(IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 – continued)

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IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 (2 of 7)

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Iraq During the Clinton Administration

In 1994 the Hussein regime drained water from southern marshlands where the Ma'dan (or marsh) Arabs had lived for centuries. The Ma'dan were Shia Muslims and unfriendly toward the Hussein regime. The Hussein regime claimed that it was merely diverting water for improved land use. International opponents of the Hussein regime accused it of using troops, mines, poison and artillery against the Ma'dan. A few people protested vehemently, among them the well-known scholar and television documentary maker, Michael Woods. But largely people in the West cared little about what some were calling another genocide.

What did concern many people outside of Iraq was the suffering in Iraq they believed was caused by the UN's economic sanctions. The Hussein regime began attributing every Iraqi child's death to the sanctions. The UN sanctions had always exempted food and medicine, leaving the regime free to import these goods in whatever quantities it wanted. 

The UN took a step that would provide the Hussein regime with more opportunity to reduce the deprivations of people within Iraq. It passed Resolution 986, allowing Iraq freedom to export oil in exchange for humanitarian aid – the oil-for-food program. But months went by without Hussein accepting the idea, while smuggling was taking place. Hussein's eldest son, Uday, was collecting an average of $10 million per year as payment for cigarettes being smuggled into Iraq – according to Abbas al-Janabi, who served as his private secretary between 1984 and 1998. None of this income has been reported to have been spent on the needs of Iraq's suffering children. 

In 1995 his son-in-law, General Hussein Kamil Hasan al-Majid, and his brother and their families fled from Iraq to Jordan. Hussein invited them back to Iraq, promising them forgiveness and a pardon. They returned on 20 February and were killed on the 23rd.

Four months later, Hussein's regime arrested military officers that it suspected of plotting a coup. Approximately 400 were executed, supervised by Saddam's son, Uday. In August, Saddam launched an offensive into the northern no-fly zone, to the city of Ibril, where they rounded up and executed 96 members of a group opposed to Hussein. The US retaliated to this violation of the UN agreements by attacking southern Iraq with cruise missiles and by expanding the no-fly zone one degree southward, from the 32nd to the 33rd parallel.

In December 1995, Uday Hussein was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt. Saddam became more cautious and reclusive. Afraid of assassination, he had not been using a telephone since 1990, and now to obscure his location he was moving from palace to palace. Sometimes it took senior officials a few days to reach him, the officials frustrated because it was Hussein who was making the strategic decisions.

In 1996, Hussein's regime had begun hostile standoffs with the UN arms inspectors – while the United States had been enjoying cooperation with former Soviet Republics that were destroying weapons of mass destruction in full view of inspectors.

Also In 1996, the World Health Organization published a report claiming that between the years 1990 and 1994 the number of deaths of children under the age of five in the provinces governed by the Hussein regime had jumped nearly 500 percent – from 8,903 in 1990 to 52,905. Protests against the sanctions increased. On 20 May 1996 Hussein accepted the UN's oil-for-food offer. The Hussein regime began exporting oil in December. According to the Duelfer Report, the regime saw the program as an opportunity to rescue "Baghdad's economy from a terminal decline created by the sanctions." The regime gave various people interested in profit vouchers that allowed them to buy oil at a low price and sell it to others. In return for this favor, Hussein received cash payments – kickbacks – which, according to BBC News amounted to billions of dollars.

Washington DC, meanwhile, had not softened toward Hussein. The Clinton administration's continuing hostility was expressed by Madelein Albright in her first major address as Secretary of State in early 1997. She announced that even if Iraq complied with its "obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction," sanctions would not be lifted. For this to happen, she said, Iraq must prove [emphasis added] its peaceful intentions, and "It can only do that by complying with all of the Security Council resolutions to which it is subjected."

The Hussein regime chose confrontation to protect what it called its sovereignty. In November, Iraq expelled UN weapons inspectors who were from the United States. In February, 1998, Iraq refused to allow weapons inspectors into any of Hussein's many presidential palaces.

In May, Albright was asked about the sanctions. She responded:

... the fact that Iraqi children are dying is not the fault of the United States, but of Saddam Hussein. And I think it is ridiculous for the United States to be blamed for the dictatorial and cruel, barbaric ways that Saddam Hussein treats his people.

She complained of Saddam Hussein not "accepting the procedure that the UN has designed" to double the amount that he received in food for his oil. And, regarding blame for Iraqi suffering, she said: "So you can't lay that guilt trip on me."

The US Congress had not softened regarding the Hussein regime. On 5 October 1998 the US House of Representatives passed what was called the Iraq Liberation Act, with the stated purpose of removing Saddam Hussein from power and replacing his regime with a democratic government. The vote was 360 to 38. President Clinton signed it into law on 31 October, the same day that Hussein expelled all UN weapons inspectors. If Clinton wanted to retaliate he could not escalate by use the method traditionally preferred by people who abhorred violence – the economic boycott. Instead he planned to retaliate with more bombing. 

On 14 November,Clinton set aside his bombing plan in response to an Iraqi pledge to allow resumption of inspections. The inspections resumed on 18 November. President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair of Britain decided that the Hussein regime was not really cooperating with the weapons inspectors. On 17 December US and British forces began a four-day bombing campaign against Iraqi command centers, airfields, weapons storage facilities and radar and missile sites. In January 1999 the Clinton and Blair administrations began bombing within the northern no-fly zone, with more than 100 air strikes made through the year 1999.

The air strikes accomplished nothing politically. Hussein did not change course. What the bombings did produce were more protest demonstrations. President Clinton's motives were questioned. A few joined a former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clarke, and spoke of genocide against the Iraqi people. People from Britain and the US were flying to Iraq to witness and make pronouncements on the hurt being caused the Iraqi people.

Saddam Hussein had begun writing novels. The Duelfer Report describes him as a "former workaholic and micromanager," but now he was merely attending an occasional ministers' meetings without having read the summary notes his staff had prepared for him.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.