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.
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I don't want this to become a protracted argument, because ultimately, I believe that there's enough in common between HRW and my own views that time spent debating with HRW would be better spent highlighting the US/UK role in the terrible Iraqi situation. Incidentally, I think it's a bit disturbing that disagreements between members of the list are often accentuated with highly emotive words such as "imperialist", "deceitful" etc. Surely it would be more constructive to reserve venemous rhetoric for the likes of James Rubin and Robin Cook? There's no way that such a large group of people will always agree with one another, but since (most of us) are united by a common aim, let's for the most part try and keep our disagreements free of vindictive rhetoric. As such, although I agree with some of the points made be those who have defended my letter sent to HRW, I do not wish to be associated with some of the vicious rhetoric fired at Joe Stork. To call him deceitful is grossly unfair and a slap in the face to someone who is obviously deeply committed to fighting human rights abuses. I feel some issues regarding Joe Stork's reply need to be clarified: * I did not imply that the bombing of Iraq is as bad as the bombing of Chechnya. I did imply that the principle of condemning Russia for its attack on Chechnya should be applied equally to the US/UK bombings of Iraq. * Joe Stork has not fairly addressed my point that there is no evidence of systematic Iraqi compliance in the disastrous Iraqi situation. In every country, government functionaries often commit fraud and illicit illegal acts. This does not imply that it is government policy to commit fraud. I am not an apologist for the Iraqi government. I have written many times that they are guilty of gross human rights abuses. Saddam Hussein is a dangerous, ruthless and autocratic ruler. I truly hope that he will be overthrown (peacefully). Nevertheless, I do not see that it is fair to blame the Iraqi government for the current Iraqi situation, given that it is facing a situation that is extremely rare in human history. Occasional or even frequent fraud by government employees does not imply that the Iraqi govt. is trying to worsen the situation. The sanctions regime actually encourages fraud by Iraqi govt. employees. To be honest, I haven't seen much documentation of intentional Iraqi govt. attempts to worsen the current situation. I am prepared to conceed that this is because of my own ignorance. I have, however, seen reports of what seem to be honest attempts by the Iraqi Health Ministry to address the country's dire health problems. * I did not imply that Saddam's HR abuses are a thing of the past. However, the crimes for which one can realistically indict him on HR grounds were FOR THE MOST PART committed in the 1980s. I do not "seize on any rationale to avoid holding the Iraqi government responsible or accountable in any matter whatsoever for its human rights crimes". Not at all, actually. But I do believe it is important to be even-handed, and to be just as critical, if not more so, of one's own government and culture (in HRW's case, the US govt.) as one is of others. Incidentally, my specific words were " why does it not play an even-handed game and criticise Germany, Britain, Russia, the US and others for their supplying weapons to Iraq throughout the period of these worst abuses?". Note, I said "criticize", not "indict". I do not believe that supplying weapons to a criminal govt. is as bad as the actions of the criminal govt. Of course, it's a different matter if the weapons suppliers actively support, encourage and maintain the criminal govt. in power. It is a debatable point whether Western governments actively tried to keep Saddam in power and encouraged his criminal activities during the 1980s. * 'Garfield, for instance, makes clear that the earlier reports amount to something less than "overwhelming evidence." ' This is a misinterpretation of Garfield's critique. Garfield criticised the numbers produced by past analyses. He (and most other parties, including Madelaine Albright) did not bring into doubt the issue of the great suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions. This great suffering has been well publicised for the last decade. Analogously, we still do not know howmany people died in the 1999 Yuguslavian War, but this does not mean that we don't know that a great human tragedy occurred. * Not being an expert on DU, I cannot comment on Joe Stork's comments in this regard. I must defer to his greater knowledge here and remain agnostic on the subject until I am better read on it. Regards, Nathan Geffen -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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