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]

Response to Washington Post editorial on Iraq

The most influential newspaper among American policymakers -- the Washington
Post -- discusses Iraq in its lead editorial today (see
.  Others may wish to respond, as I have below.  E-mails can be sent to
'' or ''.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA
To the Editor of the Washington Post:

The Washington Post's editorial attention to humanitarian conditions in Iraq
is welcome[1], but its reporting is selective and its assumptions are false.

Given two undeniable facts (that Saddam Hussein is brutal and that
conditions in UN-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan are better than in the
UN-monitored, Saddam-controlled south), the Post makes an inference of
causality: that Saddam has manipulated conditions, causing depradation to
force an end to sanctions.

Unfortunately, the full story is not this simple -- nor as comforting to the
American conscience.  Sanctions are simply *not* the same in the north and
south.  UNICEF's executive director, Ms. Carol Bellamy, explains the
differences in Iraqi mortality rates as follows: the Kurdish north has been
receiving humanitarian assistance for longer than the remainder of Iraq,
agriculture in the north is better, and evading sanctions is easier[2].  In
addition, the north receives 22% more per capita from the Oil for Food
program, and gets about 10% of all UN-controlled assistance in currency,
while the rest of the country receives only commodities.  The north also
benefits from the aid of 34 Non-Government Organizations, while in the whole
rest of the country there are only 11.[3]

The Post rightly condemns (as does the UN) Iraqi delays in ordering
nutritional supplements for children.  However, the UN has made equally
strong condemnation of U.S./British delays in approving urgently needed
humanitarian imports[4].  The Post should join this criticism as well.  The
UN's current humanitarian administrator, Mr. Hans von Sponeck, says simply
that 'political dialogue is taking place on the back of the Iraqi
people'[5], that 'sanctions are an experiment that must not be repeated'[6].
The man he succeeded, Mr. Dennis Halliday, resigned as an act of conscience
last fall to protest sanctions' murderous toll[7].  Neither Von Sponeck nor
Halliday has blamed Saddam's manipulations for this disaster.

Speaking of disasters, the Post neglects to mention UNICEF's most staggering
estimate:  500,000 additional children would have lived had the decline in
childhood mortality continued under sanctions[8].  Five Hiroshimas.  A
Dresden and a half.

Last autumn, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) proposed to de-couple
economic and military sanctions; the Iraqi economy would be freed, while
stringent controls over Iraq's military would remain[9].  This proposal is
again circulating through Congress, and offers a secure alternative to the
obscene misery of the present all-or-none embargo.  Conyers' initiative
deserves your support, and that of our policymakers.


Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN 55426

[1] "The Suffering of Children", Washington Post, August 17, 1999

[2] Reported by the Associated Press, August 12, 1999
     Online at

[3] Communication with Professor Richard Garfield of Coumbia University.
Garfield is an epidemiologist who studies the health effects of sanctions.

[4] Mr. Benon Sevan made this criticism, as reported in an Associated Press
story by Edith Lederer, July 22, 1999:
    "Undersecretary-General Benon Sevan said delays in endorsing shipments
of food and medical supplies and spare parts for the oil industry are
undermining efforts to improve living conditions for Iraqis living under
economic sanctions. ... His remarks were targeted at Britain and the United
States, which have delayed scores of contracts..."

[5] See the following Reuters' story by Dominic Evans: INTERVIEW-UN sees
British concern on Iraq embargo (LONDON, July 22 (Reuters))

[6] From interview transcript, Von Sponeck with representatives of the
humanitarian group, Voices in the Wilderness.

[7] "The Deaths He Cannot Sanction: Ex-U.N. Worker Details Harm to Iraqi
Children" by Michael Powell, The Washington Post, December 17, 1998

[8] See and
     Hiroshima blast estimates vary (typically 70-80,000, per Ambrose).

[9] For further information, contact Representative Conyers' Legislative
Director, Carl LeVan (voice 202-225-5126, fax 202-225-0072).

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT
the whole list. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list
*** Archived at ***

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]