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A RESPONSE TO ALEXANDER STERNBERG Part IV Lifting Sanctions on Iraq - Prioritizing the Future Short post! Summary: 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. CAUSES AND PREVENTION 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. RESPONSIBILITY 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 crisis. 12. Given British and US responsibility for maintaining sanctions, the moral is clear. Milan Rai Joint Coordinator, Voices in the Wilderness UK firstname.lastname@example.org 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 http://viwuk.freeserve.co.uk -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk