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> Last September -- one month after UNICEF released its bone-chilling survey > of child mortality in Iraq -- the U.S. State Department was pressed into a > public relations battle against (can this be right?) Saddam Hussein.  > > UNICEF's survey estimated an excess 500,000 Iraqi children had died since > economic sanctions began, and evidence was mounting that America's > policies were complicit in this epic disaster. The UN's Humanitarian > Coordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday, had resigned to protest an embargo > he termed "genocidal". Other disturbing news began to register with the > public. The government had, with Dickensian timing, picked the Christmas > season to threaten a Catholic relief group with charges of "delivering > toys and medicine" to the children of Iraq. No-fly zone bombings - > ostensibly to protect the populace from Saddam - began to kill civilians > with disturbing frequency. Despite this, the American mind recoiled at > the notion of a public relations duel with Saddam, the Hammer of the > Ayatollahs, the Beast of Baghdad. How unseemly! But the battle > continues.  > > Earlier this week -- one month after 70 Representatives protested economic > sanctions, two weeks after an additional pair of high-ranking UN officials > resigned in dismay (Halliday's successor and the head of the World Food > Program), and two weeks after the Democratic House Whip David Bonior (MI) > termed these policies "infanticide masquerading as policy" - the State > Department's dashing spokesman, James Rubin, again renewed the PR > offensive and tried to re-focus the spotlight on Saddam's brutal regime. > Thus turns the spin cycle in Washington, D.C.  > > Mr. Rubin, another pirouette if you please ... > > The latest State Department briefing contains little news. It gallops > into town crying "palace-building" and "oil smuggling", but it rides a > gimpy, beaten horse. Here's an experiment: plug "'lavish palaces' AND > Saddam" into AltaVista's web search engine. You'll get 60-plus hits, most > of them State Department briefings and commentaries. In his latest > briefing, Mr. Rubin cites a figure of "2-billon dollars" for palace > construction. Even this is old news, planted in the press as far back as > 1996. Nor is it a particularly impactful sum, reflecting as it does local > WPA-like expenditures in a country desperately starved for imported items. >  > > Mr. Rubin offers satellite photos of palace grounds, but pah! -- you can > download your very own satellite photos of Baghdad to 2-meter resolution > from <http://www.terraserver.com/> (just plug Baghdad into the 'Find' > box). These photos show details of courtyards, railway lines, and > heaping piles of Desert Storm rubble. Palaces provide an obscene contrast > to the wreckage, certainly. Of course, from the same website you can > download satellite imagery of the White House -- and in most shots, you'll > see destitute neighborhoods within walking distance of the home of the > most powerful man on earth, a contrast some would also find obscene. > Wealth flows unevenly, sometimes justly, sometimes not; in this, there is > no surprise and no indictment particular to Baghdad. > > Smuggling? For years, Iraqi tanker trucks have openly waited in 18-mile > queues for entry into the Turkish frontier. For years, non-OFF traffic > has flowed unchecked between Iraq and Jordan through Trebil. That Iraqi > oil is smuggled and that Saddam benefits is hardly secret and hardly news. >  > > What is Mr. Rubin arguing? Is he arguing that Saddam is vile? The world > knows this. Is he arguing that Saddam could do more to improve the > conditions in Iraq? The world knows this. Mr. Rubin labors to state that > to which Warren Zevon danced: in times of desperation, it's connections, > guns, and money that hold the whip hand. We embargoed Iraq and the > Ba'athists consolidated power as a matter of course. What did we expect? >  > > Absurdly, we expected revolution. From inception, the sanctions have been > pitched with deliberate harshness with the intent containing Iraq and of > provoking regime change. 'Make the Iraqi people sufficiently miserable', > our government thought, 'and we will contain Iraq without political risk > and end the reign of Saddam Hussein.' Evidence of our intent abounds, in > the miserly oil-for-food revenue caps, in the roadblocks placed before > international aid workers, in the constant low-density bombing, and in the > disruptive import holds. (The latter are especially damaging; for > example, Iraq's electrical supply would leap 50% if import holds were > released.) > > Once this course was set, our hands were bloody. We held a civilian > population hostage to pressure a dictator to leave office. We punished > 23-million for the crimes of 4000. > > Despite this, Mr. Rubin argues that Saddam is to blame for the disaster in > Iraq. Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S.-negotiated wording of the > latest Security Council Resolution (1284) flatly states the "fundamental > objective" of sanction's proposed suspension is "improving the > humanitarian situation in Iraq". The resolution itself therefore admits > to the causative link between the sanctions and Iraq's humanitarian > disaster. Iraq in 1990 (despite ten years of Saddam) had a standard of > living approaching that of Greece; today, it has collapsed to near > sub-Saharan poverty.  > > Sensible policy would end the economic embargo, extend the military > sanctions while encouraging regional disarmament, all the while engaging > and re-developing Iraq. But when questioned on de-linking economic and > military sanctions, Mr. Rubin could only note, as he did last August, that > conditions in UN-controlled Iraqi Kurdistan are better than in the > UN-monitored, Saddam-controlled south. He argues causality: that Saddam > has manipulated conditions, causing depredation to force an end to > sanctions. > > But the true story is not this simple, nor as comforting to the American > conscience. UNICEF's executive director, Carol Bellamy, explained the > differences in Iraqi mortality rates as follows: the Kurdish north has > been receiving humanitarian assistance for longer than the remainder of > Iraq, agriculture in the north is better, and evading sanctions is easier. > In addition, the north receives 22% more per capita from the Oil for Food > program, and gets about 10% of all UN-controlled assistance in currency, > while the rest of the country receives only commodities. The north also > benefits from the aid of 34 Non-Government Organizations, while in the > whole rest of the country there are only 11.  > > Moreover, Mr. Rubin's focus on regional differences obscures a larger > truth: the situation in northern Iraq remains dire. > > Today's under-five mortality rate for northern Iraq is roughly > equivalent to the rate observed in the whole of Iraq 20-years ago. > > The current under-five mortality rate for northern Iraq -- 72 -- remains > more than double the rate for most neighboring countries. For example, > the rate for Saudi Arabia is only 30; for Iran, 37; for Syria, 34; and for > Jordan, 25.  > > These are bloodless statistics, but they mask a vast human tragedy. A > single point's increase in these rates represents an annual toll of > hundreds of children who would be hale but became ill; who visited the > hospital instead of their friends; who were buried rather than returning > home. Mr. Rubin implies these calamitous results are the intention of our > policies ... that the figures for Northern Iraq illustrate how sanctions > should "work". > > These words should haunt Mr. Rubin as he retires from government service, > still young and fleet of wit, a handsome man who used his physical beauty > to quell the press and charm them from an ugly truth. > > So again, Mr. Rubin, another pirouette if you please. But you are dancing > on the bodies of children. > > Regards, > > Drew Hamre > Golden Valley, MN > > === >  UNICEF's massive survey of 40,000 Iraqi households was released August > 12, 1999; see <http://www.unicef.org/reseval/iraqr.htm>. The State > Department responded almost immediately in a press conference with > Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Jones' (see > http://www.usia.gov/regional/nea/gulfsec/jones813.htm). The major > response, though, came on September 13, in a report and briefing by State > Department Spokesman James Rubin and Assistant Secretary Martin Indyk > (report: http://www.usia.gov/regional/nea/iraq/iraq99.htm; transcript: > http://www.state.gov/www/policy_remarks/1999/990913_indyk_rubin.html). > >  UNICEF's 'excess death' estimate is detailed in the report section, "A > note on the estimation of under-five deaths" (see above link). Also see > Ms. Bellamy's prepared statement at > http://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm. Assistant Secretary General > Denis Halliday - a man of immense dignity and integrity -- ended a 34-year > diplomatic career to protest sanctions. Transcripts of his speeches are > available here http://www.scn.org/ccpi/, here http://welcome.to/casi/, and > here http://www.leb.net/iac/denis.html. Voices in the Wilderness has > organized repeated trips to Iraq; they were threatened with fines totaling > well into six-figures on December 27, 1998 > http://www.nonviolence.org/vitw/hearthevoices.html. AFP estimates the > no-fly zone bombings have claimed 156 lives since the end of Desert Fox > ... roughly equivalent to the toll for the Oklahoma City Bombing (168). > >  The Campbell/Conyers protest letter and the signatories are available > at http://www.adc.org. The UN resignations were of Count Hans Von Sponeck > (the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq) and Jutta Burghardt (head of > the World Food Program in Iraq). Bonior's quote was reported by both the > BBC and the Washington Post > http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/2000-02/25/097l-022500-idx.htm > l. Rubin's briefing occurred February 29, and is available here > (transcript: http://secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/0002/000229db.html ) > and here, as an update to the earlier report, "Saddam Hussein's Iraq" > http://www.usia.gov/regional/nea/iraq/iraq99.htm. > >  Use AltaVista's "Advanced" tab at http://www.altavista.com, and enter > '"lavish palaces" AND Saddam'. The 2-billion figure appeared in a Thomas > Friedman article in the New York Times on October 13, 1996 (see Footnote > 90 here: http://www.ndu.edu/ndu/inss/books/sanctions/chapter1.html). > >  The 18-mile traffic jams at the Turkish border were reported by The > Economist (February 12th-18th, 2000) in the article, "One man's joy in > Iraq". The unchecked crossing at Trebil was recounted in an interview > with Hans Von Sponeck (http://www.scn.org/ccpi/vonsponeck.html). > >  It is, of course, actually "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" by Zevon. > >  Contract holds on imported goods have been a repeated source of > friction between UN officials and the U.S. Refer to the numerous reports > of the Office of the Iraq Programme, online at > http://www.un.org/depts/oip/ . The remark about Iraq's electrical supply > was made by the head of the program, Benon Sevan, in the '180 Day Report' > released in November, 1999. > >  SCR-1284 appears here: > http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/scrs/scr1284-99.htm. The statement of > causality occures in Section D, Paragraph 33. > >  Ms. Bellamy's comments were reported by the Associated Press, August > 12, 1999. The remaining information is per personal communication with > Professor Richard Garfield of Coumbia University. Garfield is an > epidemiologist who studies the health effects of sanctions; he can be > reached at [email@example.com]; his office phone is > 212-305-3248. > >  Mr.Rubin's briefing for August 12, 1999 > (http://secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/9908/990812db.html): "It is > our view that the fact that in Northern Iraq, the infant morality rate is > improving with the same sanctions regime under the rest of Iraq shows that > in places where Saddam Hussein isn't manipulating the medicines and the > supplies, that this works." > Data for Iraq's north and center/south are from UNICEF's recent surveys, > available online at http://www.unicef.org/reseval/iraqr.htm. From each > region's respective report, data are pulled from "Table 3" on page 10. > Under-five mortality rates are as follows: > Iraq's Center/South Northern Iraq > 1994-99 131 72 > 1989-94 92 90 > 1984-89 56 80 > 1979-84 67 104 > Non-Iraq statistics are from http://www.unicef.org/statis/index.html. As > a further frame of reference, the USA's U5 mortality rate is 8; the UK's, > 7. > > > -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi