Turkey bombing in "No-Fly Zone".

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMtao.ca
Fri Mar 16 20:55:24 MST 2001

New Statesman (London) | www.newstatesman.co.uk
19 March 2001


John Pilger - Britain and America's pilots are blowing the cover on
our so-called "humanitarian" no-fly zone

Royal Air Force pilots have protested for the first time about their
role in the bombing of Iraq. Pilots patrolling the so-called no-fly
zone in the north of the country have spoken angrily about how they
have been ordered to return to their base in Turkey in order to allow
the Turkish air force to bomb the Kurds in Iraq - the very people the
British are meant to be "protecting".

The pilots say that, whenever the Turkish air force wants to launch
attacks on the Kurds, the Turks are recalled to base and their radar
is switched so that the targets will not be visible. One British pilot
reported seeing the devastation caused by the attacks when he resumed
his patrol.

The pilots agreed to speak, on a non-attributable basis, to Dr Eric
Herring, the Iraq sanctions specialist at Bristol University. "They
were all very unhappy about what they had been ordered to do, and what
they had seen," he said, "especially as there had been no official

While British government ministers have repeatedly described the
no-fly-zones as "humanitarian cover" for the Kurds, the pilots' unease
has become an open secret in the United States. Last October, the
Washington Post reported: "On more than one occasion [US pilots who
fly in tandem with the British] have received a radio message that
'there is a TSM inbound' - that is, a 'Turkish Special Mission'
heading into Iraq. Following standard orders, the Americans turned
their planes around and flew back to Turkey. 'You'd see Turkish F-14s
and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with munitions,' [pilot Mike
Horn] said. 'Then they'd come out half an hour later with their
munitions expended.' When the Americans flew back into Iraqi air
space, he recalled, they would see 'burning villages, lots of smoke
and fire'."

Last December, more than 10,000 Turkish troops invaded northern Iraq,
killing untold numbers of civilians and fighters of the Kurdistan
Workers' Party, the PKK. British and American aircraft "protecting"
the Kurds did nothing to prevent the invasion; indeed, most patrols
were suspended to allow the Turks to get on with the killing. Inside
Turkey, the Ankara regime has destroyed 3,000 Kurdish villages,
displaced more than three million people and killed tens of thousands.
Racist laws prevent Turkish Kurds from speaking their language;
parliamentarians and journalists who speak out end up in prison, or

The Blair government has said nothing about this, because Turkey is a
member of Nato. Almost all Kurds applying for asylum in Britain - from
Turkey and Iraq - have been refused. Jack Straw's new Terrorism Act
bans the PKK, which has no history of violence in this country. This
means that Kurdish activists resident in Britain are now at risk of
being sent back to Turkey: to prison, or worse. In the past few weeks
more than 1,000 political prisoners on hunger strike in Turkish jails
have been attacked by the authorities, leaving 33 people dead. Again,
Whitehall's response has been silence.

RAF pilots are gradually becoming aware of the dishonest power game of
which they are a part, and that the no-fly zones have no basis in
international law and provide no "humanitarian cover" for the Kurds in
the north and the Shi'a in the south. Concern for these people was
always a sham. In 1991, when President Bush Sr called for the
overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he was really inviting Saddam's generals
to stage a military coup and install a more malleable dictator. The
last thing he wanted was the ensuing popular uprising by the Shi'a in
March of that year - which Saddam crushed with helicopter gunships
that the US allowed him to fly, and while American commanders denied
weapons and equipment to the rebels. An estimated 30,000 people were
slaughtered. "We clearly would have preferred a coup. There's no
question about that," said Bush's national security adviser Brent
Scowcroft in 1997. The British commander in the Gulf war, General Sir
Peter de la Billiere, said, apparently with a straight face: "The
Iraqis were responsible for establishing law and order."

Eric Herring wrote to me: "Perhaps the most repulsive thing about the
whole policy is that US and British decision-makers have exploited
popular humanitarian sentiment for the most cynical Realpolitik
reasons. They have no desire for the Shi'ite majority to take control
or for the Kurds to gain independence. Their policy is to keep them
strong enough to cause trouble for Saddam Hussein while ensuring that
Saddam Hussein is strong enough to keep repressing them. This is a
direct descendant of British imperial policy from the First World War
onwards [and is about the control] of Iraqi oil . . . Divide and rule
was and is the policy."

Recently, Richard Norton-Taylor disclosed in the Guardian that
Britain's military establishment was concerned about the proposed new
international criminal court. The generals complained that rules made
in Brussels might "prevent British peacekeepers from carrying out
their tasks effectively". Their real concern, and that of western
politicians, was put by Michael Caplan, the former lawyer to General
Pinochet, who questioned how Tony Blair would be able to defend
himself were he charged with bombing targets in Kosovo knowing that
civilians would be killed.

When he was the Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq, Peter
Hain wrote to the New Statesman, describing as preposterous the very
suggestion that he, and other British ministers directly complicit in
the atrocious embargo against Iraq, might be summoned to appear before
the new court.

We shall see.


Macdonald Stainsby
Rad-Green List: Radical anti-capitalist environmental discussion.
Leninist-International: Building bridges in the tradition of V.I. Lenin.
In the contradiction lies the hope.
                                     --Bertholt Brecht

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