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: [casi] Media Lens Debate On Iraq Continued


as i keep saying, the iraqi people should be our gold-standard as to what
should be done.

the iraqi people have been massacred by both sanctions and saddam hussein.
the option given - No war, the return of arms inspectors, and the full
lifting (not enforcing) of economic sanctions, while retaining military
sanctions - does not even recognise this fact and pretends that in dealing
with iraq, this is all that should be done. how about this option:

ridding the iraqi people of saddam and sanctions.

how you get rid of saddam hussein should be the issue that is discussed for
those concerned with the US's current moves on Iraq, to campaign against a
war on the Iraqi people but to support the initiation of another uprising
(like 1991) so that they Iraqi people can liberate themselves (there are
also other options that do not involve bombing iraq from top to bottom).

yasser alaskary
IC Iraqi Society

ps- for those who complain that this is an anti-sanctions list and not
anything else, i only mentioned the above issues because the original email
discussed them - so don't bite my head off! ;)

----Original Message Follows----
From: "AS-ILAS" <>
To: "casi" <>
Subject: [casi] Media Lens Debate On Iraq Continued
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 06:57:31 +0100

Hi all,




Media Lens Debate On Iraq Continued

The Observer's Nick Cohen Responds Again

by David Edwards And David Cromwell

Media Lens

March 26, 2002

Following our Media Alert Update, 'The Observer's Nick Cohen and Observer
Editor Roger Alton Respond On Iraq' (March 20, 2002 - for this and other
Media Alerts see: Media Lens
received this reply, his third, from Nick Cohen on March 23, 2002:

"Dear Media Lens, Sorry to have taken the mick. The point I was trying to
make in my piece, admittedly with the sinful use of humour, is that there
are three possible positions to take on Iraq:

1. There should be a war to destroy Saddam, either a direct invasion or a
Western-sponsored revolt. (Bush is currently deciding between the two and
Blair will do whatever Bush tells him to do.) After victory, sanctions will
be dropped.

2. There should be no war and no sanctions and Saddam should be left alone,
which I guess from your email is your position.

  3. There should be no war. But sanctions, particularly sanctions directed
against the arms trade, should be enforced. Foreign powers should also
provide a safe haven for the Kurds and decent world opinion should support
an independent Kurdistan. Foreign airforces should also provide air cover
for the Shia majority in the south.

Positions one and two are far closer to each other than they are to
position three, which is why I made the crack about the difficulty people
like you will have in joining us in the coming struggle."


Dear Nick

Thanks for your email and for the restrained tone. We hope you appreciate
that it is not our intention to provoke or denigrate you. Our sole concern
is to draw attention to issues which may well determine the fate of many
thousands of innocent people, and, more to the point, whether they are
killed and mutilated in a murderous war. In an on-line debate earlier this
month, you suggested we are living through "a great age of conservatism".
We applaud your proposed response: "The only thing to do in my experience
is refuse to accept the passive myth that our futures are predetermined and
relentlessly persecute injustice and absurdity." (Guardian online debate,
March 7, 2002) Like you, we are keen to persecute injustice and absurdity,
but not individual journalists.

Having said that, this is your third reply to us, and the sense of
unreality continues to grow with each response. First you rejected "the
sanctions cause starvation theory" - a theory invented by you - as
nonsense. You then smeared us as "Serviles" keeping the memory of Joe
Stalin alive. Now you tell us that your original article was intended
humorously! Does debate in the mainstream consist in proposing arguments,
ignoring rational responses to them, and then making completely new
arguments all but unrelated to the previous arguments?
You write that there are "three possible positions to take on Iraq", that
we can choose between: 1. A war "to destroy Saddam"; 2. No war, no
sanctions, and Saddam "should be left alone"; 3. No war, but "sanctions,
particularly military sanctions, should be enforced".

What is so shocking about this summary of the possible options is that it
ignores the actual position of the many credible and authoritative
commentators repeatedly cited by us in our correspondence with you, namely:
No war, the return of arms inspectors, and the full lifting (not enforcing)
of economic sanctions, while retaining military sanctions.

This, for example, is the view of Hans von Sponeck, who wrote in January
that the way forward was "to agree to a discussion of the draft resolution
for the resumption of arms inspection and the lifting of economic sanctions
presented by the Russian Government to the UN Security Council last June.
This proposal foresees the return of arms inspectors to Iraq as demanded by
the Bush administration and the lifting of economic sanctions after 60
days. The Iraqis have neither accepted nor rejected this proposal.

"Here is an opportunity that presents a political option to another
military confrontation with Iraq. It must not be missed." (by Hans von
Sponeck, Counterpunch, January 10, 2002. See:

This is the kind of rational, non-violent political option we believe
should be explored. Assuming you are aware of von Sponeck's views, and
given that we have repeatedly recommended von Sponeck as a credible and
rational commentator on Iraq, how can you possibly imagine that we are in
favour of option 2: "no war and no sanctions and Saddam should be left

The fact that you do not include the option outlined by von Sponeck in your
list, and that you imagine we support your position 2, suggests to us that
you are not aware of the arguments made by von Sponeck and Halliday, and
many others. This would not be a surprise, given that neither you nor your
editor, Roger Alton, have ever mentioned them in the Observer. Once again,
you have produced your own 'straw man' version of other people's
arguments - a version which is easy to knock down but which bears little
resemblance to the original.

We are unaware of anyone arguing for position 2, so your point about
options 1. and 2. being closer to each other than to 3. - therefore
explaining why you "made the crack about the difficulty people like you
will have in joining us in the coming struggle" - is redundant. Also, who
is the "us" you are referring to - people for, or against, war? And what
struggle do you mean: the struggle to destroy Saddam Hussein, to avoid war,
to maintain sanctions, to protect the people of Iraq? This is not at all
clear to us.

You say that the point of your original piece was to indicate the three
options you describe. But your piece mostly discussed the relationship
between Downing Street and Washington, and Blair's impotence in influencing
U.S. policy. You said nothing about the option of lifting sanctions,
military or economic, as an alternative to war, only about lifting them
after a military victory. You made only three mentions of sanctions in your
1,200 word piece. You said, "Britain did what America wanted throughout the
1990s and contained Iraq by enforcing sanctions" - a tacit approval of
sanctions, suggesting that they have at least been successful in containing
Saddam. You then wrote:

"I look forward to seeing how Noam Chomsky and John Pilger manage to oppose
a war which would end the sanctions they claim have slaughtered hundreds of
thousands of children who otherwise would have had happy, healthy lives in
a prison state (don't fret, they'll get there). But the humbling of the men
who said sanctions were the best and only way will be greater."

You wrote of how Chomsky and Pilger "claim" sanctions killed hundreds of
thousands of children - casting doubt, as we have discussed, on both the
"claims" and their credibility (so implicitly defending sanctions against
the charge of genocide). You then wrote that war would embarrass those who
have insisted that sanctions were the best policy, suggesting that war
would reveal that sanctions had always been inadequate to the task, and
that war might have been the more effective option all along.

Given that this was the full extent of your discussion of sanctions, how
can you argue that your piece was intended to indicate the three options:
1. War; 2. No war, lift sanctions and leave Saddam alone; 3. No war,
enforce sanctions, particularly military sanctions?

You imply that we misunderstood your original point, which employed "the
sinful use of humour" - suggesting that we have over-reacted and taken you
too seriously. Perhaps you were joking in your original article when you
suggested that the mass death of Iraqi children was a mere "claim" of
Chomsky and Pilger, and that those children (if they really did die) would
anyway have had an abysmal life in Saddam's "prison state". But how could
this possibly be construed as humour? The flood of letters we know you have
received are from people who read your words as yet another casual smear on
the integrity of Chomsky and Pilger, and as yet another attempt to defend
Western sanctions. What is so tragic is that many Observer readers will
have assumed from your article that talk of the mass death of Iraqi
children really is just an overblown "claim" made by the "the remnants of
the left", as you put it, suggesting a small group of die-hard lefties with
redundant Cold War axes to grind. And yet, when challenged, you have been
unable to defend your words, written with breezy confidence though they

We wonder what you would have made of a German reporter "taking the mick"
out of a tiny number of honest journalists trying to resist massive state
pressure and propaganda by publishing 'claims' that the Nazis were
committing genocide against the Jews in the 30s and 40s. Would that not
truly have been a sinful use of humour?

Finally, we noticed that last Sunday's Observer letters page (March 24,
2002) carried no correspondence from readers challenging your piece
mentioning Chomsky and Pilger. There are a couple of possible reasons for
this that spring to mind:

1. Perhaps the Observer really does think that readers responding to our
Media Alerts are "just another yapping dog barking a line", as you say, so
that this correspondence does not qualify as authentic.

2. Perhaps the Observer letters page does not truly represent the postbag,
but represents what the editors are willing to let readers see of the
postbag. Perhaps journalist Hannen Swaffer provided a clue when he said in
"Freedom of the press in Britain means freedom to print such of the
proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to." (Quoted, The
Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations, Oxford 2001, p.350)
Yours sincerely

David Edwards and David Cromwell The Editors - Media Lens


Contact Nick Cohen: Email:

Ask Nick Cohen why, in his latest response, he does not list the full
lifting of economic sanctions and the return of arms inspectors as a
possible alternative to war. Ask him if he is aware of the position of Hans
von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.
Copy your letters to the Observer editor, Roger Alton: Email:

Ask Roger Alton why his paper appears to be the only British broadsheet
never to have mentioned Denis Halliday or Hans von Sponeck. Ask him why he
has not responded to the many people who have written to him on these
issues. Remind him that in an interview with David Edwards in December
2000, he said:
"I mean, you can't ask me about why other papers don't put stuff in. If you
ask me about something we haven't put in that's in somewhere else then I
can be coherent." (see Interviews:

Please bear in mind that your comments will be more effective if you
maintain a polite, non-aggressive tone. Similarly, it is better to
paraphrase points made above, rather than repeat them word for word.
Please cc: with your correspondence.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]