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.
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A while ago Peter Brooke raised the important question of sovereignty over the Iraqi economy.
"The main objection that has been raised to 'smart sanctions' has been that
Iraq needs a large influx of investment to rebuild the infrastructure
destroyed in the Gulf War. Theoretically this could be done under the new
proposals - if the Iraqi government were prepared to surrender its
sovereignty, its control over Iraqi finances, to the 'international
community' (when our government blames the Iraqi government for the
suffering of the Iraqi people it is because they refused to do this at a
much earlier date. It has always been the essence of the 'oil for food'
proposal originally put forward in the immediate aftermath of the war)."
Surely economic sovereignty has already passed from Baghdad to the UN. Key decisions regarding Iraq's export-driven economy are all being taken outside Iraq and, as Voices convincingly argue, the US/UK decision to maintain sanctions is the main factor in perpetuating the humanitarian crisis. Under UN economic management, which is what sanctions are, Iraq has suffered an unprecedented catastrophe. Bureaucratic management of a nation of 22 million people by the UN in my opinion has nothing to recommend it, and would still have nothing even if Saddam did not baulk at his new role as colonial administrator of the Iraqi economy for the US and UK.
If we want to help the Iraqi people the best thing we can do to their economy is leave it alone. No escrow account, no 661 Committee, no dual use list, no banned items list, no creaming off a quarter or a third of Iraq's revenue for "compensation". Iraq has the same right we claim for ourselves: the right to control it's own resources and economy.
Peter also mentions military sanctions. All countries have a right to defend themselves from armed attack under the UN Charter; therefore Iraq has a right to defend itself from US/UK bombing raids. To do this, it needs arms. The US and UK would doubtless prefer the Iraqis to be reduced to throwing stones at their planes but if planes engaged in indiscriminate bombing in violation of international law are shot down they only have themselves to blame. I'm against the arms trade, but I'm also against the bombing of defenceless people and in favour of their right to self-defence, which means I'm against military sanctions(which just make Iraq a softer target), at least until the war/sanctions end.
There is a vital need to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region. However, the West is obsessed with completely eliminating such weapons from Iraq, while Israel's huge nuclear arsenal and chemical/biological weapons remain intact. Unilateral disarmament is not something we should foist on other countries; if we believe in this kind of disarmament, why don't we lead the way and disarm ourselves first?
The fact that Iraq has actually used such weapons is sometimes cited in support of this argument. But according to that argument the USA, which nuked Japan twice during WW2, should be subjected to starvation-sanctions, like Iraq, and forced to relinquish all its WMD. You don't hear the proponents of the argument saying that. Multilateral disarmament, on the basis of negotiation and persuasion, not bombing, not economic warfare, is the way forward.