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Re: Iraq - 11 years on. By Omar Al-Taher

Hi Salwa,

This is a discussion list.  As you say, it should ensure the right of
"everyone .. to agree - or disagree" with opinions voiced.  Hence I fail to
understand your vehemence following Colin's posting: he exercised the right
that you claim to champion.  He told us why he found some of al-Taher's
claims and opinions had little basis in the available information.  What
this has to do with an alleged "monopoly" of opinion is not easy to

> Colin's remarks about 600,000 deaths, are neither here nor there, as
Felicity and Abi have
> pointed out. If the author chooses to use these figures to back his
argument, then let him!

And if Omar al-Taher uses figures that have little evidence to back them up,
he will be criticised.  While we have no interest in doing so except in this
highly sympathetic forum, be sure that those in favour sanctions will do so,
and will extend the criticism to all that oppose sanctions, perpetuating the
image of us as dupes running the errands of the Iraqi dictatorship.  Just
consider: there are many who claim that sanctions have killed no one.  What
is your counter argument?  That 'Omar al-Taher thinks they have killed
600,000'?  That will be a short discussion, and, I fear, will fail to
convince anyone not already opposed to sanctions.  What new "avenues of
research" it opens up I fail to see.

Colin's suggestion was that we use as evidence those independent studies
that show that mortality have gone up under sanctions (UNICEF's 1999 survey,
chiefly), and that the conditions which cause such excess mortality continue
to persist, even under under 'oil for food' (FAO/WFP nutritional surveys,
Secretary General's reports, etc.).  Our aim, I imagine, must be to convince
people who don't already agree with us: in so doing, the observations and
studies of the UN, the Red Cross, the Save the Children Fund, etc. carry
infinitely more weight than does Omar al-Taher, or indeed the Iraqi
government.  Moreover, the UN's figures are, as Rahul and Felicity both
point out in their different ways, absolutely horrifying and absolutely
sufficient for a strong argument against sanctions - what gain can there be
from inflating them without any other basis than 'opinion'?

> Al-Taher writes "Almost everything is denied the people of Iraq, including
food, clothing and
> medicine" and Colin writes: "I don't know what this sentence means". Well,
let me explain it to
> you, it means, almost everything is denied the people of Iraq, including
food, clothing and
> medicine.

Adults in Iraq do not suffer from lack of food: the average calorific intake
is more than sufficient as of some two years now, and even in May 2000 more
than half the Iraqi adult population was found to be obese, not
undernourished.  This was found by the the FAO nutritional survey in 2000.
Omar al-Taher describes a situation which might have been true before the
start of the 'oil for food' programme, but which now is incorrect.  His
argument is dated, and it runs the risk of making the case against sanctions
look dated, which it obviously is not.  Naturally, problems remain: the
unequal distribution of food; the inadequate composition of food; and the
many causes of malnutrition that have nothing to do with food, notably the
disease environment and widespread poverty.  But it is untrue and
unnecessary unfortunate to claim that the problem in Iraq is that the people
is denied food - indeed, which is both perverse and significant, it actually
represents the largest portion of many families' income.

> If food, clothing and medicine are not being denied the people of Iraq
then what, pray tell,
> are we campaigning against or for??? The "extent" to which they are
"denied"??? Oh please!!

Naturally, the many different people in the anti-sanctions movement will
have slightly different emphases in the argument against sanctions.  Let me
suggest a personal version of things we might campaign for.  For the lifting
of sanctions that prevent the reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure, the
malfunctioning and inadequacy of which is a much bigger killer of children
than is lack of 'food, clothing and medicine'.  For the right of ordinary
Iraqis to normal economic activity and employment to sustain themselves and
their families, rather than having to depend on government hand-outs and/or
security council 'benevolence', both of which have proven hopelessly
inadequate in addressing the problem of poverty (although they do cover some
of the most basic needs, such as food, clothing, and, to a less adequate
extent, medicine).  For foreign investment in Iraq, which would enable the
reconstruction of the oil industry so that Iraq can generate the revenue for
which is has potential.  For the right of Iraq to export any good it chooses
to, with the possible diversification of what has long been a hopelessly
mismanaged economy.  For much else, and in brief: for the lifting of those
sanctions which prevent the normal functioning of the civilian Iraqi
economy; for an end to our contribution to Iraqi hardship; and especially
for an end to our exploitation for political ends of the hardship our
policies generate.  In 2002, and especially after the latest Security
Council Resolution on Iraq, this has very little to do with import
restrictions on 'food, clothing and medicine', and has everything to do with
addressing sanctions that perpetuate preventable poverty by crippling the

> Well, I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of what I'm
trying to say. If anyone is so
> repulsed by this article, then I would suggest you send in a letter to the
editor, rather than tell us
> what to read, what to quote and what to think.

I don't think anyone would discourage you from posting opinions on this
list, Salwa, whether they agree with them or not.  No one would ever say if
you liked this article, you should have written to the editor instead of
posting it to the list.  Conversely, I don't think you have the right to
tell Colin not to discuss the piece by al-Taher.  The discussion of what
information we can best put to use in arguing our case is absolutely crucial
to the anti-sanctions movement.  That is what this list is for: sharing and
discussing information and opinions, thereby enabling us to be more
effective.    Asking that that the opinions with which you disagree should
be excluded from the list is singularly unhelpful, and it angers me when you
use this questionable method to attack someone who has done more than most
to campaign against sanctions.

Per Klevnäs

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