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(1) Kingsolver's 'Deadline' (2) Halliday in Al-Ahram

[1] <>*

Another America
ISBN 1-878067-57-5; Seal Press; 1992
by Barbara Kingsolver

January 15, 1991

The night before war begins, and you are still here.
You can stand in a breathless cold
ocean of candles, a thousand issues of your same face
rubbed white from below by clear waxed light.
A vigil. You are wondering what it is
you can hold a candle to.

You have a daughter. Her cheeks curve
like aspects of the Mohammed's perfect pear.
She is three. Too young for candles but
you are here, this is war.
Flames covet the gold-sparked ends of her hair,
her nylon parka laughing in color,
inflammable. It has taken your whole self
to bring her undamaged to this moment,
and waiting in the desert at this moment
is a bomb that flings gasoline in a liquid sheet,
a laundress's snap overhead, wide as the ancient Tigris,
and ignites as it descends. 

The polls have sung their opera of assent: the land
wants war. But here is another America,
candle-throated, sure as tide.
Whoever you are, you are also this granite anger.
In history you will be the vigilant dead
who stood in front of every war with old hearts
in your pockets, stood on the carcass of hope
listening for the thunder of its feathers.

The desert is diamond ice and only stars above us here
and elsewhere, a thousand issues of a clear waxed star,
a holocaust of heaven
and somewhere, a way out.

from p. 3

Al-Ahram Weekly
13 - 19 July 2000
Issue No. 490  

Death for oil

[Introduction] Dennis Halliday is probably the most high-profile critic of
continuing sanctions against Iraq the world over. He should know. As UN
assistant secretary-general heading the international organisation's
humanitarian mission in Iraq he was first hand witness to the havoc the
sanctions were wreaking on the country and its people. In 1998 he resigned
in disgust. While in Cairo last week, Halliday found time to talk to Amira
Howeidy about the 10-year long genocidal war still being launched against
Iraq and the medieval tactics used in a dangerous game masterminded by

[Amira Howeidy] On 9 June, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1302,
which extends the Oil-for-Food programme for another 180 days. How do you
evaluate this resolution and should we expect improvement in the plight of
the Iraqi people? 

[Denis Halliday] Resolution 1302 is a continuation of the Oil-for-Food
programme, which was not designed to resolve the crisis in Iraq. When it was
assembled in 1996, it was designed to stop further deterioration. But the
fact is that Oil-for-Food has sustained the humanitarian crisis. Mortality
rates of children under five years of age still remain at 5,000 per month,
plus an additional 2,000-3,000 people per month among adults, other children
and teenagers. These people are dying because of bad water, inadequate
diets, broken down hospital care and collapsed systems. 

We have massive malnutrition in Iraq, despite the Oil-for-Food programme.
There is a huge social collapse, families falling apart with children out of
school taking to the streets. The electric power is 35 per cent of what it
was in 1990. So the Oil-for-Food programme has totally failed to bring about
the well being of the Iraqi people. Having said that, it has, however,
provided something like 20 million tonnes of basic food. It does make a huge
difference in keeping the Iraqi people alive -- but only barely alive. 

The conditions in Iraq today under the UN economic sanctions and the
Oil-for-Food programme constitute famine conditions. The average birth
weight of a child in Iraq today is less than five pounds. That is an
indicator of famine. The Oil-for-Food programme is something that the UN
should be ashamed of. It is a continuation of the genocide that the economic
embargo has placed on Iraq. 

I say genocide because it is an intentional programme to destroy a culture,
a people, a country -- economic sanctions are known to do that. [Secretary
of State Madeleine] Albright herself acknowledged half a million dead
children back in 1996. Yet the member states -- the United States and the
United Kingdom in particular -- have continued the economic embargo despite
their knowledge of the death rate of Iraqi children. That is genocide. 

Oil-for Food is better than nothing, but it is not the solution. The
solution is to rebuild the economy. There is no other way to address the
problems of the Iraqi people but to give 100 per cent of the oil revenues
back to Iraq and allow Iraq to invest that money in agriculture, health care
and education, to rebuild the infrastructure, water systems, sewage systems,
electric power and rebuild its capacity to produce oil and so on. That is
the only solution to this crisis. 

[AH] After ten years of disarmament and sanctions, outrageous mortality
rates and evidence of famine, why has the UN Security Council failed to
agree on lifting the embargo? Do you believe that the continuation of this
genocide is deliberate? 

[DH] I think the UN Security Council today reflects the wishes of the US.
The US, supported by the UK, has corrupted the UN. They deliberately sustain
this policy. This is not about Kuwait, it is about something much bigger. It
is a new form of neo-colonialism [applied by] the US to dominate the Arab
world in order to control the supply of oil and destroy and suppress perhaps
the strongest country within the Arab world which in 1990 who dared to
challenge the West. A country which dared to stand up and plan to create
some regional leadership. 

The US found that unacceptable. They were afraid of the power that Saddam
Hussein represented after the Iraq-Iran war. Although the economy was
damaged and he was short of money, he had capacity. When they realised this
capacity, and when he foolishly invaded Kuwait -- a grave mistake -- it was
a gift to President George Bush. They prayed for something like that and
they got it. They destroyed Iraq and they were very happy to do that. They
were very frightened that he would withdraw from Kuwait before [General
Norman] Schwarzkopf and Bush were ready to crush the Iraqi people. 

But when they did that, they broke the international law and the Geneva
convention. They deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure. And this
was the US -- under the umbrella of the UN -- committing crimes against
humanity during the Gulf War. 

[AH] So Iraq has been controlled and destroyed. Why, then, are the sanctions
still in force? 

[DH] What is happening now is that they are frustrated. They are punishing
the Iraqi people by killing them because they cannot find a way to punish
Saddam Hussein and deal with the government in Baghdad. 

This is a substitute for dealing with the real problem as they see it, which
is the government in Baghdad. 

[AH] But this sounds rather medieval. 

[DH] Yes. It is like raiding the city and killing all the women and children
or killing all the men and then taking the women. It is absolutely medieval,
you're quite right. 

[AH] When they launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq in 1998, was it
actually possible for the US and the UK to get rid of Hussein? 

[DH] I think they deliberately decided to keep the government in Baghdad in
power to sustain the instability of Iraq on the one hand, and the threat
that Iraq posed for the Kuwaitis and the Saudis in the Gulf on the other. 

This has been done to control the financial and oil resources of the Arab
world in order to provide opportunities to sell American weapons and the
American army. And they have done it very successfully. 

Defense Secretary William Cohen travelled all over the Arab World selling
hundreds of billions of dollars worth of planes and guns. It is called
business. They have got a market for military hardware from the US and
Europe and they've got control over the oil resources. I mean, we know that
Iraq probably has the world's biggest supply of oil in the world, not the
second. But this has all been suppressed. In other words, the Americans have
got what they wanted. Who cares about 6,000-7,000 people dying every month? 

I think we must address the fact that the American policy vis--vis Iraq
serves to diminish the entire Arab world. It has been gobbling up Arab
financial resources that should be going to the people; to education and to
the future, into oil production and petrochemicals. That money is going into
military arms, which will never be used -- I hope. 

[AH] Do you have any insight into exactly where the money is going? 

[DH] Well, we know that the US has sold huge amounts of weapons to Kuwait,
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Abu Dhabi just bought $6.3 billion worth
of fighters the other day. We know of the huge presence of NATO and the US
in Turkey. We know military support goes to Israel. 

Here, we have a huge problem. Nuclear warheads in Israel, some of it
undoubtedly pointed toward Baghdad, raise the whole problem of double
standards. Moreover, Turkey can invade Iraq at will and does, nothing
happens. Israel can invade Lebanon, nothing happens. There are no sanctions,
no reparations, nothing is happening. It is just a huge game that's
controlled by the US. 

[AH] Do you think your resignation and those of your two successors had any
effect on the decisions of the UN? 

[DH] We've made no change or improvement. The UN is still responsible for
killing 6,000 to 7,000 Iraqis per month. And these aren't my figures,
they're UN figures, UNICEF figures. 

[AH] Calls are now being made to have Western leaders who caused this
genocide sit trial in the War Criminals Tribunal. Is this possible and do
you support such calls? 

[DH] I do. I think it has become known as the Pinochet tactic. Pinochet has
done us all a favour by being vulnerable and being caught -- even though he
was released. It was a signal to everybody from Bush, Albright to Hussein;
men and women alike who make decisions that constitute crimes against
humanity have got to watch out. They're not free to travel, they're not free
to do these things. They will be -- and must be -- prosecuted. 

[AH] So you think President Bill Clinton should be tried? 

[DH] Absolutely. He is the commander-in-chief and he approved the bombing of
Iraq, for example, in December 1998. There was no justification for this, no
UN resolution. It is a breach of international law. It is outrageous and it
is, of course, a crime against humanity. 

[AH] How has your international lobbying -- including efforts in Egypt --
fared so far? 

[DH] I have been invited by the Egyptian Committee for Lifting the Sanctions
Against Iraq to come here, meet with them, to talk to them about my
perceptions and my experience. This is what I've been doing around the
world, speaking about sanctions and trying to get governments to have some
courage and some integrity to stand up and take on the US. I am here to talk
to people in Egypt to encourage them to do more. Egypt is fundamental,
pivotal even, in making a difference. 

But one of the problems I encounter around the world, in Europe for example,
is that they do not see the Arab leaders standing up and defending the
people of Iraq. This is a real problem. They do not see the Arab League
standing up and passing resolutions demanding an end to economic sanctions. 

Egypt may have done more than other countries, but it is not enough. If the
Arab World does not identify with the people of Iraq and demand from the US
to put an end to their suffering, then it is very difficult for the rest of

Countries like Egypt have a special relationship with Washington, Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait and they have got to use their connections. The sanctions
are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of fellow Arabs.
Some day this will become very costly. It is going to be very difficult for
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to rebuild a relationship with Iraq. The Iraqi
people know that they are responsible for continuing this regime of
sanctions. It is very damaging. 

We need in the Arab world a vision for the next 50 or 100 years. The sooner
we end the crisis in Iraq, the sooner the Arab world can rebuild its
relationships and the Arab League can play a bigger role. 

The whole of the Arab world is damaged by the economic sanctions of the
Iraqis. I cannot visualise harmony in the Middle East without peace in Iraq.

[AH] But given the "special" relationship with Washington, would that not be
a reason why Egypt and other Arab governments cannot push for more? At the
same time, Arab public opinion remains under a sort of media black-out on
what is actually happening in Iraq. 

[DH] I'm afraid you're absolutely correct. The news about Iraq is suppressed
everywhere, even in the US. The international media does not want to address
this. The people who own the media are the same people who produce arms and
are making a lot of money in the Middle East from selling armament. 

It is very tragic that the people of Egypt don't understand what is
happening to their Arab brothers and sisters in Iraq. But I also believe
that the government in Egypt is deeply concerned about the long-term impact
of this crisis. They sense that many Egyptians in the street and in many
other Arab countries are extremely unhappy about what is happening to the
people of Iraq. They see Saddam Hussein as a man of leadership and who had
the courage to defy the West and the US. So he is becoming a hero in the
streets of the Arab world. 

I think that the Egyptian government would welcome an expression of
frustration on the part of the average Egyptian person. This way, they would
have the courage to address Washington. 

These special relationships work both ways. I think that President Hosni
Mubarak has the ear of President Clinton. I think that President Mubarak has
a unique position of power and influence over Washington and they would
listen; particularly if they felt he was speaking on behalf of the majority
of the Arab leadership and reflecting the views of the average Arab in the

[AH] Iraq has rejected UN Security Council Resolution 1284. Do you find this

[DH] After 10 years of economic sanctions to talk about "suspending"
sanctions is too little, too late. Secondly, the design of this programme,
if everything worked absolutely to the clock, would take 10 months before
the council can even consider suspending sanctions. That means 10 months
multiplied by say 7,000. Some 70,000 Iraqi people have been sentenced to
death by the Security Council. I find that outrageous. 

This is the UN. They can make a plan that sentences 70,000 people to death.
Whether they blame Saddam Hussein or they blame themselves, it makes no
difference. Some 70,000 people are going to die under Resolution 1284. We
know it is not going to work because the Americans have said, again and
again, we will never lift the economic sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein
is in power. Why should Iraq cooperate with the regime in Washington when
this is the situation? 

To me there are several ways to do it. First of all, the economic sanctions
must be lifted. Iraq has got to be allowed to have revenues of oil to
rebuild its economy. However there's going to be a price. The Iraqis have
got to agree to the inspections of their military capacity and they have got
to expect that weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated because of
the past. 

They have got to understand that they have terrified the Kuwaitis and the
Saudis. They have got to live with that for the next 10 or 20 years.
Gradually, they will accept that because if Saddam Hussein can give the
Iraqi people the gift of a new economy, health care, education and
employment, he will give them a whole new life. 

[AH] You warned of a new generation of extremist Taliban-like Iraqis. What
makes this a valid concern? 

[DH] What I usually say is that the Iraqis are much too sophisticated for a
Taliban-type movement. What is dangerous is that within the ruling Baath
Party there are young men and women who are rising up. They will be the
leaders of the future. However, they're isolated, alienated from the Arab
world and the West. They are inward looking, a bit like the Taliban. 

Secondly, they are frustrated with Saddam Hussein. They believe that he is
too moderate. He has compromised too often. He has backed down too many
times in regard to the US and the UN. 

They are so angry with the situation, and so frustrated with the humiliation
of Iraq. They are ready to throw the UN out and certainly have Iraq suffer.
But at least this way, they can rebuild the dignity, sovereignty and honour
of Iraq, which is very important everywhere. Honour and dignity are worth a

The Iraqis see themselves living in a refugee camp of 22 million people. And
they have been fed badly with their own money. This is a gross humiliation
and they're being punished doubly by the UN and the US. 

I think that the leadership in Baghdad today is sophisticated, worldly, has
travelled overseas and understands the West. The next leadership under these
conditions will not be like that. It will be much more difficult to
communicate with these young men and women of the future who don't have
these opportunities to understand the world and the West. 

We are creating for ourselves a much bigger problem. This is especially true
for the Arab World. You in the Arab World have to live with Iraq and the
sooner that the damage in the past is repaired and the relationships are
restored, the better for everybody, not just for Iraq but for the whole Arab

* Thanks to Kate Reuer for unearthing this gem by noted writer Barbara
** I've edited the Al-Ahram trancript, adding the speaker notes [AH] and
[DH].   As Michael Powell intuited over a year ago, "(Denis Halliday's)
civil servant's reserve is slowly falling away. He confesses he's getting
radicalized, that he feels the need to speak more deeply, more
passionately."  (from 'The Deaths He Cannot Sanction - Ex-U.N. Worker
Details Harm to Iraqi Children',  The Washington Post, December 17, 1998;
Page E01)

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

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