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The Rediff Interview/Salah Al-Mukhtar

February 18, 2003

As the United States continues trying to persuade Europe of the need for quick action on Iraq, Salah Al-Mukhtar, Iraq's ambassador to India, is confident about his country's battle readiness. In an exclusive interview to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt, Al-Mukhtar, former editor of Al Jamhuriya, said the USA and UK will not be able to break his country's morale.

With reference to the US war on Iraq, some observers say it will be a war between an elephant and an ant. You have just returned from Iraq, can you tell me how the people of Iraq are readying for such a war?

This impression is not correct. The decisive factor in any conflict, whether military or non-military, is the human factor, not money or technology.

In Iraq, we don't consider America as stronger or bigger than us. For Iraqis it's not a political game, it's a question of dignity and survival. According to that belief, death and life become equal. When you reach this level of thinking the military and technological superiority of an elephant won't be enough to blackmail you. On the contrary you will tend to believe that you are much stronger than the enemy, simply because you are defending your own children, your home, culture, identity and fighting for a just cause.

We suppose the downtrodden people of Iraq do not think in these terms.

The poor people of Iraq are honest and principled. Being poor doesn't mean you are weak. They feel provoked that because they are poor they can be oppressed, insulted or attacked. It prepares them to fight back. The other party (America) is not prepared to lose his life. We are more powerful than the thief who is coming to loot us and wants to make more money by invading our land.

They are afraid of us more than we are afraid of them. If they will attack us, they will have to fight us in the streets, face to face. Just aerial bombardment or carpet bombing won't do. In this war a major factor will be human readiness to fight on the streets.

Is the Iraqi population ready for war?

Of course, of course. The alternative is to succumb and surrender. If we accept America's demands to avoid war it will destroy our identity as a nation.

How will the Iraqi people and government protect themselves from aerial attacks?

Iraqis are different. You should visit Iraq, you won't believe me if I tell you that Iraqis are living as normally as if there will be no war. However they have taken precaution to confront [the war]. Like, they have stocked food for five months. Most of them have dug wells for water. We expect the US to destroy water and electricity facilities. The government has provided mobile generators in different localities.

Also, television and broadcasting centres will be amongst the first targets. We have provided mobile broadcasting facilities. We have not built new bunkers because they will become the first targets as it happened in 1991.

Iraqis have been preparing to stay in their homes. Last time, the tragic example was Al Amiriya in Baghdad which was attacked by two newly manufactured bombs. The screw bomb was designed to make a hole and the second bomb used to ignite a fire. It killed 500 children and women. It has become a museum. The remnants of dead children and women are put on the walls. It was done to frighten Iraqis. Now there is no way they will stay in bunkers.

2003 is not 1991. It's not a war against the army of Iraq, it's a war against each Iraqi citizen. Since 2001, we have trained a volunteer army called the Jerusalem Army, it consists of 6 million people. They are well-armed. Out of 23 million, 10 million Iraqis are carrying guns. Like the Intifada movement in Palestine, we raised this army to support the cause of Palestine and to defend Iraq.

We have Saddam fidayeen [suicide squads] too who are well-trained commandos, trained under the leadership of Commander Uday Hussein, who is President Saddam's son.

There is enough proof that President Saddam Hussain is an autocrat and tormentor. Just because he is in power, Iraqis are afraid to talk about it. Remember the jubilation on the streets of Kabul when the Taliban was overthrown by America?

Are you ready to receive the invaders of your country with flowers? Those who kill your own millions, will you welcome them later? Who are making these charges against us? America and Britain. They are the enemies of Iraq. These two are the most notorious criminals in the history of mankind.

The US has killed millions of Red Indians. They used atomic weapons first, and used chemical weapons in Vietnam. They are behind the mass killings of Afghans. Britishers have committed too many crimes during their colonial days. Americans and Britishers are not qualified to preach humanity. Now, Britain and America are on one side and the rest of the world is on the other side.

That's not exactly correct. Nine European states including Italy and Spain have supported American moves.

Most of the countries are satellites of the former Soviet Union. They used to be slaves of the Soviets and now are slaves of America. Listen to what Russia, China, France and Germany are saying. [US Secretary of State] Colin Powell's statement before the UN was condemned because it was like a Hollywood movie. Who authorised the United States to wage war against a peaceful nation like Iraq?

The US is not aiming Iraq, it is targeting Saddam Hussein.

Why are they not targeting the president of North Korea? Why not the prime minister of Israel who is a criminal and killing Palestinian children? Israel has occupied Palestine, Golan Heights in Syria. They have more than 400 nuclear heads. They have not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty.

Iraq has signed the treaty and never violated it. We challenge the US to produce proof against Saddam Hussein's violation of any international law. You should not ask United States. You should ask the United Nations.

Powell's statement before the UN is a fantastic piece of lies. He claims Iraq has developed an unmanned airplane that can reach the US. How can an Iraq plane fly to the United States which is more than 10,000 kms away without refuelling? The American government is a group of criminals. Their religion, values and their only objective is to loot other nations.

They are officially telling France, Russia, China and others that if you support us we shall give you part of the oil cake from Iraq. They have already planned how to exploit the oil fields of Iraq. They have short-listed the names of the people who will be put in charge of the oil sector. Once Iraq is won they will re-control OPEC and Saudi Arabia. Though no nation has a right to intervene in the business of Iraq, the American Congress in 1998 adopted a law to topple the Iraqi government by all means including terrorism.

Is it in confirmation with the international law and UN charter? Imagine, if Iraq had made such a resolution to topple the US president, what would have been the reaction? What kind of double standards are these? They have the right to kill others but the victims have no right to defend themselves.

Recently, a CIA officer wrote an article in The New York Times that said Iraq has not used chemicals against the Kurdish people, [but] it's Iran that has used chemicals against Kurds. George Bush is talking the same language as Bush Senior was in 1990-91. He too said he was targeting Saddam Hussein and not Iraqis. Still hundreds of Iraqis were killed in that war. 300 Iraqis die every day because of the US imposed embargo. These are figures from British agencies.

Ramsey Clarke, a former US attorney general, has written about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and its disastrous impact on the environment. Iraqis are dying because of hunger and pollution.

When did you last meet President Hussein?

Very recently when all the ambassadors met him. He asked us to speak about Iraq. About the facts of our country. He will never succumb. He was a lawyer before he toppled the dictatorship. He is a courageous man. Iraq's strategy is to have a man-to-man fight. In 1991, America avoided the ground battle except the small battle that took place in Southern Iraq. They fired Cruise missiles that killed our children too. Now, they want to topple the Iraqi president by invading Iraq. To do that they will have to use ground troops. That will be a golden opportunity. Now we have 10 million people who are armed.

Do you think war is a reality now? Will Iraq be facing war soon?

Yes, America's survival depends on war. The US is collapsing psychologically, politically, economically, sociologically and in security terms.

9/11 has exposed the US' vulnerability. The US has a $160 billion budget deficit. It will double up because of the spending on security. National debt has increased. The US is consuming more than it is producing. This is the starting point of the collapse of any economic system. US oil reserves are depleting. In 20 years they have to double their production at a reasonable price. Alaska oil reserves are very expensive. The Iraq oil barrel costs half a dollar. Saudi Arabian oil barrel costs 2 dollars and the US oil barrel costs more than 30 dollars.

Iraq is an ocean of fortune for the US. It requires the control of Iraq to inject new blood in its ailing economy. The US is waiting for the long-awaited opportunity to reshape the world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, America wanted to redesign the world. It expects to do it now by attacking Iraq.

Part II: 'This is an unjust war'


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