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Ch. 13 The Gulf War in 1990. The New World Order in practice

posted 23 Jul 2012, 13:25 by Admin uk   [ updated 23 Jul 2012, 13:29 ]

War and Resistance is a translation of the Swedish book Draksådd, originally published in 2004. It analyzes the most important wars of the past hundred years. It examines the role of UN, civil disobedience and many other failed attempts to stop war. And as a contrast explains why other forms of resistance to war have been successful.

We really need the Russians.

We need someone with as much power as the United States,

’cos it’s like a kid with a bomb.1

Neil Young, Canadian rock musician

The Gulf War in the early 1990s represented the first demonstration of the United States’ role in the New World Order. It showed the arro­gance that the world’s only superpower had developed, and the brutality it was prepared to use when it was allowed to proceed without constraint. But hidden from most people, another drama unfolded during the Gulf War – an uprising of the Iraqi and Kurdish people against Saddam Hussein. It was an uprising that the US and its coalition did not support, on the contrary, they helped Saddam crush it.

Background to the Gulf War of 1990-91

After the Mullahs took power in Iran in 1979, the British and US govern­ments increased their support to Saddam’s Iraq. They encouraged him to attack Iran in 1980. Nominally a border dispute, the war between Iran and Iraq lasted until 1988 and claimed around a million lives.2 During this pe­riod, the US and the other Western powers provided support to Iraqi dicta­tor Saddam Hussein in the form of huge amounts of weapons (including chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, the WMDs), military training, sophisticated technology, satellite pictures and billions of dollars.

In 1987, Iraq imported 40% of its food from the US. In 1989, the US was the largest market for Iraqi oil and Iraq received a billion dollars in loan guarantees. Only Mexico received more credit.3 Iraq was also given extensive support by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both fearing that the anti-monarchist mood in Iran would spread to their monarchist dictatorships. Meanwhile, the arms industry was busy selling weapons to both sides. The UN did not respond in any way to the Iraqi attack on Iran, neither with condemnation nor with demands. No sanctions were imposed.

The Western imperialist powers and their ally, Turkey, sat back and watched as Saddam oppressed Kurds and Shia Muslims inside Iraq, a development that ‘strengthened stability’ in the region. When the war between Iraq and Iran ended, Saddam Hussein launched an offensive known as Al-Anfalagainst the Kurds rebelling in the north. According to Human Rights Watch, between 50 000 and 100 000 Kurds were murdered in northern Iraq during this operation.4 Hundreds of thousands were forcibly reset­tled, Kurdish women were raped and some 4 500 Kurdish villages were destroyed by bombs and bulldozers. When Saddam murdered around 5 000 Kurds in the town of Halabja in northern Iraq in 1988 during the offensive, his forces used chemical weapons produced in the West.

A year before the Gulf War began, Kurdish representatives had visited the US to inform the administration about Iraq’s repression of the Kurds. “The Americans replied that it was in the interests of the US to support Saddam as he was ‘an important figure for US policy in the area’, and that Saddam looked after Western interests in the region.”5 Later the US and other West­ern powers tried to portray themselves as the protectors of the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Saddam’s atrocities were not revealed to the world until he acted against the interests of US imperialism by invading Kuwait. Suddenly, he was a ruthless dictator, a new Hitler, who had to be stopped at all cost. But Saddam had been a dictator and an oppressor for years. The only difference was that he no longer had the blessing of the Western powers.

Saddam Hussein’s error of judgement

The conflict between Iraq and Kuwait stemmed largely from oil-production and the oil-price situation. Iraq came out of the Iran war a wounded coun­try, deeply in debt. Iraq needed a good price for its oil. Immediately after the war, however, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates began exceeding the production quotas set by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Coun­tries (OPEC), flooding the market and causing oil prices to tumble.

Thanks to its enormous investments in the West, totalling over USD 2 billion, Kuwait could afford cheaper oil prices, but for Iraq the loss of oil revenue was disastrous.6 Saddam Hussein denounced Kuwait as conduct­ing “economic warfare” against Iraq, and claimed that Iraq stood to lose a billion US dollars a year for every dollar that the price of oil fell by. He demanded economic compensation for this loss, as well as the right of ownership to the two islands that blocked Iraq’s access to the Persian Gulf and also to the Rumalia oil fields in Kuwait.

In July 1990, when Kuwait continued to reject Iraq’s economic and territo­rial demands and to deny OPEC’s request that it keep within the production quota set for it, Iraq began to concentrate troops on the border. It seems unlikely that Iraq would have dared move into Kuwait unless it had received permission from Washington, or at least had not been forbidden to move in. In fact, the US ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie, had expressed herself in a way that could be interpreted as an ‘OK’. In a reply to Saddam Hussein in July 1990, she stated: “I have direct instructions from the Presi­dent to seek better relations with Iraq. […] Our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on inter-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”7 The Iraqi regime may well have thought it had the continued backing of the US for this war, just as it had for the war against Iran.

This, however, was a bad mistake. Allowing Iraq to become a major power in the region was not at all in Washington’s interests. The US preferred to divide and rule. It had no wish to let Saddam Hussein gain control of Ku­waiti oil, which was of vital strategic importance to the US. It also wanted to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory and oil, as it had been doing since the 1930s. Saudi Arabia could be the next in line for Saddam’s aspirations.

Moreover, in the months prior to the Kuwait crisis, the US senate had been demanding cuts in the military budget. The Cold War was over and some senators argued that the US no longer needed to spend so much money on arms. But General Norman Schwarzkopf believed that the US should establish a permanent presence in the Gulf, and in a White Book he identi­fied Iraq and Saddam Hussein as “the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw Pact”.8

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The White House immediately de­nounced the invasion as a blatant use of military aggression, demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces, and announced that it was considering all options.9 Within 24 hours, a US warship loaded with a special task force, fighter jets and bombers was on its way to the Gulf. Within a few days, thousands of US soldiers and an armoured brigade were stationed in Saudi Arabia, the Americans’ closest ally, after Israel, in the Middle East.

UN Resolution 678

While Iraq plundered Kuwait and turned the country into its 19th province, the US built up its forces in Saudi Arabia. The US worked hard to put to­gether an international coalition in order to push through resolutions and sanctions against Iraq in the UN Security Council, and to finally win back­ing for the forthcoming war. The new global situation – with the Soviet Union in crisis and disintegrating – enabled the US and its allies to persuade the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to lend the US their moral authority. The Security Council introduced tough and wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iraq. A trade and arms embargo was imposed and all Iraqi assets abroad were frozen.

The US and its allies also wanted the UN to accept a resolution that would give the coalition free rein. This freedom was achieved by means of the re­markable Resolution 678 adopted by the UN Security Council at the end of November 1990. The document gave a group of unnamed member states the right to use armed force at a time of their own choosing, against targets that they themselves choose, to visit upon the Iraqis whatever degree of death and destruction they considered appropriate, and not to end the attack until they themselves felt the time had come to do so. All this in the name of the United Nations.10 It was adopted by 12 votes (the US, Soviet Union, Britain, France, Canada, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Finland, Malaysia, Romania and Zaire) to 2 (Cuba and Yemen), with one abstention (China).

The methods used by a rich imperialist country to enlist support for the war provides an insight into how it can get its way in the UN and other international forums. The US and its allies quite simply bought off, bribed or threatened other countries, both within the Security Council and outside it, in order to gain the necessary backing. The crisis-hit Soviet Union was given USD 3 billion. Egyptian and Syrian participation in the coalition was ensured by means of debt write-offs worth USD 25 billion in Egypt’s case and USD 2 million in Syria’s.11 Military aid to Kenya was resumed.

Yemen, on the other hand, which had voted against the resolution, was punished severely. “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast,” Thomas Pickering, the American ambassador to the UN, told the Yemeni ambassador, Abdallah Saleh al-Ashtol. An American aid package of USD 70 million was cancelled the following day, and 900 000 Yemeni guest work­ers were ejected from Saudi Arabia.12

The UN resolution gave Saddam an ultimatum to pull out his forces before 15 January 1991. In all likelihood, the Iraqi regime was taken by surprise by the US response. Saddam was forced to realise that by invading Kuwait, he had bitten off more than he could chew. Already in early August and again in October 1990, Iraq had signalled its willingness to pull its troops out. In return, it wanted sole rights to the Rumalia oilfield, guaranteed access to the Gulf, an end to the sanctions and a solution of the problems concerning oil prices and oil production. The US, however, was unmoved by these ap­proaches. At first, it even denied their existence.

All alternatives that offered a diplomatic way out of the crisis were ob­structed by the Americans. As the 15 January deadline neared, Iraq made its first offer to negotiate. On 11 January, Arab diplomats at the UN said they had received reports from the pro-Iraqi countries of Algeria, Yemen and Jordan indicating that Saddam was prepared to withdraw from Kuwait if he received guarantees that Iraq would not be attacked.

He also wanted an international conference to discuss Palestinian grievances and the border disputes between Iraq and Kuwait. According to the diplo­mats, the Iraqi dictator wanted to wait for a day or two after the deadline to show that he had not been afraid. He was of course very frightened indeed.

For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US was now in a position to flex its muscles as the only remaining superpower. At last, the American establishment had the chance to avenge both its defeat in Viet­nam and everything it had been obliged to tolerate since. It wanted to crush Iraq, using overwhelming force. Thereby the American public was going to be convinced that interventions abroad should again be undertaken, as this could be done without incurring any substantial loss of American lives. The display of total military superiority was also a warning to leaders and peoples in the former colonial territories of the world.

90 000 tons of bombs on fleeing soldiers

At midnight on 15 January, the US-led coalition attacked Iraq. The war lasted for more than 40 days. To avoid mass protests at home, the true motives for the war and what actually went on had to be hidden behind a wall of lies and distortions. ‘Eye-witnesses’ described in live interviews on American TV how they had seen Iraqi troops pull babies out of hospital incubators and leave them to die on the floor. There were also stories of raped and mur­dered women, and men whose tongues had been cut out. It subsequently turned out that these accounts had been made up by an American public relations firm paid for the task by wealthy Kuwaitis. Those who had given their tearful accounts on TV had never set foot in occupied Kuwait.13

The American coalition quickly gained air supremacy, and after knocking out the Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries, was able freely to bomb Iraqi armed forc­es, as well as infrastructure, industry and other civilian targets. The ‘smart bombs’ were by no means as smart as they were claimed to be. Not that it would have made much of a difference if they had been, as less than 7% of the bombs used in the Gulf War were of the ‘smart’ type. This was admit­ted by the Pentagon long afterwards. There were massive carpet-bombing raids across the country. 70% of the 90 000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait – equivalent to seven Hiroshima bombs – ‘missed’ their military targets. Many of them landed in built-up areas and caused what in military jargon is termed “collateral damage”.14

After a month of fighting, Baghdad announced again that Iraq was pre­pared to withdraw from Kuwait. This prompted Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet president at the time, to present a peace plan. It was rejected by the United S.tates

When the Iraqi economy had been destroyed and Iraqi military resistance broken, it was time for the US ground offensive. The demoralised Iranian forces, shattered by incessant bombing, had no chance. US ground troops moved into Iraq and Kuwait, and attacked the fleeing soldiers, who were disoriented and in disarray. Tens of thousands were killed.

Tanks hauling giant snowploughs drove alongside the Iraqi trenches, shoot­ing into them, whereupon the ploughs covered them over with heaps of sand. Thousands were buried, dead or alive, along the Iraqi front line, which stretched for more than 110 kilometres. These tanks and bulldozers were then used to bury dead and wounded Iraqi soldiers before the media was allowed access to the battlefield. Not a single armoured vehicle from the coalition was hit by Iraqi fire. The officer who led the ‘Desert Storm’ operations later admitted that most of the Iraqi vehicles had been shot to pieces from behind.15

A month after the offensive against Iraq begun, the Soviet Union proposed a new peace plan. Saddam Hussein accepted it and ordered his troops to withdraw to the positions they had held prior to the invasion, in full ac­cordance with UN resolution 660. The US replied that no retreat was in evidence. It maintained that the Iraqi forces were fighting on, and that American forces therefore intended to continue the war. On the following day, Saddam announced on Baghdad radio that Iraqi troops had begun to withdraw from Kuwait and that the withdrawal would be completed the same day. The US called this “a scandal” and “a cruel deception”.

Eye-witnesses in Kuwait confirmed that the withdrawal had in fact begun the day after Saddam had accepted the Soviet peace plan and was in full swing by evening.16 The retreat began 36 hours before the allies reached Kuwait City.17 When Iraqi forces were in full retreat on the two motorways leading from Kuwait to Basra in southern Iraq, US planes bombed the de­fenceless columns of vehicles. The first attacks came at roughly the same time as White House spokesman Martin Fitzwater was promising that the coalition would not attack Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait. Almost every vehi­cle on these two roads was destroyed: tanks, armoured vehicles, lorries and ordinary cars.

“The planes fired a wide range of missiles, splinter bombs and napalm B, the type that sticks to your skin and goes on burning. Returning pilots boastfully described it to the pool reporters as ‘duck-hunting’ and ‘a tur­key hunt’. Others compared it to fishing in a barrel. Defenceless people had been burned alive in their vehicles or shot when they ran for cover.”18 Among the dead were many civilians, most of them Iraqi guest workers who had been left in Kuwait and were now trying to get home. While the elite soldiers of the Republican Guard, most of whom were strongly pro-Saddam, got away, Iraq’s demoralised conscript army, largely comprising oppressed Kurds and Shia Muslims, was slaughtered.

The allies entered Kuwait City, now abandoned by the Iraqis. The following day, Bush ordered a ceasefire and Iraq accepted the terms of the truce. But the massacre of Iraqi soldiers and civilians continued. A column of soldiers and civilians was attacked en route from Basra to Baghdad. The killings were the work of the 24th Division led by General Barry McCaffrey.

Seymour Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize for revealing the My Lai mas­sacre in Vietnam, showed how the 24th Division bombed an eight-kilometre long Iraqi column for hours, destroying some 700 Iraqi tanks, armoured vehicles and lorries.19 Soldiers, civilians and children alike were killed. Mc­Caffrey later described the bloodbath as “one of the most amazing scenes of destruction I have ever been involved in. There were no serious Ameri­can losses.”

This was not war, but wholesale, one-sided butchery. Up to half a million Iraqi men, women and children were killed or died as a direct result of the US-led UN attack on Iraq in 1991. According to the US administration, 148 Americans were killed in the war. And in many cases US losses were due to ‘friendly fire’ from coalition troops. 20

The disaster continues after the war

The Gulf War left almost two million people homeless. Iraq’s electricity grid, water supply, sanitation facilities, telecommunications, healthcare, ag­riculture and industrial infrastructure had largely been destroyed, paving the way for epidemics and famine. The type of warfare practised in the Gulf contravened the 1949 Geneva Convention, which explicitly prohibits at­tacks on targets that cause widespread civilian losses. On the other hand, no war has ever been conducted in accordance with the Geneva Convention since the time it was introduced.

During the Gulf War, the US forces used depleted uranium for the first time in their grenades, missiles and rockets. These left behind tons of radioactive and toxic waste in Iraq and Kuwait, causing a six-fold increase in leukaemia and lymphoma cancers, and a major increase in birth deformities. Because of the sanctions, children had no access to the medicines and radiotherapy that could have saved their lives, or even to painkillers. Since 1991, the an­nual cancer rate in Iraq has doubled, and the situation has been particularly severe in southern parts of the country bordering on Kuwait. Certain types of extremely lethal cancer have multiplied. These include breast cancer in girls as young as twelve, bone cancer in young children, cancer of the uri­nary tract in teenagers and nasal tumours among infants. Such cancer cases were not previously found in Iraq.

By 2000, grave deformities afflicted 2%, compared with 0.01% before the war, of all new-born babies in southern Iraq. Many of these children are born with several deformities and die within a month.21

NATO denies that the deformities and increased cancer rate in Iraq are due to depleted uranium. As early as April 1991, however, Britain’s Atomic En­ergy Authority warned in a secret report that “if depleted uranium enters the food chain or the water, this will cause potential health problems”.22

During the 1990s, the US and Britain continued to take advantage of the UN mandate, and bombed Iraq. The UN’s harsh sanctions against Iraq remained in place throughout the period between the first US invasion and the second, in 2003. As early as 1995, the UN’s Food and Agricul­ture Organisation (FAO) reported that the bombings and sanctions had caused the death of 560 000 Iraqi children.23 Children died from malnour­ishment, diarrhoea and dehydration due to the lack of clean water and good food. They died of infections that could easily be cleared up with ordinary penicillin.

Denis Haliday, the UN’s coordinator of humanitarian relief to Iraq, re­signed in 1998 in protest, after 34 years with the agency. He explained why: “Most importantly, I have found that the impact of the sanctions … is simply incompatible with the spirit and the word of the United Nations Charter.” Almost a third of the Iraqi people were suffering from malnu­trition, he added, the education system had largely collapsed and schools had neither water nor sanitation. “We are in the process of destroying an entire society”.24

In the space of a decade, the war and the sanctions transformed one of the Arab world’s most highly developed countries into an impoverished Third World country, without deposing Saddam Hussein or ending his life of luxury.

The unwanted fight against Saddam

During the Gulf War, the imperialist powers had urged the Iraqi people and oppressed groups such as the Kurds and the Shia Muslims to rise in revolt. After years of persecution, they were ready. Yet when it began, the US did not support it all. They did not want a popular revolution, in Iraq or elsewhere. A revolution in Iraq would have inspired people to rise up in other parts of the Middle East, which would have been disastrous for the US’s New World Order. In Britain, representatives of the Iraqi opposition were put in jail during the run-up to the Gulf War.

A report written after a study trip to northern Iraq in 1994, excerpts of which we republish below, gives a vivid account of how the uprising began in Southern Iraq, how this inspired Kurds in Suleymania to rise and take things much further, how this in turn spread to other Kurdish towns, and how it was finally crushed.

The workers performed miracles. Despite the very limited size of the work­ing class, they managed to defeat Saddam’s troops in a matter of hours with hardly any loss of life, something neither thepeshmerga25 guerrillas nor the coalition troops had managed. Shoras, workers councils, were set up to democratically run society. It was a heroic uprising, but it failed.

The report provides a clear picture of what happened. The workers had power in their hands, they could have organised a massive popular struggle against Saddam, but instead the leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan Front, IFK,26 sat down to negotiate with Baghdad.

They gave up the fight before it had barely started. Tragically, people were urged to flee up into the mountains, where tens of thousands died of cold and starvation, while the IFK attacked the only bodies that could have or­ganised the struggle against Saddam – the shoras.

On February 29 1991, when the ground offensive had forced the Iraqi military to retreat, large sections of the Iraqi army turned against Saddam Hussein. Reports say that the rebellion began in Basra in south-eastern Iraq after a tank had driven around the city shooting portraits of Saddam to pieces. The rebellion then spread rapidly to other towns in southern Iraq, such as Koot, Omura, Nasria, Samawa, Najaf, Kurbala, Hilla and Mosaib.

When the people rose in southern Iraq, various groups prepared to follow suit and began to arm themselves in parts of northern Iraq. Many Kurdish towns were liberated without the Iraqi army offering any great resistance.

The shora movement in Suleymania

On the morning of 7 March 1991, everything happened spontaneously.. Small groups were beginning to take to the streets by eight o’clock in the morning, shouting slogans.

These groups swelled as men, women and children joined them. They began collecting weapons, then attacked official buildings around the town. Within a few hours, most of the city was in the hands of these armed citizens.

On 8 March, thousands paraded through the streets of Suleymania under banners proclaiming ‘Revolutionaries, set up your own shoras!’, ‘Women are vital to the revolution!’ and ‘Towards Kurdish autonomy!’. The uprising heightened the general political consciousness, among women, men and children alike.

People immediately began setting up shoras (workers councils) throughout Suleymania. Most were in the form of neighbourhood committees: people organised where they lived. A few took the form of workers’ councils at important workplaces. Among the first groups to be organised were mobile paramedics, who collected blood donations for those injured in the fighting. Others repaired the town’s water and electricity supplies, which had been out of order for some time.

Around 12 March, two delegates were sent to Hawlir (Erbil) to spread the news so that the movement was not confined to Suleymania. Five meetings were held in three days, and led to the establishment of 35 shoras there. This number later increased to 42.

Each shora had committees or working groups responsible for food distri­bution, medical care, radio stations, newspapers, defence and administrative matters. The shoramovement organised its own milita or peshmergas to pro­tect themselves from attack or counter-revolution.

When Saddam’s troops advanced on the Kurdish areas of Iraq, the neigh­bourhood committees in Suleymania sent two peshmerga units to Kalar, and a symbolic troop of 80peshmergas was dispatched to help the people of Kirkut.

The conflict between the shoras and the Iraqi Kurdistan Front

On the morning of 8 March, the PUK’s 7th battalion, comprising 200 peshmer­gas, entered Suleymania. On arrival, they were totally unaware that the town had been almost completely liberated. The IKF arrived the following day. On 12 March, however, they began publicly attacking the shora movement.

On 16 March, the anniversary of Halabja, the shoras and the IKF both staged big demonstrations around town, and on the following day a Su­preme Shora was elected for Suleymania as a whole. This supreme ‘author­ity’ was not allowed to make decisions itself but only to draft proposals that were then sent to all the shoras for a vote.

On 18 March, the IKF declared all shoras illegal and ordered them to dis­band. Thus, after just nine days in the town, the IKF demanded an end to the spontaneous self-organisation of the people. It viewed the Supreme Shora as a threat. It planned to rebuild the town’s institutions and re-install both the old administration and the factory managers that the workers’ councils had ousted. On 20 March, an anti-IKF demonstration paraded through the streets of the town.

Nawshiwan, second-in-command of the PUK and leader of its left ten­dency, declared that “We must crush the movement that has raised the red flag”. The IKF used its radio station as a propaganda mouthpiece to berate the neighbourhood committees. The conflict remained unresolved until the town once again fell into Saddam’s hands on 3 April. The IKF dared not take up arms against the neighbourhood committees, and the committees for their part could not agree internally how to approach the IKF. On at least one occasion, a former manager called in IKF peshmergas to stop a mass meeting at a workplace, in a bid to physically break up a shora.

When the neighbourhood committees sent armed militia to confront Sadd­am’s troops, the IKF refused to provide them with weapons. Instead, PUK leader Talabani flew to Baghdad to negotiate. This came to be known as the ‘kisses in Baghdad’, as TV pictures of Talabani kissing Saddam on both cheeks were cabled out to the world.

The inner workings of the neighbourhood committees

The committees had a number of internal disagreements. One of these concerned what position they should take in relation to the political parties in the Kurdistan Front. Some wanted to attack the parties, arguing that they functioned as external bodies of authority pursuing their own special inter­ests. Some wanted to negotiate with them and reach compromises, which would have weakened the power of the councils. Many others were unwill­ing to concede that the IKF had a social base, and thought the front could just be ignored. The more militant tendency called for the committees to be turned into autonomous revolutionary units, an armed people ready to defend the authority of theshoras.

A further source of conflict within the shora movement was the question of whether the neighbourhood committees were a working-class organisation or whether all citizens should be allowed to join, whatever their class affili­ation. Three days after the IKF had declared the shoras illegal and called on them to disband, only one of 50 in the town had complied. An example of the contradictions that existed within the neighbourhood committees was that while their practical actions were revolutionary and socialist, they nev­ertheless demanded liberal rights and bourgeois democracy.27 And strangely enough, it was the Marxist-Leninists28 who were the driving force behind this. They argued that a bourgeois revolution was necessary before there could be a socialist revolution. From this viewpoint, allying oneself with bourgeois elements is totally logical.

Saddam regains control

On 2 April, Saddam’s troops advanced on Suleymania and shelled the town. Kirkut had fallen a few days earlier. The leaders of the IKF had already left for the Iranian border, but their peshmergas were still in the town and declared their willingness to help defend it. After midnight, the PUK leader, Talabani, went on the radio and urged everyone to flee into the mountains. He painted a terrifying scenario, saying Saddam would use chemical weap­ons, as he had in Halabja in 1988. When Saddam’s troops rolled into town 12 hours later, more than 90 per cent of the population had already fled and the streets were still full of people on their way out of town. After two weeks, people began returning from the mountain. During the ensuing months, negotiations took place between the Iraqi Kurdistan Front and Saddam Hussein’s regime. But this was largely a facade, part of Saddam’s strategy to play for time.

The July uprising

On 18 July, the people of Suleymania rose again and ousted Saddam’s troops from the town, in little more than an hour. All that was left were eleven wrecked tanks. The same thing had happened in Hawlir the previ­ous day. During the 18 July uprising, the IKF drove around the streets of Suleymania with loudspeaker cars, urging people to go home.

The shora movement was a social uprising with a high level of popular par­ticipation, but it never extended beyond the towns of Suleymania, Hawlir and Kirkuk. In all, some 95shoras were established there. The popular upris­ing in Suleymania was a social revolution in that all workplaces and facto­ries of any size were expropriated by the workers and run by the workers’ councils and mass meetings.

All this is taken from the report.29

The US regime had no doubts about which side to support in the conflict. The American forces broke off their advance on Baghdad when the popu­lar uprising began: “Commanding General Norman Schwartzkopf allowed Iraqi helicopters to fly across U.S. lines to attack and destroy rebelling Shi­ites and Kurds in the north and south, but then refused to allow Republican Guard units – who had risen up against Hussein – to reach their stores of weapons.”30 Information about the Kurdish revolt never reached the gen­eral public while the fighting was in progress.

In 1991, the American Government had all the cards in its hand. It hardly met any resistance at all. Most of those who saw the TV version of the war accepted that the US, fighting under the UN flag, had been the liberator of Kuwait. It was the beginning of an unbridled, and stupidly short-sighted, US arrogance, which has been an important factor in world politics and war since then.

Just a few months after the ‘ceasefire’ in Iraq, it was time for the next war. The dissolution of Yugoslavia and the subsequent war were not something the US or any other imperialist power wanted, but war broke out because the interests of different imperialist powers collided.


Uncut magazine

2 John Pilger: Hidden Agenda, 1999

3 Noam Chomsky: Man kan inte mörda historien, 1995

4 Human Rights Watch Commentary, 22 March 2002.


5 Magnus Hörnquist, Torfi Magnusson and Rikard Warlenius: Kurdistan, 1994

6 E. Childers and B. Urquhart: Renewing the UN System, 1994

7 James Ridgeway: The March to War, 1991

8 John Pilger: Distant Voice Books, 1992. Quoted at


9 William Blum: Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (2000)

10 E. Childers and B. Urquhart: Renewing the UN System, 1994

11 ibid

12 www.firethistime.org/quotes.htm

13 Dagens Nyheter, 19 January 2003

14 John Pilger: Hidden Agenda, 1999

15 ibid

16 Washington Post, 3 March 1991

17 J. Chediac: The Massacre of Withdrawing Soldiers on ‘The Highway of Death’, 1992

18 John Pilger: Hidden Agenda, 1999

19 Seymour Hersh: Annals of War: Overwhelming Force, published in The New Yorker, 22

April 2000

20 John Pilger: Hidden Agenda, 1999

21 Dagens Nyheter, 3 March 2001

22 William Blum: Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (2000)

23 Sarah Zaidi and Mary C. Smith-Fawzi, Health of Bagdad’s Children, The Lancet 346, no.

8988 (2 December 1995): p. 1485; See also the editorial in the same issue, Health Effects of Sanctions on Iraq, p. 1439.

24 www.columbia.edu/cu/sipa/PUBS/SLANT/FALL98/p12.html

25 The peshmergas were guerrilla fighters.

26 The Iraqi Kurdistan Front (IKF) was an alliance of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan

(DPK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and a number of smaller parties. The DPK is the oldest guerrilla group in Kurdistan, dating back to the 1920s. Its leader Massoud Barzini inherited the position from his father, Mustafa Barzani. Clan loyalty still plays an important role in Kurdistan, especially in rural areas, where the DPK are ac­tive. The PUK is a breakaway group from the DPK but is also a clan-based party.

27 This sentence shows the political confusion of the authors. There is in fact no

contradiction between fighting for ‘bourgeois democracy’ – the right to vote, freedom of speech and assembly, and so on – and revolutionary socialism. However, there is a contradiction between fighting to put the bourgeoisie into power and letting the workers and peasants themselves run society.

28 The Marxist-Leninists comprised the remnants of the Maoist movement of the 1970s.

In other words, they were supporters of the Stalinist regime in China.

29 Magnus Hörnquist, Torfi Magnusson and Rikard Warlenius: Kurdistan, 1994. The authors

went to Iraq on a study trip sponsored by the Swedish Governments Agency for devel­opment projects in the Third World, SIDA.

30William Rivers Pitt: War on Iraq2002