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Contrasting Iraqi infant mortality rates: Another exchange with Mark Urban

Dear CASI list:

Here is the latest exchange with Newsnight's Mark Urban. 

Best wishes


Dear Mark

Thank you for your reply. I too will try to be brief

> From: Mark Urban
> To: "'Eric Herring'" <>
> Subject: RE: Iraqi infant mortality rates: competing 
> explanations > Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:19:53 +0100
> UN people have told me, on a background basis that they 
> believe Saddam deliberately engineers the shortages. 

Your package referred to ‘powerful evidence’. There is 
powerful evidence of a contrasting infant mortality rate 
(higher in the centre and south, lower in the north). What 
you do not have is powerful evidence for your claim that 
Saddam deliberately engineers these shortages. This leaves 
you with two major problems.

- First, what is their evidence that he is doing this? 
Maybe the people you know have access to privileged 
information such as intercepts of Iraqi government 
communications that provide the smoking gun?

- Second, even if some UN people have taken the position 
that he deliberately engineers these shortages, you have 
failed to account for the contradiction that other UN 
people either directly or indirectly argue that he is not 
directly engineering them. I have started getting feedback 
from various senior UN and UN-related contacts, and they 
reject explicitly your claim. For example, when your claim 
was put by a colleague of mine to Bob Odeh, Head of the 
Multi-Disciplinary Observation Unit (MDOU) in Baghdad 
between September 1998 to September 1999 last, he rejected 
it. I checked with Richard Garfield, author of the most 
comprehensive infant mortality study in Iraq under 
sanctions before the UNICEF one and he he also rejected it. 
And it would seem very strange for Caroline Bellamy, 
Executive Director of UNICEF, if she was wanting to hint at 
your claim, that she would go out of her way to provide 
other reasons. I remind you that she said 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.'  She 
attributed the contrast to the following factors: 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. I could understand Bellamy keeping quiet to 
get Iraqi cooperation - but instead she has been speaking 

> The suggestion in my e-mail that incompetance may play a 
> role too in no way changes the fact that Saddam bears a 
> responsibility for deliberate manipulation of shortages.

On the contrary, it could be decisive, as incompetence may 
provide an alternative explanation to conspiracy. You 
insist that it is a mix of the two, which brings us back 
to: what fact? I am more than happy to be convinced, but 
unsupported assertions - openly disputed by personnel 
within the same organisation and openly disputed by the 
people on whose report you rely - hardly amount to fact.

To sum up, you have powerful evidence of a contrast - no 
one denies this - but you have very flimsy and disputed 
evidence of that contrast being engineered deliberately by 

As with my previous email, please forward this to Sian 
Kevill and Claudia Milne.



On Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:19:53 +0100 Mark Urban 
<> wrote:

> I'll keep this brief:
> a) the evidence of mortality rates is Unicef, the interpretation is clearly
> not part of their original published report. I did not 'attribute' any view
> to Unicef in the package. UN people have told me, on a background basis that
> they believe Saddam deliberately engineers the shortages. As you know, since
> OFP and Unicef require Iraqi partnership to implement their programmes, they
> do not say these things on the public record.
> b) Benon Sevan 'hints'. We did a long interview + I have spoken to his
> staff. I know his views. His words about looking to the Iraqi government to
> implement the programme were the reply to a question of mine about whether
> he held them responsible for engineering shortages. It is inevitable in our
> work that we condense and sometimes say in script things which we know to be
> the view of our interviewees.
> c) The suggestion in my e-mail that incompetance may play a role too in no
> way changes the fact that Saddam bears a responsibility for deliberate
> manipulation of shortages.
> d) The US position on whether sanctions are tied to arms control or regime
> removal has fluctuated and indeed I have reported on these changes in
> previous Newsnight packages. I'm not sure what your point is about what
> Albright said in the Newsnight story you have written in about. We simply do
> not have time in a 5 minute story to embark on a lengthy televisual footnote
> about the twists and turns of US policy. Since they are now backing the UK
> draft resoultion which envisages lifting sanctions in return for final
> compliance on arms control such a digression would be pretty irrelevant too.
> yours
> MU

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

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