I agree with much of Peter Brooke's analysis of the conflicted policy
dimensions of the sanctions debate. Just to clarify, I would emphasize
that I do not argue, as Peter suggests, that sanctions should be lifted
in exchange for ongoing weapons inspections. I did suggest that this was
the approach favored by many in government in both the U.S. and Britain,
as a way out of the accusation that they are responsible for the suffering
of the Iraqi people. In my view, sanctions should be lifted, period.
And I also argued that this was the best strategy for the anti-sanctions
movement, although this movement would benefit from a deeper consideration
of what a post-sanctions foreign-policy should look like for our various
governments. I think Peter's description of the pitfalls associated with
various approaches is fairly accurate. Three decades, at least, of containment
policy against Iraq, of which sanctions are only the latest and most brutal
stage, have drastically reduced the options for a constructive policy which
might actually benefit the Iraqi people.
Nevertheless, I still believe a strategy of 'lift the sanctions now'
is best for the anti-sanctions movement because first, the devastation
they cause to Iraq demands it, and second because it removes the prop which
hold up this containment policy which has suited super power interests
but brought only suffering to the region's people and perpetuated an atmosphere
of political crisis.
No matter what the strategy adopted by the anti-sanctions movment, the
U.S. and Britain will not lift sanctions without driving a hard bargain
with Baghdad, if only to save face. It is quite likely that part of that
bargain would include the release of Kuwaiti prisoners and hostages.
As for the degree of real danger posed by the Baath regime, I think
the historical record is fairly clear on that score. A decade of
weapons inspection and sanctions have probably reduced the threat that
they pose to their neighbours - although Saddam was recently heard threatening
Iran again. Those who have the most to fear are, as always, the Iraqi people.
Several decades of failed policy and intervention in the region has
left western governments very few cards to play. But since the Baath regime
is partly the creation of these governments, there is a responsibility
to offer some protection to the people of Iraq. I suggested a more vigourous
support of the autonomy of the northern zone both as a measure of protection
for the people and what they have achieved there, as well as a recognition
of the legitimacy of the Kurdish claim to self-government.
All of these issues raise their own complexites which I would be happy
to pursue off-list. I'll respond to the question of a criminal tribunal
Peter Brooke wrote:
The responses by Ben Rempel and Moonirah to my piece
Note on Strategy are very different, but they both pose the same fundamental
and difficult problem: to what extent does the Baath régime pose, or still
pose, a threat to its neighbours and to the people of Iraq themselves?
So, Ben Rempel wants, as part of the deal to end sanctions, ongoing weapons
inspections and suggests ways of weakening the Iraqi government with a
view to encouraging its overthrow by a more popular government; while Moonirah
reminds us of the very important problem of the people missing from Kuwait,
many of whom are probably prisoners in Iraq.
It is precisely considerations of this kind that is to say the feeling
that President Hussein's administration has to be kept on some sort of
leash, constrained to do things it does not wish to do and, ultimately,
overthrown that make our task so very difficult. Yes, it is easy to secure
agreement that sanctions impose intolerable suffering on the people of
Iraq; but most of those who agree to that also agree with the government
that the Iraqi régime is monstrously wicked. So we reply, rightly, that
Iraq is not 'Saddam', and that a distinction must be made between the people
and the régime.
But although this distinction is perfectly valid in moral terms, it
cannot be made in practice, and that is the strength of the government's
position. To end sanctions means to restore to the present Iraqi government
control over the Iraqi economy and therefore to give it much greater freedom
of action. We cannot get round that. Oil for Food is an attempt to get
round it to feed the Iraqi people without putting greater resources into
the hands of the Iraqi government. But this is at best a palliative. It
does not rebuild the infrastructure of the country to enable its own people
to resume the sort of economic activity which is generally (rightly or
wrongly that's another question) assumed to be necessary to their material
If the general perception of the Iraqi government is true if they
are a gang of sadistic monsters who are capable only of corrupt business
deals and of spraying their own citizens and neighbours with poison gas
then our position becomes untenable. The degree of suffering undergone
by the Iraqi people is less than the degree of suffering that would be
undergone by the whole region (including the Iraqi people themselves) should
the beast be let out of its cage.
We are obliged, then, to show that this perception is not true, or at
least to argue convincingly that restoring a large degree of economic power
to the Iraqi government would not have catastrophic effects. Ben Rempel
tries to address the problem by suggesting a war crimes tribunal and greater
autonomy for the Kurds as two means of influencing the post sanctions arrangements
in a popular (not to say, democratic) direction. As far as Kudish autonomy
is concerned, I assume that the present territorial division which amounts
to 'independence' in all but name, is an accomplished fact and will continue
for the foreseeable future. But then I also assume, perhaps optimistically,
that it will be a long time before the Iraqi government feel able to recover
the territory by force.
With regard to a war crimes tribunal I am putting out a separate piece
on the Indict Saddam idea, but, briefly, I don't see how President Hussein
can be put before a war crimes tribunal (I assume that's what its advocates
have in mind. Not that Norman Schwarkopf should be put in front of a war
crimes tribunal) without a full scale invasion of the country. Or, alternatively,
a restoration of sanctions.
The prospect of advocating friendly, or at least correct, relations
with the Baath régime may well appear so unattractive that most of us will
simply conclude that its better to stick to the vague slogan of lifting
sanctions. But a point will come when the problem has to be faced (the
point actually comes every time we enter into discussion with the government).
For myself it is not too difficult. I have long held the view that, given
our conduct of the war and subsequent torturing of the people of Iraq
not to mention our past record in Iraq and the exploits of 'Bomber' Harris
in the region there was little to choose in terms of moral rectitude
between ourselves and Saddam Hussein. I feel morally outraged by the notion
that we should be sitting in judgment in the matter.
But I am not a Kurd, a Kuwaiti, or an Iraqi exile. And this is why I
think the attitudes of Iraq's neighbours are so very important. The massive
American and British presence in the region is the consequence of a catastrophic
failure on the part of Arab and Iranian politics (just as the American
presence in the Balkans is proof of a catastrophic failure on the part
of European politics). And the continuing British and American action finds
its justification in the perceived need to defend the other countries of
the area and, bizarrely enough, the Iraqi people themselves.
So long as these peoples fail to oppose sanctions loudly and clearly
then they must share and to a very large degree the responsibility
for the suffering involved. Moonirah says that Kuwaiti hands are tied by
Resolution 1284; but even if one is obliged to comply with a man made 'law',
one can still express disagreement with it. And it would be very difficult
for Britain and the US to defend and maintain Resolution 1284 if the Kuwaiti
government were to oppose it (it is in fact obscene that such resolutions
can be discussed and passed without any apparent seeking of consent from
the powers in the region that is under consideration).
I do not pretend to know the interests of the Kuwaitis better than the
Kuwaitis themselves, but it seems to me that such a move would be very
intelligent. If, as is rather implicit in CASI's policy, sanctions are
lifted against the wishes of the neighbouring governments, then it will
certainly be a 'victory for Saddam' and put the others into a very uncomfortable
situation. If the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments were to take a lead in
the lifting of sanctions, the whole situation would be transformed. And
I cannot imagine any situation which would be more favourable to the release
of any Kuwaiti prisoners there may be in Iraq.