Cohen Takes Aim at Iraqi Propaganda
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Oct. 20, 1999 There was nothing diplomatic in Secretary of Defense William Cohen's warning about what would happen if Saddam Hussein is successful in his propaganda campaign to end U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
According to Cohen, if Hussein can manipulate opinion to have the sanctions lifted, there will be "no restraint upon his weapons of mass destruction program, no restraint upon his missile production program, no inspectors, no control, with revenues flowing back into his military."
Cohen spoke of the need to counter Hussein's propaganda after an Oct 18 meeting with Bahrain's Amir Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain, an island country strategically located in the Persian Gulf, was Cohen's first stop in a 10-nation, nine-day visit to the Middle East.
The United Nations passed resolutions after the Gulf War requiring Iraq to destroy all weapons of mass destruction and the means to make them. To enforce compliance, it imposed sanctions that prevented Iraq from trading with other nations. The sanctions remain in effect because Iraq refuses to allow U.N. inspectors to verify that the weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated.
"Now what they are seeking to do is lift the sanctions," Cohen said. "So there will be absolutely no requirement on Iraq to do what it was required to do at the end of the Gulf War. This is simply unacceptable."
He warned against being misled by Hussein's effort to blame the U.N. sanctions for creating shortages of food, medicine and clothing in Iraq. "Iraq has been waging a successful propaganda campaign, and we should see it for precisely what it is -- propaganda," he said.
A U.N. report points out there is far less suffering in northern Iraq, where Hussein has less control, than in the south. "He does in fact manipulate millions of dollars worth of humanitarian supplies," Cohen said. "He refuses to distribute food and medicine and clothing to his own people."
In 1997, a U.N. oil-for-food program allowed Iraq to sell some oil and purchase humanitarian supplies. The United Nations had offered the program since 1992, but Hussein refused it. A British-Dutch resolution currently before the United Nations aims to increase the scope of the oil-for- food program to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
Cohen said the United States and its allies must counter Hussein's propaganda. "We will continue to remind people who Saddam is, and what he's done in the past, and what he's capable of doing in the future."