Iran-Iraq War: A Path To Nowhere (22)


Manoucher Avaznia
by Manoucher Avaznia

To the memory of the soldiers who fell before my eyes in the first Persian Gulf War. From my Iran-Iraq war memoirs that has been published in a book titled "A Path To Nowhere" >>> Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9 -- Part 10 -- Part 11 -- Part 12 -- Part 13 -- Part 14 -- Part 15 -- Part 16 -- Part 17 -- Part 18 -- Part 19 -- Part 20 -- Part 21 -- Part 22 --  Notes --


A Cup Of Poison

July 18, 1988 was my sixth day of desertion. In those six days Iranian forces had faced Iraqi relentless attacks on all fronts. Predictably, they did not offer an effective resistance and were defeated from south to north. Thousands of them were taken prisoners and many thousands lost their lives. Khomeini was left without any means to continue his heavenly war and yielded to the Security Council's 598 Resolution twelve years before its promised twenty years: a submission he described as bitter as “a cup of poison”.

Meanwhile I was being held in a military prison in the City of Ammareh. An Iraqi police soldier named Abbass was among my jailers. He knew a few Persian words. At nine o’clock at night of July 18, Abbass jubilantly called me out.

"Khomeini consented to peace, at last,” he said, “He has agreed with the United Nations' resolution. There is peace, agha (sir in Persian) Salam (peace in Arabic)! Peace! Peace," the excited soldier went on.

Skeptical, I said he was joking with me. At the sight of my cold reaction, Abbass brought his short wave radio to me and tuned it to Radio Tehran’s Persian service. Unbelievably, Khomeini had forgotten his divine mission and he had succumbed to the cease-fire. Was the cease-fire an end to the NLA? Was I going to be extradited to Iran according to cease-fire conditions? Another bad luck was on its way to me? What would be the aftermath of Khomeini's taking poison?

A few days before the official signing of the ceasefire agreement in Geneva, the NLA had waged its last and bloodiest incursion to Iran. This incursion was codenamed the Eternal Light. Despite brave fighting and inflicting heavy casualties on the Iranian armed forces especially the Guards, the NLA failed to achieve its goal of bringing down the government in Tehran. It left behind over one thousand dead and some captives and withdrew to Iraq.

Taking the opportunity the incursion had provided, in a short period of time the Khomeini government hanged all NLA captives and a few thousand political prisoners who mainly had served their conviction terms in jails. This butchery was so savage that many political prisoners who were released years earlier were taken back to prison and were put to death.

The best illustrations of the fact that the Khomeini government was indeed pursuing the war for its internal political considerations rather than a military victory are two periods of massacre of the political prisoners that marked the beginning and the end of the war. The first massacre took place in early summer 1981: less than ten months before the first anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran. This massacre consolidated the Khomeini’s dictatorial rule and wiped out all freedoms across the country. The second massacre immediately followed the conclusion of the war and announcement of the cease-fire. It was during the second massacre that more than four thousand political prisoners were put to death within a few weeks. This massacre uprooted all organized political movements in Iran and left the whole country to the rule of the “absolute authority of the Islamic Jurist”.

Behind the walls of prison I knew nothing of the events that followed the ceasefire. Later, when I heard of Eternal Light and the ceasefire, I learned that my reasons for joining a professional revolutionary army were not strong enough to drive me to the NLA. Such fighting required stronger convictions than mine. Once again my passiveness and skepticism returned to me. I would go through a period of imprisonment and exile in a camp before I left Iraq.

The poison of the ceasefire was forced on Khomeini when the big arms-producers, the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, decided to strengthen the Iraqi army. What kind of disaster would this policy bring for the people in the future? Would the big arm-producers leave the Iraqi regime to enjoy its claimed victory? Where would Khomeini look for crises? After eight years of war, now only one thing was clear to me: the war in the Persian Gulf rested on four pillars.

The most important pillar of the war was the global arms producers and arms-dealers. Despite what those days’ West and the East claimed, neither of them was neutral in the war. Both provided weapons and information to both sides of the war. They abundantly provided every kind of destructive weapon, except nuclear bombs, to both sides. European advanced chemical industries supplied poison gas to the Iraqi regime on an unprecedented scale. The Soviet Union directly or indirectly sold weapons to both sides. The French provided advanced fighter jets and rockets to Iraq to bomb Iranian oil facilities; and at the same time they sold billions of dollars of ammunitions to the Iranian side. Billions of dollars of American weapons were reaching Iran while their military information was going to Iraq. Chinese missiles pounded Iraqi towns for Iran and Russian missiles destroyed Iranian cities for Iraq. Israel, Bulgaria, Vietnam, North Korea, Sweden, Italy, Syria, Libya, Austria, Britain, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, and Argentina profited from the war and arms sale market. Whoever had access enjoyed the benefits of Khomeini's blessing.

Our domestic despots constituted the second pillar of the war. The Iranian anti-dictatorial 1979 Revolution was sacrificed. Khomeini's tyranny slaughtered children of the revolution and new democratic institutions were replaced by an absolute dictatorship. In Iraq the beginnings of an Islamic movement against Saddam Hossein's dictatorship were strangled under the deafening cries of defending the eastern borders of the Arab homeland. As in Iran, thousands of political activists suffered torture, imprisonment, and execution. Secret police were strengthened in both countries to crush freedoms. Militarization grew to an unprecedented scale.

The third pillar of the war was the oil. As the main source of revenue, oil was produced in large amounts to lubricate the war machine. Competition for markets led to a dwindling oil price, benefiting Western industrial nations. The assets that had been gained through oil sale were fully spent. Iraq became one of the largest in-debt countries in the world that owed hundreds of billions of dollars to Arab Sheikhdoms and Franco-Soviet arms-producers. This debt was to be paid by future oil money. People in Iran were impoverished. Inflation imposed a hand-to-mouth life on them.

The final pillar of the war was the pillar of victims. As in all wars, those who lost everything were the ordinary people in both countries. Millions of warriors had faced one another for eight years. At least, one million lost their lives and probably as many were wounded. One hundred and fifty thousand men suffered captivity. About one hundred cities and towns were partially damaged or effaced. Several million people left their hometowns for refuges in remote areas. And, both nations received deep wounds that could be inflamed into another war at the behest of arms-producers and dictators. The incomplete tripod structure of war, with the pillars of victims, became a complete structure that could last for a long time.

As a person who had lost everything in the war, I would haul a burden of exile, a legacy of nightmares, and desertion. This asset and the path that I had taken led me to nowhere: like the war that had led to nowhere. The entire time that I had spent in the war seemed an absolute loss; though as I pondered upon my past nineteen months I found that in nineteen months I had learned more than what I had learned at university. No professor and no amount of schooling and reading about colonialism and imperialism could have shown me Haghee's fire and Neekvarz’, Shaaban, Mohammad, Pooyan, and thousands of other soldiers' burning. This fire would keep the hatred of the triangle of arms, oil, and dictators alive within me for the rest of my life. Based upon this conclusion I could not say that my time in those fronts were indeed a total loss >>> Notes

>>> Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9 -- Part 10 -- Part 11 -- Part 12 -- Part 13 -- Part 14 -- Part 15 -- Part 16 -- Part 17 -- Part 18 -- Part 19 -- Part 20 -- Part 21 -- Part 22 --  Notes --


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Is this the last part of your book or there are other parts coming? I like to know what happens after this part. I have not been able to find your book in my corner of the world, and like to know the rest of your life story. Enjoyed it very much.


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بیاورد صدام سپاهی گِران                             ‫همه ‫نرّه دیوان و افسونگران

‫بکُشتند از دلیران ما در این سالی هشت        ‫ز خوزستان و کردستان و دریا و دشت

در این هشت سال دریائی خون شد دُرُست    ‫تو گفتی که روی زمین لاله رُست

‫چون دگر قادسیه نیامدشان بکام                   که آن وضعشان گشت همچون دِرام

بصدام آشتی بهتر آمد ز جنگ                        ‫بخود گفت فراخی مکن بر دل خویش تنگ

‫بر خمینی آوردند این پیام                             ‫به او گفتند پهلوانان به نام:

"هم اکنون لشکر و ‫دِژ بفرمان ‫تُست                 ‫نباید بر این آشتی جنگ ‫جُست"

‫بپیچید برخود آن پیر عَنود                             ‫که مرا امید از شماها این نبود

ولی بفرخندگی رنج کوتاه کرد                     ‫دل از رفتن به کربلا پر از آه کرد

‫وزان پس همی گفت آن پیر فریبندهکار         ‫که "زهر نوشیدم من سَرِ این صلح و کار"

‫چنین است کردار گردنده دَهر                      گهی نوش یابی ازو گاه زهر