The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

"We share blame in Iraqis' suffering" editorial column

Another column from Haroon Siddiqui - The Toronto Star's editorial page
editor emeritus.

Published Jan 27th 2000. He wrote two columns on the subject last year.

Comments about Canadian Government's attitude to the Sanctions.

That makes two articles in major Canadian newspapers in about eight


Peter R. Griffith :-)

"We share blame in Iraqis' suffering" Haroon Siddiqui

AS HARD as he may try, Foreign
Minister Lloyd Axworthy cannot pass
himself off as an angel of mercy for the
people of Iraq, who have been dying a
slow death under the decade-long
economic sanctions he wholeheartedly

He is portraying a new United Nations
initiative as an innovative compromise
between the twin goals of ending the
suffering of ordinary Iraqis and
controlling Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons. It is not. It merely repackages a rotten America-led

A new Security Council resolution, for which Axworthy takes
some credit, promises to ease sanctions in return for the
resumption of international inspections of Saddam's arsenal,
and lift them upon the destruction of the weapons. 

This is the same rut we have been in since the Gulf War, give or
take a few nuances. 

By tying humanitarian relief to military goals, we will continue
to hold millions of innocent Iraqis hostage to Saddam's

For he will continue to cheat. The new U.N. inspection team will
not be able to confirm that the last vial of his chemical and
biological poison has been destroyed. America will pronounce
itself not fully satisfied. Iraqi civilians will continue to die. 

The only difference will be that America and its chief apologists
- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and now Axworthy - can
pretend that they, too, like the rest of the world, and an
increasing number of Americans and Canadians, care for the
plight of the Iraqis. 

Axworthy and company are shedding crocodile tears. 

They have been full partners in what 48 members of the U.S.
Congress have just decried, in a letter to President Bill Clinton,
as ``the most comprehensive economic embargo imposed in
modern history.'' 

Thousands of Canadians and about half a million Americans
have signed petitions against this morally bankrupt policy that
has reduced a highly developed society to ruins; left millions
destitute; killed hundreds of thousands of malnourished
people, especially children; and deprived a whole nation of the
most basic necessities, from milk to clean water to antibiotics. 

It is a policy that has also failed in its declared aims:

Cleanse Iraq of weapons of mass destruction that supposedly
endanger Saddam's neighbours but have, in fact, been used
only on his own people. 
Topple him. Rather than weakening him, sanctions have
strengthened his stranglehold on Iraqis more preoccupied with

Yet Security Council Resolution 1284 is offering more of the
same, despite claims to the contrary. 

Axworthy says it ``provides for the immediate and
unconditional refinement of the sanctions regime, by allowing
for an expansion of the number and types of products Iraq can
import. The cap on Iraqi oil production has also been lifted.'' 

Such soothing noises date back to the very first embargo
resolution right after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait - Number 661,
dated Aug. 6, 1990. It exempted ``payments exclusively for
strictly medical or humanitarian purposes and . . . foodstuffs.'' 

That turned out to be ``a matter of political packaging rather
than humanitarian intent,'' in the words of Ulrich Gottstein of
Germany, European vice-president of the Nobel Peace
Prize-winning group, International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear and all War. 

The exemption did not alleviate Iraqi suffering. That prompted
another resolution - No. 706, Aug. 15, 1991 - permitting the
once-only sale of $1.6 billion (U.S.) of Iraqi oil for purchases of
food and medicine. The money went into an escrow account,
with United Nations expenses and compensation to Kuwait
getting first dibs, and the leftovers, in that case only $500
million, going for its announced purpose - a pattern that was to
be repeated in later years. 

When that measure proved inadequate in stanching the
bleeding of the Iraqi nation or stemming the tide of worldwide
anger, the Council came up with the oil-for-food program -
Resolution No. 986, passed in December , 1996. It allowed for
the sale of $2 billion worth of oil every six months. Gottstein:
``Only 35 per cent could be used to buy food and medicines for
a population of about 18 million, about $6 per person per

That necessitated another gesture - Resolution No. 1153, dated
June 3, 1998 - increasing oil sales to $5.25 billion every six
months. But by this time, Iraqi infrastructure was so dilapidated
it could pump only $3.3 billion worth. 

Lifting the cap on oil sales now is not likely to bring any quick
relief to the suffering millions, notwithstanding Axworthy's
soothing noises. 

Also, his claim that ``full compliance by the Iraqi regime would
trigger an automatic lifting of sanctions'' is not new either. A
similar promise was made right after the Gulf War - Resolution
687, dated April 3, 1991. It said that once ``Iraq has completed
all actions contemplated . . . the prohibition against import of
commodities and products originating in Iraq and the
prohibitions against financial transactions related thereto . . .
shall have no further force or effect.'' 

Meanwhile, Axworthy has remained, by and large, silent on the
ongoing bombing of Iraq since December, 1998 in retaliation for
minor Iraqi violations of the two no-fly zones set up after the
Gulf War. American and British planes have flown more than
15,000 sorties, killing an indeterminate number of civilians along
the way. 

As evil as Saddam is, we cannot go on pretending that it is he
alone who is inflicting misery and death on his people.
This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]