The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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The sanctions on Iraq are genocidal. If the central issue of interpretation, as to whether genocide is being carried out, is 'intent' according to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,(arguable in my view) then it should be altered. 'Intent' is not measurable if that judgement is based solely on the denials and claims of the perpetrators of such crimes, something which is unlikely to herald the truth. The central issue is, and should be, physical evidence.
What can be cleary discerned by looking directly at the evidence, is the nature of the victims targeted in any attack. If the civilian infrastructue, which provides the civilian population with their means of life support, and the civilian population are the deliberate target of attack through econmic or military means (Iraq or East Timor) I consider these measures technically genocidal. In the sense that the only possible victims of such an attack can be civilians and therefore the intention must be and indeed shows "intent destroy, in whole or part, a national , ethical, racial or religious group" even if the perpertrators claim they have an 'objective' over and above the murder of civilians, it does not in any way, shape or form alter the nature or reality of their crimes.
Genocide, I believe, can also take place in conventional warfare if the sides are woefully mismatched. In conventional warfare the military personnel and those directly engaged in hostilities are killled on both sides in order to acheive the objective, gain territory for example. If the sides are mismatched and the mlitaraly superior side not only excercises it's advantage but takes this to a point where the killing of military personnel is no longer of any military significance and/or the soldiers have ceased to be 'soldiers' in any effective or organised way then once again we may have stepped into the realm of genocide. The 'Gulf war' is a good example of a mismatched war. Estimated 150,000 Iraqi soldiers killed. More allied soldiers killed by 'friendly-fire' than Iraqi troops. In fact 'Gulf war' is misnomer,'Gulf massacre' would be a truer description. The US military were on a 'turkey shoot' as they put it so delicately.
I agree that deciding at which point the number of people killed becomes genocidal, in the sense that the term 'genocidal' has come to mean for most people 'killing on a massive scale' (although this is not the only technical definition) is a difficult if not immpossible question to answer. One suggestion is to look at the numbers killed as a proportion of the population. In East Timor for instance a Third of the population were killed between 1975 and 1979 alone (the figure has grown considerably since then) In Iraq, a country of less than 19 million people something like an estimated 1 million have died from the 'Gulf war' massacre and sanctions, some 5% of the iraqi population, an incredible amount of people. The term 'ethnic cleansing' which I personally find unhelpful seems to have come to mean among other things 'genocide on a smaller scale'. My preferred term for this kind of action is 'state terrorism'. This is a term which I'm sure will never come into common usage however as 'terror' is the property of the terrorist, the state is not capable of terrorism is it?