Madeleine Albright And The Iraqi Genocide
Madeleine Albright and the Iraqi genocide
The first Iraq Genocide Memorial Day was held earlier this month in memory of those who died as a result of sanctions and the US-led invasion, writes Felicity Arbuthnot
“Get some new lawyers”, then US secretary of state Madeleine Albright told UK foreign secretary Robin Cook after he had said that the bombing of the Balkan states was illegal under international law.
On the 16th anniversary of Albright stating her endorsement of half a million dead Iraqi children as being “worth it” to continue the UN sanctions against Iraq, the silent holocaust of Iraq’s children is now to be annually commemorated.
In New Haven in the US on 12 May, the day Albright’s infamous comments were made 16 years ago, a banner was unfurled and a minute’s silence held as the Middle East Crisis Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Tree of Life Education Fund and We Refuse to be Enemies inaugurated the first Iraq Genocide Memorial Day.
Stanley Heller, chair of the Middle East Crisis Committee commented that “this horrific loss of life was ignored for six years until the US ambassador to the UN appeared on [the TV show] ’60 Minutes’ and admitted the deaths of half a million children. We in the Middle East Crisis Committee call for 12 May to be marked as Iraq Genocide Memorial Day.”
Iraq’s children continued to die at an average of 6,000 a month until the illegal US-led invasion of the country in 2003 wrought further disaster. Many hospitals in the country are even today assessed as being even more woeful than they were under the UN embargo, and thus Iraq’s children continue to die in a near-forgotten tragedy of UN-US-UK making.
Soaring rates of cancer among children in Iraq and deformities at birth linked to the weapons used in the 1991 US bombing of the country, and then in 12 years of further bombing and the 2003 war, have exacerbated and compounded an enormous tragedy. Others accused of crimes against humanity end up at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, though only, it seems, if eastern European or African. Meanwhile, Albright has been gathering a bizarre collection of “humanitarian” awards.
One of the strangest is surely the Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) initiated by Albert Einstein, which “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people survive and rebuild their lives, [offering] life-saving care and life-changing assistance.” Endorsing infanticide hardly falls within the IRC’s loftily stated aspirations.
Two years after her statement on the disposable Iraqi children, Albright, now having abandoned her tarnishing of the United Nations’ founding aspirations by becoming US secretary of state, declared (in February 1998) that “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.”
A year later, the 1999 razing of much of the Balkans became known as “Madeleine’s war”. The largely unrecognised state of Kosova, carved out of that decimation, is now rated as one of the most corrupt and lawless countries in the region and high in the world ranking, according to December 2011 findings by the NGO Transparency International.
Talking after the virtual destruction of Iraq as a state, its archives and government institutions bombed, looted, or stolen, she told US journalist Jim Lehrer in September 2003 that “I think we actually kept him [former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein] in a strategic box. We bombed very much, if you remember all the maps, always in terms of north and south, covering a great portion of Iraq. I think we had him in the box.”
No mention here that both the bombing and the boxing in were illegal.
As ever, the majority of the bombing victims consisted of Iraq’s children, for whom Albright’s contempt was seemingly boundless: shepherds and goat herders tending the family flocks with no place to hide.
However, one politician with whom she sparred did take a stand against what was happening. Former UK foreign secretary Robin Cook resigned in protest two days before the US-led invasion, his resignation speech in the UK parliament on 18 March 2003 being a searing indictment of double standards in the West’s dealings with Iraq.
There had been a policy of deliberately selective perception, he said, something which could now equally apply to the threats against Iran. “I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months, but twelve years, in which to complete disarmament and that our patience is exhausted,” Cook said. “Yet, it is more than thirty years since [UN] Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.”
Cook talked of “the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.” Britain’s credibility was not “helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq,” he said.
“That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.” As some are doing now regarding the situation with Iran, he pleaded that “inspections be given a chance,” saying that the UK was “being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.”
He asked for the halting of the “commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support,” ending “I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action. It is for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.”
On the first anniversary of the 2003 invasion, Cook stated that “it seems only too likely that the judgment of history may be that the invasion of Iraq has been the biggest blunder in British foreign and security policy in the half century since Suez. In truth, we would have made more progress in rolling back support for terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq.”
Robin Cook died of a heart condition whilst hill walking in Scotland, coincidentally on a swathe of land owned by the duke of Westminster, a UK general and assistant chief of the defence staff, who visited British-held Basra in Iraq a number of times after the invasion.
Today, it is to be hoped that observance of Iraq Genocide Memorial Day will spread worldwide, both in memory of those who were abandoned by the inspiring words of the UN Charter, the numerous hidden casualties, both dead and alive, and as a reminder that for a great swathe of the world, it is the West, and not the rest, that appears to be becoming increasingly despotic.
The writer is a journalist specialising in Iraq and was senior researcher on two award-winning documentaries on the country, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday’s Returns.