The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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I wish to call your attention to a widespread practice of writers on the sanctions in this, my first contribution to the list. Contributors to this discussion and writers disposed generally to be sympathetic to the Iraqi people almost invariably preface their denunciation of the sanctions and their consequences with a condemnation of Saddam Hussein. "There is no gainsaying the brutality of the Iraqi dictator," they say in various ways, "but. . ." And then they move on to a re-telling of the far greater brutality of the Clinton-Blair-Albright cabal. I find this ceremonial execration of Saddam to be tiresome in its repetition, bootless in its needless concession to the CBA group mentioned above, and puzzling as logic. Tariq Ali takes note of the practice in his editorial in the New Left Review (Sep-Oct 2000) when he writes that "No theme is more cherished by left-liberal camp followers of officialdom" than "that the domestic enormities of Saddam's regime are so extreme that any measure is warranted to get rid of him." Tariq himself succumbs to the tendency when he argues that Ba'ath brutality is undeniable, but not unique among present and past satellites of the United States. I have no expertise on matters of Iraqi daily existence prior to the Desert Storm assault, therefore I can only recall what others more knowledgeable than I say is part of the tragedy of Iraq: that by many measures of social and economic well-being Iraq was well in advance of its neighbors. The systems of health, public education, social security, etc. were enviable -- so the story goes. When Dan Rather walked the streets of Baghdad just before the war the scene mutatis mutandis was a pleasant one: people who appeared to be well fed and well dressed moving through attractive public spaces in pursuit of whatever business seemed to them important at the moment. Perhaps some or many of them were brooding about political repression or some other form of denial of rights. I could not say. I know that as a young man in the United States of 1950s and as a broadcaster with a major network 1969-1993 I was constantly aware of the change for the worse in American life from my formative years. Never, however, did I describe the reigning characteristic of that life as brutal however stupid and unjust many features of it were. My question to the list is this: how did a dictator as depraved and as brutal as Saddam was supposed to be from mid summer 1990 permit his country to provide those elevated levels of well-being noted above? And would he today, if sanctions were ended and Iraq were permitted to live as, say, Greece or Morocco are permitted to live, apply the screws to the people out of some innate brutality? Forgive my naiveté, but I don't get the change in character. If an end of sanctions would do nothing to ameliorate the plight of the Iraqi people, then we should all sign on to a Get Saddam campaign. If Saddam is only another excuse for the brutality of Albrights, Cohen, Gore, and their crowd, let's forget these ritualistic obeisances. One reason I shall not be voting for Gore next month is that American style liberalism concedes half the field to the opposition before it even buckles on its sword. I would like to stop conceding points to the destroyers of Iraq by painting it as a vile place with or without sanctions. Alan Bickley Port of Spain, Trinidad -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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://www.casi.org.uk