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The job turns "incumbents into crusaders"

Attached are The Economist's comments on the von Sponeck/Burghardt
resignations, and editorals from The Progressive and  Also
included is a report from Arabia.On.Line/Reuters providing biographical
background for von Sponeck.
The Economist
February 19th - 25th 2000

Make-believe about Iraq    
Gone: von Sponeck and Burghardt   

(Beirut) IT IS not easy to hold down a United Nations job in Iraq. Last year
saw the hounding and eventual retirement of Richard Butler, the UN's chief
weapons inspector. Now it is the turn of the head of the UN's humanitarian
programme, Hans von Sponeck. For the past few months, his pointed criticism
of the UN's strict trade embargo on Iraq has earned the fury of the
embargo's main advocates, the United States and Britain. On February 13th,
he reluctantly resigned. The head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, Jutta
Burghardt, followed suit the next day. 

Mr von Sponeck has supervised the oil-for-food scheme, whereby the UN allows
Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to buy humanitarian goods. But, as he
argues, the system does not even come close to answering the desperate need
for medicine, and for spare parts for Iraq's crumbling infrastructure. Iraq
is often criticised for the way it handles things, but Mr von Sponeck
squarely blames America and Britain for oil-for-food's failure. Their vetoes
hold up contracts, he says, their carping stymies any effort at streamlining
and their public statements deliberately cloud the issue by pointing the
finger at Iraq. 

The UN may have trouble in finding a less outspoken replacement: the post
turns its incumbents into crusaders. For a time, Mr von Sponeck seemed more
guarded than his predecessor, Denis Halliday, who voiced similar complaints
and departed similarly. But 16 months on the job seems to have brought him
round to Mr Halliday's point of view. "This experiment of sanctions on Iraq
has not worked," he says, "Why must we prolong the pretence that it does?"
Sadly, his departure may further prolong the pretence. 

< Link active for subscribers:

Published on Thursday, February 17, 2000 in The Progressive Magazine  
U.N. Resignations Over Iraq:
How Many Will It Take? 
by Matthew Rothschild  
This week, two top U.N. humanitarian officers resigned in protest over the
terrible toll that U.N. sanctions are taking in Iraq.

On Sunday, Hans von Sponeck resigned his post as head of the U.N.'s Oil for
Food program in Iraq.

"The real victims are those who walk the streets of Baghdad, Basra, and
Mosul," he said.

On Tuesday, Jutta Burghardt, head of the U.N. World Food Program, also
resigned, citing the suffering of Iraqi civilians caused by the sanctions.

There is a precedent for these resignations: Eighteen months ago, Denis
Halliday, von Sponeck's predecessor, resigned as well.

Halliday later told me: "I don't believe the Security Council has the right
to punish the people of Iraq simply because it is unhappy with the president
of the country."

Halliday, von Sponeck, and Burghardt did the principled thing.

They resigned in protest when they saw that, despite their own best efforts,
Iraqi civilians are still paying an awful price--as many as 5,000 children
are dying unnecessarily every month due to sanctions.

How many more resignations will it take before the U.N. Security Council,
dominated by the U.S. government, faces up to its responsibilities?

And what will it take to press this issue into the conscience of America?

The media aren't doing their job on this.

The New York Times gave only a tiny mention of von Sponeck's resignation. (I
didn't see anything on Burghardt's).

And Bill Clinton gets a free ride: At his press conference this week, no
reporter asked him about Iraq.

It's not a frequently asked question of the Presidential candidates (note:
Bush, McCain, Gore, and Bradley all favor sanctions--Bradley even wants to
make them tougher!).

Reporters need to raise this issue and cover this story.

And those of us around the country who are properly outraged at the Iraq
sanctions need to make our voices heard.

Otherwise, more Iraqi children will die by the thousands, and the noble
resignations of the U.N. officials would be for naught. 
Seize the Day for Iraq
Published Wednesday February 16, 2000

By Ali Asadullah 
If ever the time has been propitious for hoping to end the nine years of
strangling economic sanctions on Iraq, it is now.

The windows of opportunity to affect meaningful change have been few and far
between over the years. Some thought the resignation of Scott Ritter would
turn the tide. Others felt revelations concerning spying and other
questionable acts by UNSCOM, which resulted in Iraq's expulsion of all
weapons inspectors, would be the proverbial straw that broke the back of the
sanctions. And still others thought the brutality and hypocrisy of the
United States' pre-Ramadhan bombing spree on Iraq in 1998 would be the
turning point. But none of this resulted in any real change.

The events of the past week, however, could change the scenario completely.
The buzz last week was that Hans Spoenek, the U.N. Coordinator of
humanitarian efforts in Iraq, would resign. He did that Monday. Following
his lead on Tuesday was Jutta Burghart, the U.N. World Food Program
representative in Iraq, who also tendered his resignation, voicing
opposition to the sanctions program. Also on Tuesday, Syria announced that
it would pursue closer economic ties with Iraq, the U.A.E called for an end
to the sanctions and Pakistan signed on to export rice to Iraq and repair
oil and electricity facilities as well.

The planets seem to be lining up.

On the domestic front, the State Department has scrambled to save face
amidst this barrage of anti-sanction activity. But in its haste, the United
States is slipping. James Rubin embarrassed himself and the State Department
Monday by seeming overly enthusiastic at Spoenek's resignation. It is clear
that a real threat to U.S. driven U.N. policy on Iraq exists.

Therefore, Muslims and other anti-sanctions activists must step to the plate
now and deliver a crushing blow to the tool that has resulted in so many
unnecessary deaths of innocent Iraqis. Letter writing campaigns must
increase in magnitude. Call-ins to members of Congress must be done daily.
Effective and strategic protests must take place to capitalize on this media
moment that Iraq has. And every effort should be made to support Congressmen
Campbell and Bonior in their continued efforts to work at the Federal level
to uncouple economic restrictions from the overall sanctions program.

Additionally, individuals such as Hans Spoenek, Scott Ritter and Ramsey
Clark must be given every opportunity to speak on this issue. Community
workers need to solicit local newspapers to accept Op-Ed pieces from them,
and university and civic groups such as the World Affairs Council must be
approached with regard to scheduling speaking engagements for them as well.

The time is now. We know all too well how quickly the plight of Iraqi
civilians fades from the headlines. Such an opportunity, as has presented
itself now, may not reoccur for some time. And with enough voices raised in
protest, maybe this time we can save our Iraqi brethren from continued

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of

Resignations spotlight impact of Iraqi sanctions

The resignation of two top UN officials in Baghdad raises questions about
the impact of UN sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, with key nations split on who
is to blame for it.

February 16, 2000, 11:52 AM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The resignation of two top UN officials in
Baghdad this week again raises questions about the the devastating impact of
UN sanctions on ordinary Iraqis, with key nations split on who is to blame
for it.
 While the United Nations has instituted an "oil-for-food" programme to
allow Iraq to use oil revenues for needed supplies, UNICEF, the UN
Children's Fund, says the project has made little difference in lowering
youngsters' mortality rates.

Other critics say the programme, even if well-run, would have trouble
functioning because of the myriad steps Iraq, the UN, and suppliers have to
undertake before goods can be imported.

On Sunday, Hans von Sponeck, the German humanitarian coordinator in charge
of the programme, resigned -- or was pressured to leave -- after calling for
an end to the sanctions and questioning the efficacy of UN programmes to
improve the lives of 22 million Iraqis.

On Tuesday, his compatriot, Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food
Programme in Iraq, did likewise, with diplomats in Baghdad reporting that
she too protested the sanctions.

She will be returning to duties in the German government whereas von
Sponeck, 60, will leave the United Nations entirely on March 31 after 36
years. He was with the UN Development Programme all but the last year and a
half, about a decade before his country had a seat in the United Nations.

Von Sponeck's predecessor, Denis Halliday of Ireland, left his post in
mid-1998 after months of voicing similar views.

US officials since November have accused von Sponeck of siding with Iraq in
a propaganda battle over who is to blame for the suffering of the Iraqi
people: the West, for imposing harsh economic sanctions, or President Saddam
Hussein for failing to comply with the disarmament terms required for
lifting those sanctions.

In Paris, the Foreign Ministry praised von Sponeck. "One cannot reproach him
for having said this publicly," spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said. France
supports an early easing of sanctions, along with Russia and China.

But in Washington, US State Department spokesman James Rubin said the two
Germans should not act "as a self-appointed spokesman for the Security
Council and the world, as to the wisdom of sanctions." The Security Council
in December decided to streamline its procedures in getting supplies to
Iraq. But so far this has not materialised, with the United States having
frozen 1,000 requests for supplies, more than any other country.

The goods reach Iraq under the oil-for-food programme, begun in December
1996, and meant to ease the impact of the sanctions, imposed shortly after
Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

But the tightly-controlled programme, which means Security Council approval
for supplies, may result in medicines arriving without syringes,
toothbrushes without toothpaste and a general micromanagement of the economy
by the United Nations.

Control of the economy

Some critics say President Saddam Hussein and his sons have enriched
themselves by control over economy under the UN programme and through
smuggling a plethora of goods.

As the years go by, opposition to the sanctions is increasing, even in the
United States. On Monday protesters, saying Washington's policies amounted
to child abuse, demonstrated near the US mission to the United Nations. Some
86 people were arrested after they refused to leave.

In Washington last month, some 70 legislators, most of the Democrats, wrote
to President Clinton saying: "While we have no illusions about the brutality
of Saddam Hussein, ... we simply ask that you do what is right: lift the
economic sanctions.

On the von Sponeck controversy, the United States and Britain began lobbying
for his departure last November, saying he was listening to Iraqi
authorities rather than organising his work properly. But diplomats said the
public criticism by Washington forced Annan to keep him on longer.

His detractors say he also came under scrutiny from his boss,
Undersecretary-General Benon Sevan, who thought he mismanaged the job and
threatened to leave his post if von Sponeck stayed on.

But his friends say he told Annan in November he wanted to resign as soon as
possible and note that he has endured tougher crises in his life and cannot
be pushed around easily.

His father, German General Hans von Sponeck, was jailed in 1941 for
withdrawing troops under his command from the Crimea, where they were being
slaughtered by the Soviet army, in defiance of Hitler's orders not to

He was executed in 1944, days after the July 20 generals' plot against
Hitler's life when the Nazis purged aristocrats from the office corps and
killed many of their families too.
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