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The following letter by Peter Hain appeared in the current edition of the New Statesman (13th March). Letters can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% IN THE FIGHT AGAINST INJUSTICE IN IRAQ, WHO IS THE REAL CULPRIT ? My old friend John Pilger is right to be angry about the humanitarian suffering of the Iraqi people (6 March). So is the British Government. But regrettably Pilger has a blind spot about who is really responsible for the suffering : Saddam Hussein. He has been president for 22 years. First, he plunged his country into a fruitless war with Iran, which ended nine years and more than a million deaths later, having achieved nothing. Next, he turned on his own people, using chemical weapons to slaughter thousands more Iraqi Kurds for "disloyalty". Fresh from that atrocity, he invaded Kuwait - again unprovoked. It is now almost ten years on, ten years in which Saddam has been unable to threaten his neighbours again. The lesson is clear : he has been contained by the very sanctions that Pilger wants abandoned. The most eccentric notion in Pilger's article is that coalition aircraft bomb Iraqi anti-aircraft missile sites to increase the oil price. This demonstrates a pretty shaky grasp of the economics and none of the politics. The oil price has swung randomly between $10 and $30 for the past 20 years, and any western politician who consciously tried to increase it would soon find himself joining those he had put out out of a job. But Pilger's most serious allegation is about the impact of sanctions. The new UN Resolution has removed the ceiling on oil exports to pay for the "oil for food" programme. Over $8 billion a year should be available to Iraq for the humanitarian programme - not only foods and medicines, but also clean water, electricity and educational material. No one should starve. The "oil for food" programme has been in place for three years and could have been operating since 1991 (the year the Gulf War ended) if Saddam had not blocked it. The Iraqi people have never seen the benefits they should have. For the most recent phase of the programme, the UN recommended that Iraq set aside $91 million for nutrition. Instead, Iraq allocated only $24 million while importing 600 million cigarettes a year. About a quarter of medicines imported into Iraq sit in warehouses. And Saddam is actually *exporting* food in the region. Why ? Because he plays politics with the suffering of his own people. He believes that TV pictures of malnourished Iraqi children serve his interests, so he makes sure that there are plenty of malnourished children to film. In northern Iraq, where Saddam's writ does not run, the UN itself runs the "oil for food" programme and the situation is much better. Pilger's alternative does not inspire confidence. We abandon sanctions and hope for the best. We trust Saddam to improve the condition of the Iraqi people (never one of his priorities). We cross our fingers as he smuggles what he needs to replenish his stock of chemical and biological weapons under cover of normal trade. We close our eyes as he redevelops his nuclear capability. And we wish his neighbours, the Kurds and Shia, the best of luck. Of course, the west was hypocritical in first supporting Saddam until the nature of the beast and his threat to western interests was revealed. Of course, the fabric of Iraqi society has been devastated. Of course, the sanctions policy does not present a nice neat solution. Sanctions rarely do : I remember apologists for Apartheid arguing that sanctions hit black South Africans - and they were indeed effective. They would have been hit even worse had sanctions been as tightly enforced as over Iraq. Did they make them wrong ? And why does Pilger ignore the support from Kurds and other Iraqi opponents of Saddam for sanctions ? I have been involved in the fight against injustice my whole life. It was the reason I became politically active long before I went into politics. I have known John Pilger for many years and have great respect for his work. It is sad that one of the people who will be most pleased about his article is the real culprit, Saddam Hussein. Peter Hain MP Minister of State Foreign Office -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi