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On Monday, The Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/news/9908/23/world/world17.html, citing The Telegraph of London) again reported that Iraq was caught red-handed exporting baby milk powder. Questions of intent aside, this report is false in that it was talcum powder being shipped, not milk. Following is an overview from The Economist (Aug 21-27, 1999, page 36), which corrects and re-frames this story in a larger context: --- Baby powder and death THE discovery of an Iraqi cargo of baby goods making its way across the Gulf by Indian dhow to Dubai has been pounced on by those who argue that Iraq's suffering is caused less by sanctions than by the indifference and greed of its rulers. This is an old, fierce argument. Iraq's defence-that the goods were being sent back because of their low quality or, alternatively, that it was all a bit of private enterprise-sounds thin. Kuwait, which stopped the vessel, said that the cargo was baby bottles and talcum powder-not milk powder as at first guessed. Nine years of suffocating sanctions have, without doubt, helped a bunch of Iraqis, above all Saddam Hussein and his cronies, to prosper in several exceedingly evil ways. At the same time, however, the prolonged lack of all basic necessities has crushed the great mass of Iraqis, once proudly in the van of Arab advancement, to a pitiful state of near-destitution. The controversy over responsibility is particularly relevant at the moment, after last week's report by Unicef. The UN children's agency, working with the Iraqi government and the World Health Organisation, has produced devastating, and so far unquestioned, figures that show the effect of years of sanctions on child mortality. In the great bulk of the country, which is run from Baghdad, the under-five mortality rate more than doubled from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1984-89 to 131 in 1994-99. In the northern autonomous region, the rate actually dropped, from 80 per 1,000 to 72. But the Kurdish state is, in practice, run by the UN itself, with better access to some goods. The survey's main conclusion is that Iraq should be allowed to make more money, and to spend it more freely. Under the oil-for-food programme, Iraq is allowed to sell oil worth $5.2 billion every six months to buy food and medicine. But its oil industry is so dilapidated-and the rules for getting equipment to repair it so stringent-that it has not, as yet, been able to reach this target. Beyond this is the larger question of what, by now, the sanctions are supposed to accomplish. Their purpose at the end of the Gulf war was to force Mr Hussein to get rid of his most lethal weapons and render him incapable of producing more. This has been largely, though not completely, achieved. But, since the end of last year, UN weapons inspectors have not been able to operate in Iraq. Scott Ritter, once one of the most hawkish, and controversial of the arms inspectors, argued in the New York Times on August 16th that economic sanctions should be dropped in exchange for the resumption of meaningful weapons inspections. The UN Security Council has come up with several draft proposals on sanctions and inspections but is unable to agree on one. It seems to be in no hurry to change things. In the meantime, American and British aircraft, patrolling Iraq's "no-fly zones", continue to attack sites considered threatening. This week, the Iraqi government claimed that 22 civilians died from air raids outside the zones. Bad, but fewer, no doubt, than die each day from economic deprivation. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 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. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***