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Re: Letter submitted to National Post

Nathan Geffen has done a commendable job in pointing out some serious
problems with the statistics  Rose uses as the basis of his argument in the
National Post article. I would like to make  a few a comments related more to
the 'subtext' of the Rose piece.

First, even if we give Rose the benefit of the doubt, all he has managed to
establish is that the level of sanctions-related mortality has been
over-estimated. In no way does this demonstrate his principle argument
implied by the title of the piece: "Why lifting sanctions won't help Iraqis".
Rose's unquestioned assumption is that the combined punitive and containment
policy against Iraq enforced by the sanctions has been successful. According
to the 'Rose Index of Justifiable Mortality" the additional 75 out of 1000
deaths of children who might otherwise be alive in the absence of sanctions
are an acceptable price to pay for the continuation of this policy (again,
giving Rose's own figures of an increase from 56 to 131 deaths per 1,000 live
births the benefit of the doubt), .

I agree with Mr. Geffen that there are serious problems with Mr. Rose's use
of statistics and I agree with those who argue that the increased suffering
of the Iraqi people does not justify this policy of punishment and
containment. But I would like to also question the assumptions underlying
this policy itself. Mr. Geffen gets to the crux of the issue in his letter to
the Post.

Nathan Geffen wrote:

> 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.

Without wanting to read more into Mr. Geffen's words than he intended, I
would argue that the effect of sanctions has been to prolong the dictatorship
of the Baath regime in Iraq. It has done so for the reasons Mr. Geffen
mentions as well as by allowing him to maintain a fortress-like atmosphere of
total authoritarian control. True, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a dictatorship
before the imposition of sanctions, but the total isolation of the country
has allowed him to remove even those vestiges of a civil society which had
managed to survive the Baath regime until 1991. In short, I would argue that
the total economic and political centralization of Iraq, which sanctions have
enabled, have deprived the Iraqi people of almost all ability to force change
from within. Sanctions should be lifted not only because of the suffering
they cause but also because they have failed to achieve any of the goals they
set out to achieve, particularly to provide sustainable security for the

The question of the manner in which sanctions should be lifted provokes a
number of additional issues. Personally, I would prefer to see it involve a
number of simultaneous indictments against senior members of the Baath
regime. That is, instead of isolating the Iraqi people as sanctions have
done, get to the root of the problem by isolating their principle

I am new to this list and I apologize if I have reiterated points that have
already been made in this discussion.

Ben Rempel
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada

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