The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Factsheet

Thanks for the posting Mark.

> This came from the USIA website. Is this a proper copy of a UN 
> document?

No.  The National Security Council, who wrote the document, is a branch of
the US government, not the UN.  Their document should therefore be seen in
a similar light to, for example, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office 
statements on this topic.

The numbers contained seem correct, when I recognised them.  What becomes
more questionable are interpretation and uncited claims.  An example of
the first is that

> [Saddam] alone has the power to lift these sanctions by complying with
> all relevant UN resolutions. 

This is a questionable assertion both because Security Council Resolutions
are implemented with varying degrees of rigour depending on the country
concerned and because the Security Council has the ability to override
previous resolutions; this ability is precisely what has allowed the "oil
for food" deal.

The suggestion that the oil for food deal is the world's largest
humanitarian aid programme is one that Madeleine Albright made last year
in an International Herald Tribune article.  This too is a questionable
assumption as Iraq is paying for all of its imports; the claim therefore
makes as much sense as a claim that China's grain consumption represents
the world's largest food aid programme.

There is no doubt that the Iraqi government refused to implement the
initial oil for food proposals for many years.  There are, though, varying
interpretations here.  One is that the Baghdad government recognised oil
for food's intrusiveness and gambled that they could get by on domestic
agricultural production.  By 1995 it was obvious that they could not, so
they swallowed their pride and returned to the negotiating table. 

The article is also partial, generally claiming manipulation from Baghdad
without mentioning the potential for abuse of the sanctions mechanism by
veto-holding members of the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council. 
Denis Halliday, formerly in charge of oil for food in Iraq, claimed when
he was in Cambridge in January that the US and UK were holding up
humanitarian contracts for political ends on this committee. 

> Saddam Hussein's spending habits prior to and during implementation of 
> the oil-for-food program clearly demonstrate that he has no intentions 
> of alleviating the plight of his people.
> -- The Iraqi regime continues to build lavish palaces, hide its 
> weapons of mass destruction, and hoard food for its elite military 
> units, instead of devote resources to the caring and feeding of its people.

The above illustrates both partial interpretation and poorly cited claims. 
UN reports will contrast the Iraqi social system before the imposition of
sanctions in 1990 with it after.  Crudely, the comparison paints Iraq
before sanctions as a generous welfare state providing free health and
medical care.  Against this, there is no doubt that Saddam's regime is not
directly responsible to Iraq's population. 

The poorly cited claim here is that of the palaces.  The New York based
Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), the NGO springing out of the
1991 Harvard Study Team to Iraq, tracked this claim back to the US State
Department (UNSanctioned Suffering, 1996).  They had been using a specific
figure of some billions of dollars on the basis of back-of-the-envelope
calculations.  Since then specific figures have been replaced by mere
claims of lavishness.  Relatedly, The Economist reported last year that
the world's largest mosque was being planned for Baghdad, to be built on a
bombed airport; while Saddam's Ba'ath Party is officially secular it has
recognised the potential for maintaining its grip on power by tapping into
the resurgence of Islam in Iraq (31 January, 1998).

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

King's College                                                 
Cambridge CB2 1ST                       tel: +44 (0)468 056 984
England                                 fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]