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The following opinion piece appeared in today's (25th August) Times. Although he's anti-sanctions Jenkins isn't very well-informed about "oil for food". Indeed he writes that "Iraq is allowed to earn $1 billion a year for its oil, to use for humanitarian relief under UN supervision" and that "Less than half Iraq's oil quota is being sold through formal channels". [Regarding the latter statement the British Government *have* actually produced some figures for oil smuggling - in response to a question from (Conservative MP) Michael Fabricant. I'll try and dig them out later this evening. These figures - which, one could argue, the British Government has every reason to inflate - are in accord with the Economist's assessment (back in April '98) that illicit oil sales are "tiny in comparison with the UN's oil-for-food programme". "Tiny" they were and "tiny" they remain.] I'm pretty certain the Government will have a response in tomorrow's Times so it's probably best to hold your fire until then. Expect the North/South comparison to be brought up ! Letters should be sent to : email@example.com Gabriel Carlyle. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& The Times August 25 1999 OPINION Our campaign of bombing and sanctions only strengthens Saddam Britain's secret wars Believe it or not, Britain is still at war. You may shrug. You may think that pocket wars have become the adventure tourism of Labour foreign policy. But British troops are engaging an enemy. They are bombing, killing and spending a million pounds a week. They have been fighting Saddam Hussein since he evicted United Nations weapons inspectors from Iraq last December. The inspectors remain out, and Saddam remains in. Small wonder the war has been kept secret. The last time it was mentioned in Parliament was in June. Enemy casualties are mounting. Last week 19 Iraqi civilians were reported killed in a single day, topping the 17 killed when a missile hit a Basra housing estate in January. Asked about the point of all this on radio this week, a Foreign Office Minister, Geoff Hoon, was reduced to the Vietnam "My Lai" defence, that civilians had to die for their own protection. Another minister, John Spellar, was asked about reports that he had just bombed the tomb of St Matthew, no less. He claimed ignorance of the report. Ministers, like their pilots, are fighting this war from above a thick cloud base. Britain, in alliance with the United States, is fighting not one war against Iraq, but two. The first involves dropping bombs on average three times a week, roughly a thousand in the past eight months. There are now 1,400 British troops in the area, with 26 planes and two ships. The bombs are said to be intended to stop Saddam using chemical weapons or displacing Kurdish and Shia minorities, a similar goal to those dropped on Yugoslavia. The ability of planes flying above 15,000ft to target or police anything on the ground is limited. Like Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam has continued his ethnic cleansing undeterred by air power or any threat of ground invasion. Some 100,000 Kurds are now crowding UN refugee enclaves in northern Iraq as Saddam strengthens his grip on the Kurdistan oilfields. He did use chemical weapons in the Halabja massacre in 1988, but there is no evidence that he has used them since. The constant citing of Halabja by the Foreign Office to justify its bombing is lame. Mr Hoon talks of the horrors of VX nerve gas: "One drop can kill." One drop of Mr Hoon's favoured cluster bombs does more than kill, it goes on killing long afterwards. Britain's support for these de facto landmines is a moral outrage. Bombing is having the same effect on Baghdad as it had on Belgrade last spring. It turns public wrath from the immediate oppressor, Saddam, and directs it at the West. Saddam thus turns the bombing on and off at will. Whenever he wishes to strut as king Arab against the American aggressor, he locks his anti-aircraft radar on to a Western plane and invites a missile attack. A few peasants are blown to pieces, Saddam gets his publicity, and the Pentagon and Whitehall claim to be "acting in self-defence", despite flying well out of range. (The only place the RAF dares fly low these days is over the demonic sheep of Mid-Wales). The bombing war in Iraq was started during the "Monica" affair last December, and nobody knows how to stop it. The Kurds welcome it as a general indication of American support. Saddam likes it, since it depicts him as victim of an already unpopular foe, America. The bombing postpones the day when the West must admit that it has made Saddam impregnable. Other Arabs are not unhappy at Iraq's oil staying off the market. The only people entitled to protest are dead Iraqi civilians, and they can take their complaint to the morgue. What of the second Iraqi war? This has been going on not for eight months but for eight years and is far more lethal. While the bombing war is supposedly protecting Iraqis from their Government, the sanctions war is supposedly, in Robin Cook's words, "bringing Saddam to his senses" to accept UN Resolution 687 against "weapons of mass destruction". This war was lost last December and Mr Cook knows it. At least Washington openly admits that sanctions are to bring Saddam not to his senses but to his doom. How, nobody seems to know. Saddam has joined Castro, Gaddafi, the Iranian mullahs and possibly Mr Milosevic in the ranks of dictators propped up by the West's inept diplomatic siege machines. A decade of sanctions against Iraq has consolidated the Baghdad regime and devastated the Iraqi people. The sanctions weapon is a sort of economic nerve gas, killing by stealth. On the ninth anniversary of sanctions last week, Unicef reported that infant mortality in Iraq had more than doubled, largely through malnutrition and lack of medical care. There has been a similar rise in mortality among the elderly. Iraq's lobbyists claim that as many people die each year from the effect of sanctions as died at Hiroshima. UN experts do not argue. Even the hardest noses among the old inspection team, such as the hawkish Scott Ritter, now regard sanctions as counter-productive. The sanctions weapon targets not land or property but the living conditions of the poor, especially in a totalitarian political economy. The sufferers are not armies, soldiers, the rich or the powerful. These soon become sanctions-busters, racketeers and arch defenders of the regime. The sufferers, in addition to the poor, are Saddam's most plausible enemies, the former business community, the professional middle class, the provincial bureaucracy. These groups have been debilitated or driven into exile by Western action. Ministers sometimes argue that sanctions are aimed at Saddam (which they plainly are not), and sometimes that they will make the poor rise up against him (which they plainly cannot). Such political illiteracy would be merely stupid if it were not so cruel. Mr Cook and his colleagues (Mr Blair seems to have forgotten Iraq in the excitement of Kosovo) reiterate that sanctions "could end tomorrow" if Saddam complied with UN Resolution 687 and readmitted weapons inspectors. In addition, Iraq is allowed to earn $1 billion a year for its oil, to use for humanitarian relief under UN supervision. This may offer ministers some comfort as they wriggle on the moral hook of sanctions cruelty. It ignores the fact that Saddam has no interest in co-operating. As he has turned Western bombing to advantage, so he has vastly enriched himself and those round him from sanctions. He has risen to become Forbes Magazine's "sixth richest head of state" in the world, worth some $6 billion. Milosevic, another beneficiary of Foreign Office sanctions, is said to be following suit. Less than half Iraq's oil quota is being sold through formal channels. Outside the UN enclaves, aid is mostly undistributed in warehouses or is being sold on the black market. One UN consignment was recently captured on its way to export in the Gulf. Iraq even buys 5,000 cases of whisky a year. This is declared to be an instance of Saddam's venality. What is new? The fact is, he is not beaten and at present cannot lose. The West's idiot diplomacy means that if sanctions are lifted he declares a triumph. If they remain, he gets richer, his people get poorer and the West is blamed. British policy has blatantly helped to entrench the Gulf's most detestable dictator in power for almost a decade. Why? One obvious answer is Britain and America want Saddam in power as a balance between the Saudis, the Israelis and Iran. If so, killing a few thousand Iraqis a year may seem a small price to pay for regional stability, cynical though it may be. Another answer is that Britain knows that the only sensible policy is to end the war, end sanctions and initiate a new inspection regime - but has not the guts to say so. The rest of Europe and most of the UN want to end the war. Britain dare not gainsay Washington, and so must keeping on bombing. One or other policy must be true. But to call either "ethical" is obscene. firstname.lastname@example.org -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. 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