News Release

Former U.N. Official Says Bush Plans Could “Annihilate Iraqi Society”


BAGHDAD — A former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations said tonight that the United States and Britain are proceeding with plans to “annihilate Iraqi society, a catastrophe that would be heightened by the threatened use of tactical nuclear weaponry.”

Denis J. Halliday told a news conference in Baghdad that he was “greatly impressed by the courage and vibrancy of the Iraqi people I met both in the Baghdad souk and in the elite lobby of the Al Rashid Hotel. I am hugely respectful of the cool manner in which ordinary people face up to the threat of war and in awe of their apparent ability to calmly carry on with life’s daily round — from caring and loving their children to enjoying a mesa of baba ganoush, hommus and Iraqi bread. I say this knowing that fear and anxiety are only just below the surface and that children of all ages are suffering psychological trauma. Iraq may be secular, but it is clear in talking to people at all levels of society that a strong belief in God is keeping many going forward.”

In addition to holding the post of Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations, Halliday was head of the U.N.’s oil-for-food program in Iraq from August 1997 to October 1998.

Nearing the end of a three-day visit to Iraq’s capital, Halliday was scheduled to meet later Sunday night with Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Halliday is an Irish citizen based in New York City. He has been accompanied on the trip to Baghdad by Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a U.S. public policy organization with offices in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. [Fuller statements from both Halliday and Solomon are below.]

For further information, contact:
Institute for Public Accuracy office in Washington, (202) 347-0020

Statement by Denis J. Halliday — January 26, 2003
Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations
Former head of U.N. oil-for-food program

The obscene haste of Bush to go to war, beside his friend Tony Blair, is very hard to understand. In the absence of any immediate threat to the Middle East, or to the United States, from Iraq, one has to seek another rationale. Is it the messianic fervor driving the kind of simplistic thinking that gave us the Bush concept of the ‘axis of evil’? Or is it a determination to enhance Israel with total disregard for the well-being and human rights of the people of Palestine? Or is it about oil? I believe it is primarily the latter.

Since 9/11 the relationship between Washington and Saudi Arabia has become fragile…. And this comes when Venezuelan oil is all but stopped and the future of large Mexican supplies is in doubt…. The Bush administration perception is that Iraq constitutes one very large reserve tank — a ‘tank’ of some 120 billion barrels. And control of that tank has become paramount for American economic superiority. Control also would represent leverage over Europe and Japan — an important part of U.S. ambitions for empire in the coming years.

Resolution 1441, for all its drama and careful wording, amounts to little more than theatre when we know that U.S. intelligence undoubtedly is aware of what, if any, remnant of weapons of mass destruction Iraq possesses. After all, America is the leading arms dealer of the UN permanent five of the Security Council, and together they formed the weapons source leading up to and during the Iran-Iraq war. U.S. impatience with the UN inspections — despite cooperation by the Iraqi authorities — would seem to underline the charade. Resolution 1441 was designed to provide UN cover and respectability for a war that Bush wants so badly. This cover now seems more and more remote as most other permanent members of the Council remain unconvinced that war is justified.

And now Bush is facing an appreciable turning of the tide with respect to American public opinion against unilateral aggression by Washington. Despite the jingoism of the last 18 months, Americans are questioning the priorities of Bush vis a vis both domestic and foreign affairs — and also questioning the contrast of his diplomatic-dialogue approach to North Korea, with nuclear capacity, and to his aggressive stance towards Iraq without. Angry over the loss of major allies, concerned by the change in public opinion, rejected by UN Security Council friends — Bush has become even more dangerous and anxious to take his country to war. It is patriotism? Or irresponsibility? That is for Americans to determine, just as it should be for Iraqis to determine what is right for their country.

If UN sanctions were terminated — and if the lives of the people were to be restored and the economy rebuilt and society and culture restored — the capacity to go forward with change via a multiparty democracy, as foreseen in the constitutional change under consideration, could become viable. The United Nations has cruelly damaged the social, economic and cultural rights of the Iraqi people under sanctions for over 12 years. We have allowed massive loss of life. We have allowed a state of war to stand ever since 1991. Rather than initiate massive new aggression, we should reach out to the people of Iraq and offer our assistance. We should fully recognize the sovereignty of the country and the unique qualities of its ancient people. We should focus on stopping the war of Bush now, and starting the process of restoring the well-being of the children, the families, the people of Iraq. Iraq is for the Iraqis — they and only they can determine what and when is best. And they can only begin when the U.S. withdraws its forces and ends its interference; when the UN terminates its deadly embargo; and we as individuals take responsibility for demanding that our respective governments act within international law.

Statement by Norman Solomon — January 26, 2003
Executive Director, Institute for Public Accuracy
Co-author, Target Iraq (Context Books, New York: January 2003)

Like millions of other American citizens, I am horrified by the imminent threat of an all-out U.S. attack on Iraq. In our names, with our tax dollars, the Bush administration appears ready and willing — even eager — to devastate Iraqi society while killing large numbers of civilians in the process. No amount of oil or geopolitical leverage for the U.S. government could possibly serve as a valid justification for such slaughter.

The people I’ve seen and met in the streets and shops of Baghdad in recent days have done nothing to deserve the horrors that President Bush appears to have in store for them.

Top officials in Washington have repeatedly pledged to lead a “coalition of the willing”; in other words, a coalition for the killing — of vast numbers of Iraqi people.

Thirty-five years ago, on February 27, 1968, I sat in a small room on Capitol Hill and watched a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Oregon’s Senator Wayne Morse spoke about the war in Vietnam. Moments before the hearing adjourned, Morse said he did not “intend to put the blood of this war on my hands.” Years earlier, in 1964, Senator Morse told a national TV audience: “I don’t know why we think, just because we’re mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right.”

Today, I join with increasing numbers of Americans who do not intend to put the blood of this war on our hands. We refuse to accept the pernicious and murderous notion that the United States has the right to substitute might for right. We will continue to denounce the administration’s war plans — no matter how much President Bush cloaks his war cries in lofty rhetoric. No one can dispute the Pentagon’s capacity to inflict massive and overpowering violence. But might does not make right.