Malcom LaGauche: Blame it on the Bulls
- BLAME IT ON THE BULLS
Tuesday/Wednesday, June 6-7, 2006
Today, rarely a word is spoken about the embargo on Iraq that lasted
from August 3, 1990 to May 2003. And, if it is mentioned, it is only
in context of a long-forgotten aspect of the 16-year U.S.-Iraq war.
Let's take a brief look at how the sanctions came into being and then
elaborate on the deceitful methods used to keep them in place.
On August 3, 1990, the U.S. pushed a sanctions resolution through the
U.N. After the cease-fire of the Gulf War, they were kept under
Iraq could not have the sanctions lifted until it destroyed certain
designated weapons, called weapons of mass destruction (WMD). At the
time, two assessments were in place in the U.S.: (1) Iraq would never
destroy all the WMD and if it tried, it would take years (2) Under
such strict observation, the people of Iraq would rise up and
overthrow Saddam Hussein within six months.
Saddam's tenure surprised the U.S. administration, so, after about a
year, the stated objective was to keep the embargo in place in
perpetuity. Then Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said, "The
embargo will stay in place until there is not one Ba'ath Socialist
left in Iraq." Few people picked up on Christopher's comment at the
time, but it was concise and accurate.
By the end of 1992, Iraq began to say, "We've destroyed all the
weapons. Lift the embargo." The U.S. spread so many lies about Iraq
that no one, even those of the so-called "left" or the peace
community, believed Baghdad. This demonizing was the most powerful
weapon the U.S. had in its arsenal. It kept much of the U.S. public
mute over the sanctions.
Combine the lies with the silence of the media about the devastating
effects of the sanctions, and you have a scenario in which genocide
was occurring and few even knew, and even fewer cared.
Much of the propaganda portrayed the embargo as benign. It was in
place to keep Saddam Hussein from importing illegal weapons. The
people bought into this fairy tale. People who should have known better.
For instance, Iraq's water supply was destroyed during the Gulf War.
Raw sewage was flowing through the streets. The country needed
chlorine to purify its water, yet it was unable to import it because
the U.S. designated chlorine as a "dual-use" item; one that had
legitimate civilian properties as well as those that could be used to
By 1995, Iraqis were dying at a fast rate because of the severity of
the embargo. About 750,000 people had already died because of the
effects of lack of food, medicine or other items that were not allowed
to be imported. The number increased every few seconds.
Most people in the U.S. had no idea of what was going on in Iraq. The
country was fighting to stay afloat and every sector of society was
negatively impacted because of the embargo.
In 1995, it was impossible to get anyone in the U.S. mobilized to
condemn the embargo. The peace groups were dormant.
In San Diego, a few people did go the extra step. I and a few
colleagues called for several demonstrations to make the people aware
of what was happening in Iraq. We had a core of about two dozen
Iraqi-Americans and the same number of non-Arab U.S. citizens.
I called the peace groups. Some feigned ignorance, while others
outright said, "We won't touch that." They had been co-opted by the
U.S. propaganda: propaganda that they would always criticize only
before missiles began flying.
One nationally-known activist who fought the Cuba embargo told me, "I
won't work on the Iraqi embargo because of the way they treat women in
that country." I was aghast at her lack of knowledge. When I explained
that Iraq was a secular country and that women were held in a higher
place than other Arab countries, she did not believe me. She answered,
"Well, they still all wear veils." My remark to her is unsuitable for
Another pro-Cuba activist said that the Iraqi embargo was not as
devastating as the one on Cuba because Iraq could import medicine,
where Cuba could not. When I explained that the Cuban embargo was only
from goods whose origins were in the U.S. and that Cuba could import
from any other country, but that Iraq's embargo was universal, she
said she was unaware of those facts and thanked me. The following
night, she gave a speech in which she made her original assessment to
me: Iraq's embargo was not as severe as that placed on Cuba.
If the peace people and the pro-Cuba people had such attitudes, how
could the "average" U.S. citizen be enlightened?
The old statement "a picture is worth a thousand words" is relevant in
this case. I will explain the background behind the photo at the
beginning of this article.
In 1995, then President Bill Clinton traveled to Coronado (a seaside
resort bordering San Diego) to visit a friend. The news people were
all over the place.
We decided to hold a demonstration in front of the house where Clinton
was staying. And, we marched down the street with an Iraqi flag. As
you can see, the group was between two news vans. Not one news person
had the creative instinct to ask, "What are you doing here?" Remember,
in 1995, marching down a U.S. street with an Iraqi flag was not
exactly in vogue.
The evening news showed Clinton walking on the beach with his friend.
Not one word of a bunch of Arabs and other U.S. citizens with signs
condemning the embargo, all the time flying the Iraqi flag.
The absence of any news about the embargo was a powerful weapon.
However, the silence and ignorance of the peace crowd was just as
powerful. Their lack of participation on the subject of Iraq was
tantamount to them placing a bullseye on Baghdad on a map of Iraq and
stating, "Aim here!" To me, they are no better than those who were the
architects of the embargo. Without their gutless acquiescence, the
embargo may have been lifted. It is great to see hundreds of thousands
of people protesting imminent U.S. military action, but these same
people disappear when it is time to play hardball.
Lest the Democrats forget history and blame the genocide of Iraqis
solely on the Republicans, let me bring up Operation Desert Fox. In
December 1998, Bill Clinton ordered a four-day barrage of missiles and
bombs on Iraq. The U.N. inspectors were pulled from the country prior
to the fireworks, contrary to the revisionist history that Saddam
ordered them out.
At the end of the attacks, Clinton declared victory. He said that U.S.
missiles had destroyed WMD in Iraq. Today, we know that Iraq did not
possess one gram of unauthorized substances, so all the missiles and
bombs destroyed the civilian infrastructure. How many people
complained about that? Few.
And, by the way, the house of Saddam Hussein's daughter was completely
demolished in the actions. Maybe Clinton thought Iraq had all the
massive amounts of WMD hidden there. Fortunately, no one was in the
house when it was bombed.
Many Iraqis were killed in the four-day constant bombardment. Knowing
the facts we know today, the actions were nothing short of
first-degree murder. How many people call it that? Instead, we saw the
smiling faces of politicians claiming victory.
Once the oil-for-food program was introduced, Iraq was able to
purchase some items, but not many. Billions of dollars Iraq had earned
were tied up by the U.S. Orders were placed "on hold" for years.
The mechanics for Iraq to purchase goods seemed fair enough. A
15-member panel would scrutinize and either okay or negate Iraq's
requests. However, only one member had to say no, and the order was
During the oil-for-food years, hundreds of orders were negated by the
U.S. in which the other 14 members agreed to the sale. Only once did
another country stop an order, and that was Britain. The U.S. stopped
everything from toilet paper to pencils from going to Iraq.
Before I discuss the most preposterous negation of an order, let me
mention facts that preceded it. For years before 1993, Iraq had not
one case of hoof-and-mouth disease with its cattle population. Then,
the U.N. ordered Iraq to destroy the factory that manufactured the
vaccine for cattle. Begrudgingly, Iraq did so.
By 1996, the country was experiencing an epidemic of hoof-and-mouth
disease. The population had little meat. Every day, the situation
In 1998, Bill Clinton ordered cruise missiles to be fired at
Afghanistan and Sudan. He went on TV and said that he was targeting
militant Muslims who had been behind "terrorist" incidents in the
blowing up of U.S. embassies.
The target in Sudan was a pharmaceutical factory. The administration
said it had proof that it was making chemical weapons for Islamic
In fact, the factory was working on a 100,000-liter order of
hoof-and-mouth vaccine for Iraq. The order had been okayed by the U.N.
This would have helped immensely in bringing back the cattle
population of Iraq.
Behind the scenes, the plant owner has been paid by the U.S. for
damage in the attack. The U.S. knew fully well that no chemical
weapons were being manufactured, but that they could keep Iraq
starving by hitting the factory.
Desperate for cattle, the Iraqis ordered 15 live bulls from France to
assist in increasing its stock. The U.S. negated the order, calling
live bulls "dual-use" items. On January 4, 2000, Saeed Hasan, the
Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N. wrote a letter of complaint to the
organization. He stated:
The most recent farce relates to contract No. 600787, made by the
Minister of Agriculture with a French company for the import of 15
live bulls in order to improve the quality of livestock resources. On
29 November 1999 the United States put this contract on hold on the
pretext that the bulls were dual-use.
The fact that live bulls could be considered dual-use items is a
blatant example of the contempt shown by the representative of the
United States for the authority of the United Nations, the procedural
requirements of the Security Council Committee established by
resolution 661 (1990) and for resolution 1051 (1996), which defines
dual-use. We say nothing about the United States contempt for the
lives of the Iraqi people, a subject that has been dealt with
exhaustively. The United States demonstrates the greatest disdain for
the international community and the United Nations, which adopted the
distribution plan and agreed upon the humanitarian materials it
covered. This attitude reflects the superficial manner of thinking
that leads to such situations as this and indicates that the United
States has no objective standards for civilized international relations.
Some things never change. The above letter was written over six years
ago, under another U.S. administration, yet the last two sentences
apply with accuracy the exact stance the U.S. has today toward the
people and nations of the world.
In the case of Iraq, as spelled out in the letter, the writer said
that the U.S. had contempt for the lives of the Iraqi people. Six
years later, and under vastly different circumstances, that statement
still rings with precision.
I'm sure we will see the masses of anti-war demonstrators again appear
if the U.S. is on the eve of war against Iran. However, we will also
again see the vanishing of these people as soon as the first bombs
drop. In essence, they are some of the greatest allies of the deadly
U.S. foreign policy that is solidly in place, regardless of what
political party occupies the White House.
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