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Re: question about oil-for-food

On Fri, 29 Jan 1999 11:22:03 +0000 (GMT) ed genochio 
<> wrote:

> Tony Blair has said,
> "The whole world should know that we have allowed Saddam to sell oil to
> buy as much food and medicine for the Iraqi people as is necessary. He
> could have fed and cared for his people but he has chosen not to."
> My understanding is that this is misleading for a number of reasons:
> 1) Iraq is unable to produce as much oil as it is permitted to under
> oil-for-food. This is because of a) low world oil prices; b) damage to oil
> infrastructure caused by Allied bombing over the last eight years; and c)
> sanctions which hinder the repair of oil installations.

This is true, as the UN's own documents show: see
<> and 

> 2) It is debateable whether the oil-for-food programme does generate
> sufficient cash, after UN and reparations deductions, even for adequate
> food and medicine for the Iraqi people. 

Yes, see the above again

> 3) Many medicines have been barred from import to Iraq under spurious
> 'dual use' regulations.

Yes, see Geoff Simons 'The Scourging of Iraq' (Macmillan 
1998), second edition. Also recent piece on the list from 
British Medical Journal on cancer analgesics

> 4) Food and medicine are only half the story. Essential infrastructure
> such as clean water supplies, sewerage systems, electricity for
> refrigeration, etc, are as important in preventing the main killer of the
> sanctions regime - malnutrition. This infrastructure has been badly
> damaged by Allied bombing and its repair is hampered by sanctions and the
> resultant collapse of the Iraqi economy.

Yes, again see the websites above.

> I would be grateful for any comments on the above points, especially
> regarding their accuracy, any documentary sources which confirm or
> contradict them, and any points which I have overlooked.
> Has anyone else attempted a rebuttal of this specific statement by the
> Prime Minister, and have you had any response from him?  

No, I haven't seen a rebuttal or attempted one directly.

> (Anne Campbell, MP for Cambridge, quotes this statement from the PM in
> defending her defence of UK Government policy.)

Blair's first sentence is untrue in the sense that relying 
on those sources alone would not be enough. However, where 
Blair is right is that, if Saddam Hussein used the 
resources of his state to maximise the welfare of his 
people rather than diverting what resources he can to the 
elite and to military capability, then, combined with the 
oil for food programme he *could* feed and care for 
the Iraqi people to a great extent. A parallel here is with 
Cuba - in spite of US sanctions, Castro has managed to 
ensure a relatively high standard of living for his people. 
It is important that, when our opponents have a grain of 
truth, we should not deny it - that weakens our position.

However, it should be noted that the same charge could be 
levelled at Blair! That is, the UN could, if it wanted, 
feed and care for the Iraqi people but has chosen not to do 

Hope this is of use.

Best wishes


Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Fax +44-(0)117-9732133

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