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Re: How to handle Hain?

Hello Colin. Glenn here.

I will not be able to attend the Hain CAABU meeting. I hope you can give him
the same sort of difficult time as Geoff Hoon got last year.

Some thoughts on what sort of questions to ask (falling loosely into
categories 3 and 5 of you last post).  I think we should concentrate on 2

1) Get Hain/ FCO to admit that sanctions cause human suffering to thousands
of innocent people in Iraq.

2) Explore the holes in the constant FCO fall-back position, ie the 'threat'
posed by the Iraqi regime should sanctions be lifted (which forms much of
the "defensive wall prepared by the government" that you mention.

I agree with you that we seem to have got to the stage where no amount of
official reports from ANYONE on mass suffering due to sanctions will make
any difference to the FCO position - not Kofi Annan (whose reports are
constantly misrepresented) not UNICEF, not the Red Cross, not the FAO or
WHO. The next fifteen Humanitarian Coordinators could resign in disgust and
we know that their remarks and protests will be ignored or dismissed.

Firstly then, I think we have to get the FCO to admit sanctions cause
suffering - something they always avoid saying. Instead they always say
something like "Any suffering that the Iraqi people suffer is ultimately the
responsibility of Saddam Hussein". I think we have to get out of the FCO the
clear admission that suffering is caused by sanctions as this will then lead
us on to be able to challenge the policy with reference to international
law, disproportionate force etc. In particular it would allow us to quote
the FCO back at itself to undermine its line that all Iraq has to do is go
along with SC resolutions and suffering stops. We can do this more easily if
we can show that the methods authorised by such resolutions (ie sanctions)
are themselves unreasonable and resulting in 'disproportionate suffering' of
innocents. I would suggest something like:

Q: The fact that the UN believes there needs to be a humanitarian programme
in Iraq at all shows that sanctions cause suffering and death in Iraq. So do
reports from UNICEF, Red Cross, UN Humanitarian panel and others. So
irrespective of who is ultimately responsible for sanctions being imposed,
will the minister admit that these sanctions have appalling humanitarian

I don't think he'll admit it, but I think it is a line worth pursuing
because logically it is such an obvious point that the FCO looks more and
more stupid every time it evades it. And no one likes to look stupid. The
second (and I think more important) question follows on from Hain's
predictable answer that we have to keep sanctions there because otherwise we
have no leverage on controlling the 'threat' of Iraq developing Weapons of
Mass Destruction.

*I think we should press Hain to define the threat very precisely. *

>From the guff that the Pentagon and FCO put out they broadly say they have 2

1) Iraq will use chemical weapons against its 'enemies' and his own people.

2) They will supply such weapons to terrorist groups.

I think we have to ask Hain, do these threats warrant the continuation of a
policy which all agencies involved tell us continues to kill people at the
rate of thousands every month, totalling hundreds of thousands in 10 years?

So question 2...

Q: Specifically, what is the threat from Iraq?

Hopefully this can be followed up by the questioner or others: Is the threat
to the US/UK directly? ie does he believe that Iraq will send chemical
weapons missiles to land on London and Washington? Presumably not, as any
such attack, however far-fetched, would result in Iraq being annihilated as
it was in 1990.

So does he believe that Iraq will supply terrorists who will bomb targets in
the west? On what basis? If, as the FCO tell us, the regime can smuggle
anything it wants despite sanctions and the regime is as hell bent on
destruction as they say, there would presumably have been a rash of
terrorist attacks in the last 10 years. There have been none.

So Iraq has no history of attacking western powers with chemical weapons,
nor has it a history of supplying terrorists with such weapons. The idea
that nevertheless, it MIGHT, is nominally what is continuing a policy that
by all accounts is killing thousands of innocents every month.
The Kurdish protection motive can be dismissed by, among other things,
reference to Turkish activities in Northern Iraq.

It is no doubt worth preventing any country developing WMDs, but the burden
of proof is very high if innocents are dying. The FCO has a pitiful amount
of proof of a 'threat', if any, to justify the deaths of even a single Iraqi
infant, and I think we need to let the FCO know that we know this.

The 'threat' question is, I believe extremely important. In fact, along with
pushing the fact that the amount of humanitarian goods Iraq gets is largely
irrelevant and that it will take a sustained revivial of the economy to
bring about an end to the humanitarian crisis - I believe it is the central
thing that activists should be focusing on. The FCO plays on the public's
fear of its image of a dangerous evil violent Iraqi terror state ready to
punce if we let up even an inch or if we let the peaceniks get their way - I
believe we have to show up this ridiculous scare mongering for what it is,
and importantly show the FCO we see through it. I think winning this
argument is possibly the last barrier to a change in public opinion.

In the Iraq Under Siege book Chomsky gives some helpful reminders that put
the Iraq 'threat' into perspective, particularly in the light of its
neighbours being armed to the teeth by the west since 1990. In my
conversations with others not involved in the issue these reamrks help a
great deal as it seems to be the main sticking point for most people - fear
of naively appeasing a dangerous aggressor. I really think we should be
using this line of argument more often.

Hope this was useful. Good luck with the meeting.



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