Regime Change: A Criminal Calamity for Iraq
The US invasion of Iraq was based on lies and has lead to unspeakable horrors.
It is time for accountability, says former UN representative to Iraq, Hans von
By Hans von Sponeck
April 11, 2015 "ICH"
- The books of the UN contain no reference to "regime change", nor is it in the
law books. Regime change is a term coined by western governments, especially the
US, to describe a policy that has no basis in international law.
Externally induced regime change has never solved international conflicts. On
the contrary, it has intensified them wherever they have been attempted.
Innocent civilians are invariably the victims. There are many examples, with
Iraq being the most prominent.
Following years of clandestine co-operation between US spies and Iraqi
opposition groups, the US Congress came out into the open by approving the Iraq
Liberation Act, which stated that US policy should seek to "support efforts to
remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein".
The act was signed by Bill Clinton on 31 October 1998. Five years later, in
March 2003, Clinton's presidential successor, George W Bush, sent in the troops.
The US legitimised this invasion by insisting that Saddam's Iraq harboured
weapons of mass destruction and cooperated with terrorism networks, including
The politics of fear
US think-tanks promoted fear. Statements released to the public included:
"Because of the limited capability of Iraqi conventional military forces, its
WMD programmes loom even larger," and "There is... a general suspicion that Iraq
is working on a variety of terrorist contingency plans in case Saddam finds it
necessary to strike the United States."
The Bush administration welcomed wholeheartedly such insinuations advanced
by alleged scholars including Kenneth Pollack, a fellow for the US Council on
Foreign Relations, who is identified on the cover of his 2002 book, The
Threatening Storm, as "one of the world's leading experts on Iraq".
It is now a fact of history that Iraq had no WMD, as Iraq's deputy prime
minister, Tariq Aziz, told various UN chief arms inspectors including Richard
Butler and Hans Blix, the former a henchman for US interests. Some UN arms
inspectors had indeed confirmed that since 1995 Iraq was not a threat.
Links with terrorist groups also went unproven, and many knew the claims to be
false even before the invasion. Iraq, a secular republic, had no interest in
allying with fundamentalist groups like al-Qaeda.
Without these WMD and
terrorist fabrications, there would not have
been any basis for US authorities to argue
that Iraq posed "a threat to many of its
neighbours in the absence of US forces".
Facts are stubborn things. Thirteen years of
sanctions had kept the government of Saddam
firmly in place, the UN "oil-for-food
programme" had become a political tool and
the people of Iraq were being exposed to
"unavoidable collateral damage".
John Negroponte, the US ambassador, did not
hesitate to confirm this to the US Senate in
April 2004: "Although the flow of
humanitarian and civilian goods to Iraq was
a matter of strong interest to the US
government, it should be emphasised that an
even greater pre-occupation throughout the
period of sanctions was to ensure that no
items be permitted for import which could...
contribute to Iraq's WMD programme."
Following the 2003 invasion and the lifting
of sanctions, the full scale of human
misery became known. In 2002, 132 of every
1,000 Iraqi babies died before the age of
five, according to Unicef - second only to
Relief goods imported to Iraq in the
oil-for-food programme, which ran from 1996
to 2003, amounted to a mere $185 per person
The UN estimated at the time that about
60-75 percent of the population had been
dependent on UN support.
Warnings ignored and unheeded
The tragedy for the Iraqi people,
international law and the standing of the UN
is that the voices from within the UN
secretariat in both Baghdad and New York, as
well as some members of the UN Security
Council, had been warning of the
consequences of such policies.
They were drowned out by Washington and
London in favour of an uncompromising
bilateral regime change dictated by
To ensure as tight a cover-up as possible,
no means were spared:
* The falsification of facts was encouraged,
a severe hindrance for the UN in Iraq;
* political support was often bought with
* obtaining supplies was turned into a
tortuous bureaucratic process to ensure long
* ordered goods were often blocked on
* agents were sent to infiltrate the UN Iraq
* UN staff who opposed US/UK policies were
Brazil's courageous ambassador to the UN in
New York, Celso Amorim, used Brazil's
presidency of the security council to review
the human conditions in Iraq.
He convened in 1999 an Iraq panel on the
adequacy of the oil-for-food programme. Soon
after the Amorim, under strong pressure from
Washington, was transferred out of New York.
Following the release of the panel report,
the permanent representative of Malaysia to
the UN, Dato Agam Hasmy, addressed the
security council in a speech that will
remain forever an honourable and powerful
testimony of courage:
"How ironic is it that the same policy that
is supposed to disarm Iraq of its weapons of
mass destruction has itself become a weapon
of mass destruction."
In 2003 the government of Saddam had been
eliminated and Iraq had been "liberated".
According to US authorities, Iraq was
finally eligible for democracy. In 2015, 12
years after the invasion and four years
since the end of occupation, Iraq is facing
myriad difficulties at national, regional,
local and personal levels.
While the Islamic State group is featured as
"the" issue in Iraq, there are other serious
problems. Wars, sectarianism, civil conflict
and crime are shaking the country's
children are not in school, the education
system is permeated by religious divisions,
Iraqi academics have been subjected to
abductions, extortions and random killings,
Iraq has become one of the transit points
for opium and cannabis, millions of Iraqi
children are orphans and there are an
estimated one million female-headed
Those responsible have refused to accept
responsibility. They have become either mute
or insist that the infamous "bigger picture"
justified the means.
They absolve themselves of today's
conditions in Iraq. They ignore their part
in the destruction of Iraq's physical and
social infrastructures, for the use of
proscribed munitions such as depleted
uranium and white phosphorous, for brutality
and horrific torture during eight years of
Torture and lies
No one can forget the photographs of Satar
Jabar, the "hooded man of Abu Ghraib".
The US Senate assessment of CIA torture
released in December 2014 by US senator
Diane Feinstein - a brave act of necessity -
confirms in intricate detail that so-called
"enhanced interrogation techniques" were
The report corroborated that deliberate
misrepresentation of facts and events by US
authorities, especially the CIA, intensified
The torture report points out that much of
the so-called US "war on terrorism" was
justified and legitimised by entirely false
The release of the torture report has
encouraged the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes
Commission to submit two volumes of torture
evidence to the recently appointed new chief
prosecutor of the ICC in the Hague.
This information has been collected from
prisoners who were tortured in Abu Ghraib,
Bagram and Guantanamo.
With reports like these laying bare the
crimes committed in the name of "regime
change" and the "war on terrorism", now is
the time for political accountability.
Thirteen years after the invasion there has
been a shift from US unilateralism to
multi-polar international decision-making.
This provides important new perspectives for
the end of impunity.
Hans Christof Graf von
Sponeck was born 1939 in Bremen, Germany,
the son of Hans Graf von Sponeck. He served
as a UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.
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