The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Not Shooting Ourselves In The Foot

Dear Margarita, Felicity, Dave, John (and everyone else)

Many thanks for your thoughtful postings.

Like you, I've seen the sanctions at work in hospitals in Iraq, and, like
you, I've found it a tearing experience which is very difficult to digest or
to deal with.

Like you, I've dedicated a large part of the last few years to trying to
wake up public opinion back here in the West and to mobilising that opinion
into an effective force for change, an effective force against the lies and
deceit of the British government in particular.

Part of that effort has been trying to gather together and distribute the
information needed to refute Foreign Office lies as they appear (and
re-appear, and re-appear).

Only solid, independent, credible information can empower people to resist
the tidal wave of propaganda we get every day about Iraq, and help them to
persuade others, and to widen the circle of dissent and resistance.

I'm sure we all agree on that.

When, inadvertently or perhaps sometimes carelessly - I can think of Voices
UK's early use of the supposed FAO estimate of 1995, for example - we
disseminate information which is not solid, independent and credible, we
weaken the movement. People who get that information use it (against their
MPs or the Foreign Office, or whoever).

If those activists then are unable to back up what they claim, if those
activists are shown to be saying things which aren't true, that failure
shakes their confidence, makes them less likely to campaign, undermines
other people's willingness to hear what they are saying, sets back the hopes
of the Iraqi people.

It helps to prolong the agony which all five of us have seen many times in
Iraq's hospitals.

I'm sure we all agree on this, too.

The point of my original intervention, and in part of Per's careful - not
academic, but careful - posting, was to say:
a) anti-sanctions activists in the past have claimed that the UN or a UN
agency has estimated child deaths due to sanctions at 500,000, or total
deaths due to sanctions at 1 million, or similar figures
b) these claims cannot be backed up - neither the UN nor any UN agency has
made such estimates
c) if we make such claims ABOUT WHAT THE UN IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE SAID we are
shooting ourselves in the foot

I'm not urging anyone to stop saying that they believe that 1 million Iraqis
may have been killed by the economic sanctions. This seems quite a
reasonable figure. But it is not a figure that we can attribute to the UN.

By making such unfounded claims, we weaken the movement, we prolong the
agony of children in Iraqi hospitals.

Let's put it in a suitably un-academic way:

Making unfounded claims does not help the children of Iraq. It helps George
Bush and Robin Cook and Tony Blair.

All of us on this list are dedicated to ending the economic sanctions as
soon as possible. There is plenty of solid, independent, credible
information around to help us do that (CASI has played an invaluable role in
bringing a lot of it together). There is no need for us to make claims that
we cannot support.

Let's get on with campaigning, using the best information we can and
supporting each other as much as we can.

Best wishes


Milan Rai
Joint Coordinator
Voices in the Wilderness UK
National Office
16B Cherwell St, Oxford OX4 1BG

Personal contact details
29 Gensing Road, St Leonards-on-sea TN38 0HE
ph 0845 458 9571 (local rate) pager 07623 746 462

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]