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.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: can we trust Iraqi sources?

i had a question regarding the figures that may have been already answered
but if so i missed it. How accurate would the pre 1991 mortality rates be
that I suppose are the basis for sanction related death estimates. It seems
coming out of the Iran Iraq war it would have been in the governments
interest to see those figures deflated to add to the sense of the "victory
that wasn't" if those rates were deflated obviously that would make things
even more messy.

At 07:38 PM 12/17/01 -0000, Voices uk wrote:
>I've not much to add to Per's e-mail, except perhaps to stress that these
>remarks extend beyond the child mortality figures (which seem to be the
>focus of Per's e-mail). It's a matter of historical record that the Iraqi
>Government has often put out figures - and made statements - that are either
>misleading, false or inconsistent with earlier figures / statements of their
>own (and, as Per says, they are also clearly *not* a disinterested party).
>Dirk actually sent me a classic example last week - an AFP report (December
>5th) in which the Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammad Mehdi Saleh 'accused the UN
>sanctions committee ... of blocking six billion worth of contracts concluded
>within the framework of the "oil-for-food" program.' According to this
>report Saleh claimed that 'six billion dollars worth of contracts were
>*still* blocked by the UN sanctions committee' (emphasis added,  unlike the
>report Glenn mentions there doesn't seem to be any ambiguity here). Of
>course, the reporter had no problem finding out - and reporting - that there
>were actually $4.37 billion worth of goods on hold.
>Finally, Dirk wrote that 'There have been so many "independent reports",
>with "independent figures".' However if we're talking about child mortality
>figures this isn't actually true. Indeed, in his March '99 'Morbidity and
>Mortality' paper Richard Garfield noted that, whilst there was good data
>available on child nutrition, water quality and a number of other social and
>health indicators which influence child mortality, data was 'not available
>from any reliable studies on mortality since 1991' (the oft-cited 1995 FAO
>mission study 'suffered from serious flaws in methods and interpretation'
>and its results were subsequently withdrawn by its authors). This remained
>the case until the August '99 UNICEFsurvey.
>If it weren't for the UNICEF report the pro-sanctions lobby would find it
>much easier to claim that the humanitarian crisis was a propaganda
>fabrication, or deny its scale (for a good - if extreme - example of this
>see eg. Anthony Cordemann's book 'Iraq and the War of Sanctions'). I think
>it's also fair to say that  the UNICEF report played an important role in
>shifting public opinion over here in the UK.
>Best wishes,
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Dirk Adriaensens <>
>To: <>; Per
>Klevnäs <>
>Date: 16 December 2001 18:02
>Subject: Re: can we trust Iraqi sources?
>Dear Per and others,
>Prof.Waterlow, the "pope" of the nutritionists, wrote a letter in november
>1991 to the Lancet, appealing at the UN to monitor child mortality and the
>food situation on a monthly basis (J.C. Waterlow, "Malnutrition in Iraq" in
>The Lancet, 338,ii,23/11/1991). The answer in the Lancet of 21-28/12/1991: "
>there is compelling evidence that economic sanctions against Iraq have led
>to dangerous shortage of essential commodities, including food and medicine.
>Immediate action, rather than statistical analyses, is what's needed to
>avert a public health disaster in that country". A report of the WHO ("The
>effect of Embargo on Iraqi Children health status") in 1993 says: " it is
>not necessary to do another study to demonstrate that the embargo has a
>negative impact on the health status of the Iraqi children. What will the
>political decision be if there is an increase of mortality with 200 or 400%.
>Does it really depend on the amount of the increase? Is there a figure past
>which the embargo is no longer tolerated on humanitarian grounds?"
>There have been so many "independent reports", with "independent figures".
>The Harvard Study Team, "The effect of the Gulf Crisis on the Children of
>Iraq, published in the New England Journal Of Medicine, 1991. There was the
>International Study Team, "Infant and Child Mortality and Nutritional Status
>of Iraqi children after the Gulf Conflict", Cambridge, april 1992. There was
>the FAO report in 1993 "Nutritional Status Assessment Report" And so on, and
>so on. Report after "independent" report has been written. What has been
>done with the information in all these reports? Not much really. We are
>almost 2002 now, and still the child mortality is increasing, and in 6
>months time Iraq might be looking at the worst of things: the "smart
>sanctions" or even a new war. Of course it is important to have the correct
>facts & figures, but that is only one side of the medal. The other side is
>the analysis on why these sanctions are held in place. And there the answer
>is: oil, natural resources and the Iraqi will to reign over their own
>resources, independently from Western multinationals and their New World
>Order. There you have the reason for the creation of this humanitarian
>disaster. I think that the focus should be on both sides of the medal. We
>have to express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle
>against this New World Order. Otherwise "we risk to drown an emotional and
>humanly sensitive topic in dry numbers and discussion about statistics", as
>Per puts it.
>Dirk Adriaensens.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Per Klevnäs" <>
>To: "Dirk Adriaensens" <>;
>Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2001 12:30 PM
>Subject: Re: can we trust Iraqi sources?
>> Dear all,
>> First of all, I would like to note what has previously been said on this
>> discussion list in relation to this topic: we risk to drown an emotional
>> humanly sensitive topic in dry numbers and discussion about statistics. I
>> hope the below discussion can nonetheless be justified.  In my view, the
>> most powerful tool we have in engaging with those who disagree with us on
>> this issue is good information, and maintaining a credibility that makes
>> possible for others - especially those who do not agree with out
>initially -
>> to believe the information we present to be correct.
>> The most detailed critique of Government of Iraq figures I have read is in
>> an article by Amatzia Baram in the Middle East
>> Journal(  I disagree with
>> Baram's overall conclusion (that sanctions is the least worst option), but
>> think that many of statements he makes about the figures of the Government
>> of Iraq are plausible: its statistics are often are often internally
>> inconsistent, too precise to be possible, presented without any account of
>> the methodology used to arrive at them, and - crucially - tainted by a
>> clearly identifiable political interest that would serve to inflate them.
>> This is not to say that they are always incorrect: in fact, the 1999
>> mortality study arrived at a figure which was remarkably similar to that
>> excess under-five deaths which had previously been presented by the Iraqi
>> Ministry of Health.
>> However, it is precisely because it can be corroborated with Unicef's
>> that we know the Ministry of Health claim to have (at least quantitative)
>> substance.  Without impartial verification, we would end up in a situation
>> where argument is from authority only, and the basis for our claims would
>> that for various reasons we trust the Government of Iraq to be right.
>> we might choose to do, but we have no good basis for asking others to do
>> Instead they might, with the same argument from authority, choose another
>> authority: say, the US State Department or the UK FCO, which claim that
>> Iraqi figures are entirely unreliable and that we do not know that
>> have caused any harm.  In my view, this polarisation of the discussion of
>> sanctions is not helpful, as it cannot lead anywhere as long as people
>> choose to rely on different authorities.  To us, this is nonsense, but
>> the discussion simply comes to and end.  At its worst, such discussion has
>> tended to obscure the desperately important message we have: that our
>> on Iraq is contributing to a humanitarian disaster.
>> The situation would be different if there was no other information, but as
>> it is not, we do not actually need to rely on Iraqi government claims.
>> There is much other information on which to draw.  One of the most telling
>> aspects of Amatzia Baram's (Spring 2000) article was that although it
>> purports to discuss under-five mortality in Iraq, it is entirely silent on
>> Unicef's 1999 survey, which studies precisly this.  This is disingenuous:
>> what reason is there to omit from a detailed discussion the only impartial
>> and most comprehensive survey we know of?  Information on living standards
>> in Iraq under sanctions is publicly available: from Unicef, from the FAO
>> WFP, from the WHO, and many independent studies, to argue conclusively
>> the decade of economic sanctions has been one of a humanitarian disaster
>> Iraq.
>> I personally think this information is more than enough to argue against
>> sanctions.  While including Iraqi government statements in our argument
>> might sharpen the rhetorical edge of our claims somewhat, by slapping
>> (generally) higher and more numerically precise figures on what other,
>> impartial sources have already told us, they do so at the desperately high
>> price of undermining the credibility of what we are saying.  It gives
>> precious ammunition for the proponents of continued economic sanctions,
>> adding actual substance to the claim that we are merely dupes of the
>> Saddam's regime.  And, crucially, we would not have any way of ridding
>> ourselves of this claim: repeating a claim that is correct (whether in
>> substance or in absolute) does little good if one cannot say why it is
>> In this situation, relying on Iraqi claims that cannot be independently
>> verified does us little good.  More importantly, I personally believe that
>> it does little good for the process of ending sanctions.
>> Yours,
>> Per Klevnäs
>This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
>For removal from list, email
>CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.
>This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
>For removal from list, email
>CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]