Excerpted from the Thursday, June 22, 2000 article in the Sydney Morning Herald
That Was No War, It Was Homicide -
And Still Iraqis Die
Behind the official version of Desert Storm lie awful secrets of a one-sided slaughter
by John Pilger
The great American reporter Seymour Hersh is at war with the American military over his report in The New Yorker that one of its most lauded generals, now a member of President Bill Clinton's Cabinet, ordered his troops to fire on retreating Iraqis on the eve of the Gulf War ceasefire in 1991.
Barry McCaffrey, commander of the 24th Infantry Division, has denied accusations such as the machine-gunning of 350 disarmed Iraqi prisoners. "Why are we shooting at these people when they are not shooting at us?" says one of his men on a tape quoted by Hersh. "It's murder," says another.
The allegations against McCaffrey suggest he was a bad apple. But the enduring secret of the 1991 Gulf War was that it was not a war at all, rather an epic act of homicide. A great deal of propaganda has been devoted to covering up this truth and promoting the precision of so-called smart weapons, as if war has finally become a science.
The bombing of the Al-Amiriya bunker in Baghdad in February 1991, incinerating more than 300 people, mostly women and children, was immediately blamed on Saddam Hussein. The bunker, we were told, was a "military facility".
Although the lie was exposed by several reporters, the taint of "Iraqi reporting restrictions" remained. Britain's Independent Television News said it was censoring its report because the material was "too distressing".
Six months later, the unedited CNN and World Television News "feeds" of footage of the bunker were obtained by the Columbia Journalism Review. "They showed scenes of incredible carnage," wrote the reporter who viewed them. "Rescue workers were collapsing in grief, vomiting from the stench, dropping blackened corpses."
|Umm Reyda in front of the memorial to her family
at the Amiriya Shelter.
Photo: Chuck Quilty, December, 1996.
The atrocity was passed over quickly, and the "coverage" returned to its main theme of a sanitised, scientific war. Unknown to reporters corralled in Saudi Arabia, less than 7 per cent of the weapons used in the Gulf War were "smart"; most were old-fashioned "dump" bombs. Seventy per cent of the 88,500 tonnes dropped on Iraq and Kuwait - the equivalent of more than seven Hiroshimas - hit no military targets and fell in populated areas.
This was never published in the mainstream media, nor was the overwhelming evidence that - as in Vietnam and last year in Serbia and Kosovo - civilians were not mistakenly killed, but targeted. Cluster bombs, still killing and maiming children in Kosovo, are, as the label says, "anti-personnel".
As the ceasefire was being negotiated with Iraq, columns of retreating other nationalities who had been trapped in Kuwait, mostly guest workers, were attacked by American carrier-based aircraft. They used cluster bombs and napalm B, the type that sticks to the skin while continuing to burn. Returning pilots bragged about a "duck shoot" and a "turkey shoot". Others likened it to "shooting fish in a barrel".
Unknown to journalists in the pool system, in the two days before the ceasefire (when the McCaffrey atrocities allegedly happened), American armoured bulldozers were deployed, mostly at night, burying Iraqis alive in their trenches.
Six months later, the New York Newsday reported that three brigades of the 1st Mechanised Infantry Division used snow ploughs mounted on tanks and combat earthmovers to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers - some still alive - in more than 110 kilometres of trenches.
Shortly before Christmas 1991 the Medical Educational Trust in London published a comprehensive study of casualties. Up to 250,000 men, women and children were killed or died as a direct result of the American-led attack on Iraq. A one-sided slaughter.
In evidence before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the major international relief agencies reported that 1.8million people had been made homeless, and Iraq's electricity, water, sewerage, communications, health, agriculture and industrial infrastructure had been "substantially destroyed", producing "conditions for famine and epidemics".
It is hardly surprising that, in the nine years since, the death of half a million children due to economic sanctions, and the continuing bombing of populated areas in Iraq by American and British aircraft, are not news.
"The thought that the state is punishing so many innocent people," wrote playwright Arthur Miller, "is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."
-the Sydney Morning Herald