ground war came to light. It was found that the US division that broke through Saddam Hussein’s defensive frontline used ploughs mounted on tanks and combat earthmovers to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers, some still alive and firing their weapons, in more than 70 miles of trenches. Weapons of mass destruction were used in scornful defiance of international law. Tens of thousands of depleted uranium projectiles were dropped by air and fired from tanks. Frontline Iraqi troops were also subjected to detonations of BLU-82, a near nuclear 15,000-pound fuel-air device with blast over pressures of 1,000 per square inch-humans can only withstand 40 psi. Napalm was used to burn troops and entrenched soldiers. Cluster bombs, each spreading 247 bomblets over an acre, spewing almost 500,000 high-velocity shrapnel fragments were freely used by Anglo- American forces to decimate convoys of mostly foreign workers fleeing from Kuwait turning the road to Basra into a “Highway of Death”. There were also the two hastily-made 5,000 pound GBU-28 super-bombs picked up by US pilots from a base in Saudi Arabia, hours before the cease-fire on February 27, and dropped one after the other on a hardened bunker at al-Taji airbase, in a last-minute bid to assassinate the Iraqi president.
But it was the poisoning of Iraq’s public water supply that proved to be the deadliest weapon. Its deliberate use as a long-term biological time bomb of mass-killing, is evident from a seven-page US Defence Intelligence report entitled “Iraq’s Water Treatment Vulnerabilities” revealed by The Sunday Herald of Glasgow Sept 17, 2000. The report issued and circulated to all major allied commands the day after the war started, observes at the outset that Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and certain chemicals to purify its water supply which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline.
A deluge of American and coalition fire in the early hours of January 17, 1991 smashed in a trice the entire water and power supply system. As recorded by Ramsey Clark, Iraq’s eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and heavily damaged. This simultaneously wrecked flood control, irrigation, and water storage system and hydro-electric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water-pumping stations were destroyed; bombs and missiles hit 31 municipal water and sewage facilities, 20 being hit in Baghdad alone. Sewage spilled into the Tigris and out in the streets of Baghdad, adding water-borne diseases to the list of killers. In Basra , the sewage system completely collapsed. Water purification plants were incapacitated nation-wide. Those that were not damaged could not function without electricity,
Despite the apocalyptic devastation of the country’s infrastructure and the staggering war toll, over 50,000 civilian and 125,000 military deaths ( Colin Powell dismissed the Iraqi casualty figure saying “it’s a number that does not interest me’), the sanctions which expressly embargoed chlorine and all other material needed to restore the water supply and sanitation system remained firmly in place. The result as foreseen by US planners, was a virtual genocide. The four-fold increase in diarrhoea mortality rates confirmed by US Assistant Secretary Ahtissari in March 1991, had increased to 1009.02 per cent by the end of 1996; one and half a million Iraqis, mostly children were dead and over 4,500 children under five were dying each month when speaking of sanctions against Iraq, Lesley Stahl spoke to Madeline Albright on sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
“I think this is a very hard choice,” the US secretary of state replied “but the price we think the price is worth it.” (60 Minutes, 5/12/96).