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Boston Globe article by Halliday: a new policy needed for Iraq

Article from The Boston Globe by Denis Halliday and Jennifer Horan

A new policy needed for Iraq

By Denis J. Halliday and Jennifer E. Horan, 03/22/99

The administration's myopic obsession with Saddam Hussein has many
casualties. One is Iraq itself, its people and rich culture condemned to
slow strangulation by the United States/United Nations sanctions regime.
Another is the prospect for positive political change in Iraq. A third
is the opportunity to rid not only Iraq but the entire Middle East of
weapons of mass destruction. UN Security Council Resolution 687
envisioned Iraqi disarmament as the first step toward the creation of a
region-wide campaign to eliminate these weapons.

All three can be salvaged, but only if the United States comes to its
senses. Iraq needs to be let back into the family of nations. Retain
arms control on it, but weapons monitoring needs to be a genuine,
international instrument of disarmament and not be turned into a tool of
US espionage and subversion, as was UNSCOM.

To bully and brutalize the Iraqi people on account of Iraq's
uncooperative leader is to punish innocents, not to practice diplomacy.
Supporters of sanctions cannot hide behind exaggerated claims about
Iraq's military power. The 1991 Gulf War has been dubbed a turkey
shoot. Since December the United States and United Kingdom have bombed
Iraq almost daily. Iraq has yet to down a single aircraft. Middle
Eastern leaders undoubtedly resent it when Saddam tries to exploit Arab
revulsion against the sanctions. But what government fears invasion by
Iraq? Most want sanctions to end.

Reality needs to set in regarding Iraq's legendary weapons of mass
destruction. Even UNSCOM's hawkish chief, Richard Butler, has conceded
that if Iraqi disarmament were a five-lap race, we would be
three-quarters of the way around the final lap.The humanitarian
catastrophe in Iraq created by sanctions cannot be brushed aside. In
1991 Gulf War coalition forces bombed Iraq's entire civilian
infrastructure - electric, water, health, and sewage systems.The
sanctions regime precludes their repair.

Before 1991 the chief health problem vexing Iraqi pediatricians was
overeating. Now they watch helplessly as infants die from easily
treatable conditions like diarrhea. UNICEF estimates that more than
500,000 children under age 5 have died from lack of access to food,
medicine, and safe water. In 1996, ''60 Minutes'' asked then Ambassador
Madeleine Albright if the price of ''containing'' Saddam was worth the
deaths of more children than were killed in Hiroshima. Her response? It
was ''a very hard choice,'' but ''we think the price is worth it.'' Why
does the administration not see that many perceive support for sanctions
as support for genocide?

Denied any hope for a normal life, Iraqi youth are growing up
embittered. The conditions of their upbringing are in many measures
worse than those that gave rise to European fascism after the First
World War. Already the Baathist party is contending with rising
political extremism among its ranks, especially the younger members. US
coup-mounting efforts may backfire. The new leadership would likely be
less, not more, cooperative with Western powers.

So what is to be done?

First, maintain strict controls on Iraq's military. Extend the ban on
arms sales to the entire Middle East. As the permanent member states of
the UN Security Council are responsible for 85 percent of the region's
arms sales, this will not be an easy task. But it is necessary for
lasting security.

Lift the oil embargo. All credible Iraqi dissident groups call for an
end to sanctions. Let Iraq use oil revenues to rebuild its civilian
infrastructure. Give the Iraqi people a chance to struggle for something
other than their families' survival.

Create a credible weapons inspections regime for Iraq. Its staff must be
loyal to the United Nations, not to any member state. The International
Atomic Energy Agency provides a model. Iraq's cooperation with IAEA give
grounds to believe this proposal would work.

Get serious about cracking down on weapons of mass destruction. Sanction
companies and governments that manufacture and export biological and
chemical weapons material to any country in the Middle East. Allow
UNSCOM to go public with the names of the businesses that sold Iraq the
means to make weapons of mass destruction.

Engineer a long-term strategy for the Middle East. To survive, all these
countries will have to share their impressive human and natural
resources. A Middle Eastern version of the European Union is not as
ludicrous as it may sound.

Above all, realize that 23 million people live in Iraq. End their siege.

Denis J. Halliday is a former UN assistant secretary-general and former
UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. Jennifer E. Horan works with Boston
Mobilization for Survival.

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 03/22/99.
 Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.


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