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>From the August 10, 2000, US and International editions of the Financial Times An embargo on commonsense Ali Abunimah and Anthony Arnove say sanctions on Iraq hurt ordinary people and help Saddam Hussein to stay in power Ten years ago the United Nations imposed comprehensive sanctions on Iraq in response to its invasion of Kuwait. Iraq was driven out of the country the following year during the Gulf war. But the sanctions remain in place today in spite of growing evidence that they have only hurt ordinary Iraqis. The ruling elite is insulated from their impact and Saddam Hussein continues in power. While a handful have grown rich off the black market, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, particularly children under five, have died from dehydration, malnutrition, cholera, tuberculosis and other easily preventable diseases, according to UN studies. The bombing of Iraq since early 1999 has received scant attention but it, too, is inflicting casualties on the civilian population. Unemployment has rocketed and hyperinflation has destroyed the value of the Iraqi dinar. Once well-to-do families now sell their furniture and books to buy food. US and British officials argue that the UN's "oil-for-food" programme would provide sufficient sustenance for Iraqis if it were not for the deliberate obstruction of Iraq's government. But this is doubtful. Under the programme, a UN committee must approve the majority of contracts for imports to Iraq. US and British representatives have been repeatedly criticised for holding up vitally needed supplies for hospitals, water-treatment facilities, power plants, the oil industry and other basic infrastructure. At present, about $1.6bn in contracts is being held up by the committee. These kinds of measures cannot be justified, even if the ultimate goal is to disarm Iraq. Indeed, there is growing consensus that Iraq is already militarily crippled. Rolf Ekeus, the UN weapons inspector from 1991 to 1997, said in May that Iraq's military capabilities had been fundamentally eliminated. Even Martin Indyk, former US assistant secretary of state, admitted last autumn that there was no evidence to suggest that Iraq was trying to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction. To make matters worse, Bill Clinton's government continues to shift the goalposts on the conditions needed to lift the embargo. The sanctions will stay in place "until the end of time, or as long as he [Saddam Hussein] is in power", the president has said. Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state, has also tied the sanctions to "regime change" in Iraq, an interpretation fundamentally at odds with UN resolutions. Fortunately, the accumulating evidence of the bankruptcy of the embargo and the futility of continued military attacks on Iraq is leading to a new willingness to question the policy. In March, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, was forced to admit: "We are in danger of losing the argument or propaganda war - if we haven't lost it already - about who is responsible for this situation, President Saddam Hussein or the UN," adding, "we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population". Last February, more than 70 members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Mr Clinton calling for an end to the economic sanctions. David Bonior, a House representative and one of the leaders of Mr Clinton's own Democratic party in Congress, called the sanctions "infanticide masquerading as policy". The international community has become increasingly uncomfortable with US unilateralism. Russia's unease over the Iraqi stalemate has led to hints that Vladimir Putin, the president, might abandon the sanctions. Iraq owes Russia billions of dollars from the Gulf war, and both France and Russia have oil interests in Iraq that could prove profitable if the embargo were ended. More generally, there is growing recognition that sanctions do not meet their objectives. In recent years, European countries have quietly developed relations with Iran - an approach that the US has lately felt compelled to follow - after the failure of two decades of boycotts and confrontation. Britain has slowly restored relations with Libya, a country with which it has had no shortage of differences. Could Europe now take the lead in a new approach to Iraq? Even if the embargo were lifted today, it might take years to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and economy. It will take much longer to repair the damage to a whole generation of Iraqi children. The Iraqi people should no longer be held hostage to the actions of a government over which they have no control, and the world should not sit on the sidelines as Washington dictates - or blocks - the way forward. Lifting the embargo will take away whatever legitimacy Saddam Hussein gains by standing up to the west, and will allow the Iraqi people to extend their gaze beyond mere survival. Perhaps then they will have the chance to determine their own future. Ali Abunimah is vice-president of the Arab-American Action Network. Anthony Arnove is an editor at South End Press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [Although the Financial Times has a policy against mentioning books in their author lines, on e-mail we can also add that they are respectively a contributor to and editor of Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (Cambridge: South End Press; London: Pluto Press, 2000). Info at www.southendpress.org/iraq.shtml or www.plutobooks.com. Published: August 9 2000 19:31GMT | Last Updated: August 9 2000 19:36GMT on www.ft.com Anthony Arnove South End Press 7 Brookline Street #1 Cambridge MA 02139-4146 v 617-547-4002 f 617-547-1333 e firstname.lastname@example.org w http://www.southendpress.org/ National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 Editor of Iraq Under Siege (South End Press and Pluto Press, 2000): http://www.southendpress.org/books/iraq.shtml -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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