Centre for Research on Globalisation
Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation

"Useful Wave of Indignation":

Who was behind the Attack on the Red Cross in Baghdad?

by Michel Chossudovsky

www.globalresearch.ca 28 October 2003

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO310A.html

The attacks on the Red Cross in Baghdad on the 27th of October do not bear the mark of the Iraqi resistance movement. 

Actions against the US led coalition have focused on military and political targets.

-On October 11,  the CIA Headquarters in the Baghdad hotel were targeted. Without acknowledging the fact that the hotel housed the CIA, the US media (Washington Post, Oct 12) had drawn an analogy between the October 11 Baghdad hotel bombing and the Bali bombing in Indonesia, hinting to the involvement of bin Laden

-On October 26, the Rachid Hotel which housed the US military and where Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz  was staying was targeted. The attack demonstrated the vulnerability of the Coalition and its inability to defend its Command structure.

- The attack on the UN building on August 20 was of a similar nature. Amply documented, the UN mission in Iraq was closely collaborating with the US-UK Coalition Authority led by Paul Bremer.  

In contrast, the Red Cross was among the few international humanitarian organizations which continued to collaborate throughout the bombing campaign (March 16 to April 8) with the Iraqi Health authorities, coming the rescue of the wounded and organizing convoys of ambulances to the hospitals.

The April 8 Attack on the Red Cross

Who was behind the attack on the Red Cross on October 27? While pointing to foreign terrorists linked to bin Laden, what the press failed to acknowledge was that this was the second attack on the Red Cross.

On April 8th, the day "Baghdad was Liberated", a convoy of seven vehicles of the Red Cross (ICRC), involved in re-supplyng the city's hospitals .was fired on leading to the death of 13 health workers as well as the ICRC's delegate to Iraq (who was a Canadian citizen).

The US media casually dismissed the incident: "A Canadian worker for the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed when gunfire strafed his car while driving through Baghdad."  The April 8 attack against the Red Cross was barely reported by the Western media, which was celebrating "the Liberation of Baghdad". 

Even the Canadian government, which is usually outspoken regarding these matters (e.g. the death of Canadian Journalist Zahra Kazemi in Iran)  failed even to make a statement on the death of a Canadian national, delegate of the Red Cross in Baghdad.

According to the official ICRC statement, the ambulances had been "caught in cross fire". Yet the reports suggested that this was not cross fire. The convoy had been deliberately targeted:  The vehicles "were clearly marked with large red crosses visible from a distance." (Health Newswire Consumer, 10 April 2003).

The Question is by whom? 

During the entire sanctions regime, since 1991, the Red Cross was present.  The Red Cross was among the few independent international aid agencies operating in Baghdad during the bombing campaign.

The death of the ICRC delegate and head of logistics Mr. V. Arslanian, on April 8 served to undermine the ICRC activities in support of Baghdad's hospitals. Mr. V. Arslanian, was personally responsible for "the delivery of Red Cross supplies such as water, blankets, generators, [etc]. "  It is therefore highly unlikely that the Red Cross convoy would have been deliberately targeted by Iraqi forces.

The April 8 attack on the Red Cross, which had been working closely with Iraqi health officials and hospital staff, was an important turning point. It laid the groundwork for bringing in the Pentagon's approved ("embedded") humanitarian organizations and aid agencies. The ICRC was obliged to suspend many of its operations that same day, April 8th.

Did US Troops Attack the Red Cross on April 8?

Reading between the lines of the ICRC statement and the various press reports, there are indications, although no official evidence, that Red Cross vehicles were targeted by Coalition forces. As mentioned earlier, Iraqi forces had no reason to target ambulances which were collaborating with Iraqi health officials.

The ICRC  was careful not to openly accuse US forces:

" The ICRC said it was not known whether the convoy had been deliberately attacked or had been caught up in crossfire between American and Iraqi forces." (Independent, 10 April 2003)

According to Roland Huguenin-Benjamin, of the Red Cross mission in Baghdad:

 'Casualties have been seen on the roads, on some bridges and there was no immediate possibility of evacuating them, for the reason that there was immediate fire as soon as anybody was trying to approach. The problem is the lack of respect for ambulances and respect for casualties - to give allow a minimum of security for people to be evacuated.'" (Ibid, emphasis added)

 . The Economist (9 April 2003) acknowledged that the attack on the convoy served to paralyze the Red Cross's activities in support of the city hospitals:

"The battle for Baghdad has overwhelmed the city's hospitals-over the weekend, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that they were getting up to 100 casualties an hour, and the Red Cross was forced to halt its operations in the city on Wednesday after one of its workers was shot in the chaos enveloping the city." (The Economist, 9 April 2003)

In this regard, the suspension of ICRC deliveries in the wake of the attack, contributed to cutting off "the sole source of fresh supplies of medicines and equipment to Baghdad's four main emergency hospitals."  By reducing the ICRC's presence, it also undermined the implementation of the ICRC's  mandate in Iraq under the Geneva Convention:

Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states that a "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army." The rules of occupation are complemented and developed in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the protection of civilian persons.

The duties of the Occupying Power include restoring and ensuring, as far as possible, public order and safety; providing the population with food and medical supplies; maintaining medical facilities and services; ensuring public health and hygiene; and facilitating the work of educational institutions. The Occupying Power should also allow and facilitate relief programmes undertaken by other states or impartial humanitarian organizations if the population is inadequately supplied. (ICRC, http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList74/A6708D62CEBB8842C1256DB80043AB4B )

Under its mandate, the ICRC  "visits to prisoners are aimed at preventing or putting an end to disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, and improving conditions of detention," in accordance with the Geneva Convention, which the Coalition Authority has blatantly violated. Thousands of people are being held by Coalition forces. Since the beginning of the war in March,  the ICRC has processed over 20,000 messages from Iraqi families to prisoners of war and detainees. 

The ICRC did not hesitate to remind Occupation forces of their responsibilities under the Geneva Convention. Moreover, the ICRC took an active position against the looting of healthcare facilities, tacitly accusing the Americans of "acquiescence". (Irish Times, 19 April 2003).

The ICRC  had "urged US-led forces to face their responsibilities, restore order and protect civilians by providing aid. The coalition had obligations as the occupying power under humanitarian law, including providing supplies to the population "of water, food and medical care". (Financial Times, 14 April 2003)

This criticism by the Red Cross was not only dismissed by then Commander of Coalition forces, General Thomas Franks, there was evidence that the looting of Iraqi health facilities had been deliberately encouraged by US forces. (See Global Outlook, no. 5, pp. 33-41).

The April 8 and October 27 Attacks. Any Connection?

There is reason to believe, based on documentary evidence concerning the the ICRC's relationship to the Iraqi authorities prior and during the war, that the Iraqi resistance movement would not target the Red Cross.

Who ordered the attacks on the Red Cross?

The October 27 attack serves the interests of the Coalition. It creates  a "useful wave of indignation". (See  Operation Northwoods, the declassified Top Secret 1962 document titled "Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba" at http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/NOR111A.html ) . 

The media has immediately jumped on the story pointing to a terrorist act, without mentioning that the ICRC had already been attacked, in all likelihood by US forces,  on April 8th.

According to the US media, which feeds the Pentagons propaganda machine, Saddam Hussein and foreign fighters linked to bin Laden were responsible for the attack on October 27.

According to the BBC, with reference to the attack on the Red Cross:

The big car bombs on non-military targets have borne the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.

They have been professionally planned and executed, sometimes synchronized, usually carried out by suicide bombers and aimed at maximum publicity effect. They have inflicted heavy and indiscriminate civilian casualties and no one has claimed responsibility. (BBC, 28 April, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3219483.stm )

Yet if indeed a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda were responsible for this attack, we would expect the US intelligence apparatus and/or its Pakistani proxy to at least be informed. Amply documented Al Qaeda is "an intelligence asset" of the CIA.

Moreover, these terrorist attacks on civilian targets have the same logic as September 11. They tend, in the eyes of World public opinion, to discredit the actions of the Iraqi resistance against the US-led occupation forces. They uphold the lies concerning the "war on terrorism".  They are now being used in official statements and in the media to present a "human face" to the US-led occupation.

The 27 October attack on the Red Cross serves another objective.  The ICRC is  at present:  "the one body with international authority to visit detention centres in a place like Iraq and to check on the treatment of prisoners including those under interrogation." (Peter Gowan, Ottawa, 29 October 2003).

What this means is that the ICRC, while maintaining a low profile in relation to the Coalition Authority,  has been routinely involved, in accordance with its mandate under the Geneva Convention, in documenting and compiling evidence of war crimes committed by occupation forces.   This data goes into their records in Geneva. It becomes part of the history of the Iraq war and occupation. 

If the ICRC were to withdraw or to drastically curtail its activities, there would be no such mechanism for monitoring war crimes by an international body or for "checking the treatment of prisoners by the Occupation authorities." (Ibid)

 © Copyright Michel Chossudovsky 2003  For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .