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Sanctions: Apartheid and Iraq

Comparing sanctions against Iraq and sanctions applied
against the Apartheid govt. is an important
undertaking. It seems to be a common misconception
among many people who supported sanctions against
South Africa (SA) that the sanctions against Iraq are
similarly justified. Colin and JV made some important
points, but I wish to add to and contest some of them.

1. SA has always been reasonably self-sufficient with
regard to basic essentials, like food, unlike Iraq. 

2. Sanctions against SA were very limited. The US and
UK govts. never supported sanctions whole-heartedly
against SA, in contrast to the Iraqi situation.

3. Iraq is not just being sanctioned. It is being
blockaded. All export earnings go into a UN controlled
bank account. SA never faced anything remotely as
harsh. Nor did the ANC suggest, to my knowledge, that
SA should face such harsh sanctions. There were never
food shortages in SA as a whole, though there
undoubtedly was and still is malnutrition as a result
of distribution of wealth issues.

2. As Colin correctly points out, the majority of
South Africans seemed to support sanctions against the
Apartheid govt. This is not the case in Iraq.

4. It's not clear what effect sanctions had on SA. One
can't write off the effects of sanctions on changing
the Apartheid govt. Remember, that the Apartheid govt
relied on white support to remain in power. The
academic and sports boycotts definitely effected many
white South Africans at a psychological level. Also
the white population is much poorer now than it was in
the early 80's, though it's not clear that this would
have would not have been the case without sanctions. I
lived (a priveleged existence) in South Africa through
the harshest sanctions period. It's my personal
opinion that sanctions had a massive effect on
changing the Pretoria regime. I cannot, however, back
this up with concrete evidence. I doubt anyone really
can: analysing issues like these is too complex.

5. The SA arms industry became virtually
self-sufficient and flourished, arguably as a result
of sanctions! 

6. As to which government was worse, the current Iraqi
or former SA govt? That's a tough one. Again this is
subjective and complex. I think if you just  compare
the SA govt's treatement of black South Africans with 
the Ba'ath regime's behaviour towards Iraq's Kurds and
Shi'ites (and Iranians), the latter's behaviour might
have involved more atrocities. However, the SA govt's
worst crimes were not against its own citizens,
horrendous as these were: they were against the people
of Angola and Mocambique. SA funded and participated
in devestating wars against these two countries. When
one takes this into account, I suspect Saddam Hussein
starts to look like a pussy cat. Nevertheless
comparing who was more evil seems a bit futile. It is
interesting to note though, that the US played a major
sponsorship role in both the worst Iraqi and South
African atrocities.

An interesting reference on sanctions against SA is:
"How Sanctions Work: Lessons from South Africa" edited
by Neta C Crawford and Audie Klotz, St Martin's Press,
NY, 1999.

As a South African, this issue is of some interest to

Don't be fooled by Peter Hain. He might have been part
of the oppressed once, but he's now part of the
British govt. It's a cliche, but don't forget that
power corrupts.

Nathan Geffen

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