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Filed October 11, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill
British Member of Parliament George Galloway.

BAGHDAD—After meeting with senior Iraqi officials earlier this week, British Member of Parliament George Galloway is predicting severe consequences for any army that invades or attempts to occupy Iraq. Galloway's warnings come as Iraqi television is being inundated with scenes of militias and army preparing for war. In daily broadcasts, slow-motion footage of soldiers training is intercut with images of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Nationalist music plays constantly in the background.

"No one in the United States should be under any illusion that this will be some kind of picnic," Galloway told shortly after meeting with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad. "The idea of 250,000 or more Americans patrolling the streets of an Arab country, for years to come, is unthinkable to anyone who knows this region well."

Galloway believes the costs will be high for an invasion, with both professional soldiers and Iraqi civilians fighting American ground forces "street by street, house by house."

"The army will be in the cities," Galloway said. "They're not going to stand out in the desert waiting to be bombed. So to hit the army you're going to have to hit the people. You're going to have to destroy the cities in a kind of Dresden-like bombardment. That will kill tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And then the invaders come, and they'll be fought by the survivors of the bombardment."

The mood in Baghdad is grim. In homes and businesses, ordinary Iraqis express anger towards the US government for twelve years of sanctions and frequent bombings. War plans being publicly made in the US are seen as a way to control Iraq's oil reserves, the second largest in the world. This popular anger could manifest in violent resistance to a US ground invasion.

"You know, the Iraqi youth are not less than the Palestinian youth, who are facing the Israeli occupation forces every day," Galloway said. "There's only one and a half million of them [Palestinian youth], and they don't have weapons by and large. There's twenty three million Iraqis, and they all have weapons. And ultimately they'll have their bodies as weapons, just like in Palestine. The Saddam militia, which is several million strong, are the suicide bombers of tomorrow against the occupation forces."

Despite the accusations and rhetoric emanating from the White House and 10 Downing Street, Galloway says he does not believe Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. He calls the more than fifty page report British Prime Minister Tony Blair holds as proof of Iraq's threat "unsubstantiated allegations." Galloway is pushing for the immediate return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

"I heard the British prime minister say live on television that so far as he knew, Iraq was the only country that had used weapons of mass destruction," he said. "Now, this is either a blatant lie or a very poor comment on the value of an expensive Oxford education, because it clearly forgets that the first people to use chemical weapons in the Middle East were the British."

In 1922 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill oversaw the use of chemical weapons to kill Iraqi Kurds. Galloway sees the West as continuing to use weapons of mass destruction against the Iraqi people.

"Britain and America used weapons of mass destruction in the form of depleted uranium in the war in 1991," Galloway said. "The results are plainly visible in Basra and the hospitals today in deformed children, in a cancer epidemic, in all sorts of congenital diseases. And of course as I've said, you know, to be a weapon of mass destruction it doesn't have to explode with a bang. The embargo that we have maintained has killed more people than all the weapons of mass destruction in history."

But despite the devastated economy and humanitarian crisis sanctions have brought, Galloway feels Iraqis are ready and willing to fight.

"There are going to be enormous casualties" Galloway said. "Not only Iraqi, but American too."

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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