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Letter submitted to National Post

Below is the text of a letter I submitted to the National Post. 

Thanks to the Skinners and Alan Bickley for their comments and to Colin
Rowat for drawing my attention to it.

More needed to be said, but anything from the public longer than
sound-bite length seems to have little chance of publication in the
mainstream media. It's probably already too long.

Dear Editor

There are many factual errors in Alexander Rose’s article (19 August)
regarding the effects of sanctions on Iraq.  

He states “It all began in 1995, when … the … FAO … asserted that
567,000 children had died.”. Actually, the first study on the
detrimental effects of sanctions on Iraq  was conducted in 1991 by the
Harvard Study Team. Subsequent studies were conducted throughout the
1990’s. The New York Times, in contradiction to Rose, reported the
effects of sanctions long after many organisations had publicised their

Rose’s comment that anti-sanctions groups have omitted the increase in
the Iraqi population out of their mortality statistics, does not make
sense. UNICEF’s latest study, which was methodologically sound and
accurate,  concludes that approximately 500,000 Iraqi children under 5
have died as a result of sanctions. The number of dead was calculated
as a function of the under 5 mortality rate of the study sample, the
projected under 5 mortality rate from before sanctions and the Iraqi
population size. An increase in population size, in contradiction to
what Rose seems to say, would result in a greater number of child

Rose points out that Iraq’s infant mortality rate (IFM) before the Gulf
War (i.e. 1990) was similar to Namibia’s IFM today (approx. 56).
Actually, Rose is confusing Iraq’s under 5 mortality rate with
Namibia’s IFM, hardly a fair comparison and hardly the point. Iraq’s
mortality rates (under 5 and infant) were declining rapidly throughout
the 1980s. If they had continued to decline at the same rate, Iraq’s
under 5 mortality rate would be much lower than Namibia’s IFM! 

Rose seems to imply that Saddam Hussein is solely to blame for the
disastrous situation facing Iraq’s population. Certainly he has done
his share. However, the nature of the embargo forces Iraq’s population
to be dependent on their government for food and medicine imports.
Without the embargo, this aspect of the Iraqi  economy would not have
to be completely centrally planned and Iraqi citizens could organise
their own imports and distribution channels. Besides, most foreign
observers in Iraq have claimed that the Iraqi government has, with some
exceptions, made an honest, if not competent, effort to distribute food
and medicine to the population.

Where does Rose get his figure for the crude death rate? UNICEF’s study
is acknowledged as the first accurate infant mortality rate statistic
to come out of Iraq since the Gulf War. How then can there be any
accurate mortality figures with regard to the entire population?

Nathan Geffen
Toronto, Canada

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