'People should be outraged'

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Posted by andreas from dtm2-t9-2.mcbone.net ( on Friday, December 27, 2002 at 11:59AM :

Ramsey Clark


AL AHRAM (still Egypt)

26 Dec. 2002 - 1 Jan. 2003
Issue No. 618

'People should be outraged'

Rasha Saad talks to two guests of the Cairo conference, Ramsey Clark and Saad Qassem Hammoudy, about US manipulation of the UN and the consequences of another war on Iraq

"If the Iraqis want a change they'd like it to happen peacefully because they do not know who will be killed in the event there is a war. Who is going to get bombed this time?"

Ramsey Clark, US attorney-general in the administration of former President Lyndon Johnson, has long supported the lifting of the 12-year embargo on Iraq and has been a vocal critic of plans for war against the country. His several visits there since the 1991 Gulf War were the basis of several of his books depicting US policies towards Iraq as genocide and crimes against humanity.

The US's insistence on obtaining a copy of Iraq's Weapons Declaration before any of the Security Council members could see it has been cited as yet another example of the US's manipulation of the UN. What do you think?

If you step back, you see that the US commitment to the United Nations is not very great. One of the concerns that a person like Kofi Annan or any UN secretary-general has to have is how to keep the US paying its dues and keep it from withdrawing. Then, as you said, they manipulate and coerce country by country with respect to resolutions that are not convenient for them. If you look at their positions in treaties, which are far more tenacious than UN resolutions, you see that they withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty. On something like landmines, they won't sign a treaty. On the convention on the child, they won't adopt a resolution that you cannot use children under the age of 18 [in war], in the face of what we saw in the Iraq-Iran war, what you see in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and southern Sudan. All the children that have been killed and have been taught to kill, can you believe it? They also won't join the International Criminal Court; they create their own special courts to prosecute their enemies: Serbs, Hutus. They won't submit themselves to a court and they disregard the law. They did it in their last attack on Iraq, they used all kind of weapons in violation of international law: they used explosives, they used depleted uranium and they used cluster bombs.

Why don't other international powers stand up to this behaviour, especially when many of them complain that the US disregards "multilateral world governance"?

Because they fear the price of standing up individually. The military, political and economic powers of the United States are so great that they [other countries] are unwilling to do it. Speaking of standing up, why does Germany still permit divisions of US troops on its soil; no country that has a foreign military presence is completely free. Why Japan? The same thing. Think of all the power, think of the economic wealth. They submit because they do not want to face the consequences, because the US organises its power to punish people. If you look at some of the countries that stood up they are part of what is called the axis of evil. So we have not found a country with the will -- when they know they are right -- to stand up and say no.

Then the Arabs should not be blamed for taking a mild stance against US policies...

Yes, this is true, in general. The Arab world was divided long ago by Europeans in ways that make it difficult for Arabs to organise and achieve unity, sovereignty and independence. That division is used to break them -- they are set against each other. At the beginning of the Iraq-Iran war, one of the great tragedies of our time, [Henry] Kissinger said, "I hope they kill each other." What he meant is our real policy: that they kill each other. The new fear is Muslim peoples. So if you get them to fight each other, you can step back and you can get the pipelines and you can get the wealth and you can pick up the jewellery off the bodies.

But, anyhow, when you see the European Union expanding -- its population is twice that of the United States -- there may be an opportunity for the Arab peoples to unite and say, "We are in solidarity on the issue, even if not on other issues: There must be no foreign aggression on Iraq."

Are you optimistic that a strike on Iraq can be averted?

I am always an optimist. It is in my genes. If you do not believe something is possible you are helpless. [You can avoid war on Iraq] by the feet of people out in the streets, by demonstrations in various places. Former US President [Lyndon] Johnson wanted desperately to be the president of the US and worked for it all his life; he wanted to run for re-election, but he saw from the people that he could not run for re-election because he would have torn the country apart. He might have won the elections, but what would have been left? Because people were coming onto the stage and they were desperately angry. [Ferdinand] Marcos in the Philippines, totally backed by the US government and a professional army, a man who knew how to control, [was subsequently ousted by the people]. So when you talk about regime change people should be outraged.

You have been to Iraq recently, how would you describe conditions after nearly 11 years of sanctions?

September was the last time I visited Iraq. I went to Iraq many times back in the 1980s and went there in October 1990 to urge that every possible action be taken to avert an attack. I went there during the bombing, and spent two weeks there in February 1991. We saw devastating harm to civilians and civilian deaths. Conditions in the last two or three years have improved marginally. There is more food, there is more medicine, four years ago when you went to a hospital -- and I always go to some 15 hospitals when I go to Iraq, so I know all the hospitals and I know some of the doctors -- you saw babies dying and all sorts of miserable things. When you went to the pharmacies they would be empty; there would be a crowd outside with prescriptions, hoping that medicine would come in and that they would get some.

Today, you go in and there is quite a bit of medicine on the shelves, but if you need chemotherapy, you are probably out of luck. The doctors have to decide which patients should have chemotherapy. For instance they would have about 50 needing chemotherapy, but only enough medicine for 10. You try to save 20 by half doses, but how do you choose? Do you choose younger people? What criteria you should you use to choose? Those who are likely to be saved?

Today Iraq is very tense about being attacked again. Tension is so great. It is terrible for a country to be placed under the tension of an [impending] attack.

What do you think the consequences will be if there is a war on Iraq?

Devastating in many ways. You cannot predict what will happen because chance determines history, but the probability is that thousands will die; we have people saying that you [the US] forget that people will die.

The Americans are saying that the Iraqis will welcome such an action when the war is over.

Let me guarantee, using common sense, that if they [the Iraqis] want a change they'd like it to happen peacefully because they do not know who will be killed in the event there is a war. Who is going to get bombed this time? Last time [during the 1991 Gulf War] we [the coalition] destroyed every facility that is essential for life. They [the coalition] destroyed the reservoirs by destroying the dam. It is hard to do, you really have to hit it with a lot of bombs. They destroyed the pipelines bringing water down from the north. They destroyed the pumping stations, they destroyed the filtration plants; there was no clean drinking water anywhere in Iraq for two weeks after the attack other than with people who had their own wells.

It is also clear to me that if the attack is carried out on Iraq, Israel will attack Palestine. It is an extremely dangerous moment for Palestine. I met with [Yasser] Arafat on Sunday [15 December], he has been living in the rubble of the Palestinian Authority (PA) office and he cannot leave. He knows he can be attacked and killed at any time. He knows if he leaves he might not be able to come back.

Dennis Halliday, Scott Ritter and you have often been accused of being recruited by Saddam Hussein to campaign against sanctions. How do you respond to those accusations?

Well, I think Dennis Halliday [former UN humanitarian aid co-ordinator in Iraq who resigned in 1998] is a real hero. I think he did what a decent person has to do, but very few do. Very few have the courage to resign and tell the truth. I don't know if he has ever met Saddam Hussein. If he did, it was perhaps in an official capacity and certainly he did not accept anything of value from him. Scott Ritter [former UN weapons inspector, resigned in 1998] is a personality, he operates from different motives. He is a former marine and he is a tough guy, but he is telling the truth and it is extremely helpful to hear that truth from someone who was at the front-line of inspections.

-- andreas
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