- The United States is knowingly violating Article 54 of
the Geneva Convention which prohibits any country from undermining
indispensable to the survival of (another country's) civilian
including drinking water installations and supplies, says Thomas Nagy,
a business professor at George Washington University.
- Writing in the September 2001 issue of The Progressive,
Nagy cites recently declassified documents that show the United States
was aware of the civilian health consequences of destroying Iraq's drinking
water and sanitation systems in the Gulf War, and knew that sanctions would
prevent the Iraqi government from repairing the degraded facilities.
- During the Gulf War, coalition forces bombed Iraq's eight
multi-purpose dams, destroying flood control systems, irrigation, municipal
and industrial water storage, and hydroelectric power. Major pumping
were targeted, and municipal water and sewage facilities were
- Article 54 of the Geneva Convention prohibits attacks
on "drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation
- Nagy says that not only did the United States
destroy drinking water and sanitation facilities, it knew sanctions would
prevent Iraq from rebuilding, and that epidemics would ensue.
- One document, written soon after the bombing, warned
that sanctions would prevent Iraq from importing "water treatment
replacement parts and some essential chemicals" leading to
incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."
- Another document lists the most likely diseases:
diseases (particularly children); acute respiratory illnesses (colds and
influenza); typhoid; hepatitis A (particularly children); measles,
and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis, including meningococcal
(particularly children); cholera (possible, but less likely.)"
- Then U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman estimated that
Iraqis died in the Gulf War, but many more have died since. UNICEF
that well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S-led
regime, in place for the last decade. Some 500,000 children have died,
and an estimated 4,000 die from various preventable, sanctions-related
diseases, every month, says the U.N. agency.
- Despite the massive human toll, the United States
to support the sanctions regime, arguing that sanctions won't be lifted
until U.N. inspectors are free to return to Iraq to verify that the country
has rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
- American Scott Ritter, a former U.N. arms inspector,
claims that Iraq is effectively disarmed, and has been for some
- And deaths from sanctions exceed those from weapons of
mass destruction. Political scientists John and Karl Mueller say that
have "contributed to more deaths during the post Cold War era than
all the weapons of mass destruction throughout history," including
deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- At one point, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright said that despite the civilian deaths the sanctions were
- Meanwhile, Israel, a U.S. ally in the region, is widely
believed to have an arsenal of 200 nuclear weapons. While in violation
of countless U.N. Resolutions ordering its withdrawal from the Occupied
Territories, Israel faces no sanctions and no order to disarm. Amnesty
International, which has warned that Israel's crackdown on the latest
uprising, or Intifada, borders on war crimes, recently condemned Tel Aviv
for its "utter disregard for human life in the Occupied
and for its violations of international law. And yet even calls for
as mild as placing international observers in the Occupied Territories
have been rebuffed.
- The Gulf War erupted after Iraq invaded neighboring
After the war, the United Nations imposed sanctions, ordering Iraq to
Iraq's violation of international law in invading its neighbor was cited
for the harsh treatment. But critics of the policy say that punishment
for violations of international law are being meted out unevenly and
Israel's innumerable transgressions go unpunished, while governments that
have fallen out with Washington, often over investment or debt repayment
issues, are treated severely.
- Moreover, say critics, the United States itself has a
long track record of violating international law. Washington's undermining
of Iraq's water treatment and sanitation facilities in violation of the
Geneva Convention is just one of many recent transgressions, including
the bombing of Yugoslavia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and the continued bombing
- U.S.-led NATO forces also targeted civilian
in Yugoslavia. At one point, U.S. Air Force General Michael Short explained
that NATO's bombing campaign was aimed at causing misery in the civilian
population. "If you wake up in the morning," said Short,
you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge
you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20
years, I think you begin to ask, 'Hey, Slobo, what's this all about? How
much more of this do we have to withstand?'"
- NATO forces used depleted uranium munitions in
as did coalition forces in Iraq. Depleted uranium may be toxic, and may
be responsible for an epidemic of cancers and birth defects that have
in Iraq over the last decade. Some have charged that Gulf War syndrome,
a cluster of mysterious and debilitating illnesses suffered by U.S. and
allied soldiers, is related to depleted uranium. Others point to the
of soil, water and air by carcinogenic effluent from destroyed industrial
facilities and chemical plants as being responsible.
- Nagy says that what is most disturbing about the
is that they reveal a U.S. government concerned more with the potential
negative publicity of the deaths, than with the deaths themselves. Dealing
with the public relations downside of massive killing is a common theme
in U.S. foreign policy. During the Gulf War a bomb that hit a marketplace
and killed civilians led CBS News correspondent Dan Rather to remark:
can be sure that Saddam Hussein will make propaganda of these
Frequent reference is made in the documents Nagy has uncovered to the
for Iraq to use epidemics for propaganda purposes.
- When Nagy sent the documents to the media last fall,
only two reporters wrote lengthy articles. One was Felicity Arbuthnot,
who wrote in Scotland's The Sunday Herald that the "US-led allied
forces deliberately destroyed Iraq's water supply during the Gulf War
flagrantly breaking the Geneva Convention and causing thousand of civilian
deaths." Despite the seriousness of the allegations, and their being
backed up by official documents, the story quickly fizzled.
- Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who
lives in Ottawa, Canada.
- By courtesy & © 2001 Steve Gowans
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