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[casi] John Sweeney's latest propaganda pieces

Dear folks,

Long time pro-sanctions propagandist - and advocate of military action
against Baghdad falling only just short of nuclear attack - John Sweeney
has made a programme about Iraq which will be screened in the BBC2
Correspondent slot this Sunday evening (probably sometime between 7pm and
8pm - I don't have a TV schedule to hand).

A taster is provided by the following, an edited version of a 5 minute
broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. The basic line of
the broadcast was that the only Iraqi children who are 'dying because of
sanctions' are in the northern governorates. At the same time the North /
south disparities were wheeled out to prove that sanctions aren't implicated
in the public health crisis. There was also some veiled innuendo suggesting
that UNICEF's '99 surveys were somehow manipulated by the Iraqi Government.

Much of the rest of the content of the broadcast - eg. the material about
GoI human rights abuses - clearly had no bearing on the question 'are
economic sanctions a major factor in the humanitarian crisis in south /
central Iraq?' In any event Sweeney prefers not to answer this question,
preferring to focus on the, questions: 'are Iraqi Government claims that
7000 children are dying every month because of sanctions true?' and 'are the
mass child funerals in Iraq faked?', neither of which has any bearing on the
anti-sanctions case.

There will be a live forum with Mr Sweeney at 1500 BST on Monday 24th June
and you can e-mail your questions using the form at:

Sweeney writes for the Observer so I would expect a tie-in piece in Sunday's

Best wishes,

voices uk


Friday, 21 June, 2002, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
The mother of all ironies

A few weeks after 11 September Osama Bin Laden justified the attack by
saying that western sanctions had killed one million Iraqi children. Saddam
Hussein's regime says 7,000 children are dying every month. Labour MP George
Galloway says that an Iraqi child has died every six minutes for the last 12
years. John Sweeney has been to the north of Iraq, where he found evidence
that Saddam's sums don't add up.

Ali, was a thick-set Iraqi who used to work for Saddam's psychopathic son,
Uday. Some time after the bungled assassination of Uday, Ali fell under

So he fled Baghdad - going north, to the Kurdish safe haven policed by
western fighter planes,.

I've been to Baghdad. Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone
else's migraine. The fear is so omni-present you could almost eat it. No one

So listening to Ali speak freely was a revelation.

He's not, exactly, a contender to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. He
had the heft of an enforcer. He told me that he had tortured for the regime.
But I don't think he was lying to us.

Ali talked about the paranoid frenzy that rules Baghdad, the tortures, the
killings, the corruption, the crazy gangster violence of Saddam and his two

And the faking of the mass baby funerals.

You may have seen them on TV. Small white coffins parading through the
streets of Baghdad on the roofs of taxis, an angry crowd of mourners,
condemning western sanctions for killing the children of Iraq.

Usefully, the ages of the dead babies - "three days old", "four days old" -
are written in English on the coffins. I wonder who did that?

Ali gave us the inside track on the racket. There aren't enough dead babies
around. So the regime stores them for a mass funeral.

He said that he was friends with a taxi driver - he gave his name - whose
son had a position in the regime.

Ali continued: "he told me that he had to go to Najaf" - a town 100 miles
from Baghdad - "in order to bring children's bodies from various freezers
there, and that the smell was unbearable.

"They used to collect children's bodies and put them in freezers for two,
three or even six or seven months - God knows - till the smell gets so
unbearable. Then, they arrange the mass funerals."

The logic being, the more dead babies, the better for Saddam. That way, he
can weaken public support in the west for sanctions. That means that parents
who have lost a baby can't bury it until the regime says so.

So how could it be that people would put up with this sickening exploitation
of grief?

Uday took out a wooden cosh and beat the tennis player's brains out.

Ali told another story.

He'd seen Uday kill with his own eyes. This was some years ago, before the
assassination attempt left Saddam's oldest son half-paralysed and impotent.

Uday's lust is famous in Baghdad. He wanted a woman who played tennis at
Baghdad's Sports Club, so he and Ali went to the club.

As Uday was turning into the car park, a tennis ball came over the fence and
bounced against the car of the woman he desired.

The tennis player came into the car park to retrieve the ball and apologized
to the woman. Maybe there was a bit of flirting - that does happen at tennis
courts, even in England.

>From his car Uday watched the two of them. Enraged, he took out a wooden
cosh and beat the tennis player's brains out. And then - get this - a few
days later, the dead man's relatives apologised to Uday for the distress
their son had caused him.


I don't think so. In northern Iraq - the only part of the country where
people can speak freely - we met six other witnesses who had direct
experience of child torture.

Another of Saddam's enforcers - now in a Kurdish prison - told us that an
interrogator could do anything: "we could make a kebab out of the child if
we wanted to." And then he chuckled.

In that environment, with that background noise of fear, it is not
impossible to imagine that the Government of Iraq could have conned the
world, inventing numbers of dead babies that the gullible - and that
includes the United Nations - accept as reliable.

While we were in the north of Iraq, the chairman of the Great Britain Iraq
Society, Labour MP George Galloway, was in Baghdad. He popped up on Iraqi
TV, saying "when I hear the word Iraq I hear someone calling my name".

I don't agree.

When I hear the word Iraq, I hear a tortured child, screaming.

Sunday 23 June 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 BST.

Producer: Will Daws
Series Producer: Simon Finch
Editor: Karen O'Connor

Live forum: Monday 24 June 2002 at 1500 BST. E-mail your questions to John
Sweeney and Yvonne Ridley now.

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