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%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% OUTRAGEOUS ARTICLE ABOUT IRAQ-SANCTIONS %%%%%%%%% %%%%%%%%%%%%%%% IN THE OBSERVER : PLEASE WRITE IN %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% This Sunday "journalist of the year" John Sweeney had a two page article ("The Truth About Iraq's Dying Babies", Observer, 1st March) in the Observer. The paper plugged the article as "outstanding" and it was - outstandingly bad. The basic message was that the devastating impact of the UN economic sanctions on Iraq (over a million children dead from embargo-related causes since August 1990 according to UNICEF verified figures which have received virtually no attention in the mainstream press) is all Saddam Hussein's fault. Saddam lives in luxury and spends money on weapons whilst his people starve (certainly not a unique situation) therefore we bear no responsibility for (a) preventing and delaying desperately needed items from reaching Iraq [through the UN Sanctions Committee] and (b)preventing Iraq from selling enough oil to provide for the needs of its people [not mentioned in Sweeney's article, though obviously crucial - see below]. The truth is that, having deliberately destroyed Iraq's vital civilian infrastructure during the 1991 Gulf "war" the US/UK alliance have a vested interest in not permitting Iraq's oil to come back on tap (eg. the Texas oil billionaires had the values of their reserves increased by $140 billion by the Gulf "war"). The US/UK governments have also done their best to make the sanctions regime as punitive as possible (eg. the US vetoed a consignment of baby milk on the grounds that it might be "consumed by adults" - clearly a heinous crime). Meanwhile the Iraqi population (ie. the 22 million people who aren't Saddam) subsist on a semi-starvation diet, their children dying from malnutrition and lack of (previously available) medical care. What follows is a brief synopsis of Sweeney's article (with some excerpts) together with some obvious comments. I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO WRITE A LETTER TO THE OBSERVER TAKING SWEENEY TO TASK FOR THE ARTICLE. IN JANUARY SWEENEY WROTE AN ARTICLE (AGAIN FOR THE OBSERVER) WHERE HE ONLY JUST STOPPED SHORT OF ADVOCATING ANNIHILATING THE POPULATION OF BAGHDAD WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS. I WROTE A LETTER AT THE TIME - THEY IGNORED IT. IF THEY GET 40 LETTERS THEY'RE MORE LIKELY TO PUBLISH AT LEAST ONE. The mailing address is The Observer, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER or you can e-mail your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks, Gabriel Carlyle Magdalen College, Oxford. tel. (01865) 276012 P.S. To see a real piece of journalism about Iraq look at Robert Fisk's story in the Independent today (4th MArch). %%%%%%% THE TRUTH ABOUT IRAQ'S DYING BABIES BY JOHN SWEENEY, %%% %%%%%%%%%%% A SYNOPSIS %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% The article starts with Sweeney describing the Saddam International Tower in Baghdad - which he likens to the Millenium Dome. The message is clear: Saddam is spending money on grandiose towers and palaces whilst his people suffer. He then goes on to describe a trip to the Al-Amiriyah shelter where hundreds of civilians were killed by laser-guided bombs during the Gulf War. The horrific nature of this event is made clear. Sweeney comments that "The shelter is now a shrine to the dead" and that "This is Iraq's permitted suffering, though. It is the suffering that we reporters are allowed to see". He then goes on to describe a trip to the Academia Children's Hospital in Baghdad - the appalling conditions in the hospital are covered well. A doctor at the hospital is reported as saying that "We don't have disposable syringes to inject the children. We use glass syringes. We boil them and we inject all the children with the same syringe". Sweeney asks whether this is good medical practice. The doctor replies "No. It is very bad, very bad. But what can we do". The doctor blames the sanctions. Sweeney then goes on to record an Arab UN official as saying "It is disgusting. With food, the sanctions committee holds things up, but with medicines they are terrible. The British and Americans are the worst. If a father is treating his children badly, must we starve the children ?" Sweeney doesn't "quite believe him" however since, according to Sweeney, he also "..goes on to denounce the number of "Zionists" in the American administration..". Sweeney continues: "Could he be right about the delays ? The World Health Organization's spokesman in Geneva confirms that the sanctions committee deliberated for 170 days before approving one consignment of syringes to Iraq. How could we be so cruel ? The answer is simple. We are genuinely afraid of what Saddam might do with syringes. A disposable syringe can be used to save a child's life. It can also be used to inject a spore of anthrax into a growth medium in a Petri dish. A teaspoonful of anthrax could wipe out southern England." Sweeney doesn't mention who sold them the Anthrax. Sweeney then goes on to talk at length about torture in Saddam's Iraq, after which he discusses British and American attempts to depose Saddam. He closes this part with the following statement: "The suffering, both permitted and unpermitted [ie. the brutality of the regime], will continue thanks to the deal brokered by the UN's Secretary General Kofi Annan and Saddam's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz." The piece finishes with some of Sweeney's comments about the "handshake press conference" incorporating a reference to Farzad Bazoft - the Observer journalist murdered by the Iraqi regime. The final paragraphs sum up Sweeney's message: "Peace in our time ? With Saddam and his goons ? I don't think so. And the dying children ? It's not us who are killing them. It's him." %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% SOME COMMENTS %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% Saddam is a brutal tyrant but it is perverse in the extreme to use this as an excuse for a massive aerial bombardment of the people of Iraq. During 5 weeks in 1991 the "allied" forces killed more people than Saddam had managed to over the previous decade. The US record of covert operations aimed at changing leaders in the Third World (eg. Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Angola, Vietnam) should disabuse anyone who thinks that the US has any interest in replacing Saddam's regime with a democracy - quite the reverse, the US desire a military coup resulting in a new "strong fist" which would prevent Iraq from breaking up. Like it's predecessors New Labour cares not one whit about Human Rights abroad and last year happily supplied Indonesia - a regime which can easily match Saddam's in it's use of torture and mass murder - with bombs, riot control agents, body armour and equipment for military training. The idea - tacit in Sweeney's discussion of syringes - that we are so terrified of Iraq that it's people must be deprived of adequate medical care (prior to the 1991 "war" over 90% of the population had access to high quality health-care) is positively obscene. Sweeney's observation that a teaspoonful of anthrax could wipe out Southern England is like saying that a milk bottle of human semen could be used to impregante every woman in England. The problem - a difficult one in both cases - is that of delivery. That the Sanctions Regime incoporates long delays into the process of sending humanitarian aid into Iraq has well-documented. The long list of items vetoed by the Committee include medical journals, oxygen tents, dialysis machines, baby milk and rice. Only a few weeks ago British Customs confiscated several hundred pounds worth of children's medicines that two British men were attempting to take openly into Iraq. Something that Sweeney doesn't mention however and which completely destroys his case is that, according to the UN itself, the "oil-for-food" programme is grossly inadequate. Thus Dennis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, stated on the 12th January this year that Iraq needed somewhere in the region of $30 billion a year to fund its needs for food, medicine and infrastructure. Up till now "oil-for-food" permitted the sale of $4 billion a year - at least 40 percent of which was subtracted to pay war reparations to Kuwait and to pay for UN operations. The newly brokered deal will double this amount - still clearly falling well short of meeting the needs of the Iraqi people. Sweeney's argument that it's all Saddam's fault has all the moral force of someone who's pegged a fellow human being out on a mountain to die of exposure yet denies all culpability on the grounds that the mountain is inhabited by a cruel despot who could have helped the victim [though the analogy is far from perfect since in Saddam's case I doubt whether - rich as he is - he could produce $25 billion a year "out-of-a-hat" even if he wanted to]. Together with the US, Britain has played a leading role in the implementation of the Sanctions Regime. We should face our responsibility and act to prevent further suffering. %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html