When Californians need more water, they take it from their neighbors. Image credit: Robert Goldstrom
For Immediate Release: August 7, 2001
Pentagon Documents Show U.S. Intentionally Used Sanctions to Destroy Iraq's Water Supply
Shocking Revelations on Sanctions' 11th Anniversary
Madison, Wisconsin -- The U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War, The Progressive magazine reports in its September issue, citing seven partially declassified Pentagon documents dating back to 1991.
Thomas J. Nagy, author of the cover story "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply," says the documents demonstrate that "the United States knew it had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality. And it was more concerned about the public relations nightmare for Washington than the actual nightmare that the sanctions created for innocent Iraqis."
Nagy cites a January 22, 1991, Defense Intelligence Agency document entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," which states: "Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water." That document adds that "it probably will take at least six months (to June 1991) before the system is fully degraded."
The documents mention possible diseases that may flow from the degradation of Iraq's water supply. These include: cholera, diarrhea, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, kwashiorkor, measles, meningitis, pertussis, and typhoid.
The article says, "The sanctions, imposed for a decade largely at the insistence of the United States, constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention."
A 1979 protocol to the Geneva Convention states: "It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works."
The story is timely, as this week marks the eleventh anniversary of U.N. sanctions on Iraq.
"When the inglorious history of Iraq sanctions is written, these documents will demonstrate a level of callousness that is almost unspeakable," said Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive.
Thomas J. Nagy teaches at the School of Business and Public Management at George Washington University. The documents he cites appear on a Department of Defense web site here. His article, "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply," is available on The Progressive's website here.