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Troll and gigolo

Following are snips from State Department spokesman James Rubin's briefings
for Monday and Tuesday (accessible via the web-calendar interface at

Monday's performance seems especially desperate:
a) Mr. Rubin castigates Hans Von Sponeck for exceeding his authority in
questioning sanctions:
"Mr. Von Sponeck has exceeded his mandate in purporting to comment on areas
that are ... beyond the range of his competence or his authority with
respect to the wisdom of sanctions."
b) Mr. Rubin undercuts the consequences of sanctions by noting that
mortality estimates vary, a disreputable strategy favored by Holocaust
"With respect to infant mortality, there has been numerous reports on this.
I would be happy to get you the various conflicting data on it."

James Rubin, forever the gigolo to Albright's troll ... 

QUESTION: Can we move next door to Iraq? I notice that your - your friend,
Mr. Von Sponeck has resigned, beaten you to the punch on the resignation
game, and I am wondering if you have anything to say about his impending

MR. RUBIN: We are very pleased about his impending departure. I'm sure he
has a similar view. So we can both talk about that as private citizens and I
am sure that it will be better for the US Government and the people of Iraq
and the people of the world after that happens. 

QUESTION: What was the US role in his departure? 

MR. RUBIN: Well, look, this is a personnel decision for the United Nations
to discuss. It has long been our view that Mr. Von Sponeck has exceeded his
mandate in purporting to comment on areas that are without - beyond the
range of his competence or his authority with respect to the wisdom of
sanctions. Mr. Von Sponeck was a humanitarian affairs coordinator. He was
not the arbiter of national or international security for the world. 

The arbiter, to the extent there is an arbiter for the world on what the
proper decisions are on national and international security grounds, is the
Security Council. The Security Council has imposed and reaffirmed dozens of
times the imposition of sanctions on Iraq. So Mr. Von Sponeck's comments on
sanctions are irrelevant beyond his competence and were one of the sources
of our concern about his behavior there. In addition, he had a tendency to
simply accept Iraqi claims for various events without having an independent
research into them. 

For example, with respect to the effect of air attacks on Iraqi air defense
sites, he tended to simply report under the UN banner Iraq's claims, even
though Iraq has had a long history of abusing information for propaganda
purposes and has a very poor record of accuracy. 

QUESTION: Can you move a little further west? 

MR. RUBIN: On Von Sponeck? 

QUESTION: Yeah, one more. Within this range of competence, however, were
infant deaths. 

MR. RUBIN: Right. 

QUESTION: And he says - basically he thinks - he says on UN surveys that
somewhere between 5 and 6,000 premature infant deaths occur in Iraq each

MR. RUBIN: Right. With respect to infant mortality, there has been numerous
reports on this. I would be happy to get you the various conflicting data on
it. The bottom line is that Saddam Hussein has billions of dollars to spend
on his military machine and his palaces and luxuries for the elite, and so
every time an Iraqi child suffers or dies, it is because Saddam Hussein has
refused to spend his money to help them. 

There is no sanction on spending on humanitarian supplies. It's a great
misnomer. One day I would hope one of you would include in one of your
stories the fact that Iraq can spend all the money it wants and purchase all
the humanitarian supplies it wants and help deal with these true problems
that exist there. 

<The following duplicates an earlier post (from a different source) by
Nathan Geffen, but is included for completeness.>

QUESTION: Now, the head of the WFP, World Food Program in Baghdad, has quit.
It seems like it's going to be, "Will the last UN official to leave Iraq
turn out the lights?" I'm just wondering if you have anything to say about
her resignation and the reasons for it, which are similar to the reasons
given by Mr. Von Sponeck. 

MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen exactly what she said. I'm aware of another
resignation and I can assure you that these are not the last UN officials in
Iraq. There are plenty of people working every day to try to help the people
of Iraq. Because the leaders have made these decisions doesn't mean that the
work won't continue. There are many other people there. I could get you the
numbers, but there are many other people there. 

With respect to the reasons given, there is a suggestion that somehow this
is personal. This is not personal. It is our view that the roles of the
humanitarian coordinator and the humanitarian officials there are not the
role of self-appointed spokesmen for the Security Council and the world as
to the wisdom of sanctions. This is not a personal issue; this is a
professional issue involved in people's professional duties. 

If people believe that they can't in good conscience continue their work, I
think all of us respect that. There are obviously different views on the
wisdom of sanctions in the world. But when the Security Council has made a
decision to impose sanctions and all the members of the Council have
endorsed time and time again those sanctions, it's not up to a humanitarian
official -- who is there to implement a program that the United States and
the others started intended to generate revenue because Saddam Hussein won't
use his own revenue to pay for humanitarian goods and services for the
people of Iraq. 

So when these well-intentioned individuals are concerned about the fate of
the Iraqi people, it is our view that they should direct their concern and
their blame-casting at the Iraqi regime, which refuses day after day, time
after time, to spend its hard currency helping its own people, so the United
Nations and the United States have to come up with a different way to create
revenue for the food and medicine and other supplies that are being made
available. If it were not for the US and the UN efforts in this regard,
billions of dollars of food and medicine would not have gone to the people
of Iraq. 

So there is no question that we share concern about the people of Iraq. The
only people that don't seem to share any concern about the people of Iraq
are the members of the regime who would prefer to spend money on elaborate
palaces, elaborate cars, elaborate houses, amusement parks, man-made lakes
and many other luxury goods, rather than spend any of this hard currency
helping their own people. 

QUESTION: An aside, and a kind of corollary to that is, you don't see the
two resignations as disrupting or affecting the programs? 

MR. RUBIN: The program has existed before. You know, this is not the first
time individuals have decided that they would prefer not to hold these
posts. The program will continue because it is a program that we are behind,
the United Nations is behind. To the extent the Iraqis allow the oil to be
sold for this purpose, it will be spent for the purposes specified by the
resolution and we don't see this needing to interfere in any significant way
with the operations of the program. 

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