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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. http://www.thestar.com/back_issues/ED20000127/opinion/20000127NEW02_OP-HAROON.html That makes two articles in major Canadian newspapers in about eight days! Regards, 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 supports. 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 policy. 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 non-compliance. 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 survival. 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 month.'' 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi