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Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 17:11:06 -0600 (CST)
From: bghauk@berlin.infomatch.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Washington's Murderous 1991 Assault On Iraq
Article: 50443
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.20298.19981219121625@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Washington's Murderous 1991 Assault On Iraq

By Jack Barnes, The Militant, Vol. 62, no. 47, 28 December 1998

Below are the first paragraphs of The Opening Guns of World War III: Washington's Assault on Iraq by Jack Barnes, which describe the devastation of Iraq in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War. The article is based on a talk given by Barnes, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, on March 30, 1991, and was published five weeks later as the lead article in issue no. 7 of the Marxist magazine New International. It explains why Washington's slaughter did not lead to the dawn of a new world order, but rather held a mirror to the declining capitalist world order and accelerated its contradictions. The magazine is copyright (c) 1991 by 408 Printing and Publishing Corp., reprinted by permission.

The U.S.-organized carnage against the Iraqi people is among the most monstrous in the history of modern warfare. Is not was. Death and dislocation continue today, as does the imperialists' culpability for them.

We may never know the actual numbers of toilers killed in Iraq and Kuwait during the six weeks of incessant allied air and sea bombardment and the murderous one-hundred-hour invasion launched by Washington February 24, 1991. But the one common media estimate that as many as 150,000 human beings were slaughtered is conservative, if anything. Just think about the impact of a massacre of that magnitude on the less than 19 million people of Iraq. Compare the blow of this number of deaths, and many additional maimings, and the relatively short period over which they mounted, with the impact many of you can remember in the United States, a country of 250 million, of the 47,000 U.S. combat deaths during Washington's nearly ten- year - not ten-week - war to prevent Vietnam's reunification.

The most concentrated single bloodletting was organized by the U.S. command in the final forty-eight hours of the invasion, as Iraqi soldiers fled Kuwait along the roads to Basra. While publicly denying that Iraqi forces were withdrawing from Kuwait, Washington ordered that tens of thousands of fleeing Iraqi soldiers be targeted for wave after wave of bombing, strafing, and shelling. These were people who were putting up no resistance, many with no weapons, others with rifles packed in bedrolls, leaving in cars, trucks, carts, and on foot. Many civilians from Iraq, Kuwait, and immigrant workers from other countries were killed at the same time as they tried to flee.

The U.S. armed forces bombed one end of the main highway from Kuwait city to Basra, sealing it off. They bombed the other end of the highway and sealed it off. They positioned mechanized artillery units on the hills overlooking it. And then, from the air and from the land they simply massacred every living thing on the road. Fighter bombers, helicopter gunships, and armored battalions poured merciless firepower on traffic jams backed up for as much as twenty miles. When the traffic became gridlocked, the B-52s were sent in for carpet bombing.

That was the killing zone. You couldn't move down the road. You couldn't move up the road. You couldn't move off the road. You couldn't surrender, wave a white flag, or give yourself up. The allied forces simply kept bombing and firing - at every person, jeep, truck, car, and bicycle. One allied air force officer called it a turkey shoot. Others called it the biggest of the cockroach hunts. That's the American way - carpet bombed, and shot in the back.

This slaughter, along with similar unreported operations during Bush's heroic hundred hours, ranks among the great atrocities of modern warfare. It was the Guernica, the Hiroshima, the Dresden, the My Lai of the U.S. war against Iraq.(1)

The imperialist coalition and the Baghdad regime both have their own reasons for covering up the truth about the bloodbath. As a result, we'll never know how many people died in the massacre. In late March Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked by a reporter to provide an estimate of the number of Iraqis killed as a result of combined allied bombing and ground operations. Showing a little of the true face of imperial arrogance and racism, Powell replied: It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in.

Neither has Baghdad made any attempt to give an accounting to the families of the workers and peasants in uniform slaughtered in the trenches, in the foxholes, in the open desert, and on the highways in Kuwait and southern Iraq. As during the Saddam Hussein regime's 1980-88 war against Iran, tens of thousands of families in Iraq had their sons, brothers, nephews, and husbands sent off to war and then never saw them again or heard of their fate.

The U.S. government slaughter was not an operation with any military purpose per se. The victims were not part of military units or of an organized retreat. They had become individual human beings simply trying to get away from the war. It was a mass rout. By established rules of modern warfare they were not soldiers fighting; they were refugees fleeing. Even during the massive slaughter of World War II, both the Allied and German officer corps sometimes allowed soldiers fleeing down roads from battle to get away without this kind of murderous bombardment. But not the bipartisan killing machine organized by U.S. secretary of defense Richard Cheney (Republican), Gen. Colin Powell (Independent), and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf (Democrat), commander of the U.S. forces in the Gulf.

We can be sure that this massacre had a devastating impact on many of the U.S. soldiers who were on the scene those days or saw its horrible results afterwards. Some GIs have already begun to talk publicly about these horrors they witnessed and raise questions about the seemingly pointless inhumanity of what was done. They will play an important role in bringing these war crimes by Washington to light and into U.S. politics in the months ahead.

What's more, the deaths and destruction during the U.S. invasion account for only a portion of those who were killed as a result of the military blockade of Iraq that began in the first days of August 1990 and the six-week-long air war launched January 16, 1991. Some of the horrendous damage is detailed in the March 20 report drafted by United Nations under- secretary-general Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, following a trip by a UN fact-finding commission to Iraq. To the credit of the Militant newsweekly -showing what it means to publish a paper in the interests of working people worldwide - the UN report was printed immediately and widely distributed for all to read. I know of no other newspaper that did so.

It should... be said at once that nothing that we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has now befallen the country, Ahtisaari wrote. The people of Iraq face an imminent catastrophe due to the war's destruction of an economic infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society. Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous.

1. During the Spanish civil war the German air force aided Spanish fascist forces. They bombed and strafed the fishing village of Guernica in April 1937, killing more than 1,600 men, women, and children and wounding nearly 1,000. The people of the Japanese city of Hiroshima were the first target of an atomic bomb, dropped by U.S. forces Aug. 6, 1945; Washington was responsible for the death and maiming of more than 100,000 people and the destruction of 90 percent of the city. Five firebombing raids against the German city of Dresden - a city with little military significance - during the spring of 1945, killed some 100,000 or more civilians and consumed most of the city in flames just weeks before the German government's unconditional surrender. Some five hundred unarmed men, women, and children in the South Vietnamese village of My Lai were lined up and shot by U.S. forces on March 16, 1968, after their houses had been dynamited and burned - all on orders of the U.S. officer corps.