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Re: Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - dissident view PART FOUR

Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - Prioritizing the Future

Short post!

The causes of the humanitarian crisis are not identical with the 
obstacles to the solution of the crisis.
Identifying and removing the obstacles is more important than 
identifying and weighting all of the causes.

1. Alexander Sternberg writes in a recent post to the CASI list, 
‘Proponents of lifting sanctions incredibly state, "the direct cause of 
the suffering is much less relevant than ascertaining what can be done 
to prevent it".' (para 5)

2. It would be helpful if Sternberg could identify who said this and 
where, so we can check whether this is an accurate quote, and to find 
out what the author intended. Recall Sternberg's strictures against 
anti-sanctions activists who engage in argument based on ‘anecdotal 
information' and selected statements ‘used out of context.' (para 12)

3. I myself have advanced a similar proposition (or truism, as I prefer 
to regard it), suggesting two things.

4. Firstly, that the morally urgent question is not what caused the 
deaths of half a million Iraqi children under the age of five between 
1990 and 1998 (UNICEF does not allocate responsibility between the 
economic sanctions and other possible causes), but what will cause 
the deaths of Iraqi children, and adults, in the period that lies ahead, 
in the period from 26 August 2001. 

5. The case for lifting economic sanctions rests on the recognition that 
there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and that the economic sanctions 
pose the greatest obstacle to the solution of that humanitarian crisis, 
and that enormous numbers of lives can be saved and enormous 
suffering prevented if the economic sanctions were lifted immediately.

6. The causes of the humanitarian crisis are not identical with the 
obstacles to the solution of the crisis. The crisis has been caused, in 
part, by the bombing campaign of 1991 (and therefore, indirectly, by 
the sabotage of real peace efforts by the US in the period before the 
war), the civil strife of 1991, the sabotage of the oil-for-food deal by 
the USA, the inherent limitations on oil-for-food, the ban on foreign 
investment and foreign loans, the ban on direct Iraqi access to foreign 
exchange, the ban on Iraqi exports other than oil, the ‘brain drain' of 
skilled professionals from Iraq, and so on.

7. Some of these causes are historical and immutable. Damage done in 
1991 cannot be undone by campaigning now for the prevention of 
the 1991 Gulf War. (It might be undone by campaigning for 
restitution, but this is such a distant prospect it is not even on the 
fringes of political discussion.) Other causes (such as the brain drain) 
are consequences of the shutting down of the Iraqi economy and the 
shift to mass poverty under the pressure of economic sanctions.

8. The point is to identify the key determining obstacles to the 
solution of the humanitarian crisis in the future, and to remove them, 
not to identify (and weight) all the causes which have contributed to 
the creation and accentuation of the humanitarian crisis in the past.

9. If we want to be moral actors, then it is appropriate and necessary 
to focus concern on our own responsibility for the suffering in Iraq, 
to take responsibility for what our own governments do in our names 
and with our taxes.  Noam Chomsky wrote some time ago, ‘There is 
no way to give a precise measure of the scale of our responsibility in 
each particular case, but whether we conclude that our share is 90 
per cent, or 40 per cent, or 2 per cent, it is that factor that should 
primarily concern us, since it is that factor that we can directly 
influence.' (Turning the Tide, 1985, p. 2)

10. If it were true that the Government of Iraq were solely and 
entirely responsible for the suffering in Iraq, and that no share of 
responsibility could be taken by the sanctions regime imposed by the 
UN (actually by the US and UK), there would be very little point in 
campaigning to lift the economic sanctions, because their removal 
would not improve the situation. But it is now almost universally 
acknowledged that, as UNICEF put it in 1999, when announcing their 
landmark study in child mortality in Iraq, sanctions are ‘a factor' in the 
deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. 

11. The emerging international consensus (with two obvious 
exceptions) is that economic sanctions are not only ‘a' factor, but the 
major, determining factor in the perpetuation of the humanitarian 

12. Given British and US responsibility for maintaining sanctions, the 
moral is clear.

Milan Rai
Joint Coordinator, Voices in the Wilderness UK
29 Gensing Road, St Leonards on Sea East Sussex UK TN38 0HE
Phone/fax 0845 458 9571 local rate within UK
Phone/fax 44 1424 428 792 from outside UK
Pager 07623 746 462
Voices website

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