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Re: Free Iraq Campaign (fwd)

Dear Nibras Kazimi,

Many thanks for your long and detailed letter, forwarded to me by the 
British group Campaign Against Sanctions in Iraq (CASI). You raise many 
good points, and you are quite right to point out that Saddam Hussein's 
regime must be toppled if Iraqis are to have real freedom, not just the 
necessities of life. However, I would like to respond to some specific 

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 12:37:22 -0400
> From: Nibras Kazimi <>
> Subject: Free Iraq Campaign            May 23-June 8, 1998
> Dear Friend,
> I am contacting you to salute your efforts and goodwill for the Iraqi
> people. You have demonstrated not only concern and commitment, but also
> a vibrant, decent and humane nature. Your contributions towards the
> lifting of sanctions off Iraq is a sign of hope that in this dark,
> cynical and insensitive world, there are still those who care and act
> for others. However, I am also saddened to see that all this goodwill
> towards the hungry and shackled people of Iraq is misguided and
> manipulated. Your efforts have been part and parcel of the regime's
> media blitz, and anything that serves the purposes of Saddam Hussein's
> regime is yet another wound inflicted upon the Iraqi soul.

I cannot speak for the United States, but here in Britain there has been no 
love for Saddam Hussein or his regime ever since the Gulf War. 
Recent newspaper reports from John Sweeney et. al. have only strengthened 
the view that he is an evil dictator who does not care about his own 
people. This, I think is a fact that we can all agree on. So I do not 
quite understand what you mean by "the regime's media blitz". It 
certainly has not been in evidence here. If anything, it is the Western 
governments who have been let off too lightly by our media, for allowing 
Iraqi children to go without basic medecines when they could so easily
be provided. As you probably know, people can be *imprisoned* for 
exporting medecines to Iraq, contrary to the claims of the Western 
governments. It is unclear to me how denying medecines to children 
undermines the Ba'ath regime.

Perhaps you mean the media in Iraq. So are you saying that our campaigns 
to end the sanctions over here, are being used as a successful propaganda 
weapon in Iraq to strengthen the regime? That does not sound believable.
I doubt that if they heard about our protests on TV, any Iraqis would 
suddenly forget about living in fear of their lives, forget about the 
torture, the corruption, the cruelty, and all the things you describe, 
and suddenly support the regime.

> ... the sanctions are
> simply inhumane. However, there is a reason why they don't participate
> in numbers befitting the sizes of their communities: they see your
> passions manipulated by a regime that imprisoned, tortured, starved,
> deported, raped and stripped them and their families of the most basic
> of human rights: life. A regime that rules by sheer brutality and
> indescribable cruelty; a regime that waged genocide, obliterated whole
> cities, and shackled the citizenry of Iraq to a rapacious war machine.
> One day we will uncover the mass graves, one day we will sift through
> the documents, one day we will liberate the concentration camps, and
> after binding, highlighting and cataloguing our case, we will march up
> the same trail taken by former nations that carried damning evidence of
> gas chambers and killing fields. Your goodwill should not be shamed and
> held accountable on that day. Do not become Saddam's tools against the
> Iraqi people.

These are strong words indeed, and highly persuasive in their emotional 
tone. However, you are being rather vague about *how* Saddam is using us as 
tools. Could you please clarify this point?

> There have always been sanctions in Iraq, imposed on anyone who didn't
> curry the favor of the regime. Internal sanctions were always imposed on
> certain areas like the south and the Kurdish north, where food stuffs
> were always rationed, services rare and medical attention scant.

This is indeed news to me - however, on reflection, it is not that 
surprising. In itself, though, it is not a reason to not condemn the UN 
sanctions, which are even more cruel. If numbers mean anything, child 
malnutrition rose by at least 72% in Iraq between 1991 and 1997. (Source:

> Removing the sanctions today would only mean one thing: a lifeline to
> Saddam.

Your facts are somewhat persuasive, but they do not establish this 
conclusion. Firstly, there is not a simple choice between
 A) no sanctions
and B) total sanctions, including food and medicines.

It would be possible to have a sanctions on certain things and not on 
others. For example, one hopes that no government in their right mind would 
allow the sale of weapons, or parts to make weapons, to Iraq, as the 
British government shamefully did less than 10 years ago. Now there are 
complications with this, of course, as many ordinary goods can double as 
military supplies (or so we are told), but in most cases, humanitarian 
needs must take priority over starving the Iraqi military and police of 
You talk of thousands of people dying at the hands of Saddam, and I do 
not deny that those were terrible atrocities, but I must point out that 
more than 1.2 million people, including at least 750,000 children, have died 
as a result of the sanctions. (Source: http://leb.ent/iac/updated.htm)

The sanctions are killing people FAR MORE EFFECTIVELY than Saddam ever has!

Furthermore, surely they are severely hindering any potential efforts to 
overthrow the regime? If your child is sick and dying, surely you worry 
far more about keeping her alive than overthrowing the government, 
however much you hate the government? If you are giving most of your food 
to your children and are too weak to walk, how are you going to 
participate in a revolution?

> If he were to accept the last increases in the Oil-For-Food
> deal, which gives Iraq an annual revenue of 10.4 billion dollars, then
> that would be enough to feed the Iraqi people and provide medical
> attention;

This is debatable. I do not have the facts to hand, but I have heard that 
$10.4 billion is very inadequate, considering the proportion that can 
actually be spent in Iraq.

> that is not what he seeks. How does that work? Well, 30% of
> the revenue would go towards war reparations and compensations (incurred
> on Iraq's future by Saddam), and that would leave 7 billion dollars for
> Iraq. The total civilian imports in 1989 (this was a good year in the
> brief peacetime between Saddam's follies of the Iran-Iraq War and the
> Kuwait invasion) amounted to 11 billion dollars; which included
> Mercedeses for Saddam and his retinue and cuban cigars and caviar for
> his henchmen. Medical needs amounted to 500 million dollars.

That is not a fair comparison, even if the figures are correct. There are 
huge infrastructure investments needed now since the Gulf war, such as repairs
to sanitation systems, ambulances, hospital equipment, schools... etc. etc. 

> Saddam has yet to accept the new increases in the Oil-For-Food Deal. He 
> wants us Iraqis to starve infront of your eyes a little while longer so 
> that he can get the sanctions lifted.

He probably does - but why does the West not allow more donations of food 
and medecine to Iraq? It is actually illegal without specific permission!

We need to recognise that the West also has an agenda here. It is in the 
Western governments' interests to portray Saddam Hussein as entirely morally 
responsible for the sanctions - which is demonstrably false - so that 
they can continue to keep oil prices reasonably stable and keep profits 
high, by restricting trade in oil. By downplaying the sanctions, it could 
be argued, it is in fact you who are supporting the exploitation of the 
Iraqi people - for profit.

I must stress that these are only my personal opinions.

> [The Oil for Food program was first
> proposed and then expanded by the efforts of the democratic Iraqi
> opposition by pressuring the US and the UK to relieve the suffering of
> Iraqis.]

If you support the Oil For Food programme, do you not also support our 
efforts to lift the sanctions on food and medecines?

> But why is that the most important issue for him? He needs the sanctions
> lifted in order to put fresh cash in his coffers and most importantly,
> to control the spending of this money: reimpose sanctions on certain
> segments of the population, re-expand his military capabilies and of
> course, get re-integrated in the international community and start
> hunting down dissidents. Under the current UN plan, the Oil-for-Food
> teams stationed in Iraq are the only ones authorized for the
> distribution of food stuffs. Translated: the well-fed Republican Guards
> and the starving children which are shown on TV are treated equally.
> This undermines the very premise of Saddam's regime: co-opting segments
> of the society to coerce others.

It seems to me to be quite disgusting to claim that because the 
Oil-for-food plan allegedly diminishes Saddam's power, and the 
Oil-for-food plan is part of the sanctions, the sanctions should stay.
Is this what you are saying?

> Iraq's problem is Saddam Hussein. The terrible suffering of the Iraqi
> people did not start in 1991 when the sanctions were imposed.

But it has got worse since 1991, if numbers mean anything. And the UN is 
partly responsible.

> I beseech the Iraqi Action
> Coalition and the Voices in the Wilderness group to continue their noble
> efforts but also to change their policy of accomodating this evil regime
> by refusing to denounce it

I would support this denunciation wholeheartedly. As we are not
charities, we have no obligation to be non-political - and we are 
hardly likely to put off many potential supporters by saying "the regime 
is evil" (except Iraqis themselves, of course, who might fear for their 
families as you rightly pointed out.)

> I ask you to share this message with friends
> and e-mail lists, and attend the rallies in the cities near you. The US
> administration, specifically National Security Advisor Sandy Berger,
> wish to forget about the headache posed by Saddam and water down their
> policy of containment towards one of deterrance.

The idea that the NSA or the military generally, cares about people is a 
joke anyway.
Don't expect them to have any compassion. The best we can do is influence 
the politicians, by massing public opinion against their policies. 

> They do not believe in
> or respect the democratic Iraqi opposition whom they consider to be weak
> and ineffectual.

They may be right in their assessment, I don't know. The question of how 
the Iraqi people are ever going to gain freedom is a difficult one. 
Perhaps recent events in Indonesia provide some hope. Rumours have it 
that President Suharto has fled the country.

> The underlying premise is racist: "Iraqis are backwards
> for a concept such as democracy; that is why they need an authoritarian
> and blood-thirsty tyrant like Saddam".

Some may think this, but I think a more overriding concern of expediency 
is in force here: the thought that getting rid of Saddam would create 
major "instability" in the region.

> Please help us for it is an
> unfair fight: at best, we have Kalashnikovs and rusting rifles while he
> is equipped with chemical weapons.

This is a matter of no small controversy - do you have evidence of this? 
Or merely "suspicions" from UNSCOM? If there is evidence, why have 
UNSCOM not acted on it?

> Yesterday's New York Times reported
> on the regime's desire to purchase 35 US-made helicopter gunships,
> equipped with chemical sprays, through Canada. The regime is not
> suffering from sanctions

This is inconsistent with your previous statement, saying that the regime 
would benefit greatly from sanctions being lifted.

, they want them lifted so that they can ready
> for a day of reckoning. Iraqis are sick of war and tyranny, but they are
> in utter despair. They rose in a valiant rebellion in 1991 and liberated
> 70% of Iraq's territory but stood bewildered and betrayed as the West
> ignored the massacres unleashed against them once Saddam regained his
> balance and was permitted to fly his armed helicopter gunships by the
> Allies.

Perhaps this provides the key. The West did not want the regime to be 
overthrown, and there is no evidence that they want that today. If we can 
swing public opinion in the West sufficiently, we might be able to get 
our governments to support the next rebellion, when it comes.

However, Iraqis are hardly likely to trust the West when
 a) we have let them down once before
and b) we are starving them of food and medecine! 

> Lift the sanctions by overthrowing Saddam. Do not subtract Saddam from
> the sanctions equation.

Indeed we cannot ignore him, but nor can we ignore the West's moral 

> The people of Iraq want bread and freedom, and
> they are counting on your goodwill and efforts. We Iraqis in exile are
> trying to echo the cries of help from those caught inside; will someone
> listen to our pleas?

The important question is, how can we best help the ordinary Iraqi 
people, both in the long term and the short term? In the short term, 
lifting the sanctions would at the very least let aid charities in to 
help, who could be protected by the UN, and in order to build up his 
economy again Saddam would have to improve his infrastructure such as 
water supplies, so the Iraqi people would benefit that way too. (The 
pollution in Iraq being caused by decaying oil infastructure would also be 
halted.) This is probably a far too cautious assessment of the 
tangible benefits of lifting the sanctions.

In the long term, an (almost) essential prerequisite for internal 
revolution is the basic needs of life, as I said above. If we are not to 
intervene militarily to depose Saddam (and one could debate this option 
at length, though it does not seem at all likely at present), we are 
enslaving the Iraqi people to even more years of tyranny AND 
starvation, by allowing the sanctions to stay.

Yours sincerely,

Robin Green
 Iraq webpage:

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