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re : Clinton's "$19 bn"

Regarding Clinton's Democracy Now interview with Amy Goodman, Hugh wrote :

>Apparantly, Saddam Hussein is now getting $19 billion whereas he was
>getting only $16 billion before the gulf war, from oil.
>What I think it's important to know is whether this is a lie,
>a misleading statement, or true.

Some comments :

Due to the high oil price there are now much larger revenues being made
available through the oil-for-food programme than was the case previously
(though 33% are still currently being deducted for war reparations and UN
expenses - a figure that should shift to 28% with the next phase).

Clinton does not spell out for which period he's claiming $19 billion will
be available eg. is this supposed to be a figure for the current year (ie.
phases VII and VIII) or a projected figure for a one-year period at the
current oil price ? (The assumption that the oil price remains at its
current high level is quite a big one. Such a "projection" would also have
to assume that Iraq is able to maintain its current oil export levels -
again, no small assumption given the limited amounts available for oil spare
parts under oil-for-food and their obstruction by the US in Sanctions

As for the revenues available during phases VII and VIII :

- total revenues for the first half of this year (phase VII) came to :
$8.285 ("Basic Figures" for the oil-for-food programme, OIP web-site
(, 3rd November 2000)

- so far (November 3rd) Iraq has pumped over $8bn worth of oil in Phase
VIII. On the 21st September oil-for-foods Executive Director estimated total
revenues for Phase VIII at "about $10 billion".

Adding these two figures together we get $18.285. Deducting 33% we arrive at
a yearly figure of $12.25 bn for the the purchase of humanitarian supplies
(throughout Iraq) - considerably less than Clinton's $19 bn. This seems to
support the "projection" interpretation (Incidentally the British Government
currently uses a figure of "$16 billion" as opposed to Clinton's "$19

More importantly Clinton argues that if Iraq is currently raising more money
though oil exports than it did before the 1991 Gulf War then any child
malnutrition etc... in Iraq are the fault of Saddam Hussein. (This is
separate from his claim that Iraq *is* currently raising more money though
oil exports than it did before the 1991 Gulf War.)

This argument is obviously flawed. Iraq's needs now are radically different
from what they were prior to the invasion of Kuwait. Indeed, prior to
sanctions Iraq had spent *decades* developing : lowering levels of child
mortality, improving literacy and water sanitation etc ... Much of this
progress has been destroyed - "rolled back" - by the devastation wrought by
the 1991 Gulf War and its aftermath and, of course, by ten years of

The question is clearly not what level of funds Iraq needed in 1990 but what
it needs now.

According to the current UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq,Tun Myat,
"the overall well-being of the people [of Iraq]" will "not improve" unless
"the basics - housing, electricity, water and sanitation -
[are] restored" (Press Briefing, 19th October).  The Economist Intelligence
Unit estimates the cost of reconstructing Iraq's essential infrastructural
utilities at $50 - $100 billion. In fact they described this as a
conservative estimate.

There are also major problems inherent in an like "oil for food". Indeed,
Human Rights Watch recently (August 4th) noted that :

"An emergency commodity assistance program like oil-for-food, *no matter how
well funded or well run*,
cannot reverse the devastating consequences of war and ten years of virtual
shutdown of Iraq's economy ... The deterioration in Iraq's civilian
infrastructure is so far-reaching that is can only be reversed with
extensive investment and development efforts." (emphasis added)

Ramsey's point about the Iraqi economy is also crucial. As the Economist
Intelligence Unit have noted (March 2000), for normality to return to Iraq
"sanctions will have to come to an end.

(Of course, there is also little value to Iraq in having an abstract right
to import humanitarian goods, if in practice they're going to be blocked in
the Sanctions Committee. As I'm sure we're all aware there are currently
more than $2 billion worth of goods placed "on hold". There's a useful
summary of material on the Sanctions Committee in voices' briefing "Strangle
Hold" which is available from the voices uk office.)

Finally, Hazim writes that the "Iraqi Government has absolutely no control
over" oil-for-food monies. In one sense this is true : the money is paid
into a bank account in New York and Iraq has to obtain permission from the
UN for each item it wishes to purchase with that part of the monies
allocated (by the UN) for humanitarian supplies. However it is the Iraqi
Government that draws up the distribution plan for the 53-54% of funds
allocated it (by the UN) for purchase of humanitarian supplies in south/
central Iraq. This plan then has receive the UN Secretary-General's seal of

Richard Garfield put it the following way (CASI Nov. '99 Conference
Proceedings, page 39) :

"[oil-for-food] reduces the Iraqi government to the status of domestic
governor under an external sovereignty : it's an occupied country where
nationals continue to manage civil administration but an international force
controls everything else"

I hope these remarks are useful.

Best wishes,

voices in the wilderness uk

tel. 01865 - 243 232

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