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Action Alert - Iraq Update

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 3 March 1999

Kia ora,

As well as deep concern about the deaths of thousands of Iraqi people each month as a result of the continuing economic sanctions, there is increasing disquiet amongst peace people about the 'phoney' Gulf war going on since the most recently publicised mass bombings of the people of Iraq by US and British armed forces last December.

Undeclared war

A Sunday Independent report on 21 February began ... "With little publicity - and amid virtual indifference in western capitals - US and British aircraft have staged well over 70 air strikes against Iraq over the past five weeks, inflicting more damage than the pre-Christmas Anglo-American bombardment." ('Exposed: Britain and America's merciless secret blitz on Iraq', Robert Fisk, 21-02-99).

The report goes on to point out that they have been attacking targets in Iraq almost every day since the new year; but because of the low-key reports issued to the mass media, it has been difficult to get a sense of what has been going on. This has acted to obscure the amount of damage and thus mute protest. A TIME Daily report, 2 March, (under the sick sub-heading 'Ousting Saddam is now the prime US objective, but the Butcher of Baghdad is no Lamb Chop') quotes the TIME Middle east bureau chief Scott Macleod as saying "Although low-key air strikes have already done more damage than the big raids in December, the political consequences are minimal ... there have been no outbreaks of protests in Arab countries over attacks since December."

Details of several attacks are given in the Sunday Independent report - one of these, which did receive some publicity here, was on 25 January when a US missile exploded in a Basra housing complex killing 17 people and wounding almost 100. In that attack, two other missiles hit civilian areas 16 miles apart killing six women and ten children.

General Sir Michael Rose (former UN force commander in Bosnia) condemned the ongoing attacks on 11 February and is quoted as saying " The continual TV images of the West's high-technology systems causing death and destruction to people in the Third World will not be tolerated forever by civilised people".

The technology moved up a notch (or down a notch depending on how one views these things) on 23 February when two US F-15 fighter planes each dropped a 2,000 pound 'bunker' bomb and an unknown number of 500 pound bombs near Mousel (Iraq Action Digest, 25-02-99). The 'tunnelling' or 'bunker' bombs are newly operational weapons the US tested last year with a view to fitting them with nuclear warheads as part of their tactical nuclear weapons arsenal - those used on 23 February were fitted with conventional explosives.

Last Sunday US bombing stopped the flow of oil through the pipeline carrying Iraqi oil to Turkey - this is the only 'oil for food' pipeline. There are no reports yet of the environmental damage from this raid.

On Monday US warplanes carried out the biggest attack since those in December, dropping more than thirty 500 pound bombs, and an unknown number of 2,000 pound bombs in the northern 'no-fly' zone according to several reports received last night and today.

Most of the strikes since December have been against targets in the northern and southern 'no-fly' zones - these zones were imposed unilaterally by the British and US governments.

Rules of engagement change

In February, the US and British pilots received new rules of engagement which allowed them to open fire on Iraqi military installations, even when the warplanes were not under direct threat from those installations. Yesterday there were reports on Radio NZ (unconfirmed as yet) that this has been expanded to include non-military targets which may have some link to military activities.

This, as with the previous bomb attacks and the ongoing economic sanctions, are clearly a breach of the the 1977 Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions 1949 which covers the protection of civilians during conflict.

As but one example, Article 48 states : "In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives, and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives." Further, Article 50 states "The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the civilian population of its civilian character."

Bombing is not a solution

It is blatantly obvious that bombing and starving the people of Iraq is doing nothing to get rid of Saddam Hussein, the stated objective of the attacks, and indeed the reverse is probably true in that the people of Iraq are (strangely enough) most likely to view the US and its allies as their real enemy. Bombing and starving never achieves anything except hatred.
It is time for some new thinking as we have said before, and maybe even time to go back to the immediate aftermath of the Gulf war for a new direction. One possible avenue which the UN and those governments obsessed with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (while ignoring their own) appear reluctant to explore is one outlined in Resolution 687 - the resolution used to justify the attacks since April 1991.

While those with an interest in trying out their new high-tech weapons have only picked out phrases here and there to give a spurious authority for their actions, it is clear they have been very remiss in not reading the full text properly and having a go at some of the other options - particularly those mentioned in the preamble section. These include the statements around paragraph 14 :

"Recalling the objective of the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region of the Middle East; Conscious of the threat that all weapons of mass destruction pose to peace and security in the area and of the need to work towards the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of such weapons; Conscious also of the objective of achieving balanced and comprehensive control of armaments in the region ..."

Perhaps starting to implement some of these ideas would be a more productive to move towards peace and security, both in the short and long term, than bombing ?

What you can do

Well, one option is to sink into gloomy despair and exhaustion from opposing US and British (with NZ government support) attacks on the people of Iraq for the past eight years ... but if you can get around that, then here are some suggestions :

1) Contact the US and British diplomatic representatives telling them what you think of their governments' actions :

- Josiah Beeman, US Embassy, 29 Fitzherbert Tce, Thorndon, Wellington; tel (04) 472 2068; fax (04) 471 2380;

- Martin Williams, British High Commission, PO Box 1812, Wellington; tel (04) 472 6049; fax (04) 473 4982.

2) You could contact President Bill Clinton, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC 20001,United
States of America. Tel 00-1-202-456-1111 (the Clinton comment line !) or -1414; fax 00-1-202-456-2461 or -2883. You can send email messages to, however you only receive an automated response to these, and it is not clear if anyone actually reads them.

3) You could express your concern over the situation by letters to the editor - contacts for the nationally distributed papers are : Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492,; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237,; Herald, fax (09) 373 6434; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185.

4) Act together with like-minded people ! There are 'emergency' arrangements for some towns and cities for protest vigils if a sudden mass attack occurs; in response to the current situation there will be a vigil in Wellington tonight (5pm at the Cenotaph) and the Auckland Gulf Crisis Committee is meeting tonight to decide their response.

For more information you can view PMAs STOP KILLING THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ alerts.

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