“I was there last week. I've been there every year since 1990 except one. And the health condition is the worst it's been. Obviously, it builds on the past, and as your nutrition continues to be inadequate, the inherent physical strength of the people deteriorates. The sanctions have now killed over a million and a half people. The great majority are infants, children, elderly people, chronically ill people, people that every decent society strives hardest to protect. And they are killing people at the rate of about ten thousand a month, which is a lot of people to die. And you cannot do that. It's genocide in the specific terms of the Genocide Convention.”
Fresh from a visit to Iraq in the first week of November, former US Attorney General in the Lyndon B Johnson administration (1966), Ramsey Clark talked exclusively to Impact International. He gives a clear, candid and masterly analysis of the US policy towards Iraq and provides an insight into Washington's geo-political objectives. He is an eminent practising lawyer with his own law office in New York. Ramsey Clark highlights areas of particular concern to Muslims, people in the developing countries and those with an interest in the developing countries.
We asked him:
THE CONFLICT: For more than six years now, the United States has systematically raised issues against Iraq claiming non-compliance with Security Council's determinations against that country. Some have been reactions to statements or position that Iraq has taken. The latest conflict arises from Iraq's determination to expel and its actual expulsion of American members of UNSCOM (UN Special Commission) inspection teams in Iraq. The issue had been deferred for many years because Iraq wanted to avoid conflict and hoped it could work out an end to the sanctions without having to raise the question of American personnel being part of the UN inspection team.
finally came to the conclusion that as long as US inspectors dominated
the inspection teams, the hope for a conclusion of the process was vain;
it wouldn't happen, because they would keep making one excuse after another.
So they requested other UN inspectors to remain and continue their work,
and asked, in fact ordered the American members of the team to leave.
The US then went into high dudgeon, you might say, claiming that the Americans are essential to the process. I happened to be in the [United Arab] Emirates at the time, and [Retired] General [Joseph P.] Hoar, former assistant security of state [Richard] Murphy, and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs [Martin] Indyk were all there. They' gave three reasons why US inspectors should be on the team.
The first one being that our interests were involved, which is almost precisely why US personnel shouldn't be involved. How can you fairly judge when your interests are involved in the matter that you are judging? Actually, just the appearance of fairness would require that there be no American inspectors because it was the US that bombed the country. It was the US that imposed the sanctions. It was the US that accused Iraq time and time again of avoiding UN mandates.
It is unreasonable to think that American inspectors would be fair or that they could appear to be fair under the circumstances, because they have a long history of raising false issues. You know, when you are hunting for something that you have not found, you can hunt forever. You can just say there's a needle in that haystack, and we've looked all through it, but we're going to look again, because we think maybe it is over there, or over here, or we just overlooked it or something. The tragedy is that the United States so far has succeeded in linking this inspection process to the sanctions. The sanctions have now killed over a million and a half people. The great majority are infants, children, elderly people, chronically ill people, people that every decent society strives hardest to protect. And they are killing people at the rate of about ten thousand a month, which is a lot of people to die. (Ed. Note: Ramsey Clark’s figures are considerably less than the official Iraqi figures, but genocidal nevertheless) And you cannot do that.
genocide in the specific terms of the Genocide Convention which speaks
of 'acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national
or religious group as such' by 'deliberately inflicting on the group conditions
of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or
in part'. That's exactly what the sanctions are doing.
Therefore the question of whether to continue the sanctions cannot be related to the inspection issue. The sanctions have to be ended because they're genocide. You don't justify genocide on the grounds of some search for something that is probably meaningless anyway. It's hard to see how it could be otherwise.
We saw how powerful Iraq was at the time of the assault on it in 1991. It was unable to protect any aspect of its own society and unable to inflict any injury of any significance on anybody else. While we killed more than 100,000 people directly with bombing, our casualties were less than 250, and more than half of them were from our own fire, 'friendly fire'.
Anyway, the first thing that has to be done - and it has to be done immediately - is the end of the sanctions. And then there has to be a major effort to rehabilitate the medical services, the capacity of the hospitals and health clinics, medical supplies, everything in the health care system of Iraq, and nutrition and food. God willing, in ten, 20 years, except for residual and genetic effects of depleted uranium and things like that, Iraq will be back where it was before our assault on it.
U2 PROVOCATION: [The U2 spy planes going on missions over Iraq.] It is certainly absurd-sounding on the face of it. It doesn't mean a lot because our planes have been flying over Iraq whenever they want to anyway. We've had planes flying over the so-called no flight zone, which comes within 30 miles of Baghdad on the south and includes all the Kurdish areas of the north, whenever we wanted to.
You can't shoot
a satellite down. You can shoot a U2 down, as the Soviet Union showed
in 1960. When it did, we ought to remember, at first President Eisenhower
said it wasn't true, that we didn't fly over the Soviet Union taking pictures,
that no plane was shot down. And after Khruschev appeared with Gary
Powers on television, and with the wreckage of the plane, it became a little
hard to explain, and he said: 'I guess we did.' But we didn't threaten
the Soviet Union as we threaten Iraq.
If you watch TV - I watched it first in the Emirates and then in Amman, Jordan, and didn't get to see any of it in Iraq because I was travelling the whole time I was there last week - the sabre-rattling was just unbelievable.
It was like we were re-enacting the Gulf War, our one moment of fame, when we devastated a defenceless country, killing men, women and children. We hit every type of civilian facility in the country from schools and hospitals and public markets, homes, and apartment houses, all the way to mosques and churches and synagogues.
It was just relentless bombing of the whole country - 110,000 aerial sorties, 88,500 tons of bombs, seven and a half times Hiroshima's equivalency. And 94% were unguided bombs that were less accurate than in World War II for a number of reasons.
TERRORISING INTO SUBMISSION: First, you were dropping them from twice the usual bombing altitude, which means air currents can cause greater variation. You are flying at greater speeds and have desert winds that make accuracy extremely difficult. But there was no effort to be accurate. What we were doing was terrorising and drubbing the country into what we thought would be submission.
So we now put these U2s up, and, initially, the Iraqis said they would shoot them down if they flew. And President Clinton went on the air and said if they murder one of our U2 pilots that would be the end for them, which is big talk.
But we're murdering hundreds of Iraqis every day. Every one of those leaders ought to have to go through those hospitals ' and watch those infants and children and elderly people. I was there last week. I've been there every year since 1990 except one. And the health condition is the worst it's been. Obviously, it builds on the past, and as your nutrition continues to be inadequate, the inherent physical strength of the people deteriorates.
Now, every time you get somebody in a hospital you find they multiple problems because they’ve aggregated over a period of effect of bad water which is prevalent, the effect of a lack of sanitation where we have destroyed sewage disposal systems and they can't repair them, and can't buy necessary equipment; they can't even buy pumps to pump the sewage out, or pump parts to replace broken pumps. We are just condemning them to a slow and very cruel death. And so far, as I've said, we've killed more than a million and a half.
The U2s are useful in their way to the United States strategy because it made Iraq seem violent, like they might shoot down a plane as the Soviet Union 37 years ago. But it ignores the fact that every day hundreds of Iraqis die because of US-dictated sanctions.
WORTH 500,000 DEAD CHILDREN: Well, we have seen a little bit [of the suffering in Iraq]. We saw [nationally-broadcast - television programme] 'Sixty Minutes' where Leslie Stahl went over and walked through the hospitals. Some of the same doctors that we see on every trip were in the picture, and she talked about 500,000 children that died. This was over a year ago - actually I think the programme came on in early February, but it was over a year ago that she made the trip.
At the end of the programme, or towards the end, she [Stahl] had an interview with Madeleine Albright. Madeleine Albright was asked whether she thought the political results were worth the price of 500,000 dead children. Madeleine Albright's answer was: that's a difficult question, but yes, we think it's worth the price. Which shows our moral values and character, I guess. How could anything be worth the price of 500,000 children, or even one child?
THE PEOPLE ARE GOOD: I don't think Tthe American people are bad. I am an optimist. I think that they are no better and no worse than anybody else. I think, though, that we have permitted a set of values to permeate our culture that are pretty unfortunate and cruel. And they include a glorification of violence. We absolutely love violence. I don't think there has ever been a culture that glorified violence the way that we do.
And the other is our materialism. We just love things. We are so covetous of property and accumulation of what Mark Twain called 'unnecessary necessities' that it has numbed us to the human condition. So we can get pretty mean-spirited. I've never seen [us] more mean spirited towards aliens and immigrants than we are now. In the 1960s, when we had an immigration reform act, we still saw ourselves as we are, as overwhelmingly a nation of immigrants.
Now, as Mr [Thomas] Dewey [ presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948] said: 'We don't want any more, we got here first. Keep them out.' You don't even let them have medical care or education or anything else if they get in here. And that shows your values. If you won't care for immigrants and aliens while they are here, will you care for their poor when they're overseas?
You can almost see a systematic effort of triage for poor countries around the world. If the American people clearly saw, understood, and were constantly reminded of the effects of their policies. I think they would change them. And I think they would be very angry at those who have caused these policies to take effect. But if you look at where the American mind is, and where its spirit is, it is more concerned with artificially pumping up the stock market and buying new VCRs than it is with feeding a starving child.
POWER OF PLUTOCRACY: The media [in the US] is owned and controlled by the same handful of powerful economic concentrations that own an control not only the military-industrial complex, but the corporate power of the country, and that elect all the significant elected officials in the United States, with rare exceptions.
What we have is a plutocracy. We talk about a free press, but it is just free for the powerful. And the rest are voiceless, which is a far cry from what we have proclaimed ourselves to be -just like the state of our democracy. We are no more a democracy than the most authoritarian society because votes are controlled by money - absolute and the government by money. But media is quite adroit not only creating the desire of the public, feeding it.
And it's the same
with our public education, if you look at it. We have gotten away
from education to build character, to build a strong citizen independent
and free people, tow we put it in terms of gainful employment or economic
success, it is really serving the machine, might say, like a bunch of drones.
So I think those things have to be fact in, because it is hard to seal
off truth. The truth will come out.
There are not many Americans that haven't had the chance to see and know - to take the issue of Iraq - that children are dying there, that the children are starving there. We don't want to hear it. We don't want to know it. If you put on a programme that just showed what was happening everybody would just turn to [television comedy], I think.
That's because we've conditioned people to where it's a part of the system. So it is a big struggle. doesn't mean that it can't be turn around. I think it can be turn around. But right now, it is certainly in the driver's seat. And it's crushing.
Just take organised labour and free trade. Free trade is basically a means of further empowering American corporations, that's all. It wipes out labour, exploits foreign women and children overwhelmingly, but some others, too. So all those things have to be looked at together. Meanwhile we not only maintain, we improve our nuclear superiority, our monopoly, near-monopoly, and we continue research on weaponry, and then we beat up on Iraq with false claims that it is about to develop a nuclear weapon.
INVENTING AN 'ENEMY':
... Islam has probably a billion and a half adherents today. It exists.
And it is probably the most compelling spiritual and moral force
on earth today. People hate to hear that.
I've spent a lot of time with Americans in our prisons. What you see there is a lot of kids coming out of bedlam into prison, no family structure, no education, drugs and corruption all their lives, totally disoriented, so that their values are power, violence. Even more than corporate executives, they want money. It's hard to believe they could want it more. But that's how you get to be somebody. There's no other way to be anybody in this country. And there's no discipline. They can't even concentrate.
And then you see Islam offered to prisoners, and suddenly there is something else in their life. And they are praying five times a day. And their mental and physical self-discipline becomes of an extremely high order, so that if there is a prison riot, they are the ones that save lives. They are the ones that people turn to for leadership.
It is not just that we need an enemy. It is that we really fear them. I happened to be in Algiers on the third of March, I think, right after the bombing in 1991, to see a couple of plane loads of workers and medical supplies flying towards Iraq. And I met with the leadership there, from several north African Islamic nations. One of the presidents said, the way he put it was: 'Now NATO will turn its face from the east and turn south.' What he really meant was that Islam would be the new enemy.
At Shaikh Omar Abdul-Rahman's trial, what we saw in both FBI and CIA files, and this is their phrase, 'the greatest threat to the international and domestic security of the United States is Islamic fundamentalism'. But actually, 'Islamic fundamentalism' to them is redundant. So they have to convict a blind Islamic scholar of terrorism to show that Islam is, at it highest levels of learning and attainment, nothing but a terrorist concept.
How could a blind man be a terrorist, what could he do? They claimed that he was the leader of the conspiracy that set off the bomb in the World Trade Centre. They have now had two trials and two convictions of the defendants in the World Trade Centre cases, and Shaikh Omar Abdel-Rahman's name wasn't even mentioned at either trial. He had nothing to do with it, but we have this war against Islam going on.
We need to know the people. We need to respect their religion. We need to love them. We need to live together on this planet, and we can't do that the way we are going about it right now. They are overwhelmingly poor. From Nigeria to Indonesia, the great masses of the people in Muslim countries are poor, and probably the best thing in their lives, the only saving thing, is their religion.
RICH AND POOR DIVIDE: I think the question of the 21st century will be poverty. And the rich in the 'first world,' a handful of people comparatively, and a number of major corporations, and staggering amounts of wealth, will - as they have been doing for some time - be systematically attacking the poor, the poor within rich countries, who are numerous, but more importantly the poor in the poor countries, who have got 30% of the labour force unemployed now.
Therefore we have to have techniques of controlling and containing these surging populations. The ways are many. If you watch what's been happening in, just take Zaire, we watched at least a quarter of a million, perhaps half a million Hutus exterminated while we were essentially supporting Kabila as he did it. We've watched what has happened in Rwanda and Burundi.
One of our greatest accomplishments, we think, was the Iran-Iraq war. When that began, Henry Kissinger said: 'I hope they kill each other.' And he really meant it. What could be better, you know? It was like the effort to ‘yellowise'. as we called it, the Vietnam War. How wonderful just to let them kill each other, to solve all of our problems. If you look at violence and hunger in third world countries, you see it is not only enormous but growing.
ONLY WANT THEIR WEALTH: The way I think it [the west's demographic policies towards resource-rich developing nations] works is that we want their wealth but we don't want them. It's not a matter of keeping them from getting rich: it's much worse than that. It's a matter of taking their wealth and getting rid of them. That's hardly new. We've been doing it forever.
However if you look at the case of Iraq, you will see that the sanctions are the new weapon of choice. They are like the neutron bomb, which is the most inspired of all weapons because it kills the people and preserves the property, the wealth. So you get the wealth and you don't have. the baggage of the hungry, clamouring poor. It think that's what we are abort.
We are willing to let a handful of people in any poor country become a part of the international plutocracy as a part of the cost of controlling and reducing their numbers, and securing and obtaining their wealth. But when you look at the billions to come and the billion or so now who live in dire poverty and constant hunger and malnutrition and short lives filled with ignorance and violence, you see that we have a long way to go to take care of all these poor.
The only way we've been willing to address it is by triage - elimination of' some percentage of them - and then controlling their sustenance. We want to control their food supply, and their water, because that's the. first requirements of life. And they will be subservient because, if they can't produce their own food and protect their own water, and we impose sanctions, they don't last very long.
In Impact International, Vol 27 No.12 – December 1997/Sha’aban-Ramadan 1418
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