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Some comments on Joe Stork's reply to my letter to HRW

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

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.

Nathan Geffen

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