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.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

A disgusting Washington Post Editorial

This perverse piece is in the Wash. Post today. Any thoughts?

One thing about the writer: Patrick Clawson is with the Washington
Institute of Near East Policy (WINEP), which is an offshot of AIPAC
(American Israeli Political Action Committee).  He is typically anti-Arab,
vehemently pro-sanctions, and frequently throws around lies in his
arguments.  I debated him on NPR's Talk of the Nation and it truly was
like talking to a pathological liar with a smooth tongue.

So, with that said, let's please respond to his editorial, and flood
Washington Post with letters.

-Rania Masri


The Washington Post

February 27, 2000, Sunday, Final Edition


HEADLINE: A LOOK AT . . . Sanctioning Iraq; The Numbers Don't Lie. Saddam

BYLINE: Patrick Clawson


The U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq, now more than nine years old,
continue to elicit strong objections from those who view them as unjust.

Only two weeks ago, Hans von Sponeck, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator
for Iraq, resigned. The sanctions, he said, create a "true human tragedy
that needs to be ended." Reps. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) and John Conyers
(D-Mich.) made a similar argument last month in a letter signed by 68
other members of the House of Representatives calling on President Clinton
to lift the sanctions because of the suffering they have caused the Iraqi

As laudable as such concern is, the proposed solution is misguided:
Lifting the sanctions will not end the suffering--and may very well worsen

Simply stated, the sanctions require that the U.N. approve all Iraqi
imports and exports, including oil. Most trade takes place through the
"oil-for-food" program, started in 1996, which allows Iraq to use proceeds
from U.N.-monitored oil sales to buy and import "humanitarian goods," such
as food and medicine. The program is not working well, and the problems
lie in Baghdad, not in New York.

Iraqis are indeed suffering, but not because of sanctions. The rule of
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is the problem--a point supported by the
work of Max van der Stoel, the U.N. human rights special investigator for
Iraq. That country's human rights record is one of the bleakest anywhere
since the end of World War II, according to a report Van der Stoel wrote
last year. The Iraqi leader's rule "entails systematic and systemic
violations . . . affecting virtually the whole population."

Given all of that, trusting Saddam Hussein to look out for the welfare of
Iraqis sounds like trusting Pol Pot to safeguard the welfare of
Cambodians. Saddam Hussein, after all, is a man who in 1988 gassed part of
his own country, killing 5,000 people in a chemical weapons attack on the
northern Iraqi town of Halabja. The U.S. government has called for the
Iraqi leader to be tried before an international tribunal for war crimes,
including the destruction of more than 3,000 Kurdish villages in the 1970s
and 1980s.

Despite the U.N. program, Saddam Hussein complains that Iraq lacks the
resources to pay for medicine. But the dollar value of the approved
imports is vast. Originally, the value of oil Iraq could sell was capped,
at least in theory. But the limit was so high--most recently $ 5.265
billion for 180 days--that it was rarely reached. In December that ceiling
was lifted entirely.

Iraq should be prospering. It has become the world's second-largest oil
exporter, after Saudi Arabia. It earned $ 11.4 billion from U.N.-monitored
exports in 1999--an amount matched only once in the 18 years since the
start of the Iran-Iraq war. (Of that total export figure, slightly more
than half will translate into humanitarian goods for Baghdad; another 13
percent will go to the Kurdish-controlled north; the U.N. retains 4
percent for operating expenses; and the remaining 30 percent is retained
as compensation for Persian Gulf War damages.)

Iraq is set to earn an estimated $ 19 billion from the export of oil in
2000, in part because of rising prices. Still, in response to Iraqi
government complaints that its oil earnings are too low, the U.N. has
agreed to a program that would allow Iraq to import enough oil field
equipment to increase output by an estimated 24 percent within a few
years. Just how will Iraq pay for this plan? The U.N. approved allocating
oil-for-food funds (or should I say oil-for-equipment funds?) to the tune
of $ 300 million in 1998, $ 900 million in 1999 and $ 600 million for the
first half of 2000.

What's more, the notion that Iraq exports oil only under the auspices of
the U.N. program is fiction. It also exports about $ 500 million worth
outside U.N. control--most of it to Jordan. As a reward for Jordan's
participation in the Arab-Israeli peace process, the U.N. turns a blind
eye to the $ 330 million a year that Iraq earns from the 96,000 barrels a
day it supplies to its neighbor. Iraq sells the oil at a cut-rate price,
presumably to secure Jordanian sympathy. Oil is also smuggled out of Iraq
via Iranian waters or overland to Turkey. The Iraqi president uses those
oil riches to finance illicit arms and luxuries like the materials for his
palaces rather than for humanitarian needs. Saddam Hussein's personal
wealth is estimated at $ 6 billion, according to Forbes magazine--money
that comes from corruption, not from his skill as an investor.

In 1999, Iraq's national income was higher than Syria's. (Both countries
have distorted economies and unreliable statistics, but Iraq's GNP per
capita is at least $ 1,000 compared with no more than $ 900 in Syria). Yet
by all accounts, there is no large-scale malnutrition in Syria; its
president, Hafez Assad, is not in the same league of brutality as Saddam
Hussein. And in Yemen, where the GNP per capita is $ 270--about one-fourth
as much as Iraq's--malnutrition is less common than in Iraq.

That's because many of the humanitarian imports that reach Iraq are not
being used well. At one point in 1999, more than half the medicines
imported under that program remained in warehouses, according to U.N.
reports. Saddam Hussein does nothing to resolve the bureaucratic
inefficiencies that tie up the program. His government has proven it can
move swiftly when it wants to, as evidenced by the $ 2 billion spent to
construct new presidential palaces since the Persian Gulf War. For that
matter, hospitals for the elite such as Saddam Cardiac Hospital are not
short of medicines.

U.N. and nongovernmental organization surveys show that hundreds of
thousands of the roughly 4.8 million Iraqi children under age 5 suffer
from malnutrition-induced stunting or wasting. Yet the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization estimates that food available in Iraq has never
dropped below the equivalent of 2,270 calories per person per day. That is
close to the optimum diet of 2,400 calories per day and well above the
minimum number per day to sustain health, which is 1,900. Saddam Hussein
is not interested in making the nutrition programs work well. During 1998
and 1999, he refused to import badly needed baby formula; he did, however,
unsuccessfully try to use oil-for-food money for telecommunications
projects and railroads, which he called humanitarian but which have
internal security and military purposes.

The oil-for-food program's imports currently amount to 2,300 calories per
Iraqi per day. With so much food being imported, Iraqi food producers have
lost much of their market, despite the U.N. program's allocation of $ 600
million a year for imports for the agriculture sector, such as 3,000
tractors and 14,000 irrigation pumps in the first half of this year. To
find a market, some Iraqi producers have to export food. Allied patrols in
the Persian Gulf stopped three ships last October carrying clover,
lentils, licorice, jute seeds and other agricultural products out of Iraq,
according to the U.S. State Department.

Iraq complains that the U.N. humanitarian plan cannot be carried out in
full because holds are put on some of its requests for import licenses,
including those needed for some humanitarian goods. Such "holds" result
from Iraq's imaginative diversion schemes. Not long ago, it sought to
import six lithotripters--advanced devices that use shock waves to break
up kidney stones without surgery--plus enough spare parts to last decades,
according to Gary Milhollin, writing late last year in the New Yorker.
Because the lithotripters trigger their shock waves with the same switches
used in nuclear bombs, France said no.

Russia and France have proposed that Iraq be freed from the U.N.
restrictions on the use of oil export proceeds. If that were to happen,
Saddam Hussein would no doubt allocate money for his priorities--first and
foremost the military (arms if he can get them, otherwise the industries
with which to make them). That would leave even less funding for imports
that benefit the Iraqi people.

The U.N. program allows Iraq to import a great deal. The latest
distribution plan, covering 180 days, allocates $ 321 million for
electricity, $ 260 million for housing, $ 230 million for transportation,
$ 119 million for education, $ 198 million for water and sanitation, as
well as the $ 300 million for agriculture and $ 600 million for the oil
industry mentioned earlier. This is far more than humanitarian relief: It
is an all-around development program.

To see what could be done with such resources, one need only look to
Kurdish northern Iraq, which has an autonomous government, free of Saddam
Hussein's control. There, the U.N., not Baghdad, administers the aid
program, and life is looking up. The infant mortality rate is lower than
the pre-sanctions level of 1990, and the local economy is booming. At
Suleimaniya University, students surf the Internet. With such progress as
a model, the solution for the rest of the country is clear, and it is not
to rescind the sanctions. The answer is to move Saddam Hussein out of the
way, and the sooner the better. The suffering of his people will end when
his rule ends, and not before.

Patrick Clawson is director of research at the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy and edited its 1998 book, "Iraq Strategy Review."

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]