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Government rejects Sheffield petitition



Sheffield Campaign Against War in the Gulf


Government rejects Sheffield petition against sanctions and bombing of Iraq


Introduction

In early 2001, the Sheffield petition against sanctions and bombing of Iraq was submitted to the government. Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn deposited the sheaf of over 1,000 signatures in the bin behind the Speaker’s Chair. The text of our petition was entered into the official record.

The UK government has rejected our petition! The “Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs” – presumably Brian Wilson, Peter Hain’s replacement at the Foreign Office’s Middle East and Africa desk – has issued a statement, entitled “Supplement to the Votes and Proceedings”, which sets out the government’s reasons for rejecting our petition. The government’s rejection of our petition, and its defence of the policy of sanctions and bombing of Iraq, is a disgrace!
We have reproduced it in full below, with a point by point rebuttal by the Sheffield campaign.

This point-by-point rebuttal is a draft. We have decided to circulate this draft as widely as possible, and invite supporters to suggest about how it can be improved. The task is not only to refute the Secretary of State’s arguments, but to defend the Sheffield petition. We don’t want to unduly prolong the process of arriving at a final text, but any suggestions for changes and improvements will be taken seriously.

But first, our petition, which read as follows:
We, the undersigned, note with horror the genocidal effects of UN sanctions on Iraq which have killed at least 1.2 million Iraqis, including more than 500,000 children since 1990, and are now killing 5-6000 Iraqi children every month.*
We denounce the devastation of Iraq, including of its water, health and electricity services, by US and UK military forces since 1991.
We call on the UK government to stop military attacks, to end its support for sanctions on Iraq, and to withdraw all UK military forces from the Gulf.


We could provide the text with a set of footnotes, giving supporting facts/quotes/references for each of the points at issue.


Note on New US/UK proposals for changes to Iraq sanctions.

The US and UK are trying to retreat to a more defensible position, because they realise that their current policy is completely indefensible.
The main proposed change is to move from the present situation, in which every purchase must be approved by the UN sanctions committee, to one where Iraq would be free to buy anything so long as it was not on a banned list. But this is nothing like as big a change as might appear. The list of banned goods is going to be long, and will include many vital items which the US/UK considers dual-use. The FT reported that US diplomats were arguing that chemicals necessary for decontaminating water should be put on the banned list. Also, the current situation – in which Iraq’s oil receipts are paid into an escrow account in New York, from which all exporters to Iraq are paid – would continue unchanged.

It took a year of wrangling on the UN Security Council before it arrived at the dead-in-the-water UNSCR 1284. A key aim of the US and UK is to win Arab regimes back onto its side. But with the Israel- Palestine coflict going from bad to worse, and the rage of their own people getting hotter by the day, there is no guarantee that the Egyptian, Saudi etc governments will buy this new policy.

Conclusion: there is nothing in the proposed changes to the sanctions regime which would cause to change our response to the government’s rejection of our petition... or so it seems to me. If you think otherwise, please say.
- JS





“Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the Petition [13th February] from the Sheffield Committee Against War on Iraq and others calling on the House to urge the Government to stop military attacks on and end its support for sanctions against Iraq”


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS 1st March 2001
[To read the government’s response on its own, skip all the indented paragraphs.]

Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the Petition [13th February] from the Sheffield Committee Against War on Iraq and others calling on the House to urge the Government to stop military attacks on and end its support for sanctions against Iraq. 
With a point-by-point response by Sheffield Committee Against War in the Gulf.

The Government fully shares international concern about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Iraqi regime, not sanctions, is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people. 

Three reasons why these claims have zero credibility:
1)    Sanctions have compounded the effects of the systematic bombing of Iraq’s economy and infrastructure in 1991, and  – as intended – have caused utter economic collapse. The result has been a catastrophic decline in the living standards of the overwhelming majority of people. It is simply absurd to say that sanctions don’t cause civilian suffering.
2)    The Secretary of State’s assertion is contradicted by countless UN and independent reports on the impact of sanctions on Iraq’s civilian population. The growing international consensus was expressed by Julian Filochowski, Director of CAFOD, who said on his return from Iraq in February 2001: “sanctions are humanly catastrophic, morally indefensible and politically ineffective. They are a failed policy and must be changed.”
3)    The Secretary of State attempts to transfer all blame for the death of 1.5 million people and the suffering of millions more to the Saddam regime. He can’t say that sanctions are, say, 50% to blame, because that would mean admitting to responsibility for 750,000 deaths. So all he can do is lie.
But the lie could not work without its kernel of truth. It is true that the repressive and corrupt Iraqi regime has proven itself incapable of defending the most basic interests of the people. But who put Iraq’s Ba’ath dictatorship into power? Until a democratic revolution in 1958, Iraq was ruled by a monarchy that was beholden to Britain. The popular regime that came to power in 1958 was itself overthrown in 1963 by a CIA-organised coup, beginning decades of Ba’ath Party dictatorship.
In the ten years before the Gulf War, the US and UK provided Saddam with weapons of all descriptions, they encouraged his invasion of Iran, they protected him following his infamous gas attack on Halabja. The US even helped Saddam to crush the uprisings that threatened his regime in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.
Therefore, the UK and US governments cannot exculpate themselves by blaming Saddam Hussein, since they helped create him in the first place.


Under UN Security Council Resolution 1284—the comprehensive UK-led resolution on Iraq adopted in December 1999—Iraq could achieve the suspension and then lifting of sanctions by cooperating with the new UN arms control body, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), but the Iraqi regime refuses to cooperate, preferring to give priority to weapons not the welfare of the people. 
UNSCR 1284 stated that Iraq had to readmit weapons inspectors and they had to complete their work and declare Iraq cleansed of WMD before a rolling 120-day suspension of sanctions could begin.  Further suspensions would have to be agreed by the Security Council, where a US or UK veto would bring the immediate reimposition of sanctions. This procedure would be continued indefinitely.
Independent observers agree that such an arrangement would severely limit Iraq’s ability to enter into trade and investment relations with foreign parties, who would be in constant fear of a return of sanctions. Furthermore, all so-called dual-use items would continue to be subject to a new sanctions regime, whose design and modus operandi UNSCR 1284 left unclear.
The resignation in Spring 2000 of UN Humanitarian chief Hans von Spöneck and Jutta Burghardt of the World Food Programme was in part a repudiation of UNSCR1284, which continues to punish Iraq’s civilian population for the sins of the regime.
Public statements by US government leaders that sanctions would stay so long as Saddam Hussein remained in power contradicted the UN Security Council’s own resolution. The last time Iraq allowed teams of ‘UN weapons inspectors’ into their country, the US infiltrated CIA and Mossad agents, who acted as spies and pathfinders for US missile attacks. Given this experience, the deficiencies of UNSCR 1284, and given that the US/UK coalition are continuing their acts of war against Iraq, the UK government has no right to criticise Iraqis for their refusal to cooperate. 
UNSCR 1284 was born dead. Its real purpose was to provide a pretext for the continuation of sanctions.

The threat from Iraq’s weapons programme is real. A UN panel of 22 independent disarmament experts concluded in 1999 that serious gaps remained in Iraq’s declarations on chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, such as Iraq’s failure to tell the truth over its production and weaponisation of VX (nerve agent).
The Secretary of State attempts to use the alleged threat posed by their erstwhile ally in Baghdad to justify the UK government’s own military policy.
Iraq is not a military threat today because it is war-devastated and its economy is prostrate. US/UK policy is to ensure that it remains that way, until such time as a compliant regime takes power in Baghdad.
In the light of the following facts, government allegations of persistent Iraqi military threats can be seen for what they are. Propaganda.
·    the US and UK supply vast quantities of advanced ‘conventional’ weapons to other brutal and corrupt regimes in the region, such as Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia
·    the US and UK have helped Israel to acquire biological, chemical and nuclear weapons;
·    US and UK governments helped to set up Iraq’s weapons programme in the first place ;
·    Iraq was “bombed to a pre-industrial age” by US-led forces in 1991 (Dep. UN Gen. Sec. Maarti Artisaarhi, March 1991) and is the target of continuing aggression;
Given these and all facts, we call for those who put the weapons into Saddam’s hands to also be disarmed – this is why the Sheffield petition called for the withdrawal of UK military forces from the Gulf.
US and UK policy towards the Middle East is based on their own overwhelming military might (including the world’s largest stockpiles of ‘weapons of mass destruction’), and their readiness to use this force to advance their own interests – including to repress challenges by the peoples to their corrupt regimes.
Let they who have not sinned cast the first stone! The peoples of the Middle East who have been sinned against – by their own corrupt rulers, and by the foreign powers who have conspired to steal their wealth and control their governments.


Statements from Baghdad in January 2001 repeating Iraqi claims to Kuwait are a reminder of Iraq’s continuing ambitions and the need for the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Authority] and UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission] to re-establish an effective arms control regime in Iraq under SCR 1284.
The US and UK encouraged Iraq’s invasion of Iran and they protect Israel’s occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory. The UK in particular has aggravated and manipulated the Iraq-Kuwait border dispute to suit its own ends. So, we reject the attempt by the UK government to use this dispute as an excuse for their own continued military involvement.

Every member of the Security Council believes there must be progress on disarmament before there can be progress on sanctions.
The Secretary of State glosses over the deep differences between the US and UK and  other members of the Security Council. Three of the five permanent members reject the US/UK policy of confrontation. Hubert Vedrine, France’s Foreign Minister, stated last August that sanctions on Iraq were “cruel, ineffective and dangerous”  ; Russian and Chinese criticisms are even more strident. UNSCR 1284 was achieved after a year of deadlock on the Security Council, and when it was adopted , in December 1999, only Britain and the US out of the ‘permanent five’ actually voted for it.

The UK has led attempts to alleviate the Iraqi people’s plight through improvements in successive “oil for food” resolutions of the Security Council. With UN SCR 1284’s removal of the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq can export, the “oil for food” programme has expanded sevenfold since it began in 1996, making available about $14 billion for humanitarian expenditure last year. The UN has also introduced simplified “fast-track” procedures to speed up the contract process. The majority of goods exported to Iraq are no longer referred to the Sanctions Committee. Iraq simply does not order the goods it needs. It failed, for example, to spend any of the $625 million allocated to the health sector during the last six-month phase of the “oil for food” programme. 
It is true that some of the most extreme elements of the sanctions regime were modified by UNSCR 1284. These changes amount to a tacit admission that previous procedures had caused civilian suffering, something the Secretary of State continues to deny. However, Iraq’s humanitarian crisis is the consequence of economic collapse and can only be lifted through revival of the economy. Whilst the US and UK do not so actively impede humanitarian supplies, they continue to block purchases of materials and equipment vital for economic reactivation. Iraq is only allowed to sell oil, and while the export ceiling has been lifted, US and UK ‘holds’ on spare parts and machinery continue toi seriously disrupt efforts to repair Iraq’s war-damaged and decrepit oil industry.

UK and US forces are certainly not engaged in the devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, including its water services. Indeed, as part of the UK’s wider programme of aid to Iraq—worth about £6 million a year—the Department for International Development is currently funding two water and sanitation projects in Baghdad-controlled Iraq.
The Sheffield petition referred to the devastation of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure during and since the 1991 Gulf War.
Once the 1991 blitz ended, the UN General Secretary sent his deputy, Maarti Ahtisaari to Iraq to produce a report on the aftermath. Ahtisaari stated: "It should ... be said at once that nothing we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has now befallen the country.” The people of Iraq face an "imminent catastrophe..." due to the war's destruction of an "economic infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly urbanised and mechanised society. Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous." What was the US and UK’s reaction to this dire warning? To impose swingeing sanctions, crippling Iraq’s ability to recover. They must have known what the consequences would be for children and people in Iraq. US/UK policy has helped to kill 1.5 million Iraqis, including at least 500,000 children under 5 years. And this killing was quite premeditated.
The Secretary of State says that Britain has a £6 million aid programme for Iraq. Estimates of the cost of repairing the damage wrought by allied bombs in 1991 start at $100 billion.
He says some of the £6m is to be spent on two water sanitation projects. In 1991 the country’s eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit by allied bombers, simultaneously wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power.  Four of seven major pumping stations were destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewerage facilities - 20 in Baghdad, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water purification plants were incapacitated throughout Iraq. For the next ten years US and UK ‘holds’ prevented Iraq  from obtaining chlorine and essential equipment needed to repair and clean the water system.


UK and US pilots patrol the No Fly Zones, which were established in 1991 and 1992 to stop Saddam Hussein continuing to use his aircraft in the brutal repression of his own people. Iraq’s limited military incursion into Kurdish territory for three days in December 2000, and some 250 violations of the NFZs by Iraqi combat-aircraft since December 1998, show Baghdad’s continuing hostility towards the Kurds and Shia of Iraq.
It is significant that the US and UK no longer claim UN authorisation for their illegal “no-fly” zones, in which they in effect assert their sovereignty over Iraqi airspace. The constant overflying of Iraq by US and UK warplanes is a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and of international law, and is deeply humiliating to many ordinary Iraqi people.
We question the sincerity of the UK/US’s proclaimed sympathy for the Kurds and Shia peoples. The same airbase which the RAF uses in Turkey to fly in defence of the Kurds is used by Turkish warplanes to bomb them. The “no-fly zones” were only imposed after Saddam had successfully quelled the post-Gulf War uprisings, and in any case apply only to fixed-wing aircraft, not helicopter gunships.


Since late 1998, Iraqi forces have targeted UK and US aircraft in the NFZs on more than 1200 occasions, including with artillery and missiles. In the first weeks of 2001, the threat to our aircrew increased. Iraq fired more missiles at our aircraft in January than in the whole of last year. This compelled us to act on l6 February against military targets directly linked to this increased threat, including some outside the NFZs. This action was a proportionate response in self-defence, taken solely in order to reduce the risk to our pilots. Every effort was made to avoid civilian casualties.
Iraq has a right to defend its airspace. If the UK government wants to protect ‘our pilots’, then they should not be given illegal orders to invade Iraq’s sovereign airspace and should be withdrawn.

Iraqi claims of civilian casualties must be treated with extreme caution. The Iraqis have claimed such casualties even on days when no UK/US aircraft have been flying.
We have also learned to treat the UK government’s pronouncements with extreme caution. Until he was stopped by US/UK pressure, the UN Humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq sent teams to visit the sites of recent bombing attacks; their findings almost always corroborated the Iraqi government’s casualty reports.

In conclusion…
We denounce the UK Government’s rejection of the Sheffield petition against sanctions and bombing of Iraq.
We reaffirm our call for an end to sanctions and bombing, and for the withdrawal of UK military forces from the Gulf.
We pledge to resubmit our petition to the government which is to be elected on June 7, 2001.




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