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Smart sanctions

Hello, all. I haven't had time to look over the new proposals yet, but 
here's an op-ed about smart sanctions that a colleague and I wrote. We 
haven't been able to get it into any newspapers, but it's on some websites 
and made it onto Yahoo! Full Coverage, where it's the first opinion piece I 
have seen saying smart sanctions are more of the same, rather than a major 

If any of you can make use of it, please feel free.

In solidarity,

Rahul Mahajan

Middle East News Online, June 14, 2001
Media Monitors Network, June 13, 2001
Common Dreams News Center
Yahoo! Full Coverage (this one will only be good for a 
short time)

"Smart" sanctions, dumb politics
by Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen

When politicians feel compelled to label a policy "smart," there's a good
chance it isn't. Such is the case with the new proposal for "smart
sanctions" on Iraq.
Last week's U.N. Security Council temporary extension of the oil-for-food
program in Iraq postponed the fight over the smart-sanctions plan proposed
by the British and United States. In the next month, it's crucial for the
American people to pressure the Bush administration to abandon this latest
ruse and allow economic sanctions to be lifted.
The problem with smart sanctions is that they likely will have the same
effect on the Iraqi people as smart bombs did during the Gulf War. No
matter whether the weapons are dumb or smart, the targets -- the Iraqi
people -- will continue to die.
Economic sanctions, allegedly placed on Iraq to force compliance with U.N.
resolutions about weapons of mass destruction, have killed more than 1
million civilians, according to United Nation's figures. Most of the world
wants to lift the cruel embargo, but the United States insists on keeping
the screws on the Iraqi people.
The latest turn of the screw is the U.K./U.S. proposal for
"new-and-improved" sanctions, which Bush administration officials
disingenuously suggest will alleviate the suffering of ordinary Iraqis. But
instead of allowing Iraq to recover from the one-two punch of war and siege
that have devastated the economy, the plan would keep the country
subjugated indefinitely under a kind of U.N. trusteeship.
Under the current system, all imports are prohibited unless specifically
approved by the U.N. Sanctions Committee. The proposal calls for automatic
approval of imports except for a 23-page listed of banned or suspect items
that includes almost all computer and telecommunications equipment, as well
as other necessary civilian items which may have potential military uses.
This likely will allow more goods in, but the shortage of food, medicine
and other goods is only part of the problem. The plan will not stimulate
the local economy or allow the foreign investment needed to reconstruct
Iraq's industrial base. More food in the country is meaningless if ordinary
Iraqis can't afford it, and until the economy is rebuilt their purchasing
power will not increase.
Smart sanctions have the same motivation as the 1991 Gulf War and the dumb
sanctions of the past decade -- not primarily to contain Iraqi military
aggression (even Dick Cheney has admitted that Iraq poses no substantial
military threat to its neighbors) but to maintain control over the Middle
East. Keeping Iraq a pariah state provides an excuse for a permanent
land-based U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.
But recent developments are starting to undermine U.S. control. France and
Russia have tired of toeing the U.S. line on Iraq, and Iraq's traditional
trading partners are tired of bearing the economic costs of the sanctions
regime. The resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also has played
a part, forcing the elites who rule the Arab world to take stronger stances
against the U.S.-dominated status quo in the region.
The new U.K./U.S. proposal is not the result of humanitarian concerns, but
an attempt by the Bush administration to shore up U.S. power in the face of
these challenges. Serious concerns about peace and democracy in the region
suggest another path.
Iraq needs to be able to resume normal economic, political and social life.
The current system that sends Iraqi oil proceeds to a U.N.-administered
account -- a feature retained in the new proposal -- has meant a collapse
of the local economy; the Iraqi government is not even allowed to use the
money to buy local goods and services.
The sanctions have made it impossible to maintain anything beyond minimal
educational, health, and social services. Families are at the mercy of
unscrupulous profiteers. Women, who bear the brunt of the costs in enforced
impoverishment, have been disempowered. Iraq is the only country in the
world where literacy decreased in the past 10 years. There has been an
explosion in crime that would have been unthinkable before. Iraqis have
changed from a generally pro-Western orientation to a violently
anti-Western one.
The only way to change this is to put real control of Iraq back in Iraqi
hands. This will make the government and Saddam Hussein more accountable to
the people for economic policy, and not allow it to blame the West for
Iraq won't democratize tomorrow if it is freed today, but continuing the
sanctions regime will only continue to delay that process.
Mahajan is a doctoral candidate in physics and Jensen is a professor of
journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Both are members of the
coordinating committee of the National Network to End the War Against Iraq.
They can be reached at

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