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Halliday in the NYTimes, Harak in the Statesman

Two commentaries of note:

>>  Denis Halliday has responded to Barbara Crossette's article in the
NYTimes (re: <>).  Note
that Halliday explicitly supports de-linking.

>> Simon Harak's editorial appears this morning in the Austin (Texas)
American-Statesman.  The Statesman has done a superb job of covering
sanctions recently (acknowledgements to editor Juan Castillo
<> or for publication <>).
Harak - a riveting speaker - will present in Austin, tonight.  


Sunday, March 19, 2000

Iraq and the U.N.

To the Editor: 
Re "U.N. Chief Assesses Benefits to Iraq of Oil-for-Food Program" (news
article, March 15): 

Of the $20 billion in oil revenues that Iraq was allowed to accumulate in
the last three years, $13 billion has been spent on basic foods, medicines
and supplies. The remaining $7 billion has largely been paid in reparations
to those who lost property in Kuwait. 

The oil-for-food program is meant to supplement human needs, but it is
hardly sufficient -- only $200 per person per year. Today, with the collapse
of Iraq's health care system, one in seven Iraqi children dies before the
age of 5. Reparations should be suspended. 

The secretary general cannot remain silent any longer. The United Nations
should respect its own charter, as well as the Declaration of Human Rights,
and lift economic sanctions while retaining the military embargo. 

New York, March 15, 2000 
The writer, a former assistant secretary general, was United Nations
humanitarian coordinator in Iraq from 1997 to 1998.

The siege of Iraq

By G. Simon Harak
Austin American-Statesman
Monday, March 20, 2000

Siege. Philosopher and author Michael Walzer called it "the oldest form of
total war."  History attests to the horrors of the Roman siege of Jerusalem,
the Prussian siege of Paris,  the Nazi siege of Leningrad. Sieges are
designed to inflict such horrible suffering on the  civilian population that
their will to resist collapses. Or, to quote Walzer again, that the
"fearful spectacle of the civilian dead" will cause the government to
surrender to the  besieger's demands. 

As we begin the third Christian millennium, siege warfare is making a
comeback. Big time. 

In the old days, we only used to be able to lay siege a city. Now, we can
inflict the  horrors of besiegement to an entire country. Take the case of
Iraq. Like all good sieges,  the siege of Iraq has several key elements. 

The 1991 Gulf War bombing of Iraq laid the foundation. More than 60 percent
of the 88,500  tons of bombs (More bombs than the United States dropped on
all its enemy countries during  World War II) were dropped on the cities and
villages of Iraq. U.S. planes specifically  targeted the "infrastructure" of
Iraq, knocking out the electrical grid for the entire  country. 

Imagine what happens to a modern country when electricity is removed.
Premature babies and  frail elderly people die, because incubators and life
support machines shut down. Sick  people die, because medicines spoil in
ruined refrigerators. Always the weakest die first.  That's the design of a
siege -- the "fearful spectacle." And then irrigation systems fail.  Clean
water can't be provided, sewage systems break down. The city -- now the
whole country  -- is flooded with disease-ridden water. Siege. 

Then add the "sanctions." It means that Iraqi oil is off the market. Iraq
got about 95  percent of its foreign exchange from the sale of oil. So,
after all that bombing, take away  95 percent of their money. Nothing can be
repaired. The economy collapses. It's the "Great  Depression" times 10,
times 100. UNICEF has reported 500,000 children now dead as a direct  result
of the sanctions. Imagine tens of thousands of grieving families. 

Then add the "oil-for-food" program. If it worked perfectly, it would allot
each Iraqi about  a dollar a day to exist on. But the besiegers can be
clever even then. Enter the veto. 

Every contract under the "oil-for-food" deal has to be approved by a
committee. Any member  of that committee can veto any contract for any
reason. The United States is a permanent  member of that committee. And we
have exercised our veto more than 1,000 times in the past  three years (next
is Britain with a paltry 120 vetoes). Sometimes we exercise a "straight"
veto. For example, we invariably veto spare parts to repair the water or
sewage systems;  invariably veto spare parts for oil production. We
sometimes veto baby milk powder because  it has phosphates, and that can be
used for bombs. We veto chlorine for water purification  because it can be
used for chemical warfare. The same with many drugs. 

But the really winning strategy is what the U.N. calls "the problem of
complementarity." We  allow life support machines, then veto the computers
needed to run them. We allow dentists'  chairs, then veto the compressors.
We allow insulin, then veto syringes. 

Then finally, the bombing. We are now engaged in the longest bombing
campaign since the  Vietnam War. The government admits to 30,000 sorties
over Iraq in 1999 alone. Imagine how  you are going to explain the constant
sonic booming and air raid sirens to your child. 

In fact, you don't have to imagine. You could go to Iraq with a delegation
of Voices in the  Wilderness and see for yourself. Just be warned: We bring
medicine and toys to Iraqi  children, and this is against U.S. law. And it's
punishable by up to $1 million in fines and  12 years in a federal prison.
Because you see, we are breaking the siege. 

Think, "siege." Think of our "total war" against Iraq. Think of the fearful
spectacle of  civilian dead. Then think, please, of those with whom history
will associate us. And about  what kind of a world we are constructing for
our children. 
Harak has resigned his professorship in ethics at Fairfield University in
Connecticut to  work full time against the siege of Iraq. He will be
speaking at 7 tonight at St. Austin's  Catholic Church, Hecker Hall, 2026
Guadalupe St.
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