From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Sep 7 06:45:34 2000
From: "Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics)" <email@example.com>
Subject: Dick Cheney guilty of war crimes against Iraqi people?
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 17:10:41 -0400
Lingering Question: Is Dick Cheney Guilty Of
War Crimes Against Iraqis?
By Robert Jensen, Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
Tuesday, 5 September 2000
There has been much criticism lately of Republican vice-presidential
Cheney's business record -- the propriety of his stock options, his
role in getting
government contracts, and whether or not he earned the millions he was
paid. Earlier this
summer we also heard much about some of Cheney's less compassionate
votes in Congress -- against gun control, Head Start and Nelson
All those issues are relevant and worthy of discussion. But what is
striking is that no one is
anyone talking about another aspect of the Cheney record -- his
admission of war crimes in
the Gulf War.
Go back to the summer of 1991, after the Gulf War. The results of the
campaign -- the most devastating concentrated bombing attack in history
-- were painfully
clear. A Harvard study team had reported that the attack on Iraqi
electrical, water, and
sewage treatment systems had begun to kill thousands of civilians,
especially the most
vulnerable -- children, the elderly, the sick.
Though international law specifically prohibits civilian targets,
Pentagon planners and U.S.
politicians knew perfectly well that the civilians would die as a
result of those bombs. As a
Washington Post reporter put it after extensive interviews with
military officials that summer,
some Iraqi infrastructure was bombed primarily to create "postwar
leverage." The "damage to
civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers
during the war as 'collateral'
and unintended, was sometimes neither," the reporter concluded.
After 10 years of the most comprehensive multilateral economic
sanctions in modern times,
at least 1 million Iraqis have died as a result, according to U.N.
So, what did Cheney have to say about these choices of targets after
the war, when there
was no way to deny the deadly effects on civilians?
Every Iraqi target was "perfectly legitimate," Cheney told the Post
reporter, adding "if I had to
do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing."
Cheney has never repudiated this comment, never expressed contrition
for the deaths of
innocents that he had to have known would result from policies he
helped shape and
implement. But instead of being challenged for defending the targeting
of civilians, Cheney
is being heralded as a politician with "principles" willing to stand by
What are these principles and convictions? The principle that civilians
can be sacrificed
without concern because the United States wanted a military solution to
crisis? The conviction to never reflect on one's complicity in war
Why are Democrats -- eager to challenge Bush's "compassionate
conservative" label -- not
going after Cheney's war record? Why would opponents sink their teeth
questionable business deal or nasty vote but steer clear of his
Perhaps because the Gulf War remains popular with much of the U.S.
public, but also
because on these matters, there is little difference between
Republicans and Democrats.
It appears that the discussion of Iraq in the upcoming campaign will
not be about the moral
imperative of lifting the sanctions and dealing with the widespread
diseases and social disintegration in Iraq. Instead, the only question
is whether the Clinton
administration has been tough enough on Saddam Hussein. George W. Bush
hints that if
elected, he'll take more serious steps to oust Hussein. Clinton
defend their starve-and-bomb strategy (in addition to the sanctions,
the United States
continues the regular, and quite illegal, bombing of Iraq in the
so-called "no-fly zones").
Neither party wants to face the ugly reality that the 1991 war and the
policies that have
followed -- in Republican and Democratic administrations -- have killed
innocents by the
hundreds of thousands. They have not promoted democracy in Iraq,
improved the lot of the
Iraqi people, nor made the region any safer.
Those policies have failed the people who live in the region, but they
been effective -- at
least in the short term -- in helping impose U.S. dominance in the
Middle East. That is the
principle underlying the Gulf War and the ongoing sanctions, and the
conviction that keeps
the sanctions in place.
Iraqis live under a brutal regime that protects its own interests ahead
of its people, a regime
with no conscience. When both major U.S. political parties agree that
the suffering of
innocents must continue, we must ask, "Where is the conscience of our
Clearly, not in Cheney, nor in any of the other candidates. The
question is, can the
consciences of ordinary Americans be stirred in time to help ordinary
Jensen is a professor in the Department of Journalism at the University
of Texas at Austin.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.