Great Lime Road
Dear Mr Byers
As you advised me at the
constituency surgery, I have put my questions to the Foreign Secretary
into writing. Thank you for agreeing to pass these questions on.
According to several reports,
British and US delegates to the UN blocked 15 medical contracts intended
for Iraq on January 14th, despite UN officials in New York and Baghdad
having checked that the contracts were for humanitarian purposes only.
I wish to learn, firstly, what reasons were given by UK and US delegates
for blocking these contracts and, secondly, why the New York and Baghdad
officials were overridden.
On a related matter, I have
searched the FCO website, but can find no reference to Hans Von Sponeck’s
resignation as Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and little attempt to
address his concerns. I have seen US press releases which describe
Mr. Von Sponeck as a ‘misguided’ individual, and which dismiss his concerns
out of hand with the usual rhetoric. (I refer in particular to a press
release given by James Rubin on behalf of the US State Dept. on 29th February)
I would like to see a statement
from the Foreign Secretary answering the concerns of Hans von Sponeck.
The International Development Committee in its report regarding sanctions
shares his concerns, at least in part. Like myself, the Committee is ‘concerned
that the Government has published insufficient information to allow for
an informed debate on international sanctions policy’. A statement
concerning Mr. Von Sponeck’s resignation would be a step towards addressing
Ronan T Dodds
Dear Mr Byers
I hope you will accept my
apologies for asking you to forward another letter to the Foreign Secretary,
for the second time in the space of a few days, but I consider this matter
to be of importance.
On March 6th, The Guardian
newspaper carried a story about the banning of George Galloway’s flight
to Iraq. I am concerned about the accusations made by the Foreign
Office, namely that the mission was a “Saddam Hussein publicity stunt”.
Admittedly, I know little
about Mr. Galloway and the Mariam Appeal organisation, but even so, I believe
the Foreign Office has misunderstood, and misrepresented, their position.
A Foreign Office source is quoted as saying “If this was a genuine mercy
mission, as opposed to a Saddam Hussein publicity stunt, then nine-tenths
of the plane would be filled with medical and other humanitarian supplies.
Instead we have the entire cabin filled with hangers-on when all the space
could be used for equipment to help the people of Iraq.”
I would like to explain my
main reason for saying that the FCO has misunderstood the point of the
mission. Firstly, it is assumed that the ‘humanitarian’ nature of
the mission is confined to merely taking medical supplies to Iraq. This
is not so. What is of prime importance is that the suffering of the Iraqi
people is put onto the media agenda, and that people at grass-roots level
are educated about Iraq. The FCO is, justifiably, concerned about
propaganda from Baghdad. People like myself are equally concerned
about UK and US propaganda. The first step towards solving this is
to create a dialogue between the Government and anti-sanctions lobbyists,
which can best be achieved by open debate in the media. The passengers,
who were taking up valuable space on the flight, can bring back an even
more valuable insight into the situation in Iraq. They can encourage
debate and awareness among their communities, church groups, youth groups
and so on. Once the suffering in Iraq is widely known about, many
people will want to send aid missions, which will be more substantial than
the one in question. I suspect, also, that many people will start to question
the morality of UK policy on Iraq, and many will think that this episode
was an attempt to prevent that questioning.
To say the flight was a publicity
stunt would, in my view, be an accurate assessment. To say that it
is a “Saddam Hussein” publicity stunt is only accurate if you see no distinction
between the people of Iraq and the Government of Iraq. If you believe
that Mr Galloway is a tool of Iraqi propaganda, and therefore an enemy
of Britain, will he lose membership to the Labour party? Or will
his dissent be kept quiet, because you are aware that if the truth was
widely known, there would be public outcry?
I hope you will consider
these points carefully.
Yours, with best wishes,