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I thought the list might be interested to see this exchange. If anything more is forthcoming, I'll forward it. Cheers Eric --- Begin Forwarded Message --- Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 11:58:30 -0400 (EDT) From: Eric Herring <Eric.Herring@bristol.ac.uk> Subject: Iraqi infant mortality rates: competing explanations Sender: Eric.Herring@bristol.ac.uk To: Mark Urban <email@example.com> Cc: Eric Herring <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Jessica Barrington <email@example.com> Reply-To: Eric Herring <Eric.Herring@bristol.ac.uk> Message-ID: <SIMEON.9909301130.F@pc11.bris.ac.uk> Dear Mark (if I may): Thank you for taking the time to reply: it is greatly appreciated. Before I begin, I would just like to emphasise that I am not questioning your integrity or sincerity in any way, and I fully understand the difficulties of putting together packages under a great deal of time pressure and which must simplify extremely complex issues. > On Wed, 29 Sep 1999 15:44:45 +0100 Mark Urban > <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: > With regard to the infant mortality figures, it was UN > relief workers that drew my attention to them not the FCO. My argument is not with the infant mortality figures, but the reason you give for the rate being much higher in the centre and the south of Iraq. You claim in your package that UNICEF’s explanation is that this is the result of a deliberate policy by Saddam Hussein to inflict suffering to get the sanctions lifted. You said 'powerful evidence from one of its [the UN's] own organisations, showing how Iraq may have been sacrificing its own people for propaganda ... the UN has brought a small improvement. But, where Saddam rules, children die in increasing numbers’. However, your claim is demonstrably untrue, as I showed in detail in my email to the item’s producer Claudia Milne: UNICEF has made it very clear indeed that it attributes the different mortality rates to the relative impact of the sanctions. Why did you attribute to UNICEF a position which not only it does not hold but it has actively gone out of its way to dispute? Your report didn’t specify UNICEF, but I presume that is the UN organisation you were referring to - it is the one which produced the report. Your package also failed to provide the evidence to stand up your claim. If I can quote you again:: ‘So, the UN has brought a small improvement. But where Saddam rules, children die in increasing numbers, something those running the UN programme can hint at but never say.’ This cannot be true: UNICEF has done far more than hint at the child mortality contrast - it has publicised it widely. However, I suspect that you mean something else: that those running the UN programme think that Saddam Hussein is deliberately keeping infant mortality rates high, but ‘can only hint at it’. The onus was then on you to provide evidence of the hints. You cut immediately to a clip of Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP). He stated that ‘We can only recommend to the Iraqi government what to do .... the ultimate goal of the Iraqi government is to lift the sanctions.’ This (and the material I have snipped) is very ambiguous: whether or not it is a hinting at what you claim is highly disputable. Why put up such flimsy stuff and not put up UNICEF’s own explicit counter-arguments? Alternatively, is it that the UN people are telling you off the record directly that the mortality rate is deliberately kept high by Iraq? Even if some of them ar telling you this, how do you account for the former UN personnel such as Denis Halliday (who appeared on the programme) who reject that claim? Here is my guess: I think that you saw the contrast in figures, were simply unaware of UNICEF’s explanation for the contrast, deduced for yourself (based on Saddam Hussein’s undoubted extreme vileness) that it was caused by deliberate Iraqi policy, and interpreted Sevan’s comments as a hint which fitted your own deduction. This is an understandable mistake, but a mistake nevertheless. > I was not aware before seeing your message that Cook had > previously made use of them, but of course it's > unsurprising that he has. Had I known that he had, it > would not have made me any more or less willing to quote > the figures in my package. I am sure that this is true. > We must be just as sensitive to good FCO arguments as we > are to bad ones. I agree that good arguments are good arguments, regardless of who makes them. My point is that the argument you attribute to UNICEF is not UNICEF’s at all but that of the FCO, and it is a bad argument. > As for your argument that the mortality increase runs > back to before the Oil for Food Programme, I have no > doubt that there is something in it. Neverthless: > humanitarian to Iraq was distributed before 1996; you > will know from NGO progammes in various crises and > famines that emergency food aid can have a rapid effect > on infant mortality; UN agencies have had much greater > freedom of action in the north since 1991; there is > plenty of evidence from the Iraqi opposition of food > being used as a weapon against the Shia ever since the > 1991 rising; now that Iraq has the Oil for Food money > they spend miserably little of it of infant feeding > programmes; Iraq has spent huge amounts on Saddam's > palaces and gold rolexes - sorry to finish with a > well-worn FCO line, but are you arguing it's not true? I > have no wish to defend the sanctions policy as such. It > has been obviousfor the last couple of years that a new > approach to Iraq policy is needed. Nevertheless I am > convinced that a combination of Iraqi government > incompetance and ruthlessness has greatly increased the > people's suffering. This is quite a welter of claims which would take a lot of time to sort out and and respond to (the main issue is less the facts - although trying to find out how much is spent on palaces and so on matters - than the meanings and conclusions, about policy, about his and our moral character, to be drawn from them). We can have a detailed dialogue on these if you wish. In the meantime, what I would say that none of them contradict my main claim: that the UNICEF not only does not hold but actively disputes the position you attribute to it. Furthermore, these comments alter your position pretty dramatically. It is well documented that the infant feeding programme in the centre and south is miserably inadequate, in spite of repeated requests from the UN for this to improve. One of the objectives of my current research is to develop an explanation of this. Your package claimed bluntly that what is happening is that Saddam Hussein ‘is ruthless enough to starve his own people’ to try to get sanctions lifted. However, your email states that the situation has been produced by ‘a combination of Iraqi government incompetence and ruthlessness’. This begs the questions: what is the relative proportion of incompetence and ruthlessness? In which respects exactly has it been incompetent and how do you know this? Why did your package not mention and explain the incompetence? I am not trying to trap you here: this is a crucial issue about the relative mix of - deliberate Iraqi policy handed down from the top to keep infant mortality high to get sanctions lifted (ruthlessness plus conspiracy) - a state which prioritises regime survival over reducing infant mortality (note that this is a *very* different thing from the previous argument) - comfortable bureaucrats who don’t give a damn about infant mortality - bureaucrats who do give a damn but who are utterly demoralised, desperate and poverty-stricken - bureaucrats who demonstrate their status by delaying things - a society in which programmes are not implemented because there is the constant expectation that there is no need because sanctions will soon be lifted - a Ministry of Health which is deeply wedded culturally to high tech Western medicine and which is reluctant to spend its time running low-tech feeding programmes. Your package put all your eggs into the basket of the first explanation, attributed that first explanation inaccurately to UNICEF and failed to consider any of the others. Let me make it clear that I feel it to be perfectly plausible that someone as vile as Saddam Hussein would deliberately keep infant mortality rates high if he felt it would benefit him in any way. If there is any evidence of it, I am keen to see it. In my view, the Iraqi people are being ground to pieces in the struggle between the US and Britain on the one hand and Saddam Hussein on the other. The UN consistently lambasts BOTH sides. To give a couple of examples from Kofi Annan in May 1999: ‘more can be done ... to address the unacceptably high levels of child and maternal mortality, particularly in the south and centre of Iraq, through expedited implementation of targeted nutrition programmes and expeditious appproval by the Security Council Committee of applications in water and sanitation and other key sectors such as health, which have a direct bearing on the unnacceptably high malnutrition levels.’ Similarly Sevan complained to the Security Council in July 1999 that 'The improvement of the nutritional and health status of the Iraqi people through [a] multi-sectoral approach ... is being seriously affected as a result of [the] excessive number of holds placed on supplies and equipment for water, sanitation and electricity.' Just as we must not jump to (or rule out in advance) the conclusion that Iraq is deliberately keeping infant mortality high, so we must not jump to (or rule out in advance) the conclusion that those Security Council members responsible for the holds are deliberately keeping infant mortality high. One last point: throughout your report you assumed that the purpose fo the sanctions was to force Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions requiring it to give up nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. In contrast, there are many statements from US officials that their objective is to overthrow him, and that sanctions will stay until this is achieved. For example, in March 1997 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, in direct contradiction of the position she is shown as taking in your package: 'We do not agree with those nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted'. Your package did not mention this and hence did not address the argument that Iraq has no incentive to comply with the relevant UN resolutions, unless it believes that other states will force the lifting of the sanctions against the wishes of the US and possibly British governments. Nor does it address the point that US policy can be construed as being in violation of the very UN resolutions with which Iraq is being expected to comply because SCR 687 affirms explicitly the 'sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence' of Iraq. I hope these comments are of value to you, and I will send you a copy of a paper I have written reviewing some of these (and other) issues. I would be grateful if you would copy this email to Sian Kevill and Claudia Milne. If I can be of assistance on this issue in future, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely, Eric > > Claudia Milne > BBC Newsnight > > > Dear Ms. Milne. > > I am a lecturer in international politics at the University > of Bristol engaged in research on the UN Security Council > sanctions on Iraq. Colin Rowat supplied me with your email > address. I have done various pieces on work for Newsnight > on international crises over the years. > > I saw the item last night on the UN Security Council > sanctions on Iraq, and I was very concerned by a number of > demonstrable, important and I am sure unintentionally > misleading inaccuracies in the report of your Diplomatic > Editor Mark Urban which had were wholly in line with the > Foreign Office position and which are contradicted by the > UN documents on which they are supposed to be based. Let me > indicate just one of these: > > Urban: 'powerful evidence from one of its [the UN's] own > organisations, showing how Iraq may have been sacrificing > its own people for propaganda ... the UN has brought a > small improvement. But, where Saddam rules, children die in > increasing numbers, something those running the UN > programme can hint at, but never bluntly say'. > > My response: The British government has made the most of > the contrasts between the north of Iraq which is > UN-controlled and the centre and south of the country where > the programme is administered directly by the Iraqi > government and monitored by the UN. Foreign Secretary Robin > Cook said of northern Iraq that 'it is no accident that the > people are hugely better off ... The contrast with the rest > of the country could not be starker'. UNICEF calculated > that the mortality rate among children under five in the > north fell between 1979 and 1989, rose until 1994, and then > fell again until 1999 (to below the rate for 1979 to 1989). > In contrast, it calculated for the centre and south of Iraq > fell during the 1980s but rose catastrophically during the > 1990s to result in around 500,000 excess deaths among > children under five. All reports confirm the contrast: the > narrative at issue here is what explains that contrast. The > Foreign Office presents it as proof that the deaths are > caused not by the sanctions but by Saddam Hussein alone. > > However, UNICEF explicitly rejects this: 'the difference in > the current rate [of child mortality] cannot be attributed > to the differing ways the Oil-for-Food Program is > implemented in the two parts of Iraq. The Oil-for-Food > Program is two and a half years old. Therefore it is too > soon to measure any significant impact of the Oil-for-Food > Program on child mortality over the five year period of > 1994-1999 as reported in these surveys.' Caroline Bellamy, > Executive Director of UNICEF, says there are a number of > reasons for the difference - sanctions have been more easy > to evade in the north, agriculture is easier there, and it > has been receiving aid for a much longer period. Indeed > aid began arriving in the north in 1991 whereas it began to > arrive in the rest of the country only in 1997, and in > large quantities only from the spring of 1998. In addition, > according to Richard Garfield, a Columbia University > epidemiologist who has studied the effects of the sanctions > on Iraq, the north gets 22 per cent more per capita from > the oil sales programme; gets 10 per cent of the funds > raised in cash (unlike the centre and south which gets only > commodities); and gets aid from 34 Non-Governmental > Organisations (NGOs) compared to eleven in the centre and > south. On this basis, the narrative that the difference is > caused by harsher sanctions rather than harsher Saddam is > much more plausible. > > I would be happy to supply you with the fully referenced > research on which my statements are based and to supply you > with further research in future when you plan to cover this > issue again. > > Yours sincerely, > > ---------------------- > Dr. Eric Herring > Department of Politics > University of Bristol > 10 Priory Road > Bristol BS8 1TU > England, UK > Tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582 > Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133 > http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Politics > email@example.com On Wed, 29 Sep 1999 15:44:45 +0100 Mark Urban <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: > Dr Herring, > Jessica Barrington passed me your message. > With regard to the infant mortality figures, it was UN relief workers that > drew my attention to them not the FCO. I was not aware before seeing your > message that Cook had previously made use of them, but of course it's > unsurprising that he has. Had I known that he had, it would not have made me > any more or less willing to quote the figures in my package. We must be just > as sensitive to good FCO arguments as we are to bad ones. > As for your argument that the mortality increase runs back to before the Oil > for Food Programme, I have no doubt that there is something in it. > Neverthless: humanitarian to Iraq was distributed before 1996; you will know > from NGO progammes in various crises and famines that emergency food aid can > have a rapid effect on infant mortality; UN agencies have had much greater > freedom of action in the north since 1991; there is plenty of evidence from > the Iraqi opposition of food being used as a weapon against the Shia ever > since the 1991 rising; now that Iraq has the Oil for Food money they spend > miserably little of it of infant feeding programmes; Iraq has spent huge > amounts on Saddam's palaces and gold rolexes - sorry to finish with a > well-worn FCO line, but are you arguing it's not true ? > I have no wish to defend the sanctions policy as such. It has been obvious > for the last couple of years that a new approach to Iraq policy is needed