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20 lies about the Iraq war

The Secret Behind the Sanctions - How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply




20 lies about the Iraq war 
The Independent 
13 July 2003
By Glen Rangwala and Raymond Whitaker

20 Lies About the War Falsehoods ranging from exaggeration to plain untruth were used to make the case for war. More lies are being used in the aftermath.

[Actually that makes 21 lies. Any time anyone said anything critical of going to a war based on lies, they were accused of being a Saddam supporter.]

1. Iraq was responsible for the 11 September attacks A supposed meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, leader of the 11 September hijackers, and an Iraqi intelligence official was the main basis for this claim, but Czech intelligence later conceded that the Iraqi's contact could not have been Atta. This did not stop the constant stream of assertions that Iraq was involved in 9/11, which was so successful that at one stage opinion polls showed that two-thirds of Americans believed the hand of Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks. Almost as many believed Iraqi hijackers were aboard the crashed airliners; in fact there were none.

2. Iraq and al-Qa'ida were working together Persistent claims by US and British leaders that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were in league with each other were contradicted by a leaked British Defence Intelligence Staff report, which said there were no current links between them. Mr Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present-day Iraq", it added. Another strand to the claims was that al-Qa'ida members were being sheltered in Iraq, and had set up a poisons training camp. When US troops reached the camp, they found no chemical or biological traces.

3. Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a "reconstituted" nuclear weapons programme The head of the CIA has now admitted that documents purporting to show that Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger in west Africa were forged, and that the claim should never have been in President Bush's State of the Union address. Britain sticks by the claim, insisting it has "separate intelligence". The Foreign Office conceded last week that this information is now "under review".

4. Iraq was trying to import aluminium tubes to develop nuclear weapons The US persistently alleged that Baghdad tried to buy high-strength aluminum tubes whose only use could be in gas centrifuges, needed to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Equally persistently, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the tubes were being used for artillery rockets. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, told the UN Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for centrifuges.

5. Iraq still had vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons from the first Gulf War Iraq possessed enough dangerous substances to kill the whole world, it was alleged more than once. It had pilotless aircraft which could be smuggled into the US and used to spray chemical and biological toxins. Experts pointed out that apart from mustard gas, Iraq never had the technology to produce materials with a shelf-life of 12 years, the time between the two wars. All such agents would have deteriorated to the point of uselessness years ago.

6. Iraq retained up to 20 missiles which could carry chemical or biological warheads, with a range which would threaten British forces in Cyprus Apart from the fact that there has been no sign of these missiles since the invasion, Britain downplayed the risk of there being any such weapons in Iraq once the fighting began. It was also revealed that chemical protection equipment was removed from British bases in Cyprus last year, indicating that the Government did not take its own claims seriously.

7. Saddam Hussein had the wherewithal to develop smallpox This allegation was made by the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in his address to the UN Security Council in February. The following month the UN said there was nothing to support it.

8. US and British claims were supported by the inspectors According to Jack Straw, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix "pointed out" that Iraq had 10,000 litres of anthrax. Tony Blair said Iraq's chemical, biological and "indeed the nuclear weapons programme" had been well documented by the UN. Mr Blix's reply? "This is not the same as saying there are weapons of mass destruction," he said last September. "If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or were constructing such weapons, I would take it to the Security Council." In May this year he added: "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not."

9. Previous weapons inspections had failed Tony Blair told this newspaper in March that the UN had "tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully". But in 1999 a Security Council panel concluded: "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated." Mr Blair also claimed UN inspectors "found no trace at all of Saddam's offensive biological weapons programme" until his son-in-law defected. In fact the UN got the regime to admit to its biological weapons programme more than a month before the defection.

10. Iraq was obstructing the inspectors Britain's February "dodgy dossier" claimed inspectors' escorts were "trained to start long arguments" with other Iraqi officials while evidence was being hidden, and inspectors' journeys were monitored and notified ahead to remove surprise. Dr Blix said in February that the UN had conducted more than 400 inspections, all without notice, covering more than 300 sites. "We note that access to sites has so far been without problems," he said. : "In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew that the inspectors were coming."

11. Iraq could deploy its weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes This now-notorious claim was based on a single source, said to be a serving Iraqi military officer. This individual has not been produced since the war, but in any case Tony Blair contradicted the claim in April. He said Iraq had begun to conceal its weapons in May 2002, which meant that they could not have been used within 45 minutes.

12. The "dodgy dossier" Mr Blair told the Commons in February, when the dossier was issued: "We issued further intelligence over the weekend about the infrastructure of concealment. It is obviously difficult when we publish intelligence reports." It soon emerged that most of it was cribbed without attribution from three articles on the internet. Last month Alastair Campbell took responsibility for the plagiarism committed by his staff, but stood by the dossier's accuracy, even though it confused two Iraqi intelligence organisations, and said one moved to new headquarters in 1990, two years before it was created.

13. War would be easy Public fears of war in the US and Britain were assuaged by assurances that oppressed Iraqis would welcome the invading forces; that "demolishing Saddam Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk", in the words of Kenneth Adelman, a senior Pentagon official in two previous Republican administrations. Resistance was patchy, but stiffer than expected, mainly from irregular forces fighting in civilian clothes. "This wasn't the enemy we war-gamed against," one general complained.

14. Umm Qasr The fall of Iraq's southernmost city and only port was announced several times before Anglo-American forces gained full control - by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among others, and by Admiral Michael Boyce, chief of Britain's defence staff. "Umm Qasr has been overwhelmed by the US Marines and is now in coalition hands," the Admiral announced, somewhat prematurely.

15. Basra rebellion Claims that the Shia Muslim population of Basra, Iraq's second city, had risen against their oppressors were repeated for days, long after it became clear to those there that this was little more than wishful thinking. The defeat of a supposed breakout by Iraqi armour was also announced by military spokesman in no position to know the truth.

16. The "rescue" of Private Jessica Lynch Private Jessica Lynch's "rescue" from a hospital in Nasiriya by American special forces was presented as the major "feel-good" story of the war. She was said to have fired back at Iraqi troops until her ammunition ran out, and was taken to hospital suffering bullet and stab wounds. It has since emerged that all her injuries were sustained in a vehicle crash, which left her incapable of firing any shot. Local medical staff had tried to return her to the Americans after Iraqi forces pulled out of the hospital, but the doctors had to turn back when US troops opened fire on them. The special forces encountered no resistance, but made sure the whole episode was filmed.

17. Troops would face chemical and biological weapons As US forces approached Baghdad, there was a rash of reports that they would cross a "red line", within which Republican Guard units were authorised to use chemical weapons. But Lieutenant General James Conway, the leading US marine general in Iraq, conceded afterwards that intelligence reports that chemical weapons had been deployed around Baghdad before the war were wrong. " It was a surprise to me ... that we have not uncovered weapons ... in some of the forward dispersal sites," he said. "We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there. We were simply wrong. Whether or not we're wrong at the national level, I think still very much remains to be seen."

18. Interrogation of scientists would yield the location of WMD " I have got absolutely no doubt that those weapons are there ... once we have the co-operation of the scientists and the experts, I have got no doubt that we will find them," Tony Blair said in April. Numerous similar assurances were issued by other leading figures, who said interrogations would provide the WMD discoveries that searches had failed to supply. But almost all Iraq's leading scientists are in custody, and claims that lingering fears of Saddam Hussein are stilling their tongues are beginning to wear thin.

19. Iraq's oil money would go to Iraqis Tony Blair complained in Parliament that "people falsely claim that we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues, adding that they should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN. Britain should seek a Security Council resolution that would affirm "the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people". Instead Britain co-sponsored a Security Council resolution that gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues. There is no UN-administered trust fund. Far from "all oil revenues" being used for the Iraqi people, the resolution continues to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay in compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

20. WMD were found After repeated false sightings, both Tony Blair and George Bush proclaimed on 30 May that two trailers found in Iraq were mobile biological laboratories. "We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons," said Mr Blair. Mr Bush went further: "Those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons - they're wrong. We found them." It is now almost certain that the vehicles were for the production of hydrogen for weather balloons, just as the Iraqis claimed - and that they were exported by Britain. ----------------



Answering Bush's big myths about Iraq
By Former U.S. Attorney General Ransey Clark


Myth # 1

The United States has the right to wage pre-emptive war against Iraq


Myth # 2

The U.N. Security Council can lawfully authorize pre-emptive war 
The United Nations Security Council cannot authorize a potential nuclear U.S. first strike and war of aggression that violates the U.N. Charter, international law and the law prohibiting war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity. The U.N. Charter–which creates the Security Council and which grants the Council its authority–requires the "Security Council to act in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations." (Article 24)

The U.N. Charter requires international disputes or situations that might lead to a breach of peace to be resolved by peaceful means. (Article 1 and Chapter VI) In other words, a nation may not wage war based on the claim that it seeks to prevent war. A nation may use force unilaterally in self-defense only "if an armed attack occurs" against it. (Article 51)


Myth # 3

The United States Congress can lawfully authorize pre-emptive war against Iraq 
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution establishes that ratified treaties, such as the U.N. Charter, are the "supreme law of the land." The U.N. Charter has been ratified by the United States, and the Congress may not take actions–including wars of aggression–in violation of the Charter.

Wars of aggression, and even the making of the threat of a war of aggression, violates the international humanitarian law to which all nations are bound. Neither Congress nor the President has the right to engage the U.S. in a war of aggression and any vote of endorsement, far from legalizing or legitimizing global war plans, serves only as ratification

of war crimes.


Myth # 4

The U.S. government intends to "liberate" the Iraqi people 
The October 11, 2002, New York Times revealed the true plans of the United States: "The White House is developing a detailed plan, modelled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein, senior administration officials said today.… In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander–perhaps Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of the United States forces in the Persian Gulf, or one of his subordinates–who would assume the role that Gen. Douglas MacArthur served in Japan after its surrender in 1945." ("U.S. has a plan to occupy Iraq, officials report") The true intention of the U.S. government is to recolonize Iraq. Prior to the 1960s, U.S. corporations made 50 percent of their foreign profits from investments in oil from this region. The Bush administration wants Iraq to denationalize its oil wealth–10% of the world's supply.

This war is an attempt to reconquer Iraq and all of its natural resources. The Bush administration wants to reshuffle the deck in the Middle East and undo all of the achievements of the national liberation movements from the last sixty years. They want to eliminate independence for all countries in the region and assert their domination and control–not in the interest of the vast majority of people–but for access to oil.


Myth # 5

Iraq is a military threat to the world 
There is no record to support this claim. During the Gulf War of 1991, while the United States bombed Iraq with a barrage that included 110,000 sorties, Iraq did not destroy even one U.S. tank or plane. Desert Storm destroyed, according to U.N. weapons inspectors, 80% of Iraq's weaponry. As part of the inspections that followed, 90% of Iraq's remaining military capability was destroyed. Iraq has been paying indemnities to Kuwait and U.S. oil corporations since 1991 and has not had the financial capacity to build another arsenal. In addition, there has not been a threat by Iraq of any kind against any other country.


Myth # 6

Iraq threw out the  weapons inspectors 
Iraq did not tell the inspectors to leave. The weapons inspectors withdrew in December 1998 because the United States told them to pull out so that the U.S. could launch a bombing campaign on Baghdad. The next day, on December 16, the U.S. unleashed Operation Desert Fox, which included dropping 1,100 bombs and Cruise missiles on Iraq. After the bombing campaign, a Washington Post report confirmed the assertions of Iraq that the inspections were intelligence-gathering exercises conducted on the orders of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon used the information collected from the so called inspections to set up coordinates for its bombing operations. After this revelation, the Iraqi government quite understandably did not let the inspectors back in.


Myth # 7

Sanctions are a kinder, gentler way to deal with Iraq 

The plan for sanctions on Iraq came from the Pentagon, not the Department of Health and Human Services. It was a central part of the Pentagon's war strategy against the Iraqi people. Sanctions have been more devastating than the Gulf War itself.

"UNICEF confirms that five to six thousand Iraqi children are dying unnecessarily every month due to the impact of the sanctions, and that figure is probably modest," Denis Halliday told a Congressional hearing in October 1998.

in Iraq, spoke of the "tragic incompatibility of sanctions with the U.N. Charter and the Convention on Human Rights."


Myth # 8

The UN allows U.S. and U.K. planes to bomb the "No Fly Zones"

The United States agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq in February 1991. The no-flight zones over two-thirds of Iraq were imposed by the U.S., Britain and France 18 months after the Gulf War. The United Nations has never sanctioned the no-flight zones. France has since condemned them. The so-called no-flight zones are in violation of international law. Iraq has every right under international law and all known laws in the world to defend itself in these U.S.-declared noflight zones. According to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, Iraq has the right of self-defense in all of its country, including these "no-flight zones." 


Myth # 9

The people support a war on Iraq

Not even opinion polls support this

Similar demonstrations have been held in Rome and Madrid. The general sentiment in Europe was summed up by the Greek Development Minister who said, "We are totally opposed to any military conflict ... even if there is a UN Resolution."

Around the world, the sentiment is no different. New Zealand's government opposes the war. No country in the Middle East supports a war on Iraq. Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all oppose a war.

As do France, Russia and China.


Myth # 10

War will be good for the economy 
It already costs U.S. taxpayers $50 billion per year to keep U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf. The estimated $200 billion for a war on Iraq will come straight out of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and welfare. The average working-class taxpayer will foot the bill. The upper classes have already had their taxes greatly reduced so that they pay only a small part of the bill.


Myth # 11

This war will be quick and painless 
War is rarely quick, never painless. A new war will be neither. The 4.8 million people in Baghdad face an invasion by the most modern and lethally equipped military in the world. Iraq is a nation of 22 million people. They will bear the brunt

of the pain and the deaths of the war.


Myth # 12

Gulf War Syndrome is a myth 
The Veterans Benefits Administration Office noted that 36% of Desert Storm vets have filed claims for service-related disabilities. A primary reason is because the U.S. used Depleted Uranium. In July 1990, "The U.S. Army Armaments Munitions and Chemical Command admitted DU posed long-term risks to natives and combat veterans.. . . Low doses have been linked to cancer." Gulf War vets have a 500% greater incidence of Lou Gehrig's disease than the general population. Desert Storm female vets have a 300% greater incidence of bearing children with birth defects. For male vets the figure is 200%. 


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Iraq: myths and realities 
By Mike Karadjis 

Myth 1: The US bombing of Iraq was necessary because all UN resolutions must be enforced, and Iraq was violating them. 

Reality: Many countries violate UN resolutions in much more serious ways than Iraq, but no action is taken against them. Israel has violated every UN resolution in the last 26 years demanding withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights, occupied since 1967, withdrawal from southern Lebanon, occupied since 1978, and more recently, the UN resolution against the deportation of 415 Palestinians. The US ignored UN resolutions which condemned its invasions of Panama and Grenada and its war against Nicaragua. Indonesia's 18-year occupation of East Timor and Turkey's 19-year occupation of northern Cyprus were condemned by the UN. Not even the mildest sanctions (let alone bombings!) have been declared against these states. 

Myth 2: The UN Security Council represents the will of the ``international community''. 

Reality: The UN General Assembly is the body in which all nations are represented. It has passed resolutions against the above violations by the US, Israel, Turkey and Indonesia, as well as Iraq and many other countries. No action is taken against any friends of the US, because the US uses its veto in the Security Council. The Security Council is an undemocratic club dominated by the five permanent members - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - who have the right of veto. It acts unilaterally, without consulting the General Assembly. For example, the war against Iraq two years ago was sanctioned by the Security Council, not the General Assembly. 

Myth 3: The US attacks only military targets in Iraq, and its ``smart bombs'' are highly accurate, avoiding civilian casualties. 

Reality: With relatively few attacks on Iraqi military targets between January 13 and 18, one bomb hit a block of flats and another a hotel. Many civilians have already been killed. Further, in the Gulf War, only 7% of bombs dropped on Iraq were ``smart''. In any case, in the Gulf War, which involved the highest level of bombing in history with the most destructive weapons ever, Iraq's civilian infrastructure was deliberately and systematically destroyed, killing tens of thousands of civilians in the process. 

Myth 4: Iraq was refusing to allow UN weapons inspection teams to fly into Iraq, hence violating UN resolutions. 

Reality: In fact, all Iraq said was that it could not guarantee the safety of such flights if they entered Iraq through the US- imposed "no-fly zones'', since Iraq does not control the skies in these areas. Iraq offered the alternative of UN planes flying into the country from the west, via Jordan. This perfectly reasonable offer was rejected by the ``UN'' (i.e. the Security Council club). 

Myth 5: Iraq launched four ``border incursions'' into Kuwaiti territory, again violating UN resolutions. 

Reality: This so-called Kuwaiti territory is in fact Iraqi territory which is being taken from Iraq and given to Kuwait by the UN as part of the treaty imposed on Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. The territory being transferred includes major oil deposits and Iraq's only functioning port, Umm Qasr, on which Iraq has spent billions of dollars. The so-called incursions consisted of unarmed workers dismantling sections of the port, which the UN recognises as Iraqi property, and taking them back to Iraq. 

Myth 6: Iraq further violated UN resolutions by moving military equipment into the no-fly zones in the north and south of the country. 

Reality: The no fly zones (parts of Iraq patrolled by US planes in which Iraqi planes are banned from flying) were imposed unilaterally by the US. These zones, which cover nearly half of Iraq and divide the country into three, are not covered by any UN resolution. There is no law that states that Iraqi planes can't fly over Iraqi territory. It is, in fact, the US that is in violation of international law, not Iraq. 

Myth 7: The no-fly zone in the north was established to protect Kurds from massive aerial attack by the Iraqi regime. 

Reality: Following the Gulf War, the Kurds in the north and the masses in the south (not necessarily Shi'ites) rose up against Saddam Hussein's regime. The regime brutally suppressed these risings, using massive aerial bombardment, while the US stood by and declared ``Mr Hussein is the only person who can guarantee the stability of Iraq''. When Hussein had completely defeated the Kurds, the US sent in troops to set up ``safe havens'' in parts of Kurdish territory. At the same time it imposed a no-fly zone above the 36th parallel, an area which includes areas of substantially Arab population, such as the city of Mosul, and which has important oil reserves. In this ``safe'' zone, the US-allied Turkish government regularly bombs Kurds who have fled there from Turkey. 

Myth 8: The no-fly zone in the south was established to protect Shi'ites from massive aerial attack by the Iraqi regime. 

Reality: When this zone was declared in August 1992, there was no sign of any such aerial war (unlike March 1991, when the US stood by). The US cut off this area as part of its drive to cripple and divide Iraq, because this region contains most of Iraq's oil reserves. The only evidence of repression of Shi'ites was the charge that Iraq was draining the swamps inhabited by the ``marsh Arabs'' (which, in fact, have been partially drained by the Turkish regime's massive diversion of water from Iraq). In any case, drainage of swamps could hardly be fought through a no-fly zone, and the region inhabited by the marsh Arabs is only a fraction of the no-fly zone. 

Myth 9: Hussein is such a brutal tyrant that the West must stop him in the name of democracy. 

Reality: It is certainly true that Hussein's regime is a dictatorship which uses repression against opposition, but this makes Iraq part of the rule rather than the exception in the capitalist Third World. There are dozens of brutal dictatorships, nearly all strongly supported by the US and the West: for example, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Zaire, Indonesia, Guatemala and El Salvador. Dictatorships better protect the Western corporations that ruthlessly exploit these countries. Democratic regimes, such as in Nicaragua, are often overthrown by the US. The US has no intention of bringing democracy to Iraq; in fact it calls on the Iraqi military to overthrow Hussein. It opposes Hussein only because he refuses to be a complete puppet; it wants a regime completely compliant with the interests of Western oil monopolies. 

Myth 10: Since Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it deserves to have very strict conditions imposed upon it by the UN. 

Reality: Any unjust treaty can be imposed by superior military force, and the treaty imposed on Iraq at the end of the Gulf War was worse then any imposed on a defeated country in the 20th century. Apart from the totally arbitrary border changes, the treaty imposes a massive reparations bill to be paid for by a compulsory 30% deduction from any Iraqi oil sales. These sales are so limited that after this 30% deduction, the remaining money falls $800 million short of the sum estimated by the UN special envoy as being the absolute minimum required to counter starvation. As a result of the UN sanctions on Iraq, which continue two years after Iraqi troops left Kuwait, some 200,000 people, mostly children, have died. The Australian government, through the navy, is taking part in this criminal blockade - which amounts to a crime against humanity. 

** End of text from cdp:mideast.gulf **



Iraq: The Truth, The Whole Truth

00:44 2003-03-07

Dominican Sister Sharine, Iraqi, lives in Baghad. She went to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she was heard by Pravda.Ru contacts, among them Joao Pedro Stedille, who sent us this report. We thank Senhor Stedille most sincerely for this chilling report.

Viruses and mice dropped by parachute against Iraqi agriculture

"One of the main causes of the hunger which afflicts the Iraqi people is the policy adopted by the USA, for more than eight years now, of sending viruses against Iraqi crops and the policy of dropping thousands of mice by parachute to destroy what little we have".

Chemical weaponry deployed by the United States of America

"The United States of America used chemical weapons in their systematic bombings. There is hardly any drinking water left in Iraq, specially in Baghdad, a result of these bombing raids with chemical weapons which have contaminated the water",

Depleted Uranium has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths

"Until today the Iraqi people have suffered the consequences of the Gulf War, due to the use of depleted uranium by the United States of America, which has caused cancerous diseases in those who survived the bombing". We can add the statistic that at least 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of the deployment of this illegal weaponry, which breaches the Geneva Convention and the deployment of which is therefore a war crime.

UN embargo killed thousands of children

"The United nations, with all its power, until today has still not allowed the entry of certain medicines into Iraq, a policy which has caused thousands of deaths due to the lack of basic substances".

Oil, the Bait for the Devil

"The Iraqi people are depressed, they accept their destiny, resigned, as a people who live sleeping on a mattress of oil and so for this reason they will attract the greed of the US-based energy companies and due to their wealth, they will be condemned to poverty and death".

It will be a massacre

"The people will not react. The people are not armed. This is a lie of western TV. Worse than this, we all know it will be a massacre, genocide. Since 1990, the population of Baghdad has increased by eight times and now the city has a population of eight million inhabitants, 70% of them coming from the countryside, devastated, without jobs, receiving a basic food basket from the government so as to not starve to death. Can you imagine how these people will suffer if there is a massive bombing campaign against the capital?"


The Secret Behind the Sanctions
How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply

by Thomas J. Nagy

Over the last two years, I've discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War.

The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.

Primary document

The primary document, "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its citizens.

"Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline," the document states. "With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent United Nations Sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."

The document goes into great technical detail about the sources and quality of Iraq's water supply. The quality of untreated water "generally is poor," and drinking such water "could result in diarrhea," the document says. It notes that Iraq's rivers "contain biological materials, pollutants, and are laden with bacteria. Unless the water is purified with chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid could occur."

The document notes that the importation of chlorine "has been embargoed" by sanctions. "Recent reports indicate the chlorine supply is critically low."

Food and medicine will also be affected, the document states. "Food processing, electronic, and particularly, pharmaceutical plants require extremely pure water that is free from biological contaminants," it says.

The document addresses possible Iraqi countermeasures to obtain drinkable water despite sanctions.

"Iraq conceivably could truck water from the mountain reservoirs to urban areas. But the capability to gain significant quantities is extremely limited," the document states. "The amount of pipe on hand and the lack of pumping stations would limit laying pipelines to these reservoirs. Moreover, without chlorine purification, the water still would contain biological pollutants. Some affluent Iraqis could obtain their own minimally adequate supply of good quality water from Northern Iraqi sources. If boiled, the water could be safely consumed.
Poorer Iraqis and industries requiring large quantities of pure water would not be able to meet their needs."

The document also discounted the possibility of Iraqis using rainwater. "Precipitation occurs in Iraq during the winter and spring, but it falls primarily in the northern mountains," it says. "Sporadic rains, sometimes heavy, fall over the lower plains. But Iraq could not rely on rain to provide adequate pure water."

As an alternative, "Iraq could try convincing the United Nations or individual countries to exempt water treatment supplies from sanctions for humanitarian reasons," the document says. "It probably also is attempting to purchase supplies by using some sympathetic countries as fronts. If such attempts fail, Iraqi alternatives are not adequate for their national requirements."

In cold language, the document spells out what is in store: "Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water."

The document gives a timetable for the destruction of Iraq's water supplies. "Iraq's overall water treatment capability will suffer a slow decline, rather than a precipitous halt," it says. "Although Iraq is already experiencing a loss of water treatment capability, it probably will take at least six months (to June 1991) before the system is fully degraded."

This document, which was partially declassified but unpublicized in  1995, can be found on the Pentagon's web site at
(I disclosed this document last fall. But the news media showed little interest in it. The only reporters I know of who wrote lengthy stories on it were Felicity Arbuthnot in the Sunday Herald of Scotland, who broke the story, and Charlie Reese of the Orlando Sentinel, who did a follow-up.)

Recently, I have come across other DIA documents that confirm the Pentagon's monitoring of the degradation of Iraq's water supply. These documents have not been publicized until now.

The first one in this batch is called "Disease Information," and is also dated January 22, 1991. At the top, it says, "Subject: Effects of Bombing on Disease Occurrence in Baghdad." The analysis is blunt:

"Increased incidence of diseases will be attributable to degradation of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification/distribution, electricity, and decreased ability to control disease outbreaks. Any urban area in Iraq that has received infrastructure damage will have similar problems."

The document proceeds to itemize the likely outbreaks. It mentions "acute diarrhea" brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardia, which will affect "particularly children," or by rotavirus, which will also affect "particularly children," a phrase it puts in parentheses. And it cites the possibilities of typhoid and cholera outbreaks.

The document warns that the Iraqi government may "blame the United States for public health problems created by the military conflict."

Second document

The second DIA document, "Disease Outbreaks in Iraq," is dated February 21, 1990, but the year is clearly a typo and should be 1991. It states: 

"Conditions are favorable for communicable disease outbreaks, particularly in major urban areas affected by coalition  bombing." It adds: "Infectious disease prevalence in major Iraqi urban areas targeted by coalition bombing (Baghdad, Basrah) undoubtedly has increased since the beginning of Desert Storm. . . . Current public health problems are attributable to the reduction of normal preventive medicine, waste disposal, water purification and distribution, electricity, and the decreased ability to control disease outbreaks."

This document lists the "most likely diseases during next sixty-ninety days (descending order): diarrheal diseases (particularly children); acute respiratory illnesses (colds and influenza); typhoid; hepatitis A (particularly children); measles, diphtheria, and pertussis (particularly children); meningitis, including meningococcal (particularly children); cholera (possible, but less likely)."

Like the previous document, this one warns that the Iraqi government might "propagandize increases of endemic diseases."

Third document

The third document in this series, "Medical Problems in Iraq," is dated March 15, 1991. It says: "Communicable diseases in Baghdad are more widespread than usually observed during this time of the year and are linked to the poor sanitary conditions (contaminated water supplies and improper sewage disposal) resulting from the war. 

According to a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)/World Health Organization report, the quantity of potable water is less than 5 percent of the original supply, there are no operational water and sewage treatment plants, and the reported incidence of diarrhea is four times above normal levels. Additionally, respiratory infections are on the rise. Children particularly have been affected by these diseases."

Perhaps to put a gloss on things, the document states, "There are indications that the situation is improving and that the population is coping with the degraded conditions." But it adds: "Conditions in Baghdad remain favorable for communicable disease outbreaks."

Fourth document

The fourth document, "Status of Disease at Refugee Camps," is dated May 1991. The summary says, "Cholera and measles have emerged at refugee camps. Further infectious diseases will spread due to inadequate water treatment and poor sanitation."

The reason for this outbreak is clearly stated again. "The main causes of infectious diseases, particularly diarrhea, dysentery, and upper  respiratory problems, are poor sanitation and unclean water. These diseases primarily afflict the old and young children."

Fifth document

The fifth document, "Health Conditions in Iraq, June 1991," is still heavily censored. All I can make out is that the DIA sent a source "to assess health conditions and determine the most critical medical needs of Iraq. Source observed that Iraqi medical system was in considerable disarray, medical facilities had been extensively looted, and almost all medicines were in critically short supply."

In one refugee camp, the document says, "at least 80 percent of the population" has diarrhea. At this same camp, named Cukurca, "cholera, hepatitis type B, and measles have broken out."

The protein deficiency disease kwashiorkor was observed in Iraq "for the first time," the document adds. "Gastroenteritis was killing children. . . . In the south, 80 percent of the deaths were children (with the exception of Al Amarah, where 60 percent of deaths were children)."

Final document

The final document is "Iraq: Assessment of Current Health Threats and Capabilities," and it is dated November 15, 1991. This one has a distinct damage-control feel to it. Here is how it begins:

"Restoration of Iraq's public health services and shortages of major medical materiel remain dominant international concerns. Both issues apparently are being exploited by Saddam Hussein in an effort to keep public opinion firmly against the U.S. and its Coalition allies and to direct blame away from the Iraqi government."

It minimizes the extent of the damage. "Although current countrywide infectious disease incidence in Iraq is higher than it was before the Gulf War, it is not at the catastrophic levels that some groups predicted. The Iraqi regime will continue to exploit disease incidence data for its own political purposes."

And it places the blame squarely on Saddam Hussein. "Iraq's medical supply shortages are the result of the central government's stockpiling, selective distribution, and exploitation of domestic and international relief medical resources." It adds: "Resumption of public health programs . . . depends completely on the Iraqi government."

As these documents illustrate, the United States knew sanctions had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality. And it was more concerned about the public relations nightmare for Washington than the actual nightmare that the sanctions created for innocent Iraqis.

US in violation of Geneva Convention

The Geneva Convention is absolutely clear. In a 1979 protocol relating to the "protection of victims of international armed conflicts," Article 54, it states: 

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive."

But that is precisely what the U.S. government did, with malice aforethought. It "destroyed, removed, or rendered useless" Iraq's "drinking water installations and supplies." The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. They amount to a systematic effort to, in the DIA's own words, "fully degrade" Iraq's water sources.

At a House hearing on June 7, Representative Cynthia McKinney, Democrat of Georgia, referred to the document "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities" and said: "Attacking the Iraqi public drinking water supply flagrantly targets civilians and is a violation of the Geneva Convention and of the fundamental laws of civilized nations."

Over the last decade, Washington extended the toll by continuing to withhold approval for Iraq to import the few chemicals and items of equipment it needed in order to clean up its water supply.

Last summer, Representative Tony Hall, Democrat of Ohio, wrote to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright "about the profound effects of the increasing deterioration of Iraq's water supply and sanitation systems on its children's health." Hall wrote, "The prime killer of children under five years of age--diarrheal diseases--has reached epidemic proportions, and they now strike four times more often than they did in 1990. . . . Holds on contracts for the water and sanitation sector are a prime reason for the increases in sickness and death. Of the eighteen contracts, all but one hold was placed by the U.S. government. The contracts are for purification chemicals, chlorinators, chemical dosing pumps, water tankers, and other equipment. . . . I urge you to weigh your decision against the disease and death that are the unavoidable result of not having safe drinking water and minimum levels of sanitation."

For more than ten years, the United States has deliberately pursued a policy of destroying the water treatment system of Iraq, knowing full well the cost in Iraqi lives. The United Nations has estimated that more than 500,000 Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions, and that 5,000 Iraqi children continue to die every month for this reason.

No one can say that the United States didn't know what it was doing.

See for Yourself

All the DIA documents mentioned in this article were found at the Department of Defense's Gulflink site.

To read or print documents:

1.go to on "Declassified Documents" on the left side of the front page
3.the next page is entitled "Browse Recently Declassified Documents" on "search" under "Declassifed Documents" on the left side of that page
5.the next page is entitled "Search Recently Declassified Documents"
6.enter search terms such as "disease information effects of bombing" on the search button
8.the next page is entitled "Data Sources" on DIA on one of the titles

It's not the easiest, best-organized site on the Internet, but I have found the folks at Gulflink to be helpful and responsive.  -- Thomas J. Nagy

Thomas J. Nagy teaches at the School of Business and Public Management at George Washington University



Page of propaganda lies

Half a Million Children under Five are Dead and Dying in Iraq - Who is responsible?
According to Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, 4,000 more children under five are dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. Over the eight years that these sanctions have been in place, 500,000 extra children under five are estimated to have died.

Myths surrounding war with Iraq

13 Myths about the case for war in Iraq

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