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Re: Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - dissident view

*An Open Letter back to Alexander Sternberg*

Dear Alexander,

I appreciated your 'dissident view' on the casi list. It's always
necessary to have debate and to not become complacent or dogmatic in the
view one holds. Your clearly know your stuff, and hopefully your message
will provoke more responses on the list.

But in the spirit of this, I was quite put out by the tone of your e-mail.
Constant references to 'breathtaking naivete', 'what planet are these
people on', 'what is their hidden agenda', 'have you never heard of', and
to the supposed lack of commitment and energy of Halliday and Sponeck -
all this just makes me very angry.

A plea, therefore: argue on the facts - as you do most powerfully - but
leave out the cheap jibes about the commitment, knowledge and motivation
of those who disagree with you. Many people to whom you refer have devoted
very many years to acquiring detailed knowledge of the situation in Iraq,
and to arguing the case against sanctions based on that knowledge.
Similarly, it seems churlish to dispute the fact that Von Sponeck and
Halliday made a brave and principled decision based on their own informed
interpretation of the facts in front of them. You may well disagree, but
that isn't the point.

I know that there are strong feelings on both sides about this issue and
that it's obviously inevitable - indeed necessary - that emotion enters
into arguments on some level.  But levelling personal insults at your
opponents is almost certain to weaken your argument and lower the level of
the debate. (This cuts both ways - list members with long memories may
well remember me making similar points with regard to previous
disagreements on this very list!)

As an aside, I'm also not sure that the casi website is especially
mono-dimensional - have you seen the information links page?! Obviously as
CASI is a campaign organisation against the sanctions, opposition to
sanctions is likely to be the inevitable emphasis of the website. It
would be rather weird if it wasn't! But I can hardly see that, just as an
example, the following page: (a list of links to
UK statements on the sanctions) is particularly biased towards our own

Anyway, I'm getting on my high-horse now.. But the key point I'm making is
this: I don't think you're naive or ill-informed, Alexander, I just think
you're wrong. It would be great if you could return the favour.

With my very best wishes,

(not writing in any official CASI capacity).

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