Felicity Arbuthnot
BIOGRAPHY | Iraq: Hotel Lebanon - A Doctor's Story | We got him | Iraq: silent crimes | Crimes in Iraq | Iraq Elections: Farce of the Century | Blood on Whose Hands? | Iraqis and the Occupation  | Margaret Hassan: A personal tale | 'The Gate of God Opens Wider' | Iraq 'Handover' - Well, That Went Well ... | Cradle to Grave | The Boy with the Bullet in his Brain | Something Iraq Will Never Lose | Iraq’s "Year Zero" | Arbitrary Arrests of Iraqi Scientists: The Release of 'Dr Anthrax' | Foreign and Commonwealth Office: 'Who is Tareq Aziz'? | An Interview with Tareq Aziz: Looking Back | Death of Humanity | Earth Calling Scott Ritter (08 March 2006) | ' Mission Accomplished.' (01 May 2007) | War Criminal Admits Guilt (20 May 2007) |

 

Felicity's weblog


Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist specialising in social and environmental issues with special knowledge of Iraq, a country which she has visited thirty times since the 1991 Gulf war. Iraq, she describes as: 'sliding from the impossible, to the apocalyptic.'

With former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Co-ordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday, she was senior Iraq researcher for John Pilgerˆs Award winning documentary: "Paying the Price - Killing the Children of Iraq" (Carlton/ITV March 2000) which has been aired worldwide and sent shockwaves through Washington and Whitehall. In February 2001 the documentary on Iraq sanctions for which she was sole researcher for Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) in the OWould You Believe series, entitled 'Denis Halliday Returns' - Iraq's tragedy under sanctions through Halliday's compassionate, incisive eye - also achieved critical acclaim.

Arbuthnot has been nominated for a number of Awards for her coverage of Iraq, including the (EC) Lorenzo Natali Award for Human Rights Journalism, the Millenium Prize for Women; the Courage of Conscience Award and an Amnesty International Media Award.

Arbuthnot is quoted by MP's and academics as having unique insight into Iraq under sanctions. Her articles and broadcasts are used by MP's in Parliamentary questions.

Felicity was a moderator at the World Uranium Weapons conference in october 2003 in Hamburg with a lot of internationally renowned speakers. (http://www.uraniumweaponsconference.de/speakers.htm).
She also was a speaker on the small World Social Forum in Canada november 2002. (http://www.islandnet.com/~bbcf/new_page_2.htm)
 
She's a well known journalist (Al Ahram, Jordanian Times, Sunday Herald, Guardian...) and activist against the sanctions.



'We Got Him'

by Felicity Arbuthnot
Published on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1216-01.htm

The juvenile trumpeting over the capture of Iraq's - arguably still - President, since the invasion is considered by numerous international law experts, illegal, will come back to haunt the 'coalition'. Iraq's 'sovereignty and territorial integrity' is also guaranteed in the first UN Resolution after the first Gulf war, a condition never rescinded.

Adding to an endless list of imbecilic comments ( 'you're either with us, or with the terrorists', 'wanted dead or alive', 'bring 'em on ..' the latter, George W. Bush from the safety of Washington, effectively saying that young troops were delighted to die for Bechtel, Halliburton, Carlisle, oil, and Bush and his pals other interests, no matter how uninformed policies escalated increased resistance) we now have Viceroy Bremer (resplendent in suit and desert boots, who cowers in a fortified palace virtually twenty-four hours a day) adding to the list. 'We got him', he announced of the capture of Saddam Hussein. The subsequent baying of the US troops was reminiscent of wild west lynch mobs, when 'wanted dead or alive' posters were nailed to trees. The whoopings, bayings and facile comment flashed repeatedly round the globe, unfairly reinforcing for much of it, the impression that Americans are crass, simplistic, murderous, cowboys. Further, that Bremer, the US top terrorist 'Czar', should adopt and trigger such triumphalism, further humiliating the entire Islamic world, already largely explosive as a result of the Iraq invasion, is an act of near madness.

The further act of releasing pictures of Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination - almost certainly in breach of the Geneva Convention and a swath of human rights laws - with the memory of his slaughtered sons displayed near naked, legs apart, and left unburied for days - unthinkable acts, insulting Islam, however unloved they were, still raw - is further lunacy. Ominously, Algeria's President responded instantly, saying the acts were: ' ..a humiliation for all Arabs.'

In a further insult to the Middle East, the world was treated to a legal treatise on the apprehension, by the founder of the CIA-funded Iraq National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, now a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Chalabi was sentenced in absentia in Amman, Jordan's, Central Criminal Court in 1992, to two consecutive sentences of twenty years for massive embezzlement and would be arrested instantly if he crossed Iraq's western border. The Jordanian authorities are currently seeking ways to have him finally serve the sentence.

Another unfortunate error which will create anger and hostility in even the most anti-regime Iraqis, was that the Kurdish war lord, Jalal Talabani, now also a CPA member, announced that Kurdish forces and intelligence had contributed to the capture. The Kurds are regarded (not without some justification) by the Iraqis, as allies of arch enemy Israel, an enmity which literally goes back to Babylonian times and also of the CIA. Israel has been training US troops on their methods, now being carried out in Iraq, of demolishing homes, cutting off populations and generally killing and terrorizing. The CIA have long had bases in Kurdistan which triggered attacks by the Iraqi army in 1996, causing them to temporarily flee back to the USA, taking a number of Kurdish collaborators with them for fear of their lives (for their trouble they were instantly jailed in America for considerable time, until a rare bit of Administration embarrassment set in.) Mr Talabani better watch his back.

Of further resonance for the Iraqis is that in Bush's declared 'crusade' - a word which sent a shock wave around the Islamic world - Saddam was apprehended close to his home town of Tikrit. The great Muslim leader Salahuddin (Saladin in the west) was born in Tikrit in A.D.1137. As King, he ruled over Egypt, Syria and Palestine and was ferocious in defeat of invaders in Arab lands. His army defeated the Crusaders at Hittin in Palestine in 1187. Tikrit is also mentioned in some of the earliest cuneiform writings (i.e.: wedge shaped characters on stone) by the Assyrian King Tukulti Ninnurta in the ninth century BC and by Babylon's great King Nebuchadnezzer nearly six hundred years BC.

Saddam from captivity though, may prove a burden to far for troops and Washington. Those who did not attack in the occupiers for fear of Saddam's return if they left, will now do so with impunity. In this most fiercely nationalistic of countries, visitors are welcomed with open arms. Invaders are not. As an ex-military pointed out recently, the Pentagon keeps repeating the mantra: 'Failure is not an option, I agree, it is not an option, it is an inevitability.'

An impartial, internationalized trial, subject to transparent legal norms would go a long way to healing wounds and fresh beginnings. It would also include Donald Rumsfeld explaining about his meetings with Saddam in the early eighties, the chemical and biological weapons sold by the US to Iraq and since the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja is high on the list of crimes, it might be a bit embarrassing. There is ample evidence the US both sold Iraq the chemicals used and even advised which were the most 'effective.'

Britain's David Mellor, was an M.P. who also had close dealing with Saddam. as did Lord Howe. Britain even built a chemical factory at Falluja, paid for with export credit guarantees and kept secret from Parliament. France and Germany too sold some pretty dodgy stuff, so the trial and testimony of eminent witnesses would be uniquely enlightening. Thus, it is vital the venue would not be in Iraq, not alone to guarantee impartiality, but with the new 'democratic' regime shooting, disappearing and expelling journalists, closing news outlets who don't write what they like (sound familiar?) the world might never have access to this unique learning curve.

Then there is another little local difficulty. If Saddam is to be put on trial for using chemical weapons, how long before human rights organizations start calling for something similar for those in the US responsible for napalm and a host of horrors used Viet Nam, Laos and indeed in Iraq in 1991 (and maybe in 2003.) Depleted uranium too has been three times unanimously declared a weapon of mass destruction (along with napalm, fuel air bombs and just about everything used by America in Iraq) by UN Sub-Committees.

Then there is Saddam's cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. How long before someone points out that at least he kept lists. The occupying powers count neither apparently, list those they disappear, or those they shoot. They 'do not list Iraqi dead.' Iraqis consistently say there are more disappeared under the US than ever under Saddam and families' frantic efforts to find where they are, rend the heart. And heaven forbid anyone might mention Guantanamo Bay, or executions of the mentally ill in Texas. 'This event brings further assurances that the torture chambers and secret police are gone for ever'. said the President of the capture. Well no - and his Iraq Administration is re-employing the secret police.

It would be embarrassing too if there was pressure brought to have those responsible for the countless hundreds killed and maimed by illegal bombings by the US and UK, the two rogue states on the UN Security Council, over the last thirteen years. Patrols which had no mandate from the UN. Someone might even bring up the cases of the little child shepherds minding their flocks, who were routinely blown to bits in these actions. Asked why they targeted flocks of sheep their child minders, the British Ministry of Defense told this writer: 'We reserve the right to take robust action if threatened.' Their Ministers surely deserve a chance to explain such fascinating military insights in a legal setting.

Someone might even think to query because two buildings were wiped out in New York, two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, were virtually reduced to rubble - neither whom, it would seems, had a national on the hijacked 'planes. They did, however have oil, gas and minerals coveted by the US. On apprehending Saddam, the coalition might have 'got' a little more than they bargained for.

No wonder we are now told that the de-briefing of Saddam might take some considerable while. Lets hope his health doesn't give out on the meantime as a result of all that time allegedly down a hole. If he died of a heart attack the word would certainly be deprived of unique insights in to 'history being a chronicle of lies agreed on'. But the relief in Washington and London would be palpable.



Iraq: Silent crimes

by Felicity Arbuthnot
The Guardian June 11, 2003

In the increasingly surreal world of Iraq, where those deemed "most wanted" by the US are pictured on a pack of playing cards and given silly nicknames in a mindset that most of us grew put of in kindergarten school — Dr Germ or Dr Anthrax — the case of the arrest of Dr Huda Ammash, aka Dr Anthrax, is especially disturbing.

Dr Ammash, a graduate of the University of Missouri and of Texas University, is an internationally respected environmental biologist.

Since the 1991 Gulf War she has devoted much of her expertise to studying the health effects of the toxic and radioactive depleted uranium (DU) weapons used by the US and Britain and the other environmental impacts of the war, on both the civilian population of the region and on Iraqi and allied soldiers suffering from "Gulf war syndrome".

She is a fellow of the Islamic Academy of Science and has served as both Dean of the College of Education for Women at the University of Baghdad and Dean of the College of Science.

She has spoken widely internationally on the dangers of depleted uranium.

At a major international conference in Manchester three years ago, she and an expert from Hiroshima drew stark comparisons between the radiation-linked cancers and birth defects both in Iraq and Japan.

Her publications include Impact of Gulf War Pollution in the Spread of Infections Diseases in Iraq, published by Soli Al Mondo, Rome, in 1999 and Electronic, Chemical and Microbial Pollution Resulting from War and Embargo and its Impacts on the Environment and Health, in the Journal of the Iraqi Academy of Science in 1997.

She also contributed a chapter to Iraq Under Siege — the Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (Pluto Press, UK and South End Press, US) which was reprinted and updated in February.

Ammash addressed "Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War and Sanctions" in a book about which one reviewer commented: "A brilliant book, which exposes the grim reality behind the US new world order and British 'ethical foreign policy' "

She also drew attention to the illegality in international law of the use of weapons whose effects continue to kill and pollute long after the war is over — DU weapons remain toxic and radioactive for four-and-a-half billion years.

Contributers to Iraq Under Siege include Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ali Abunimah and former UN Under Secretary General and UN co-ordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday.

The whole is a devastating condemnation of pollution, politics towards Iraq, resultant infant mortality, dodgy dealings at the UN — all in all a shameful, shoddy US-British-driven policy.

Their respective government policy-makers must have been less than happy.

South End Press have no doubt about the reason for Dr Ammash's detention and are "outraged at the US extra-legal detention of Dr Ammash and its plans to interrogate her".

Co-publisher Alexander Dwinell demands that "she be released immediately".

Dwinell says starkly: "The US government is trying to silence Dr Ammash's outspoken criticism of the US role in causing cancers and other illnesses in Iraq through its use of biological hazardous weapons such as radioactive depleted uranium".

Deeply concerning is that those arrested by the US are being "disappeared" with absolutely no accountability, even more totally than those in Guantanamo Bay.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened under Iraq's previous regime.

League of Arab Lawyers President Sabah Al Mukhtar, whose practice frequently acts for governments — including, on occasion, that of Kuwait -- is incandescent.

"From A to Z this is illegal. From the occupation to the detentions. To target, detain, disappear without any charge being made public, with no legal representation, with no magistrate, public prosecutor, proper state representative having made the decision.

"For the US army in Doha to issue a list of nationals in another country — it is unlawful, unlawful, unlawful."

With the ghost of McCarthy walking tall in the White House, Dr Strangelove stalking the Pentagon and Machiavelli's descendants apparently running US foreign policy, the future looks bleak for Iraq, democracy and the disappeared.

Ironically, many Iraqis are already saying that it was better under Saddam.

Regime change anyone?


Crimes in Iraq

Lest We Forget - Thirteen Years of Sanctions

http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/Iraq_Aftermath/2004/04/article_03.shtml

By Felicity Arbuthnot
Freelance Journalist - London 08/04/2004

Iraqi Girl in a hospital with Leukemia. Photograph by Alan Pogue

When Martti Ahtisaari, then Special Rapporteur to the UN, visited Iraq in March 1991 just after the end of the Gulf War, he wrote, “Nothing we had heard or read could have prepared us for this particular devastation - a country reduced to a pre-industrial age for a considerable time to come.”

UN reports on Iraq ’s water, electricity, health care, and education in 1989 described Iraq as near First World standards. The country was regarded as having the most sophisticated medical facilities in the Middle East . The embargo, implemented on Hiroshima Day 1990 to pressure Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait , had an almost instant negative impact. Iraq imported a broad range of items, 70 percent of everything, from pharmaceuticals to film, educational materials to parts for the electricity grid, water purifying chemicals to everything necessary for waste management; and at the consumer level also, almost everything that a developed society takes for granted was imported.

With all trade denied, the Iraqi dinar (ID), worth US$3 in 1989, became virtually worthless: ID 250, formerly US$750 did not even buy a postage stamp in neighboring Jordan . Staple foods multiplied up to 11,000-fold in price. With no trade, unemployment spiraled and many - in a country where obesity had been a problem - faced hunger and deprivation. The US and UK-driven UN sanctions, in fact, mirrored a pitiless Middle Ages siege. With Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait the embargo should have been lifted, but a further relentless US and UK-driven “war of moving goal posts” began, and the majority of children in Iraq - who are fourteen years old now - have never known a normal childhood. Even birthday parties,`eid celebrations - and Christmas and Easter celebrations for Christians -became victims; few had the money for the feast or the gifts.


In a country where obesity had been a problem, many faced hunger and deprivation.


Ten months after the war, I stood in the pediatric intensive care unit of Baghdad ’s formerly flagship Pediatric Teaching Hospital. A young couple stood, faces frozen with terror, as a nurse tried frantically to clear the airway of their perfect, tiny, premature baby. There was no suction equipment. “It is at a time like this, all your training becomes a reflex action,” remarked my companion, Dr. Janet Cameron, from Glasgow , Scotland , “and in a unit like this, you know exactly where everything will be - but there is nothing here.” The fledgling life turned from pink to an ethereal grey, to blue, flickered, and went out. Since then, over a million lives have gone out due to “embargo related causes,” a silent holocaust initiated on Hiroshima Day.

Doctors were remarking in bewilderment at the rise in childhood cancers and in birth deformities, which they were ironically comparing with those they had seen in textbooks after the nuclear testing in the Pacific Islands in the 1950s. In 1991, only the United States ’ and the United Kingdom ’s top military planners knew that they had usedradioactive and chemically toxic depleted uranium (DU) weapons against the Iraqis. Just weeks later, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency wrote a “self initiated” report and sent it to the UK government, warning that if “fifty tonnes of the residual DU dust” had been left “in the region” there would, they estimated, be half a million extra cancer deaths by the end of the century (i.e., the year 2000).

The Pentagon eventually admitted to an estimate of 325 tons; some independent analysts estimate as much as 900 tons. Estimates of the added burden of last year's illegal invasion are that up to a further 2,000 tons of the residual dust remain to poison water, fauna, flora and to be inhaled by the population and the occupiers, causing cancers and genetic mutations in the yet-to-be-conceived. DU remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years. Some scientists estimate that it will still be poisoning the earth, the unborn, the newborn “when the sun goes out.” Iraq , the land of ancient Mesopotamia - like Afghanistan and the Balkans - has become a silent potential weapon of mass destruction for the population and geographical neighbors.

Ironically, as cancers spiraled, the UN Sanctions Committee added to its limitless list of items denied to Iraq, treatment for cancers (and heart disease) since they contain minute amounts of radioactive materials. Iraqi scientists, they argued, might extract the radioactive materials from these medications and make weapons from them. One exasperated expert commented, “Even were the technology available - and it is not - one would probably need to extract the radioactivity from every pill and intravenous treatment on earth, to make one crude device.” So little Iraqis, in their irradiated land, could only suffer the most lethal effects of radiation but were denied all of the therapeutic ones in the name of “we the people of the United Nations” - a United Nations to which, incidentally, Iraq was one of the first signatories.

In the West, 70 percent of cancers are now largely curable or with long remissions. In Iraq they are almost always a death sentence. On another early visit after the war, I went to a ward where just two small boys, aged three and five lay alone, in an attempt to isolate them. They had acute myeloid leukemia and hopelessly compromised immune systems, rendering them vulnerable to any infection. The three-year-old, whose name translated as “the vital one,” was covered with bruises from the leaking capillaries bleeding internally and rigid with pain. There was not even an aspirin available. His eyes were full of unshed tears and I realized he had taught himself not to cry - sobs would rack his agonized little body further.


“I now know it is actually possible to die of shame.”


Leaving, I stooped to stroke the face of the five-year-old, who was in an identical condition. In a gesture that must have cost more than could ever be imagined, he reached and clutched my hand tightly, as do children everywhere, responding to affection. I left the ward, leaned against a wall and prayed that the ground would open and swallow me. I wrote at the time, “I now know it is actually possible to die of shame.”

Families would sell all they had to buy cancer and other vital medication on the black market, and since hospitals no longer had the requisite equipment to test it, could not even check to ensure it was safe. I remember an enchanting three-year-old, the bane of the doctors, his energy levels and mischief belying his precarious health. As I was talking to Dr. Selma Haddad, a man burst through the door and thrust a small packet into her hand. She looked at it, then said to me, “This is his uncle, he is the last one in the family with anything left to sell. He has sold all he has for 500 milligrams of medication. This child needs 800 milligrams a month, for a year.”

When, occasionally, pitiful amounts of medication came in, doctors gave half the needed dose so the next patient would have some, too - rendering effectiveness virtually nil. They would meticulously write the patient's protocol (dosage, medication, amount, time to administer) on used paper, writing between the lines, and between the between, on cardboard, on anything (paper was vetoed by the UN Sanctions Committee) then solemnly write under each item, N/A, N/A, N/A - not available.

Sometimes just one would be available - in half a dose.

I remember Ali, eighteen months, lying nearly unconscious in his mother's arms in the packed child cancer clinic. “With bone marrow transplant, we could do something, but there is nothing,” said Dr. Haddad. The mother begged and pleaded, but beds and even palliative care were for the glimmer of chances, not for the small no-hopers, such was the total destruction of a fine, free, sophisticated health service. Leaving the hospital, I found Ali's mother sitting on the ground, leaning against one of the great white entrance pillars, in her black abaya, her tears streaming onto his small, still face.

“How do you cope?” I asked Dr. Haddad on one visit: doctors who have all the skills and knowledge yet no ability to treat those they care so passionately about. She thought for a moment, then said quietly, “I take them all home with me, in my heart.” In a way, she said, the older children were the hardest. She sat on Ezra’s bed, holding her hand and stroking her hair. “They know they are going to die.” Ezra was beautiful, 17 years old, and the cancer had paralyzed her central nervous system. But it had not prevented her crying. She had been crying for three weeks, because she wanted to go home, to complete her studies, to go to university and graduate. Most of all, she wanted to live. As I left, her grandmother grabbed my hand, “Please,” she begged, “take her with you, make her better.” Parents, grandparents, made the same plea, again and again. They did not ask where you were from, who you were, or for their beloved back, just, Please, take him or her and make them well again.


“I asked death, ‘What is greater than you?’ Death replied, ‘Separation of lovers is greater than me,’” was one of his collected phrases. He was 13.


Then there was Jassim. In the same ward as Ezra, he lay with his huge eyes and glossy hair, listlessly viewing the barren ward. He had been selling cigarettes on the streets of Basra to support his family until he became ill. “This is Felicity and she writes for a living,” said Dr. Haddad. Jassim was transformed; he glowed and showed me the poems he spent his days writing, when he still had the energy. He collected phrases, too, to incorporate where he thought appropriate. I told him all writers collect words and phrases, they are our tools. He glowed again, delighting that he was being understood and that his instincts were guiding him correctly along his passionate path. “I asked death, ‘What is greater than you?’ Death replied, ‘Separation of lovers is greater than me,’” was one of his collected phrases. He was 13.

One of his poems was called “The Identity Card.” In translation, it reads:

The name is love,
The class is mindless,
The school is suffering,
The governorate is sadness,
The city is sighing,
The street is misery,
The home number is one thousand sighs.

He watched my face for reaction. Lost for words, eventually I said, “Jassim, if you can write like this at thirteen, think what you will do at twenty.” I asked him if I could incorporate his poem in articles from that visit and said I would send them back to him, so he would see it in print. Some weeks later, I did just that and sent cuttings back to him with a friend and imagined him glowing again. He had fought and fought, but lost his battle just before my friend arrived. He never saw his poem in print and became just another statistic in the “collateral damage” of sanctions by the most inhuman regime ever overseen by the United Nations, which arguably condemned the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child - the most widely signed convention in history - to the dust, to the mass of graves of Iraq's children, resulting from the embargo years.

Iraqi girl in a water taxi. Photograph by Alan Pogue

Children that survived, wrote Professor Magne Raundalen, possibly the world's foremost expert on children in war zones, who heads the Centre for Crisis Studies, in Bergen, Norway, were “amongst the most traumatised child Population” on earth. And there was no chance of recovery. Count Hans von Sponeck, who resigned as UN Co-ordinator in Iraq, like his predecessor Denis Halliday (who had cited the sanctions he was there to oversee as generating “the destruction of an entire nation, it is as simple and terrifying as that”), spoke of not only of medical and nutritional problems, but “intellectual genocide.”

School books were vetoed. All professionals - doctors, engineers, architects -qualified from 1989 course material. An Iraqi doctor qualifying in 2003 was fourteen years behind in clinical developments, though never in commitment.

Children, Iraq 's future, were also marooned in the academia of the 1980s. Isolation was searing. On one visit, this writer was asked for a radio interview and the usual ground rules were laid down: no politics. It was a pleasant half-hour of history, culture - and only mildest current politics. Then the presenter said that all guests were asked to select a piece of music and dedicate it to whom they wished. (“We like to think of ourselves as Baghdad 's BBC Radio 3.”) I chose Stevie Wonder's “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and dedicated it to the children of Iraq .


Children that survived were “amongst the most traumatised child Population” on earth.


The next day I had a crash course in human relations. I was repeatedly stopped in the street, whispered to at a conference, by people from all walks of life. Was I the lady on the radio last night? On affirmation, the comment was always virtually the same: “Thank you so much, we are so isolated, my wife (or husband) was in tears, I was in tears, my children…thank you.” And no, I know orchestration; this was not.

Several years ago, I talked to the young who should have had all before them - a social mixture, between 18 and 21 years old - and asked them about their hopes, dreams and fears. None had a dream. “I dream of having enough milk for my baby,” said a young mother. “I am too tired to dream,” said a youth who had dreamed of being a doctor, but was working in a smelt, in the searing heat of a Baghdad summer, to help support his family. A vibrant, beautiful young woman from a formerly privileged family waited until her mother had left the room and whispered, “Nothing awaits us, only death.” She was 18.

And for much of the country there were the often daily, ongoing bombings of the patrolling by the United States and United Kingdom of the “no fly zones” or misnamed “safe havens” in the north and south, an illegal exercise not sanctioned by the United Nations. For reasons unknown, aircraft returning to their bases in Turkey and Saudi Arabia routinely bombed flocks of sheep - and with them the child shepherds who minded them.

An abiding memory is of watching a tiny illiterate woman, who had lost her three children -the youngest 5 and the oldest 13 - her husband and father-in-law to one of these bombings, as she walked with leaden feet to their graves in a tiny dusty cemetery near the northern city of Mosul . She sat hunched, fetal, on the smallest grave, that of five-year-old Sulaiman. Their flock of nearly 200 sheep were also blasted to pieces on a barren plain where they would have been visible for exactly what they were. “We searched all day for parts to bury,” said a villager who had rushed down to help, on hearing the bombing. Then he lowered his eyes and whispered, “There was so little recognizable, we still don't know whether the graves contain all human or some sheep remains.”

Asked why flocks of sheep were being bombed, the British Ministry of Defence - surreally - responded, “We reserve the right to take robust action, when threatened.” At St. Matthew's Monastery on Mount Maqloub , which overlooks the plain, the priest in charge commented of the bombings, “Every day, there are new widows, new widowers, new orphans.” Then he said solemnly, “Please, will you tell your Mr. Tony Blair that he is a very, very bad man.” The ancient monastery is Iraq 's Lourdes , where people of all religious beliefs bring their sick to the site of the saint's believed burial, to benefit from the healing powers legend holds he still possesses from the grave. The ongoing grief and carnage on the plains below were in contrast to all the monks and monastery stood for. The gentle, sorrowful admonition from a spiritual soul was especially poignant.

Forgotten, too, are the major bombing blitzes over the years. In 1993 there were two massive attacks on Baghdad : one a good-bye from outgoing George Bush Senior and the other a hello from incoming William Jefferson Clinton. The second one killed, among others, the talented artist Laila Al-Attar. Days later I stood by the crater that had been her home. “When they lifted her out, she looked like a beautiful broken doll,” a friend said quietly. Al-Attar ran the Museum of Modern Art . She was also the artist responsible for the mosaic face of George Bush Senior on the steps of the Al-Rashid Hotel. The death of her and her family by a precision guided missile can, of course, only be a freak coincidence.

The year 1996 saw further bombings, as did 1998. All the planners predicted the '98 bombing would begin on February 23, “the darkest night”: maximum cloud cover for the planes. That day I went to interview Leila, yet another of the embargo’s victims with a tragic tale to tell. Her large front room was empty: she had sold all her furniture to survive and provide. As we talked, the room filled up with neighborhood children, creeping in, quiet as proverbial mice, sitting on the floor, watching my every move - a stranger and foreigner was a treat in isolated

Iraq . When I left, dusk was falling, and they followed me out to the battered car (spare parts vetoed), about 50 of them, between maybe 3 and 13 years old.


In 1993 there were two massive attacks on Baghdad : one a good-bye from outgoing Bush Senior and the other a hello from incoming Clinton .


As we pulled away, they ran beside the car in a joyous wave, laughing, waving, and blowing kisses. When they could no longer keep up, I looked back: they had formed a little group in the center of the road, still laughing, waving, and blowing kisses. Photographer Karen Robinson and I looked at each other, stricken, and said in unison, “We are going to bomb them tonight…” I went back to my hotel, lay on the bed, and wept.

In the event, public protest halted a February blitz. In December, Prime Minister Blair stood in front of a resplendent Christmas tree outside 10 Downing Street and announced a seasonal gift for Iraq : a four-day onslaught on a decimated country, where nearly half the population were under 16 years and the average nutritional values were below those of Eritrea .

February 2000 saw another attack, another hello, from another George Bush. An elegant school principal broke down in front of me, encapsulating the pain and desperation: “My son is a doctor in Washington , why are they doing this to us?” She sobbed. Earlier, a 10-year-old pupil had told me, poignantly, “When there is a bombing, my father goes and stands outside the gate to protect us and our home.”


“When there is a bombing, my father goes and stands outside the gate to protect us and our home.”


In July 2001, a shameful admission was extracted from Benon Sevan, head of the United Nations Iraq Program: the money allotted for food for Iraqis was US$100 per capita per year, less than that allotted for the United Nation’s sniffer dogs used in de-mining in northern Iraq .

In spite of the grinding misery for most of the embargo years, one event changed the national psyche. In 1999, Baghdad International Airport re-opened, with the those of Mosul and Basra , rebuilt with creativity and inventiveness. The United Nations, under pressure from the United States , did all it could to prevent international flights. Lloyd's of London mysteriously withdrew insurance; airlines were threatened that if they flew to Baghdad , they would be denied landing rights in the United States . In one case - a flight from Athens to Baghdad , arranged by former Greek First Lady, Margarita Papandreou - the United nations demanded the names and occupations of all passengers. Assured by the United Nations that it was entirely confidential to them, the passengers agreed. In less than three minutes, Madam Papandreou's phone rang: It was the US Embassy complaining about some names on the passenger list. Like others, though, the flight finally arrived. “There are tears in our eyes, every time a plane lands,” remarked an Iraqi friend. Isolation had been as grinding as deprivation.

Iraqi Airways was integral to the national psyche. Many of its offices stayed open during the embargo years, even though its aircraft were stranded throughout the Middle East . International flight manuals, too, were vetoed, so courteous staff perused August 1990 schedules and then solemnly said it might be more accurate to telephone Jordan . With the airports opening, and a single proud Iraqi Airways plane again flying between Mosul , Baghdad , and Basra , the collective consciousness visibly changed, pride and hope returned. Shop windows began to sparkle again, traders rose at dawn and hosed the pavements, stock was dusted and rearranged, shutters, blinds, and buildings were repainted and refurbished, and the arts again flourished.

Francois Dubois, heading the UN Development Program, had a passion for Iraq equaling that of Halliday and von Sponeck. A fluent Arabic speaker, he had spent the years of the Lebanese civil war there, then headed for the complexities of Iraq . Almost single-handed, he encouraged, funded, and advised the restoration of art galleries, sculpture exhibits, music, and theater. Where artistic life had sunk under the weight of everyday living, it was rekindled and nourished, and it flourished. Few could afford to buy exhibits, but the spirit grew again and haunting beauty was born again. Creativity flourished at every level - inventive architecture, superb woodwork. Iraqis were looking forward and outward again.

A week before last year's invasion, in Mosul , I watched the joyous flocks of birds sweep and sing across the corniche in peach-streaked dawns and dusks. As I left for Baghdad , I jumped at the sound of a bird of a different kind, the roar of a low-flying aircraft, having come within minutes of annihilation from the US and UK bombings on several occasions. The driver and translator laughed and pointed skywards with a tangible pride. “It is ours, ours,” they said as the sun glinted on the great white form with its green Iraqi Airways insignia.

Less than a month later, I sat in London with a sociology professor from Mosul University as she drew her breath in horror as Saddam's statue toppled, his head pulled along the street. It was not the destruction of Saddam's image, but of what - like many statues and monuments built in the mists of time - made Mesopotamia . It was destruction of future history. Flicking channels, we watched as Mosul University , Museum, and Library were looted, ransacked, burned. “No, no, not my university, not my home…” She was inconsolable and incredulous. Then came the scenes of Baghdad Airport : “secured,” destroyed, with a great white broken bird, the green insignia just visible, lying on the runway. The airport immediately became a symbol of repression, not freedom, Iraq 's own Guantanamo , with the imprisoned largely unaccounted for. Reports are that 300 people are also buried there, equally unaccounted for. The great, regal, centuries- old palm groves that fringed the road and perimeters have been bulldozed, like Palestine 's olives.

There is a memorial in Basra to Iraq Airways. It reads, “Iraqi Airways - 1947-1990.” Iraqi Airways rose from the ashes, like Iraq itself has done after so many invasions. Both surely will again. In the phoenix year of Iraqi Airways, I gained an interview with Tareq Aziz on behalf of Middle East International. It included a modern history lesson: “Iraqis are very quick to revolt, as they did in 1921, 1931, 1947, 1957 and 1968,” he said (neatly omitting the US-encouraged uprising of 1991). Watching ominous recent “liberation”-linked events, one is tempted to add “and 2004.”

Ironically, it is the residents of Sadr City , who were bribed by the Americans to fill the square as the statue fell, who are now leading the uprising against them. Viceroy Bremer and the planners of this dangerous, feckless oil grab would have done well to have read up on Iraq 's modern history.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited Iraq on numerous occasions since the 1991Gulf War. She has written and broadcast widely on Iraq , her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also Senior Researcher for John Pilger's award-winning documentary - Paying the Price Killing the Children of Iraq


Open Letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Dear Prime Minister,
Blood on Whose Hands?

Felicity Arbuthnot.

The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, M.P., Q.C.,

Dear Prime Minister,

It is seldom one can be shocked any more by politicians who resort to illegal wars, based on dodgy dossiers, whitewash Enquiries, non-existent weapons.
Politicians whose actions have incarcerated and 'disappeared' an entire sovereign government, whose legitimacy and territorial integrity was enshrined
in the first United Nations Resolution after the 1991 Gulf war and never rescinded. After Abu Ghraib's horrors, naked bodies piled Belsen like in pyramids in the name of 'liberation' and allegations relating to the activities of British troops in the south, including allegedly beating a hotel worker to death and allegedly forcing kids unable to swim into the great biblical Tigris river - resulting in the drowing of one - can politically motivated acts shock further?

Well, yes. On Wednesday evening I confronted my own personal, psychological 'Shock and Awe'. After the beheading of two American captives held in Iraq and
the impassioned, careful, logical plea of British cative, Kenneth Bigley's family to the same group, you and President Bush effectively scuppered all their efforts, prevented aquience to the request for the release of women prisoners in Iraq and said you did not deal with hostage takers and terrorists. Few on earth believe this was really 'Prime Minister' Allawi's decision.

Putting aside the fact that Britain and America and the coalition of the increasingly unwilling has taken an entire nation of twenty five million people
hostage and terrorised whole towns, Fallujah, Samarra, Mosul, Ramadi, Baladi, Tel Afar, Najav, Kufa, Kerbala - and yes, British held Basra and region, blown
off heads, limbs and vaporised whole families, you now personally, almost certainly condemn a man to death. His British passport with its fine words about rendering all assistance without let and hinderence is invalid - by you Prime Minister. In a situation of your making. Whatever the hue of the former regime Iraq was a safe, welcoming country - unless, fair to say, you messed with the regime. Kenneth Bigley's kidnapping and that of numerous others of many nationalities, their deaths (and those of journalists) lie at your and President Bush's door - and you walk away from humanity itself - a gesture which might save a life. You would rather save face, be strong, not deal with terrorists....

I have dealt with 'terrorists'. Arguably one could also say they were the brave resistance fighters that George Bush kept invoking alluding to the resistance
of World War Two. People who want their country back. I also know how it feels to have blood on one's hands.

When the independent journalist Micah Garen was kidnapped in Iraq last month, it took a colleague and myself a matter of hours to get a route to those holding him. We never asked those in Iraq who they were speaking to, but in this complex, knitted society, there is always a route. We found the area where
he was being held, learned that Shia Cleric Muqtada Al Sadr - rebel or freedom fighter, depending on whether you are being bombed or abused in 'coalition jails, or making a fortune stealing from Iraqi homes looking for 'bad peopl - held authority in the area.

In short, after many heart stopping moments, we negotiated his release, on trust, not money. Al Sadr's word was kept every step of the way. Micah, a  gentle man with a passion for Iraq and its people, threatened with execution, was released to Al Sadr's representative In Nassiriyah, embraced, fed and given safe passage.

What we did not know, was that held, seemingly, by the same group, in the same area, was Enzo Baldoni, the Italian journalist, who was also highly trained
para medic and volunteered with the Red Cross in all the war zones he covered. He both wrote from Fallujah and Najav sieges and delivered medicines, blood,
water and treated the injured. Our ignorance of his whereabouts almost certainly killed him. We could I am fairly certain, have brought him out with Micah. Iraqis are loyal to those who love them - and they only had to look at his website. His death haunts me every waking moment. However, like you, Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi said he did not deal with terrorists. Enzo's death created a furore and grief across Italy which will not be forgotten at election time. By the way, when you next speak to Mr Berlusoni, do ask him if the allegation that the two Italian aid workers, Simona Toretta and Simona Pari and their Iraqi colleagues Dr Ra'ad Ali and Mahnad Bassam, from Bridge to Baghdad, still being held, were kidnapped by former MI6, CIA asset, Iraq's Prime Minister Allawi's men is true.

Prime Minister, we probably killed Enzo, by default, Berlusconi by intractability. How it feels is indescribable. You are making a conscious decision to allow a British citizen to be beheaded. Would you be making that same decision if it were your son Euan, or Leo? Paul Bigley, Kenneth's brother, has asked you just to but out and leave him to the sort of negotiations in which we were involved. You can do more.

Since we are illegally in Iraq, squatting in its great buildings, nicking its oil, what about making a stand, being 'tough on crim and also proving we are
again a sovereign nation again? Release the women prisoners held in British jails in Iraq (oh yes there are) pull out the troops (save more lives) stand up
to America - and save Kenneth Bigley.

Otherwise, when the axe or knife falls, as with Berlusconi, you might as well have wielded it yourself. After the cover up of the sinking of the submarine
Kursk, by the Russian government, a widow of one of the sailors said: 'People get punished if they betray their country, but what if a country betrays its
people?' Indeed.

Yours faithfully,

Felicity Arbuthnot.
 


' Mission Accomplished.'

Felicity Arbuthnot, 01 May 2007.

 

Four years ago today the (alleged) Draft Dodger in Chief, landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and declared: ' mission accomplished' In Iraq.

 

Forty eight blood soaked months later, what exactly has been accomplished?

 

* Possibly as many as one million Iraqi dead, four million fled or displaced internally. The largest exodus since the establisment of the State of Israel in 1948.

* The erasing of the history, monuments, archeological sites of the Cradle of Civilisation.

* The kidnapping and lynching of the President and members of the legitimate government.

* The slaughter of the President's sons and grandson.

* 233 Iraqi and 23 foreign media professionals killed. A figure in order of magnitude higher than any war zone on earth (shoot the messengers of this illegal disaster?) It seemed to be policy from day one, literally.

* Over three hundred academics assassinated and thousands fled. The education of the next generation snatched from Iraq's youth, in the country that brought near every academic subject to the world.

* Overflowing morgues.

* Sectarian gangs roaming hopitals and pulling patients from beds and taking them to their death.

* Probably as many as two thousand physicians killed, two hundred and fifty kidnapped and eighteen thousand fled.

* Palestinians who have lived in Iraq for generations, killed, threatened and fleeing again to a no man's land unsafe in Iraq, unable to cross borders.

* Sectarian strife, militias, introduced with the invasion, between peoples who had lived together for a thousand years.

* Ongoing suicide bombings in a country where they were unheard of.

* Rigged elections, the results achieved by threats, including death, bribery, threat of ration card confiscation.

* Abu Ghraib's torture, death, sodomy, naked prisoners, electrodes. For ever 'liberation's' - and the US Army's - image.

* The uncounted numerous other secret prisons across Iraq.

* Falluja, Samarra, Tel Afar, Ramadi, Al Qaim, Mahmoudia, Iskanderiya, Baquba, Haditha, Najaf, Kerbala, Basra and the slaughters too many to mention, across Iraq.

* The US troops rape of a child and the burning of her family.

* Kicking down doors at 3 a.m., to humiliate, terrify - and steal family jewellery, money, valuables.

* The disappeared in their thousands.

* The destruction of an entire civil society with every institution and all records of its citizens.

* Attempted theft of Iraq's oil. (Not going too well, with the pipelines being blown up - historically, that happens when theft of it looms.)

* Destruction of schools and hospitals and the inability (or lack of will) to rebuild and restock.

* The missing Iraqi and aid $billions in the grand theft auto that is the USA invasion.

* The illegal rewriting of the constituion.

* The installation of a quisling government with loyalties largely, to anywhere but Iraq.

* The death squads under America's watch and for which she is - as an occupying army - responsible.

* The ghetto walls, razor wire, curfews, road blocks in Mansur's 'Round City' on the Tigris, Baghdad - and across the country.

* The soldiers that sell unthinkable photographs of the dead, maimed, tortured to porn sites in exchange for drooling over the depraved.

* Taking a secular state and attempting to turn it into a fundamentalist theocrocy.

* Committing Nuremberg's 'supreme crime', a war of aggression, bases on a pack of lies.

* Demands for impeachment increasing by the day.

* The destruction of America and Britain's image for generations to come - and the ability of their citizens to feel safe anywhere, also for generations.

* A death toll heading for four thousand dead US troops (admitted to) and thousands horrifically injured - for lies.

* A trillion$ plus debt and predictions of the collapse of the dollar.

* Madrid, London, Bali, Sharm El Sheikh ....

* Near universal loathing.

* The words 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'liberation', consigned to shame - and history's trash can.

* For ever being associated with hoods, shackles, inhumanity and illegality.

 

Feel free to add. There is surely much omitted.

 

Some accomplishment.

 

Today, ironically, also marks the tenth anniversary of dodgy dossier supremo, Prime Minister Blair's, term in office. Two anniversaries, two leaders, whose ruined reputations will for ever lie in the sands of Mesapotamia, along with the UN Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (to whom shamefully, the US is not a signatury) and to whom Nuremberg may yet return to haunt.

 

Perhaps instead of 'praying together' they should put an end to it all and eat Pretzels together. Or take a fling on a quad byke.

 


War Criminal Admits Guilt.

(Felicity Arbuthnot, 20 May 2007)

 

As Prime Minister Tony Blair Q.C., arrived in Baghdad on Saturday, for an 'unexpected' visit, to bid the Iraqi people he has helped decimate, farewell, he was welcomed by mortar rounds which fell in the 'International Zone', the illegally squatted palace of former President Saddam Hussein.

 

Just: 'usual business..' said his spokesman airily. Hope Blair and his entourage brought a spare pair of trousers, Whitehall's mandarins are not known for towering courage in the face of adversity, more for fiction writing, aka 'dodgy dossiers'. A bad tempered Blair, delusional as ever, talked of 'signs of progress on security.'

 

' I have no regrets about removing Saddam ...', said the man, the corpse of whose premiership will for ever lie in Mesapotamia's sands, with the possible million souls he and his Washington masters have sent - and continue to send - to their graves - and that is only since March 2003. No mention of the weapons of mass destruction he assured the world, threatened the very existence of the West and could be launched 'in forty five minutes.'

 

'Removing Saddam', whose leadership and government's sovereignty was guaranteed by the UN? No shame for sharing responsibility for the lynching of Iraq's President and colleagues, whose remaining legitimate govenment have been held, for over four years? No regrets about committing Nuremberg's 'supreme crime', a war of aggression? Turning the country into a radioactive wasteland from use of uranium weapons? Denying water, electricity, medicines and medical equipment (in contravention of the Geneva Convention) schooling, even gasoline in this possibly lagest oil producer on earth? 'No regrets' at the ongoing deaths of at least one hundred people a day, the destruction of an entire civil society, sado masichistic and other war crimes committed by his troops in the south; their uncounted Pinochet style disappeared? Nearly one sixth of the country internally and externally displaced, most, like the Palestinians, without valid passports, credentials (all changed after the invasion, most Iraqis too frightened to approach the relevant Ministries imposed by the US and UK.) 'No regrets'? And in front of the world's media.

If the lawyers at the International Criminal Court in the Hague have not got all they need now, they should consider a career move.

 

'The future of Iraq should be determined by Iraqis ...' said Blair, standing next to honoury Iranian 'Prime Minister' Nuri al Maliki and Iraq's non Arab, Kurdish 'President', Jalal Talabani, who wants the best of all worlds, independence for Kurdistan and the retention of his rule there and the top job in Iraq. Iraqis complain that in all the Ministries now - if they dare approach them (and indeed in Embassies abroad) they need to field a bank of Farsi (Persian) speakers and those who only speak Kurdish, before finding someone who speaks arabic. 'We need to take advantage of the possible momentum in Iraqi politics ...' said another Blair spokesman. 'Momentum'?

 

What stratosphere is planet Whitehall on?

 

'He builds palaces while his people starve', was the Blair-Bush mantra during the embargo years. Now the British and Americans are the illicit residents of Iraq's palaces, remaining state buildings, bases (another war crime) as the people for whom, they, as the occupying force, are responsible, starve, flee and die in hospitals decimated by liberation, whose facilities are non existent and over half of whose doctors have been killed or fled for their lives, under what some careful analysts call 'black ops' operations to set Iraqi against Iraqi by the US and UK. Iraqis did not fight each other before the invasion, so what changed? Divide and rule?

 

Blair (more trousers?) was welcomed by further ordnance as he stood in a base where the British troops, seemingly, cower, in Basra -' the war is lost and the troops in retreat', a correspondent commented of the British last week - an area now ruled too dangerous for Britain's Prince Harry to deploy with his troops. In Basra, Blair seemed especially dismissive of Iraqis.

 

When an Iraqi journalist asked him about Iraq's future he replied techily that the 'authorative voice' of Iraq was 'President' Talabani and the question should be addressed to him as ' the authentic voice of Iraq' . He clearly had not read the day's Guardian either, where in extensive coverage of the south in general and Basra in particular, their correspondent was greeted by an Iraqi General with a handshake and : ' Welcome to Tehran', referring to the near total Iranian influence in everything under British watch and largely facilitated by their errors. The troops themselves watched Blair with stoney faces. 'It is important that neighbouring countries understand and respect' (Iraq's sovereignty) said Blair, the man from far away who slavishly followed his Master's Washington follies.

 

As Blair arrived to the Baghdad bang, the airways were awash with former President Carter's scathing assessment of the Blair years. His : 'Support for Bush had been a major tragedy for the world', he had been 'loyal, blind and subservient.' Iraq's invasion had been 'unjustified, unecessary ... a tragedy for the Iraqi, American and British people.'

 

That tragedy, the depth of which Blair could never comprehend, is encapsulated by Layla Anwar, an Iraqi blogger, who wrote of a friend who said this week:

'I wake up in the morning and death sits next to me. I have my tea and she has one too. I walk and she accompanies me. I go to sleep at night and she is in my bed. I see death, I hear death, I smell death ... she is everywhere. When she will pick me up, is only a question of time.'

 

Blair will return to the UK to some pretty scathing press, from the comment left by a reader on the Sunday Herald : ' Blair, just go will you, you murdering, lying filth', to former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, who told BBC Radio 4, the same day : 'Nothing can be done about Iraq except to put a sack over his head.'

The Messianic Blair, who joined George Bush's 'crusade', trespassed in Iraq's palaces, is involved in a global goodbye tour which will last forty days, the time, for believers, Christ wandered alone in the wilderness.

 

Speculations as to his future are myriad. However, in the recent Channel 4, soaringly spirit lifting docudrama ' The Trial of Tony Blair ', his tenure in Downing Street ended with him heading in an armoured police van for Heathrow Airport and for trial the Hague. Now he has admitted his guilt to the world, fittingly in Baghdad, here's hoping.