The latest from John Pilger. Read it and weep.

John Pilger writes on the "secret" war which has seen a 300 per cent
increase in bombing raids on Iraq. : John Pilger :20 Dec 2002

THE American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the Blair
government continues to claim in Parliament that "no final decision has been
taken", Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have secretly changed tactics
and escalated their "patrols" over Iraq to an all-out assault on both
military and civilian targets.

American and British bombing of Iraq has increased by 300 per cent. Between
March and November, according to Ministry of Defence replies to MPs, the RAF
dropped more than 124 tonnes of bombs.

From August to December, there were 62 attacks by American F-16 aircraft and
RAF Tornadoes - an average of one bombing raid every two days. These are
said to have been aimed at Iraqi "air defences", but many have fallen on
mostly populated areas, where civilian deaths are unavoidable.

Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and
international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no different, in
principle, from the German Luftwaffe's bombing in Spain in the 1930s as
precursor to its invasion of Europe.

The bombing is a "secret war" that has seldom been news. Since 1991, and
especially in the last four years, it has been unrelenting and is now deemed
the longest Anglo-American campaign of aerial bombardment since World War

The US and British governments justify it by claiming they have a UN mandate
to police so-called "no-fly zones" which they declared following the Gulf
War. They say these "zones", which give them control of most of Iraq's
airspace, are legal and supported by UN Security Council Resolution 688.

This is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any Security
Council resolution. To be sure about this, I asked Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
who was Secretary General of the United Nations in 1992 when Resolution 688
was passed. "The issue of no fly zones was not raised and therefore not
debated: not a word," he said. "They offer no legitimacy to countries
sending their aircraft to attack Iraq."

In 1999, Tony Blair claimed the no fly zones allowed the US and Britain to
perform "a vital humanitarian task" in protecting the Kurds in the north of
Iraq and the ethnic Marsh Arabs in the south. In fact, British and American
aircraft have actually provided cover for neighbouring Turkey's repeated
invasions of northern, Kurdish Iraq.

TURKEY is critical to the American "world order". Overseeing the oilfields
of the Middle East and Central Asia, it is a member of Nato and the
recipient of billions of dollars' worth of American weapons and military
equipment. It is also where British and American bombers are based.

A long-running insurrection by Turkey's Kurdish population is regarded by
Washington as a threat to the "stability" of Turkey's "democracy" that is a
front for its military which is among the world's worst violators of human
rights. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish Kurds have been displaced and an
estimated 30,000 killed. Turkey, unlike Iraq, is "our friend".

In 1995 and 1997, as many as 50,000 Turkish troops, backed by tanks and
fighter aircraft, occupied what the West called "Kurdish safe havens".

They terrorised Kurdish villages and murdered civilians. In December 2000,
they were back, committing the atrocities that the Turkish military commits
with immunity against its own Kurdish population.

For joining the US "coalition" against Iraq, the Turkish regime is to be
rewarded with a bribe worth $6billion. Turkey's invasions are rarely
reported in Britain. So great is the collusion of the Blair government that,
virtually unknown to Parliament and the British public, the RAF and the
Americans have, from time to time, deliberately suspended their
"humanitarian" patrols to allow the Turks to get on with killing Kurds in

In March last year, RAF pilots patrolling the "no fly zone" in Kurdish Iraq
publicly protested for the first time about their enforced complicity in the
Turkish campaign. The pilots complained that they were frequently ordered to
return to their base in Turkey to allow the Turkish air force to bomb the
very people they were meant to be "protecting".

Speaking on a non-attributable basis to Dr Eric Herring, a senior lecturer
in politics at Bristol University and a specialist on Iraqi sanctions, the
pilots said whenever the Turks wanted to attack the Kurds in Iraq, RAF
patrols were recalled to base and ground crews were told to switch off their
radar - so that the Turks' targets would not be visible. One British pilot
reported seeing the devastation in Kurdish villages caused by the attacks
once he had resumed his patrol.

AMERICAN pilots who fly in tandem with the British, are also ordered to turn
their planes around and turn back to Turkey to allow the Turks to devastate
the Kurdish "safe havens".

You'd see Turkish F-14s and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with
munitions," one pilot told the Washington Post. "Then they'd come out half
an hour later with their munitions expended." When the Americans returned to
Iraqi air space, he said, they would see "burning villages, lots of smoke
and fire."

The Turks do no more than American and British aircraft in their
humanitarian guise. The sheer scale of the Anglo-American bombing is
astonishing, with Britain a very junior partner. During the 18 months to
January 1999 (the last time I was able to confirm official US figures)
American aircraft flew 36,000 sorties over Iraq, including 24,000 combat

The term "combat" is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no air force and
no modern air defences. Thus, "combat" means dropping bombs or firing
missiles at infrastructure that has been laid to waste by a 12-year-old

The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment,
described this eloquently when it reported that the US faced "a genuine
dilemma" in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a no fly zone in northern
(and southern) Iraq, few targets remain. "We're down to the last outhouse,"
one US official protested.

I have seen the result of these attacks. When I drove from the northern city
of Mosul three years ago, I saw the remains of an agricultural water tanker
and truck, riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel from a missile, a shoe and
the wool and skeletons of about 150 sheep.

A family of six, a shepherd, his father and his wife and four children, were
blown to pieces here. It was treeless, open country: a moonscape. The
shepherd, his family and his sheep would have been clearly visible from the

The shepherd's brother, Hussain Jarsis, agreed to meet me at the cemetery
where the family is buried. He arrived in an old Toyota van with the widow,
who was hunched with grief, her face covered. She held the hand of her one
remaining child, and they sat beside the mounds of earth that are the four
children's graves. "I want to see the pilot who killed my children," she
shouted across to us.

The shepherd's brother told me, "I heard explosions, and when I arrived to
look for my brother and family, the planes were circling overhead. I hadn't
reached the causeway when the fourth bombardment took place. The last two
rockets hit them.

"At the time I couldn't grasp what was going on. The truck was burning. It
was a big truck, but it was ripped to pieces. Nothing remained except the
tyres and the numberplate.

"We saw three corpses, but the rest were just body parts. With the last
rocket, I could see the sheep blasted into the air."

It was not known if American or British aircraft had done this. When details
of the attack were put to the Ministry of Defence in London, an official
said, "We reserve the right to take robust action when threatened." This
attack was significant, because it was investigated and verified by the
senior United Nations official in Iraq at the time, Hans Von Sponeck, who
drove there specially from Baghdad.

He confirmed that nothing nearby resembled a military installation.

Von Sponeck recorded his finding in a confidential internal document
entitled, "Air Strikes in Iraq", prepared by the UN Security Section

HE also confirmed dozens of similar attacks and these are documented -
attacks on villages, a fishermen's wharf, nearby a UN food warehouse. So
regular were the attacks that Von Sponeck ordered UN relief convoys
suspended every afternoon.

FOR this, Von Sponeck, a senior United Nations civil servant with a
distinguished career all over the world, made powerful enemies in Washington
and London.

The Americans demanded that Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, sack him
and were surprised when Annan stood by his chief representative in Iraq.

However, within a few months, Von Sponeck felt he could no longer run a
humanitarian programme in Iraq that was threatened both by the illegal
bombing and by a deliberate American policy of blocking humanitarian

He resigned in protest, just as his predecessor, Denis Halliday, a Deputy
Under Secretary of the UN, had done. Halliday called the US and
British-driven embargo "genocidal".

It is now clear from official documents that the United States is preparing
for a possible slaughter in Iraq. The Pentagon's "Doctrine for Joint Urban
Operations" says that unless Baghdad falls quickly it has to be the target
of "overwhelming firepower". The resistance of Stalingrad in World War Two
is given as a "lesson".

Cluster bombs, deep penetration "bunker" bombs and depleted uranium will
almost certainly be used. Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction.
Coated on missiles, and tank shells, its explosive force spreads radiation
over a wide area, especially in the desert dust.

Professor Doug Rokke, the US army physicist in charge of cleaning up
depleted uranium in Kuwait told me, "I am like most -people in southern
Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation in my body. What
we're seeing now, respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers are the
direct result.

"The controversy over whether or not it's the cause of these problems is a
manufactured one. My own ill-health is a testament to that."

THE most devastating weapon of mass destruction was briefly in the news last
week when Unicef, the United Nations children's Fund, released its annual
State of the World's Children report.

The human cost of the American-driven embargo of Iraq is spelt out in
statistics that require no comment.

"Iraq's child mortality rate has nearly tripled since 1990 to levels found
in some of the world's least-developed countries, " said the report.

"The country's regression over the past decade is by far the most severe of
the 193 countries surveyed. Unicef said that a quarter of Iraqi babies were
now underweight and that more than a fifth were stunted from malnutrition."

Under the rules of the embargo, Iraqis are allowed less than #100 per person
with which to sustain life for an entire year.

To date, the cost of the current, "secret" and illegal British bombing of
Iraq is a billion pounds.

Published on Sunday, December 22, 2002 by Observer/UK

Aid Groups Warn of Disaster in Iraq
Emergency supplies ready as US military build-up intensifies
by Ed Vulliamy in New York, Burhan Wazir and Gaby Hinsliff

International aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the
event of a war in Iraq, which could leave millions without food or shelter.

UNICEF, the children's charity, has already begun to move supplies to
neighboring countries while the World Food Program is moving food it intends
to provide for nearly a million people for one month. Aid officials say the
United Nations' 'Oil for Food' program - under which tens of millions of
Iraqis live on meager rations - would be suspended during any military
action, leaving them facing starvation or reliant on emergency food aid.

The UN, which drew up a request at a meeting in Geneva last week for $37.3
million from donor countries to tackle the issue, is increasingly worried
about the scale of any potential disaster.

In Britain, Clare Short's Department for International Development admitted
last night that it was now holding 'regular discussions on general
contingency preparedness' for a range of possible outcomes in the Middle

'In the case of Iraq, the UN is preparing for all such eventualities,' said
a spokeswoman.

UN officials complain that the US administration is refusing to listen to
warnings about the scale of the possible humanitarian disaster.

'There is a studied lack of interest in a warning call we are trying to
deliver to the people planning for war, about what its consequences might
be,' a UN official told The Observer yesterday.

The extent of Pentagon cooperation, say officials, is concern over the
location of humanitarian sites and depots so as to try and avoid bombing

'In the light of the huge humanitarian consequences that could result, we
will need full access to people in need,' said Mary McClymont of the
umbrella group Inter-Action.

The planners who called last week's UN meeting said that conditions in Iraq
'after years of sanctions' are far worse than they were after the last Gulf
war, with 'high levels of vulnerability and dependence'. The 1991 war caused
more than a million Kurds alone to flee the fighting and an unknown number
'probably greater' of Southern Shia.

'All but the most privileged,' said the meeting's document, 'have exhausted
their cash assets and in most cases their material assets'.

UNICEF has begun to move supplies to Iraq and neighboring countries, ready
to provide for an initial half-million people inside Iraq and some 160,000
refugees outside its borders.

But the refugee agency, UNHCR, said it could only provide tents and blankets
for 100,000. UNHCR, which acts as an umbrella organization in times of
crises, is reeling from a 25 per cent budget cut globally for 2002. In the
Geneva document the UNHCR says that it would take $60 million and six weeks
to deliver tents and stoves suitable for winter conditions.

A spokesperson for Action Aid in London said war risked serious health
problems in Iraq: 'In the event of a war, it is inevitable that the
infrastructure which is already badly affected will begin to break down. And
with that, you would see malnutrition and illness.'

Iran, Syria and Turkey have said they will take in Iraqi refugees if
necessary. But a wider crisis might force other nations,including Jordan, to
reassess decisions to keep their borders sealed.

) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002