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Hi Alan, Thank you very much for your posting. I must say that it is something of a pleasure to hear you describe the tendency of list members to > invariably preface their denunciation of the sanctions and their > consequences with a condemnation of Saddam Hussein. As you know, official proponents of the economic sanctions on Iraq often claim that their opponents are naive about the behaviour of the Iraqi leadership. To the extent that this charge sticks, it is a damaging accusation. Furthermore, I do think that this is a real danger: I personally became concerned about the situation in Iraq when I heard about the effects of the policy that we were supporting nationally. This means that my concern with the harm done by others, in this case the Iraqi leadership, has been of secondary interest. As a result, I recognise that I risk overlooking this aspect unless I am careful. I am more worried about your observation that we then tend to > move on to a re-telling of the far greater brutality of the > Clinton-Blair-Albright cabal. I am certainly in no position to judge the relative "brutality" of Clinton, Blair, Albright or Saddam. I am not concerned about our Iraq policy because I believe that any of the former are more brutal than the latter, but simply because I do not believe that our brutality towards the Iraqi people is justified, however brutal the latter. I think that this is sufficient to justify our concern: I do not think that we need to attempt to characterise Clinton and friends as more brutal than Saddam; furthermore, we risk getting into an argument that we may lose if we make this claim. As to your question: > 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? my understanding is built on two elements, one concerned with the actual policies of the Iraqi government, the second concerned with the presentation of those policies by the US and UK governments. As to the first: the Iraqi government, like any other government, has had to offer some form of social contract, a deal whereby it gives something to its populace in return for the right to rule over them. As a dictatorship, it has had certain "advantages" that a democracy does not have: a democracy organises a "revolution" every so many years, in which the population is given an opportunity, more or less fair, to remove the government. Because dictatorships do not tend to hold such events, they face fewer challenges to the contract that they offer. The social contract offered by the Iraqi government runs something as follows: it provides economic and social opportunities to its population (the carrots); in return, it provides fewer political and civil opportunities than those to which we are accustomed - i.e. it will tolerate no challenges to its rule (the stick). The free education, health care, investment in infrastructure and the like mentioned fit this model. There is one political "carrot" that is often overlooked, namely political stability: For the first time in modern Iraqi history, a government - albeit at times a ruthless one, had thus achieved some success in forging a national community out of the country's disparate social elements. [Iraq: a country study, US Library of Congress' Federal Research Division, 1990. p. 62] There is, of course, a separate question of how impressive a social contract this is: Iraq's government is able to pay carrots out of the world's second largest oil reserves; could another government have avoided the incredibly costly war with Iran? In any case, since the 1991 war and under sanctions, the Iraqi government has had fewer carrots to offer. This has perhaps required it to rely more on sticks to maintain its power. It is therefore possible that the Iraqi government of the 1990s is, due to circumstances rather than innate character (if such a thing exists in the absence of circumstance), more "depraved and brutal" than it was in the 1980s. The second element of my understanding of the Iraqi goverment centres on its portrayal by the US and UK governments. The above quotation is interesting to me as it's taken from a book commissioned by a branch of the US government [available online; there is a link to it from our "info sources" page on CASI's website]. Its research was completed in 1998, after the Halabja gassings and the Iraqi jet attack on the USS Stark (killing 37) and at the height of the Anfal campaign; it is published in 1990, the year of Kuwait's invasion. Nevertheless, the tentative sympathy expressed above is not atypical. Up until that invasion, though, Iraq was a US and UK ally. John Kinahan's posting to this list on 8 August (available at http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2000/msg00870.html) reminded us that the British Council's representative in Iraq at the time ordered its employees to, "present the correct positive line about the regime of Saddam Hussein". On 12 February 1998, Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, recalled riding in a train back from the front with Iranian troops; they had been gassed: No sooner had I filed a series of reports to London on this new and terrible war crime of Saddam Hussein than a British diplomat, lunching with one of my editors in London, remarked that "Bob doesn't seem to understand the situation." True, he said, gas was a terrible weapon. But Saddam was fighting the West's war against Iranian fundamentalism - a danger which might set the whole Middle East ablaze and which could threaten the entire world. Wasn't The Times - the paper for which I then worked - putting a little too much emphasis on Saddam's sins? Since the invasion of Kuwait, though, this image has been reversed. George Bush Sr presented the US' involvement in the Gulf War as a personal vendetta: this man, Saddam, had betrayed us. It is therefore certainly the case that the depravity and brutality of the Iraqi government is much more widely publicised by the US and UK than it was prior to 1990. You also ask: > 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? I don't understand the reference to "Greece or Morocco" - I take these to be references to two "normal" countries, and your question to therefore be about what would happen if Iraq's economy was again allowed to develop "normally". First, an obvious point: questions about the future involve prediction, which is imperfect. Therefore no one has certain answers to these questions. The formation of good guesses, though, is both the best that any of us can do, and a responsibility if we are concerned with our current policies - as I think that we should be. My own guesses about this stem largely from my previous remarks on the social contract. Under sanctions, the Iraqi government has a very good excuse for the absence of carrots: the sanctions prevent them. This reduces the popular pressure on the Iraqi government to perform. We saw a variant on this theme during the 1980s war with Iran. In spite of possibly diminished popular expectations, the Iraqi government apparently borrowed heavily, not just to finance the war, but to finance consumer imports, to cushion ordinary Iraqis from the war's impact. When the war ended, the government did face a series of crises, including regular assassination attempts (see Freedman and Karsh's The Gulf Conflict), in part related to the public desire for an answer to the question of, "where has eight years of war left us?" Ironically, one of the reasons for invading Kuwait (again see Freedman and Karsh), may have been to offer Kuwait's oil wealth as an answer to that question. One question, then, is whether post-sanctions Iraq would again find itself in a situation where the government had to work very hard to satisfy popular expectations. The 1991 civil war showed, I think, the considerable level of anger among Iraqis about the government's invasion of Kuwait, and its consequences. This anger cannot all have dissipated and any evidence that the government was not working hard to fulfill its side of the social contract would be, I think, rapidly seized upon. Incidentally, these observations about perception also hold in the wider Arab world as Saddam does cast himself as a pan-Arab leader: the wider Arab world currently does seem to regard him as resisting US imperialism. If, once sanctions lift, he "applies the screws" then all of this political capital that he has gained will be squandered. > 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. In conclusion: I'm not a close enough "Saddam watcher" to know how his character has changed over the decade. It will have - a decade is a long time - but I think that the chief reason for our change in perceptions has been the end of our alliance. It seems highly unlikely that lifting sanctions would not ameliorate the situation in Iraq: economic sanctions are designed to damage economies, and therefore well-being; for the reasons outlined above, I do not think that removing them would lead to a perverse effect whereby the Iraqi government would seek to cast itself as the oppressor of Iraqis. It will almost certainly be the case that the Iraqi government will continue to be politically repressive: from their point of view, this will be more "necessary" than ever, given heightened expectations. Thank you again, Alan, for your questions. I do hope that this goes some way towards answering them. Please do let me know whether this raises any further questions. Best wishes, Colin Rowat ****************************************************** Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq http://www.casi.org.uk fax 0870 063 5022 are you on our announcements list? ****************************************************** 393 King's College www.cus.cam.ac.uk/~cir20 Cambridge CB2 1ST tel: +44 (0)7768 056 984 England fax: +44 (0)8700 634 984 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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