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FW: ZNet Comentary / April 1 / Anthony Arnove / Sanctions on IRaq

An pretty good ZNET commentary on sanctions.

(One factual error, though. Arnove says "Only Britain and the United States
voted for the
most recent resolution maintaining sanctions". It would be true if he
introduced the statement with: Of the permanent Security Council members

-----Original Message-----
From: []On
Behalf Of Michael Albert
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2000 12:03 PM
Subject: ZNet Comentary / April 1 / Anthony Arnove / Sanctions on IRaq

Here is today's ZNet Commentary Delivery from Anthony Arnove.

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Here then is today's ZNet Commentary...


“Sanctions on Iraq: The ‘Propaganda Campaign’”
By Anthony Arnove

Hans von Sponeck resigns March 31 as the director of the United Nations
humanitarian program in Iraq. Normally, the comings and goings of UN
officials isn’t a subject for headlines or a source of encouragement for
activists, but von Sponeck is now the second person to resign from this
position, which involves oversight of the UN’s oil-for-food program. Like
his predecessor, Denis J. Halliday, von Sponeck has issued a clear call for
an end to the sanctions after seeing first-hand their devastating
consequences for the Iraqi people. “Sanctions must be lifted,” von Sponeck
told a delegation from Voices in the Wilderness and Fellowship of
Reconciliation that I accompanied to Iraq in early March. “It cannot
continue that [the UN] punishes the most vulnerable and the most innocent.”

Von Sponeck’s resignation follows the highly publicized public departure of
Halliday as humanitarian coordinator in fall 1998. Halliday had worked for
the UN for 34 years; von Sponeck has worked there for 36 years. Since his
resignation, Halliday has dedicated himself to the cause of ending the
sanctions, speaking to audiences internationally about what he describes as
a “genocide” against Iraqis. Von Sponeck says he is now interested in
speaking out about the impact of sanctions, too, and is committed to working
to see them lifted. In announcing his resignation, von Sponeck noted that
“I'm not at all alone [in the United Nations in ] in my view that we have
reached a point where it is no longer acceptable that we are keeping our
mouths shut” about the tragedy in Iraq. In fact, his resignation was
immediately followed by an announcement from Jutta Burghardt, the director
of the World Food Program’s operations in Iraq, that she would also be
stepping down. “It is a true humanitarian tragedy what is happening here and
I believe any human being who looks at the facts and the impact of the
sanctions on the population will not deny that [von Sponeck] is right,”
Burghardt said.

The resignations of Halliday, von Sponeck, and Burghardt have sent the State
Department and British Foreign Ministry -- the two main defenders of the war
being waged against the Iraqi people -- into a frenzy. State Department
spokesperson James Rubin attacked von Sponeck, suggesting that he was
unsuitable for the post of humanitarian coordinator and that he had acted
“beyond the range of his competence or his authority” in pointing to the
problems of the oil-for-food program he administered. “His job is to work on
behalf of the Iraqi people and not the regime,” Rubin asserted. Others
charged that von Sponeck had come under the influence of Halliday. One
diplomat told the Financial Times that “There was a feeling that Halliday
had become a kind of militant, and it was thought Von Sponeck, who is very
calm, would be different. But he too started to speak about sanctions.”

Pro-sanctions forces are increasingly on the defensive. Explaining why the
Clinton administration held a March 23 press conference in Washington, DC,
at which it attempted to raise fears that the Iraqi government is building a
base for rebels fighting the government of neighboring Iran, one unnamed
senior administration official said, “This is a propaganda campaign. There’s
no question that this is what we are doing here. This is part of our effort
to show the world the danger Saddam [Hussein] would pose if the controls on
the access to his oil revenues were lifted.” Because of that potential
threat from its former ally -- which the United States happened to have
supported against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War --, the twisted logic goes,
ordinary Iraqis must suffer a state of siege that has doubled under-five
child mortality in central and southern Iraq (Unicef); destroyed its once
highly advanced medical system; eroded literacy; caused mass unemployment;
and deprived a generation of any hope.

It’s not only the United States that is losing “the propaganda campaign.”
Noting that the UN sanctions committee, dominated by the United States, has
held up $1.7 billion of Iraqi purchases under the oil-for-food program, UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered a report to the Security Council on
March 24, in which he said, “We are in danger of losing the argument or
propaganda war--if we haven’t lost it already--about who is responsible for
this situation, President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations.” Annan
added: “The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and
weak ... yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire

The Washington press conference about the Iran bases was clearly timed to
coincide with the UN Security Council meeting and to hold the line on
sanctions in the council. Only Britain and the United States voted for the
most recent resolution maintaining sanctions, Resolution 1284. China,
France, and Russia abstained, reflecting the further erosion of support for
the US position. France and Russia, for reasons of self-interest more than
humanitarianism, are eager to gain access to Iraq’s enormous oil reserves.
Iraq owes Russia more than $6 billion from the Gulf War; and France has an
edge on Iraqi oil concessions, should sanctions on Iraq be lifted. France
has already set a precedent for sanctions busting when a buck is to be made.
The French-based oil corporation Total defied US sanctions on Iran a few
years ago, signing a multi-billion dollar oil arrangement and openly
challenging the United States government to retaliate.

These are not the only signs that the tide is turning against sanctions.
Britain’s ITV recently devoted an hour and a half to John Pilger’s important
new documentary, “Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq,” which was
seen by millions of viewers. British papers were dominated by anti-sanctions
arguments in the following weeks. The Economist, hardly an ally on such
matters, recently questioned sanctions, noting that “Saddam Hussein remains
implanted in power without, for the past 15 months, any UN inspectors on the
spot to discourage him from reinventing his nastiest toys. At the same time,
sanctions have all but destroyed his country: its health and educational
systems have collapsed; its infrastructure has rusted away; its middle
classes have disappeared into poverty; [and] its children are dying.”

A parliamentary committee in Britain, the Select International Development
Committee, has just issued a report in which it argues: “although sanctions
may well represent a low-cost alternative to war in financial terms, they
are all too often as damaging--in humanitarian and developmental terms--as
armed conflict…. There is a clear consensus that the humanitarian and
developmental situation in Iraq has deteriorated seriously since the
imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions whilst, at the same time,
sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible for past violations
of international law as Saddam Hussein and his ruling elite continue to
enjoy a privileged existence.”

Closer to home, a delegation of five Congressional staffers that traveled to
Iraq in August and September 1999 with Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for
Policy Studies has recently issued a report challenging the sanctions
regime. The team concluded that “oil for food program funds are barely
enough for Iraqis’ urgent and immediate physical needs, with nothing made
available for intellectual needs. The result is complete intellectual
deprivation.... The image of emaciated babies and malnourished young
children ill or even dying in Iraq is by now well-known in the U.S. The
staff delegation, visiting hospitals in Baghdad, Amara and Basra, found that
reality unchanged, with most of the children dying from treatable diseases,
usually the result of unclean water and exacerbated by malnutrition.”

In “Ballad of a Thin Man,” Bob Dylan sang the damning lines “Something is
happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” capturing
a moment in the 1960s which the tide was turning against media and
government lies in the service of power -- at home and abroad.
Internationally, the tide is now turning against sanctions, but the US and
UK are not going to drop them without a significant fight. “The United
States is, and will remain, second to none in enforcing sanctions,” James
Rubin emphasized in a recent letter to the Washington Post.

The movement against sanctions is reaching a critical mass, but we still
have our work cut out for us if we are going to see the embargo and the
ongoing bombings ended. On April 4 and August 6 (Hiroshima Day and the
ten-year anniversary of the imposition of sanctions), activists will be
coming to Washington, DC, to engage in education, protest, and civil
disobedience to pressure Congress to end the sanctions. We owe it to the
Iraqi people to be there.

Anthony Arnove ( is the editor of Iraq Under Siege (South End
Press). He recently traveled to Iraq with members of Voices in the
Wilderness and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. For information on the
demonstrations in Washington, DC, contact Voices in the Wilderness at

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