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Re: Ultra-right US politician on sanctions and Iraq

Dear Colin,

thanks for your candid and thoughtful comments on Patrick Buchanan's demagogic
criticism of US government policy towards Iraq. I share your apprehension
about the dynamic which can be set up whenever disagreements are aired and
explored. So, I want to preface my remarks by saying that I totally respect
the sincerity of your point of view and greatly admire what yourself and CASI
have been able to achieve in the cause of exposing and opposing US/UK crimes
against humanity in Iraq.

You were  impressed by

> [Patrick Buchanan's] claim that, "More Iraq children have been lost in nine
> years to U.S. sanctions than all the American solders killed in combat in
> all the wars of the 20th century" strikes me as about as powerful a
> comparison as one can possibly make in the US: take every fallen American,
> commemorated in all of our national war memorials.  The number of children
> that we have helped to kill is less than these.

I think you meant to say 'more', not 'less'. I agree with you that this is an
extremely powerful comparison. I am sure that we can also agree that it is
also shocking, horrifying, enraging.
I think it is also important to state that Iraq is far from being the only
country with which this comparison can be made. More Vietnamese and Korean
civilians were killed by US military forces than all of the US's 20th century
combat dead. More civilians died during the US/UK-backed military coup in
Indonesia in 1965; more German p-o-w's in US concentration camps after 1945
(see James Bacque, 'Crimes and Mercies'); if we count the 100,000+ victims of
Guatemala's military dictatorship installed by the CIA in 1954, then, with
Nicaragua and El Salvador, these three small Central American nations have
offered up as many of their civilians to the cause of US imperial supremacy as
the number of sons donated to the US military by the American working class.

> I also think that Buchanan's reasons for opposing the sanctions ("because
> they don't work") is reasonable.  It seems to me that we might oppose
> something because we dislike the idea of it, or because we dislike the
> effects of it.

I think you miss the point here. Buchanan shares the war-aims of the Democrats
and Republicans: to force the rest of the world (in this case Iraq) to submit
to US power. He expresses a tactical disagreement ("they don't work"). It is
irrelevant which side of this dispute is reasonable or unreasonable, rational
or irrational. Both express conflicts within the enemy camp.

> Furthermore, I think that a large reason that people
> dislike the idea of something is because they dislike its effects: people
> may dislike imperialism because it involves subjugation and oppression.
> So I think that opposing sanctions on Iraq because one thinks that their
> effect has been bad is a very defensible position.

To support the aims of sanctions but to dislike its effects is contradictory.
It is the same, to use your apt analogy, as supporting the idea of imperialism
but not liking the consequences which imperialism wreaks upon the majority of
humanity. This is not a defensible position. It is, however, a near-perfect
definition of  liberalism.
It is 'futile', as I said in my original posting, for anti-sanctions
campaigners to slip into using "sanctions are counter-productive"-type
arguments because they implicitly accept the aims of those advocating
sanctions, they implicitly accept their right to intervene, their right to
violate Iraq's national sovereignty. They don't challenge, but on the contrary
make unacceptable concessions to the pretexts ("the will of the international
community" etc.) which disguise the real content and intent of these policies.

> The Militant implies that Buchanan thinks that sanctions not working
> primarily means that they have not toppled the government.  Given
> Buchanan's powerful remarks about child deaths, though, I don't know what
> relative weight Buchanan gives to these two concerns that he has about the
> sanctions.  Without getting more information, I'd be hesitant to conclude
> that his sole concern is toppling Saddam.

We should be under no illusions that this extremist would be quite prepared to
annihilate the entire population of Iraq and the Middle East if this was
necessary for the US to crush opposition to its domination.

In his recent book, “A Republic, Not an Empire”, Buchanan revealed his
attitude to military violence against sovereign nations: “Vietnam was a
legitimate war of containment that could have been won in half the time if the
United States had used its full conventional power at the outset, and refused
to set geographic limits on the use of that power.… It is the mark of a Great
Power that when it commits itself to war, it commits itself to victory, and
all the force necessary to prevail.”

The Militant has closely followed Buchanan's trajectory, as anyone searching
their website for articles on him can verify. They have reported his
anti-Semitism, his demand for extreme force to be used against immigrants
attempting to cross the US border; his veneration of McCarthy, Franco,
Pinochet. They characterise him as not just another right-wing politician, but
as a fascist who is seeking to build a fascist movement in the USA. As the
Militant says, before Buchanan goes to war abroad, he wants to win the war at

>         "Sanctions have become a way for the United States to vent its
>         anger on the cheap", said the rightist politician. Use them, but
>         use them to deadlier effect, he advised. "If they are to be
>         reapplied, I will understand what the world used to know: that
>         embargoes and blockades are weapons of war."
> If this guess is correct then Buchanan is merely saying that there is
> nothing innocent about sanctions, they are weapons of war and we should
> not pretend otherwise.  I think that his allusion to "what the world used
> to know" is simply a reference to the earlier term for economic sanctions,
> "economic warfare".  If so, I again think that Buchanan is correct with
> that sort of statement.

Well, he is “correct” in that he’s telling the truth. It doesn't mean that he
is against “economic warfare”, but merely that he doubts its efficacy,
especially when its perpetrators don't have the self-confidence to come out
into the open, but pretend to be doing something else. In my original posting,
I stated that it is "in the end fatal for anti-sanctions campaigners to slip
into using
opportunist arguments against sanctions, such as “sanctions are bad because
they don't work” "- because along will come someone like Buchanan with
policies to remove Saddam which do work, and we will have not prepared any


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