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Pilger: Robin Cook's lies....

(Scanned from the magazine - Sandeep)

John Pilger

Robin Cook's lies are worthy of David Irving, while the government
Perpetrates crimes against humanity

The Foreign Office continues to send out its standard dissembling letter
on Iraq. Dozens of copies have been forwarded to me by members of the
public bemused or angered by the contempt in which they are clearly held
by the civil servants responsible. Some letters begin, "Dear -------- 
"; others use first names or misspelt surnames without a prefix. The
ignorance of Asian names is striking. Many are signed by one Jaimie
Cooper, a junior official with no specialist knowledge of Iraq. His is
merely a name with which to brush off people, many of whom have taken
the trouble to analyse lies that would make David Irving blush.

To suggest, for example, that "there is no credible research data" that
links the use of depleted ura-nium with the sevenfold increase in cancer
in southern Iraq is Irvingesque. The Atomic Energy Authority has quoted
calculations of "500,000 potential deaths" in Kuwait alone if a fraction
of DU dust was inhaled. As long ago as 1943, the effect of DU dust in
the lung was documented by the US government. In 1993, the Ministry of
Defence admitted that it was "aware of the hazards of depleted uranium"
and, with the US Defence Department, made videotapes for training
British and American troops. These left little doubt of the risks, but
were never released. What makes the For-eign Office deceitful in this
matter is that, under its sanctions policy, Iraq is denied equipment and
ex-pertise to clean up its contaminated battlefields, as Kuwait was
cleaned up. At the same time, the Sanc-tions Committee in New York,
which the Ameri-cans and British dominate, has blocked or delayed a
range of medical equipment that diagnoses and treats cancer, as well as
chemotherapy drugs.

In his latest letter to the New Statesman, Robin Cook says that there is
no ban on vaccines. This meets the Irving standard. Cook's letters are
super-vised by Jon Davies, the head of the Iraq Desk, who recently
explained to a visitor how the ban works. The British government must be
"reassured that the use of every batch of vaccine ordered by Iraq is not
for weapons". That reassurance can only be given by United Nations
weapons inspectors, who were expelled from Iraq in 1998 after it was
found that they were being used to spy for Washington. Catch-22! Other
UN personnel in Iraq are not to be trusted, says Davies. No
"reassurance" equals no vaccine equals children dying from preventable
diseases. Professor Karol Sikora, who visited Iraq as head of the Cancer
Programme of the World Health Organ-isation, told me last December that
he and col-leagues had found "no possibility of converting these drugs
into chemical warfare agents".
In his letter, Cook wrote: "Pilger claims that my officials think
Security Council Resolution 1284 'changes nothing'. Nonsense." I
actually quoted Jon Davies directly. In informal briefings, Davies has
said that the resolution "changes nothing what-soever". His listeners
did not imagine this. It is an example of how "Chatham House rules"
allow democratically unaccountable civil servants to say, behind closed
doors, the truth on matters of grave public interest, while MPs and the
public are fed the very opposite.

In one of his on-the-record briefings, Davies, who impresses visitors
with his passion for maintaining sanctions against a society he has
never seen, declared that the Iraqis were ordering whisky. "They tell
the Sanctions Committee it is a food and that's how they get away with
it," he said. A For-eign Office colleague contradicted him. "That's not
true," she said. "They buy it with their own money." Davies also claims
that Britain delays few vital supplies to Iraq. What he omits to say is
that Britain unerringly never opposes the United States on the Sanctions
Committee. This has caused such wilful obstruction, delaying everything
from food and medical supplies to oil industry spare parts, that Kofi
Annan, once regarded as the most compliant of secretary generals, has
publicly attacked the Clinton administration.
The environmental catastrophe of sanctions across the region is seldom
reported. The UN has found that half of Iraq's date trees have died, a
total of 15 million screwworms are burrowing into humans and animals and
spreading to Kuwait and other Gulf states. Foot and mouth disease has
also spread across borders. Sanctions prevent the UN's Food and
Agricultural Organisation from ordering vaccines. "This will affect
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria," says the FAO, "and afflict the health of
peo-ple and seriously undermine food security in all the countries of
the Near East."

Most governments understand that the sanctions, after ten years of "near
apocalyptic" conditions in Iraq (according to a UN mission in 1991),
have dev-astated children and the vulnerable while entrench-ing the
regime - the opposite of their stated aim. Increasingly, the zealots in
London are isolated. That the European Convention on Human Rights is
about to be incorporated into British law, while the Blair government
perpetrates one of the true crimes against humanity, invites more of an
unprece-dented cynicism that is destroying public faith in mainstream
politics, especially the Labour Party. When Peter Ham can reject
sanctions against Zimbabwe as a bad and inhuman idea "because they will
affect not the elite, but the ordinary, inno-cent people", then almost
in the same breath defend their imposition on the ordinary, innocent
people of Iraq, he becomes the embodiment of that cynicism, along with
his "ethical" Foreign Secretary. Robin Cook, by the way, has declined my
invitation to join a public debate on Iraq in London next week. He says
he will be abroad. I have written back, say-ing that any date will do.
Watch this space. 17
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