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Two Toronto Star OP-EDs

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Saturday 22 April '00

Ease Iraq sanctions

Saddam Hussein would rather see his 22 million people suffer than bow to
international law. His contempt for Canada's offer this week of $1 million
to help re-equip hospitals and schools shows monstrous indifference to their
welfare. Iraq's misery will end only when he no longer is in power.

Yet Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government remains determined, and
rightly so, to do what it can for ordinary Iraqis despite Saddam.

Ottawa will deliver its help directly through the Red Cross and UNICEF.

This sterile confrontation illustrates how difficult a time the United
Nations Security Council can have, restraining regimes that threaten the
peace by using sanctions, rather than making war on them. Sanctions have
been used 14 times, mostly in the past decade, with mixed success.

While the Security Council continues, as it should, to enforce strict
military sanctions on Saddam's regime, its economic embargo has been relaxed
to the point where Iraq is exporting more oil than it did before the Gulf
War a decade ago, and can use two-thirds of the revenue to buy food and

Sanctions will be lifted entirely, of course, if Saddam lets U.N. weapons
inspectors return to Baghdad to certify that he no longer has nuclear,
chemical or biological weapons, and missiles.

But Canada should argue the case for further relaxing even the current, less
stringent sanctions, whatever he does. Iraq should be free to import the
equipment it needs to spur oil production. More aid should be delivered. And
the U.N. should ease its requirement that much of the oil revenues be
earmarked for war reparations.

These measures could put billions worth of food, medicine and other help,
into the peoples' hands, without unduly aiding the regime.

Rethinking the Iraq sanctions is part of a broader, and welcome, effort to
make sanctions generally ``more effective and more humane,'' as Foreign
Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy put it in a Security Council debate this

Sanctions need to be better-targeted, to hammer criminal regimes but spare
people. They should be more flexible, and closely monitored to ensure that
they are effective and not having unintended consequences. They should be
used with incentives like security assurances, aid, trade, debt relief, and
above all, generous humanitarian relief.

Sanctions committees should operate more transparently.

And the Security Council should consider putting ``sunset clauses'' on
sanctions, so that the council would revisit them if they fail to deliver
the desired results, rather than let ineffective measures continue
indefinitely as is the case now.

``Smarter'' sanctions might have hurt Saddam's regime more and caused less
suffering to his oppressed people.


Sunday 23 April '00

Voices rise in call to end Iraq sanctions

IT IS NOT every day that a House of Commons committee, controlled by the
governing party, has the gumption to go against its own government. But
that's what the foreign affairs committee did the other day.

It unanimously recommmended the opposite of what Foreign Affairs Minister
Lloyd Axworthy has been doing on Iraq.

End, not just ease, the American-led economic sanctions, said the committee
chaired by Toronto MP Bill Graham. Try a purely military embargo instead.
Reopen the Canadian embassy in Baghdad.

It ignored the American macho talk proffered by experts from Axworthy's
department: Gotta stay tough on Saddam; gotta keep going after his last
vials of chemical and biological weapons; can't get sucked in by his
propaganda about civilian suffering; can't be swayed by our own do-gooders
climbing the anti-sanctions moral highhorse.

The bureaucrats didn't quite put it that way. But that was the gist of it.

``We were astonished at some of the things they said,'' reported Dale
Hildebrand of Inter-Church Action, the Toronto-based church coalition that
spoke against the sanctions that have turned Iraq into a giant death camp.

``We met the officials later and it turned out to be a stormy session. They
just kept blaming Saddam. They wouldn't acknowledge any responsibility. They
didn't seem to care.''

But the committee cut through the official propaganda. It cited United
Nations reports that almost all of Iraq's proscribed weapons have been
eliminated. It agreed that 100 per cent eradication and verification is
impossible. It acknowledged the perversity of a policy that's killing the
innocent but empowering Saddam. It concluded that the much touted
oil-for-food program cannot end the humanitarian crisis, even if fully

The MPs reflect a growing worldwide consensus. Only the obdurate now stick
to the sanctions mantra in the face of reports by UNESCO, the Red Cross, the
Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Health Organization, the U.N.
Development Program, Human Rights Watch and others cataloging the horrors of

No question that Saddam adds to the misery of his people. But there's no
escaping our own culpability in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of
children and the protracted medical and food emergency.

Not just France, Russia and China have distanced themselves from the
Anglo-American hardline but also most of the Arab allies of the Gulf War.

The U.N., in-charge of implementing the sanctions, has been rocked by
resignations. First Denis Halliday quit as chief relief co-ordinator,
calling the policy ``genocidal.'' His successor, Hans von Sponeck, quit
protesting last December's oil-for-food Security Council resolution, saying
it gave false hope. Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Program in
Baghdad, followed suit.

More than 70 members of the U.S. Congress have gone against Bill Clinton.
Democratic House Whip David Bonior said the president is pursuing
``infanticide masquerading as policy.''

A rainbow coalition has emerged in the non-governmental sector: the World
Council of Churches, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Global
Policy Forum, Save the Children (U.K.), International Doctors at Large,
Physicians for Global Survival, etc.

In Canada, several groups have joined hands: the Canadian Council of
Churches, the Mennonite Central Committee, Project Ploughshares, the United,
Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Catholic churches, the National Council
on Canada-Arab Relations, Canadian Veterans against Nuclear Arms, the
Montreal-based Voices of Conscience, the Calgary-based Lawyers for Social
Responsibility and the Hamilton-based Global Movement to End the War Against

Mainstream media, not known to think much beyond what's fed them officially,
are changing. The Economist of London, that bastion of pro-Americanism, has
reversed itself in an editorial headlined, ``All wrong in Iraq.''

Axworthy can read the signals. In fact, he's said to have encouraged the
Commons committee's dissident report.

He had gone along with the Americans because he figured he could pick only
so many fights with them (land mines, international criminal court, etc.)
But he's obviously extricating himself. Last week, he released a study
assessing the impact of all the 11 sanctions imposed during the 1990s,
including the ones on Iraq that it said no longer work.

Axworthy's quickest and most useful move would be to open our embassy in
Baghdad to monitor developments and persuade the government there to
co-operate with the new U.N. arms inspection team so as to hasten the
process, already in motion, to end the sanctions.

Such diplomacy would be more in keeping with Canadian tradition than Defence
Minister Art Eggleton glorifying Canadian-American military co-operation, as
he did last week in announcing the deployment of HMCS Calgary to the Persian
Gulf to enforce sanctions his colleague is quietly working to dismantle.

Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column
Thursday and Sunday. His e-mail address is

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