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I sent the following letter to the Independent today (8th August) in reply to Peter Hain's piece on the 7th August, which was circulated to the list: Dear Sir Peter Hain (Monday August 7th) is becoming very energetic in his efforts to defend our government's policy of deliberately engineering the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by slow starvation and disease. But he is unconvincing when he says: 'If Saddam Hussein were to allow a new disarmament body into Iraq, he would quickly move towards suspension of sanctions if he cooperated with the weapons inspectors'. Iraq cooperated for five years with weapons inspectors to an extent well beyond what anyone could have thought reasonable or possible for a country that had not actually been subjected to physical occupation. Cooperation only ended when it was clear that the real intention of sanctions is, to use the elegant phrase of your headline, 'to keep Saddam in his cage'. Which is to say that the Iraqi people (who are also living in this particular cage) will not be allowed to rebuild their shattered industrial and economic infrastructure while President Hussein is still in power. After all, 'lifting sanctions' means restoring to the Iraqi government and people control over their own economy and treating the Iraqi government as a more or less normal member of the family of nations. Can anyone imagine any US President having the courage to do that (and on this particular issue British Prime Ministers must be regarded as a sort of appendage to US Presidents)? So we will continue our policy of mass murder until somehow, anyhow, President Hussein disappears. The only options available to him personally are to continue more or less as he is at present, clinging to power by all available means; or to die, by his own hand, by another's, or by natural causes. In the event of President Hussein failing to oblige us in the matter there are two ways I can see of bringing the present situation to an end. One is to restore normal relations with the Iraqi government; the other is to go to war to overthrow the Iraqi government. I recommend the former. If Peter Hain were to recommend the second I would oppose him but I would at least be able to regard him with respect. The present policy. however, is merely prolonging a situation which, for anyone with any moral sensitivity whatsoever, is utterly intolerable. Yours sincerely Peter Brooke In hops of getting it published I kept it as short as I could but there is of course much more to be said. In his piece, Hain said that there had been '850 direct threats against our aircrew in the past year and a half, including missile attacks and heavy anti-aircraft fire'. He neglected to say that 'threats' which are taken to justify bombing as a retaliation, include radar tracking which could be interpreted as Iraq trying to keep track of incursions into its territory which are, after all, illegal by any generally recognised standards of international law. It would be interesting to know how many of the 850 threats were actual attacks and how many simply radar illuminations and also to what extent even the real attacks posed the slightest threat given the altitude at which these planes fly. When he says (denying that we are engaged in an aggressive bombing campaign, as we clearly are) that 'the last time UK aircraft dropped bombs in the no-fly zones was on 29th June' not that long ago Mr Hain neglected to tell us what our US allies have been up to. We are after all only there to provide a bit of moral support to the real player in the game; and perhaps also to provide a sense of historical continuity from the days, the 1920s and 1930s, when we pioneered the use of aerial bombing in Iraq. Except that at that time our targets were the Kurds in the North and the Shia in the South, just like Saddam Hussein, and for the same reason. At that time we were responsible for trying to maintain the national unity of the territory we had carved out of the Ottoman Empire. Since then, Saddam Hussein has only assumed our mantle, as well, of course, as our methods. The excuse for the present policy is that now we are defending the Kurds and the Shia. But the last time the Iraqi army entered the Kurdish north was at the invitation of one of the Kurdish groups to repel an invasion from Iran (in conjunction with the other main Kurdish group). We duly punished the Iraqis but we did so by dropping bombs in the South, well away from the scene of the action. Why did we do that? because actually we did not want Iran to succeed in invading Iraq. We wanted to punish the Iraqis, but we also wanted them to win. As for defending the Shia, Hain maintains that we only drop bombs when we ourselves are attacked. So we don't drop them when the Shia are attacked. Some defence that is! But in any case we know very little about this situation. There is an assumption that, left to his own devices, President Hussein would be sending in aircraft against 'his own people' peacefully minding their own business. In fact violence of this kind has generally occurred in a context of civil war. So is there a civil war going on in Southern Iraq? If there is, given our opinion of President Hussein, why aren't we engaged on the side of the Shia? Answer: because we don't want them to win. We don't want an independent or autonomous Shia state in southern Iraq. We want President Hussein to succeed in his aim of preventing it. Hain's points about sanctions have been looked at already in the CASI list by Nathaniel Hurd. Hurd's main point as I understand him is that 'oil for food', especially in the early days when a cap was imposed on Iraqi oil sales, could never have met, and was not intended to meet, Iraq's minimum humanitarian needs. Even now it is calculated to prevent the only thing that can save the Iraqi people which is the rebuilding of the Iraqi economy. So the Iraqi government may be criticised for administering it badly but even if they administered it very well the problem would remain. Outside what amounts to charity (the simple import of food and medicines independent of any real functioning Iraqi economy) economic activity in Iraq has been criminalised and those who are responsible for this state of affairs Mr Hain and his friends are hardly in a position to complain that it has become criminal. So remarks about whiskey and cigarettes are singularly out of place. Hain says that 'In northern Iraq, where Saddam's writ has not run, the same sanctions apply but the situation is much better ...' We are left puzzled. If the aim of sanctions is to keep President Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction why should they apply in the three Kurdish provinces where his writ has not run? Why should we punishing the Kurds of all people? While that question remains in the air it is surely reasonable to assume that the sanctions on these provinces are applied in a comparatively friendly manner. After all, the whole area is under our protection. It also includes the best agricultural soil in the country. And a very large number of presumably well supplied aid agencies who could be expected to have a good effect on infant mortality rates. Peter Hain's abrupt statement "He started a war with Iran ..." requires some elaboration. Some of us remember the hysteria there was throughout Europe and the US at the time of the Iranian revolution which it was widely, and not unreasonably, assumed was a revolution for export. The first country in line to receive that particular export was Iraq. There, with its Shia majority and some of the most important Shia holy places, the threat was real. It was about the time of the Iranian revolution that Saddam Hussein emerged out of the shadows to take direct public control in Iraq, and I have assumed, rightly or wrongly, that this was because he reckoned that a war with Iran was inevitable. The war he launched (and I know he launched it, because I worked it out with great difficulty at the time, when the media were fudging the matter) was, so far as I can see, a pre-emptive strike, and no-one who admires the Israelis for the six day war could blame him for that. He could be blamed for the fact that it went badly wrong and provoked the very thing he had feared an Iranian attempt at invasion. For most of the war, Iraq was on the defensive and trying to seek peace. Had Iran succeeded in its ambitions the consequences would have been, shall we say, interesting which was why we generally supported Iraq (though the Irangate scandal illustrates how deeply rooted is the human instinct for treachery). Finally, on Hain's appeal to 'credulous critics' to say how else the 'international community' (ie the US and Britain) can prevent 'Saddam building up the weapons of mass murder' or using these weapons against 'his own people the Kurds, the Shias or his neighbours'. All the countries surrounding Iraq possess weapons of mass murder in abundance, often sold to them with great zeal by us. These are generally assumed to include large arsenals of chemical and biological and, in the case of Israel, nuclear weapons. Although noone could claim that Iraqis, who must, if human nature is what it has been for the past few thousand years, be longing for revenge, will never again pose any threat to anyone, but it would be a long time before Iraq (which, we remember, was almost defeated by impoverished and embargoed Iran) could build up anything like what its neighbours already possess. On the other hand, the policy of mass murder of the Iraqi population may be a useful device for discouraging all potential troublemakers in the region, apart from ourselves, of course. That seems to be what Hain is arguing, but he doesn't really spell it out. It amounts to this: we must engage in mass murder in order to prevent a fairly remote, but certainly real, possibility of somebody else engaging in mass murder. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi