Gulf War anniversary demos begin Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Jan 16 (South News) - Thousands of Iraqis turned out for two anti-American demonstrations in Baghdad on Saturday to mark the eighth anniversary of the start of the Gulf War.

The demonstrators, including schoolchildren and government workers, filed past a grandstand in one of the main roads in the west of the capital. The demonstration was led by General Ali Hassen al-Majid, a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, Iraq's most important body, and ruling Baath party member.

The demonstrators cursed US President Bill Clinton and swore their loyalty to President Saddam Hussein. "Clinton the coward, go look for girls," the protestors shouted, in a reference to the sexual scandals that have rocked the White House.

Anti-Saudi and Kuwaiti slogans were also yelled: "Shame on those among the Arabs who maintain the embargo" imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Both countries allowed their territory to be used by the United States and Britain during the four-day missile strikes on Iraq, dubbed operation Desert Fox.

According to a survey by UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, and the World Food Program (WFP) , the US/British bombing in December destroyed or damaged 12 hospitals, a granary, a huge rice storage center in Baghdad, the principal oil-refining factory used for Iraq's domestic consumption, and other vital elements of Iraq's economic infrastructure necessary to sustain civilian life

The second demonstration took place in the eastern part of the city, led by Latif Nassif Jassem, a Baath leader and head of the party district in east Baghdad.

The two demonstrations are the first of a series planned to mark the anniversary on Sunday of the "Mother of all Battles." The final demonstration will be a march of Arab students through Baghdad on the night of Saturday through Sunday.

The march will coincide with the launch of the air campaign by a US-led coalition, which preceded a ground attack on Iraqi troops in Kuwait.

Similar demonstrations are planned in western countries including Australia as part of a planned worldwide campaign initiated by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark  against plans for a new bombing campaign that would last several weeks- made public in recent days by various wire services.

"We condemn both the inhumane sanctions on Iraq and the US military for its proposed new massive sustained bombing campaign of Iraq which is likely to kill more than 10,000 people," stated Sharon Wathen spokesperson for the peace, community, and ethnic groups  planning to assemble Sunday on the lawns of the State Library at 1pm in Melbourne.

"The common explanation for Gulf war syndrome is environmental pollution, caused when chemical and biological centres were blown up but radiation from depleted uranium rounds remains the most plausible explanation," said Sharon Wathen. Depleted uranium is used to weight shells, rendering them highly effective in piercing tank armour. It is intensively flammable and releases radioactive substances

In Iraq, the health authorities say that at least three times more children are being born with congenital deformities than before the Gulf war. Now, in both Britain and the United States, veterans of that same war are coming forward with reports of sick and dying children.

"The brutal irony is that the most likely origin of this gene twisting force is not Iraqi, but Western. During the 100 hour ground war of February 1991, coalition planes fired at least one million rounds of ammunition coated in a radioactive material known as depleted uranium, or DU," Wortham said.