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- From: lionel basil <lionel.basilNOliSPAM@DELETETHISnashville.com.invalid>
- Subject: Why not call it genocide?
- Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 23:03:44 -0800http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/1999/456/op5.htm Al-Ahram Weekly 18 - 24 November 1999 Issue No. 456 By Hassan Nafaa * Iraq is still trapped in the tunnel it entered on 2 August 1990 when it invaded Kuwait. Consultations and mediation within the Security Council, at regional and global levels do not seem to augur well. With the British-American strike launched last December, which brought UNSCOM's mission (to inspect and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction) to an end, the crisis entered a new phase. The world community -- even the US -- recognised that the UN inspectors could not return to Iraq under the same terms of reference; hence the search for a new, defined, more effective approach to the Iraqi crisis, one achieving the consensus of the international community, which continues to preoccupy the five permanent members of the Security Council. Numerous proposals have been tabled, including a joint proposal by Russia and China, a French proposal, and a joint British and Dutch proposal, none of which was put to the vote. Talks seem to be gradually broadening the common ground of understanding between the parties, however, as indicated by the numerous amendments introduced to the three proposals mentioned above, none of which has so far won majority support. After its amendment, the British-Dutch proposal seems to have the best chances. The differences that divide the five permanent Security Council members have not been resolved, granted; still, the gaps between their positions remain ambiguous. For the first time, the US seems more prepared to suspend the sanctions imposed on Iraq if Baghdad responds to certain conditions. But the change in the US position is still limited, and could be simply a tactical move. The US's harsh conditions are aimed at maintaining Iraq under US supervision for the time being -- possibly until efforts in the Arab-Israeli conflict have made headway towards peace. The three other proposals stemmed from the assumption that it is time for the sanctions against Iraq to be lifted completely, not merely suspended. The other permanent members, however, have backed down under US pressure, and speak today more of suspending sanctions. Whether the sanctions are suspended or lifted, at any rate, will depend on the way in which three major issues are settled: the elimination of weapons of mass destruction; alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people; and the whereabouts of the Kuwaiti prisoners of war. As regards the first issue, the Russian, Chinese and French proposals were conceived on the basis of a distinction between Iraq's continued possession of such weapons, and the need to prevent it from building a greater arsenal in the future. The three states were inclined to accept -- to varying degrees -- that Iraq's arsenal has been eliminated and that what little remains, wherever it may be, cannot be put to any use. In other words, they felt that Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbours, and accordingly recommended that the inspection committee be replaced by a committee to monitor any attempts to acquire or develop weapons in the future. The US, on the other hand, still believes that Iraq possesses weapons, that inspections must continue, and that it is still too early to think of setting up a monitoring team. The world community as a whole, not just the five permanent members of the Security Council, is aware that the sanctions have done the greatest harm to the Iraqi people, and served only to strengthen Saddam Hussein's grip on power. In other words, the sanctions have defeated their own purpose. The US, however, continues to blame Saddam Hussein, not the sanctions, for the tragedy, and insists that the sanctions must stay in place until Saddam goes. Given the increasing pressure of international public opinion, however, the US today is a little more amenable to consider improving the terms of the oil for food programme and seeking other means to channel food and medicine to the least privileged categories of the population. The US, of course, will not lift the sanctions completely before Baghdad accepts all the conditions it has set. Although for the past few weeks the media has been highlighting this "softer" position on sanctions, and the US's proximity to the British position (which suggests that sanctions be lifted after a "trial period" of 120 days), it is still not clear whether the US will in fact adopt this position. It is more likely that the US will link its position on the British-Dutch proposal to developments in the current negotiations between the permanent members of the Security Council regarding the composition and mandate of the inspection or monitoring team. Nevertheless, under no circumstances will the US accept less than a permanent or quasi-permanent committee vested with a wide range of functions, and so constituted as to allow full US control. Once the issues of weapons and sanctions are settled and the international community is relieved of the moral responsibility for the suffering of the Iraqi people, the issue of "disappeared" persons or prisoners of war can be dealt with easily. The US is in no hurry today to scale down its offensive against Iraq or to end the crisis. After the failure of the joint strike last December, the US today is better able to bring military and moral pressure to bear on Baghdad and to justify another military strike, which, it believes, will reinforce the Iraqi opposition awaiting a more opportune time to overthrow the regime. The war of attrition seems to signify that the US cares little for questions of legitimacy or international law in situations where its interests are jeopardised, and that it is ready to act alone if necessary to protect its interests and achieve its aims in this part of the world. The US is confident that none of the permanent members of the Security Council will raise a serious challenge to its policy on Iraq. It is also clear that no Arab government has any say in the matter; the Iraqis themselves are resigned to their fate, having grown accustomed to surviving the war. Its victims have become an everyday part of life, to be watched on the news in the Arab world. Ten years after the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqis are still the symbol of indescribable suffering; the US is a stock predator, brutally tearing its victim to pieces as the world looks on impassively. Iraq has few options in this scenario. The only rational option is for Saddam Hussein to be ousted, but this is less likely to happen today than at any other time in the past. He will not willingly step down; nor can his opponents overthrow him. If anything, the sanctions have strengthened his grip on power. With the population totally focused on finding food and medicine, it views the world as cruel and insensitive -- far worse than Hussein himself. What, then, if Saddam Hussein remains in power for another decade or so? How will the people survive? Can the international community accept responsibility for the mass murder of an entire people? In The Torture of Iraq: Sanctions, Legality and Justice, Jeff Simons surveys reports from international organisations on the genocide of the Iraqis. He quotes the regional representative of the World Food Programme as stating that the weakest and most vulnerable members of the population are suffering the most: children under five, pregnant or nursing mothers, female household heads and destitute older women. Ten per cent of the population has access to little or no food. The social structure is disintegrating and people can stand no more. The survey also quotes a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In 1995, according to this report, one million Iraqis had died as a result of the economic sanctions. Over half a million were children. The Iraqi people, then, are being exterminated. The international community is indifferent to their plight. Saddam Hussein will continue to play on the people's suffering to consolidate his grip on power, and the US will continue to play on the suffering of the Iraqi population to oust Saddam Hussein. Alternatively, Hussein could make a few concessions with regard to Iraq's traditional position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and somehow lend a hand in solving the problem of the Palestinian refugees. The UN will probably buy whatever Saddam Hussein has to sell, but will never sell him what he needs most. Thus the conflict will rage on, until every last child in Iraq is dead. Can we stand by and watch? -------------------------------------------------------------------- The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University * Sent from RemarQ http://www.remarq.com The Internet's Discussion Network * The fastest and easiest way to search and participate in Usenet - Free!