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PBS Frontline Paints Distorted Picture of Gulf War
The War Against Iraq Continues

By Rania Masri

March 1996

Five years after the start of the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. media sought to glorify the military onslaught against Iraq. Recently, the PBS television series, Frontline, presented a program on the Gulf War that was consistent with the U.S. media's reports; it was full of lies and distortions.

Numerous critical facts were not disclosed in this report, and many blatant lies were presented as truth. One of the most obvious falsehoods was the depiction of the Iraqi army as a formidable power capable of matching the military strength of the Pentagon or the military forces of the other Western powers. The Iraqi army was nothing of the kind.

Among the false reasons given by George Bush and his entourage to gain public support for this horrendous war was the threat of Iraq as a nuclear power. However, inspection teams from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have never found a nuclear bomb, or evidence that one exists, in Iraq. According to Dr. Albright and Dr. Hibbs, in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, despite the large sums of money that Iraq spent on nuclear research, it was still many years away from producing even one small atomic weapon, and independent studies of Iraq's nuclear facilities point out that most assumptions of their future nuclear plans are improbably optimistic, based on the progress of the U.S. Manhattan Project during WWII, rather than the experience of a small developing country that has had to import most of its technology from the West.

The PBS report talked about "precision bombing" and presented the Americans as only once attacking civilians, in the case of the assault on the infamous shelter. In truth, the American military deliberately targeted civilian structures. The 42 day military war against Iraq devastated more than military structures; Bush had ordered the destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic productivity throughout Iraq, a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The Pentagon said in the PBS report that "if it had known of the civilians [in the shelter], it wouldn't have been bombed." Is this to say that the Pentagon was not aware of the actions of their own government? A daytime air attack on a bridge in Nasiriya, in southern Iraq, killed at least 100 civilians. A similar attack on a bridge in Samawa killed over 100 civilians. More importantly, the entire city of Basra, with a population of over 800,000, was declared a target -- despite the Geneva Convention prohibiting area bombing in cities, and the American alleged concern for the Iraqi civilians.

According to Ramsey Clark in his book "War Crimes: A Report of United States War Crimes Against Iraq," "the United States intentionally bombed and destroyed civilian life, commercial and business districts, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, shelters, residential areas, historical sites, private vehicles and civilian government offices". Even after the end of the military war, the U.S. periodically fire-bombed the agricultural fields in Iraq, as if to ensure the deaths of the civilians through malnutrition and starvation.

Approximately 150 American soldiers died during the war, most of them by friendly fire. The Iraqi victims killed strictly due to the military onslaught were more than 200,000. Clearly, this was not a war- - but a massacre. And the massacre continues.

This PBS television series failed to discuss the deathly consequences of the continued use of sanctions against the Iraqi people. The Frontline Gulf War account came at the time when the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report revealed that more than 564,000 children under the age of five have died as a direct result of the sanctions on Iraq. In addition, 23 percent of all Iraqi children have stunted growth. More than 70 percent of all pregnant Iraqi women are anemic. In all, according to the most conservative estimates, more than one million Iraqis have died due to these sanctions. More than four million people in Iraq are under imminent threat of death or severe permanent injury due to malnutrition. The victims include 2.4 million children under five, some 600,000 pregnant women, nursing mothers, and hundreds of thousands of elderly.

Prior to the embargo, which began in August 1990, Iraq used to import 75 percent of all its food products. Thus, due to the embargo, 75 percent of the country's food products have been cut dramatically while Iraq's economy lay in ruins. In addition, currently the food industry is operating at only a fraction of its pre-blockade level because severe constraints on agricultural machinery, food seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have resulted in a dramatic decline in agricultural output. Furthermore, both as a result of the deliberate military bombardment of the water and sanitation systems and the present lack of supplies, due to the embargo, needed for repairs, the water and sanitation system throughout Iraq has been dangerously degraded, resulting in the spread of many infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, infective hepatitis, and nutritional marasmus.

Due to the hyperinflation and high cost of basic food items, many people have been selling household and personal belongings to buy food. People in collective villages in the north were seen selling bricks and other building materials, which they obtained by pulling down their own homes. Consequently, the number of beggars and street children has increased enormously.

The situation of famine throughout the country has been prevented largely by the government system of public rationing. Due to lack of funds, this system provides only a third of the food energy available prior to the embargo. However, the whole system is unsustainable and its eventual collapse may result in a mass famine.

The United Nations FAO report concluded that both the cause of Iraq's problems and the solution to those problems are clear. The problems are that without hard currency, the country cannot purchase food, medicines, spare parts, machinery, fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, and other agricultural supplies. Without spare parts for pumps and other needed materials necessary for the water supply and sewage disposal system, impure water and sewage backups produce severe health risks for the population. The combination of decreased food availability and the occurrence of infectious disease results in increasing malnutrition, especially in children.

And what is the solution? End the war on Iraq. End the sanctions on Iraq, and allow Iraq to resume trade. There can be absolutely no justification for the deaths of children, and children are dying from malnutrition and infectious diseases caused by the lack of food, medicine, hard currency, and spare parts needed to repair essential life-supporting systems.

More than eighty years ago, Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote of the famine in Lebanon in WWI. Unfortunately, today his words apply again to the famine imposed upon Iraq.

    "The death of my people is a silent accusation; it is a crime conceived by the heads of the unseen serpents...They died silently, for humanity had closed its ears to their cry. ... What can be done for those who are dying? Our lamentations will not satisfy their hunger, and our tears will not quench their thirst; what can we do to save them from between the iron paws of hunger? My brother, the kindness which compels you to give apart of your life to any human who is in the shadow of losing his life is the only virtue which makes you worthy of the light of day and the peace of night."

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