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Rebut Hain Now !

The following letter from Peter Hain appeared in today's Guardian
( I've reproduced the "leader" that Hain refers to
below it.


Saddam is using the children of Iraq

Thursday March 9, 2000

Your leader (March 8) criticises our policies on Iraq then advocates an
almost identical solution. All members of the UN security council are
working hard to implement resolution 1284. No one expected the weapons
inspectors to be back yet: Unmovic chairman Hans Blix started work only a
week ago. They could be back within weeks. And if Iraq co-operates,
sanctions will be suspended - something all of us want.
However, it is a lie propagated by Saddam that sanctions are responsible for
the suffering of the Iraqi people. We have done our best to relieve it.
There is no limit on Iraqi oil sales to pay for the "oil for food"
programme. Iraq is the world's second-biggest oil producer so well over $8bn
a year is available for foods, medicines, clean water, electricity,
education, agriculture and the oil industry.

For example, the UN recommends Iraq set aside at least $91m for nutrition
every six months. They allocated only $24m. John Pilger's documentary showed
harrowing pictures of Iraqi children in a cancer ward. The doctors said they
could not get the drugs they need. This is a scandal. The fault lies with
the Iraqi government. They fail to order enough medicines and fail to
distribute them properly. Around 25% of medicines imported into Iraq lie in
warehouses .

Saddam plays politics with suffering. He believes TV pictures of
malnourished Iraqi children serve his interests so he makes sure there are
plenty of malnourished children to film. In northern Iraq, where Saddam's
writ does not run, health indices are actually improving.

It would be grossly irresponsible to abandon the attempt to deny Saddam
weapons of mass destruction. He would threaten his people and his
neighbours. What is the alternative that John Pilger, George Galloway and
others advocate? Abandon sanctions. Trust Saddam to improve conditions for
the people. Cross our fingers as he smuggles in a new stock of weapons. And
wish the best of luck to the Kurds, the Shia and his neighbours. The truth
is that the critics have no alternative except one which would leave Saddam
free to do as he likes. That is a risk we cannot take.

Peter Hain MP
Minister of state, Foreign office


The policy isn't working

Saddam prospers while his people suffer

Wednesday March 8, 2000

Nearly 10 years on, Saddam Hussein is finally winning the Gulf war. Western
and Arab opinion, once united in condemning and reversing his 1990 invasion
of Kuwait, now affords little support for the US-controlled, UN-directed
sanctions regime subsequently imposed on Iraq.
The American and British governments find themselves almost alone in
defending a policy held responsible for high infant mortality, the deaths of
tens of thousands of children and elderly people and, more generally, for
the impoverishment of most of Iraq's 23m people. The sanctions are
officially justified as the primary means of enforcing security council
resolutions, particularly the demand that Iraq scrap its nuclear, chemical
and biological weapons programmes. But the inspections remain incomplete
after the UN team withdrew from Baghdad in December, 1998. An ensuing,
large-scale Anglo-American attack failed to persuade Saddam to change
course. Despite a new UN resolution, the inspectors have still not returned.
Meanwhile, the continuing US and British air strikes in the northern and
southern no-fly zones - there have been 16 so far this year - have become a
paradoxical symbol of allied impotence. Like the victims of sanctions, they
are mercilessly exploited by Saddam's propagandists.

Ten years on, Saddam's envoys have succeeded in destroying the security
council consensus. France has joined permanent members Russia and China in
undermining Anglo-American policy. Iraq is also making steady advances in
its return to the Arab and regional fold. Last month it signed a trade deal
with Turkey. A Syrian interests section has opened in Baghdad and there is
talk of reopening the Iraqi-Syrian oil pipeline shut since 1982. Leading
Jordanians launch a pan-Arab campaign to normalise relations; this week,
Baghdad's representatives will attend an Arab League meeting in Beirut.
Meanwhile, the open flouting of the sanctions regime proceeds apace.
Supplies, licit and illicit, for Iraq's elite flow across the land borders.
Turkey is said to be illegally importing 1.1m barrels of Iraqi oil. US naval
commanders in the Gulf report a sharp increase in Iraqi oil smuggling,
facilitated by the Russians and the Iranians. Rising oil prices are another
uncomfortable indicator of Saddam's returning strength: Iraq, after all, has
the world's largest proven crude reserves after Saudi Arabia. Saddam hopes
to wield this power with a vengeance one day. Some believe Washington's true
purpose is to deny him this weapon; it represents a threat far more fearsome
than any souped-up Scud.

Saddam's success is also one of survival, measured against the west's
premature victory declaration in 1991 and its fierce but now waning
determination to depose him. The Clinton administration's attempts to
mobilise Iraqi opposition groups, and the CIA's covert efforts to overthrow
the Iraqi leader, have at best been half-hearted. The US now seems to have
almost given up trying. In a broader sense, the policy of "dual containment"
of both Iraq and Iran has unravelled. Despite continuing tough posturing
from its ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, the US has lost the argument at the
UN. The latest resolution proposes progressively to ease sanctions after
weapons inspections are satisfactorily resumed for an initial 120 days.
Iraq's flat refusal to accept these conditions would at one time have
quickly been squashed. Now most countries seem to sympathise with Baghdad.
The new chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, may make a difference. But while
technically successful, the inspection process remains a political
minefield. Meanwhile, the recent resignation of Hans von Sponeck, over the
inadequacy of the UN's oil-for-food programme for which he was responsible,
marked a new low. In vain do US and British officials insist that it is
Saddam who is responsible for his people's agony. The finger of blame is
pointed at them.

Ten years on, the struggle with Saddam has indeed become the mother of all
battles. But it is clear that, infinitely difficult though it is, one more
big push to cut a sanctions-inspections deal with Iraq is required. It is
true that the unstated purpose of sanctions was to punish, isolate, and
ultimately bring down Saddam. This policy has utterly and demonstrably
failed. The human cost has been, and is, horrendous. Few believe it is
morally justifiable. Even fewer believe it will ever work. But it is also
true that an abandonment of the attempt to deny Iraq its weapons of mass
destruction would be grossly irresponsible, surrendering the little leverage
the outside world still has. It would ensure that Saddam, sooner or later,
could again threaten his neighbours and perhaps western Europe. It would be
a gamble with the security not only of the Middle East but of any part of
the world where "rogue" dictators roam. To drop sanctions without conditions
or fulfilment of security council resolutions, as Baghdad insists, would be
to shatter the credibility of the UN and the ethos which has underpinned
intervention elsewhere. And it would triumphantly secure Saddam at home,
guaranteeing perhaps an even more iniquitous oppression of Kurds, Shia, and
others who oppose him. His claims that there are no more weapons to find
simply cannot be taken at face value. For Saddam is a murderous, reckless
man, in all probability a psychopath, who cares nothing for others. Amid all
the misery, that must not be forgotten.

So: one more big push, one more effort to find a way. Suspend the
non-military sanctions now; have the inspectors return simultaneously;
maintain the no-fly zones; watch carefully for dual-use technology imports;
then press hard at the end, say, of a six-month trial period, for a
settlement that will last. It is possible that Saddam, sensing victory, will
reject even this. But we must try. It is time, finally, to end this war. For
at present, we have the worst of all worlds. Saddam advances steadily and by
stealth, the UN is discredited, the west divided - and the suffering goes

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