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Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1996 05:48:29 -0600
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>>> Item number 8464, dated 96/03/02 05:14:08—ALL
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 1996 05:14:08 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Organization: PACH
Subject: Iraq: The night death was roaming

/** mideast.gulf: 89.0 **/
** Topic: Iraq: The night death was roaming **
** Written 11:57 PM Feb 15, 1996 by G.LANGE@LINK-GOE.comlink.apc.org in cdp:mideast.gulf **

The night death was roaming

By Huda M. al Yassiri, The Baghdad Observer, no. 8515, 17 January 1996

Baghdad—Five years now have passed since January 17, 1991, though memories of that night are still fresh in the minds of all Iraqis. Events of that night are still vivid as if they had happened yesterday.

Early on January 17, 1991, the United States began an unprecedented missile and bombing campaign across Iraq. Starting with 2.000 aerial sorties a day, total US over flights would exceed 109.000 in the 42-day assault. Most were bombing runs. More than 88.500 tons of explosives were dropped on Iraq. This massive bombing operation was primarily a war against civilian life.

On that night, Iraqis were numbed with fear, anguish and terror as they saw the sky laced with anti-aircraft fire and all the surrounding turned into an inferno.

All started so suddenly while all Iraqis were still in bed enjoying a sound sleep, hoping that all threats of military action would not come true.

Nothing seems able to erase or even blur the memory of that night of January 17, 1991 which sent shiver into all Iraqis who could not sleep a wink for nights to follow. On January 17, time seemed to have slowed down or even stopped that many thought that night will perpetuate for ever.

It was awful to see a city full of human being bombed that way. In less than hours a number of buildings, hospitals, telecommunications centres, bridges and water and power facilities were attacked and destroyed. A whole nation laid helpless beneath an alien military that could attack and destroy with impunity. Before the assult was over, US planes flew more than 109.000 sorties, raining 88.000 tons of bombs, the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas and killing indiscriminately across the country.

In less than hours of intensive bombing, Baghdad like other Iraqi cities no longer existed as functioning city. It was really awful. Destruction was visible everywhere. Though the centre of the city was not completely incinerated, as happened to Dresden and Hiroshima, every service essential to modern city life was severed. Communications centres (including post offices and telephone centres) were destroyed, the sewage system, water system, electrical generating system had all been disabled and bridges, civilian bridges which have no military purpose, fallen into the rivers.

The 42-day assult left the nation with thousands of civilain dead, without water, hospitals or health care, without gasoline, road and bridge repair capacity, or parts for essentail equipment, and with a growing food crisis. Because of the nature of American weapons, Iraq was being crippled and left to a painful struggle for survival. The bombing, as could be seen from the ground, was hardly surgical, but was clearly designed to break a whole country and its population for a long time to come.

The most accurate missiles and laser-guided bombs were used to destroy key elements of Iraq's infrastructure - communications systems, oil refineries, electric generators, water treatment facilities, dams, and transportation centres - to inflict hardship on the Iraqi people. The nature of the bombing of industrial and other priority sites showed calculated planning.

During the early day of the war, Baghdad was more like a dead city, without electricity, telecommunications or traffic. The city had been hurriedly deserted. Most of its people fled their homes looking for a shelter in the outskirts and nearby villages and provinces. Life seemed to have come to a standstill as streets were deserted and shops were closed down. Hospitals were empty except for few patients, mainly dying children, whose parents though they still could find some sort of treatment.

Baghdad, for the most part, was still standing. As one drive into the city one cannot see destruction on the streets, but can sense that everything has stopped, only one or two traffic lights were working, for example. At nighttime in big cities there are always lights-in, Baghdad nighttime during the days of war was very eerie because there were no lights whatsoever. So although the city was still standing, it is very clear that something is drastically wrong.

For the one who saw the rain of fire and brimstone that poured down on Baghdad and imagines that Iraq has been, as one UN report put it, bombed back into the Stone Age, will be surprised to see the city standing on its feet again.

The infrastructure of Baghdad had gone; in fact, it is much worse than that. Once the infrastructure of a city is removed the entire structure of the community that lives in the city disintegrates. Communications centres destroyed; water purification systems taken out; sewage systems disabled; all means of travel obstructed. The entire structure of the city started to fall apart. It was almost impossible for people in Baghdad to do normal day-to-day activities; everything moved so slowly.

If one looks superficially around, he will see that the picture has changed because there is electricity, traffic, people, shops opened again and telephone lines. Streets are crowded with people, automobiles, buses and trucks. The great majority of the city buildings including miles of stylish modern houses, offices and apartment buildings are intact. Only here and there are brunt and shattered spots. But this is not the real Baghdad. If one looks a little bit deeper inside, one will see the tragedy the embargo and the surgical, or as some call it neuro- surgical war had impacted on the people.

The other major instrument used to wage total war against the Iraqi people was economic sanctions. The war against Iraqi civilians started with sanctions before a single bomb was dropped, and the sanctions have continued long after the bombing compounded by the sanctions have brought unimagined misery to the entire Iraqi nation. That suf- fering continues unabated.

The sanctions were never intended as anything but a war strategy. UN-sponsored sanctions imposed in early August made Iraq far more vulnerable before the bombing began, reducing medical supplies, impairing health conditions, eroding food reserves, and effectively shutting down much of its economy.

It is true that bombs are no longer falling, but the war is far from over. For the people of Iraq the war has just started. The war goes on and on and on and only victime have changed. Instead of soldiers, chil- dren are dying by the thousands every month. It is not true that the war has stopped. The people now are dying and they will continue to die. The orgy of violence is over, but the insidious and longterm effects of structural violence are just now beginning. It is time to tell people, all people that is an evil thing and there is no reason under the sun that can justify it.