President Bush last night spoke at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and claimed an invasion of Iraq will set the stage for peace in the Middle East.
He also tried to allay fears of a humanitarian disaster. Claiming "the first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people themselves," he promised the US will deliver medicine and said the US is already moving into place nearly three million emergency rations to feed the hungry.
But Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reports from Baghdad that the Bush administration’s humanitarian plans are being met with disdain by Western humanitarian organizations inside Iraq. One humanitarian official told Democracy Now!, "it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad."
Worse, Democracy Now! has learned the Pentagon is asking humanitarian organizations for the global positioning coordinates of civilian sites, such as water treatment facilities, electrical power plants, sewage treatment systems and food distribution centers.
The Pentagon is telling the organizations it wants this information so it won’t accidentally bomb these sites. But the US systematically attacked civilian infrastructure during 1991 Gulf War. And in Afghanistan, a clearly marked Red Cross warehouse was bombed twice, and the Kabul headquarters of the Al Jazeera news agency was bombed as the US-backed Northern Alliance was taking the city.
One humanitarian official told Scahill it would be outrageous if any cooperated with the Pentagon, saying it would be tantamount to spying for the US government.
In addition, Democracy Now! has learned Washington has been pressuring the International Committee of the Red Cross over past several months, not to repeat what it did in Afghanistan: criticize the US use of non-conventional weapons like cluster bombs, and the very public denunciation of the Guantanamo detention camps as violation of Geneva Conventions.
- President Bush, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on Feb. 26, 2003, about the humanitarian plans for Iraq.
- Jeremy Scahill reports from Baghdad.