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IRAQ: Letters to the Editor Needed

Dear all,

William Safire did it again -- he's written another war-mongering,
factually-empty editorial that will serve to only increase anti-Arab and
anti-Iraqi sentiment.  Since Safire is (unfortunately) a New York Times
syndicated columnist, his editorial has (dis)graced the pages of
newspapers across the US, in addition to (dis)gracing the editorial page
of the New York Times.  I doubt, though, that he's managed to reach across
the ocean and disgrace European papers.

Nevertheless, since the NYT has published letters to the editor from
outside the US, your letters to the NYT - now - are important.

Please write a letter (150 words) to the NYT in response to Safire's
editorial. Safire's editorial is enclosed below.  ** Please also "bcc"
your letter to me <>

Write to:

In addition to discussing the situation for the 22 million people of Iraq
who have endured 10+years of US-led war, here are some other potentially
important writing points:

* Refute the myth that Iraq is a military threat. Example:  Former lead
weapons inspector Scott Ritter wrote in the Boston Globe (3/9/00) that,
"...from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has in fact been disarmed... The
chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missile programs
that were a real threat in 1991 had, by 1998, been destroyed or rendered

* Sanctions against Iraq have cost the United States as much as $19
billion a year in lost exports, according to a study by the Institute for
International Economics. The same study found that economic sanctions have
rarely achieved policy goals.

* Pro-sanctions supporters in the US and UK complain that the sanctions
have failed in achieving their unwritten goal - that of removing the Iraqi
regime.  They also state that the sanctions have hurt the Iraqi people,
not the regime.  Based upon their own statements, why maintain these
sanctions when they destroy an entire nation?

* With regards to Oil: an article in the Washington Post (21/Sept) stated:
"Iraq may have to curb its oil exports unless the United States and other
members of the U.N. Security Council speed up their approval of Iraqi
purchases of spare parts, a senior U.N. official said today. I fear the
current volume of production and export levels are not sustainable, unless
the necessary parts and equipment are delivered," said Benon Sevan,
executive director of the U.N.'s humanitarian program in Iraq. ... Iraq
exports about 2.3 million barrels a day of crude oil. About a third of
that, some 700,000 barrels a day, goes to the United States. ... U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan previously has chided the United States for
holding up approval of Iraqi purchases of supplies and equipment, which
are reviewed individually under the terms of the economic sanctions on
Iraq. ... According to diplomats, Security Council members have placed
"holds" on more than $2 billion in proposed Iraqi purchases. About 500 of
those contracts, valued at $266 million, are for oil-related spare parts."
[Note: the full article can be read at: ]

In Solidarity,
-Rania Masri


Over Saddam's Barrel
New York Times; New York, N.Y.; Sep 21, 2000; William Safire;

Nervous Nellie is worried about the strike by gas-gouged truckers in France 
and the panic buying of petrol by drivers in Britain. Nellie's fears are 
compounded by the rising price of gasoline in the U.S.

Be calm, replies Rosie Scenario. The tripling of the price of oil to $35 a 
barrel will soon be rolled back by increased production from our sensible 
friends in OPEC.

Nervous Nellie presses: What if Saddam Hussein crosses everybody up and 
reduces his sale of almost three million barrels a day, thereby punishing 
the West by pushing prices even higher?

That would be foolish of him, Rosie replies. Turning off the spigot would 
further impoverish the Iraqi people.

But that never bothered him before, counters Nellie. And by keeping oil 
prices up, he would greatly please the Russians, whose economy is being 
saved only by the high price of their main export. Russian technology and 
scientists in Iraq already help make it possible for inspection-free Saddam 
to build weapons of mass destruction and buy missiles to deliver them.

Relax, says Rosie, a little testily. Even if the price of oil stays 
sky-high, that does not mean it would cause inflation, triggering higher 
interest rates, then a stock market drop followed by recession.

Nellie: But isn't that what happened last time?

Rosie: That was then, when we were all hung up on the business cycle. Rest 
assured that the New Economy can withstand oil shocks, bursting bubbles and 
all the ills that flesh is heir to.

Nellie: But there has to be something the president can do. What if October 
gets cold in Connecticut and the price of heating oil is out of sight?

Rosie: No problem -- we dump our strategic oil reserve on the market and 
call it the Lieberman solution. Good quick fix that gets us past the 

Nellie: But what about a war shock on top of an oil price shock? Saddam is 
saying that OPEC should defy superpowers, and claims that Kuwait is stealing 
his oil by drilling slantwise. Isn't that what he said last time, just 
before he started the gulf war?

Rosie: It's a bluff. Here is a statement from Gen. Paul Mikolashek of the 
U.S. Central Command, an unbeatable force stretched from Pakistan to Egypt. 
''I see a lot of rhetoric . . . [Saddam's] armed forces have been 
degraded.'' Not to worry. ''Degraded'' is Pentagonese for ''hurt'' and shows 
that the jargon of our military mind is invincible.

Nellie: Like how many troops do we have there? It took over half a million 
to stop Saddam last time.

Rosie: We have 4,500 troops in Kuwait, a couple of Patriot batteries, an 
Apache helicopter unit, plus an air base to patrol the no-fly zone. Maybe 
15,000 more troops floating around nearby.

Nellie: That's going to stop the whole Iraqi Army? Apaches that couldn't 
take off in Kosovo?

Rosie: Look, if Saddam miscalculated again, we'd reassemble the Grand 
Coalition, call up our reserves, and send in CNN's Bernard Shaw to narrate 
the bombing of Baghdad -- the whole nine-yard megillah.

Nellie: Bill Clinton would do that?

Rosie: All from upward of 50,000 feet, with not one U.S. casualty.

Nellie: But what if Saddam says he has the Bomb? And says he's willing to 
commit suicide but would take Tel Aviv or New York along with him? It may be 
a bluff, but he's had years to build a nuclear or biological bomb in secret, 
and I'd hate to be the president to take the chance. We have no defense 
against a single missile, you know.

Rosie: Get over your nightmares. After we call his military bluff, we'll get 
next week's G-7 meeting to demand the oil cartel cut prices to $20 a barrel. 
Then it's world prosperity as far as the ear can hear.

Who's right, Rosie Scenario or Nervous Nellie? I say we should hope for the 
best and prepare for the worst. That means asking this president and the 
candidates to take his place: What if? Are we ready?

Let each cool-headed debater say during those 90 unforgiving minutes how he 
would deal with Saddam's economic and military threats. As Kipling never 
wrote: If you can keep your head while all others about you are losing 
theirs -- perhaps you don't understand the seriousness of the situation.

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