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 managed to get myself into the audience of "Breakfast with Frost" this morning, where David Frost interviewed three politicians - Simon Hughes from the Lib Dems, Michel Ancrom, of the Tories and the British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
I did not get a chance to put a point across about Iraq, so I assumed the trip was a waste of time. However, after the show, the politicians stood around and chatted with the audience for a while. I had the following conversation with John Prescott(after politely interrupting the person he was talking to!)
I put it to him that UN reports showed clearly that economic sanctions had killed hundreds of thausands of innocent Iraqis. He did not dispute the point and simply responded with "It's a balance of terror." I interpret this as meaning that a policy which kills civilians in an indiscriminate way is ok because it balances Saddam's ruthlessness. He asked me if I wanted sanctions lifted and when I said "yes" he replied "Jesus Christ!", probably thinking that I was some kind of nutter. The idea of lifting sanctions provoked him to blasphemy, but the idea, based on solid evidence,
that we are killing large numbers of civilians did not seem to bother him much. He then made an assertion that if Saddam complies with his obligations sanctions would be lifted. I asked him whether or not he thought we ourselves should comply with international law, as well as Saddam. He replied "We do" and then he was off.
I do not have a recording of our conversation, and I do not know if anyone nearby with recording equipment captured it on tape or disc, but the above is a fair account of it. What I found most interesting was the way John Prescott implicitly accepted that sanctions are a policy that targets civilians and explicitly described them as part of a balance of terror. There is an element of honesty here. I just wish I had it on tape!