US Veterans Delegation to Iraq, October 1991

March 21, 2012


President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, on August 7, 1990, unilaterally ordered U.S. ground and naval forces to invade Saudi Arabia in border areas near Iraq, claiming he was responding to Iraq’s August 2 “naked aggression” of the Sheikdom of Kuwait. United States military veterans, along with many, but not enough others, sprang into immediate action, knowing that was not the real issue. There have been numerous “naked aggressions” committed by one country against another in the Middle East as well as elsewhere, including Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 with U.S. support, and Israel’s “naked aggression” against the Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt over the past 44 years, all having received either tacit or open support from the U.S. The worst offender in the world for committing lawless aggression and interventionism is the United States which possesses a global network of a thousand military bases and installations which have supported, it is now known, more than 350 U.S. led or supported military interventions in the “Third” world since the end of World War II, murdering millions.


Accompanying the sending of military forces to the Gulf, the U.S. immediately orchestrated UN-imposed sanctions such that no raw materials or modular system parts could be received by Iraq, devastating reconstruction efforts and exasperating hunger and malnutrition leading to hundreds of thousands of children dead. The 20 years of sanctions, 1990-2010, are estimated to have directly caused between 670,000 and 880,000 excess child deaths (“Lessons We Should Have Learned From the Iraqi Sanctions,” Foreign Policy, January 4, 2012). On our October 1991 visit we saw dying children with their desperate mothers everywhere – in hospitals if they were lucky to get a bed to wait out the death process, and on the streets.

The U.S. had systematically targeted the bombing of sewage treatment and water pumping plants, including destruction of pipelines carrying sewage or drinking water, respectively. Worse, the U.S. knew that the sanctions would prevent Iraq from restoring clean water due to its inability to acquire imported specialized equipment and chemicals needed to purify its water supply. Iraq had no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and essential chemicals such as chlorine. Confidential U.S. Documents reveal awareness that this deprivation policy would be especially devastating for children, identifying likely outbreaks of acute diarrhea brought on by bacteria such as E. coli, shigella, and salmonella, or by protozoa such as giardia or rotavirus, and typhoid and cholera outbreaks. The U.S. knowingly carried out a policy that would create thousands, likely hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi deaths, especially of children, and did it anyway. (“The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq’s Water Supply” by Thomas J. Nagy, The Progressive , September 2001 <>).

U.S. high ranking officials have publicly supported the policy of sanctions, killing hundreds of thousands of children:

Democracy Now!, September 22, 2005 – AMY GOODMAN asks: The U.N. sanctions…led to the deaths of more than a half a million children, not to mention more than a million Iraqis. New Mexico GOVERNOR RICHARDSON, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under president Clinton responds: Well, I stand behind the sanctions. I believe that they successfully contained Saddam Hussein. I believe that the sanctions were an instrument of our policy. (

CBS 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996 – Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq comments, then asks: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” President Clinton’s Secretary of State MADELEINE ALBRIGHT responds: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. (


In March 1990, the White House had issued its National Security Strategy of the United States, reminding its readers that the U.S. has “. . . always sought to protect the safety of the nation . . . and its way of life,” requiring efforts aimed at “contributing to an international environment . . . within which our democracy – and other free nations, – can flourish.” The report states that these goals have guided “American” policy “throughout the life of the Republic,” being the “driving force behind President Jefferson’s decision to send the American Navy against the Pasha of Tripoli in 1804 as they were when President Reagan directed American naval and air forces to return to that area in 1986.” Tripoli, of course, is today’s Libya, and the period 1801-1805 were the dates of the First Barbary or Tripolitan War.

The report continues by declaring our “pivotal responsibility for ensuring the stability of the international balance,” and it identifies the Middle East as a region in which “even as East-West tensions diminish, American strategic concerns remain,” identifying threats to, for example, the “security of Israel” and the “free flow of oil.” Israel is strategic for assuring U.S. hegemony even beyond the region.

It makes the interest in oil very clear: “Secure supplies of energy are essential to our prosperity and security. The concentration of 65 percent of the world’s known oil reserves in the Persian Gulf means we must continue to ensure reliable access to competitively priced oil and a prompt, adequate response to any major oil supply disruption.” Of course this is not surprising, nor is it a new policy. It is simply worth noting again, that the American Way Of Life (AWOL) leaves us little choice but continue our addiction to oil and fossil fuels.

The early 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled the western friendly Shah, the hostage crisis that followed, and the Soviet December invasion of Afghanistan in response to U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s funding Contras to aimed at overthrowing a revolutionary government there, all contributed to catalyze open domestic support for escalated U.S. military buildup in the Middle East. President Carter responded with the “Carter Doctrine,” in which he warned that the “United States would use any means necessary, including military forces,” to protect its vital interests in the Gulf. This went further than the Eisenhower Doctrine espoused in 1957.

A few months before the Gulf war of 1990-1991, General A.M. Gray, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, stated the U.S. problem very clearly:

The underdeveloped world’s growing dissatisfaction over the gap between rich and poor nations will create a fertile breeding ground for insurgencies which have the potential to jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic and military resources. This situation will become more critical as our nation and allies, as well as potential adversaries, become more dependent on these strategic resources.

If we are to have stability in these regions, maintain access to their resources, protect our citizens abroad, defend our vital installations, and deter conflict, we must maintain within our active force structure a credible military power projection capability with the flexibility to respond to conflict across the spectrum of violence throughout the globe.

(Michael T. Klare, “The New World War,” The Progressive (November 1990), 14-15).


The U.S. started bombing Iraq on January 16, 1991. Bombing was incessant. This included sending two (“Smart”) Cruise missiles through the air conditioning system of a large bomb shelter in Baghdad on February 13, killing hundreds of women and children. On February 17, former Marine Lt. John SCHUCHARDT, and his wife Carrie, attended the First Congregational Church in Kennebunkport, Maine on a Sunday when President George Bush and his wife Barbara were in attendance. At a point in the service when people were invited to share words, John stood up and firmly, but politely decried the bombing of Iraq with several poetic and factual declarations. He was forcefully dragged out of the church by Secret Service and local police. He was convicted of making unruly noise in a church and served three days in jail. Most in the Middle East knew of his act.


As quickly as August 12, only five days after Bush’s decision to invade the Gulf region, veterans began in different places and ways to assert opposition and resistance to this aggressive policy. A few veterans refused orders to be part of the Gulf invasion, and others participated in teach-ins and state and local demonstrations.

On September 7, 1991, a group of eight U.S. military veterans, ranging in age from 36 to 76, seven men and one woman, left the United States for the Middle East to investigate the issues of the region, and to observe the effects of the U.S.-led bombing and sanctions war against Iraq. No organization or entity in the United States or elsewhere financially sponsored the 1991 Veterans Peace Delegation. No organization or entity of any kind invited us to the Middle East or any of its countries. Each member of the delegation, individually and collectively, was motivated by conscience to viscerally experience the Middle East at this critical time. Each member sought his or her own funding enabling their participation in the delegation.

William Kelsey provided a unique contribution as the delegation’s general translator. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he grew up in Amman, Jordan, the son of Baptist archaeologists and missionaries, and possesses not only a good grasp of the Arabic language, but also of the cultural, political, and Biblical history of the Middle East region. Viet Nam veteran Rick Droz served as our photographer.

The delegation traveled approximately 3,600 ground miles (5,800 kilometers), interviewing people and observing conditions in rural areas and in 75 communities and cities. This travel and observation occurred from September 8 – September 19 in Green line Israel, Palestine, and the Golan Heights (areas in Syria illegally annexed by Israel in 1981); from September 20 – September 29, and October 11 – October 13 in Jordan; and from September 30 – October 11 in Iraq.


According to the March 20, 1991, United Nations Report on the impact of the war on Iraq, submitted by Under Secretary-General Martti Ahtisaari to the Secretary-General, approximately 9,000 homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair from the bombing. Of these, 2,500 were in Baghdad, 1,900 in Basrah. The report cites destruction of the following components of Iraq’s infrastructure:

1. The sole vaccine producing laboratory; 2. All vaccines; 3. Virtually all electrical power plants; 4. Virtually all oil refineries; 5. Virtually all oil storage facilities; 6. Virtually all electrically operated installations; 7. Virtually all plants manufacturing water treatment chemicals; 8. Virtually all telephone and communications systems; 9. All ports; 10. Eighty three bridges.

The U.N. Report used the terms, “near apocalyptic results,” “relegated to a pre-industrial age,” “imminent catastrophe,” “calamitous consequences,” “devastation,” “grave deficiencies” of food, and “deep crisis.”

In terms of estimates of total human casualty figures, the New York Times (June 5, 1991) reported 100,000 Iraqi military killed, and 300,000 wounded, citing DOD “tentative” figures. Other estimates suggest 200,000 Iraqi soldiers killed (London Times, March 3, 1991), with many more maimed. Civilian dead directly from bombings and immediate after effects are in the 25,000 to 50,000 range, with as many as 100,000 post-war adult deaths as of 1992, for a total of 150,000 civilian deaths (The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf, Ramsey Clark, Thunder Mouth’s Press, 1992, pp. 83-4, 130, 209). The Red Crescent Society of Jordan estimated 123,000 civilian dead just before the end of the war. Thus as many as 250,000 to 300,000 adult Iraqis, both military and civilian were killed directly from the war and its immediate aftermath. When added to the estimated 670,000 to 880,000 children who died over twenty years as a direct result of the sanctions, 920,000 to 1,180,000 Iraqis were killed due to the U.S.-led Gulf War and its accompanying sanctions.

Of course, this figure is in addition to the second Iraq war which began with the U.S. invasion on March 19, 2003, lasting officially until December 2011, killing anywhere from 120,000 to 130,000 civilians ( to about 865,000 ( Between the two wars, the first Gulf War, (really massacre) and the second Gulf War (or “Operation Iraqi Freedom), somewhere between one and two million Iraqis were murdered. In addition the U.S. war has created 600,000 orphans, internally displaced at least 1.3 million Iraqi citizens, and twice that many in exile (“Iraq: Remembering Those Responsible” Stephen Zunes, Truthout, January 1, 2012 <>).


As we prepared to leave the country, we went to one of the large markets in Baghdad. Few if any tourists were in the country. I was attracted to a vendor sitting next to huge piles of Oriental RUGS. As we engaged him in discussion, he described 42 consecutive days of bombing as the ultimate in terror. For about 10 or 12 days, he said, Baghdad was bombed every 3 to 5 minutes, at least 10 hours a day, from about 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. If only one bomb hit Baghdad every 3 to 5 minutes, that would amount to 12 to 20 bombs per hour, 120 to 200 bombs per the 10 hour bombing night, or 1200 – 1440 to 2000 – 2400 total bombs for the 10 or 12 day period of intense bombing. Virtually every other night, and daytime, witnessed bomb hits as well, though with less intensity. Almost certainly more than one bomb exploded every 3 to 5 minutes for some of the bombing period. Thus it is easy to imagine that Baghdad was hit at least 3,000 to 4,000 times with bombs and missiles.

I couldn’t resist acquiring one of the beautiful RUGS lying in numerous piles awaiting for tourists to once again visit Iraq. One caught my fancy and I asked the vendor how much it cost. He responded: “make me an offer.” I had no idea the value of these RUGS but I imagined they were way out of my reach. But I simply offered $50 thinking he would laugh. He said “give me $55 and it is yours. I was stunned. Virtually no outsiders had been shopping in these markets since the bombing ended in February, some seven months prior. He said he thought the RUG was made in Babylon sometime in the early 1930s. I had no idea, not being a rug expert. I wrapped it in a black plastic garbage bag tied with a rope, in preparation for our return travel to Amman, Jordan, then on the plane to the U.S.

We left Baghdad at 5:15 am for our 550 mile (900 kilometers) return trip to Amman, Jordan, Friday, October 11 through the Syrian Desert. We were concluding 12 days in Mesopotamia, one of the “Cradles of Civilization.” Perhaps its plight portends the end of “civilization” as we have come to understand the term.

After passing through Falluja, we came to Ramadi where we were forced to take an extensive detour because three bridges (that we could see) over the Euphrates River had been bombed. We observed another destroyed electric power station. From Ramadi, Iraq, to the eastern edge of Amman, Jordan, we traveled through the seemingly endless Syrian Desert. We continued through Rutba, Iraq, to the Iraq border town of Trebil. Virtually every communications center and power station visible from Baghdad to the Jordan border seemed to have been bombed or missiled, probably one or two dozen in number. Scars were visible on the road pavement where bombs had apparently struck moving vehicles. Coming eastward into Iraq we had seem few road scars on the roadway. Apparently the numerous scars in the westward lanes heading into Jordan suggest the targeting of fleeing vehicles.

It took about three hours at the Iraq Customs and Immigration post at the border town of Trebil before we could enter Jordan. I was informed by Iraqi officials that the Oriental RUG I had purchased in Baghdad was considered a “national treasure” and that it could NOT be removed from the country. I was disappointed, but was not going to argue with them, or offer a bribe. After all, I was a citizen of the country that had bombed Iraq to a “pre-industrial age.” They were curious as to why we veterans had traveled to Iraq and wondered what we had been doing. We expressed our outrage at the U.S. invasion and bombing and that we wanted to offer our apologies for our country’s barbarism, and to document the damages to the Iraqi society. They were absolutely astonished to hear this. I then thought to ask them, through our own translator, Bill Kelsey, whether they had heard of the man who stood up in Bush’s church in February 1991 demanding the end of the bombing, a story that had made the February 18, 1991 New York Times headline, “Dissent Makes Discord in Bush’s Church.” Oh, yes, they exclaimed, and their faces lit up. Well, I said, here is the guy, JOHN SCHUCHARDT stood up in Bush’s church demanding the bombing to be stopped. That led to an incredible conversation which ultimately led to their wanting me to take the cherished RUG with me. All, thanks to JOHN SCHUCHARDT’S bold, moral action in Bush’s church that we discovered virtually all people in the Middle East had heard about.

We arrived at our Jordan destination, the Caravan Hotel, about 9 p.m. Friday evening.


* Phil Roettinger, Retired Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, WW II; Ex-CIA Officer (Guatemala and Mexico); President, Association of National Security Alumni, opposed to all U.S. covert and overt interventions; portrait painter; BA, Pol. Sci., Ohio Wesleyan Univ.

* John Schuchardt, Ex-Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps; Attorney; “Plowshares” activist against U.S. weapons buildup and all interventionist policies; Juris Doctor (JD), Univ. of Chicago.

* S. Brian Willson, Ex-Captain, U.S. Air Force; Security Officer in Viet Nam (VN); trained attorney; long-time peace activist; lost both legs when U.S. munitions train accelerated over nonviolent protest of U.S. policies in Central America; JD, The American Univ,; LLD, CUNY Queens.

* Mark Birnbaum, Ex-Sergeant, U.S. Army intelligence, Viet Nam; Director of his own video production company; produced documentaries about U.S .intervention in Nicaragua; videographer for delegation: BA, Psych., Univ. of Maryland.

* Rick Droz, Ex-Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, Viet Nam; lost leg in VN; professional photo- journalist; long-time peace activist; photographer for delegation; BA, Photography, Brooks Institute.

* William Kelsey, Ex-Ensign, U.S. Navy, graduate of U.S. Naval Academy; discharged as conscientious objector; freelance pilot; grew up in Jordan; speaks Arabic; translator for delegation; BNS, Naval Acad.

* Dr. Lawrence Deems Egbert, Ex-Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, World War II; Medical Doctor (anesthesiologist); previously on faculty of universities in Iran and Lebanon; Member, Dallas, Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility; MD and MPH, Johns Hopkins Univ.

* Ellen Elizabeth Barfield, Ex-Sergeant, U.S. Army; diesel mechanic; Laboratory technician, knowledgeable about water toxins and animal pathogens; peace activist; assists at Dallas, Texas AIDS Center; BS, Animal Science, W. Texas State Univ.

One Comment

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