The Splendid Failure of Occupation
Part 41: The choice: obedience or annihilation
By B. J. Sabri
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 21, 2006, 20:17

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From one specific angle, the American bombardment of Iraq in 1991 had no parallels in the entire history of modern warfare -- U.S. imperialists televised it to every corner of the globe. With that, the show of mass destruction had become visual entertainment for some and a message on the cost of disobedience to U.S. diktat. In the United States where TV addiction runs high, viewers were able to see the live transmission of the slaughter with a push of a button. This writer intensely recalls how some people dinning out at New York City restaurants were wowing at the televised scenes of explosions while consuming their meals.

From another angle, and because the Gulf War was an exclusive American-European enterprise, but with a multinational cosmetic veneer, the televised bombardment of Iraq signaled a revolutionary change in the attitudes of Western imperialism and the societies they rule. With it, the ruling classes and mass media from the United States, to Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, etc., had passed the Rubicon of elementary ethics and transported their societies into the new desensitized territory of quasi-institutionalized American "Democratic" Nazi-fascism. Having accomplished that, the ambitious psychological project of the American system to sedate the public with real scenes of mass death by military violence had finally come to fruition: it numbed disgust and rational reaction to crime, erased doubts on war, and removed normal compunction toward violence.

With the images of bombardment broadcast in real time, the excited voices of broadcasters, somber martial tunes, and jetfighters dropping bombs on Iraqi cities, any residue of shared ethos that once unified humanity, despite its discord, had forever vanished. The outcome of the Hollywoodization of Iraq's mass destruction was twofold: at the time that narcotized acceptance (visual, mental, and ideological) of mass destruction was swiftly becoming a palpable reality of George H. W. Bush's New World Order, imperialist barbarity became an ablutionary catharsis for a society reared by violence but beatified by indifference and a sense of superiority.

Effectively, this meant sizable fringes of the American society, moving in a dazzling speed toward the acceptance of fascism, regarded the Iraqi holocaust as an ordinary event and a mechanism to underscore the supremacy of the American imperium and its so-called, "national interests."

In debating this contention, consider the following: the day after George W. Bush announced that U.S. "incursion" in Iraq left 30,000 Iraqis dead, the American public, national papers, and analysts from most political designations remained silent. Nor did the rest of the world react differently from the American public and media. It is, therefore, mandatory to recall, while we all rose in uproar and condemnation for the murder of 3,000 people at the WTC in a suspicious attack that still carries the imprints of U.S. state terrorism, most of the public remained undisturbed at the slaughter of Iraqis. On the part of speculation, had Bush said that his incursion cost the life of 200,000 Iraqis (which is probably a reasonable estimate), 600,000 or even one million, the public, media, and analysts would have remained passive and unperturbed.

Such a speculation is not hard to sustain. If, repeated historical precedents during the course of empire (the Philippines, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq [1991], etc.) could not provoke a unanimous revulsion, strong enough stop future American violence abroad, then why should we expect a universal condemnation for the murder of hundred of thousands of Iraqis today?

In talking about the Gulf "War," and because of solid structural-ideological relations that tie U.S. wars on Iraq and the Arabs to Zionism, I cannot but mention Ronald Emmerich. Emmerich, a German, is the director of the Zionist propaganda film, Independence Day (1996), and the producer of High Crusade (1994). While in High Crusade, he made a few people hijack an alien ship and go to Jerusalem to fight heathens (guess who were these heathens?), in Independence Day, Emmerich, who was also the co-writer of the story, decidedly took a defined stance on a specific U.S. war: the Gulf War. How did he do it?

As a propagandist for American imperialism through a science fiction film, Emmerich inserted an ideological comment. As the alien invaders were destroying U.S. and world cities, Emmerich, made it a point to remind the viewers of the Gulf War with the clear intent to present the United States as the guardian against invasions. He made the fictional president of the United States, Thomas J. Whitmore, pronounce the following one-liner: "In the Gulf War we knew what to do, but with these aliens. . . ." [Italics added].

As for the charge of Zionism, it is a matter of understanding how induction works. Emmerich singled out only the Gulf War among all past U.S. military interventions. That was a calculated move, since the Gulf War was largely a war by Israel and U.S. Zionism through the American proxy. That implied, when the U.S. launches wars against the Arabs, it knows what to do. But, historically, did the U.S. not know what it was doing in Korea or Vietnam, for instance? Further, not only that he cited that Gulf War, but he also qualified its salient circumstances by adding, "We knew what to do." This knowledge presupposes possessing all elements to wage war including intelligence, military personnel and technology, and, most importantly, mass media to support war against an Arab country that never attacked the United States. About intelligence, who supplied the United States with the most updated intelligence on Iraq if not were Israel?

Although inherently flawed (Emmerich equated between galactic warriors invading Earth and the "terrestrial" Iraqis who invaded Kuwait), that line achieved its propaganda goal. In fact, six years after the end of the Gulf War, this ideological film re-castigated Iraq and hinted at a moral equivalency with the aliens. In this regard, Emmerich was unequivocal: only the degree of knowledge on how to confront invasions differentiated the U.S. response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait from that one reserved to the alien invaders of Earth. (Note: I shall discuss other aspects of Emmerich's Zionist propaganda in relation to the culture of hyper-imperialism in the upcoming parts of this series.)

The main point: the fictional line, "we knew what to do," was an echo of a real strategy. In essence, it was a political statement marking the 13-year American intervention in Iraq that culminated with its invasion in 2003. Emphatically, as the United States knew exactly the consequences of dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as it knew the consequences of using Agent Orange in Vietnam, it also knew the consequences of attacking (1) Iraqi cities and military personnel with radioactive uranium shells and bunker-blaster bombs, and (2) destroying Iraq's civilian infrastructures. Conclusively, U.S. planners knew exactly what they were doing, and in part 42, I shall provide you with information on this matter.

Because the United States sought war against Iraq at any cost, it is beyond doubt that it knew in advance the consequences of its military attacks against Iraq's civilian population and infrastructures. Further, considering the administration's nonnegotiable offer to Iraq: leave Kuwait or face annihilation, can we assume that U.S. planners had already in place all details on the working methods of the threatened annihilation?

It is common knowledge that U.S. objectives from launching the Gulf War transcended the administration's posturing on wanting to free Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. Among these objectives was the imposition of the American order on the Arab Middle East. Up to 1990, imposing that order by military means was near to impossible without outright war. But war followed by peace was useless to imperialism. To introduce a chain reaction in the Middle East, the planned war with Iraq should aim at the geostrategic re-engineering of all components that constituted that country, including demography, ethnicity, society, army, resources, and government. In short, the destruction of Iraq was but the fundamental precondition to establish the American order.

Within this framework, and since a peaceful solution to the occupation of Kuwait would deprive the United States from that great opportunity, U.S. planners wanted the war to devastate Iraq completely. War, however, was only the first step in the plan. The next one in line was to count on the war's aftermath to do the rest of the planned damage. In discussing that aftermath, it is evident that the United States conceived it in such a way to leave every sector of Iraq in total ruin, with the manifest expectation that Iraq could never rehabilitate itself under the sanctions imposed on it since August 6, 1990 (U.N. Resolution # 661).

To examine the American military enterprise in Iraq methodically, let us reprise Paul Walker's report. When Walker [1] set out to dismantle The Myth of Surgical Bombing in the Gulf War, he made the significant decision to list the weapons used in that war -- most people tend to think of war as fighting in abstract terms but without thinking of the weapons used in it. Clearly, by quantifying and qualifying the weapons employed by the United States, Walker intended highlighting their combined destructive capacity. For the purpose of this article, I find it more incisive to begin with Walker's conclusion than other details. Wrote Walker:

By now it should be clear to anyone that claims of a surgical or a precise war are no more than the kind of excuses which the guilty always give to deflect blame elsewhere. The destruction of Iraq was near total and it was criminal. The fact that Baghdad was not carpet bombed by B-52s does not mean that the civilian population was not attacked and killed. On top of the massive bombing, we have now a new kind of war: bomb now, die later. The precision bombs which did manage to hit their targets destroyed precisely the life-sustaining economic infrastructure without which Iraqis would soon die from disease and malnutrition. George [H. W.] Bush's remark on February 6, 1991, that the air strikes have "been fantastically accurate" can only mean that the destruction of the civilian economic infrastructure was, indeed, the desired target and that the U.S. either made no distinction between military and civilian targets or defined the military area in such a broad manner as to include civilian property. In both cases, it is a war crime. [Italics added]

From Walker's conclusion, I extracted three key phrases to use as a basis for the general study of the Gulf War in relation to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and to the coveted, but now stalemated, colonialist conquest:

  1. The destruction of Iraq was near total.

  2. The precision bombs, which did manage to hit their targets, destroyed precisely the life-sustaining economic infrastructure without which Iraqis would soon die from disease and malnutrition.

  3. The destruction of the civilian economic infrastructure was, indeed, the desired target and that the U.S. either made no distinction between military and civilian targets or defined the military area in such a broad manner as to include civilian property. In both cases, it is a war crime.

The Destruction of Iraq: an Overview

Paul Walker summarized the destruction of Iraq as follows:

  • On March 15, 1991, the Air Force released information stating that 93.6 percent of the tonnage dropped were traditional unguided bombs. So we have something like 82,000 tons of bombs that were non-precision guided and only 7,000 tons of guided bombs. This is not surgical warfare in any accurate sense of the term and more importantly in the sense that was commonly understood by the American public. Bombs were, moreover, not the only source of explosives rained down upon Iraq. Artillery shells from battleships and rocket launchers amounted to an additional 20,000 to 30,000 tons of explosives.

  • President Bush continually warned about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but it is clear that U.S. forces alone used weapons of mass destruction against Iraqi troops in both Iraq and Kuwait. Among other controversial weapons are cluster bombs and anti-personnel bombs which contain a large number of small bomblets inside a large casing. Upon impact the little bombs are dispersed over a wide area and then explode.

  • Using cluster bombs, a single B-52 can deliver more than 8,000 bomblets in a single mission. A total of about 60,000 to 80,000 cluster bombs were dropped. What all of this means to anyone who thinks about the numbers is simply that the bombing was not a series of surgical strikes but rather an old-fashioned mass destruction.

  • While the F-117 Stealth fighter captured the fascination of the news media, massive B-52s carried out the bulk of the work. Flying out of bases in Diego Garcia, Spain, United Kingdom, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other places, B-52s dropped about thirty percent of the total tonnage of bombs. B-52s were used from the first night of the war to the last. Flying at 40,000 feet and releasing 40 - 60 bombs of 500 or 750 pounds each, their only function is to carpet bomb entire areas.

  • General McPeak told Defense Week, "The targets we are going after are widespread. They are brigades, and divisions and battalions on the battlefield. It's a rather low density target. So to spread the bombs - carpet bombing is not my favorite expression - is proportionate to the target. Now is it a terrible thing? Yes. Does it kill people? Yes."[2] B-52s were used against chemical and industrial storage areas, air fields, troop encampments, storage sites, and they were apparently used against large populated areas in Basra.

  • Language used by military spokesman General Richard Neal during the war made it sound as if Basra had been declared a "free fire zone" - to use a term from the Vietnam War for areas which were declared to be entirely military in nature and thus susceptible to complete bombing.

  • On February 11, 1991, Neal told members of the press that "Basra is a military town in the true sense. . . . The infrastructure, military infrastructure, is closely interwoven within the city of Basra itself"[3] He went on to say that there were no civilians left in Basra, only military targets. Before the war, Basra was a city of 800,000 people, Iraq's second largest.

  • As if explosive bombs were not enough, the U.S. used massive amounts of firebombs and napalm; although U.S. officials denied using napalm against Iraqi troops, only on oil filled trenches, (this raises the question of who set all the oil wells on fire in Kuwait and southern Iraq). These trenches, of course, in many cases surrounded bunkers where Iraqi soldiers were hiding. Perhaps the most horrifying of all bombs was the Fuel Air Explosives (FAE), which were used to destroy minefields and bunkers in Iraq and Kuwait. These firebombs were directly used against Iraqi soldiers, although military spokesmen and press reports have consistently tried to downplay their role.

  • The FAE is composed of an ethylene oxide fuel which forms an aerosol cloud or mist on impact. The cloud is then detonated, forming very high overpressures and a blast or shock wave that destroys anything within an area of about 50,000 square feet (for a 2,000 pound bomb).

  • The U.S. also used "daisy cutters" or the BLU-82, a 15,000 pound bomb containing GSX Gelled slurry explosives. This, too, is a concussion type bomb which military spokesmen and the U.S. press said was used to detonate pressure sensitive mines. The mines, of course, surrounded Iraqi troop deployments and the concussive force of the bomb would surely also rupture internal organs or ear-drums of Iraqi soldiers pinned down in their bunkers. This is not even to mention incineration and asphyxiation, as the fire storm of the bomb sucks all of the oxygen out of the area.

  • Eyewitness accounts Suggest that there was no pretense at a surgical war in this city. On February 5, 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that the air war had brought "a hellish nighttime of fires and smoke so dense that witnesses say the sun hasn't been clearly visible for several days at a time . . . [that the bombing is] leveling some entire city blocks. . . . [and that there are] bomb craters the size of football fields and an untold number of casualties."[4]
  • Press reports immediately following the cease-fire tried to suggest that the massive destruction of Basra was caused by Iraqi forces suppressing the Shiite rebellion or was simply left over from the Iran-Iraq war. This would not be the first time the press and the U.S. government covered up the extent of its war destruction - the case of Panama comes immediately to mind. [Italics added]

To recapitulate, if carefully analyzed, all preceding arguments including Walker's conclusions form a meticulous scheme: vanquish Iraq in order to "liberate" Kuwait, but in the process destroy Iraq to create the required conditions for its structural failure. Since the postwar realties confirmed this conclusion, then we are dealing with a specified formula.

To understand this, consider the following: as I explained earlier, a sustained, encompassing bombardment would certainly lead to humanitarian and structural disasters of a proportion that Iraq could not overcome, thus implosion would ensue, possibly followed by a successful coup against the government of President Saddam Hussein, thus bringing to power elements amenable to Washington. Even if this objective could fail, the incremental enfeeblement of Iraq as a sovereign nation, would still serve the objectives of both, the United States and Israel in the Middle East.

As we shall see next, for this logic to succeed, every military operation taken by the United States during the bombardment had a precise intent: waste Iraq and lay the ground for its long siege.

Next, Part 42: Postwar aftermath or imperialist mutatis mutandis?


[1] Paul Walker was the director of the Institute for Peace and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His report was given at the New York Commission hearing, May 11, 1991 and at the Boston Commission hearing on June 8, 1991.

From Walker's footnotes in (The Myth of Surgical Bombing in the Gulf War)

[2] Tony Capaccio, "McPeak: Unclear If Air War has Sapped Iraqi Will," Defense Week, February 4, 1991

[3] Washington Post, February 2, 1991: A14

[4] Mark Fineman, "Smoke Blots Out Sun in Bomb-Blasted Basra," Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1991

B. J. Sabri is an Iraqi-American anti-war activist. Email:

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