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Re: Major sanctions coverage in the Houston Chronicle and Toronto Sta r

Hi Drew,

Thanks for the posting.  While I very much agreed with Mr Siddiqui's
editorial perspective I was uncomfortable with his easy use of facts.
While I don't know the sources of all of his claims I do think that I know
about some of them, including:

> A majority of the 20 million still stuck there are malnourished

I've only ever seen child malnutrition systematically reported.  The
latest oil-for-food report by the Secretary-General to the Security
Council (S/1999/896, suggests that about
1/5 children in Centre/South Iraq are underweight; a similar fraction are
stunted (paragraph 42).  In the north 1/7 children are underweight, about
1/5 stunted (paragraph 70). 

> The number of civilian deaths since 1991 is between 1.5 million and 1.7
> million, including 500,000 children. The death toll of kids under 5 is
> about 250 a day.

These claims refer, I think, to "excess" deaths, those deaths that would
not have occurred in another scenario.  The 500,000 figure is that used by
Unicef ( as an estimate for the
additional number of children who might have died had Iraq's child
mortality rate continued its linear downward trend of the 1980s.  Not all
of the extra deaths can be attributed to sanctions: the Gulf War
itself damaged infrastructure, making sanctions more harmful; the 1991
civil uprising in Iraq led to direct deaths in the ensuing repression as
well as to further infrastructural damage.

The 1.5 - 1.7 million total death toll is similar to the 1.4 million
claimed by Iraqi Health Minister Oumid Medhat Mubarak in January (Arabic
News Service, 18/1/99).  I do not know of any external validification of
these figures.  They may be accurate, though, as Mr Mubarak's figure of
428,920 children under five is very similar to the more recent Unicef
figure (n.b. Mubarak claims that these are deaths attributable to
sanctions, though).

About oil-for-food, Mr Siddiqui claims that:

> Nearly half the revenues are withheld for U.N. expenses

OFF revenues are paid into a number of accounts.  The ESB (53% of
revenues) is responsible for humanitarian supplies to the people of
Centre/South Iraq; the ESC (13%) is its equivalent in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Therefore no more than 34% of revenues could be "withheld for UN
expenses"; the largest of those "expenses" is the Compensation Fund.

> Of the half left, Saddam diverts some to his military and ruling elite. 

This is almost certainly true but I've yet to see a UN report mention it.
I do hear more about other charitable aid going astray.

> ... no chlorine for desalination plants

The 18 May 1999 oil-for-food report (S/1999/573, describes the import of
chlorine into Iraq.  By 31 March 6,303 tons of chlorine had arrived in
Centre/South Iraq, 75% of the ordered quantity (paragraph 40).  In the
North, 328 tons have been distributed, described as "ample" (paragraph
76). The chlorine isn't for _desalination_, though, but water treatment.

The August report, cited above, report the Centre/South receiving some
7,300 tons of chlorine (paragraph 48).  In Iraqi Kurdistan, 380 tons were
used, 252 tons kept as stocks (paragraph 75).

> or no pencils (because the lead may be used as a radar-deflecting
> coat on planes). 

I am told by people working with the Sanctions Committee that there is no
"list" of forbidden items.  Contracts are evaluated on a case-by-case
basis.  As the Committee is not required to make its decisions public it
is never clear why a particular contract has been rejected.

> the cruelties being inflicted on Iraqi civilians contravene the Geneva
> Convention against genocide

The Geneva Convention, as I understand it, applies under conditions of
war.  While the US and the UK are certainly bombing Iraq it is not
technically clear that this constitutes a state of war. 

I do apologise for the above points.  I agree entirely with Mr Siddiqui's
position but do think that the case could be more strongly put.  In any
case, the prominence given to these articles is good news.

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (or)

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