E-Letter To Congressman Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Ca.), Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Congressman Donald Payne (D-N.J.) Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-Ca.) Re: International Relations Committee Hearing On U.S. Policy Toward Iraq (Part 2)

As I have already described there are serious questions regarding the premise, motive and context being offered by the Bush administration to justify an attack against Iraq. If these questions are not raised by you, as members of the United States Congress in hearings today, that you convene and organize, there is little chance that the full truth of the matter will be arrived at and reviewed before Congress is hurried into a vote of support for war by the President. In addition to the previously-mentioned topics, here are a few others that I think merit your attention and further review:

The No-Fly Zones.The idea that the U.S. military's war against Iraq ended in 1991 is a false one. As a result of the assumed responsibility of the United States and Great Britain to patrol "no-fly zone" areas in Iraq, the United States has bombed areas of Iraq for around a decade. The damage caused by the no-fly zones is considerable, to the hundreds of Iraqis who have died and to U.S. stature abroad. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad condemned U.S.-British air raids on Iraq earlier in September, warning that continued action will erode support for actions against not only Iraq but the United States' war on terrorism. "We will contact the rest of the Islamic countries. We will voice our views that we are against the attacks and we will not be involved in this kind of activity organized by the United States and its allies," the Malysian leader stated to his home press. Since 1991, the United States has averaged over 34,000 military sorties per year in support of no-fly zone operations in Iraq - one third the amount performed during the Gulf War - but questions remain over the true effectiveness, motives and use of resources involved, especially since the United Nations did not formally authorize the no-fly zones.. Lt. Col. Phillip Gibbons of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote in July:

...the no-fly zone over northern Iraq -- once dubbed Operation Provide Comfort, but renamed Operation Northern Watch (ONW) in 1996 -- was originally designed to support humanitarian efforts by limiting Iraqi military capabilities north of the thirty-sixth parallel. Aircraft were assigned to protect humanitarian operations on the ground, covering U.S. military and aid personnel in the event that they had to flee an attack by Saddam's forces, which did indeed occur in 1996.

Although the no-fly zone may have benefited the Kurds in northern Iraq by preventing Saddam from using his aircraft against them, no direct ground support was promised or provided.

The southern no-fly zone, called Operation Southern Watch (OSW), was set up in 1992. The air objective of this zone was to prevent Iraqi fighter aircraft from operating south of the thirty-second parallel (extended in 1996 to the thirty-third parallel).

Although one stated purpose of OSW was the protection of the Shi'is in the south, the primary activity of the operation has been to patrol the zone with reconnaissance aircraft, which would allow detection of Iraqi military buildups that might threaten Iraq's southern neighbors.

The current military objectives of the no-fly zones do not emphasize protection of Kurds and Shi'is. As stated by the commander of the U.S. Central Command in his 2001 testimony before Congress, the purpose of the zones is to demonstrate "a continued and significant troop presence to enhance deterrence and show the United States' commitment to force Saddam to comply with sanctions and WMD {weapons of mass destruction} inspections." They are designed to "provide access and interaction with Gulf governments; ensure Iraq cannot easily repair and improve its antiaircraft capabilities within the no-fly zones; and, ensure [that] the ingress and egress routes that would be necessary to prosecute an expanded war against Iraq remain sufficiently clear of sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems."

However, Secretary Rumsfeld recently stated that another goal of the no- fly zones "is to keep good awareness of what [Saddam is] doing with respect to the threats he poses both to the people in the south, the people in the north --as well as Kuwait."

It is not at all clear what the no-fly zone aircraft could do to protect the Kurds and Shi'is against an all-out ground assault by Saddam. Since neither of the two no-fly zones provide twenty-four-hour coverage, and since the Iraqis have shown that they can detect when coalition aircraft are about to enter (or leave) Iraq, Saddam could mount air attacks anytime outside of the limited no-fly window. Moreover, without committing forces on the ground to aid in targeting Iraqi forces (e.g., the special operations troops used in Afghanistan), it would be almost impossible for U.S. aircraft to stop a full-scale, determined Iraqi ground attack.

If not to protect the Kurds and Shi'is, as was originally stated as the purpose of the initiative, the no-fly zones represent one of the most expensive and ineffective exercises in espionage ever undertaken and a misrepresentation to the American people and the world. If 10 years of reconnaissance flights and 34,000 sorties can't detect weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, why should Americans accept the charge that Saddam Hussein is harboring such an evil armory? As evidenced by Prime Minister Mahathir's comments - the no-fly zones, more than illegal and ineffective, are also counter-productive, in the diplomatic sense. They serve to advance the increasingly negative image of the US in the Muslim world and one of the best examples of mission creep and deceit involving the U.S. military, not to mention a possible waste of the U.S. taxpayers' dollars.

China And Russia. In his December 1, 2001 letter to President Bush, the Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan wrote, "I am afraid that this extended war may take a turn that you and your advisors least expect, and involve America in the greatest of all wars, the War of Armageddon, in which no nation will be left out, including Russia and China" A cursory glance of Russia and China's interests and relationships with Iraq support Minister Farrakhan's expressed concern. It is widely known that as recently as last year U.S. companies were permitted to sell Beijing fiber-optic communications equipment that China then resold to Iraq as part of the enhanced air-defense missile network. China also had its own military officers and electronics experts to help install the new equipment which was later bombed, by the U.S., before complete construction was achieved. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao, at the time, condemned the Iraqi bombing as having "violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq" and going beyond the "normal standards of international relations." China has frequently woven in critiques of U.S. foreign policy toward Iraq as evidence of the downside of U.S. hegemony. China has had over 40 years of economic ties with Iraq and has consistently argued on behalf of Iraq for speedy inspections and their linkage to the lifting of sanctions on Iraq. The Asian nation has also consistently stated that Iraq should have the right to limit the access of inspectors in its country. China has also warned against the use of force to compel Iraq's compliance with inspection programs. Has the United States thought through the implications of its policy toward Iraq as it relates to China? Has the Bush administration displayed too dismissive an attitude toward China's possible reaction to its unilateralist disposition? And finally, with Al-Qaeda still operating around the world, could the U.S., with its "two-front war" strategy, really react properly if China were to make foreign policy moves of its own that supposedly threaten U.S. interests, in Taiwan or elsewhere, if such advances were made while the U.S. was invading Iraq?

And where Russia is concerned the stakes are even higher. Here are some key facts about commercial ties between Russia and Iraq:

- Iraq owes Russia an estimated $8 billion.

- Russia imports more Iraqi goods than any other nation - $1.4 billion in the last half of 2001 alone.

- Russia and Iraq are close to signing a multiyear, $40 billion economic cooperation deal that would include massive Russian investment in Iraqi oil, energy and transportation infrastructure. Russia also would help build new steel plants and pipelines and rehabilitate ports.

Other Russia-Iraq deals involve:

- Oil: Russian companies have been invited to develop some Iraqi oil fields.

- Nuclear power: Russia is helping to construct a civilian nuclear power plant in Bushehr on Iraq's west coast.

-Transportation: Iraq is a major customer for Russian trucks.

In addition, Russia's Lukoil negotiated a $4 billion deal in 1997 to develop the 15-billion-barrel West Qurna field in southern Iraq and last October, the Russian oil services company Slavneft signed a $52 million service contract to drill in southern Iraq. A proposed $40 billion Iraqi-Russian economic agreement reportedly includes opportunities for Russian companies to explore for oil in Iraq's western desert.

Besides the direct interests that Russia has in Iraq that would be disrupted as a result of a United States war against the Muslim nation, there is the more indirect possibility of conflict as Russia is using the United States' position juxtaposed to the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Iraq to justify its own aggression in Chechnya and Georgia. It is very possible that increased Russian militarization in Central Asia and the former Soviet Bloc, made more palatable by U.S. action in Iraq, could one day place both countries on opposite sides of one another. Have President Bush or his advisers considered this?

The Oil Motive. Reportedly, oil industry executives and a U.N. investigation have revealed that while he was an executive at Halliburton, two subsidiaries of Vice-President Cheney's company engaged in $73 million in contracts with Iraq. Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold material to Baghdad through French affiliates. The sales lasted from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000. Cheney resigned from Halliburton in August of 2000. It is the height of irony that Vice-President Cheney's companies would be doing business with Iraq at the height of its "non-compliance" and ruptured relations with both the U.N. and U.S. If Iraq was so much of a detriment to world peace and a threat to launch weapons of mass destruction, why was a U.S. company permitted to do business with her, much less one that was run by a former Secretary of Defense soon to become the next vice-President of the United States?

"The United States' aim of attacking Iraq is not to rescue people, but is to have access to its resources, especially energy," said former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, earlier this week. Is the Iranian leader wrong, in light of the U.S. interests in Iraqi oil that have never subsided, and actually increased despite the Gulf War, sanctions, and the growing rhetoric against Iraq?

Some have estimated that next to Sudan and Saudi Arabia, more oil exists untapped in Iraq than in any other country in the world. The last century of geopolitical maneuvering over the Middle East between the U.S. and Britain and regional tensions among Muslim nations have left Iraq's oil industry underdeveloped and ripe for the picking by whatever foreign power becomes the benefactor of Saddam Hussein's successor. The oil industry in Iraq relies on technology developed in the 1960s and early 1970s and represents a prize possession in the global petroleum wars. What are American interests and desires pertaining to a post-Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq? Iraqi sources say that as much as 90 percent of the actual amount of Iraq's estimated 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2000 were going to U.S. Gulf coast refineries. The U.S. companies most heavily involved with Iraq oil are Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Bayoil and Koch Petroleum, which use it in their refineries in Louisiana and Texas. By 2000 the U.S. was importing 750,000 bpd from Iraq, up from pre-Gulf War levels of 500,000 bpd. Exxon Mobil, alone, was taking in as much as 200,000 bpd.

The Iraqi National Congress, or INC, an umbrella organization of Iraqi opposition groups supported by the United States is already publicly hinting at the oil concessions it would make for U.S. oil companies if Saddam Hussein were dethroned. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, Ahmed Chalabi, an INC leader, said he "favored the creation of a U.S.-led consortium to develop Iraq's oil fields, which have deteriorated under more than a decade of sanctions. 'American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil'."

How much do U.S. oil companies stand to gain from the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime and its replacement with the INC? Is that wealth worth the sacrifice of life necessary to obtain it through war?

These and so many other questions must be raised before Congress is asked to support a war, the victory of which will depend upon the efforts of Black, Latino, Asian, Native American and poor White soldiers who lack understanding of who really benefits from the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.


Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, September 19, 2002