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RE: evidence that US/UK targetted Iraq's water supply?

Hi Fay,

Yes, the document referred to there can be found on; search for "water
treatment" on that page.  There are also some links associated with it,
pointing to discussion about it.

There's been some debate about whether the document should be read as
describing or prescribing sanctions' harm to Iraq's water treatment
capability.  My own reading of it is the former: this warned policy makers
of what might happen.  Note that it does not discuss targetting Iraq's water
treatment facilities; it merely outlines Iraq's capabilities, and what can
be expected to happen to those capabilities under sanctions.

The book that I found most useful in providing me with insight into the war
planners' thinking is Gordon and Trainor's The Generals' War (if you buy it
5003-6841258 I think that CASI receives a very small sum of money).  They
explain that the "strategic doctrine" followed was to attempt to hit
directly at the centres of legitimacy of the Iraqi government, rather than
"merely" blowing up tanks in the desert.  The planners surmised that part of
the Iraqi government's legitimacy in the eyes of its population derived from
its ability to provide basic services for them.  Therefore, destroying that
capability would erode the government's legitimacy in the eyes of its
population, encouraging them to directly challenge the government.

The main UN sources on Iraq's infrastructure in the immediate post-war
period are the Ahtisaari report (available at and the Sadruddin Aga Khan
report (available at
and  Links to both
of these are in the UN Secretary-General section of CASI's website, at

Since 1991, it has been clear that contaminated water is one of the major
contributors to child malnutrition, and therefore excess death rates.
Furthermore, it is recognised that restoring clean water involves more than
simply rehabilitating water treatment plants.  The electrical system needs
to be restored, to ensure proper operation of the plants (and prevent
vacuums, which may suck contaminated water back through the pipes).  Cracked
pipes must be repaired.  Finally, the labour to do all of this must be
mobilised.  There has been some debate about why the Iraqi government has
not encouraged boiling of drinking water.  I do not know the answer to this.

Other key reports on the damage done to Iraq during the Gulf War were
published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991 and 1992.  The
first of these is, "Special Report: the effect of the Gulf crisis on the
children of Iraq", and can be found in NEJM vol. 325(13), pp. 977 - 980
(Sept. 26, 1991).  The second of these is, "Special Report: effect of the
Gulf war on infant and child mortality in Iraq", NEJM vol. 327(13), pp.
931 - 936 (Sept. 24, 1992).  Unfortunately, the NEJM's website
( does not carry full articles back to 1993.

Good courage with the article.  Yes, it is upsetting to watch as some of the
events repeat themselves, and this time in a country without oil wealth to
fight through with.

Best wishes, and thank you,

Colin Rowat

work | Room 406, Department of Economics | The University of Birmingham |
Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK | 0121 414 3754 | 0121 414 7377 (fax)

personal | 07768 056 984 (mobile) | (707) 221 3672 (US fax) |

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