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Iraq - 11 years on. By Omar Al-Taher

A good opinion piece in today's Jordan Times (online till next Wed. only). It mentions what Ghazwan 
said earlier about democratically elected leaders, and may serve to clarify some questions Bert had 
on Ghazwan's comments, although I found them quite self-explanatory.

Salwa de Vree,
Leiden, The Netherlands.

Iraq — 11 years on 
By Dr. Omar Al Taher 
IT HAS been exactly eleven years ago today since the US and its allies launched their largest 
military campaign since World War II with the ostensible aim of ejecting Iraqi troops from Kuwait. 
This objective was attained within 42 days of unrelenting aerial bombardment, but Iraq has since 
been placed under a sanctions regime designed to cripple it economically and subdue it politically. 
Over those eleven long years, over 600,000 Iraqi children have died as a direct result of the 
sanctions. This prompted three top UN officials, Dennis Halliday, Hans Von Sponeck and Bolghardt, 
to resign in protest at what they termed “the slow and silent death of an entire nation”; the UN 
has not known a rebellion like this in its 55-year history. 
Having visited Iraq lately, I couldn't help noticing that the very fabric of Iraqi society is 
gradually disintegrating. Mass migration from the country to urban areas has transformed the once 
great and prosperous cities of Baghdad and Basra into huge shantytowns; corruption, prostitution 
and beggary are commonplace. Eleven years of sanctions have eroded the previously resilient and 
vibrant middle class, rendering it destitute and helpless. The far-reaching implications of the 
embargo are destined to continue to impact Iraqis' lives for decades to come. 

Almost everything is denied the people of Iraq, including food, clothing and medicine. As far back 
as 1994, reports out of Iraq, compiled by Western agencies, spoke of widespread chronic 
malnutrition and death among young children; an unprecedented human rights disaster. The result of 
this “collateral damage”, as US and British officials wish to call it, is that over half a million 
Iraqi children under the age of five have been killed; twice the number of those killed by the two 
atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 

A quick glance at the list of items that Iraq is denied reveals the absurdity and the ugly face of 
the much-celebrated “new world order”. The list includes: books, pencils, paper, soap, light bulbs, 
clean water, anaesthetic, lifesaving drugs, X-ray machines and films, heart and lungs machine, 
vaccines, firefighting equipment, etc. The pretext is that such items have a potential for military 
application. Frankly, everything has the potential for dual usage, and one is genuinely surprised 
that the list does not include nails, which could be used in nail bombs, and Pepsi bottles, which 
could be used for Molotov cocktail bombs! 

The effects of the embargo against Iraq stand as a stark indictment of the Americans and the 
British and everything they claim to stand for. One is inclined to point to peoples, as opposed to 
governments, because these two countries are supposed to be democratic and free, governed by 
democratically elected officials who are accountable to their respective electorates, i.e., 
decisions made by these officials are in essence the decisions of their electorates. Their 
relationship is likened to the relationship that exists between a principal and an agent, which 
entails that the principal cannot escape liability for the acts and omissions of his agent. 

By contrast, the Iraqis could in no way be blamed for the policies of Saddam Hussein because, put 
simply, the Iraqis never voted Saddam in office. Here lies the difference between the West and 
Iraq. Punishing the Iraqi people for Saddam's actions is akin to punishing an innocent child for an 
offence committed by his father. So much for Western fairness, equity and fair play! 

Experts on the Middle East fear that this state of affairs is a recipe for disaster in so far as 
the future of the Middle East is concerned. Historically, Iraq has been a key player in the region, 
and it logically follows that it would always have a crucial role to play by virtue of the dictates 
of geopolitics. US and British officials talk, day in and day out, of a Middle East living in peace 
and harmony. What harmony would be expected from a county that has been singled out and placed 
under the most comprehensive sanctions regime in modern history? The effects of this genocidal war 
are likely to backfire, derailing all what the US and its underling, the UK, are working towards. 

George Bush's and Tony Blair's sugar-coated speeches that the “quarrel is not with the Iraqi people 
but with the Iraqi leader” is neither here nor there. The resentment one senses in discussions with 
Iraqis is directed towards the two countries and, by implication, the two peoples, the Americans 
and the British. The fear, which is shared by many who have studied the Middle East, is that by 
antagonising and humiliating an entire nation, the likelihood of transforming every Iraqi into a 
Saddam is very much a possibility, not to say a probability. 

When confronted with the fact that over 4,000 Iraqi children are dying every month due to the 
embargo, Madeleine Albright, then US secretary of state, retorted without a qualm: “Well, we think 
the price is worth it.” Furthermore, on innumerable occasions, she went on record stating that even 
if the UN Disarmament Committee's report gave Iraq a clean bill of health, the US position is not 
to lift the sanctions so long as Saddam remained in power. This candour, which borders on 
insolence, explains Iraq's non-cooperative stance. The Iraqi leadership is aware that if all its 
weaponry (from biological weapons to even hand grenades) are accounted for and decommissioned, the 
sanctions are there to stay. So, why cooperate? 

One cannot help recalling the eerie words of James Baker, former US secretary of state, during his 
eleventh hour meeting in Geneva in January 1991 with Tareq Aziz, the then Iraqi foreign minister, 
that Iraq “risks being relegated to a pre-industrial age status” if it doesn't pull out of Kuwait 
by Jan. 15. Well, this objective was fulfilled with the ejection of Iraqi troops from Kuwait on 
Feb. 28, 1991. Why does the West continue its aggressive foreign policy towards Iraq? 

The answer lies in that following the collapse of the Soviet Union — the Arab world's traditional 
ally — the US resolved that the time was ripe to redraw the map of the Middle East. The Sykes-Picot 
Agreement of 1916 has outlived its validity, and the area was in need for a new arrangement, this 
time to accommodate Israel's long-term designs. Iraq, with its huge potential and nationalist 
aspirations, regardless of its government, was the stumbling block that needed to be sorted out, so 
to speak. In an interview a couple of years ago, Tareq Aziz stated that Iraq favours military 
strikes to the status quo. After all, war is governed by the Geneva Convention, while the silent 
war that has been waged over the past eleven years, which killed hundreds of thousands of 
civilians, continues to go unnoticed and doesn't make news headlines. 

However, the pressing question remains: How many more Iraqis need to perish before the American and 
the British peoples react and put a stop to the atrocities committed in their name? 

The writer, a holder of a PhD degree in international affairs and an LLB degree from the UK, is 
currently a legal trainee at a law firm in Amman. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.


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