The Immorality of Starting Wars When Not Absolutely Necessary, and the Brutality it can Lead to, Shown by News and Other Quotes About Recent Wars

It seems the American people and those of other countries have been betrayed and lied to by their leaders for decades at the very least. Ordinary people have suffered the consequences of the anger and retaliation from people in other parts of the world their leaders' aggressive foreign policies have led to. Governments need to value peace as a greater priority than they have in the past, to protect both their own people and others. After all, there's wisdom in the old addage, Those who fail to learn from history will be doomed to repeat it. Here's what recent history could teach governments wise enough to learn by it about the importance of having a benign foreign policy that's genuinely concerned for the welfare of ordinary people, and can demonstrate to the public the importance of electing governments committed to the peace and welfare of people at home and abroad in future.

Some people might find some of the descriptions of violence and corruption depressing or distressing.


  1. Evil Motives Some Governments Are Alleged to Have Gone to War For
  2. The Kinds of Brutality and Suffering the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Also the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Have Led To
  3. How American and Other Governments Have Helped to Bring About or Invent the Crises That Have Led to War and Other Suffering
  4. Humanitarian Strategies That Have Prevented Full-Scale War in Some Past Conflicts and Could Reduce its Casualties

Evil Motives Some Governments Are Alleged to Have Gone to War For

Many people have alleged that at least some of the wars and other conflicts America has been involved in in the past decades have had a lot to do with protecting business interests, sometimes from governments who wanted to improve the welfare of their most impoverished citizens by redistributing wealth. Here's an example:

An Example of the Violent Protection of Business - the 1954 CIA-Sponsored Coup in Guatemala

The fear of Communism may have played a large role, but it's alleged that protecting the interests of a huge American company also had a lot to do with it:

A "killing field" in the Americas: US policy in Guatemala

The Reality of Guatemala

Guatemala, with 10 million people, is the most populous country in Central America. It is run by an oligarchy of wealthy landowners and big business interests that reap the country's agricultural and commercial rewards at the expense of the rest of the population. The country has been headed by military dictators and figurehead-presidents. Ultimate control belongs to the Army.

Guatemala is a country without social or economic justice, especially for the 6 million indigenous Mayan Indians who make up the majority of the population. There is a marked disparity in income distribution, and poverty is pervasive. On coffee plantations, peasants, descendants of the ancient Maya, live in concentration camp-like conditions, as de facto slaves. 40% of the indigenous people have no access to health care, and 60% have no access to safe drinking water. Education in rural areas is non-existent, with the result that 50% of the people are illiterate. Half of the country's children suffer from malnutrition. Every day in Guatemala, a country in which everything grows, people go hungry.

The real power in Guatemala is in the hands of the Army, and that power has been used to violently control the people, resulting in the worst human rights record in the hemisphere. During more than 30 years of civil war, over 150,000 Guatemalans have been killed or disappeared, tens-of-thousands have been forced to flee to Mexico, 1 million have been displaced inside the country, and more than 440 Indian villages have been destroyed. 75,000 widows and 250,000 orphans have been produced out of the carnage. And, for more than four decades, the United States government has consistently supported the Guatemalan Army and the ruling class in their policies of repression. …

United Fruit Company

Under dictator Jorqe Ubico (1931-1944), American-owned United Fruit Company (UFC) gained control of forty-two percent of Guatemala's land, and was exempted from taxes and import duties. The three main enterprises in Guatemala -- United Fruit Company, International Railways of Central America, and Empress Electrica -- were American-owned (and controlled by United Fruit Company). Seventy-seven percent of all exports went to the US and sixty-five percent of imports came from the US.

"10 Years of Springtime"

Repressive governments have plagued Guatemala throughout its history, with alternating waves of dictators being the rule. But, between 1945 and 1954, there was a period of enlightenment -- an experiment with democracy called the "10 Years of Springtime" -- that started with the election of Juan Jose Arevalo to the presidency.

While in power from 1945 to 1951, Arevalo established the nation's social security and health systems and a government bureau to look after Mayan concerns. Arévalo's liberal regime experienced many coup attempts by conservative military forces, but the attempts were not successful.

Arévalo was followed by Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán who became president in democratic elections in 1951. At the time, 2% of landowners owned 70% of the arable land and farm laborers were kept in debt slavery by these landowners. Arbenz continued to implement the liberal policies of Arevalo, and instituted an agrarian reform law to break up the large estates and foster individually owned small farms. The land reform program involved redistribution of 160,000 acres of uncultivated land owned by United Fruit Company. United Fruit was compensated for its land.

United Fruit, Eisenhower and the end of reform

United Fruit was a state within the Guatemalan state. It not only owned all of Guatemala's banana production and monopolized banana exports, it also owned the country's telephone and telegraph system, and almost all of the railroad track. In addition to redistributing United Fruit land, the government also began competing with United Fruit in the production and export of bananas.

Important people in the ruling circles of the US, involved with United Fruit Company, used their influence to convince the US government to step in. (Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' law firm had prepared United Fruit's contracts with Guatemala; his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, belonged to United Fruit's law firm; John Moors Cabot, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, was the brother of a former United Fruit president; President Eisenhower's personal secretary was married to the head of United Fruit's Public Relations Department.)

In 1954, Eisenhower and Dulles decided that Arbenz finally had to go, and the US State Department labeled Guatemala "communist". On this pretext, US aid and equipment were provided to the Guatemalan Army. The US also sent a CIA army and CIA planes. They bombed a military base and a government radio station, and overthrew Arbenz Guzmán, who fled to Cuba.

The coup restored the stranglehold on the Guatemalan economy of both the landed elite and US economic interests. President Eisenhower was willing to make the poor, illiterate Guatemalan peasants pay in hunger and torture for supporting land reform, and for trying to attain a better future for themselves and their families. In order to ensure ever-increasing profits for an American corporation, the US State Department, the CIA, and United Fruit Company had succeeded in taking freedom and land from Guatemala's peasants, unions from its workers, and hope for a democratic Guatemala from all of its people. …

Allegations About Going to War to Get Rich and for Other Callous Reasons

Apparently a famous book was written years ago by someone who talked cynically about war after having been involved in it for decades. From Wikipedia: War Is a Racket.

War Is a Racket is the title of two works, a speech and a booklet, by retired U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, one of only 19 people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor , in which Butler frankly discusses from his experience as a career military officer how business interests have commercially benefited from warfare.

It contains this key summary:

"… A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

In another often cited quote from the book Butler says:

"I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

The book is also interesting historically as Butler points out in 1935 that the US is engaging in military war games in the Pacific that are bound to provoke the Japanese. …

Naturally, what he said would need to be verified by other sources before it could be confirmed as true. But his book must contain some evidence.

Lies of the Vietnam War

There was a programme on BBC4, where a military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, who had access to secret government documents about the Vietnam War, told about how he leaked them, because he was so disgusted by the way the American government had behaved:

TV Review: The Most Dangerous Man In America, BBC4

Published Date: 17 February 2010

THE deservedly Oscar-nominated documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America, told the astonishing story of Daniel Ellsberg, a onetime US military analyst who waged a courageous war of principles against the corruption of the Nixon administration. Narrated without self-aggrandisement by Ellsberg himself, this outstanding Storyville acquisition showed how this pillar of the establishment became so vehemently opposed to the war in Vietnam that he was eventually compelled into radical action.

Thanks to his exalted position at the Rand (Research and Development) corporation, Ellsberg gained access to highly classified government documents which proved the war was founded on lies and self-interest, a gross act of "unjustified homicide" secretly supported by every US administration from Truman to Nixon. Horrified by these findings, Ellsberg then made a momentous decision: at great personal risk to himself and those around him, he photocopied the documents and leaked them to the press.

The impact was enormous. Ellsberg's whistle-blowing revealed that the government had blatantly misled the public regarding their intentions in Vietnam. Despite official assurances to the contrary, the welfare of the South Vietnamese populace was actually a very low priority. Instead, the documents explicitly stated that the overriding goal was to avoid a humiliating defeat and "to emerge from the crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used".

Here's the BBC page itself on that documentary about the man who gave away secrets about the Vietnam War: The Most Dangerous Man in America

In 1971, leading Vietnam War strategist Daniel Ellsberg concluded that the war was based on decades of lies. He leaked 7,000 pages of top-secret documents to the New York Times, a daring act of conscience that led directly to Watergate, President Nixon's resignation and the end of the Vietnam War.

And from Wikipedia:

Daniel Ellsberg (born April 7, 1931) is a former US military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making about the Vietnam War , to The New York Times and other newspapers. … After returning from Vietnam, Ellsberg went back to work at the RAND Corporation. In 1967, he contributed to a top-secret study of classified documents regarding the conduct of the Vietnam War that had been commissioned by Defense Secretary McNamara. These documents, completed in 1968, later became known collectively as the Pentagon Papers. Because he held an extremely high-level security clearance , Ellsberg was one of very few individuals who had access to the complete set of documents. They revealed that the government had knowledge all along that the war would not likely be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed that high-ranking officials had a deep cynicism toward the public, as well as disregard for the loss of life and injury suffered by soldiers and civilians.

Fighting Because Weapons Manufacturing Makes Lucrative Business

I've found out that a film/documentary was made some years ago called Why We Fight, about America's reasons for the wars it's been involved in since the 1950s. It interviews some people who've been leading politicians, and apparently shows that lies have been told to the public in every decade, to cover up the real main reason for going to war, which it seems is claimed to be that it benefits business interests a lot. It can't possibly be telling the whole story, but it has some interesting things to reveal.

The film has been aired on major television channels, and in fact was produced in association with some major media organisations including the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Here's a review of the film:

... It opens with Dwight Eisenhower warning, in the farewell address of his presidency, of a "vast military-industrial complex" that was placing the nation on permanent war footing. His prophecy was correct. It is no longer even possible to arouse much indignation when the executives of war industries move freely between their board rooms and government offices. Yes, Vice President Cheney headed a major war supplier and now, in office, backs policies that enrich that supplier; he might have made Ike indignant, but today conflicts of interest are forgiven as a convergence of interests.

"Why We Fight" is devoted to proving Eisenhower correct. It says, essentially, that we fight because we have constructed a military-industrial complex that needs business. Declaring war opens up markets; from a purely financial point of view, it's like signing free trade agreements or negotiating tariffs. ...

There are other disillusioned people in the documentary, in particular Lt. Gen. Kwiatkowski, who resigned from the Pentagon because she witnessed military officers being vetoed by outside consultants whose loyalty was to the defense contractors who employed them. ...

The film observes that some defense contracts are cleverly planned to spread the government wealth among as many states as possible; some weapons systems have suppliers in all 50 states, and woe to the elected official of either party who votes against them.

But surely that can't be the whole story! War isn't just a business racket. After all, governments can spend such vast amounts of money on wars it turns out to be very bad for their countries.

Still, some of those wars aren't so bad at all for some of the top people actually in those governments. Here's one example:

Top Politicians and the Financial Gain War Can Bring the Companies They're Associated With

Email shows Cheney 'link' to oil contract

The Guardian, Tuesday 1 June 2004

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, helped to steer through a huge contract for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry on behalf of his old firm, Halliburton, Time magazine reported yesterday.

The report, based on an internal Pentagon email, joins a steady stream of allegations of cronyism involving Halliburton. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Houston company has won $17bn (£9bn) in contracts to rebuild Iraq, far outstripping its competitors.

Mr Cheney, who ran Halliburton for five years before he became George Bush's vice-president in 2000, has maintained that he severed all links to the company when he entered public life.

However, Time said it had obtained an internal email from a Pentagon official indicating that Mr Cheney's office had been intimately involved in awarding a multibillion-dollar contract for the restoration of Iraqi oil. ...

No other bids were sought, and Halliburton was awarded the contract. ...

A spokesman for Mr Cheney's office denied any connection to the contract. "The vice-president and his office have played no role in government contracting since he left private business to campaign for vice-president," in 1999, Kevin Kellems said.

But Mr Cheney has not severed his links with Halliburton. Last year, he received $178,437 in deferred compensation from the company. ...

Regarding that "deferred compensation", the Guardian reports, albeit possibly with a slightly misleading headline:

Cheney is still paid by Pentagon contractor

Bush deputy gets up to $1m from firm with Iraq oil deal

The payments, which appear on Mr Cheney's 2001 financial disclosure statement, are in the form of "deferred compensation" of up to $1m (£600,000) a year.

When he left Halliburton in 2000 to become George Bush's running mate, he opted not to receive his leaving payment in a lump sum but instead have it paid to him over five years, possibly for tax reasons.

An aide to the vice president said yesterday: "This is money that Mr Cheney was owed by the corporation as part of his salary for the time he was employed by Halliburton and which was a fixed amount paid to him over time."

The aide said the payment was even insured so that it would not be affected even if Halliburton went bankrupt, to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

"Also, the vice president has nothing whatsoever to do with the Pentagon bidding process," the aide added.

The company would not say how much the payments are. The obligatory disclosure statement filled by all top government officials says only that they are in the range of $100,000 and $1m. Nor is it clear how they are calculated.

Halliburton is one of five large US corporations - the others are the Bechtel Group, Fluor Corp, Parsons Corp, and the Louis Berger Group - invited to bid for contracts in what may turn out to be the biggest reconstruction project since the second world war.

It is estimated to be worth up to $900m for the preliminary work alone, such as rebuilding Iraq's hospitals, ports, airports and schools.

The contract winners will be able to establish a presence in post-Saddam Iraq that should give them an invaluable edge in winning future contracts.

The defence department contract awarded to the Halliburton subsidiary, Kellog, Brown & Root (KBR), to control oil fires if Saddam Hussein sets the well heads alight, will put the company in an excellent position to bid for huge contracts when Iraq's oil industry is rehabilitated.

KBR has already benefited considerably from the "war on terror". It has so far been awarded contracts worth nearly $33m to build the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for al-Qaida suspects. ...

Perhaps that’s not incontrovertible evidence of curruption. But what was the real reason the government was so keen to go to war in Iraq? After all, it seems they actually knew the intelligence about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was flawed before the conflict even started.

To quote just one little news report on that for now:

Report: Iraq intelligence 'dead wrong'

From 2005:

After the intelligence failures in Iraq, Bush appointed the nine-member commission led by Laurence Silberman, a senior federal appellate court judge and a Republican who was in the Nixon and Ford administrations, and former Sen. and Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb, a Democrat.

An October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate warned that Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction, had reconstituted its nuclear weapon program and had biological and chemical weapons.

The Bush administration used those conclusions as part of its argument for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But the Iraq Survey Group -- set up to look for weapons of mass destruction or evidence of them in the country -- issued a final report saying it saw no weapons or no evidence that Iraq was trying to reconstitute them.

The commission's report said the principal cause of the intelligence failures was the intelligence community's "inability to collect good information about Iraq's WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions rather than good evidence."

The report said analysts were "too wedded" to assumptions about Saddam Hussein's intentions. ...

The Kinds of Brutality and Suffering the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Also the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Have Led To

Statistics on Deaths of Iraqi Civilians and American Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Iraq Body Count website bills itself as "The worldwide update on civilians killed in the Iraq war and occupation".

In April 2010, it was reporting:

Documented civilian deaths from violence
95,755 – 104,460

Data is drawn from cross-checked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures to produce a credible record of known deaths and incidents.

It links to several articles that give more details about the deaths.

An article in the Guardian in 2008 asked: What is the real death toll in Iraq?

Lieutenant General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan during his time as head of US Central Command, once announced, "We don't do body counts." This blunt response to a question about civilian casualties was an attempt to distance George Bush's wars from the disaster of Vietnam. One of the rituals of that earlier conflict was the daily announcement of how many Vietnamese fighters US forces had killed. It was supposed to convince a sceptical American public that victory was coming. But the "body count" concept sounded callous - and never more so than when it emerged that many of the alleged guerrilla dead were in fact women, children and other unarmed civilians.

Iraq was going to be different. The US would count its own dead (now close to 4,000), but the toll the war was taking on Iraqis was not a matter the Pentagon or any other US government department intended to quantify. Especially once Bush had declared "mission accomplished" on May 1 2003 - after that, every new Iraqi who died by violence would be a signal that the president was wrong, and would show that a war conducted in the name of humanitarian intervention was exacting a mounting humanitarian toll of its own.

But even though the Americans were not counting, people were dying, and every victim had a name and a family. Wedding parties were bombed by US planes, couples driving home at night were shot at checkpoints because they missed a flashlight warning them to stop, and hundreds of other unarmed civilians were killed for no legitimate cause. In just the last three weeks of April 2003, after Saddam's statue and his regime were toppled, US forces killed at least 266 civilians - a pattern of overeager resort to fire which has continued to this day. …

The initiators of the Iraq Body Count, which has produced the lowest figures, were no advocates of the invasion. John Sloboda, an Oxford-based psychologist who co-founded the group, was provoked to do so precisely because he saw no official institution willing to count the human cost of the war. His organisation decided to use "passive surveillance", a statistically conservative method that only deals with facts on the ground. The IBC lists all cases where at least two media sources report an incident causing one or several deaths, keeping a careful tab of the victims' age, gender, occupation, manner and place of death, where information is available. In addition to providing a running total (which now numbers just under 90,000), its figures have allowed the IBC to produce some of the best data and analysis on how the Iraq war has changed over five years. They reveal that the Americans killed four times more civilians in the first two years of the war (thereby provoking armed resistance to the occupation) than al-Qaida-linked insurgents did, in spite of the media's emphasis on car bombs and suicide attacks. They also show the explosion of criminal violence since 2003, one byproduct of the removal of Saddam Hussein's draconian security methods - or what Bush would call Iraq's new "freedom".

There are naturally likely to be far more civilians injured, some for life, than there have been civilians killed.

As for the number of American troops killed:

At the beginning of July 2010, a Washington Post page called Faces of the Fallen: Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties listed the growing casualty numbers thus:

Total Fatalities
Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,396
Operation Enduring Freedom: 1,125

The page lists their names and the dates they were killed. It's constantly being updated, so doubtless the numbers have increased.

The Physical Injuries and Mental Distress the Iraq War Has Led To Among American Troops

Naturally, many more have been physically injured or mentally traumatised. Here are a few examples of the types of damage done:

Soldiers in Iraq Suffer Life-Threatening Head, Neck Wounds

... A report documenting combat injuries over a 14-month period at a particular American military hospital found that one in five soldiers injured in battle suffered from a life-threatening head or neck injury. ...

Xydakis commented that especially because of the youth of many of the patients, injuries can be very difficult for even the most experienced military caregivers to see.

Even nonfatal injuries can have devastating and life-changing results, including shattered jaws, blindness, irreversible brain damage, breathing problems, and severe disfiguration.

The study covered the period of admissions from January 1, 2003, to March 19, 2004. During that time, over 11,000 soldiers were admitted to the hospital. ...

A Grim Milestone: 500 Amputees

January 2007

... Last Tuesday marked another grim milestone: the arrival of the 500th amputee. Army officials said the victim, a 24-year-old corporal, lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion on January 12. He was treated at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, before landing at Andrews and being taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. ...

As the U.S. military has upgraded the armor of its Humvees, the annual number of amputees has decreased since a record high of 156 in 2004. But Iraqi insurgents have responded with bigger bombs that cause greater devastation. Experts say this has contributed to the increase in multiple amputees. Last year, nearly a quarter of the 128 amputees lost more than one limb, compared with about 13% in the first full year of the conflict.

This war will produce the first generation of veterans in bionic arms and legs, a legacy that may seem most pronounced for upper extremity amputees. It is relatively rare to see Americans missing hands or arms; they represent only 5% of civilian amputees in the U.S. But nearly a quarter of those who lost limbs in Iraq have come home in that condition.

Trauma of Iraq war haunting thousands returning home

... Of the 244,054 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan already discharged from service, 12,422 have been in VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms associated with PTSD. ...

Post-traumatic stress was defined in 1980, partly based on the experiences of soldiers and victims of war. It produces a wide range of symptoms in men and women who have experienced a traumatic event that provoked intense fear, helplessness or horror.

The events are sometimes re-experienced later through intrusive memories, nightmares, hallucinations or flashbacks, usually triggered by anything that symbolizes or resembles the trauma. Troubled sleep, irritability, anger, poor concentration, hypervigilance and exaggerated responses are often symptoms.

Individuals may feel depression, detachment or estrangement, guilt, intense anxiety and panic, and other negative emotions. They often feel they have little in common with civilian peers; issues that concern friends and family seem trivial after combat. ...

The Suffering of the Children of Iraq

Many of Iraq's children have been among those suffering most.

From a news article from February 2007:

Children of war: the generation traumatised by violence in Iraq

... Parents, teachers and doctors contacted by the Guardian over the past three months cite a litany of distress signals sent out by young people in their care - from nightmares and bedwetting to withdrawal, muteness, panic attacks and violence towards other children, sometimes even to their own parents.

Amid the statistical haze that enshrouds civilian casualties, no one is sure how many children have been killed or maimed in Iraq. But psychologists and aid organisations warn that while the physical scars of the conflict are all too visible - in hospitals and mortuaries and on television screens - the mental and emotional turmoil experienced by Iraq's young is going largely unmonitored and untreated.

In a rare study published last week, the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (API) said the violence had affected millions of children, raising serious concerns for future generations. It urged the international community to help establish child psychology units and mental health programmes. "Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions," the API's Marwan Abdullah told IRIN, the UN-funded news agency. "In some cases, they're found to be suffering extreme stress," he said. ...

Iraqi children's growth stunted by war, says study

Iraqi children born in the most violent areas are shorter than those born in other parts of the country, UK researchers have found. ...

"The short height of these children is likely to reflect poor quality food intake, and also more disease and diarrhoea.

"Power failures which affected water supplies and refrigeration are likely to have added to the problem.

"Early life development and growth are connected and important, because children who are well-nourished are more likely to be healthy, productive and able to learn in the future."

Mental and Physical Health of Palestinian Children Caught in Conflict

Other conflicts are taking a serious toll on children's mental and physical health. Here are some stories about the experiences of Palestinian children:

The Stories of Palestinian Children:

In the village of Ya’bod , Um Mahmood and her family are living in the area of the confrontations with the Israeli Army. Like many other houses of the village, their house is exposed to the shooting and tear bombs. Um Mahmood said that when being exposed to the tear gas, her nine-month-old child begins coughing and does not stop until becoming unconscious. "Finding my baby in such a horrible situation, I really feel much horror and fear." said Um Mahmood.

She added, "As soon as the confrontations begin, Bader, my five-year-old child, begins yelling and crying for continuous hours even after the ceasing of these encounters." Besides, Bader has lately refused to play and go anywhere. He does not want to be away from me; actually he keeps holding the edge of my dress. During the night, Bader wakes up saying that he has seen the soldiers entering from the windows, although our house is located in the third floor. "We try to relieve his fears and make him feel safe; nevertheless, our attempts have unfortunately never been crowned with success. And when he wakes up in the morning, Bader begins looking for his plastic gun and asks me to fill it with bullets in order to kill the soldiers when they come to our house." Once, when Bader heard his parents’ discussion regarding doing shopping for the house, he shouted, "No, don’t use the money to buy such things, instead buy a gun for each one of us; we want to defend ourselves." It seems obvious that Bader is indeed so much afraid and has begun looking for means of feeling safe.

Since the beginning of the incidents, Sajeda, a five-year-old child from Jenin, has begun suffering from pains and involuntary urination. Sajeda, has been asking to sleep beside her parents in their bed. She frequently talks about the incidents and wonders whether the Israeli Army want to kill her like they killed the child whom she has seen on the TV. Besides, Sajeda expresses her fear about her brothers being killed if they go out to school. This child wonders, "How does shooting cause death?!!!"

 Wafa’ is a mother of three children: Fadi, Rami, and Lara who are 11, 9 and 6 years old, respectively. Wafa’ says that her children suffer from a severe situation of fear and anxiety. Her daughter refuses to sleep alone, and her sons never go out of home anymore because they are afraid of the Israeli Settlers. Lately, her son Fadi has begun suffering from a severe lung infection and a desire to vomit. As the mother expressed, "Yesterday, after ten continuous days of staying at home, Rami has gone back to school to find out that his friend was one of the martyrs. Facing such a painful fact, Rami returned home suffering from pains in his arms and legs. He did not go out of the house, and after a couple of hours, he began crying expressing his fear of death and murder." Feeling herself helpless and frightened, the mother also cries in front of her children. Fadi keeps saying that life is bad and full of violence and miseries.

A news article in January 2009 called Shell-shocked children who are drawn into the cult of the martyr reported:

The bombing, shelling and shooting will stop one day. The electricity and water will be restored. And the windows of the Mousa family's flat, every one of them blown out by Israeli air force strikes on the Palestinian president's palace next door, will be replaced.

But the trauma of the four Mousa children, aged three to nine years old, will not so easily be erased. For nearly two weeks now they have endured a constant barrage of shells from navy ships they can see through the plastic now covering the windows of their seafront flat in Gaza city, as well as the air force strikes on buildings nearby.

"The children scream and cry when there's shelling. It goes on all night," said their father, Raed, 35. "Every night, all night. The building shakes. We moved into the kitchen and sleep there. It's the safest place in the house. But my children are very scared, their faces turn yellow. The sound of the guns is very loud. We try to keep them busy playing and with their toys." …

That trauma may last a lifetime, with devastating consequences for Palestinian society, according to psychologists who have studied the impact of two decades of bloody conflict in the Gaza strip on children who have grown up under army watchtowers, dodging bullets, seeing classmates shot as they sat at the next desk, watching tanks and bulldozers destroy thousands of homes. …

Gaza's leading child psychiatrist, Dr Abdel Aziz Mousa Thabet, who has studied the effects of violence and trauma on children for 20 years, said about 65% of young people in the enclave suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. …

Thabet says the impact of trauma on older children combines with other experiences to push them to extremes.

The image of Mohammed al-Dura, the 12-year-old Gaza boy shot dead as his father vainly tried to protect him from Israeli gunfire at the beginning of the second intifada, is seared on the Palestinian consciousness. To many Palestinian adults it symbolises Israeli indifference to the lives of their children. But psychologists say that to many children its principal impact is to see a father who cannot protect his son.

With that - and humiliations such as Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian men in front of their children - has come a collapse in respect for the regular systems of authority.

The perpetual killing has also drawn many children into the cult of the "martyr" and led them to expect an early death.

Thabet said the traumatising of children was having a profound effect on Gaza's future. The children he studied in the early 1990s are now adults.

"They become fighters. I warned about this 15 years ago, that in 15 years these traumatised children will be more aggressive, they will want to fight, there will be more violence in the community. You saw it in the factional fighting in Gaza in 2007," he said.

"So now we will have another generation of more aggressive behaviour. They will go to more extremes because they have no future. This is a problem. I've been warning people of this but nobody was listening. It's a cycle of aggression."

The Rise of Brutally Cruel Elements in Iraqi Society and Their Violence Against Women

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq has unleashed some sadistically violent elements in society that Saddam Hussein, cruel and oppressive though he could be, did keep in check. This has led to a lot of suffering, especially among minorities, like Iraq's Christians, and others who want to live their lives in ways the brutal elements disapprove of, such as women who want to work:

From 2008:

Iraq: Women's Day in Iraq: "Surviving Somehow Behind a Concrete Purdah"

"In today's Iraq, women are being killed by militia groups for not conforming to strict Islamist ways."

Iraq, where women once had more rights and freedom than most others in the Arab world, has turned deadly for women who dream of education and a professional career. Former dictator Saddam Hussein maintained a relatively secular society, where it was common for women to take up jobs as professors, doctors and government officials. In today's Iraq, women are being killed by militia groups for not conforming to strict Islamist ways. Basra police chief Gen. Jalil Hannoon told reporters and Arab TV channels in December that at least 40 women had been killed during the previous five months in that city alone. "We are sure there are many more victims whose families did not report their killing for fear of scandal," Gen. Hannoon said. ...

In early 2007 Iraq's Ministry of Education found that more than 70 percent of girls and young women no longer attend school or college.

Several women victims have been accused of being "bad" before they were abducted, residents have told IPS in Baghdad. Most women who are abducted are later found dead. The bodies of several have been found in garbage dumps, showing signs of rape and torture. Many bodies had a note attached saying the woman was "bad", according to residents who did not give their names to IPS.

Similar problems exist for women in Baquba, the capital city of Diyala province, 40 km northeast of Baghdad. "My neighbour was killed because she was accused of working in the directorate-general of police of Diyala," resident Um Haider told IPS in January. "This woman worked as a receptionist in the governor's office, and not in the police. She was in charge of checking women who work in the governor's office."

Killings like this have led countless women to quit jobs, or to change them. "I was head of the personnel division in an office," a woman speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS in Baquba. "On the insistence of my family and relatives, I gave up my position and chose to be an employee." ...

Problems in the Iraqi Healthcare System

The Iraqi healthcare system, once becoming modern and advanced under Saddam Hussein before the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, was thrown into turmoil by the US Iraq invasion. Conditions are only made worse by the intimidation and violence women now face from Islamist extremists and others, and have been subjected to because of the war itself. From an article written in 2008:

Iraqi Nurses Struggle Against Medical Shortages, Violence, and Disease

A report released in July by Iraq’s parliament says 80% of physicians have abandoned their posts at government-run hospitals, shifting more responsibility to nurses.

And like many Iraqi health professionals, the country’s nurses are often victims of violence. A UN Assistance Mission for Iraq Human Rights Report says that 164 Iraqi nurses were killed between April 2003 and May 2006 and another 77 were wounded during that same period. ...

The hospital’s ill-equipped ED is crammed with infants and young children who are primarily suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. The ED has no monitoring devices to check blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rates, and heart rhythm. ...

Working as a nurse in Baghdad today is becoming increasingly complicated. Baghdad’s hospitals are admitting more patients because of an increase in water-borne diseases and war-related injuries. The escalating number of patients is compounded by the shortages in basic medications, equipment, and supplies.

"We’re not only facing an increase in the number of patients, but we are seeing more seriously ill and seriously injured patients," says Mahdi, who has worked as a nurse in Iraq for the past seven years. "We lack lifesaving medicine like potassium and IV solutions as well as basic equipment and supplies needed to care for our patients properly."

Meanwhile, nurses in the Iraqi capital are often prevented from reaching their jobs because of curfews, road closures, and fighting. ...

The looting in Baghdad following the fall of the former regime stripped many of the city’s hospitals of essential equipment. Today, poor security makes it difficult for hospital officials to locate qualified technicians to repair faulty machinery. ...

An article in the Independent in 2007 reported on what it called The battle to save Iraq's children

Doctors issue plea to Tony Blair to end the scandal of medical shortages in the war zone

The desperate plight of children who are dying in Iraqi hospitals for the lack of simple equipment that in some cases can cost as little as 95p is revealed today in a letter signed by nearly 100 eminent doctors.

They are backed by a group of international lawyers, who say the conditions in hospitals revealed in their letter amount to a breach of the Geneva conventions that require Britain and the US as occupying forces to protect human life.

In a direct appeal to Tony Blair, the doctors describe desperate shortages causing "hundreds" of children to die in hospitals. The signatories include Iraqi doctors, British doctors who have worked in Iraqi hospitals, and leading UK consultants and GPs.

"Sick or injured children who could otherwise be treated by simple means are left to die in hundreds because they do not have access to basic medicines or other resources," the doctors say. "Children who have lost hands, feet and limbs are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated," they add.

They say babies are being ventilated with a plastic tube in their noses and dying for want of an oxygen mask, while other babies are dying because of the lack of a phial of vitamin K or sterile needles, all costing about 95p. ...

Among those who have signed the letter are Chris Burns-Cox, a consultant physician at Gloucester Royal Hospital; Dr Maggie Wright, the director of intensive care at James Page University Hospital; Professor Debbie Lawlor, professor of epidemiology and public health at University College London; Professor George Davey Smith, professor of clinical epidemiology at Bristol university; Dr Philip Wilson, senior clinical research fellow at Glasgow University; and Dr Heba al-Naseri, who has experienced the conditions in Iraqi hospitals. Dr al-Naseri, who has worked at Diwaniyah Maternity Hospital and the Diwaniyah University Hospital, describes in harrowing detail what the conditions were like for a newborn baby - one of the lucky ones who survived - called Amin.

"Amin had to be fed powdered milk, diluted with tap water. There wasn't enough money to buy expensive formula milk or bottled water - their price had risen above the increase in wages since 2003. The problems with the intermittent electricity and gas supply meant regular boiled water could not be guaranteed. With the dormant waste and sewage disposal systems, drinking-water is more likely to be contaminated," he said.

Cases the doctors highlight include a child who died because the doctor only had a sterile needle for an adult and could not find a needle small enough to fit the vein, and another child who died because the doctors had no oxygen mask that fitted. …

They call on the UK to account properly for the $33bn (£16.7bn) in the development fund for Iraq which should have supplied the means for hospitals to treat children properly. They say more than half of the money - $14bn - is believed to have vanished through corruption, theft and payments to mercenaries.

They say that all revenues from Iraq's oil exports should now pass directly to the Iraqi people and that illegal contracts entered into by the Coalition Provisional Authority be revoked.

The Rise of Islamist Terror and Violence Against Iraq's Minority Groups Like Christians

The Iraq War had huge and deadly consequences for Iraq's minority groups like Christians, now being terrorised by Islamist extremists. Some of the violence was put down by American troops, but much of it continued.

From 2007:

'Exodus' of Iraq's ancient minorities

Iraq's minorities, some of the oldest communities in the world, are being driven from the country by a wave of violence against them because they are identified with the occupation and easy targets for kidnappers and death squads. A "huge exodus" is now taking place, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis who have fled to Jordan, Syria and elsewhere come from the minorities.

The Christians, who have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years, survived the Muslim invasion in the 7th century and the Mongol onslaught in the 13th but are now being eradicated as their churches are bombed and members of their faith hunted down and killed along with other minority faiths.

The report, Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003, written by Preti Taneja, says that half of the minority communities in Iraq, once 10 per cent of the total population, have fled. They include Mandaeans, whose main prophet is John the Baptist and Yazidis whose religion is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism and may be 4,000 years old. Other minorities who were persecuted under Saddam Hussein are under attack again. The so-called Faili, or Shia Kurds, who were stripped of their belongings under the old regime and expelled to Iran are now being forced to run again - forced out of Shia areas such as Sadr City because they are Kurds and Sunni cities such as Baquba, because they are Shia.

The small Jewish community, whose members arrived in chains as slaves, has been all but destroyed by persecution and the pervasive suspicion that Jews have collaborated with the US-led invaders.

Christians were tolerated in Iraq under Saddam Hussein whose policies were generally secular, though they became more Islamic in his latter years.

"Because America and Britain are Christian countries, the [fundamentalists] blame us for the war," said Roger William, who father-in-law owned a casino and dance hall in Baghdad before 2003, according to the report. "We are terrified. We don't know what the future will hold." ...

And from another article on the report: Iraq's minorities face terrible choice

... The commitment shown by many from minority communities towards their homeland is humbling. At a conference in Amman last year, I heard members of Iraq's minority communities describe the terror they suffered under Saddam. Many had hoped things would change when he was toppled, but today they remain at grave risk. "Saddam Hussein used to have one head, now he has 3,000," said one Assyrian Christian woman. Many knew of female relatives and friends who had covered their heads with hijabs to hide their actual faiths, or stopped going out altogether. Some had experienced the daily terror of threatening text messages and lived with the risk of abduction, torture, rape and death. They spoke about the real fear that their communities would be permanently eradicated from Iraq - Mandaeans, Palestinians and Jews are among those at particular risk. But they displayed a fierce determination to remain in their homeland, to be involved in its new parliament and constitution process and to help build a democratic future in Iraq for their children. As one told me: "I am scared for my son, he may be kidnapped or killed, but we will not run. We have to resist and we have to stay in our homes."

Some people might say that everyone is suffering in Iraq, so why pay special attention to these groups? But that is to miss the point. Amid the horrific levels of threats and violence, these groups are specifically targeted and because of their smaller numbers, particularly at risk. Unlike Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds, they have little political clout and little or no access to tribal justice or militia protection.

Here's a report from Human Rights Watch, from 2010:

HRW World Report 2010 on Iraq - Ongoing Persecution of Minorities Calls for UN Action

Human rights conditions in Iraq remain extremely poor, especially for displaced persons, religious and ethnic minorities, and vulnerable groups such as women and girls, and men suspected of homosexual conduct. Iraq marked the June 30, 2009 withdrawal of United States combat forces from its towns and cities with parades and a national holiday. In the subsequent weeks, violence shook the country as extremists launched multiple attacks in several locations. ...

Displacement caused by sectarian violence continued, but economic pressures and difficulties maintaining legal status in Syria, Jordan, and Egypt induced some refugees to return. The government remained without a workable plan for the return of Iraqis displaced internally or who had fled to neighboring countries, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In Baghdad returnees were seldom able to reclaim their former homes. In rural communities many returnees found their houses destroyed or in complete disrepair, and they lacked access to income and basic services including, water, electricity, and healthcare. With the resurgence of attacks in the latter half of 2009, some returnees reportedly found themselves forcibly displaced again. People mostly returned to neighborhoods or districts under the control of members of their sect; very few families returned to former home areas where they would be in a minority.

Reports continued of widespread torture and other abuse of detainees in detention facilities run by Iraq's defense and interior ministries and police. ...

Witnesses to the violence were interviewed for a Channel 4 documentary in the Unreported World series, broadcast in May 2010:

Iraq's Next Battlefield

As the US prepares to withdraw from Iraq, reporter Evan Williams and director Matt Haan travel to the most dangerous part of the country and find increasing religious, ethnic and political violence in this oil-rich region threatening to spill into bloody civil war once the troops leave.

The Unreported World team begins its journey in Mosul, a city of two million people that lies on the fault line between the Arab and Kurdish parts of Iraq and has been a centre of resistance to the Americans since the invasion in 2003. Their route is lined with flattened buildings that have not been rebuilt since the invasion. Seven years on, it remains the most dangerous city in Iraq, with at least 50 murders occurring every month.

In 2009 Iraqi forces took over responsibility for the security of the region, supposedly moving from a state of war to civil policing. But their main activity remains battling Sunni insurgents, who want the area to remain unstable as they battle what they see as the domination of Iraq by the Shia Muslim ruling majority.

One local commander tells Williams that most of the killings are political rather than criminal. He claims Al Qaeda are trying to cause division between Kurds, Sunnis and Shia and are also targeting some of Mosul's oldest ethnic minorities - such as the Christians, Shabaks and Yezidis - to cause fear and chaos.

The team asks American troops to take them to meet some of the minorities under attack, but they are told it is too dangerous. Instead, a group of Yezidi men, who have their own distinct 4,000-year religion and culture in this region, come to meet Williams and Haan. They say that they have been attacked and intimidated by both Kurdish separatists and Sunni Arabs. …

From the blog of the reporter for that episode of Unreported World:


… When the Americans invaded in 2003, there were about one million Christians in Iraq. Now, Church leaders told us, half have already fled the country and more are trying to leave.

What they are fleeing is a level of violence that we are not hearing about. Much of that violence targets the Christians and other minorities in and around Mosul. Some are seeking sanctuary out of Mosul in towns secured by Christian militia; small outposts such as Qaraqosh, which lies on the border frontier between the violent Arab parts of Iraq and the Kurdish region of the country - a region only safe due to the strict security imposed by the Kurdish military.

We could only enter Qaraqosh by being picked up by Christians from the town and driven through Christian and Kurdish checkpoints. Once inside, we met a range of people who had fled the violence in Mosul. First, it was a man whose brother had been shot just a few days before. Even though he was in the relative safety of Qaraqosh, he said, he did not want to be identified in any way as he was still deeply afraid. Some of the Islamist groups were still texting those they had driven from Mosul, threatening that they will one day 'get them'. He asked if we could help him and his family get to a third country. …

Here's an article about the brutality of extremists against another group they disapprove of:

How Islamist gangs use internet to track, torture and kill Iraqi gays

... Dr Toby Dodge, of London University's Queen Mary College, believes that the violence may be a consequence of the success of the government of Nouri al-Maliki. "Militia groups whose raison d'être was security in their communities are seeing that function now fulfilled by the police. So their focus has shifted to the moral and cultural sphere, reverting to classic Islamist tactics of policing moral boundaries," Dodge said.

Homosexuality was not criminalised under Saddam Hussein – indeed Iraq in the 1960s and 1970s was known for its relatively liberated gay scene. Violence against gays started in the aftermath of the invasion in 2003. Since 2004, according to Ali Hali, chairman of the Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group, a London-based human-rights group, a total of 680 have died in Iraq, with at least 70 of those in the past five months. The group believes the figures may be higher, as most cases involving married men are not reported. Seven victims were women. According to Hali, Iraq has become "the worst place for homosexuals on Earth".

The killings are brutal, with victims ritually tortured. Azhar al-Saeed's son was one. "He didn't follow what Islamic doctrine tells but he was a good son," she said. "Three days after his kidnapping, I found a note on my door with blood spread over it and a message saying it was my son's purified blood and telling me where to find his body."

She went with police to find her son's remains. "We found his body with signs of torture, his anus filled with glue and without his genitals," she said. "I will carry this image with me until my dying day." ...

How American and Other Governments Have Helped to Bring About or Invent the Crises That Have Led to War and Other Suffering

Government Knowledge of Faulty Intelligence Before the Iraq War

If this article is to be believed: Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS's "60 Minutes" interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. "We continued to validate him the whole way through," said Drumheller. "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy." ...

This web page gives lots of examples of advice and information given by the intelligence agencies about how the best reports continually assessed Saddam as not having weapons of mass destruction, but claims they fell on deaf ears:

Neglecting Intelligence, Ignoring Warnings

...SEPTEMBER 2001 – WHITE HOUSE CREATES OFFICE TO CIRCUMVENT INTEL AGENCIES: The Pentagon creates the Office of Special Plans "in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true-that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States ?The rising influence of the Office of Special Plans was accompanied by a decline in the influence of the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. bringing about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community." The office, hand-picked by the Administration, specifically "cherry-picked intelligence that supported its pre-existing position and ignoring all the rest" while officials deliberately "bypassed the government's customary procedures for vetting intelligence."
[Sources: New Yorker, 5/12/03; Atlantic Monthly, 1/04; New Yorker, 10/20/03] ...

Instead of listening to the repeated warnings from the intelligence community, intelligence officials say the White House instead pressured them to conform their reports to fit a pre-determined policy. Meanwhile, more evidence from international institutions poured in that the White House’s claims were not well-grounded. ...

From Wikipedia: Office of Special Plans

The Office of Special Plans (OSP), which existed from September 2002 to June 2003, was a Pentagon unit created by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith , and headed by Feith, as charged by then- United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld , to supply senior George W. Bush administration officials with raw intelligence (unvetted by intelligence analysts, see Stovepiping ) pertaining to Iraq. A similar unit, called the Iranian Directorate , was created several years later, in 2006, to deal with intelligence on Iran.

Allegations of manipulation of intelligence

In an interview with the Scottish Sunday Herald, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Larry C. Johnson said the OSP was "dangerous for US national security and a threat to world peace. [The OSP] lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. It's a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary. They should be eliminated." …

These allegations are supported by an annex to the first part of Senate Intelligence Committee's Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq published in July 2004. The review, which was highly critical of the CIA's Iraq intelligence generally but found its judgments were right on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship, suggests that the OSP, if connected to an "Iraqi intelligence cell" also headed by Douglas Feith which is described in the annex, sought to discredit and cast doubt on CIA analysis in an effort to establish a connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorism. In one instance, in response to a cautious CIA report, "Iraq and al-Qa'eda: A Murky Relationship", the annex relates that "one of the individuals working for the [intelligence cell led by Feith] stated that the June [2002] report, '...should be read for content only - and CIA's interpretation ought to be ignored.'" ...

Here’s a bit more from the web page Neglecting Intelligence, Ignoring Warnings:

OCTOBER 8, 1997 – IAEA SAYS IRAQ FREE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS: "As reported in detail in the progress report dated 8 October 1997 ?and based on all credible information available to date, the IAEA's verification activities in Iraq, have resulted in the evolution of a technically coherent picture of Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme. These verification activities have revealed no indications that Iraq had achieved its programme objective of producing nuclear weapons or that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapon-usable nuclear material or had clandestinely acquired such material. Furthermore, there are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance."
[Source: IAEA Report, 10/8/98]

FEBRUARY 23 & 24, 2001 – COLIN POWELL SAYS IRAQ IS CONTAINED: "I think we ought to declare [the containment policy] a success. We have kept him contained, kept him in his box." He added Saddam "is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors" and that "he threatens not the United States."
[Source: State Department, 2/23/01 and 2/24/01] ...

FEBRUARY 6, 2002 – CIA SAYS IRAQ HAS NOT PROVIDED WMD TO TERRORISTS: "The Central Intelligence Agency has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda or related terrorist groups, according to several American intelligence officials."
[Source: NY Times, 2/6/02]

APRIL 15, 2002 – WOLFOWITZ ANGERED AT CIA FOR NOT UNDERMINING U.N. REPORT: After receiving a CIA report that concluded that Hans Blix had conducted inspections of Iraq's declared nuclear power plants "fully within the parameters he could operate" when Blix was head of the international agency responsible for these inspections prior to the Gulf War, a report indicated that "Wolfowitz ‘hit the ceiling’ because the CIA failed to provide sufficient ammunition to undermine Blix and, by association, the new U.N. weapons inspection program."
[Source: W. Post, 4/15/02] ...

"Undermine Blix"? What was that all about? ... Here's something from the man himself, from an article written in 2008:

A war of utter folly

Hans Blix
The Guardian

The elimination of weapons of mass destruction was the declared main aim of the war. It is improbable that the governments of the alliance could have sold the war to their parliaments on any other grounds. That they believed in the weapons' existence in the autumn of 2002 is understandable. Why had the Iraqis stopped UN inspectors during the 90s if they had nothing to hide? Responsibility for the war must rest, though, on what those launching it knew by March 2003.

By then, Unmovic inspectors had carried out some 700 inspections at 500 sites without finding prohibited weapons. The contract that George Bush held up before Congress to show that Iraq was purchasing uranium oxide was proved to be a forgery. The allied powers were on thin ice, but they preferred to replace question marks with exclamation marks.

They could not succeed in eliminating WMDs because they did not exist. Nor could they succeed in the declared aim to eliminate al-Qaida operators, because they were not in Iraq. They came later, attracted by the occupants. A third declared aim was to bring democracy to Iraq, hopefully becoming an example for the region. Let us hope for the future; but five years of occupation has clearly brought more anarchy than democracy.

Increased safety for Israel might have been an undeclared US aim. If so, it is hard to see that anything was gained by a war which has strengthened Iran. ...

How American Foreign Policy Has Often Been Bad For Democracies

Regarding the idea that America wanted to bring democracy to the Middle East, starting with Iraq, and that was one worthwhile reason for the war, one has to wonder about that. Certainly the people of the region will be skeptical, given America’s record of actually helping to overthrow democracies there. For instance, Iran had what seems to have been a decent democracy once:

We Had a Democracy Once, But You Crushed It

... Now why should we be concerned about a coup that happened so far away almost 50 years ago this month?

New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer puts it this way:

"It is not far-fetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York."

Kinzer has written a remarkable new book, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Wiley, 2003).

In it, he documents step by step, how Roosevelt, the Dulles boys and Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., among a host of others, took down a democratically elected regime in Iran.

They had freedom of the press. We shut it down.

They had democracy. And we crushed it.

Mossadegh was the beacon of hope for the Middle East.

If democracy were allowed to take hold in Iran, it probably would have spread throughout the Middle East. ...

Of course, the overthrow of Mossadegh was only one of the first U.S. coups of democratically elected regimes. (To see one in movie form, pick up a copy of Raoul Peck's Lumumba, now on DVD.)

Kinzer's previous books include Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.

He's thinking of putting together a boxed set of his books on American coups.

Here’s more information about the 1953 coup in Iran. If Wikipedia is to be believed:

Most of Iran's oil reserves were in the Persian Gulf area and had been developed by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil company and exported to Britain. For a number of reasons — a growing consciousness of how little Iran was getting from the Anglo-Iranian Oil company for its oil; refusal of AIOC to offer of a ‘50–50% profit sharing deal' to Iran as Aramco had to Saudi Arabia; anger over Iran's defeat and occupation by the Allied powers — nationalization of oil was an important and popular issue with "a broad cross-section of the Iranian people." …

Mosaddegh explained his nationalisation policy in a 21 June 1951 speech:

" Our long years of negotiations with foreign countries… have yielded no results this far. With the oil revenues we could meet our entire budget and combat poverty, disease, and backwardness among our people. Another important consideration is that by the elimination of the power of the British company, we would also eliminate corruption and intrigue, by means of which the internal affairs of our country have been influenced. Once this tutelage has ceased, Iran will have achieved its economic and political independence. The Iranian state prefers to take over the production of petroleum itself. The company should do nothing else but return its property to the rightful owners. The nationalization law provide that 25% of the net profits on oil be set aside to meet all the legitimate claims of the company for compensation… It has been asserted abroad that Iran intends to expel the foreign oil experts from the country and then shut down oil installations. Not only is this allegation absurd; it is utter invention…"

And according to this website:

Iranian President Mohammad Mosaddeq moves to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in order to ensure that more oil profits remain in Iran. His efforts to democratize Iran had already earned him being named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1951. After he nationalizes it, Mosaddeq realizes that Britain may want to overthrow his government, so he closes the British Embassy and sends all British civilians, including its intelligence operatives, out of the country. Britain finds itself with no way to stage the coup it desires, so it approaches the American intelligence community for help. Their first approach results in abject failure when Harry Truman throws the British representatives out of his office, stating that "We don’t overthrow governments; the United States has never done this before, and we’re not going to start now."

After Eisenhower is elected in November 1952, the British have a much more receptive audience, and plans for overthrowing Mosaddeq are produced. The British intelligence operative who presents the idea to the Eisenhower administration later will write in his memoirs, "If I ask the Americans to overthrow Mosaddeq in order to rescue a British oil company, they are not going to respond. This is not an argument that’s going to cut much mustard in Washington. I’ve got to have a different argument.…I’m going to tell the Americans that Mosaddeq is leading Iran towards Communism."

This argument wins over the Eisenhower administration, who promptly decides to organize a coup in Iran (see August 19, 1953).

And from another page on that site:

Author Stephen Kinzer will say in 2003, "The result of that coup was that the Shah was placed back on his throne. He ruled for 25 years in an increasingly brutal and repressive fashion. His tyranny resulted in an explosion of revolution in 1979 the event that we call the Islamic revolution. That brought to power a group of fanatically anti-Western clerics who turned Iran into a center for anti-Americanism and, in particular, anti-American terrorism. The Islamic regime in Iran also inspired religious fanatics in many other countries, including those who went on to form the Taliban in Afghanistan and give refuge to terrorists who went on to attack the United States. The anger against the United States that flooded out of Iran following the 1979 revolution has its roots in the American role in crushing Iranian democracy in 1953. Therefore, I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that you can draw a line from the American sponsorship of the 1953 coup in Iran, through the Shah’s repressive regime, to the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the spread of militant religious fundamentalism that produced waves of anti-Western terrorism." [STEPHEN KINZER, 7/29/2003]

How America Gave Bin Laden and his Ilk Billions of Dollars of Arms to Overthrow a Government That Was Doing Good for a Lot of People in the 1980s

The war in Afghanistan in the 1980s seems to have been equally unfortunate:

We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights. Welcome to the American Empire.

... Communist factions had taken over Afghanistan in the mid-1970s, overthrowing King Zahir Shah and establishing a People’s Republic. But as these Soviet-educated Afghans tried to centralize power, accelerate modernization, and introduce secular education (including for girls) throughout the country, they quickly made enemies of locally powerful feudalist and fundamentalist families and clans.… My colleagues who had worked with the Najibullah government from 1986 to 1992 spoke highly of his leadership and support for the country’s social development, especially public health and education. It was an anomaly, throughout the 1980s, that the West was empowering mujahideen groups who were burning down schools, banning girls from being educated, trying to cut women off from basic opportunities or even health care, and preaching ideologies of xenophobic hatred. The CIA and others did all of this in the interest of bringing down a government that, in the areas of social development at least, stood for secular and progressive Western values.

Here's more information about the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and just who America were supporting, from Wikipedia. It may surprise some to discover that Osama Bin Laden was one of the people America backed with money and arms:


The best-known mujahideen were the various loosely-aligned Afghan opposition groups, which initially rebelled against the incumbent pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) government during the late 1970s. At the DRA's request, the Soviet Union intervened. The mujahideen then fought against Soviet and DRA troops during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet Union pulled out of the conflict in the late 1980s the mujahideen fought each other in the subsequent Afghan Civil War.

Afghanistan's resistance movement was born in chaos and, at first, virtually all of its war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew. Even so, the basic units of mujahideen organization and action continued to reflect the highly segmented nature of Afghan society. Eventually, the seven main mujahideen parties allied themselves into the political bloc called Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen.

Many Muslims from other countries assisted the various mujahideen groups in Afghanistan, and gained significant bombs in suicidal warfare. Some groups of these veterans have been significant factors in more recent conflicts in and around the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden, originally from a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia, was a prominent organizer and financier of an all-Arab Islamist group of foreign volunteers; his Maktab al-Khadamat funnelled money, arms, and Muslim fighters from around the Muslim world into Afghanistan, with the assistance and support of the Saudi and Pakistani governments. These foreign fighters became known as "Afghan Arabs" and their efforts were coordinated by Abdullah Yusuf Azzam.

US, Pakistani and other financing and support

The mujahideen were significantly financed and armed (and are alleged to have been trained) by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the administrations of Carter and Reagan, and also by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq, Iran, the People's Republic of China and several Western European countries. Pakistan's secret service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was used as an intermediary for most of these activities to disguise the sources of support for the resistance. One of the CIA's longest and most expensive covert operations was the supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants. The arms included Stinger missiles, shoulder-fired, antiaircraft weapons that they used against Soviet helicopters and that later were in circulation among terrorists who have fired such weapons at commercial airliners. Osama bin Laden was among the recipients of U.S. arms. Between $3–$20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to train and equip troops with weapons, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles.

Under Reagan, U.S. support for the mujahideen evolved into an official U.S. foreign policy, known as the Reagan Doctrine, which included U.S. support for anti-Soviet movements in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere. Ronald Reagan praised mujahideen as "freedom fighters".

Some of those were the people who used Afghanistan as a "terrorist training ground" later, the terrorists America went to war in Afghanistan to destroy.

American Government Support for Right Wing Dictatorships and Would-be Fascist Governments

American government support for other repressive and despotic regimes over the years has been counter-productive as well.

Here's an article about American government support for right wing dictators over the years, and their public justification for supporting oppressive right wing third world dictators while at the same time fighting against Communist ones:

Dictatorships - The impact of the vietnam war

After 1965, American policy toward right-wing dictators became a contested issue. The Vietnam War served to undercut much of the logic and rationale used to justify American support of authoritarian regimes. Critics charged that in addition to the questionable morality of supporting right-wing dictators, the policy, while providing short-term benefits, usually led to larger problems for the United States in the long run, mainly long-term instability. Many supporters of the policy realized this danger, yet saw no other way to protect more pressing U.S. interests. Dictatorships created political polarization, blocked any effective means for reforms, destroyed the center, and created a backlash of anti-American sentiment that opened the door to radical nationalist movements that brought to power the exact type of governments the United States most opposed and originally sought to prevent. From Cuba to Iran to Nicaragua, and most tragically in Vietnam, the limits of this policy were discovered.

Support of authoritarian regimes was not completely abandoned by any means, as Richard Nixon's policy in Chile of supporting General Augusto Pinochet's overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende and the continued good relations with leaders such as the shah of Iran demonstrate. But the political climate had changed and policymakers were now forced to defend their position in public and take into account sustained criticisms of American support of dictatorships. For many, the Vietnam War and the postwar revelations of American covert actions in the Third World provided convincing evidence that the old policy of support for dictators was flawed and, more importantly, damaging to American interests and doomed to fail. Critics called for the United States to reorient its moral compass and to find methods other than covert activity and support of brutal dictators to advance American interests in the world. Although no complete swing of the policy pendulum took place, new views were heard and different approaches would be implemented, most notably President James Earl Carter's emphasis on human rights.

The establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Church Committee) provided a central focus for investigations into American covert actions and support of right-wing dictators. The committee chair, Senator Frank Church of Idaho, summarized the position of many critics when he argued during the bicentennial year of 1976 that it was time to return to the objective of the nation's founders and place the United States at the helm of moral leadership in the world. Yet, as his committee revealed, that notion had fallen by the wayside, replaced by the support of brutal dictators, Central Intelligence Agency–orchestrated coups in democratic nations, and assassination plots against foreign leaders. For all of its efforts, the nation found itself involved in a divisive, immoral war in Vietnam and allied to countries that mocked the professed ideals of the United States. Church concluded that American foreign policy had to conform once more to the country's historic ideals and the fundamental belief in freedom and popular government. ...

Advocates of the old policy of supporting right-wing dictators blamed Carter, rather than the widespread popular discontent in their two nations, for the overthrow of two dictators in 1979 who were among America's staunchest allies, Somoza in Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. The most vocal critic was the future Ronald Reagan administration ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick. She captured attention in 1979 and again in 1981 with her blistering critiques of Carter's human-rights policy and public defense of supporting authoritarian regimes. Kirkpatrick contended that the United States need not apologize for its support of "moderate autocrats." Such a policy was in the national interest and not incompatible with the defense of freedom. Using Nicaragua and Iran as her examples, Kirkpatrick argued that autocratic governments were to be expected in these nations and the rule of Somoza and the shah of Iran was not as negative as their opponents claimed. In discussing the Somoza dynasty, Kirkpatrick claimed that that government "was moderately competent in encouraging economic development, moderately oppressive, and moderately corrupt." In addition, it was a bulwark against communism and a loyal ally of the United States. Little more could be expected, she believed, given the development of Nicaragua.

Central to Kirkpatrick's argument was the concept of the fundamental difference between right-wing and communist dictatorships, what she called authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The crucial distinction, according to Kirkpatrick, was that "traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources," and "they do not disturb the habitual patterns of family and personal relations. Because the miseries of traditional life are familiar, they are bearable to ordinary people who … acquire the skills and attitudes necessary for survival in the miserable roles they are destined to fill." The almost exact opposite was true, she claimed, for life under communist rule. Left-wing regimes established totalitarian states that create the type of "social inequities, brutality, and poverty" that traditional autocrats merely "tolerate."

The key to Kirkpatrick's argument lay in her claim that because right-wing dictators left traditional societies in place, "given time, propitious economic, social, and political circumstances, talented leaders, and a strong indigenous demand for representative government," their nations could evolve from autocratic states into democracies. Totalitarian communist states, she flatly asserted, could not. Indeed, by their very nature, communist nations shut off any of these avenues toward development and, therefore, democratic change. Hence, right-wing dictatorships were an inevitable and necessary stage of government for Third World nations. Support by Washington was not only in the national interest but was helping to provide the necessary conditions for modernization and the development of democracy.

When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he adopted Kirkpatrick's ideas as the basis for American policy and returned to supporting right-wing dictators while continuing American opposition to communism and heightening the Cold War. There was, of course, little that was new in Kirkpatrick's analysis or Reagan's policy. She had only publicly stated the rationale and arguments that were initially formed in the 1920s and further developed after World War II. It was rare, however, to have such a bold statement of the ideas and assumptions behind American policy toward dictatorships—on the right and the left— that were usually only discussed in such terms in policy memorandums and private meetings. It laid bare the contradiction between the U.S. claims that opposition to the Soviet Union and communist regimes was based on their denial of political rights to their citizens, while Washington supported governments that were equally as guilty of human-rights abuses and the denial of basic civil liberties to their populations. Moreover, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, the reunification of Germany in 1990, and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 demonstrated the fallacy of these arguments as democracy took hold in many nations formerly considered totalitarian and incapable of political change.

The end of the Cold War challenged many of the ideas previously used to justify American support of right-wing dictators and opposition to left-wing regimes.

Nicaragua is an example of a place where American government support for Fascist opposition to a left-wing regime had tragic consequences. From a Wikipedia article called Sandinista National Liberation Front:

The FSLN's literacy campaign, which saw teachers flood the countryside, is often noted as their greatest success. Within six months, half a million people had been taught rudimentary reading, bringing the national illiteracy rate down from over 50% to just under 12%. Over 100,000 Nicaraguans participated as literacy teachers. One of the stated aims of the literacy campaign was to create a literate electorate which would be able to make informed choices at the promised elections. The successes of the literacy campaign were recognized by UNESCO with the award of a Nadezhda Krupskaya International Prize. ...

Health care was another area where the Sandinistas made incredible gains and are widely recognized for this accomplishment, e.g. by Oxfam. In this area Cuba also played a role by again offering expertise and know-how to Nicaragua. Over 1,500 Cuban doctors worked in Nicaragua and provided more than five million consultations. Cuban personnel were essential in the elimination of polio, the decrease in whooping cough, rubella, measles and the lowering of the infant mortality rate. Gary Prevost states that Cuban personnel made it possible for Nicaragua to have a truly national health care system reaching a majority of its citizens.

Vocational assistance

Cuba has participated in the training of Nicaraguan workers in the use of new machinery imported to Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan revolution put the country's government on the United States' black book; therefore the Sandinistas would not receive any aid from the United States. The United States embargo against Nicaragua, imposed by the Reagan administration in May 1985, made it impossible for Nicaragua to receive spare parts for US-made machines, so this led Nicaragua to look to other countries for help. Cuba was the best choice because of the shared language and proximity and also because it had imported similar machinery over the years. Nicaraguans went to Cuba for short periods of three to six months and this training involved close to 3,000 workers.

Industry and infrastructure

Cuba helped Nicaragua in huge projects such as building roads, power plants and sugar mills. Cuba also attempted to help Nicaragua build the first overland route linking Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The road was meant to traverse 260 miles of jungle, but completion of the road and usage was hindered by the Contra war, and it was never completed. …

Upon assuming office in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. His administration authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training rebels, most of whom were the remnants of Somoza's National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded "counter-revolutionary" by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish). This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-Communist forces chose to embrace. …

The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. As was typical in guerrilla warfare, they were engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage in an attempt to combat the Sandinista government and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua's Corinto harbour, an action condemned by the World Court as illegal. The U.S. also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and, as with Cuba, the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo. …

The Sandinistas condemned them as terrorists, and human rights organizations expressed serious concerns about the nature and frequency of Contra attacks on civilians. In 1982, the Congress, passed the Boland Amendment. This meant the US could no longer openly support the Contras with U.S. government funds.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by raising money from foreign allies and covertly selling arms to Iran (then engaged in a vicious war with Iraq, and channelling the proceeds to the Contras (see the Iran-Contra Affair).

1990 election

Due to factors such as natural disasters, state corruption, the Contras, and inefficient economic policies, the state of the Nicaraguan economy declined. The elections of 1990, which had been mandated by the constitution passed in 1987, saw the Bush administration funnel $49.75 million of ‘non-lethal’ aid to the Contras, as well as $9m to the opposition UNO—equivalent to $2 billion worth of intervention by a foreign power in a US election at the time, and proportionately five times the amount George Bush had spent on his own election campaign. When Violetta Chamorro visited the White House in November 1989, the US pledged to maintain the embargo against Nicaragua unless Violeta Chamorro won.

In August 1989, the month that campaigning began, the Contras redeployed 8,000 troops into Nicaragua, after a funding boost from Washington, becoming in effect the armed wing of the UNO, carrying out a violent campaign of intimidation. No fewer than 50 FSLN candidates were assassinated. The Contras also distributed thousands of UNO leaflets.

Years of conflict had left 50,000 casualties and $12b of damages in a society of 3.5m people and an annual GNP of $2b. The proportionately equivalent figures for the US would have been 5 million casualties and $25 trillion lost. After the war, a survey was taken of voters: 75.6% agreed that if the Sandinistas had won, the war would never have ended. 91.8% of those who voted for the UNO agreed with this. (William I Robinson, op cit) The Library of Congress Country Studies on Nicaragua states:

Despite limited resources and poor organization, the UNO coalition under Violeta Chamorro directed a campaign centered around the failing economy and promises of peace. Many Nicaraguans expected the country's economic crisis to deepen and the Contra conflict to continue if the Sandinistas remained in power. …

Reasons for the Sandinista loss in 1990 are disputed. Defenders of the defeated government assert that Nicaraguans voted for the opposition due to the continuing U.S. economic embargo and potential Contra threat. Opponents claim that Contra warfare had largely died down, and that the Sandinistas had grown increasingly unpopular, particularly due to forced conscription and crackdowns on political freedoms. An important reason, regardless of perspective, was that after a decade of the U.S. backed war and embargo, Nicaragua's economy and infrastructure were badly damaged and the United States promised aid only if the Sandinistas lost.

Social Welfare in Iraq Under Saddam Hussein in the 1970s

It seems that before the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was equally as beneficial to most ordinary people as the left wing regimes had been in Afghanistan and Nicaragua before they were ousted. Yes, he was inexcusably brutal to anyone who opposed him. But it does seem that for the mass of the Iraqi people, living standards were improving. Here are a few quotations from articles:

Saddam Hussein's Rise to Power

... Saddam became vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in 1969. Over the next few years, he rose through the party ranks, becoming vice president and deputy secretary-general of the Ba'ath Party's Regional Command.

As vice chairman, he oversaw the nationalization of the oil industry and advocated a national infrastructure campaign that built roads, schools and hospitals. The once illiterate Saddam, ordered a mandatory literacy program. Those who did not participate risked three years in jail, but hundreds of thousands learned to read. Iraq, at this time, created one of the best public-health systems in the Middle East -- a feat that earned Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

But it was also during this time that Saddam reportedly helped form secret police units that cracked down on dissidents and those opposed to Ba'ath rule.

If it hadn't been for the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and subsequent wars, the Iraqi health service would probably have remained very good, the population would have become more highly educated, and Iraq's infrastructure would have become more sophisticated. Iraq could have had so much, but instead millions have suffered over the past few decades. Saddam's actions were undoubtedly partly responsible, but he certainly wasn't the only one who brought catastrophe on his country.

Here's a bit more information about him and his progressive reforms:

Hussein, Saddam.

... Although Ahmed Hassan was officially the president of Iraq from 1969 through 1979, it was Saddam Hussein who truly held the reins. And thanks to Saddam, the country enjoyed its most stable and productive period in recent history. After oil prices soared in the 1970s (oil is Iraq's primary natural resource and export), he used the revenues to institute a major system of economic reform and launched an array of wide-ranging social programs. Roads were paved, hospitals and schools were built, and various types of industry, such as mining, were expanded. In particular, Saddam focused attention on the rural areas, where roughly two-thirds of the population lived. Land was brought under the control of the Iraqi government, which meant that large properties were broken up and parcels distributed to small farmers. Saddam also funneled revenues into modernizing the country's agriculture industry. For example, he brought electricity into even some of the most remote communities.

Saddam's social programs benefited both rural and city dwellers. In an effort to wipe out illiteracy, he established free schooling for children through high school and made it a government requirement that all children attend school. Saddam's government also provided free hospitalization to all Iraqis and gave full economic support to families of Iraqi soldiers. Such large-scale social programs were unheard of in any other Middle Eastern country. ...

Support for Saddam Hussein was not universal. The conservative followers of Islam (the national religion of Iraq) did not agree with many of Saddam's innovations, which they felt were directly opposed to Islamic law. This included legislation that gave women more freedoms and the fact that a Western-style legal system had been installed. As a result, Iraq became the only Arab country not ruled by the laws of Islam. Major opposition also came from the Kurds who occupied the northern region of the country. The Kurds are a nomadic people who are concentrated in areas of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. They are Muslim but not Arabic, and they strongly disagreed with the Baa'thist push for a united Arab front. ...

It may come as a surprise to some to read anything good about Saddam Hussein. But though he did some terribly brutal things, thinking of him as an out-and-out monster is clearly inaccurate.

The article says the Iran-Iraq War was started because after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Saddam was worried that extremism would be spread to Iraq; and also, relations between the two countries had been deteriorating for years; there was growing hostility because of territorial disputes. Saddam Hussein may well have thought there would be financial gain in invading Iran, since one border dispute was over an oil-rich area of Iran that Iraq claimed as theirs.

It says the war ruined Iraq's economy, so all the social progress that had been made was reversed. Given how expensive the war proved to be, it's no wonder.

The Devastation and Business Opportunity of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s

The war seems to have been taken advantage of by many countries and companies who supported one or both sides and sold them weapons and other things.

From Wikipedia on the Iran–Iraq War:

The war began when Iraq invaded Iran, launching a simultaneous invasion by air and land into Iranian territory on 22 September 1980 following a long history of border disputes, and fears of Shia insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq was also aiming to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Although Iraq hoped to take advantage of revolutionary chaos in Iran and attacked without formal warning, they made only limited progress into Iran and within several months were repelled by the Iranians who regained virtually all lost territory by June, 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive. Despite calls for a ceasefire by the United Nations Security Council, hostilities continued until 20 August 1988. The last prisoners of war were exchanged in 2003.

The war came at a great cost in lives and economic damage - a half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers as well as civilians are believed to have died in the war with many more injured and wounded - but brought neither reparations nor change in borders. …

During the war, Iraq was regarded by the West (and specifically the United States) as a counterbalance to post-revolutionary Iran. The support of Iraq took the form of technological aid, intelligence, the sale of dual-use and military equipment and satellite intelligence to Iraq. …

More than 30 countries provided support to Iraq, Iran, or both. Iraq, in particular, had a complex clandestine procurement network to obtain munitions and critical materials, which, in some transactions, involved 10-12 countries. …

Iraq had a complex relationship with France and the Soviet Union, its major suppliers of actual weapons, to some extent having the two nations compete for its business. …

Another country that had an important role in arming Iraq was Italy, whose greatest impact was financial, through the U.S. branch of the state-owned largest bank in Italy. …

Iraq's main financial backers were the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, most notably Saudi Arabia ($30.9 billion), Kuwait ($8.2 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($8 billion).

The Iraqgate scandal revealed that an Atlanta branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partially on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. In August 1989, when FBI agents finally raided the Atlanta branch of BNL, the branch manager, Christopher Drogoul, was charged with making unauthorized, clandestine, and illegal loans to Iraq — some of which, according to his indictment, were used to purchase arms and weapons technology. …

Beginning in September 1989, the Financial Times laid out the first charges that BNL, relying heavily on U.S. government-guaranteed loans, was funding Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons work. For the next two and a half years, the Financial Times provided the only continuous newspaper reportage (over 300 articles) on the subject. Among the companies shipping militarily useful technology to Iraq under the eye of the U.S. government, according to the Financial Times, were Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, and Matrix Churchill, through its Ohio branch. In all, Iraq received $35 billion in loans from the West and between $30 and $40 billion from the Persian Gulf states during the 1980s. …

After the failure of their 1982 summer offensives, Iran believed that a major effort along the entire breadth of the front would yield the victory that they desired. Iranian numerical superiority might have achieved a break-through if they had attacked across all parts of the front at the same time, but they still lacked the organization for that type of assault. Iran was getting supplies from countries such as North Korea, Libya, and China. The Iraqis had more suppliers such as the USSR, the NATO nations, France, United Kingdom, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

It may well be that all the loans from foreign countries and companies and the other support the two nations received enabled the war to continue and drain both countries of financial and other resources long after both sides might have called for peace terms otherwise. And it's interesting to note that American government-sponsored loans enabled Iraq to pursue chemical and nuclear weapons programs. It's hardly surprising there was no more money left for programs that benefited the people, such as road and hospital building and education.

The Terrible Effects on the Ordinary People of Sanctions Against Iraq

After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's economy was further devastated, by sanctions that caused mass suffering.

I read that one thing Osama Bin Laden mentioned as a reason for the 9/11 attacks was American sanctions against Iraq. American and other foreign policy-makers really need to start thinking about the possible long-term results of their actions.

The public was led to believe that the invasion of Kuwait was an entirely unprovoked act of aggression by Iraq, and that sanctions against Iraq were ethical and necessary. It seems neither one of those things was true.

A news report from before the 1991 Gulf War claimed: Iraq Accuses Kuwait Of Slant Drilling And Stealing 300,000 Barrels Of Oil Daily

BAGDAD (AFP) - Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing its oil for the third day running Sunday, with one report saying it involved 300,000 barrels of crude a day taken from oil fields in the border area.

"The theft of Iraqi oil by Kuwait is not new," Saad Qassem Hammudi, a senior member of the ruling Baath Party told AFP. "It is a fact established in Iraqi documents and reports since 1990", when Iraq invaded the emirate after accusing it of taking oil.

Hammudi said Kuwaiti Crown Prince Saad al-Abdallah al-Sabah "recognised the theft in 1990 during negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait in Saudi Arabia," preceding the invasion.

"The differences between the two were only over the amount of crude stolen," he added.

The Baghdad government newspaper Al-Jumhuriya said Sunday the amount of oil being stolen was between 300,000 and 350,000 barrels a day.

It said the oil was taken with US backing from the Rumeila, Zubeir and Basra fields in southern Iraq.

Hammudi also rejected US threats to resort to force if Iraq menaces Kuwait.

"Is it forbidden to denounce the theft of our resources or are we threatening regional security by demanding our right?" he asked.

Hammudi said the theft of Iraqi crude was part of US agression against Baghdad assisted by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which shelter US and British warplanes.

"The UN Security Council and the Arab League should intervene to halt the aggression and put an end to the pillage of Iraq's riches," he said.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary William Cohen said US forces in the Gulf were fully prepared to stop any aggressive action by Iraq.

Effects of Iraq Sanctions

When asked on US television if she [Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State] thought that the death of half a million Iraqi children [from sanctions in Iraq] was a price worth paying, Albright replied: "This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it." ...

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, economic sanctions were applied, until March 1991, to pressure them to leave. After that, the sanctions took on a new purpose: to get Iraq to comply with the cease fire terms embodied in the UN Resolution 687, which included the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction and recognizing the sovereignty of Kuwait. However, at various stages throughout the sanctions, it was often said by U.S. officials that the sanctions would not be lifted until the Saddam Hussein regime had gone. For years, people from grassroots activists to top United Nations officials had strongly opposed the sanctions because of their effects on ordinary Iraqi citizens, but to no avail.

On May 22, 2003, the United Nations (U.N) Security Council voted to lift the sanctions, Saddam’s regime having been toppled. The vote was 14 to 1 (Syria refusing to vote). But the passing of this resolution was also controversial:

In the past, the U.S. and U.K., primarily, had been most vocal in maintaining sanctions, though now, they were the main drivers to lift them, showing the political power the two nations have in the international arena. ...

As Christian Aid also reported back in 1998,

The policy of sanctions has also been used to pursue political goals — for example, the removal of the Iraqi regime — beyond the overt scope of Resolution 687, which contained no prescriptions regarding Iraq’s form of government or the conduct of domestic policy. The Iraqi population’s economic and social rights have been seriously infringed by the impact of a prolonged embargo. In an authoritarian state which continued to hold most of the levers of control, much of the burden caused by the embargo fell on the civilian population. The immediate consequence of eight years of sanctions has been a dramatic fall in living standards, the collapse of the infrastructure, and a serious decline in the availability of public services. The longer-term damage to the fabric of society has yet to be assessed but economic disruption has already led to heightened levels of crime, corruption and violence. Competition for increasingly scarce resources has allowed the Iraqi state to use clan and sectarian rivalries to maintain its control, further fragmenting Iraqi society.

The Iraqi government also withdrew funding and services from the three northern governorates and imposed its own economic blockade on the region in October 1991, leading to the creation of a de facto Kurdish-controlled region (Iraqi Kurdistan). However, the international community did not alter the scope of sanctions, which remained in force over the whole of Iraq. This 'double embargo' imposed by the international community and by the Government of Iraq encouraged the development of a non-productive economy based on revenues derived from customs duties, and smuggling to Turkey, Iran, and government-controlled areas of Iraq. This anomalous economic situation fuelled the conflict between rival political factions, resulting in four years of internal fighting from 1993-1997. By 1995 this conflict resulted in the virtual collapse of the Kurdish Regional Administration established after the May 1992 elections in the northern Iraq. ...

It turns out there were warnings as early as 1991 that catastrophic suffering was taking place as a consequence of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War. This was reported to the United Nations:

A grave and systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms is being carried out against the entire population of Iraq, in form and dimensions without precedent. The most basic right, the right to life, is being denied in fact to 18 million people by the continuation of the sanctions policy, implemented through the United Nations Security Council. That such a policy be carried out on the basis of decisions made by a U.N. organ is unprecedented in the history of the U.N., as it involves a total boycott, following the deliberate destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. ...

The most egregious example of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed through the sanctions policy against Iraq is constituted by the fact that the population is being deprived of food, water and medicine required to keep it alive. According to the July 1991 report issued by the inter-agency task force led by the U.N. Secretary General’s Executive Delegate, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, and composed of experts from UNICEF, WHO, FAO, WFP, UNHCR, UNDP and others, "the impact of the sanctions had been, and remains, very substantial on the economy and living conditions of its civilian population." Specifically, the report details that "damage to water treatment plants and the inability to obtain needed spare parts have cut off an estimated two and one half million Iraqis from the government system they relied upon before the war." Those who still receive water "are now provided on average with 1/4 the pre-war amount per day," much of it "of doubtful quality." As a result of the destruction of the sewage system, "raw sewage (is) now flowing in some city streets and into the rivers. Diarrhoeal diseases, thought to be caused by water and sewage problems, are now at four times the level of a year ago. The country is already experiencing outbreaks of typhoid and cholera." ...

A similar picture emerges regarding the food supply problem. The U.N. Executive Delegate’s report indicates "this year’s aggregate cereal production will be around one-third of last year’s," increasing dependence on imports, which was 70% before the war. What food is available is beyond the reach of all but the very wealthy, as wheat and rice prices have increased by 45 and 22 times respectively. Malnutrition is widespread especially among children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. "Taken collectively, this information clearly demonstrates a widespread and acute food supply crisis, which if not averted through timely intervention, will gradually but inexorably cause massive starvation throughout the country." ...

Some years later, reports detailed the catastrophic consequences of continued sanctions:

 UN Sanctions Against Iraq: Sanctioned Suffering

October 4, 1996: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) releases report on Iraq. "Around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying here every month from hunger and disease," said Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF's representative for Iraq.

October 3, 1997: A joint study by the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization and World Food Program, found the sanctions "significantly constrained Iraq's ability to earn foreign currency needed to import sufficient quantities of food to meet needs. As a consequence, food shortages and malnutrition became progressively severe and chronic in the 1990s." ...

November 26, 1997: UNICEF reports that "The most alarming results are those on malnutrition, with 32 per cent of children under the age of five, some 960,000 children, chronically malnourished-a rise of 72 per cent since 1991. Almost one quarter (around 23 per cent) are underweight-twice as high as the levels found in neighbouring Jordan or Turkey."
Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF Representative in Baghdad: "And what concerns us now is that there is no sign of any improvement since Security Council Resolution 986/1111 [oil-for-food] came into force." ...

April 30, 1998: UNICIF reports: "The increase in mortality reported in public hospitals for children under five years of age (an excess of some 40,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is mainly due to diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. In those over five years of age, the increase (an excess of some 50,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney diseases."

October 6, 1998: Denis Halliday, who had just resigned as the head of the "oil-for-food" program for Iraq, Assistant Secretary General of the UN, gives a speech on Capitol Hill, citing a "conservative estimate" of "child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month." Halliday states: "There are many reasons for these tragic and unnecessary deaths, including the poor health of mothers, the breakdown of health services, the poor nutritional intake of both adults and young children and the high incidence of water-born diseases as a result of the collapse of Iraq's water and sanitation system-and, of course, the lack of electric power to drive that system, both crippled by war damage following the 1991 Gulf War." ...

The oil-for-food program was meant to stop all that happening. But there were problems that made it rather less effective than could have been hoped. Here's a depressing article:

New York Times on Iraq Sanctions - A case of journalistic malpractice

... To support her contention that the Iraqis have been "faced with evidence that they have stalled" parts of the oil-for-food program (8/24/99), Crossette quoted from the U.N. Secretary General's most recent progress report on the program: "Large quantities of essential materials remain in storage," Crossette cited the text as saying.

But Crossette took the quote wildly out of context. Readers might have drawn quite a different conclusion from that sentence-- which actually dealt only with water and sanitation supplies-- had she included the passage that immediately followed: "The main explanation" for the backlog, the report said, "is the substantial decline in staff with sufficient skills to verify, transport and use the inputs ordered. The distribution rates are unlikely to improve without a program of in-service training."

The oil-for-food program in Iraq is a complicated bureaucratic endeavor tasked with contracting, importing and distributing scarce foods and medicines to 22 million people in a country crippled by infrastructure devastation and international isolation. As the U.N.'s periodic progress reports show, such a program is prone to an endless array of logistical problems. But, following the State Department, the Times has consistently advanced convoluted and farfetched interpretations of these reports in an effort to portray straightforward logistical problems as evidence of sinister Iraqi manipulation.

In August (8/13/99), Crossette reported on a just-released United Nations Children's Fund study which documented that the mortality rate for young Iraqi children had risen dramatically since the embargo was imposed in 1990. The researchers concluded that if Iraq's child mortality rate had continued at its pre-sanctions trend, "there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under five" since 1991.

But this dramatic statistic never made it into Crossette's article. Instead, her lead paragraphs twisted the study's findings to fit the State Department's spin:

The first major survey of child mortality in Iraq since the Persian Gulf war in 1991 has found that in areas of the country controlled by President Saddam Hussein, children under 5 are dying at twice the rate they were before the conflict, UNICEF said today. But in Kurdish areas in the north, where United Nations officials run food and medical programs, the health of children appears to have improved a bit.

Indeed, Crossette's interpretation of the UNICEF report strayed little from comments by State Department spokesman James Rubin, quoted in the article: "The fact that in northern Iraq the mortality rate is improving with the same sanctions regime as the rest of Iraq," Rubin said, "shows that in places where Saddam Hussein isn't manipulating the medicines and the supplies, this works."

The article's headline, "Children's Death Rates Rising in Iraqi Lands, UNICEF Reports," echoed this view that Saddam Hussein's misrule-- rather than the embargo-- is causing the suffering. The word "sanctions" did not even appear until the article's fifth paragraph.

But what UNICEF actually reported was quite different. Anupama Singh, the head of UNICEF's Iraq office, directly contradicted the New York Times/State Department interpretation, as the London Financial Times reported (8/13/99):

The U.N.'s direct role in the north did not account for the widely different results in infant mortality, especially since the oil-for-food deal went into effect only in 1997. [Singh] suggested that differences could be explained partly by the heavy presence since 1991 of humanitarian agencies helping the Kurdish population, a factor that helped improve malnutrition rates. According to Ms. Singh, the oil-for-food money going to the north includes a cash component, allowing the U.N., for example, to train local authorities and more effectively implement and monitor programs. In the center and south under Iraqi regime control, no funds are allocated to ministries for fear they would be used for more sinister purposes. ...

How Saddam Hussein Became Increasingly Allied to Violent Islamist Extremists in his Last Decade

Saddam Hussein became cruelly oppressive to certain groups and used groups that were themselves brutal to help him hold on to power after the first Gulf War when sanctions against Iraq were making life for Iraqis much more difficult.

From Wikipedia:

... Saddam, having survived the immediate crisis in the wake of defeat, was left firmly in control of Iraq, although the country never recovered either economically or militarily from the Gulf War. Saddam routinely cited his survival as "proof" that Iraq had in fact won the war against the U.S. This message earned Saddam a great deal of popularity in many sectors of the Arab world. John Esposito, however, claims that "Arabs and Muslims were pulled in two directions. That they rallied not so much to Saddam Hussein as to the bipolar nature of the confrontation (the West versus the Arab Muslim world) and the issues that Saddam proclaimed: Arab unity, self-sufficiency, and social justice." As a result, Saddam Hussein appealed to many people for the same reasons that attracted more and more followers to Islamic revivalism and also for the same reasons that fueled anti-Western feelings. "As one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam's record and concentrated on America...Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it is not America who should correct him." A shift was, therefore, clearly visible among many Islamic movements in the post war period "from an initial Islamic ideological rejection of Saddam Hussein, the secular persecutor of Islamic movements, and his invasion of Kuwait, to a more populist Arab nationalist, anti-imperialist support for Saddam (or more precisely those issues he represented or championed) and the condemnation of foreign intervention and occupation."

Saddam, therefore, increasingly portrayed himself as a devout Muslim, in an effort to co-opt the conservative religious segments of society. Some elements of Sharia law were re-introduced, and the ritual phrase " Allahu Akbar " ("God is great"), in Saddam's handwriting, was added to the national flag. …

Humanitarian Strategies That Have Prevented Full-Scale War in Some Past Conflicts and Could Reduce its Casualties

SAS Success Stories

On Channel 4 (UK) there was a series about what the SAS have done over the years. Their interventions have meant there has been a tiny casualty rate in some conflicts compared to what might have been the case if less intelligent strategies had been used:

Here's the write-up about programme 2.

It's the story of the SAS in Malaya (as it was then) and Borneo.

It was about how there was a conflict in Borneo in the early 1960s. Indonesian rebels were carrying out raids on Borneo. It could have turned into a nasty war. But there were few casualties in the end and it was referred to on the programme as the most successful war Britain ever fought, because of the very low casualty rate.

The SAS were sent in, and their strategy was to win the hearts and minds of the local people, to make intelligence-gathering easier, because local people who knew where the insurgents were would tell them, so they could target their attacks on them well. This contrasted sharply with tactics used by America in the Vietnam War, the programme said, where America ruined the chances of winning the confidence of local people and getting them on side by bombing the place, thus making their own job of finding the Communists they wanted to kill that much more difficult. So they suffered many more casualties in the attempt. Britain could have suffered a lot more casualties if they'd resorted to the same tactic, but the defence secretary at the time, Denis Healey, forbade it, thereby saving many many lives. Here's more detail on the issue from other websites:

From an article about the SAS Borneo campaign:

In the early 1960s, Malaya sought to bring together Singapore, and the Borneo states of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and itself under the Federation of Malaysia, an idea fully supported by Britain. The Indonesian President Sukarno, however, vehemently opposed the move as it threatened his own designs on the rest of Borneo. The first sign of trouble came in 1962 in the Sultanate of Brunei, when a small Indonesian backed, anti-Malaysian element rebelled. The British forces, however, quickly ended this revolt. By early 1963, the situation had worsened, with well-trained Indonesian insurgents infiltrating over the border from the Kalimantan regions. In response, Britain raised a force of Malaysian, Commonwealth, and British Troops, including the SAS, to deal with the situation. Unfortunately the force was only a small one and the border stretched for 1,120km (700miles) through thick jungle. Not only did they face a threat from the Indonesians, but also for the internal terrorist element, the Clandestine Communist Organization or CCO, who were made up mainly of Chinese settlers from Sarawak. ...

As well as patrolling the border, the SAS took on another very important task - that of winning the 'hearts and minds' of the native people. By gaining an understanding of their lifestyle and language, by living with them and dispensing medical aid when needed, the SAS gained important allies in intelligence gathering. The local people, who still crossed the border freely into Kalimantan to trade their goods, often brought back valuable information on Indonesian troop movements.

The SAS also recruited some of the local people as border scouts. Their role was primarily of gathering intelligence as they proved to be unsuited in conventional combat roles. Another group recruited and trained by the SAS from 1964 onwards, however, was known as the Cross-Border Scouts and they took part in raids across the border into Kalimantan. So, when the Indonesian incursion started in earnest in 1963, A Squadron were already prepared to repel them. They knew the best amsuh and helicopter LZs, and the 'hearts and minds' campaign was working well. ...

The campaign in Borneo is an outstanding example of the tenacity, resourcefulness and skill of the individual SAS soldier, and illustrates that a small number of well-trained and motivated men can achieve results out of all proportion to their numbers. ...

And here's part of an interview with Denis Healey, where he talks about what happened:

As a student before the war and later as a politician, Denis Healey travelled the world. Here he looks back at more than 70 years of globetrotting.

Just before I became defence secretary in the early 1960s, I spent some days in the jungles of Borneo as a guest of our Special Air Service. I have always had particularly close relations with the SAS and its naval counterpart, the Special Boat Service. Indeed, I first met Paddy Ashdown when he parachuted into the sea as a member of the SBS and swam to the submarine on which I was standing. The general in charge during my first visit was Walter Walker, who recognised the importance of "winning hearts and minds". So when, a few years later, I was defence secretary I would not allow a single aircraft to drop a bomb during the War of Confrontation in Borneo. As a result we won that war against Indonesia with fewer deaths than on a Bank Holiday weekend on the roads in Britain. During the same period, just across the sea, the Americans tried to win the war in Vietnam by bombing. They lost the war despite causing millions of casualties.

Here's another example of SAS intervention where a small number of trained men defeated a much larger force against the odds, and also influenced a government to bring in reforms that did a lot of good for their people, designed to quell the grievances of many of the fighters. This is intelligent warfare. There was a Channel 4 programme about that as well, about how a small number of men climbed a mountain by a difficult route rarely if ever travelled, and launched a surprise attack on a much larger group of rebels, defeating them.

There's a bit of information about it here, though some of the sentences aren't as coherent as they could be:

The SAS - Oman

The initial dissatisfaction that bought about the first Oman conflict never really went away, Sibin Timor was an old fashioned despot who sought to keep his people trapped in feudalism.

The pro Soviet Yemenis to the north began to actively support the communist inspired Oman rebels, the situation again degenerated and the Sultan asked for British help.

Johnny Watts, now Lieutenant Colonel, was immediately sent to ascertain the problem, the Sultan refused the suggestions put to him and was soon overthrown by his Sandhurst trained Sun, Quabus.

Immediately 22 SAS were sent to assist and an elaborate 5 front hearts and minds campaign, conceived by Watts, was rapidly instigated.

The essence of the strategy was to eliminate Omanie dissatisfaction; Quabus began a large works programme that would propel Oman into the twentieth Century. The problem now was how to get this message across to the rebels and to get them to understand the truth that there was no longer any need to fight.

The commander felt that the original rebels did have right on their side because they simply wanted a better way of life.

Part of Watt's plan was psychological; he made certain that the Sultan's far-reaching policies became common knowledge, along with the offer of amnesty to any surrendering rebels. From these defectors it was hoped that levies would be raised to fight the defectors, Watt's strategy was spot on and within months defectors started to cross the lines.

These men (Firqat) trained and later became the backbone of fighting in Oman; by mid 1971 support from the local tribes was gradually being won.

Around 80 SAS men were in the country augmented by 20 Firqat units totalling 1600 irregulars, by 1972 Operation Storm was in full swing and groups of up to 800 men, backed by fighter support were harassing the rebels across a broad front. ...

The Importance of the Winning of Hearts and Minds

In Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps there would have been fewer problems/less casualties on both sides if there had been less bombing and better planning and more harts-and-minds campaigns. An article from 2009 called Iraq legacy for Afghan campaign says:

As the debate continues about increasing troops in Afghanistan, questions are being posed over whether an alternative strategy should be pursued to sever local support of the Taliban. Hugh Sykes in Baghdad reflects on the lessons that could be learned from the experience of British forces in Iraq. ...

I have spent a lot of time with British and American forces here in Iraq.

Many senior officers have told me privately, and passionately, that military operations against insurgents are doomed unless they are matched by major civil projects to improve people's lives and give them work and hope.

In 2005, walking round Zafaraniya, a poor suburb of Baghdad, an American battalion commander Colonel Brian Doser (who is also a civil engineer) showed me the new sewage and clean water systems that he and his team had installed.

"We should have done this much sooner," he volunteered.

And then he made a really persuasive point.

"You can't wait for the security problem to be solved before you work on reconstruction," he said.

"If you wait to solve the security problem before you improve the infrastructure, you may never solve the security problem."

I spoke to some of the young men that he had employed as labourers. One told me that he had been in the main local Mehdi Army militia before getting this job.

"I needed the money," he said.

In Kabul, a young man started sobbing as he told me about his life.

"Why is my country so miserable?" he asked.

"What have you done for us over the past eight years? If the Taliban come to see me now, I'll join them."

Back in Basra, six years ago, walking around the city centre, British Captain Dan Guest told me that some of the young unemployed men there had to survive on a few dollars a month.

Then he told me the going rate for an insurgent to mortar a British base was $25 (£15.6).

"It's a no-brainer," he added.

A Lesson From the Rise of the Taliban

Violence and conflict breed where there is serious discontent in society and serious inequality in living standards between rich and poor. Governments who want to make their societies more peaceful need to be concerned about social justice, making efforts to increase the quality of life of their less privileged members. If they don't, they risk trouble from violent groups offering people something more attractive.

The Taliban are taking advantage of such discontent to gain power.

A news article from 2009 called Taliban's new strategy to Gain Ground in Pakistan reports:

The Talibans have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.

The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province.

In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.

To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.

The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.

"This was a bloody revolution in Swat," said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. "I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan."

The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.

Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

And from a CNN news article from 2009 called Taliban push Robin Hood image in Pakistan

In radio broadcasts and sermons, Taliban militants have been promoting themselves as Islamic Robin Hoods, defending Pakistan's rural poor from a ruling elite that they describe as corrupt and oppressive.

Mohammed Daoud, with his son Faisal, is among those who have embraced the Taliban's message.

That message has been resonating throughout the Pakistani countryside, where the culture is deeply conservative and the people are desperately poor.

In farmlands just 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the center of Islamabad, Mohammed Daoud and his 15-year-old son Faisal eke out a living by cutting grass for their four water buffalo. They feed their family of seven, earning the equivalent of around $50 a month by selling buffalo milk. Two months ago, Daoud said, the government bulldozed his family's house, probably because they were illegally squatting on property they did not own.

"Justice [in Pakistan] is only for people who have money," Daoud said, while slicing through handfuls of grass with a small scythe. "We are illiterate," he added, "but we are hoping that with Islamic sharia law, our lives will get better."

Across this overwhelmingly Muslim country, there is widespread hope that adopting a strict code of law based on the Koran will transform a society where corruption is rampant and where at least a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line. …

"Its systematic. The Taliban move into an area, they use local existing resentments. They often go in with the guise of being Robin Hoods," said Amnesty International representative Sam Zarifi. "They scare away some local thieves, they impose very, very quick justice, very harsh justice, and initially in some places they are even welcomed." …

"We love the Taliban," announced one Pashtun farmer who asked not to be named. He called the militants heroes. …

But if farmer Babar Hussein has his way, Taliban justice would mean taking away freedoms from Pakistani women, like the right to have a driver's license.

"Women should not even come out of their houses. That's against Islam" he said, while complaining about the un-Islamic fashions he saw women wearing in Islamabad.

When Taliban militants overran Buner last week, they told women to stay indoors, warned men to stop shaving their beards, and threatened shopkeepers who sold movies and music.

A Lesson From the Rise of Hitler

It was in conditions of economic hardship and resentment against other countries for their harsh treatment of Germany that extremism began to thrive in Germany between the world wars.

From an article about the conditions in Germany that allowed Hitler to rise to power:

Europe had been drawn up into two armed camps by the beginning of the second decade of the C.20th. Each Great Power in Europe sought to gain pre-eminence and this caused great tensions and jealousy. Throughout the period 1900-1914 there were a series of crises that could have sparked a major war. When Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated by a Serb nationalist in Sarajevo in 1914 this acted as a catalyst for a wider conflict. The Great Powers of the two armed camps pledged to support each other and Europe was plunged into a war. …

France had suffered particularly badly in the war, so when the diplomats met at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, their representatives, led by Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, pledged to make Germany pay.

Britain, led by Prime Minister David Lloyd-George, was more sympathetic to Germany. Lloyd-George realised that if Germany was harshly punished this would cause great resentment amongst the Germans and could cause tensions in the future. He believed that a strong Germany would be a good trading partner for Britain, and that a healthy German economy would prevent the rise of extremist political groups such as Communists or Fascists. On the other hand Lloyd-George had to listen to British public opinion which was calling for Germany to be 'squeezed until the pips squeak!'

… The Treaty of Versailles was the peace settlement with Germany; it was very harsh.

In effect Germany had to:

  • - accept blame for starting the war
  • - lose all of its colonies
  • - lose most of its army, navy and all its air force
  • - lose huge territories in Europe
  • - pay reparations of £6.6 billion.

The Germans hated the Treaty of Versailles and throughout the 1920s and 1930s German politicians tried to reverse the terms of the treaty. In the 1920s Hitler and the Nazis gained support as they promised to reverse the treaty. In the 1930s when the Nazis were in power, Hitler set about reversing these terms. …

In 1919, Germany became democratic for the first time. Up until the end of the First World War, Germany had been ruled by the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and government passed from royal hands to an elected government known as the Weimar Republic. This was so-called because the German capital, Berlin was under the control of Communists and the new government was forced to meet in Weimar instead. …

Germany faced severe economic difficulties that made many ordinary Germans look to strong extremist groups to solve Germany’s problems rather than to the relatively weak, but moderate and democratic Weimar Republic.

Despite these difficulties, the Weimar Republic began to enjoy some success under Gustav Streseman who dominated it from 1923-1929. However, democracy in Germany was far too weak to survive the mortal blow that was inflicted by the worldwide economic depression that was caused by the Wall St. Crash of 1929. Germany suffered badly and by 1933, many Germans were prepared to support the Nazis even if it meant an end to democracy. …

 World War I had left Germany with many economic, social, and political problems. In addition to enduring high inflation and a large national debt, Germans were deeply embittered by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919, which formally ended the war. The treaty called for German disarmament and huge reparation payments to the Allies.

Unable to meet the payments, Germany's currency collapsed and the German people suffered large financial losses. In January 1923 French and Belgian forces occupied Germany's main industrial region, the Ruhr, claiming that Germany had stopped making reparation deliveries. German workers were encouraged to strike in protest at the French and Belgian occupation. The result was a period of hyperinflation when the German mark became worthless. Many Germans were desperate by 1923 and were ready to support extremists such as the Nazis or the Communists. …

Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor in 1923, and Foreign Secretary from 1923 to 1929. He dominated German politics in the 1920s and helped to stabilise the country. In 1924 the Allies made it easier for Germany to pay reparations through the Dawes Plan. The USA agreed to lend money to Germany. Germany used this money to pay reparations to France, Britain and Belgium. These three countries used reparations money to pay back the USA what they had borrowed to fight the First World War.

In October 1925, Stresemann signed the Locarno Pact and Paul von Hindenburg was elected the second president of the republic. Germany agreed never again to challenge its borders with France and Belgium. The Allies withdrew their occupation forces from the Ruhr and in 1926 Germany was elected to the League of Nations, an international alliance for the preservation of peace. A new currency, the Reichsmark, was established and an impressive economic recovery began. In 1929 the Young Plan extended the German reparation payments over another 59 years. Germany seemed to be on the road to recovery, Berlin became the pleasure capital of Europe and extreme political groups such as the Communists and the Nazis lost support. The Weimar Republic appeared to be working.

The Wall Street Crash 1929

Streseman died in 1929 and a world wide economic depression began with the Wall Street Crash in 1929, throwing the Weimar Republic into crisis. The value of shares dropped dramatically forcing businesses all over the world to go bust. Six million were made unemployed by 1932. Extreme groups became popular again. Reichstag elections held in September 1930 made the Nazis the second-largest party, their support growing as the Depression deepened. …

It seems extremism is much less likely to grow where the majority of people in a society have a good quality of life.

Beware of Reading Too Much Into Quick Victories

One quickk victory that may have unfortunately boosted Tony Blair's confidence about going to war in Iraq was that in Sierra Leone in 2000.

A news article from 2010 called The saviour returns to Sierra Leone reflects:

As Brigadier David Richards approached Freetown across Man O'War Bay, the water seemed to be full of logs. It was only when the dinghy got closer that he realised they were bodies, and that many of them were children. Beyond the floating corpses lay the smouldering capital of Sierra Leone. When he stepped ashore, he witnessed terrified refugees streaming into the destroyed streets, blood-stained hospital corridors packed with the injured, and more and more dead bodies, victims of the rebel attack codenamed "Operation No Living Thing", which was edging ever closer to the capital. But perhaps the most shocking sight of all was the amputees: young and old, their limbs hacked off with machetes, they were the grisly totem of this particularly savage civil war, fuelled by the lust for "blood diamonds".

Brigadier Richards decided that he could not abandon this society. He would have to return with troops and fight a war. He knew that his government back in London was unlikely to be in favour of this, which meant he would have to disobey orders. Ten years later, the military man – now General Sir David Richards and head of the British Army – this week returned to Sierra Leone. "It is the best thing I have ever done in the British Army," he said, standing beside the jetty where he had first landed. "I have no regrets, none at all. You can't look at a little kid with his hand chopped off and just walk away. You have to sometimes make this choice, do what you think is right, even if people above you don't approve."

When he arrived in 2000, the war had been going on for nine years. Gen Richards had a force of 800 waiting on ships just off-shore. The strict instructions from the government were to use the troops to evacuate British nationals and then leave – preferably within 10 days. Sierra Leone's then President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, had his bags packed, with a helicopter standing by to whisk him and his family to safety.

But Gen Richards had other ideas. Unescorted, the British officer knocked on the door, and told President Kabbah he would not be needing the aircraft because the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who were marauding their way towards the capital, would be defeated. The British officer had decided to use the pretext of the evacuation to organise a fighting coalition to take on the RUF rebels, backed by Charles Taylor, then President of neighbouring Liberia, who wanted control of Africa's most lucrative diamond mines.

Without the consent of the Blair government, Gen Richards promised Mr Kabbah that Britain would supply arms, ammunition and helicopters to Sierra Leonean forces to launch a fight-back against the rebels. "London wanted me to get the British nationals out and then bugger off. But the kind of personnel and weapons you would need to carry out an evacuation in a conflict zone was much the same as a small-scale military operation to push back the rebels," Gen Richards said. "And luckily we were a long way away." …

The graphic reporting of atrocities helped swing support for intervention, and also helped Gen Richards get £20m from Clare Short at the Department for International Development for the reconstruction projects which, he believed, were ultimately far more important than military action. But not everyone back in London approved. There were private briefings against Gen Richards, demands that he should be recalled and sacked. A request by President Kabbah that he should be seconded to become the temporary head of the Sierra Leone armed forces and train them was rejected by the Ministry of Defence, without being referred to the Cabinet. …

Ten years ago, at an amputee centre in Freetown, I met Lamin Jusu Jarka. "Do you see what I can do?" he asked me, holding up two metal claws where his hands had once been. …

Mr Jarka had been the chief security guard at the Freetown branch of Barclays Bank when the RUF tried to take his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah. He helped her escape, but paid the price: his hands were forced against a mango tree, and the "Commanding Officer" of the "Cut Hands Brigade", a grinning boy barely in his teens, brought down the axe. Now Mr Jarka runs a market stall in the centre of town, selling household goods. "We have survived – that's the main thing. But we have got problems. There are a lot of kids who are unemployed, they are into drugs and people can take advantage of idle minds. I remember the faces of the RUF who cut me and thinking how young some of them were. They had become infected by hate and that is what we must guard against."

Did the great and speedy success of the British army in Sierra Leone against the brutal rebels unfortunately lead to over-optimism among politicians about the ability of their troops to pull off a quick victory in all situations? Was there a lack of analysis among them of just what conditions it might be possible to bring off a quick victory in and what factors might make victory much more difficult in other situations? It does appear that might have been the case.

This is the view put forward here: Kim Sengupta: The accidental war that was a step on Blair's road to Baghdad:

Sierra Leone was one of "Blair's Wars", along with Kosovo and East Timor. Although it was an accidental war, (we now know the mission took place due to the determination of a British brigadier rather than any clear-cut government direction) it otherwise fitted the template: a short-term liberal intervention with a recognisable humanitarian aim and few, if any, British lives lost.

… One could argue that Pristina and Freetown were key steps, in how they shaped his Government's foreign policy, along the road to Baghdad.

Yet these military adventures were different to Iraq. None called for long-term commitment. Aid was delivered, small military teams stayed on, more diplomats were sent. There was no prolonged insurgency and no need for mass nation building.

… All that changed with Iraq where commanders and ambassadors were expressing scepticism over the reason given for the invasion – Saddam's mythical weapons of mass destruction – as well as deep reservations about the legality of the conflict and the pitfalls of occupation.

A senior officer who had had to "steady the nerve" of Mr Blair over Kosovo and Sierra Leone found himself on the receiving end of a lecture when he attempted to question the Iraq policy in Downing Street.

An opinion piece on the BBC News website called Analysis: Blair the war leader discussed what effect the invasion of Iraq had on Tony Blair's legacy:

His supporters will say that he and George Bush did the right thing, despite all the troubles, and that the end will one day justify the means.

They believe that a free and democratic Iraq will be a beacon in the Middle East and will also help turn back the Islamic extremist movement, though the unleashing of al-Qaeda-led violence in Iraq proved to be one of the unintended consequences of the invasion.

Iraq is not the only memory of Tony Blair as a war leader. He had greater successes over Kosovo and Sierra Leone and perhaps his successes there led him more easily towards the military option he decided to support over Iraq.

Indeed, Tony Blair seemed to relish the use of military power when he felt that the cause was right.

He was arguing for the use of ground troops to invade Kosovo long before a reluctant President Clinton was ready even to consider them seriously.

In the event they were not needed and American air power alone brought about a Serbian surrender.

Mr Blair felt the cause of the Kosovans - and the cause of a peaceful Europe - required force.

So too did he act in Sierra Leone, sending in British troops for a rapid intervention which turned the tide.

Iraq therefore came after those examples. When it came to Iraq, Mr Blair's natural inclinations were supported by what appeared to him to be good evidence of Saddam Hussein's possession of banned weapons.

He and George Bush saw eye to eye. The result was perhaps inevitable. There was a rush to war.

So it could certainly be said that any evidence of over-eagerness for war or lack of good judgment on the part of a politician should be seen as a clear warning sign, a signal of possible danger, and a good reason not to vote for them in coming elections.

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