Revolutionary Worker #1208, July 27, 2003, posted at rwor.org
On January 28, George W. Bush stood before television cameras and Congress to make his case for invading Iraq. Among the charges he made was this:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
It was not true. It was one lie, surrounded by many other lies, all in the service of a classic Big Lie: The U.S. and British government said Iraq's government and military represented a real and possibly immediate threat to the people of the U.S., and that Iraq therefore had to be conquered without delay.
Since the war, this issue of Niger uranium has started leaking into the mainstream media and political arena.
They try to say they didn't know the charges were false. But that is becoming harder and harder to claim. Evidence is piling up that top government officials knew that Iraq had no serious nuclear program, but made these charges anyway.
Their case is pathetic and crumbling. The Emperor has no clothes.
And so, increasingly, the Bush administration has responded with a shameless answer: It just doesn't matter, they say, if specific charges against Iraq were true or not.
Bush's false Niger claims were (they say) "just 16 words," just one sentence in much larger campaign of charges and accusations.
The outrage over "this one error," they say, is "overblown." After all, they say, the war was victorious, the conquest is over. It is all now history.
Bush insists repeatedly that there is no excuse now for "historical revisionism"--meaning that the official version of events should not be questioned in public.
His defenders argue that the "credibility of the U.S." is not undermined by Bush's prewar lies, but by anyone who is now questioning those lies.
"Let's move on," they say; there are, after all, more wars to fight.
And that is exactly why the truth does matter. Such lies were created to draw people into supporting an unjust war. And such lies will be produced again, the next time these empire builders want to bully or attack a country.
We must not "move on"--but look closely at what this war, and those lies, have done to the people of Iraq.
On the basis of a relentless campaign of lies, Iraq, a sovereign and strategic country, was attacked and invaded and now lies conquered by an army of foreign occupiers.
No one knows precisely how many Iraqi people this unprovoked attack killed or wounded--the U.S. military itself has never bothered to offer an estimate. Widely respected estimates by groups like "Iraqi Body Count" suggest that Iraqi civilian dead were at least 6,000 and may be close to 8,000. In addition, over 10,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed in a war that was so one-sided exactly because the Iraqi military DID NOT have or use the powerful weapons they were accused of having.
The Iraqi people continue dying under occupation. Iraq was littered with anti-personnel cluster bombs that continue to kill people, especially children. The tank weapons of the U.S. shot their depleted uranium shells--and the radioactive materials are now embedded in Iraqi soil where it will poison people for years to come.
Meanwhile the masses of Iraqi people suffer all the injustice and misery of defeat and foreign conquest. People are reduced to desperation. The economy has virtually stopped. Millions have no income or ways of getting money. Goods don't move. Electricity rarely works. Factories sit idle. Fields lie brown and barren because there is no power to run the irrigation pumps.
The occupation has hit women especially hard. On one hand, there has been an epidemic of gang rape in the continuing conditions of war, documented in a recent report by Human Rights Watch. Women and girls often cannot go to work or school because of the intense danger of rape. They are prisoners in their homes and made dependent on their brothers and husbands for the simplest needs. On the other hand, the destruction of Iraq's relatively secular Baathist government has strengthened fundamentalist religious forces who insist that women belong in the home and should be forced to wear headscarves and even veils in public. And finally, the desperation of war and the reactionary nature of the foreign occupiers have started to coerce more and more young Iraqi women into the degradation of prostitution around U.S. barracks.
Prior to the 1991 war, the Iraqi people enjoyed some of the highest living standards in the Middle East. Iraq was the only Arab country in which 90% of the population had access to clean water. Now after two wars, 12 years of U.S./UN sanctions and a full occupation--their country and lives are in shambles.
After the war-time destruction of Iraqi water works, sewage pours raw into Iraq's rivers and irrigation canals, and often spills into urban streets, creating dangerous lakes of filth. Months of garbage is uncollected.
Half of Iraq's population faces disease from unclean drinking water. International aid organizations, like CARE and UNICEF, recently warned that as many as 300,000 Iraqi children could die if water processing is not resumed soon and if the emerging epidemics of cholera, dysentery and typhoid spread.
Before the war, sick people could go to hospitals and be treated. Epidemic diseases were monitored and contained by an active Ministry of Health. All that is gone. Hospitals and clinics often operate without electricity, basic medical supplies (like bandages, oxygen or antibiotics) or any resources for paying doctors and staff. They are overwhelmed with tens of thousands of wounded from the war and those sick from the unsanitary water. In many hospitals, the most seriously ill simply die, as horrified doctors are forced to focus on those most likely to survive. In Baghdad's Mansour Children's Hospital a recent power failure stalled ventilators for hours, killing a six-year-old girl.
For the moment there is no famine--largely because the prewar government distributed months of basic food supplies to the population just before it was overthrown. But those stores will not last forever, and there are no signs of a replacement system for feeding the people.
In the U.S. press, the "problem" in Iraq is described as not enough control by their occupying troops--and the solution is described as more troops, more aggressive intervention, more action by the invaders in directing the economy.
In fact, the core problem is the unjust invasion and occupation of this country-- and all their ugly and predictable results for Iraq's people.
The invasion has now transformed into a harsh new war aimed at an emerging Iraqi resistance.
Armed troops careen through the streets, set up roadblocks--threatening, frisking, seizing people at will. The occupation authorities issue orders, suppress newspapers they don't like, dismiss and arrest mayors, declare arbitrary curfews--and have launched frenzied offensives of "collective punishment" across whole stretches of the country, where they threaten to seize the village elders and flatten the houses in any villages with signs of resistance. Hundreds are rounded up, held and brutalized--all without charges or evidence.
Those U.S. and British soldiers, who have been turned into instruments of conquest, themselves are caught in the grip of this unjust war. Over 200 U.S. soldiers have died. Many now live with the guilt and memory of the unjust and wholesale killing they did. Suicides are being reported among the troops.
And these soldiers now sit, in the brutal desert heat, guarding oil fields and trying to enforce occupation on an unaccepting population, and they are dying, one by one, day after day, from the resistance.
Mary Kewatt, aunt of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, recently said on Minnesota Public Radio: "President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said `bring it on.' Well, they brought it on, and now my nephew is dead."
The truth matters: he costs of this government'slies have been extreme and bitter--especially for millions of people in Iraq. And they intend to push ahead. They occupy in the name of helping the Iaqi people. They threaten Iran in the name of preventing nuclear danger and helping the Iranian people. And so it goes. New moves, new lies. It just can't be allowed to get over.