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Human Rights & Humanitarian Law

War Crimes
A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq 
to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal 
by Ramsey Clark and Others

11 May 1991

"It has never happened in history that a nation that has won a war has been held accountable for atrocities committed in preparing for and waging that war. We intend to make this one different. What took place was the use of technological material to destroy a defenseless country. From 125,000 to 300,000 people were killed... We recognize our role in history is to bring the transgressors to justice." (Ramsey Clark - U.S. Attorney General in the administration of Lyndon Johnson. He is the convener of the Commission of Inquiry and a human rights lawyer of world-wide respect) 

WWW URL: http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-index.htm
Copyright � 1992 by The Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal


Table of Contents from the print edition (ISBN 0-944624-15-4)

The Indictment

  1. Initial Complaint Charging George Bush, J. Danforth Quayle, James Baker, Richard Cheney, William Webster, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Others to be named with Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity
  2. Preliminary Statement | Background Scope of the Inquiry The Charges

    1 The United States engaged in a pattern of conduct beginning in or before 1989 intended to lead Iraq into provocations justifying U.S. military action against Iraq and permanent U.S. military domination of the Gulf.
    2.President Bush from August 2, 1990, intended and acted to prevent any interference with his plan to destroy Iraq economically and militarily
    3. President Bush ordered the destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic productivity throughout Iraq
    4. 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
    5. The United States intentionally bombed indiscriminately throughout Iraq
    6. The United States intentionally bombed and destroyed Iraqi military personnel, used excessive force, killed soldiers seeking to surrender and in disorganized individual flight, often unarmed and far from any combat zones and randomly and wantonly killed Iraqi soldiers and destroyed materiel after the cease fire.
    7. The United States used prohibited weapons capable of mass destruction and inflicting indiscriminate death and unnecessary suffering against both military and civilian targets.
    8. The United States intentionally attacked installations in Iraq containing dangerous substances and forces.
    9. President Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Panama, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 to 4,000 Panamanians and the destruction of thousands of private dwellings, public buildings, and commercial structures.
    10. President Bush obstructed justice and corrupted United Nations functions as a means of securing power to commit crimes against peace and war crimes.
    11. President Bush usurped the Constitutional power of Congress as a means of securing power to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and other high crimes.
    12. The United States waged war on the environment.
    13. President Bush encouraged and aided Shiite Muslims and Kurds to rebel against the government of Iraq causing fratricidal violence, emigration, exposure, hunger and sickness and thousands of deaths. After the rebellion failed, the U.S. invaded and occupied parts of Iraq without authority in order to increase division and hostility within Iraq.
    14. President Bush intentionally deprived the Iraqi people of essential medicines, potable water, food, and other necessities.
    15. The United States has violated and condoned violations of human rights, civil liberties and the U.S. Bill of Rights in the United States, in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to achieve its purpose of military domination.
    16. The United States has violated and condoned violations of human rights, civil liberties and the U.S. Bill of Rights in the United States, in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to achieve its purpose of military domination.
    The United States, having destroyed Iraq's economic base, demands reparations which will permanently impoverish Iraq and threaten its people with famine and epidemic.
    President Bush systematically manipulated, controlled, directed, misinformed and restricted press and media coverage to obtain constant support in the media for his military and political goals.
    19.The United States has by force secured a permanent military presence in the Gulf, the control of its oil resources and geopolitical domination of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region.

The Judgement

Findings Recommendations Charges of Other Countries Signed

The Basis in International Law
  1. International Law and War Crimes - Michael Ratner
  2. War Crimes Committed Against the People of Iraq - Francis Kelly
Testimony and Evidence
  1. U.S. Conspiracy to Initiate the War Against Iraq - Brian Becker
  2. The Myth of Surgical Bombing in the Gulf War - Paul Walker
  3. The Massacre of Withdrawing Soldiers on "The Highway of Death" - Joyce Chediac
Appendix A: International Law
  1. Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Convention, 1977
  2. Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1950; No. 82
  3. The Charter of The United Nations, Article 2; and
    Chapter Vl: Pacific Settlement of Disputes, Article 33

Political Corrections


      The material in this book was compiled by the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal. Most of the material in the first part of the book was originally presented at the first hearings of the Commission of Inquiry in New York City on May 11, 1991. More than 1,000 people attended the hearings held at Stuyvesant Auditorium. Since the announcement of the formation of the Commission of Inquiry, organizations world-wide have come foreward to participate and to offer evidence and testimony. A few selections of this additional testimony from other Commission hearings have been included where space permits. Commissions of Inquiry have been established in fifteen countries around the world, and public hearings where new testimony was presented were held in twenty-eight cities in the U.S. Obviously a great deal of this valuable material could not be presented in the short confines of this book.

      At the May 11, 1991 hearing in New York, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark outlined the 19-point indictment of the U.S. government's conduct in the Gulf War that served as the basis of the Commission's work. For seven hours eyewitnesses who had traveled to Iraq during and following the war presented evidence on the extensive and deliberate destruction of Iraq's infrastructure.

      Compelling video testimony was shown. Images of destroyed neighborhoods, shrapnel and burn victims, dehydrated and undernourished children in hospitals lacking electricity and necessary drugs were displayed in the photo exhibit. Some of these photos are also included in this book.

      The Commission of Inquiry for an International War Crimes Tribunal was initiated by Ramsey Clark and the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East following Mr. Clark's February trip to Iraq. Accompanied by a video filmmaker and a photographer, Mr. Clark traveled 2,000 miles through Iraq during a time when the U.S. was running up to 3,000 bombing sorties a day. He first documented the systematic destruction of the civilian infrastructure, a view later confirmed by a number of other delegations and even by the United Nation's own team of investigators.

      The Commission of Inquiry was established to gather testimony and evidence on an international basis and to present the testimony in a series of public hearings. Evidence gathered at all these hearings is to be presented to an International Tribunal of Judges on February 27, 2, and 29, 1992 in New York--the one-year anniversary of the war.

      This book contains in the Appendix the information detailing the extent for the destruction that Ramsey Clark originally presented in a letter to then United Nations Secretary General Javier P�rez de Cu�llar and President George Bush and released to the world press. Other eyewitness reports and passages from several of the international laws and conventions along with U.S. Representative Henry Gonzalez's Resolution of Impeachment of President Bush on the basis of violations of the U.S. Constitution, the United Nations Charter and international laws have also been included.

Initial Complaint


George Bush, J. Danforth Quayle, James Baker, Richard Cheney, William Webster, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Others to be named


Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes, Crimes Against
Humanity and Other Criminal Acts and High Crimes in
Violation of the Charter of the United Nations,
International Law, the Constitution of the United States
and Laws made in Pursuance Thereof.

a. Preliminary Statement

These charges have been prepared prior to the first hearing of the Commission of Inquiry by its staff. They are based on direct and circumstantial evidence from public and private documents; official statements and admissions by the persons charged and others; eyewitness accounts; Commission investigations and witness interviews in Iraq, the Middle East and elsewhere during and after the bombing; photographs and video tape; expert analyses; commentary and interviews; media coverage, published reports and accounts gathered between December 1990 and May l991. Commission of Inquiry hearings will be held in key cities where evidence is available supporting, expanding, adding, contradicting, disproving or explaining these, or similar charges against the accused and others of whatever nationality. When evidence sufficient to sustain convictions of the accused or others is obtained and after demanding the production of documents from the U.S. government, and others, and requesting testimony from the accused, offering them a full opportunity to present any defense personally, or by counsel, the evidence will be presented to an International War Crimes Tribunal. The Tribunal will consider the evidence gathered, seek and examine whatever additional evidence it chooses and render its judgment on the charges, the evidence, and the law.

b. Background

Since World War I, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States have dominated the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region and its oil resources. This has been accomplished by military conquest and coercion, economic control and exploitation, and through surrogate governments and their military forces. Thus, from 1953 to 1979 in the post World War II era, control over the region was exercised primarily through U.S. influence and control over the Gulf sheikdoms of Saudi Arabia and through the Shah of Iran. From 1953 to 1979 the Shah of Iran acted as a Pentagon/CIA surrogate to police the region. After the fall of the Shah and the seizure of U.S. Embassy hostages in Teheran, the U.S. provided military aid and assistance to Iraq, as did the USSR, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and most of the Emirates, in its war with Iran. U.S. policy during that tragic eight year war, 1980 - 1988, is probably best summed up by the phrase, "we hope they kill each other."

Throughout the seventy-five year period from Britain's invasion of Iraq early in World War I to the destruction of Iraq in 1991 by U.S. air power, the United States and the United Kingdom demonstrated no concern for democratic values, human rights, social justice, or political and cultural integrity in the region, nor for stopping military aggression there. The U.S. supported the Shah of Iran for 25 years, selling him more than $20 billion of advanced military equipment between 1972 and 1978 alone. Throughout this period the Shah and his brutal secret police called SAVAK had one of the worst human rights records in the world. Then in the 1980s, the U.S. supported Iraq in its wrongful aggression against Iran, ignoring Iraq's own poor human rights record.[l]

When the Iraqi government nationalized the Iraqi Petroleum Company in 1972, the Nixon Administration embarked on a campaign to destabilize the Iraqi government. It was in the 1970s that the U.S. first armed and then abandoned the Kurdish people, costing tens of thousands of Kurdish lives. The U.S. manipulated the Kurds through CIA and other agencies to attack Iraq, intending to harass Iraq while maintaining Iranian supremacy at the cost of Kurdish lives without intending any benefit to the Kurdish people or an autonomous Kurdistan.[2]

The U.S. with close oil and other economic ties to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has fully supported both governments despite the total absence of democratic institutions, their pervasive human rights violations and the infliction of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments such as stoning to death for adultery and amputation of a hand for property offenses.

The U.S., sometimes alone among nations, supported Israel when it defied scores of UN resolutions concerning Palestinian rights, when it invaded Lebanon in a war which took tens of thousands of lives, and during its continuing occupation of southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza.

The United States itself engaged in recent aggressions in violation of international law by invading Grenada in 1983, bombing Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya in 1986, financing the contra in Nicaragua, UNITA in southern Africa and supporting military dictatorships in Liberia, Chile, E1 Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines, and many other places.

The U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 involved the same and additional violations of international law that apply to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The U.S. invasion took between 1,000 and 4,000 Panamanian lives. The United States government is still covering up the death toll. U.S. aggression caused massive property destruction throughout Panama.[3] According to U.S. and international human rights organization estimates, Kuwait's casualties from Iraq's invasion and the ensuing months of occupation were in the "hundreds" - between 300 and 600.[4] Reports from Kuwait list 628 Palestinians killed by Kuwaiti death squads since the Sabah royal family regained control over Kuwait.

The United States changed its military plans for protecting its control over oil and other interests in the Arabian Peninsula in the late 1980s when it became clear that economic problems in the USSR were debilitating its military capacity and Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan. Thereafter, direct military domination within the region became the U.S. strategy.

With the decline in U.S. oil production through 1989, experts predicted U.S. oil imports from the Gulf would rise from 10% that year to 25% by the year 2000. Japanese and European dependency is much greater.[5]

c. The Charges

1. The United States engaged in a pattern of conduct beginning in or before 1989 intended to lead Iraq into provocations justifying U.S. military action against Iraq and permanent U.S. military domination of the Gulf.
In 1989, General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander in Chief of the Central Command, completely revised U.S. military operations and plans for the Persian Gulf to prepare to intervene in a regional conflict against Iraq. The CIA assisted and directed Kuwait in its actions. At the time, Kuwait was violating OPEC oil production agreements, extracting excessive amounts of oil from pools shared with Iraq and demanding repayment of loans it made to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Kuwait broke off negotiations with Iraq over these disputes. The U.S. intended to provoke Iraq into actions against Kuwait that would justify U.S. intervention.

In 1989, CIA Director William Webster testified before the Congress about the alarming increase in U.S. importation of Gulf oil, citing U.S. rise in use from 5% in 1973 to 10% in 1989 and predicting 25% of all U.S. oil consumption would come from the region by 2000.[6] In early 1990, General Schwarzkopf informed the Senate Armed Services Committee of the new military strategy in the Gulf designed to protect U.S. access to and control over Gulf oil in the event of regional conflicts.

In July 1990, General Schwarzkopf and his staff ran elaborate, computerized war games pitting about 100,000 U.S. troops against Iraqi armored divisions.

The U.S. showed no opposition to Iraq's increasing threats against Kuwait. U.S. companies sought major contracts in Iraq. The Congress approved agricultural loan subsidies to Iraq of hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit U.S. farmers. However, loans for food deliveries of rice, corn, wheat and other essentials bought almost exclusively from the U.S. were cut off in the spring of 1990 to cause shortages. Arms were sold to Iraq by U.S. manufacturers. When Saddam Hussein requested U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie to explain State Department testimony in Congress about lraq's threats against Kuwait, she assured him the U.S. considered the dispute a regional concern, and it would not intervene. By these acts, the U.S. intended to lead Iraq into a provocation justifying war.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq occupied Kuwait without significant resistance.

On August 3, 1990, without any evidence of a threat to Saudi Arabia, and King Fahd believed Iraq had no intention of invading his country, President Bush vowed to defend Saudi Arabia. He sent Secretary Cheney, General Powell, and General Schwarzkopf almost immediately to Saudi Arabia where on August 6, General Schwarzkopf told King Fahd the U.S. thought Saddam Hussein could attack Saudi Arabia in as little as 48 hours. The efforts toward an Arab solution of the crisis were destroyed. Iraq never attacked Saudi Arabia and waited over five months while the U.S. slowly built a force of more than 500,000 soldiers and began the systematic destruction by aircraft and missiles of Iraq and its military, both defenseless against U.S. and coalition technology. In October 1990, General Powell referred to the new military plan developed in 1989. After the war, General Schwarzkopf referred to eighteen months of planning for the campaign.

The U.S. retains troops in Iraq as of May 1991 and throughout the region and has announced its intention to maintain a permanent military presence.

This course of conduct constitutes a crime against peace.

2. President Bush from August 2, 1990, intended and acted to prevent any interference with his plan to destroy Iraq economically and militarily.

Without consultation or communication with Congress, President Bush ordered 40,000 U.S. military personnel to advance the U.S. buildup in Saudi Arabia in the first week of August 1990. He exacted a request from Saudi Arabia for U.S. military assistance and on August 8, 1990, assured the world his acts were "wholly defensive." He waited until after the November 1990 elections to announce his earlier order sending more than 200,000 additional military personnel, clearly an assault force, again without advising Congress. As late as January 9, 1991, he insisted he had the constitutional authority to attack Iraq without Congressional approval.

While concealing his intention, President Bush continued the military build up of U.S. forces unabated from August into January 1991, intending to attack and destroy Iraq. He pressed the military to expedite preparation and to commence the assault before military considerations were optimum. When Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael J. Dugan mentioned plans to destroy the Iraqi civilian economy to the press on September 16, 1990, he was removed from office.[7]

President Bush coerced the United Nations Security Council into an unprecedented series of resolutions, finally securing authority for any nation in its absolute discretion by all necessary means to enforce the resolutions. To secure votes the U.S. paid multi-billion dollar bribes, offered arms for regional wars, threatened and carried out economic retaliation, forgave multi-billion dollar loans (including a $7 billion loan to Egypt for arms), offered diplomatic relations despite human rights violations and in other ways corruptly exacted votes, creating the appearance of near universal international approval of U.S. policies toward Iraq. A country which opposed the U.S., as Yemen did, lost millions of dollars in aid, as promised, the costliest vote it ever cast.

President Bush consistently rejected and ridiculed Iraq's efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution, beginning with Iraq's August 12, 1990, proposal, largely ignored, and ending with its mid-February 1991 peace offer which he called a "cruel hoax." For his part, President Bush consistently insisted there would be no negotiation, no compromise, no face saving, no reward for aggression. Simultaneously, he accused Saddam Hussein of rejecting diplomatic solutions.

President Bush led a sophisticated campaign to demonize Saddam Hussein, calling him a Hitler, repeatedly citing reports - which he knew were false - of the murder of hundreds of incubator babies, accusing Iraq of using chemical weapons on his own people and on the Iranians knowing U.S intelligence believed the reports untrue.

After subverting every effort for peace, President Bush began the destruction of Iraq answering his own question, "Why not wait? . . . The world could wait no longer." The course of conduct constitutes a crime against peace.

3. President Bush ordered the destruction of facilities essential to civilian life and economic productivity throughout Iraq.

Systematic aerial and missile bombardment of Iraq was ordered to begin at 6:30 p.m. EST January 16, 1991, eighteen and one-half hours after the deadline set on the insistence of President Bush, in order to be reported on television evening news in the U.S. The bombing continued for forty-two days. It met no resistance from Iraqi aircraft and no effective anti-aircraft or anti-missile ground fire. Iraq was defenseless.

The United States reports it flew 110,000 air sorties against Iraq, dropping 88,000 tons of bombs, nearly seven times the equivalent of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. 93% of the bombs were free falling bombs, most dropped from higher than 30,000 feet. Of the remaining 7% of the bombs with electronically guided systems, more than 25% missed their targets, nearly all caused damage primarily beyond any identifiable target. Most of the targets were civilian facilities.

The intention and effort of the bombing of civilian life and facilities was to systematically destroy Iraq's infrastructure leaving it in a preindustrial condition. Iraq's civilian population was dependent on industrial capacities. The U.S. assault left Iraq in a near apocalyptic condition as reported by the first United Nations observers after the war.[8] Among the facilities targeted and destroyed were:

  • electric power generation, relay and transmission;
  • water treatment, pumping and distribution systems and reservoirs;
  • telephone and radio exchanges, relay stations, towers and transmission facilities;
  • food processing, storage and distribution facilities and markets, infant milk formula and beverage plants, animal vaccination facilities and irrigation sites;
  • railroad transportation facilities, bus depots, bridges, highway overpasses, highways, highway repair stations, trains, buses and other public transportation vehicles, commercial and private vehicles;
  • oil wells and pumps, pipelines, refineries, oil storage tanks, gasoline filling stations and fuel delivery tank cars and trucks, and kerosene storage tanks;
  • sewage treatment and disposal systems;
  • factories engaged in civilian production, e.g., textile and automobile assembly; and
  • historical markers and ancient sites.
As a direct, intentional and foreseeable result of this destruction, tens of thousands of people have died from dehydration, dysentery and diseases caused by impure water, inability to obtain effective medical assistance and debilitation from hunger, shock, cold and stress. More will die until potable water, sanitary living conditions, adequate food supplies and other necessities are provided. There is a high risk of epidemics of cholera, typhoid, hepatitis and other diseases as well as starvation and malnutrition through the summer of 1991 and until food supplies are adequate and essential services are restored.

Only the United States could have carried out this destruction of Iraq, and the war was conducted almost exclusively by the United States. This conduct violated the UN Charter, the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Charter, and the laws of armed conflict.

4. 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.

The destruction of civilian facilities left the entire civilian population without heat, cooking fuel, refrigeration, potable water, telephones, power for radio or TV reception, public transportation and fuel for private automobiles. It also limited food supplies, closed schools, created massive unemployment, severely limited economic activity and caused hospitals and medical services to shut down. In addition, residential areas of every major city and most towns and villages were targeted and destroyed. Isolated Bedouin camps were attacked by U.S. aircraft. In addition to deaths and injuries, the aerial assault destroyed 10 - 20,000 homes, apartments and other dwellings. Commercial centers with shops, retail stores, offices, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations were targeted and thousands were destroyed. Scores of schools, hospitals, mosques and churches were damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilian vehicles on highways, roads and parked on streets and in garages were targeted and destroyed. These included public buses, private vans and mini-buses, trucks, tractor trailers, lorries, taxi cabs and private cars. The purpose of this bombing was to terrorize the entire country, kill people, destroy property, prevent movement, demoralize the people and force the overthrow of the government.

As a result of the bombing of facilities essential to civilian life, residential and other civilian buildings and areas, at least 125,000 men, women and children were killed. The Red Crescent Society of Jordan estimated 113,000 civilian dead, 60% children, the week before the end of the war.

The conduct violated the UN Charter, the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Charter, and the laws of armed conflict.

5. The United States intentionally bombed indiscriminately throughout Iraq.

In aerial attacks, including strafing, over cities, towns, the countryside and highways, U.S. aircraft bombed and strafed indiscriminately. In every city and town bombs fell by chance far from any conceivable target, whether a civilian facility, military installation or military target. In the countryside random attacks were made on travelers, villagers, even Bedouins. The purpose of the attacks was to destroy life, property and terrorize the civilian population. On the highways, civilian vehicles including public buses taxicabs and passenger cars were bombed and strafed at random to frighten civilians from flight, from seeking food or medical care, finding relatives or other uses of highways. The effect was summary execution and corporal punishment indiscriminately of men, women and children, young and old, rich and poor, all nationalities including the large immigrant populations even Americans, all ethnic groups, including many Kurds and Assyrians, all religions including Shia and Sunni Moslems, Chaldeans and other Christians, and Jews. U.S. deliberate indifference to civilian and military casualties in Iraq, or their nature, is exemplified by General Colin Powell's response to a press inquiry about the number dead from the air and ground campaigns: "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in."[9]

The conduct violates Protocol I Additional, Article 51.4 to the Geneva Conventions of 1977.

6. The United States intentionally bombed and destroyed Iraqi military personnel, used excessive force, killed soldiers seeking to surrender and in disorganized individual flight, often unarmed and far from any combat zones and randomly and wantonly killed Iraqi soldiers and destroyed materiel after the cease fire.

In the first hours of the aerial and missile bombardment, the United States destroyed most military communications and began the systematic killing of soldiers who were incapable of defense or escape and the destruction of military equipment. Over a period of forty-two days, U.S bombing killed tens of thousands of defenseless soldiers, cut off most of their food, water and other supplies and left them in desperate and helpless disarray. Without significant risk to its own personnel, the U.S. led in the killing of at least 100,000 Iraqi soldiers at a cost of 148 U.S. combat casualties, according to the U.S. government. When it was determined that the civilian economy and the military were sufficiently destroyed, the U.S. ground forces moved into Kuwait and Iraq attacking disoriented disorganized, fleeing Iraqi forces wherever they could be found, killing thousands more and destroying any equipment found. The slaughter continued after the cease fire. For example, on March 2, 1991, U.S. 24th Division Forces engaged in a four-hour assault against Iraqis just west of Basra. More than 750 vehicles were destroyed, thousands were killed without U.S. casualties. A U.S. commander said, "We really waxed them." It was called a "Turkey Shoot." One Apache helicopter crew member yelled "Say hello to Allah" as he launched a laser-guided Hellfire missile.[10]

The intention was not to remove Iraq's presence from Kuwait. It was to destroy Iraq. In the process there was great destruction of property in Kuwait. The disproportion in death and destruction inflicted on a defenseless enemy exceeded 1,000 to one.

General Thomas Kelly commented on February 23, 1991, that by the time the ground war begins "there won't be many of them left." General Norman Schwarzkopf placed Iraqi military casualties at over 100,000. The intention was to destroy all military facilities and equipment wherever located and to so decimate the military age male population that Iraq could not raise a substantial force for half a generation.

The conduct violated the Charter of the United Nations, the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Charter, and the laws of armed conflict.

7. The United States used prohibited weapons capable of mass destruction and inflicting indiscriminate death and unnecessary suffering against both military and civilian targets.

Among the known illegal weapons and illegal uses of weapons employed by the United States are the following:

  • fuel air explosives capable of widespread incineration and death;
  • napalm;
  • cluster and anti-personnel fragmentation bombs; and
  • "superbombs," 2.5 ton devices, intended for assassination of government leaders.
Fuel air explosives were used against troops-in-place, civilian areas, oil fields and fleeing civilians and soldiers on two stretches of highway between Kuwait and Iraq. Included in fuel air weapons used was the BLU-82, a 15,000-pound device capable of incinerating everything within hundreds of yards.

One seven mile stretch called the "Highway of Death" was littered with hundreds of vehicles and thousands of dead. All were fleeing to Iraq for their lives. Thousands were civilians of all ages, including Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Jordanians and other nationalities. Another 60-mile stretch of road to the east was strewn with the remnants of tanks, armored cars, trucks, ambulances and thousands of bodies following an attack on convoys on the night of February 25, 1991. The press reported that no survivors are known or likely. One flatbed truck contained nine bodies, their hair and clothes were burned off, skin incinerated by heat so intense it melted the windshield onto the dashboard.

Napalm was used against civilians, military personnel and to start fires. Oil well fires in both Iraq and Kuwait were intentionally started by U.S. aircraft dropping napalm and other heat intensive devices.

Cluster and anti-personnel fragmentation bombs were used in Basra and other cities, and towns, against the convoys described above and against military units. The CBU-75 carries 1,800 bomblets called Sadeyes. One type of Sadeyes can explode before hitting the ground, on impact, or be timed to explode at different times after impact. Each bomblet contains 600 razor sharp steel fragments lethal up to 40 feet. The 1,800 bomblets from one CBU-75 can cover an area equal to 157 football fields with deadly shrapnel. "Superbombs" were dropped on hardened shelters, at least two in the last days of the assault, with the intention of assassinating President Saddam Hussein. One was misdirected. It was not the first time the Pentagon targeted a head of state. In April 1986, the U.S. attempted to assassinate Col. Muammar Qaddafi by laser directed bombs in its attack on Tripoli, Libya.

Illegal weapons killed thousands of civilians and soldiers.

The conduct violated the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Charter and the laws of armed conflict.

8. The United States intentionally attacked installations in Iraq containing dangerous substances and forces.

Despite the fact that Iraq used no nuclear or chemical weapons and in the face of UN resolutions limiting the authorized means of removing Iraqi forces from Kuwait, the U.S. intentionally bombed alleged nuclear sites, chemical plants, dams and other dangerous forces. The U.S. knew such attacks could cause the release of dangerous forces from such installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population. While some civilians were killed in such attacks, there are no reported cases of consequent severe losses presumably because lethal nuclear materials and dangerous chemical and biological warfare substances were not present at the sites bombed.

The conduct violates Protocol I Additional, Article 56, to the Geneva Convention, 1977.

9. President Bush ordered U.S. forces to invade Panama, resulting in the deaths of 1,000 to 4,000 Panamanians and the destruction of thousands of private dwellings, public buildings, and commercial structures.

On December 20, 1989, President Bush ordered a military assault on Panama using aircraft, artillery, helicopter gunships and experimenting with new weapons, including the Stealth bomber. The attack was a surprise assault targeting civilian and non-combatant government structures. In the E1 Chorillo district of Panama City alone, hundreds of civilians were killed and between 15,000 and 30,000 made homeless. U.S. soldiers buried dead Panamanians in mass graves, often without identification. The head of state, Manuel Noriega, who was systematically demonized by the U.S. government and press, ultimately surrendered to U.S. forces and was brought to Miami, Florida, on extra-territorial U.S. criminal charges.

The U.S. invasion of Panama violated all the international laws Iraq violated when it invaded Kuwait and more. Many more Panamanians were killed by U.S. forces than Iraq killed Kuwaitis.

President Bush violated the Charter of the United Nations, the Hague and Geneva Conventions, committed crimes against peace, war crimes and violated the U.S.Constitution and numerous U.S. criminal statutes in ordering and directing the assault on Panama.

10. President Bush obstructed justice and corrupted United Nations functions as a means of securing power to commit crimes against peace and war crimes.

President Bush caused the United Nations to completely bypass Chapter VI provisions of its Charter for the Pacific Settlement of Disputes. This was done in order to obtain Security Council resolutions authorizing the use of all necessary means, in the absolute discretion of any nation, to fulfill UN resolutions directed against Iraq and which were used to destroy Iraq. To obtain Security Council votes, the U.S. corruptly paid member nations billions of dollars, provided them arms to conduct regional wars, forgave billions in debts, withdrew opposition to a World Bank loan, agreed to diplomatic relations despite human rights violations and threatened economic and political reprisals. A nation which voted against the United States, Yemen, was immediately punished by the loss of millions of dollars in aid. The U.S. paid the UN $187 million to reduce the amount of dues it owed to the UN to avoid criticism of its coercive activities. The United Nations, created to end the scourge of war, became an instrument of war and condoned war crimes.

The conduct violates the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution and laws of the United States.

11. President Bush usurped the Constitutional power of Congress as a means of securing power to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and other high crimes.

President Bush intentionally usurped Congressional power, ignored its authority, and failed and refused to consult with the Congress. He deliberately misled, deceived, concealed and made false representations to the Congress to prevent its free deliberation and informed exercise of legislature power. President Bush individually ordered a naval blockade against Iraq, itself an act of war. He switched U.S. forces from a wholly defensive position and capability to an offensive capacity for aggression against Iraq without consultation with and contrary to assurances given to the Congress. He secured legislation approving enforcement of UN resolutions vesting absolute discretion in any nation, providing no guidelines and requiring no reporting to the UN, knowing he intended to destroy the ammed forces and civilian economy of Iraq. Those acts were undertaken to enable him to commit crimes against peace and war crimes.

The conduct violates the Constitution and laws of the United States, all committed to engage in the other impeachable offenses set forth in this Complaint.

12. The United States waged war on the environment.

Pollution from the detonation of 88,000 tons of bombs, innumerable missiles, rockets, artillery and small arms with the combustion and fires they caused and by 110,000 air sorties at a rate of nearly two per minute for six weeks has caused enormous injury to life and the ecology. Attacks by U.S. aircraft caused much if not all of the worst oil spills in the Gulf. Aircraft and helicopters dropping napalm and fuel-air explosives on oil wells, storage tanks and refineries caused oil fires throughout Iraq and many, if not most, of the oil well fires in Iraq and Kuwait. The intentional destruction of municipal water systems, waste material treatment and sewage disposal systems constitutes a direct and continuing assault on life and health throughout Iraq.

The conduct violated the UN Charter, the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the laws of armed conflict and constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.

13. President Bush encouraged and aided Shiite Muslims and Kurds to rebel against the government of Iraq causing fratricidal violence, emigration, exposure, hunger and sickness and thousands of deaths. After the rebellion failed, the U.S. invaded and occupied parts of Iraq without authority in order to increase division and hostility within Iraq.

Without authority from the Congress or the UN, President Bush continued his imperious military actions after the cease fire. He encouraged and aided rebellion against Iraq, failed to protect the warring parties, encouraged migration of whole populations, placing them in jeopardy from the elements, hunger, and disease. After much suffering and many deaths, President Bush then without authority used U.S. military forces to distribute aid at and near the Turkish border, ignoring the often greater suffering among refugees in Iran. He then arbitrarily set up bantustan-like settlements for Kurds in Iraq and demanded Iraq pay for U.S. costs. When Kurds chose to return to their homes in Iraq, he moved U.S. troops further into northern Iraq against the will of the government and without authority.

The conduct violated the Charter of the United Nations, international law, the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the laws of Iraq.

14. President Bush intentionally deprived the Iraqi people of essential medicines, potable water, food, and other necessities.

A major component of the assault on Iraq was the systematic deprivation of essential human needs and services. To break the will of the people, destroy their economic capability, reduce their numbers and weaken their health, the United States:

  • imposed and enforced embargoes preventing the shipment of needed medicines, water purifiers, infant milk formula, food and other supplies;
  • individually, without congressional authority, ordered a U.S. naval blockade of Iraq, an act of war, to deprive the Iraqi people of needed supplies;
  • froze funds of Iraq and forced other nations to do so, depriving Iraq of the ability to purchase needed medicines, food and other supplies;
  • controlled information about the urgent need for such supplies to prevent sickness, death and threatened epidemic, endangering the whole society;
  • prevented international organizations, governments and relief agencies from providing needed supplies and obtaining information concerning needs;
  • failed to assist or meet urgent needs of huge refugee populations including Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Sudanese, Jordanians, Palestinians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, and interfered with efforts of others to do so;
  • consistently diverted attention from health and epidemic threats within Iraq caused by the U.S. even after advertising the plight of Kurdish people on the Turkish border;
  • deliberately bombed the electrical grids causing the closure of hospitals and laboratories, loss of medicine and essential fluids and blood; and
  • deliberately bombed food storage, fertilizer, and seed storage facilities.
As a result of these acts, thousands of people died, many more suffered illness and permanent injury. As a single illustration, Iraq consumed infant milk formula at a rate of 2,500 tons per month during the first seven months of 1990. From November 1, 1990, to February 7, 1991, Iraq was able to import only 17 tons. Its own productive capacity was destroyed. Many Iraqis believed that President Bush intended that their infants die because he targeted their food supply. The Red Crescent Society of Iraq estimated 3,000 infant deaths as of February 7, 1991, resulting from infant milk formula and infant medication shortages.

This conduct violates the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants and constitutes a crime against humanity.

15. The United States continued its assault on Iraq after the cease fire, invading and occupying areas at will.

The United States has acted with dictatorial authority over Iraq and its external relations since the end of the military conflict. It has shot and killed Iraqi military personnel, destroyed aircraft and materiel at will, occupied vast areas of Iraq in the north and south and consistently threatened use of force against Iraq.

This conduct violates the sovereignty of a nation, exceeds authority in UN resolutions, is unauthorized by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and constitutes war crimes.

16. The United States has violated and condoned violations of human rights, civil liberties and the U.S. Bill of Rights in the United States, in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to achieve its purpose of military domination.

Among the many violations committed or condoned by the U.S. government are the following:

  • illegal surveillance, arrest, interrogation and harassment of Arab-American, Iraqi-American, and U.S. resident Arabs;
  • illegal detention, interrogation and treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war;
  • aiding and condoning Kuwaiti summary executions, assaults, torture and illegal detention of Palestinians and other residents in Kuwait after the U.S. occupation; and
  • unwarranted, discriminatory, and excessive prosecution and punishment of U.S. military personnel who refused to serve in the Gulf, sought conscientious objector status or protested U.S. policies.
Persons were killed, assaulted, tortured, illegally detained and prosecuted, harassed and humiliated as a result of these policies.

The conduct violates the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , the Hague and Geneva Conventions and the Constitution and laws of the United States.

17. The United States, having destroyed Iraq's economic base, demands reparations which will permanently impoverish Iraq and threaten its people with famine and epidemic.

Having destroyed lives, property and essential civilian facilities in Iraq which the U.S. concedes will require $50 billion to replace (estimated at $200 billion by Iraq, killed at least 125,000 people by bombing and many thousands more by sickness and hunger, the U.S. now seeks to control Iraq economically even as its people face famine and epidemic.[l1] Damages, including casualties in Iraq, systematically inflicted by the U.S. exceed all damages, casualties and costs of all other parties to the conflict combined many times over. Reparations under these conditions are an exaction of tribute for the conqueror from a desperately needy country. The United States seeks to force Iraq to pay for damage to Kuwait largely caused by the U.S. and even to pay U.S. costs for its violations of Iraqi sovereignty in occupying northern Iraq to further manipulate the Kurdish population there. Such reparations are a neocolonial means of expropriating Iraq's oil, natural resources, and human labor.

The conduct violates the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution and laws of the United States.

18. President Bush systematically manipulated, controlled, directed, misinformed and restricted press and media coverage to obtain constant support in the media for his military and political goals.

The Bush Administration achieved a five-month-long commercial for militarism and individual weapons systems. The American people were seduced into the celebration of a slaughter by controlled propaganda demonizing Iraq, assuring the world no harm would come to Iraqi civilians, deliberately spreading false stories of atrocities including chemical warfare threats, deaths of incubator babies and threats to the entire region by a new Hitler.

The press received virtually all its information from or by permission of the Pentagon. Efforts were made to prevent any adverse information or opposition views from being heard. CNN's limited presence in Baghdad was described as Iraqi propaganda. Independent observers, eyewitnesses' photos, and video tapes with information about the effects of the U.S. bombing were excluded from the media. Television network ownership, advertizers, newspaper ownership, elite columnists and commentators intimidated and instructed reporters and selected interviewees. They formed a near-single voice of praise for U.S. militarism, often exceeding the Pentagon in bellicosity.

The American people and their democratic institutions were deprived of information essential to sound judgment and were regimented, despite profound concem, to support a major neocolonial intervention and war of aggression. The principal purpose of the First Amendment to the United States was to assure the press and the people the right to criticize their government with impunity. This purpose has been effectively destroyed in relation to U.S. military aggression since the press was denied access to assaults on Grenada, Libya, Panama and, now on a much greater scale, against Iraq.

This conduct violates the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and is part of a pattern of conduct intended to create support for conduct constituting crimes against peace and war crimes.

19. The United States has by force secured a permanent military presence in the Gulf, the control of its oil resources and geopolitical domination of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region.

The U.S. has committed the acts described in this complaint to create a permanent U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, to dominate its oil resources until depleted and to maintain geopolitical domination over the region.

The conduct violates the Charter of the United Nations, international law, and the Constitution and laws of the United States.

e. Scope of the Inquiry

The Commission of Inquiry will focus on U.S. criminal conduct because of its destruction of Iraq, killing at least 125,000 persons directly by its bombing while proclaiming its own combat losses as 148, because it destroyed the economic base of Iraq and because its acts are still inflicting consequential deaths that may reach hundreds of thousands. The Commission of Inquiry will seek and accept evidence of criminal acts by any person or government, related to the Gulf conflict, because it believes international law must be applied uniformly. It believes that "victors' justice" is not law, but the extension of war by force of the prevailing party. The U.S. Senate, European Community foreign ministers, and the western press, even former Nuremberg prosecutors, have overwhelmingly called for war crimes trials for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership alone. Even Mrs. Barbara Bush has said she would like to see Saddam Hussein hanged, albeit without mentioning a trial. Comprehensive efforts to gather and evaluate evidence, objectively judge all the conduct that constitutes crimes against peace and war crimes and to present these facts for judgment to the court of world opinion requires that at least one major effort focus on the United States. The Commission of Inquiry believes its focus on U.S. criminal acts is important, proper, and the only way to bring the whole truth, a balanced perspective and impartiality in application of legal process to this great human tragedy.

Ramsey Clark, May 9, 1991

f. Notes

  1. Covert Operations: The Persian Gulf and the New World Order (Washington, DC: Christic Institute, 1991).
  2. Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, The CIA and American Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 206.
  3. Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. Invasion of Panama: The Truth Behind Operation Just Cause(Boston: South End Press, 1990).
  4. Amnesty International Reports, 1991, pp. 122-124.
  5. Congressional Record, June 12, 1990, S8605.
  6. "Saddam's Oil Plot." London Observer, October 21, 1990.
  7. Rick Atkinson, "U.S. to Rely on Air Strikes if War Erupts," Washington Post, September 16, 1990: Al + . Eric Schmitt, "Ousted General Gets A Break," New York Times, November 7, 1991: Al9.
  8. Joint WHO / UNICEF Team Report: A Visit to Iraq (New York: United Nations, 1991). A report to the Secretary General, dated March 20, 1991 by representatives of the U.N. Secretariat, UNICEF, UNDP, UNDRO, UNHCR, FAO and WHO.
  9. Patrick E. Tyler, "Powell Says U.S. Will Stay In Iraq," New York Times, March 23, 1991: Al + .
  10. Patrick J. Sloyan, "Massive Battle After Cease Fire," New York Newsday, May 8, 1991: A4+.
  11. "U.S. Prepares UN Draft on Claims Against Iraq," New York Times, November 1, 1990.

Final Judgment: International War Crimes Tribunal

      The members of the International War Crimes Tribunal, meeting in New York, have carefully considered the Initial Complaint of the Commission of Inquiry dated May 6, 1991 against President George H. W. Bush, Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Commander of the Allied Forces in the Persian Gulf, and others named in the Complaint charging them with nineteen separate crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the First Protocol thereto, and other international agreements and customary international law:

      having the right and obligation as citizens of the world to sit in judgment regarding violations of international humanitarian law;

      having heard the testimony from various Commissions of Inquiry hearings held within their own countries and/or elsewhere during the past year and having received reports from numerous other Commission hearings which recite the evidence there gathered;

      having been provided with documentary evidence, eyewitness statements, photos, videotapes, special reports, expert analyses and summaries of evidence available to the Commission; having access to all evidence, knowledge, and expert opinion in the Commission files or available to the Commission;

      having been provided by the Commission, or elsewhere obtained, various books, articles, and other written materials on various aspects of events and conditions in the Persian Gulf and military and arms establishments;

      having considered newspaper coverage, magazine and periodical reports, special publications, T.V., radio, and other media coverage and public statements by the accused, other public officials and other public materials;

      having heard the presentations of the Commission of Inquiry in public hearing on February 29, 1992, the testimony and evidence there presented; and having met, considered and deliberated with each other and with Commission staff and having considered all the evidence that is relevant to the nineteen charges of criminal conduct alleged in the Initial Complaint make the following findings.


      The members of the International War Crimes Tribunal finds each of the named accused Guilty on the basis of the evidence against them and that each of the nineteen crimes alleged in the Initial Complaint, attached hereto, has been established to have been committed beyond a reasonable doubt.

      The members believe that it is imperative if there is ever to be peace that power be accountable for its criminal acts and we condemn in the strongest possible terms those found guilty of the charges herein. We urge the Commission of Inquiry and all people to act on recommendations developed by the Commission to hold power accountable and to secure social justice on which lasting peace must be based.


      The Members urge the immediate revocation of all embargoes, sanctions and penalties against Iraq because they constitute a continuing crime against humanity.

      The Members urge public action to prevent new aggressions by the United States threatened against Iraq, Libya, Cuba, Haiti, North Korea, Pakistan and other countries and the Palestine people; fullest condemnation of any threat or use of military technology against life, both civilian and military, as was used by the United States against the people of Iraq.

      The Members urge that the power of the United Nations Security Council, which was blatantly manipulated by the U.S. to authorize illegal military action and sanctions, be vested in the General Assembly; that all permanent members be removed and that the right of veto be eliminated as undemocratic and contrary to the basic principles of the U.N. Charter.

      The Members urge the Commission to provide for the permanent preservation of the reports, evidence, and materials gathered to make them available to others, and to seek ways to provide the widest possible distribution of the truth about the U.S. assault on Iraq.

Charges of Other Countries

      In accordance with the last paragraph of the Initial Complaint designated Scope of Inquiry, the Commission has gathered substantial evidence of criminal acts by governments and individual officials in addition to those formally presented here. Formal charges have been drafted by some Commissions of Inquiry against other governments in addition to the United States. Those charges have not been acted upon here. The Commission of Inquiry or any of its national components may choose to pursue such other charges at some future time. The Members urge all involved to exert their utmost effort to prevent recurrences of violations by other governments that were not considered here.

      Done in New York this 29th day of February, 1992.

Olga Mejia, Panama
President of the National Human Rights Commission in Panama, a non-governmental body representing peasants' organizations, urban trade unions, women's groups and others.
Sheik Mohamed Rashid, Pakistan
Former deputy prime minister. Long-term political prisoner during the struggle against British colonialism and activist for workers' and peasants' rights.
Dr. Haluk Gerger, Turkey
Founding member of Turkish Human Rights Association and professor of political science. Dismissed from Ankara University by military government.
Susumu Ozaki, Japan
Former judge and pro-labor attorney imprisoned 1934-1938 for violating Security Law under militarist government for opposing Japan's invasion of China.
Michael Ratner, USA
Attorney, former director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, past president of the National Lawyers Guild.
Lord Tony Gifford, Britain
Human rights lawyer practicing in England and Jamaica. Investigated human rights abuses in British-occupied Ireland.
Rene Dumont, France
Argonomist, ecologist, specialist in agriculture of developing countries, author. His 45th book, This War Dishonors Us, appears in 1992.
Bassam Haddadin, Jordan
Member of Parliament, Second Secretary for the Jordanian Democratic Peoples Party. Member of Parliamentary Committee on Palestine.
Dr. Sherif Hetata, Egypt
Medical Doctor, author, member of the Central Committee of the Arab Progressive Unionist Party. Political prisoner 14 years in 1950s and 1960s.
Deborah Jackson, USA
First vice president of the American Association of Jurists, former director of National Conference of Black Lawyers.
Opato Matarmah, Menominee Nation of North America
Involved in defense of human rights of indigenous peoples since 1981. Represented the International Indian Treaty Council at the Commission of Human Rights at the U.N.
Laura Albizu, Campos Meneses, Puerto Rico
Past President of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and current Secretary for Foreign Relations. Honorary president of Peace Council.
Aisha Nyerere, Tanzania
Resident Magistrate of the High Court in Arusha, Tanzania. Researched the impact of the Gulf war on East Africa.
Peter Leibovtich, Canada
President of United Steel Workers of America, USWA, Local 8782 and of the Executive Council of the Ontario Federation of Labor.
John Philpot, Quebec
Attorney, member of Board of Directors of Quebec Movement for Sovereignty. Organizing Secretary for the American Association of Jurist in Canada.
John Jones, USA
Community leader in the state of New Jersey. Vietnam veteran who became leader of movement against U.S. attack on Iraq.
Gloria La Riva, USA
Founding member of the Farmworkers Emergency Relief Committee and Emergency Committee to Stop the U.S. War in the Middle East in San Francisco.
Key Martin, USA
Member of Executive Committee of Local 3 of the Newspaper Guild in New York. Jailed in 1967 for taking message of Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam to active duty Gls.
Dr. Alfred Mechtersheimer, Germany
Former member of the Bundestag from the Green Party. Former Lieutenant Colonel in the Bundeswher; current peace researcher.
Abderrazak Kilani, Tunisia
Tunisian Bar Association. Former President, Association of Young Lawyers; founding member, National Committee to Lift the Embargo from Iraq.
Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin bin Zakaria, Malaysia
Former Auditor General of Malaysia. Known throughout his country for battling corruption in government.
P. S. Poti, India
Former Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. In 1989 elected president of the All-India Lawyers Union.

Part Three: Testimony and Evidence

U.S. Conspiracy to Initiate the War Against Iraq - Brian Becker 

(Brian Becker was a member of the Muhammad Ali Peace Delegation which travelled to Iraq in late November 1990 in an effort to prevent the war. This report was presented at the New York Commission hearing on May 11, 1991.)

Even before the first day of the Persian Gulf crisis George Bush and the Pentagon wanted to wage war against Iraq.

What was the character of this war? Iraq neither attacked nor threatened the United States. We believe that this was a war to re divide and redistribute the fabulous markets and resources of the Middle East, in other words this was an imperialist war. The Bush administration, on behalf of the giant oil corporations and banks, sought to strengthen its domination of this strategic region. It did this in league with the former colonial powers of the region, namely Britain and France, and in opposition to the Iraqi people's claim on their own land and especially their natural resources.

As is customary in such wars, the government is compelled to mask the truth about the war - both its origin and goals and the nature of the "enemy" - in order to win over the people of this country. That's why it is important to get the facts. There is ample evidence that the U.S. was eagerly planning to fight the war even before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. With its plans in tact, we must determine if it is possible that the U.S. government actually sought a pretext for a military intervention in the Middle East.

Information that has come to light suggests that the United States interfered in and aggravated the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, knew that an Iraqi military response against Kuwait was likely, and then took advantage of the Iraqi move to carry out a long-planned U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. This evidence includes:

  1. The tiny, but oil-rich sheikdom of Kuwait became the tool of a U.S.inspired campaign of economic warfare designed to weaken Iraq as a regional power once the Iran-Iraq war ended. During 1989-1990, the Kuwaiti monarchy was overproducing and driving down the price of oil, a policy that cost Iraq $14 billion in lost revenue.[1] Iraq also complained that the Kuwaitis were stealing Iraqi oil by using slant drilling technology into the gigantic Rumaila oil field, most of which is inside Iraq. Kuwait also refused to work out arrangements that would allow Iraq access to the Persian Gulf. In May of 1990 at an Arab League meeting, Saddam Hussein bitterly complained about Kuwait's policy of "economic warfare" against Iraq and hinted that if Kuwait's over-production didn't change Iraq would take military action. Yet the Emir of Kuwait refused to budge. Why would an OPEC country want to drive down the price of oil? In retrospect, it is inconceivable that this tiny, undemocratic little sheikdom, whose ruling family is subject to so much hostility from the Arab masses, would have dared to remain so defiant against Iraq (a country ten times larger than Kuwait) unless Kuwait was assured in advance of protection from an even greater power - namely the United States. This is even more likely when one considers that the Kuwaiti ruling family had in the past tread lightly when it came to its relations with Iraq. Kuwait was traditionally part of Iraq's Basra Province until 1899 when Britain divided it from Iraq and declared Kuwait its colony.
    Coinciding with Kuwait's overproduction of oil, Iraq was also subjected to the beginning of de facto sanctions, instituted incrementally by a number of western capitalist governments. Hundreds of major scientific, engineering, and food supply contracts between Iraq and western governments were canceled by 1990.[2]
  2. The U.S. policy to increase economic pressure on Iraq was coupled with a dramatic change in U.S. military doctrine and strategy toward Iraq. Starting in the summer of 1989, the Joint Chiefs of Staff revamped U.S. military doctrine in the Middle East away from a U.S.-Soviet conflict to target regional powers instead. By June 1990 - two months before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait - General Norman Schwarzkopf was conducting sophisticated war games pitting hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops against Iraqi armored divisions.[3]
  3. The Bush administration lied when it stated on August 8, 1990, that the purpose of the U.S. troop deployment was "strictly defensive" and necessary to protect Saudi Arabia from an imminent Iraqi invasion. King Hussein of Jordan reports that U.S. troops were actually being deployed to Saudi Arabia in the days before Saudi Arabia "invited" U.S. intervention.[4] Hussein says that in the first days of the crisis Saudi King Fahd expressed Support for an Arab diplomatic solution. King Fahd also told King Hussein that there was no evidence of a hostile Iraqi build-up on the Saudi border, and that despite American assertions, there was no truth to reports that Iraq planned to invade Saudi Arabia.[5] The Saudis only bowed to U.S. demands that the Saudis "invite" U.S. troops to defend them following a long meeting between the king and Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. The real substance of this discussion will probably remain classified for many, many years.
On September 11, 1990, Bush also told a joint session of Congress that "following negotiations and promises by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein not to use force, a powerful army invaded its trusting and much weaker neighbor, Kuwait. Within three days, 120,000 troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. It was then I decided to act to check that aggression." However, according to Jean Heller of the St. Petersburg Times (of Florida), the facts just weren't as Bush claimed. Satellite photographs taken by the Soviet Union on the precise day Bush addressed Congress failed to show any evidence of Iraqi troops in Kuwait or massing along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border. While the Pentagon was claiming as many as 250,000 Iraqi troops in Kuwait, it refused to provide evidence that would contradict the Soviet satellite photos. U.S. forces, encampments, aircraft, camouflaged equipment dumps, staging areas and tracks across the desert can easily be seen. But as Peter Zimmerman, formerly of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan Administration, and a former image specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who analyzed the photographs for the St. Petersburg Times said:

We didn't find anything of that sort [i.e. comparable to the U.S. buildup] anywhere in Kuwait. We don't see any tent cities, we don't see congregations of tanks, we can't see troop concentrations, and the main Kuwaiti air base appears deserted. It's five weeks after the invasion, and from what we can see, the Iraqi air force hasn't flown a single fighter to the most strategic air base in Kuwait. There is no infrastructure to support large numbers of people. They have to use toilets, or the functional equivalent. They have to have food.... But where is it?

On September 18, 1991, only a week after the Soviet photos were taken, the Pentagon was telling the American public that Iraqi forces in Kuwait had grown to 360,000 men and 2,800 tanks. But the photos of Kuwait do not show any tank tracks in southern Kuwait. They clearly do show tracks left by vehicles which serviced a large oil field, but no tank tracks. Heller concludes that as of January 6, 1991, the Pentagon had not provided the press or Congress with any proof at all for an early buildup of Iraqi troops in southern Kuwait that would suggest an imminent invasion of Saudi Arabia. The usual Pentagon evidence was little more than "trust me." But photos from Soviet commercial satellites tell quite a convincing story. Photos taken on August 8, 1990, of southern Kuwait - six days after the initial invasion and right at the moment Bush was telling the world of an impending invasion of Saudi Arabia - show light sand drifts over patches of roads leading from Kuwait City to the Saudi border. The photos taken on September 11, 1990, show exactly the same sand drifts but now larger and deeper, suggesting that they had built up naturally without the disturbance of traffic for a month. Roads in northern Saudi Arabia during this same period, in contrast, show no sand drifts at all, having been swept clean by heavy traffic of supply convoys. The former DIA analyst puts it this way: "In many places the sand goes on for 30 meters and more." Zirnmerman's analysis is that "They [roads] could be passable by tank but not by personnel or supply vehicles. Yet there is no sign that tanks have used those roads. And there's no evidence of new roads being cut. By contrast, none of the roads in Saudi Arabia has any sand cover at all. They've all been swept clear."[6]

It would have taken no more than a few thousand soldiers to hold Kuwait City, and that is all satellite evidence can support. The implication is obvious: Iraqi troops who were eventually deployed along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border were sent there as a response to U.S. build up and were not a provocation for Bush's military action. Moreover, the manner in which they were finally deployed was purely defensive - a sort of Maginot Line against the massive and offensive mobilization of U.S. and Coalition forces just over the border with Saudi Arabia.

A War to Destroy Iraq as a Regional Power

That the Bush administration wanted the war is obvious by its steadfast refusal to enter into any genuine negotiations with Iraq that could have achieved a diplomatic solution. Iraq's August 12, 1990, negotiation proposal, which indicated that Iraq was willing to make significant concessions in return for a comprehensive discussion of other unresolved Middle East conflicts, was rejected out of hand by the Bush administration. So was another Iraqi offer made in December that was reported by Knut Royce in Newsday.

President Bush avoided diplomacy and negotiations, even refusing to send Secretary of State Baker to meet Saddam Hussein before the January 15, 1991 deadline as he had promised on November 30, 1990. Bush also rejected Iraq's withdrawal offer of February 15, 1991, two days aver U.S. planes incinerated hundreds of women and children sleeping in the al-Arneriyah bomb shelter. The Iraqis immediately agreed to the Soviet proposal of February 18, 1991 - that is four days before the so-called ground war was launched - which required Iraq to abide by all UN resolutions.

The U.S. ground war against Iraqi positions resulted in the greatest number of casualties in the conflict. As many as 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers may have died after the Iraqi government had fully capitulated to all U.S. and UN demands. It is thus obvious that the U.S. government did not fight the war to secure Iraq's eviction from Kuwait but rather proceeded with this unparalleled massacre for other foreign policy objectives. These objectives have never been defined for the broader public but only referred to euphemistically under the rubric of the New World Order.

What is the New World Order, what does the U.S. expect to get out of it and what is the "new thing" in the world that makes a new order possible? It is Bush's assumption that the Soviet Union is willing, under the Gorbachev leadership, to support U.S. foreign policy in the Third World. The U.S. figures that if the Soviets are willing to abandon Iraq and their other traditional allies in the Third World then the U.S. and other western at capitalist countries can return to their former dominant position in various areas of the world. How the U.S. conducted the war shows that the permanent weakening of Iraq is a key part in the New World Order.[8]

Although the Soviet role has changed dramatically, the goals of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East have remained basically the same, with some shifts in tactics based on varied conditions. The basic premise of U.S. policy has been to eliminate or severely weaken any nationalist regime that challenges U.S. dominance and control over the oil-rich region. The military strategy employed against Iraq not only aimed at military targets, but the "bombing raids have destroyed residential areas, refineries, and power and water facilities, which will affect the population for years."[9] As early as September 1990, the administration, according to a speech by Secretary of State James Baker, changed the strategic goals of the U.S. military intervention to include not only the "liberation of Kuwait" but the destruction of Iraq's military infrastructure.[10]

Iran-lraq War and U.S. Strategy

That the U.S. sought to permanently weaken or crush Iraq, as a regional power capable of asserting even a nominal challenge to U.S. dominance over this strategic oil-rich region, fits in with a longer historical pattern. Since the discovery of vast oil deposits in the Middle East, and even earlier, the strategy of the U.S. and other European colonial powers was to prevent the emergence of any strong nationalist regime in the region. The U.S. has relied on corrupted and despised hereditary monarchies and dictatorships in the Middle East. Such regimes have served as puppets for U.S. interests in exchange for U.S. protection. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979 by a massive popular revolution, it came as a complete shock to U.S. oil companies, the CIA, and the Pentagon, which used the hated Shah as a pro-U.S. policeman of the Gulf region.

The Iran-Iraq war was seen as a new opportunity to recoup U.S. losses from the Iranian revolution. Starting in 1982 the U.S. encouraged and provided arms and satellite information to the Iraqi government in its fight against Iran - the Reagan/Bush administration's principal goal was to weaken and contain Iran in order to limit its regional influence. The Iran-Iraq war did indeed weaken Iran, squandering much of the human and material resources of the revolution.

Having weakened Iran, the goal was then to weaken Iraq and make sure that it could not develop as a regional power capable of challenging U.S. domination. After the war ended, U.S. policy toward Iraq shifted, becoming increasingly hostile. The way U.S. policy shifted is quite revealing; it bears all the signs of a well-planned conspiracy. The cease-fire between Iran and Iraq officially began on August 20, 1988. On September 8, 1988, Iraqi Foreign Minister Sa'dun Hammadi was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State George Schulz. The Iraqis had every reason to expect a warm welcome in Washington and to begin an era of closer cooperation on trade and industrial development. Instead, at 12:30 p.m., just two hours before the meeting and with no warning to Hammadi whatsoever, State Department spokesman Charles Redman called a press conference and charged that "The U.S. Government is convinced that Iraq has used chemical weapons in its military campaign against Kurdish guerillas. We don't know the extent to which chemical weapons have been used but any use in this context is abhorrent and unjustifiable.... We expressed our strong concern to the Iraqi Government which is well aware of our position that the use of chemical weapons is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable.''[11]

Redman did not allude to any evidence at all nor was the Iraqi government warned of the charges by the State Department. Rather, when Hammadi arrived at the State Department two hours later for his meeting with Schulz, he was besieged by members of the press asking him questions about the massacre. Hammadi was completely unable to give coherent answers. He kept asking the reporters why they were asking him about this. Needless to say the meeting with Schulz was a dismal failure for Iraq's expectations of U.S. assistance in rebuilding after the Iran-Iraq war. Within twenty-four hours of Redman's press release, the Senate voted unanimously to impose economic sanctions on Iraq which would cancel sales of food and technology. Following September 8, 1988 is a two year record that amounts to economic harassment of Iraq by the American State Department, press, and Congress. Saddam Hussein alluded to this period many times during the lead-up to the war and the war itself. On February 15, 1991, in the preamble to his cease-fire proposal, he said "The years 1988 and 1989 saw sustained campaigns in the press and other media and by other officials in the United States and other imperialist nations to pave the way for the fulfillment of vicious aims [i.e., the present war].[12] The Washington Post's story on the cease-fire proposal of February 15, 1991 was titled simply: 'Baghdad's Conspiracy Theory of Recent History."[l3] Some conspiracies theories just happen to be true!

The Bush administration has never presented any evidence whatsoever for its charges that Iraq used poison gas on its own citizens. Rather it has simply repeated the charges over and over in the press. This event is analyzed in considerable detail in a study published by the Army War College called, Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East. The authors of that study conclude that the charges were false but used by the U.S. government to change public opinion toward Iraq. They even go so far as to suggest a conspiracy against Iraq: "The whole episode of seeking to impose sanctions on Iraq for something that it may not have done would be regrettable but not of great concern were this an isolated event. Unfortunately, there are other areas of friction developing between our two countries.''[l4]

If the first part of the strategy was to create hostility and economic hardships, then the war was the second phase. The massive bombardment of Iraq coupled with the continued economic sanctions after the war completes a two-part strategy designed to leave Iraq both in a weakened state and dependent on western aid and bank loans for any reconstruction effort. The U.S. will want to have a puppet government in Baghdad, and even if it is impossible to impose a Shah-type government on the Iraqi people, the Bush administration assumes that a war-ravaged country that is economically dependent on the U.S. and European capitalist powers or on UN humanitarian aid will be forced into a subservient position.

The New World Order and Big Oil

We believe that the real goal of the United States war against Iraq is to return to the "good old days" when the U.S. and some European countries totally plundered the resources of the Middle East. Five of the twelve largest corporations in the United States are oil monopolies. Before the rise of Arab nationalism and the anti-feudal revolutions that swept out colonialist regimes in Iraq and other Middle Eastem countries in the 1950s and 1960s, U.S., British, and Dutch oil companies owned Arab and Iranian oil fields outright. Between 1948 and 1960 U.S. oil companies received $13 billion in profit from their Persian Gulf holdings. That was half the return on all overseas investment by all U.S. companies in those years.

In recent decades U.S. companies no longer directly own the oil fields of the Middle East, but they still get rich from them. That is because the royal families of the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, who were put on their thrones by the British empire and are kept there by the U.S. military and the CIA, have loyally turned their kingdoms into cash cows for Wall Street banks and corporations.

This is one way it works. Money spent on Saudi Arabian oil, for example, once went into the accounts of Rockefeller-controlled oil corporations at the Rockefeller-controlled Chase Manhattan Bank. Now it is deposited in the Saudi king's huge account at Chase Manhattan which reinvests it at a hefty profit to the Rockefellers. Chase Manhattan also manages the Saudi Industrial Development Fund and the Saudi Investment Bank. Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, which is linked to Mobil and Texaco, has a representative on the Board of the Saudi Monetary Authority and controls another big chunk of the kingdom's income. Citicorp handles much of the Emir of Kuwait's $120 billion investment portfolio.[l5] The total amount that the Gulf's feudal lords have put at the disposal of the western bankers is conservatively estimated at $1 trillion. It is probably much more.

While the big oil companies have a going partnership with the feudal rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc., they are relatively locked out of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria. The goal of the U.S. war is to roll back the Arab revolution and all the other revolutionary movements that have swept the region since World War II.

The New World Order that Bush has in mind is, in fact, not so new. It is an attempt to turn the clock back to the pre-World War II era of unchallenged colonial domination and plunder of the land, labor, and resources of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East by a handful of industrialized capitalist countries. Unlike the old world order of outright colonialism, the new world order will be imposed by Stealth aircraft, guided missiles, smart bombs, and tactical nuclear weapons - not l9th-century gunboats. This is based on grand geopolitical strategy that flows like water from Pentagon-sponsored think tanks in Washington. It leaves out the most important factor in the equation of the Middle East - the broad mass of the people whose hatred for foreign domination and capacity to struggle remains as powerful as ever.

The U.S. and its imperialist allies have won a temporary victory in the Middle East. But their policy of military domination to stop the natural progression of history - for people to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonialism - cannot succeed.


  1. New York Times, September 3, 1990.
  2. Stated to Brian Becker and other members of the Muhammad Ali Peace Delegation on November 30, 1990 by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ramadan.
  3. Newsweek, January 28, 1990; for more information on the revamping of Pentagon strategy in early 1990 see Michael T. Klare, "Policing the Gulf - And the World," The Nation, October 15, 1990.
  4. New York Times, October 16, 1990.
  5. New York Times, October 16, 1990.
  6. Jean Heller, "Public Doesn't Get Picture with Gulf Satellite Photos," St Petersburg Times, January 6, 1991. Rpt. In These Times, February 27-March 19, 1991: 7.
  7. Newsday, August 20, 1991.
  8. See James Ridgeway, "Third World Wars: Iraq is a Model for Post-Cold War Colonies," Village Voice, January 29, 1991.
  9. Newsday, February 4, 1991�our emphasis.
  10. Speech by Secretary of State James Baker, New York Times, September 4, 1990.
  11. American Foreign Policy: Current Documents {Washington, DC: Department of State, 1991X, p. 260.
  12. New York Times, February 16, 1991: A5.
  13. Don Oberdorfer, Washington Post, February 16, 1991.
  14. Stephen C. Pelletiere, et al. Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 1990), p. 53.
  15. Liberation and Marxism, #7 11990).

U.S. Bombing: The Myth of Surgical Bombing in the Gulf War by Paul Walker

Paul Walker is 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.

I first want to thank Ramsey Clark and the National Coalition for having the courage to undertake an event of this nature. I hope as we continue to dig for the truth in this war, the inquiry will be repeated and repeated and repeated hundreds of times over, not only in the United States but around the globe.

Let me try to give you a brief account of the weapons and the war as a military analyst like myself is trying to discover. I must say first that our research at the Institute for Peace and International Security in Cambridge has been going on for several months at this point, ever since the war began and to a certain extent before it began. And there still is a large amount of stonewalling in Washington. Much of the information is unavailable. Much of the information takes an inordinate amount of time to come out. Much of it given out by the various services is in fact contradictory.

The first images of the 42-day Mid East war mesmerized most viewers - nighttime television pictures of targeted Iraqi bunkers and buildings, many in downtown Baghdad, being surgically destroyed by precision-guided bombs dropped by stealthy aircraft. The crosshairs of an aircraft high-tech laser targeting system lined up on the rooftop of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, moments later a laser-seeking 2,000 pound bomb blew the building apart. Then the cameras would turn to U.S. General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the anti-Iraq coalition, who described the attack "on his counterparts headquarters" with a wry, amused smile - you'll all remember this from the first night as I do. Hundreds of military news reporters in the Saudi briefing room laughed with nervous interest as if viewing Nintendo games, although thousands of individuals were killed, possibly, by that weapon. High-tech warfare had, indeed, come of age.

Back in Washington, General Colin Powell, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that he was "rather pleased that we appear to have achieved tactical surprise" against Iraqi forces in a sudden early morning first strike on January 17, 1991. Coalition forces undertook, in short, thousands of aircraft sorties and missile strikes in the first days of war. A select number of the successful ones with laser-guided bombs were portrayed daily back home on Cable News Network, Nightline, and other regular news programs.

Some 50 of the new F- 117A batwing stealth fighter bombers were flown in early attacks, apparently achieving better success in Baghdad than they had one year earlier when they missed their targets in Panama City. Over 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from ships and submarines for the first time in combat, also reportedly achieving successful "surgical strikes" on high-value Baghdad targets, including the Ministry of Defense and Saddam Hussein's presidential palace. American technological prowess was again displayed graphically several days later when Patriot air-defense missiles successfully intercepted attacking Iraqi missiles launched against Saudi Arabia and Israel.

These and other images of war, perhaps more than anything else, I believe, created an illusion of remote, bloodless, pushbutton battle in which only military targets were assumed destroyed. Pentagon officials stressed throughout their daily briefings that Coalition war planners were taking great pains to marry the right weapon with the right target in order to minimize "collateral damage," that is, injury to innocent civilians in Iraq and Kuwait, particularly in populated areas such as Baghdad and Kuwait City.

Halfway through the war, one journalist described the conflict as a "robo war" in which "the raids are intense, unremitting, and conducted with the world's most advanced non-nuclear weaponry but are unlikely to cause the sort of general destruction being anticipated by commentators." A Wall Street Journal article proclaimed, "Despite public perceptions, the recent history of high-tech conventional warfare has been to steadily reduce general destruction."

Despite all these public proclamations about limited casualties from so-called surgical and precision strikes there would appear to be much greater destruction and much higher numbers of dead and injured in Iraq and Kuwait. Early first-hand accounts provided glimpses of the possibilities of more than surgical damage to Iraqi targets. From my discussions with Ramsey Clark, this is certainly the case. For example, Captain Steven Tait, pilot of an F-16 jet fighter which escorted the first wave of bomber aircraft and who was the first American to shoot down an Iraqi plane, described his bird's eye view of Baghdad after the first hour of allied bombardment: "Flames rising up from the city, some neighborhoods lit up like a huge Christmas tree. The entire city was just sparkling at us."

The sheer amount of explosive tonnage dropped over Iraq and Kuwai also, I think, tends to undermine any assumption of surgical strikes. Air Force General McPeak, Air Force commanding general, proudly proclaiming, "Probably the first time in history that a field army has been defeated by air power," estimated that some 88,500 tons of bombs have been dropped in over 109,000 sorties flown by a total of 2,800 fixed-wing aircraft. Of these flights somewhat over half were actual bombing raids while the remainder involved refueling, bomber escort, surveillance, and so forth. Of the actual bombing missions, about 20,000 sorties were flown against a select list of 300 strategic targets in Iraq and Kuwait; about 5,000 were flown against SCUD missile launchers, and some 30,000 to 50,000 against Iraqi forces in southern Iraq and Kuwait. In all, more than 3,000 bombs (including sea-launched cruise missiles) were dropped on metropolitan Baghdad. The total number of bombs dropped by allied forces in the war comes to about 250,000. Of these only 22,000 were the so-called "smart bombs" or guided bombs. About 10,000 of these guided bombs were laser-guided and about 10,000 were guided anti-tank bombs. The remaining 2,000 were radiation guided bombs directed at communication and radar installations.

The most complete survey of all the different bombs, missiles, shells, and weapons so far appears in Appendix A of On Impact: Modern Warfare and the Environment, a report prepared by William Arkin, Damian Durrant, and Marianne Cherni for Greenpeace. This report was prepared for the "Fifth Geneva Convention on the Protection of the Environment in the Time of Armed Conflict" (London, June 3, 1991). The authors infer the total weapons used from the 1991 fiscal year supplemental budget request to Congress which lists weapons required to replenish U.S. stockpiles. The numbers are revealing and staggering. In part, they include:

  • 2,095 HARM missiles
  • 217 Walleye missiles
  • 5,276 guided anti-tank missiles
  • 44,922 cluster bombs and rockets
  • 136,755 conventional bombs
  • 4,077 guided bombs[1]
The conventional unguided bomb (so-called "dumb bomb") was the most commonly used weapon in the massacre. These come in four types: the Mk 82 (500 lbs), Mk 83 (1,000 lbs), Mk 84 (2,000 lbs), and the M117 (750 lbs). In all some 150,000 to 170,000 of these bombs were dropped during the war.

The U.S. arsenal contains eight kinds of guided bombs:

  • AGM-130, an electro-optically or infrared-guided 2,000 pound powered bomb,
  • GBU-10 Paveway II, a 2,000 pound laser-guided bomb based on a Mk 84,
  • GBU-101 Paveway II, a 2,000 pound laser-guided bomb with I-2000 hard target munition, employed exclusively on the F117A and used in small numbers,
  • GBU-12 Paveway II, a 500 pound laser-guided bomb, used against tanks,
  • GBU-24 Paveway III, a 2,000 pound laser-guided, low-level weapon (with BLU-109 bomb and mid-course auto pilot) used against chemical and industrial facilities, bridges, nuclear storage areas, and aircraft shelters,
  • GBU-27 Paveway III, a 2,000 pound laser-guided bomb with I-2000 hard target munition on the BLU-109/B, a "black program" adapted version of the GBU-24, used exclusively by F- 117A fighters to attack aircraft shelters, bunkers, and other targets in Baghdad, and
  • GBU-28, a 5,000 pound "bunker busting" laser-guided bomb, fabricated especially for the war against Iraq "in an effort to destroy extremely hardened, deeply buried Iraqi command and control bunkers, kill senior military officials and possible kill Saddam Hussein."[2]
As if explosive bombs were not enough, the U.S. used massive amounts of fire bombs 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.[3] Perhaps this is only because press reports were too descriptive before the war when the Pentagon was leaking stories about possible Iraqi use of FAEs, along with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons - none of which ever appeared on the Iraqi side. The FAE is composed of an ethelene 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. 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.[4]

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. On March 15, 1991, the Air Force released information stating that 93.6% 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.

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."[5] 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"[6] 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. 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 nightime 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."[7] 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

The use of B-52s and carpet bombing violates Article 51 of Geneva Protocol I which prohibits area bombing. Any bombardment that treats a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located within a city as a single military objective is prohibited. Basra and most of southern Iraq and Kuwait where Iraqi forces were deployed were treated by U.S. military planners as a single area or to use McPeak's phrase "a low density target." The same is true for General Norman Schwarzkopf's order at the start of the ground war "not to let anybody or anything out of Kuwait City."[8] The result of this order was the massive destruction that came to be known as the "Highway of Death." In addition to retreating soldiers, many of whom had affixed white flags to their tanks which were clearly visible to U.S. pilots,[9] thousands of civilians, especially Palestinians, were killed as they tried to escape from Kuwait City. An Army officer on the scene told reporters that the "U.S. Air Force had been given the word to work over that entire area [roads leading north from Kuwait City] to find anything that was moving and take it out.''[10]

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 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 much civilian property. In both cases, it is a war crime.

Finally, comments about the surgical nature of the war tend to neglect the outright massacre which occurred in southern Iraq and Kuwait. The only way to describe what happened there would be a killing frenzy. No accurate numbers of people killed in these areas exist but with the massive bombing of bunkers, especially by FAEs, it is likely that most of the Iraqi soldiers were killed by the saturation bombing. This number could go as high as several hundred thousand. These soldiers were defenseless from air attacks and cut off from communication with leaders in Baghdad. They were simply isolated by the U.S.-led coalition, brutally killed, and then bulldozed into some forty-nine mass graves. That is what General Colin Powell said in November with regard to the Iraqi army: "First you cut it off, then you kill it." There is nothing surgical about that.


  1. Williarn M. Arkin, Darnian Durrant, and Marianne Cherni , On Impact: Modern Warfare and the Environment - A Case Study of the Gulf War (Washington, DC: Greenpeace, May 1991), p. 160, fn 377.
  2. John D. Morrocco and David Fulghum , "USAF Developed a 4,700-lb. Bomb in Crash Program to Attack Iraqi Military Leaders in Hardened Bunkers," Aviation Week eS Space Technology, May 6, 1991: 85.
  3. John Morrocco , "Looming Budget Cuts Threaten Future of Key HighTech Weapons," Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 22, 1991: 66-67. Eric Schmitt, "Why Iraqi Battle Threat Fizzled: Allied Strengths and Enemy Weaknesses," New York Times, March 4,1991: A9. Barbara Starr, "FAEs Used to Clear Mines," Jane's Defense Weekly, February 23, 1991: 247.
  4. Arkin, Durrant, and Cherni , On Impact, Appendix A.
  5. Tony Capaccio , "McPeak: Unclear If Air War has Sapped Iraqi Will," Defense Week, February 4, 1991.
  6. Washington Post , February 2, 1991: A14.
  7. Mark Fineman , "Smoke Blots Out Sun in Bomb-Blasted Basra," Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1991.
  8. Bill Gannon "Pool Report with the Tiger Brigade Outside Kuwait City," Newark Star-Ledger, February 27, 1991.
  9. Rowan Scarborough , "Pool Report Aboard the USS Blue Ridge," Washington Times, February 27, 1991.
  10. Michael Kelly, "Highway to Hell," New Republic, April 1991: 12.

The Massacre of Withdrawing Soldiers on "The Highway of Death" - Joyce Chediac

Joyce Chediac is a Lebanese-American journalist who has traveled in the Middle East and writes on Middle East issues. Her report was presented at the New York Commission hearing, May 11, 1991.
I want to give testimony on what are called the "highways of death." These are the two Kuwaiti roadways, littered with remains of 2,000 mangled Iraqi military vehicles, and the charred and dismembered bodies of tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, who were withdrawing from Kuwait on February 26th and 27th 1991 in compliance with UN resolutions.

U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. "It was like shooting fish in a barrel," said one U.S. pilot. The horror is still there to see.

On the inland highway to Basra is mile after mile of burned, smashed, shattered vehicles of every description - tanks, armored cars, trucks, autos, fire trucks, according to the March 18, 1991, Time magazine. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun, says the Los Angeles Times of March 11, 1991. While 450 people survived the inland road bombing to surrender, this was not the case with the 60 miles of the coastal road. There for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely. The cabs of trucks were bombed so much that they were pushed into the ground, and it's impossible to see if they contain drivers or not. Windshields were melted away, and huge tanks were reduced to shrapnel.

"Even in Vietnam I didn't see anything like this. It's pathetic," said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer. This one-sided carnage, this racist mass murder of Arab people, occurred while White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater promised that the U.S. and its coalition partners would not attack Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait. This is surely one of the most heinous war crimes in contemporary history.

The Iraqi troops were not being driven out of Kuwait by U.S. troops as the Bush administration maintains. They were not retreating in order to regroup and fight again. In fact, they were withdrawing, they were going home, responding to orders issued by Baghdad, announcing that it was complying with Resolution 660 and leaving Kuwait. At 5:35 p.m. (Eastern standard Time) Baghdad radio announced that Iraq's Foreign Minister had accepted the Soviet cease-fire proposal and had issued the order for all Iraqi troops to withdraw to positions held before August 2, 1990 in compliance with UN Resolution 660. President Bush responded immediately from the White House saying (through spokesman Marlin Fitzwater) that "there was no evidence to suggest the Iraqi army is withdrawing. In fact, Iraqi units are continuing to fight. . . We continue to prosecute the war." On the next day, February 26, 1991, Saddam Hussein announced on Baghdad radio that Iraqi troops had, indeed, begun to withdraw from Kuwait and that the withdrawal would be complete that day. Again, Bush reacted, calling Hussein's announcement "an outrage" and "a cruel hoax."

Eyewitness Kuwaitis attest that the withdrawal began the afternoon of February 26, 1991 and Baghdad radio announced at 2:00 AM (local time) that morning that the government had ordered all troops to withdraw.

The massacre of withdrawing Iraqi soldiers violates the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Common Article III, which outlaws the killing of soldiers who are out of combat. The point of contention involves the Bush administration's claim that the Iraqi troops were retreating to regroup and fight again. Such a claim is the only way that the massacre which occurred could be considered legal under international law. But in fact the claim is false and obviously so. The troops were withdrawing and removing themselves from combat under direct orders from Baghdad that the war was over and that Iraq had quit and would fully comply with UN resolutions. To attack the soldiers returning home under these circumstances is a war crime.

Iraq accepted UN Resolution 660 and offered to withdraw from Kuwait through Soviet mediation on February 21, 1991. A statement made by George Bush on February 27, 1991, that no quarter would be given to remaining Iraqi soldiers violates even the U.S. Field Manual of 1956. The 1907 Hague Convention governing land warfare also makes it illegal to declare that no quarter will be given to withdrawing soldiers. On February 26,199 I, the following dispatch was filed from the deck of the U.S.S. Ranger, under the byline of Randall Richard of the Providence Journal:

Air strikes against Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait were being launched so feverishly from this carrier today that pilots said they took whatever bombs happened to be closest to the flight deck. The crews, working to the strains of the Lone Ranger theme, often passed up the projectile of choice . . . because it took too long to load.

New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd wrote, 

"With the Iraqi leader facing military defeat, Mr. Bush decided that he would rather gamble on a violent and potentially unpopular ground war than risk the alternative: an imperfect settlement hammered out by the Soviets and Iraqis that world opinion might accept as tolerable."

 In short, rather than accept the offer of Iraq to surrender and leave the field of battle, Bush and the U.S. military strategists decided simply to kill as many Iraqis as they possibly could while the chance lasted. 

A Newsweek article on Norman Schwarzkopt, titled "A Soldier of Conscience" (March 11,1991), remarked that before the ground war the general was only worried about "How long the world would stand by and watch the United States pound the living hell out of Iraq without saying, 'Wait a minute - enough is enough.' He [Schwarzkopf] itched to send ground troops to finish the job." 

The pretext for massive extermination of Iraqi soldiers was the desire of the U.S. to destroy Iraqi equipment. But in reality the plan was to prevent Iraqi soldiers from retreating at all. Powell remarked even before the start of the war that Iraqi soldiers knew that they had been sent to Kuwait to die. Rick Atkinson of the Washington Post reasoned that "the noose has been tightened" around Iraqi forces so effectively that "escape is impossible" (February 27, 1991). What all of this amounts to is not a war but a massacre.

There are also indications that some of those bombed during the withdrawal were Palestinians and Iraqi civilians. According to Time magazine of March 18, 1991, not just military vehicles, but cars, buses and trucks were also hit. In many cases, cars were loaded with Palestinian families and all their possessions. U.S. press accounts tried to make the discovery of burned and bombed household goods appear as if Iraqi troops were even at this late moment looting Kuwait. Attacks on civilians are specifically prohibited by the Geneva Accords and the 1977 Conventions.

How did it really happen? On February 26, 1991 Iraq had announced it was complying with the Soviet proposal, and its troops would withdraw from Kuwait. According to Kuwaiti eyewitnesses, quoted in the March 11, 1991 Washington Post, the withdrawal began on the two highways, and was in full swing by evening. Near midnight, the first U.S. bombing started. Hundreds of Iraqis jumped from their cars and their trucks, looking for shelter. U.S. pilots took whatever bombs happened to be close to the flight deck, from cluster bombs to 500 pound bombs. Can you imagine that on a car or truck? U.S. forces continued to drop bombs on the convoys until all humans were killed. So many jets swarmed over the inland road that it created an aerial traffic jam, and combat air controllers feared midair collisions.

The victims were not offering resistance. They weren't being driven back in fierce battle, or trying to regroup to join another battle. They were just sitting ducks, according to Commander Frank Swiggert, the Ranger Bomb Squadron leader. According to an article in the March 11, 1991 Washington Post, headlined "U.S. Scrambles to Shape View of Highway of Death," the U.S. government then conspired and in fact did all it could to hide this war crime from the people of this country and the world. What the U.S. government did became the focus of the public relations campaign managed by the U.S. Central Command in Riyad, according to that same issue of the Washington Post. The typical line has been that the convoys were engaged in "classic tank battles," as if to suggest that Iraqi troops tried to fight back or even had a chance of fighting back. The truth is that it was simply a one-sided massacre of tens of thousands of people who had no ability to fight back or defend themselves.

The Washington Post says that senior officers with the U.S. Central Command in Riyad became worried that what they saw was a growing public perception that Iraqi forces were leaving Kuwait voluntarily, and that the U.S. pilots were bombing them mercilessly, which was the truth. So the U.S. government, says the Post, played down the evidence that Iraqi troops were actually leaving Kuwait.

U.S. field commanders gave the media a carefully drawn and inaccurate picture of the fast-changing events. The idea was to portray Iraq's claimed withdrawal as a fighting retreat made necessary by heavy allied military pressure. Remember when Bush came to the Rose Garden and said that he would not accept Saddam Hussein's withdrawal? That was part of it, too, and Bush was involved in this cover up. Bush's statement was followed quickly by a televised military briefing from Saudi Arabia to explain that Iraqi forces were not withdrawing but were being pushed from the battlefield. In fact, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers around Kuwait had begun to pull away more than thirty-six hours before allied forces reached the capital, Kuwait City. They did not move under any immediate pressure from allied tanks and infantry, which were still miles from Kuwait City.

This deliberate campaign of disinformation regarding this military action and the war crime that it really was, this manipulation of press briefings to deceive the public and keep the massacre from the world is also a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the right of the people to know.  


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