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Our War Against Iraq: Causes & Cure

Text of an address

by Most Rev. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF (retired)

President, Institute for Space and Security Studies

and Presiding Bishop, United Catholic Church


January 16, 1999 to a Peace March and Demonstration

in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

and sponsored by Pax Christi

West Palm Beach, Florida


"In August, 1990, the new Hitler, Saddam Hussein, invaded innocent, democratic Kuwait. The United States, protector of peace, democracy, freedom, and human rights responded, along with the United Nations, to drive the Iraqis out and rescue the people of Kuwait. Ever since, we have been patiently using sanctions and a minimum of force in an attempt to see that the evil Saddam never again threatens his neighbors or the world with weapons of mass destruction."

This much everybody knows —- and it’s total B.S.! What is it? That’s right, you can say it. I’m a clergyman. I love God and I serve God; and my God (and yours too, whether you’re Jewish or Christian or Moslem) is not offended to hear somebody say B.S. You know what offends my God? — the war against Iraq! That’s what offends our God. Dying children — that’s what offends our God!

I’ve been asked to give a little history of how we came to be where we are in this war against Iraq. Let’s look at a little real history, going back a hundred years.

In 1897 and 1898, Britain used assassination, intrigue, and threats to carve out a piece of Iraq and rule it through the Sheikh of Kuwait. In 1920, after World War I, Britain, France, and the U.S. seized the rights to 95% of the oil in Iraq. By 1932, Britain had expanded Kuwait from a small village on the Gulf into a colony occupying the entire coastline of the Persian Gulf from Arabia to Iran, completely shutting off Iraq from access to the Gulf. For the next half a century, British intelligence murdered almost every Iraqi leader and king, because they called for the return of Kuwait. By 1958 the U.S. was an equal partner with Britain in the coups and assassinations. Together they backed a coup against King Faisal II ( who had himself been installed by the British). He was killed and replaced with Abdel Karim Qassim. But he too called for the return of Kuwait, so CIA chief Allen Dulles ordered his assassination. After the job was botched a couple of times, the CIA gave the assignment to one of its promising young assassins — Saddam Hussein. With the help of a CIA airlift, he succeeded. By 1968, Saddam Hussein was in complete control and, under CIA direction, killing trade unionists, radicals, and Communists.

In 1977, US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski met with Saddam Hussein, the Emir of Kuwait, and a Saudi representative, and proposed that Iraq invade Iran, seizing the Khuzestan oil fields. In 1982, US FBI chief William Webster met with the Emir of Kuwait and plotted the seizure of Iraqi oil fields and the slant-drilling with which Kuwait and western oil companies stole $14 billion worth of Iraqi oil.

Right up to the time of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, US Department of Defense training manuals sang the praises of Saddam Hussein, noting how he had vastly improved education, medical care, and the standard of living of his people. His regime was called one of the most enlightened, progressive governments in the region. This was in an official DoD document used in the education of high-ranking officers of all the military services.

But there was a problem. The Berlin wall had come down. The Soviet Union had collapsed. And the American people were clamoring for a peace dividend. They had to find another bad guy — fast. In May 1990, a National Security Council white paper stated that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were (and I quote) "the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw pact as the rationale for major military expenditures."

Two months later, on July 20, 1990, General Schwarzkopf conducted training exercises simulating exactly the contingency of an Iraqi attack on Kuwait. Five days later, April Glaspie gave Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait. A week later, he did. Almost immediately, the U.S. deployed as many troops and twice as much materiel as was moved for the Normandy invasion. Do you think this was done without advance planning?

This was the war they wanted, the war they planned for, the war they instigated, the war they salivated over. This was the war that would demonstrate the capabilities of the smart bombs made by our weapons manufacturers. It was better than a hundred trade shows. This was the war that would prove that George Bush was not a wimp. This was the war that would make billions for the oil company owned by the president’s son, George Bush, Jr., who had exclusive rights to offshore oil in the Gulf.

Saddam was suckered into our trap. And he fell for it. He crossed the undefended border of Kuwait, and in response our government dropped 300 to 400 million pounds of high explosives on Iraq. This onslaught destroyed tens of thousands of buildings and essentially every bridge, power plant, and industrial facility in the country. It killed a quarter of a million Iraqis, including at least 100,000 civilians, of which half were children. Now here we are eight years later, and the shocking death toll from the Gulf War has been dwarfed by that from our continuing war against Iraq. Not only have we failed to rebuild what we destroyed; we have imposed economic sanctions which have prevented the Iraqis and everyone else from doing so.

In the eight years since the end of Desert Storm, one and a half million Iraqis have died as a direct result of US/UN sanctions. It is now estimated that among those who have lost their lives are three quarters of a million children under the age of five! And the dying goes on. A million Iraqi children are seriously malnourished, and 150 to 200 are dying every day.

Among the ordnance we used on Iraq were some 500 tons of depleted uranium bombs and artillery shells. The radioactive dust covering the southern part of Iraq has caused birth defects and cancer rates to soar. As if that weren’t enough, we periodically continue to drop bombs and cruise missiles on that devastated nation.

Who are the bad guys here? Ex-CIA agent Saddam Hussein is no saint. But he is only one pawn in a century-long history of western intrigue, torture, murder, and callous disregard for the people who live in what was once a proud nation.

Is it any wonder we are considered the great Satan? Is it any wonder we are hated? Is it any wonder we are the target of terrorists?

We are gathered here to oppose our government’s war against the Iraqi people. But we must not see it as an isolated incident, for it is not. It is but one piece of a bloody history in which foreign policy has been conducted and wars have been fought on behalf of the financial interests of multinational corporations. It is time for a change.

We must build an America at peace with the world … and with its own people. We must build an America that leads the world – not by dominating and manipulating other nations, but by earning their respect and admiration.

We must build an America that strives not to be king of the hill, but to be a responsible member of the family of nations. We must build an America that leads the world – not with military might, but with its vision, its compassion, its democracy, its productivity, its standard of living, its treatment of its own people, and its goodness. That’s the kind of America we want.

I would like to conclude by proposing seven concrete changes we need to make in our government and its policies.

1. We can no longer accept a government which allows us to be number one among industrialized nations: number one in child poverty, number one in the gap between rich and poor, number one in unimmunized children, number one in teen pregnancy, number one in deaths by gunfire, number one in poverty among the elderly, number one in citizens without medical coverage .…. and yet has a trillion dollars worth of new weapons on the books at a time when we just ran out of enemies. It’s time for our priorities to change. Are you with me? Is it time?

2. We can no longer accept a government which promotes and subsidizes arms sales around the world, especially to dictators who use our weapons to control their own impoverished people. Our government didn’t listen to Oscar Romero who pleaded for us to stop sending weapons to El Salvador. Bill Clinton campaigned against the arms trade ... and then doubled it. It’s time to stop pandering to the merchants of death. Are you with me? Is it time?

3. We can no longer accept a government which uses our money to train death squads in the techniques of torture, intimidation, and assassination. The School of the Americas must be closed. Are you with me? Is it time?

4. We can no longer accept a government which gives Most Favored Nation status to the butchers of Tianenmen Square and places an illegal secondary embargo on the impoverished people of Cuba. We must repeal the Helms-Burton law, end the embargo, and establish normalized relations with Cuba. Are you with me? Is it time?

5. We can no longer accept a government in which our relations with the rest of the world are held hostage by the likes of Jesse Helms. We can’t free East Timor unless we first free North Carolina! Are you with me? Is it time?

6. We can no longer accept a government which promotes instability, insurrection, tyranny, torture, terrorism, and murder around the world in our name and with our money through the Central Intelligence Agency. Once and for all, the CIA must be abolished. Are you with me? Is it time?

7. We can no longer accept — we will no longer accept — a government which sends our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so our oil companies can sell the oil under their sand. Do we want our children and grandchildren used as cannon fodder for multinational corporations? Do we? Do want them to be used as hired killers for Folgers, Chiquita Banana, and Exxon? Do we? Better to send them around the world to feed children and rebuild shattered cities. It’s time for us to be the good guys once again. No more Iraqs. No more El Salvadors. No more gunboat diplomacy ... anywhere! Are you with me? Is it time?

We want peace, and we want it now! Are you with me? Is it time?

Then let’s do it. Make them hear us in these buildings, and all the way to Washington. What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now! Are you with me? Is it time?

Amen, thank you, and God bless you!


Published by the

Institute for Space and Security Studies

5115 S. A1A Hwy, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951

(407) 952-0601

e-mail: [email protected]

web site:

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