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Parting thoughts on strategy

1) US/UK psychological warfare
2) Focus for campaigning
3) Genocide
4) Bizarre PS

Dear All,

I'm taking off for Nepal until mid-January so I thought I would inflict some
parting thoughts on you all. For those who couldn't be there, the CASI
conference was brilliant, and praised by everyone I've met who went to it.
Administratively, intellectually, emotionally, of a very high order.

1) Psychological warfare

It was admitted by the Foreign Office at the conference that public pressure
has had an effect on policymaking. I think that the current draft resolution
at the Security Council is a response to that concern. It is, I believe,
aimed at neutralising public pressure.

We were told explicitly at the conference that the provisions of the
resolution (not yet published) were capable of re-inflating the Iraqi
economy, re-establishing the value of the Iraqi Dinar, providing adequate
(foreign) investment into the Iraqi oil industry, and (thereby) generating
enough revenue to repair Iraq's civil infrastructure.

This is undoubtedly how the resolution will be portrayed in the media
(though probably in the vaguer terms of 'being able to solve the
humanitarian crisis' or some other formula).

My own suspicion is that the provisions of the resolution will be capable
_in principle_ (depending on the attitude of those implementing the
resolution) of making a serious impact on the humanitarian crisis.
_Potentially_ a significant easing of the situation, though not a solution
to the crisis.

I thought that the presentation of the resolution to the conference (and
particularly the united Franco-British front) was very effective in its
propaganda effect.

I suspect that the passing of the resolution - if it is passed - will have a
considerable psychological impact on a lot of potential or even actual
anti-sanctions campaigners, similar perhaps to the impact of the first and
second oil-for-food resolutions in 1991 and 1995.

The resolution is, in my view, at least in part an act of psychological
warfare against domestic (and perhaps international) opinion. If it is
passed, it will pose a real challenge to the anti-sanctions movement, which
we will have to meet immediately and aggressively.

2) Focus for campaigning

The twin foci of campaigning in a post-resolution situation could be (1) can
the resolution really solve the humanitarian crisis? and (2) the solving of
the humanitarian crisis should be de-linked from the solving of the
inspection crisis.

The latter seems to me to be the more important message. The resolution has
a 'snap-back' provision which enables the humanitarian concessions to be
withdrawn if Iraq is judged not to be in compliance.

The US and UK governments (aided and abetted by the other Security Council
members) are still seeking progress on disarmament by actually starving, or
by threatening to starve, Iraqi children.

3) Genocide

I think that in our campaigning, and particularly in relation to the
post-resolution situation, we have two broad goals:

(a) persuading people that lifting the economic sanctions is the only way of
solving the humanitarian crisis, and that this must be done unconditionally
and immediately,

and (b) persuading the 'converted' to actually take action which puts
pressure on governments to change policy.

There are many side issues which can distract people's attention from the
_central_ issue of the humanitarian crisis.

I'm something of an agnostic on whether or not the term 'genocide' is
accurate in terms of what has happened in Iraq.

What does concern me is that the debate we've had on this list demonstrates
that this is the kind of side-issue which can distract people's attention
from the key questions: (1) is there a humanitarian crisis in Iraq? (2) how
can it be solved?

For this reason alone, I believe we should steer clear of the term to avoid
getting into distracting side-arguments. I can imagine many people debating
the (in)accuracy of the term in order to put off facing the key issues.

4) Bizarre

The London Independent newspaper ran a story on 22 Nov entitled 'Spies in
the "forest"' about the US National Security Agency's attempts to monitor
e-mail traffic. According to an academic Department of Defense paper,
'Semantic Forests' software has been developed to sift through large pools
of documents, including transcripts of speech and data from Internet
discussion groups.

'It appears that Semantic Forests is intelligent enough to handle questions
given in plain English. One of the sample questions used to test the
software was, "What have the effects of the UN sanctions against Iraq been
on the Iraqi people, the Iraqi economy, or world oil prices?"'

See you all in the new millennium.

Milan Rai

PS In Nepal, it is already 2057.

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