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Berger defends current Iraq policies

U.S. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger 'authored' the following for
today's International Herald Tribune -- basically, a distillation of the
State Department's Sept. 13 briefing on Iraq.

The Iraqis Are Victims of Saddam, Not of the Outside World

By Samuel R. Berger International Herald Tribune 

WASHINGTON - Various diplomats attending the recent UN opening session
chided proponents of continued sanctions against Iraq for being insensitive
to the plight of the Iraqi people. The people of Iraq are indeed suffering
today, but the cause is not sanctions. It is the policies of Saddam Hussein.

When the United Nations first imposed sanctions against Iraq, immediately
after the invasion of Kuwait, it exempted food, medicine and other
humanitarian supplies. Soon after the Gulf War, the United States took the
lead in proposing that Iraq be allowed to sell controlled quantities of its
oil to pay for these critical humanitarian needs.

For five long years, Saddam refused to do so, hoping to manipulate
international opinion by perpetuating the misery of his people.

Now that the oil-for-food program is finally being implemented, it is making
a real difference in the lives of the people. This year oil-for-food is
expected to generate nearly $7 billion for use by Iraq to purchase food,
medicine and humanitarian goods. The food supply in Iraq has grown,
providing the average citizen with approximately 2,030 calories a day, an
amount exceeding the UN-recommended daily minimum.

In fact, the amount of food and medicine that Iraq has been able to purchase
under this program is greater than all of the humanitarian aid that the
United Nations has provided to all the other countries in the world in the
last three years.

Even so, Saddam continues to hinder the program and deprive all his people
of its benefits. Today, according to the United Nations, one-third of all
the medicine that has arrived in Iraq since the start of the oil-for-food
program sits undistributed in Iraqi warehouses.

Despite a 50 percent increase in oil revenues, Iraq has increased the amount
earmarked for food purchases by just 16 percent. Despite infant
malnutrition, Iraq has spent less than 40 percent of the $25 million that
has been set aside for nutritional supplies, and until just a few weeks ago
had gone more than 18 months without ordering a single nutritional

Not only is Saddam depriving his people of food, he is selling it illicitly
for his own profit. Baby milk sold to Iraq through the oil-for-food program
has been found in markets throughout the Gulf region.

Recently, Kuwaiti authorities stopped a shipment coming out of Iraq that
included baby powder, baby bottles and other nursing materials for resale
overseas. And the Kuwaiti Coast Guard has seized three cargo vessels that
were trying to smuggle more than 600 tons of food and foodstuffs out of

We know where that money is going. Since the end of the Gulf War, Saddam has
built 48 grand palaces, complete with gold-plated faucets and man-made lakes
and waterfalls.

Five months ago, Iraqi officials inaugurated Saddamiat al Tharthar, a
lakeside resort for high government officials that contains stadiums, an
amusement park, hospitals, parks, and new homes, at a cost of hundreds of
millions of dollars.

Top military officials are provided with extra monthly food rations, a
Mercedes and stipends in the thousands of dollars, while most Iraqis are
forced to live on less than $3.50 a month

All of this is obscene.

It's telling that, according to Unicef, in northern Iraq, which is under the
same sanctions as the rest of Iraq but where the United Nations directly
administers humanitarian assistance, child mortality rates have fallen below
pre-Gulf War levels, and children are living better lives. In southern and
central Iraq, where the government controls the program, child mortality
rates have more than doubled.

Opponents of current policy need to consider the alternative. Under
sanctions, Saddam must sell the commodity he values most to meet the needs
of those he values least, the people of his country. If sanctions were
lifted, he could spend his oil wealth on anything he wanted. Oil for food
would likely become oil for tanks. Iraq's people could well have less to
eat. Iraq's neighbors would certainly have more to fear.

Saddam's priorities are clear: palaces for himself, perks for his cronies,
prisons for his people, and weapons to destroy Iraq's citizens and

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is unanimous in its judgment that Iraq
has not fulfilled its obligations to the international community. It has not
disarmed. It has not forsworn the development of weapons of mass
destruction. It has not renounced the use of chemical and biological
weapons. It does not respect the international border with Kuwait, and has
not accounted for Kuwaiti prisoners of war.

It has not stopped the repression, torture and abuse of its own people, from
Kurds in the north to Shiites in the south.

There is no conflict here between the demands of sensitivity and security,
no trade-off between feeding the people of Iraq and freeing the Gulf region
from fear. In fact, the only realistic way to achieve both goals is to
encourage a new regime in Iraq that will meet the needs of its people and
its obligations to the world.

When that new regime emerges, the United States is prepared to do its part
to help foster economic development, restore Iraqi civil society, replenish
the middle class, rebuild Iraq's health and education sectors, and welcome
Iraq back into the community of nations.

We should work together, with patience and determination, until that day
when we can not only lift sanctions but truly lift the lives of the Iraqi

The writer is the U.S. national security adviser. He contributed this
comment to the International Herald Tribune.

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