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Re: Letter-to-the-Editor (Washington Post Editorial)

Could someone clarify the roles of each group of the letter-to-editor
groups? Perhaps give them different names as well?

Summary of editorial: Keep the sanctions!



Sanctions Sanctimony

Tuesday, February 22, 2000; Page A18

HANS VON SPONECK, the coordinator of the United Nations' oil-for-food
program inside Iraq, has resigned to protest economic sanctions against
Saddam Hussein's country. Jutta Burghardt, the World Food Program's Iraq
director, followed suit. To Mr. Von Sponeck, the humanitarian program is
inadequate and is also "perpetuating a welfare mentality" when what Iraqis
really need is a comprehensive development program centered on vocational
and teacher training.

The resignations lend force to an argument that has been gaining ground: The
sanctions are counterproductive and should be abandoned. And it's true: The
sanctions have not brought Saddam down. While his people scrape by, he and
his cronies live well despite the economic embargo. It's also true that
delivery of needed supplies to Iraq's people is inefficient. Iraq needs
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spare parts to repair the electric
power grid heavily bombed during the 1991 Gulf War and to increase oil
production to the levels now allowed by the United Nations--so that it can
buy all the food and medicine it is entitled to under the program.

That said, the critics are basically wrong. To accept their argument, you
have to believe that a normal, impartial humanitarian relief operation could
be carried out under a profoundly inhumane dictatorship even if there were
no sanctions--that Iraq could be both a tightly guarded prison and a
comfortable one. According to the United Nations' own assessments, Iraqi
incompetence accounts for many bottlenecks in the current aid program. Other
failures are due to Saddam's vengeful political agenda. Overall, the
oil-for-food program has boosted Iraqi food rations by 64 percent since
1996, but progress is suspiciously uneven. Conditions are relatively good in
the Kurdish north, where U.N.-supported private organizations administer
aid; malnutrition lingers in the Shiite south, which Saddam controls. Benon
Sevan, the oil-for-food program's New York-based chief, said that except in
a few cases Iraq's government won't even discuss humanitarian needs and how
to address them. Is this the conduct of a regime that wants to eliminate its
people's suffering?

Yes, the United States does block the imports of some oil and electric
industry spares, but only to prevent such shipments from being used as cover
for the importation of military hardware. The sanctions would disappear if
Saddam accounted for all his weapons of mass destruction, as promised.
Instead, he refuses to permit even a weaker U.N. weapons inspection team to
replace the one he earlier kicked out. The Iraqi people are suffering. But
the author of their misery is the man who uses them as pawns in a game of
military and political aggrandizement, a game he would play even more
aggressively--and at who knows what cost in human lives--if sanctions were
lifted prematurely.

 Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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