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Re: Iraq Discussion on The Independent website


Colin Rowat must be commended for bringing the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran into
the discussion. The tragedy of the Iraqi people and their economy
started with that war. The 1991 bombing of Iraq and the sanctions were
imposed on an economy and a population that had already been vastly
weakened by the Iraq-Iran war during which the regime spent more than
$180 billion to prosecute. This figure refers only to Iraq's military
expenditures in those eight years and not to the country's total
economic loss which had been estimated to be in excess of $400 billion.

But let us stay with the figure of $180 billion and relate it to Iraq's
oil revenue. Between 1931, when Iraq received its first payment for oil
export from the oil companies operating in Iraq, and 1988, the
cumulative oil revenue amounted to $179 billion. In other words the
government managed to spend on the Iraq-Iran war the entire flow of the
oil income between 1931 and 1988.And in relation to GDP annual military
expenditure  on that war amounbted between between 22 percent and 54
percent of the country's GDP.

The needs of the country's civilians and civilian economy after 1988,
the needs of the expanded military indutrialization program, the needs
of the demobilized troops, the need to meet foreign debt obligations and
the need to keep the promise of return to prosperity combined with a
declining oil sector must have made Kuwait looks attractive.

The provocative conduct of the Kuwaiti government at the time and the
the April Glaspie's dance with words around Saddam in July 1990 must
have sealed the fate of the people of Iraq.

Another historical note: When the UN Security Council voted to impose
the sanctions against Iraq in August 1990 it did so in order to secure
the eviction of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the return of the Kuwaiti
ruling family to its seat of power. Both of these goals were achieved in
March 1991. Yet the people of Iraq continue to suffer, lose hope and die
because of the sanctions.

Hamre, Drew wrote:

> CASI's Colin Rowat has just posted an extremely insightful reply[1], as has
> Anothony Arnove (Editor, "Iraq Under Siege")[2]; both are attached below.
> Responses are to the question, "Is now the time to lift the sanctions?"
> <
> 1>
> ===[1]===
> Yes: the non-military sanctions on Iraq should be lifted (as a minor note,
> this discussion is mis-titled: they are not sanctions on Saddam, but on
> Iraq). Two former UN co-ordinators in Iraq (Denis Halliday and Hans von
> Sponeck) believe this, two former top UN weapons inspectors believe it
> (Richard Butler and Scott Ritter), Iraq's neighbours increasingly believe
> it, the Pope believes it and top British diplomats (in private) believe it.
> The question of what happens after sanctions are lifted does not have a
> simple answer. Central to any guesses that we might make about this, though,
> must be an understanding of the Iraqi regime's motivation. Since 1990, the
> Iraqi regime's chief aim has been to stay in power. Arguably, this has been
> the case since 1968, when it first came to power, but the tactics for doing
> so have changed slightly with the imposition of sanctions.
> The "social contract" offered by the Iraqi government before sanctions was
> roughly as follows: it offered the public a carrot in the form of a
> reasonable standard of living by investing in education, health and other
> social infrastructure. In return, it demanded that no one challenge its
> rule, and treated brutally those that did.
> Since the imposition of sanctions and the Gulf War, a version of this
> contract has also been on offer. The carrot has been smaller because the
> country was badly damaged and has been kept damaged. The estimate of child
> deaths under sanctions that Unicef made last year reflect this: from 1991 -
> 1998 it estimated that an additional half million children under five had
> died. Not only is this number shocking - I do not know of any other British
> policy that has been implicated in the deaths of half a million
> pre-schoolers - but it provides a direct comparison between "Iraq under
> Saddam" and "Iraq under Saddam and sanctions": the latter is much worse.
> With a smaller carrot on offer, the Iraqi government has had to look to
> other ways to stay in power itself. It's been fortunate in that the
> sanctions have given it three important ways.
> First, the sanctions have given the government far more control over
> resources in Iraq than they had before. Now the majority of food in the
> country passes through the government's influence, something that was not
> the case before. UN reports do not mention this new influence being abused
> but there are plausible stories that suggest that the government has made
> clear that those causing political trouble may find it harder to get ration
> cards. Relatedly, Iraq's impoverished population seems to have to spend more
> time on making ends meet, leaving less time for political activities.
> Second, the sanctions - and the US/UK bombing - have given the government is
> an external enemy, deflecting attention from internal weaknesses. This is,
> like many aspects of this situation, very ironic, in this case because
> Iraq's invasion of Kuwait may have been designed to do just that. Freedman
> and Karsh's book on the Gulf War argues that a big motive in Iraq's invasion
> were the circumstances created by the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Young Iraqis
> were coming back from the war and looking for jobs that the government
> couldn't provide, because it was broke. Iraqis in general were wondering
> where eight years of war with Iran had gotten them, other than poor. There
> were at least four assassination attempts against Saddam over 1988 - 1990
> and social unrest was high. The government's gamble was this: if we can take
> Kuwait, we can distract people from our failures (remember Argentina and the
> Falklands?) and grab some money to pay off our debts. So the irony is that,
> while we beat Iraq out of Kuwait, we have accomplished one of its goals for
> it.
> Third, by creating artificial scarcity, the sanctions mean that smuggling
> becomes quite profitable. As the regime has been able to maintain control
> over who smuggles, the sanctions have given it another means of both social
> control and enrichment. Saddam's personal wealth, as estimated by Forbes
> magazine, has grown from $5 billion in 1997 to $7 billion this year.
> With this to guide our understanding of the Iraqi regime's mentality and
> circumstances we can make certain guesses about post-sanctions Iraq. First,
> the Iraqi regime will no longer be able to tell people that their problems
> are the fault of the US and the UK. This will be a very dangerous time for
> it, I think, returning it to a worse version of 1988 - 1990 (indeed, the
> consensus opinion at a closed experts seminar organised by the British
> government earlier this year seemed to be that the post-sanctions regime
> would find it very difficult to stay in power). If it does want to stay in
> power, though, it will need to convince Iraqis of its legitimacy. This will
> be harder to do now than ever before because the regime now has a longer
> history of failure.
> I therefore see two possible strategies for it. The first has it working
> desperately to rebuild the country, to show its population that it still
> deserves to rule. The second has it taking another gamble of the Kuwait
> type. I think that this latter is much less likely: the Iraqi government now
> knows that the US government will be watching like a hawk. Furthermore, it
> will have serious questions about the reliability of its own army (already
> in 1990 - 1991 there was massive desertion in Iraqi units).
> In conclusion, unless Iraq's economy is allowed to rebuild, it is guaranteed
> that ordinary Iraqis will continue to be punished, to be humiliated and to
> be killed because we do not like their dictator. Lifting the non -military
> sanctions offers the possibility that ordinary Iraqis will be able to
> improve their lives. It does bring with it certain risks, as mentioned
> above, but it also decreases others: there are widespread reports that the
> generation of younger Iraqis regard the current leadership as too moderate.
> Saddam, they argue, has sat around and talked while the Americans and
> British kill our children and ruin our lives.
> Colin Rowat, University of Cambridge, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
> (
> ===[2]===
> Yes. Sanctions should be immediately lifted and the bombing ended
> immediately.
> Ordinary Iraqis are dying in numbers that defy description, as a deliberate
> and predictable consequence of a policy designed to strangle the Iraqi
> economy. The people paying the price are the poor, working class, and
> especially children-not the alleged targets of the sanctions, President
> Hussein and his inner circle in the ruling Baathist Party. In fact, the
> sanctions have benefited the government in many respects, while weakening
> and dividing the population. The number one killer or children under five in
> Iraq today is dehydration from diarrhea. Iraqis now face widespread
> malnutrition and other classic diseases of third-world poverty, such as
> malaria, cholera, and tuberculosis.
> As repressive and undemocratic as the government is, Iraq had an advanced
> medical, educational, and social infrastructure by the end of the 1980s, all
> which has been destroyed. The UN sanctions committee, which must approve any
> purchases the Iraqi government wants to make with the revenues of its oil
> sales, routinely denies permission for contracts to rebuild this
> infrastructure under its "dual use" criteria: Iraq cannot important civilian
> goods that might have a potential military application. Among the items that
> have been kept out through this mechanism, primarily through the veto power
> of the U.S. representative on the committee, are ambulances, chlorinators,
> and even pencils. Currently, some $1.6 billion worth of items requested by
> Iraq are "on hold," thanks to these restrictions, in some cases making other
> items that have been imported, such as spare parts, worthless.
> The investigative journalist John Pilger recently confronted Peter van
> Walsum, the chair of the UN sanctions committee, about how its decisions are
> made:
> Pilger: How much power does the United States exercise over your committee?
> van Walsum: We operate by consensus.
> Pilger: And what if the American object?
> van Walsum: We don't operate.
> Ordinary Iraqis should not me made to pay the price of the US building up
> Hussein's regime, as it did throughout the 1980s, and attempting to replace
> it today with an equally undemocratic one subordinated to US military and
> economic interests in the Middle East.
> Anthony Arnove
> Editor, Iraq Under Siege (Pluto Press, 2000)
> --
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
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