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re: Dirk's e-mails

Dear folks,

I'd much rather be spending my valuable time on anti-sanctions campaigning
but Dirk's recent e-mails to this list contained so many errors of logic -
as well as personal attacks on myself and other list members - that I feel I
must respond.

1. Dirk writes that I 'attacked' Andy Kershaw's article in the Independent
last December.

This is untrue. What I wrote at the time was that whilst it was 'great that
Kershaw is writing about these things' I was 'curious as to where he got his
information regarding the Sanctions Committee.'

2. In private correspondence with Dirk early in December I wrote that:

>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 of their own. They are also clearly *not*
a disinterested party.
>There is therefore very good reason to doubt figures from 'official Iraqi

In his recent e-mail to the list Dirk describes this statement as
'denigrating' and the 'statement of a prejudiced mind.'

He also claims that this statement is 'not true', citing as proof a
single figure which he attributes to the Iraqi Government. The logical error
should be clear. Even if the figure cited by Dirk is both true and a GoI
figure, it proves nothing since I never claimed that the GoI *only* made
false / inconsistent statements, only that they *often* did.

(Exactly which figure Dirk cites is unclear. He refers to 'figures from an
Iraqi source (total number of contracts on hold or not approved for the 9
stages 26/12/96 - 02/05/2001) for a total no of contracts on hold of 1742,
with a total amount of 3.617 billion $' - though presumably a *cumulative*
figure for the first nine phases would be higher. Perhaps this is supposed
to represent the volume of goods 'on hold' in May 2001. If so, it is very
close to the OIP figure given out at the time.

Dirk claims that he 'gave' these 'figures from an Iraqi source' 'in the
discussion, that started with the article of Andy Kershaw's in the
Independent' but I've been unable to locate this earlier citation.

Dirk adds that this $3.617 bn figure 'is much less than the figure of 5
billion $ that is now given by the Executive Director [of the OIP]' - though
what this is supposed to prove, other than the fact that the absolute value
of holds has dramatically increased since May 2001, is unclear.)

Dirk goes on to ask 'where is the evidence?' for my statement.  Due to lack
of time - and the fact that for obvious reasons I've not devoted much time
to tracking and recording this stuff - I shall give just two examples of
false / inconsistent statements from the GoI. I've noticed plenty of others
over the last four and a half years. I really don't think I need to provide
evidence that the Iraqi Government is 'not a disinterested party.'

FALSE STATEMENT: December 5th 2001, Iraqi Trade Minister claims that 'six
billion dollars worth of contracts were still blocked by the UN sanctions
committee.' (source: AFP)

UN (*not* 'Western' as Dirk would have it) figures show that holds at that
time stood at $4.37 bn.  One can therefore either believe that there is some
massive conspiracy within the UN to lie about the value of goods on 'hold',
or one can draw the rational conclusion that Mr Saleh's claim was false.

(The fact that the value of goods on hold has since increased to $5 bn is,
of course, totally irrelevant. In a fit of illogic Dirk writes that this
shows that his plea to 'trust' the earlier (false) Iraqi figure was correct,
'because in the end, the "holds" will almost certainly reach the Iraqi
figure of 6 billion $'!)

INCONSISTENT STATEMENTS:   In August 1998,  "the Iraqi Minister of Health
Umeed Mubarak, stated ... that more than 1.4 million people of all ages have
died in Iraq due to sanctions" (Garfield, Child Mortality paper, March 1999,
citing a Reuters
report) while on 20th January 2000 the Ministry of Health  was reported as
having said that the total number of "embargo casualties" had reached 1.26
million (Iraq says 14,000 die under sanctions in one month, Agence France
Presse, 20th January 2000).

Dirk writes that  my 'denigrating' statement 'makes [him] shiver.' Since the
truth is what it is,
this would appear to be Dirk's problem rather than mine.

3. Dirk writes that: 'there is a very severe control of [pencils by] the
[UN] sanction[s] committee, a control that we witnessed in Basra.'

Dirk fails to explain how he was able to 'witness' the Sanctions Committee's
'very severe control' of pencils whilst he was in Basra, given that the
Sanctions Committee is based in New York.

Dirk may well have witnessed a shortage of pencils in Basra, and he may well
have met Iraqis who told him that this was due to the actions of the
Sanctions Committee.
However, as a matter of logic and commonsense, this is clearly not
sufficient evidence to draw conclusions about what was / is going on in the
Sanctions Committee. Two obvious reasons jump out:

Firstly, since not all shortages of goods are the result of 'holds' in the
Sanctions Committee, *by themselves* these shortages indicate very little
about what's happening in the Committee. eg. the Secretary-General's May
2001 report noted that the 'shortages of drugs and hospital equipment still
being reported' at that time were 'attributable to the late and inadequate
contracting in respect of drugs and, until recently, vaccines, *as well as*
holds placed on applications in respect of hospital equipment such as
autoclaves.' (emphasis added)

Secondly, ordinary Iraqis are probably the last people to know what's going
on in the Sanctions Committee. They may know what the GoI says but, as we
have seen, GoI claims are not to be relied upon.

QUESTION: Is there any credible evidence to support Dirk's assertion
regarding 'very severe controls' on pencils by the Sanctions Committee?

4. Dirk claims that 'you can not [sic] separate the people of Iraq and its

Clearly one can and one should. Dirk claims that to make such a separation
is 'victim blaming.'
This is particularly ironic, since the Iraqi Government is clearly *not* a
victim of sanctions (indeed, sanctions have actually helped strengthen the
Iraqi regime's
grip on power) whilst ordinary Iraqis very clearly *are*.

5. Dirk asks why Colin's 'encyclopedic [sic] knowledge of Iraq ... left him
when he said that mortality-figures came down 'substantially''?

In fact Colin made no such statement, though Rahul did.

Dirk writes that he liked Omar al-Taher's article because 'it came from the
heart.' Maybe so, but as anti-sanctions campaigners we need to use our heads
as well as our hearts.

Best wishes,

(writing in a personal capacity)

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