War College

67 things you might want to know before the bombs drop

The No. 1 recipient of U.S. foreign-military aid. Its decades-long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip has made life miserable for Palestinians, violates international law, and is a major source of instability in the Middle East. In violation of global nuclear-arms-reduction treaties, Israel has (like North Korea) developed a nuclear-weapons program, which it continues to deny exists. Israel is also currently violating several United Nations resolutions, including Nos. 1322, which calls upon Israel to "scrupulously abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention regarding the responsibilities of occupying power"; 1402, which demands that Israel withdraw from Palestinian cities; and 1403, which urges Israel to withdraw its occupation forces to their positions as of September 2000 and to "end its military activities in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of security and civilian infrastructure." On the other hand—Sammy!

About 24 million people live here. Most Iraqis are Arabs, 95 percent of whom are Muslim, although there are small minorities of Christians, Jews and Yazidis. Only 30 percent of Iraqis are Sunni Muslims, while more than half the population are adherents of the Shia faith—most of whom are so-called "marsh" Arabs who live in the Basra area and the Kurds of northern Iraq. Iraq became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1638, which lasted until World War 1, when the British established the Kingdom of Iraq. That's when British mapmakers decided to shave off a tiny corner of the kingdom to make room for an artificially created and soon-to-be-oil-rich country: Kuwait. Such imperial gestures helped spur a 1958 military coup in Baghdad, which led to the birth of the Iraqi republic and Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. See also BAGHDAD. In the months leading up to Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein ordered his security forces to place British and American families living in Iraq under house arrest, where they were interviewed on live television by Hussein himself. His tactic—implying that those families would be in danger if the U.S. began dropping bombs on Iraq—backfired. The Bush administration declared that Iraq was holding the families hostage and using them as "human shields" to protect military installations. This time, Hussein doesn't have to bother to use hostages because peace activists from around Europe are flying to Iraq and volunteering their services. So far, about 100 would-be human shields have touched down in Baghdad to a gleeful welcome by locals. The Bush Jr. administration says there's no guarantee they won't get bombed. The Kurdish village in northern Iraq that Hussein gassed in March 1988. Though President Bush frequently uses this atrocity—a reported 5,000 died—as reason enough to annihilate Hussein's regime, U.S. officials did nothing at the time to stop or even protest the attacks, even though U.S.-Iraqi relations were at an all-time high. In fact, the flow of intelligence to Iraq from U.S. military sources actually increased during 1988, despite Hussein's war crimes.The mere anticipation of war has driven the wholesale price of gasoline up 14 cents a gallon in the last month. The cost at the pump is up an average of 56 cents—400 percent—meaning that, for doing absolutely nothing, Bush's oil buddies already are pocketing an extra $5 every time you tank up. Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, recently got a $9.7 million contract to build 204 new prison cells at Guantanamo. That's $97,000 for cells that reportedly are about as complex to build as a storage unit. According to a congressional study after the war, at least 28 major incidents of friendly fire—resulting in the deaths of 35 U.S. and nine British soldiers—took place during Desert Storm. Friendly fire kept killing U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf even after the war ended. During a 1994 operation to rescue Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq, a U.S. jet shot down two Blackhawk helicopters. Twenty-six soldiers from several countries perished. Last month, The Houston Chronicle reported that the Pentagon has "failed to outfit aircraft and tanks with combat-identification systems developed since the Persian Gulf War, increasing chances that American soldiers will be killed by friendly fire in a coming conflict." The Associated Press reported Feb. 19 that Neal Rowland, owner of Cubbie's in Beaufort, North Carolina, now only sells his fried-potato strips as "freedom fries." Rowland said his intent is not to slight the French people, but to take a patriotic stance to show his support for the United States and the actions of President Bush. "It's our way of showing our patriotic pride." See also AL. Laura Bush, who never tires of reminding us that she was once a school librarian, was scheduled to host "Poetry and the American Voice," a Feb. 12 White House conference of poets examining the works of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson—until someone realized that poets, unlike the executive-branch PR staff, might consider poetry something more than just rhymes in books on shelves and take the opportunity to criticize Bush administration policies on Iraq. The event was abruptly canceled. Sam Hamill, one of the poets invited to the event, along with others who believe poetry isn't just an entry in the Dewey Decimal System, has set up the Poets Against the War website ( Head of U.S. Central Command since June 2000, General Franks will be military governor of Iraq following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. A career artillery officer, Franks is, according to CNN, currently under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general's office for possible abuses of office involving his wife, whom he allegedly allowed to attend classified briefings as well as fly at taxpayers' expense on U.S. military aircraft. Enemy of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Old Europe is a magical land of high castles and universal health care spanning what used to be called France and Germany. Once firmly in line with the interests and war aims of the U.S., Old Europe no longer feels any need to toe Washington's line and firmly opposes any American invasion of Iraq. To counter the threat from Old Europe, Rumsfeld has turned to a new coalition he calls New Europe—Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Denmark, Narnia, etc.

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