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Re: Not Shooting Ourselves In The Foot

Dear Dave (and others),

I think you are being rather unfair. I think most of us (certainly me) 
can't just use our heads and 'rationality' when addressing sanctions. That 
would make us inhuman. And I do sometimes feel uncomfortable with the 
'techno-talk' that seems to be about number crunching & resolutions and 
that seems to be detached form the actual suffering from people. Having 
said this, I am convinced that we have to be think about the kind of issues 
Mil is addressing. We precisely need to avoid the dangers of  quoting 
numbers without being able to back them up, because it is only on this 
level that 'the pro-sanctions lobby can discredit us. They do it all the 
time, i.e. quote numbers which can't be backed up. We need to be more 
careful than 'them'.

Anything I do related to the campaign to lift economic sanctions comes from 
the bottom of my heart, indeed it is screaming all the time. But I know 
that I have to use my head and intellect to be effective and credible.


At 21:17 01/03/01 +0000, you wrote:
>In Mil's opening statement he thanks us for our thoughtful postings, but
>mine at least wasn't thought out but straight from the heart.
>Mil constructs an idealised system of logic, then goes on tell us how we
>ought rationally to structure our beliefs to fit in with his system. But
>does reality correspond with his theory? And even if it does is that the
>only way forward? I believe there are many ways forward but he  seems to
>believe that only his way is correct, and that we should all conform to his
>understanding of the situation. An underlying assumption is that what we've
>seen is so horrendous that we are unable to digest or to deal with it, and
>only he with his logical approach is able to cope.
>But more than that is a strong hint that we are dangerous and prolonging the
>agony for the Iraqi people, there is no place for freedom of thought within
>Mil's construction. This is the sort of authoritarian attitude that I see
>coming from Governments, and it dismays me to see it in the ante sanctions
>Yours Dave.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Milan Rai <>
>To: CASI Discussion Group <>
>Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2001 8:18 AM
>Subject: 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
> > 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
> > into an effective force for change, an effective force against the lies
> > 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
> > 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
> > 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
> > shooting ourselves in the foot
> >
> > I'm not urging anyone to stop saying that they believe that 1 million
> > 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
> > 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
> > bringing a lot of it together). There is no need for us to make claims
> > 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
> >
> > Mil
> >
> > 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:
> >
> >
>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:


Dr Nadje Al-Ali
Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
University of Exeter
Old Library
Prince of Wales Road
Exeter EX4 4JZ
Tel.: (o) (+44)  (0) 1392 264026
mobile:  (+44)  (0) 7801 931869
Fax:        (+44)       (0) 1392 264 035
Visit the Institute's Website:

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