What kind of evil death cult would impose this suffering upon defenceless citizens? What kind of brainwashed army would go along with this kind of thing. You think they'll stand up for YOUR freedom? Hardly. This is terror of the highest degree. The Destruction of Iraq: Why? This article appeared as part of a series on the Gulf War in ideas & action #16. Â© Tom Wetzel. Some months prior to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Business Week published an optimistic assessment of Iraq's economic prospects. The grueling war with Iran was over and the American and European support for Iraq during the war seemed to presage an enhanced commercial position for the ancient land of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Having brutally wiped out the large Iraqi Communist Party, and purged the army of any "unreliable" officers, the ruling Baath Socialist Party had never been more secure in its hold on power. Its new turn towards the West was also reflected in a retreat from its state-centralist economic strategy as the Baath regime moved to privatize many formerly state-owned companies, Business Week reported, thus inviting an infusion of foreign private capital. At the same time, the Iraqi state-capitalist sector was poised to move away from being merely an exporter of oil to a refiner and marketer, with an emphasis on processed petrochemical products, such as agricultural pesticides. During the l980s Iraq had been the world's second largest exporter of petroleum, surpassed only by Saudi Arabia. As a consequence of the previous nationalization of the country's oil industry, the profits from this oil production were under the control of the hierarchy of the absolutist Baath party/state regime. The expansionist, nationalist Baathi regime pumped much of this oil profit into not only the acquisition of arms but also machinery for a native arms industry. From 1983 to 1990, Iraq spent $30.4 billion on arms purchases, or about 10% of all "third world" arms deals during that period.(1) Nonetheless, the oil profits were not spent only on war. A modern infrastructure of roads, telephone networks, power grids, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, schools, and so on were also built up. As the Business Week article pointed out, the country's internal investment and integration into the world market had also enhanced the material living standards and consumption of Iraqi working people as well. The Baath leadership's use of television as a means of mass manipulation during the Kuwait adventure attest to the spread of television ownership, for example. The expansion of employment and the modern, secular orientation of the Baath Socialist Party had also tended to enhance the position of women, who were not as confined to a traditional domestic role as in neighboring Islamic countries. ln short, Iraq did not fit the stereotype of an "impoverished" third world country, only a step away from starvation. The Destruction of Iraq... All that has been changed by American bombs. The hopes of incremental improvement in material well-being have now been replaced by a grim struggle for mere survival, amid the threat of epidemic and mass starvation. The country's economic prospects now lie in ruins. Throughout Iraq, and not just in the area near Kuwait in the south, the country's infrastructure has been largely destroyed -- roads, bridges, oil refineries, gasoline storage tanks, power plants, even village water tanks. The CIA has estimated the repair cost at $30 billion. The telephone system -- which was hit with special bombs that disperse metal fragments, causing countless short?circuits -- has been described as a "total loss." At the beginning of the summer, three months after the war's end, only 20% of Iraq's pre-war electrical generating capacity had been restored and daily blackouts were a fact of life. With the destruction of Iraq's power generating capacity, Iraq was no longer able to run its water-pumping stations and sewage treatment plants, depriving the Iraqi people of a hygienic source of water. With the water system not functioning, people have no choice but to use untreated water from sources such as the Tigris River. "Without electricity, hospitals cannot function, perishable medicines spoil, water cannot be purified and raw sewage cannotbeprocessed,"reported a Harvard University fact-finding team. This team predicted a "public health catastrophe," with tens of thousands of war-related civilian deaths from diseases such as cholera, typhoid and gastroenteritis.(2) The country's food supply network was also devastated by the war. According to a report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), released in August, the country's 1991 grain harvest was estimated at only one third the previous year. Irrigation and drainage systems have been seriously damaged and half of the country's agricultural machinery is now unusable. Half of Iraq's livestock also has been lost and the country's poultry industry destroyed. The FAO report estimated that $500 milIion would be required to rebuild the country's shattered agricultural industry.(3) As a measure of the country's inability to feed its population, there has been an extreme inflation in food prices -- to as much as 50 times previous price levels. At the same time, many people have become unemployed and increasing numbers of people are completely destitute. Malnutrition among children in Iraq has soared and the country is faced with the prospect of widespread starvation. A more recent study by the Harvard University fact-finding team cited above has concluded that the infant mortality rate in Iraq has nearly quadrupled since the war -- from around 20 deaths per 1,000 to 80 per 1,000.(4) They cite "acute shortage of infant formula, powdered milk and essential medicines, as well as the rise in theprice of food" as the main causes. ...Was Not Required For Victory Unlocking Saddam's grip on Kuwait was the legal rationale that the U.S. used to justify the unleashing of vast destructive violence against Iraq. In fact, the destruction visited upon Iraq was far greater than required to achieve that goal. Granted that the nominal technological capacity of the Iraqi army was formidable in terms of conventional land warfare,(5) the land war phase of the conflict displayed a conscript army largely dispirited and inept. As 15,000-pound "slurry bombs," fuel?air explosives (far more powerful and deadly than the napalm of the Vietnam War) and massive quantities of cluster bombs rained death down on the trenches in the sands of Kuwait, the spirit of the Iraqi army was broken and the remnants began a desperate retreat north to Iraq. In a scenario taken from the worst pages in the history of Nazi military viciousness during World War II, retreating convoys of routed Iraqis were trapped and slaughtered on the road -- "1ike a turkey shoot," as one U.S. military spokesperson put it. Ecological Disaster At no time during the confrontation with Iraq did the Bush administration allow the possibility of a negotiated solution to the crisis, such as acknowledging Iraq's historic claims to territory taken from Iraq for Kuwait by the British in the '20s. From the dispatching of a massive army of U.S. troops in August of l990 through to the final ceasefire in February of this year, the Bush administration stuck to its ultimatums, making it dear that a withdrawal of Iraqi forces could only occur on terms of total U.S. victory. The "scorched earth" policy adopted by the Iraqi forces in retreating from Kuwait were a direct consequence of this uncompromising U.S. posture. The result was over 700 oil well fires, only recently extinguished, and vast "lakes" of oil covering the ground in various areas of Kuwait, equal to many Exxon Valdez spills in size. The "black rain" that has resulted from the many months of raging oil well fires has had a very adverse affect on agriculture and water quality not only in Iraq but in neighboring Iran as well. Greenpeace has reported that this oily "black rain" has fallen on as much as two?thirds of Iran.