Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.
He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.
His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.
As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.
A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.
A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.
A gathering of rich oil Arabs pledged $30 billion this week at a meeting in Kuwait to start rebuilding war-shattered Iraq. Sounds nice but these kinds of conclaves are notorious for offering big but delivering little.
The event was billed as helping Iraq repair war damage caused by ISIS. In fact, most of the damage from that short-lived conflict was caused by US bombing and a few Russian air strikes. ISIS, as this column has long been crying in the wilderness, was largely a paper tiger confected by the US, Britain and France to justify their military re-entry into Syria.
Iraq’s government says it needs at least $88 billion to rebuild war damage. What the US-imposed client regime in Baghdad won’t or can’t say is that the damage to Iraq is far greater than $88 billion and was largely inflicted by US air power in 1990-1991 and 2003.
Iraq was ravaged, as I saw myself while covering the wars. This small nation of 23-25 million souls, a third of whom were in permanent revolt against the Baghdad government, was pounded into rubble by US air power and cruise missiles. First in 1990-1991, then in 2003, everything of value was blown to bits: hospitals, schools, food factories, chemical plants making insecticide, bridges, and communications. In short, all the attributes of a modern state.
Most shocking to me, was the destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants by US air strikes.
Their destruction resulted in epidemics of cholera and other water-born diseases. Children were the primary victims. The UN asserted that over 550,000 Iraqi children died as a result of contaminated water. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later notoriously asserted that these deaths were ‘a price worth paying.’ I call them a war crime.
In 2003, 900,000 US-directed troops massed in Kuwait, invaded Iraq to finish off, it was claimed, the ‘work that the first president Bush failed to achieve,’ the overthrow and lynching of Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. If Saddam had any nuclear or broad-area biological weapons, the invader’s buildup in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would have been a dream target.
But Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons, contrary to US and British claims. I discovered in Baghdad a group of British scientific technicians who had been sent by the UK Ministry of Defense to build outlawed biological weapons at Salman Pak. These included deadly anthrax and Q-fever – but only for use against Iran if a second Iraq-Iran War erupted.
It is now widely accepted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction pointed at the West, as George Bush and Tony Blair incessantly claimed. But this was the excuse for going to war against Iraq and destroying it. When no such weapons were found, the story from Washington and London was changed to ‘oops, it was an intelligence failure. Sorry about that.’
Journalists like myself who asserted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction were fired or marginalized. I was blacklisted at CNN after the White House told the network to fire me at once. All the ‘presstitutes’, who acted as government boosters for the war, were promoted and lauded. Welcome to the new Soviet media.
Since Iraq, one if the Arab world’s most developed countries, was laid waste by US bombing, and since the war was deemed a big mistake, who is responsible for trying to repair Iraq to its pre-war condition? The money offered last week in Baghdad by the Gulf Arabs was a drop in the bucket and designed to bring Iraq into the forming anti-Iran alliance.
If this war crime was being properly litigated, Washington would likely end up being assessed something like $100 billion in damages just to replace physical infrastructure destroyed in the two wars, never mind the deaths of so many Iraqi civilians. Iran would also have a claim against Iraq’s western and Arab backers for Baghdad’s 1980-1988 war of aggression against Iran that caused an estimated one million Iranian casualties.
‘Oops, I’m sorry we destroyed your country and children’ is not a sufficient mea culpa. The western leaders who engineered this criminal war against Iraq deserve to be brought to book. So far, they have gotten off scot free. In fact, the same terrible fate has since befallen Syria, Yemen and parts of Somalia. Were these disasters also mistakes due to faulty intelligence?
At a time when the United States is convulsed by anti-Russian hysteria and demonization of Vladimir Putin, a trove of recently declassified Cold War documents reveals the astounding extent of the lies, duplicity and double-dealing engaged in by the western powers with the collapsing Soviet Union in 1990.
I was covering Moscow in those days and met some of the key players in this sordid drama. Ever since, I’ve been writing that the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Foreign Minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, were shamelessly lied to and deceived by the United States, Britain, and their appendage, NATO.
All the western powers promised Gorbachev and Shevardnadze that NATO would not expand eastward by ‘one inch’ if Moscow would pull the Red Army out of East Germany and allow it to peacefully reunify with West Germany. This was a titanic concession by Gorbachev: it led to a failed coup against him in 1991 by Communist hardliners.
The documents released by George Washington University in Washington DC, which I attended for a semester, make sickening reading (see them online). All western powers and statesmen assured the Russians that NATO would not take advantage of the Soviet retreat and that a new era of amity and cooperation would dawn in post-Cold War Europe. US Secretary of State Jim Baker offered ‘ironclad guarantees’ there would be no NATO expansion. Lies, all lies.
Gorbachev was a humanist, a very decent, intelligent man who believed he could end the Cold War and nuclear arms race. He ordered the Red Army back from Eastern Europe. I was in Wunsdorf, East Germany, HQ of the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany, and at Stasi secret police HQ in East Berlin right after the pullout order was given. The Soviets withdrew their 338,000 troops and 4,200 tanks and sent them home at lightening speed.
Western promises made to Soviet leaders by President George W. H. Bush and Jim Baker quickly proved to be empty. They were honorable men but their successors were not. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush quickly began moving NATO into Eastern Europe, violating all the pledges made to Moscow.
The Poles, Hungarians and Czechs were brought into NATO, then Romania and Bulgaria, the Baltic States, Albania, and Montenegro. Washington tried to get the former Soviet Republics of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. The Moscow-aligned government of Ukraine was overthrown in a US-engineered coup. The road to Moscow was open.
All the bankrupt, confused Russians could do was denounce these eastward moves by the US and NATO. The best response NATO and Washington could come up with was, ‘well, there was no official written promise.’ This is worthy of a street peddler selling counterfeit watches. The leaders of the US, Britain, France, Belgium and Italy all lied. Germany was caught between its honor and imminent reunification. So even its Chancellor Helmut Kohl had to go along with the West’s prevarications.
At the time, I wrote that the best solution would be for the demilitarization of formerly Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. NATO had no need or business to expand eastward. Doing so would be a constant provocation to Russia, which regarded Eastern Europe as an essential defensive glacis against invasions from the West.
Now, with NATO forces on its western borders, Russia’s deepest fears have been realized.
Today, US military aircraft based on the coasts of Romania and Bulgaria, former Warsaw Pact members, probe Russian airspace over the Black Sea and the vital strategic port of Sevastopol. Washington talks about arming chaotic Ukraine. US and NATO troops are in the Baltic, on Russia’s northwestern borders. Polish right-wingers are beating the war drums against Russia.
In 1990, KGB and CIA agreed to the principal of ‘not one inch’ eastward for NATO. Former US ambassador to Moscow, Jack Matlock, confirms the same agreement. Gorbachev, who is denounced as a foolish idealist by many Russians, trusted the Western powers. He should have had a battalion of New York City garment district shyster lawyers to document his agreements in 1990. He thought he was dealing with honest, honorable men, like himself.
Is it any wonder after this bait and switch diplomacy that Russia has no trust in the Western powers? Moscow watches US-run NATO oozing ever eastwards. Today, Russia’s leaders firmly believe Washington’s ultimate plan is to tear apart Russia and reduce it to an impotent, pauper nation. Two former Western leaders, Napoleon and Hitler, had similar plans.
Instead of carrying on about Hitler’s duplicity after Munich, we should look at our own shameless behavior after 1990.
Top photo: Michail Gorbachev discussing German unification with Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Helmut Kohl in Russia, July 15, 1990. (Photo: Bundesbildstelle / Presseund Informationsamt der Bundesregierung.)