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Dear folks, Here's the Sweeney piece from today's Observer. Letters should be sent to email@example.com (remember to include your address and telephone number). Letters should be sent to the Observer by Tuesday evening at the latest. Four brief comments: a) Sweeney claims that the regime has faked 'mass baby funerals' in Iraq. This may well be true but is clearly totally irrelevant to the questions 'has there been a dramatic increase in child mortality in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War?' and 'if there has been such an increase what are its causes?' Similar remarks apply to Sweeney's allegations regarding human rights abuses in Iraq. b) Again, the Iraqi Government's own figures (as distinct from the UNICEF survey data - see below) *are* almost certainly incorrect. However again this is clearly irrelevant to any of the serious questions that arise about the public health impact of the sanctions. Sweeney's clear intention throughout the piece is to attempt to identify, in the minds of his readers, the anti-sanctions position with the Iraqi Government. In doing so he ignores the views of a wide range of highly credible organisations and individuals (eg. Save the Children, Human Rights Watch and Hans von Sponeck) who have spoken out on the issue. c) Sweeney breezily rubbishes the conclusions of the August '99 joint UNICEF - GoI child mortality survey, writing that it is 'open to question. It was based on data from within a regime which tortures children with impunity. All but one of the researchers used by UNICEF were employees of the Ministry of Health, according to the Lancet.' In reality it is only apologists for the sanctions, such as Mr Sweeney, who 'question' the reliability of these surveys. Indeed, UNICEF were careful to guard themselves against such allegations. The following is the relevant extract from their August '99 document 'Questions and Answers for the Iraq child mortality surveys' (available on the CASI web-site at http://www.cam.ac.uk/societies/casi/info/unicef/000816qa.html ) ************************************* Q: How can UNICEF be sure that the results are accurate/reliable? A: The large sample sizes - nearly 24,000 households randomly selected from all fifteen governorates in the south and center and 16,000 from the three autonomous northern governorates - helps to ensure that the margin of error for child mortality in both surveys is low. Another important factor was that in the south and center of Iraq the survey interviewers were all women and all were medical doctors. In the northern governorates 80% of interviewers were female - each team had at least one female interviewer - and all interviewers were trained health workers. UNICEF was also involved in all aspects of both surveys - from survey design through to data analysis. Specifically: UNICEF had direct input to the design of the surveys - which are based on internationally respected household survey format - the DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) format; UNICEF was involved in the training of all survey supervisors; UNICEF conducted field visits to every governorate (major administrative unit in Iraq) while the survey was being conducted; UNICEF oversaw the process of data entry; UNICEF had full access to the hard copies of the interview records and the complete data sets for both surveys at all times. Q: What checks have been made on the data? A: Each questionnaire was first checked at the local level and then at the governorate level by staff of the local statistical offices. This check was primarily to determine whether the randomly sampled households were correctly identified, visited and interviewed. Final editing and checking was done at the central level for completeness and consistency. A number of internal checks normally carried out for Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) were also completed for both surveys. The surveys and findings were also reviewed by a panel of experts in early July. This panel included senior personnel from DHS, Macro International, WHO and senior UNICEF offici als from the Regional Office in Amman and New York Headquarters. Q: Could the Government of Iraq have manipulated the data to give higher mortality figures? A: If the Government had attempted to manipulate the data by influencing the survey interviewers to over-record the number of deaths or by directly manipulating the survey data on the computer, this would have been detected by analyzing the spread of births and deaths. The panel of experts who reviewed the survey methodology and results looked for this, but it was not found. ******************************** d) Finally, Sweeney makes the totally ridiculous claim that 'the dead babies are blamed by Saddam's regime on cancers and birth defects ... it says [were] caused by depleted uranium weapons.' Of course, *nobody* has made any such claim, though there are certainly people who would claim that *some* of 'the dead babies' have died in such a manner. Whatever the status of claims about DU all independent observers agree that water-borne disease is the biggest killer of children in Iraq today. Best wishes, Gabriel voices uk ****************************** How Saddam 'staged' fake baby funerals The Iraqi dictator says his country's children are dying in their thousands because of the West's embargoes. John Sweeney, in a TV documentary to be shown tonight, says the figures are bogus. Here he reports from Iraq on his findings Sunday June 23, 2002 The Observer The witness against the government of Iraq walked stiffly into the room, metal callipers buckled to heavy medical shoes. They had tortured her two years ago. She is now four. Her father had been suspected of involvement in a plot to kill Saddam Hussein's psychopathic son, Uday. He fled to the north of Iraq, but the secret police, the mukhabarat, came for his wife, still in Baghdad, and tortured her. When she wouldn't break, they tortured 'Anna' in front of her. Her father, 'Ali', is a thick-set Iraqi who worked in Saddam's privileged inner circle. He described what they did to her: 'They had a wooden stick. They would squeeze her feet and ask "Has Daddy called you?" - she understood - "Does Daddy contact you?"' She is a victim of Saddam's brutality, proof that he is prepared to dispense violence against even his country's children. By a cruel irony, her father is also witness to Saddam's efforts to portray those same children as victims of Western sanctions, which he claims have cost hundreds of thousands of young lives. Osama bin Laden justified the 11 September attack on America by referring to a million dead Iraqi children - killed by sanctions. But there is a belief among many Iraqis that Saddam is inventing the numbers. Ali, outraged that Saddam's torturers may have crippled his daughter for life, spoke openly about how the regime's propaganda has faked mass baby funerals - 'evidence' of the 7,000 children under five the regime claims are being killed each month by sanctions. Small coffins, decorated with grisly photographs of dead babies and their ages - 'three days', 'four days', written usefully for the English-speaking media - are paraded through the streets of Baghdad on the roofs of taxis, the procession led by a throng of official mourners. There is only one problem. Because there are not enough dead babies around, the regime prevents parents from burying infants immediately, in the Muslim tradition, to create more powerful propaganda. The taxi drivers do what they are told - as everybody does in Saddam's Iraq - to their evident disgust. Before Ali defected to the north, one friend of his, a taxi driver, explained how it worked: 'I went to Najaf [a town 100 miles south of Baghdad] a couple of days ago. I brought back two bodies of children for one of the mass funerals. The smell was very strong.' Ali continued: 'The taxi driver didn't know how long they'd been in freezers, perhaps six or seven months. The drivers would collect them from the regions and would be informed of when a mass funeral was arranged so they would be ready. Certainly, they would collect bodies of children who had died months before and been held for the mass processions.' A second, Western source, went to visit visited a Baghdad hospital and, when the official Iraqi minder was absent, was taken to the mortuary. There, a doctor showed the source a number of dead babies, lying stacked in the mortuary, waiting for the next official procession. Anna was the youngest witness to child torture by the Iraqi government in an investigation, The Mother of All Ironies, to be broadcast by BBC2's Correspondent today. It found six other adult witnesses in the Kurdish safe haven in the north - the only part of Iraq where people are free to speak. The most chilling witness was one of Saddam's torturers, who was captured spying against the Kurds this year. 'Kamal' told us: 'They would bring the son in front of his parents, who were handcuffed or tied, and would start off with simple methods of torture, such as cigarette burns. Then they started using other methods of torture, more serious ones. 'They would tell the father that they'd slaughter his son, and they'd bring a bayonet out, and if the parents didn't confess they'd kill the child. 'The interrogator has the right to kill the child, or perform any other butchery, whatever's necessary.' And then Kamal chuckled. It is an absolute of the government of Iraq - and others - that thousands of Iraqi children are dying every month because of sanctions. We managed to get a cameraman to accompany a fact-finding trip into Iraq this year by the Great Britain-Iraq Society, led by its chairman, Labour MP George Galloway. At the start of the trip Galloway, in Iraq for the ninth time in two-and-a-half years, said: 'Every six minutes an Iraqi child will have died under the embargo. That's every six minutes of every day, of every night, every year for 12 years.' In 1999 Unicef, in co-operation with the Iraqi government, made a retrospective projection of 500,000 excess child deaths in the 1990s. The projection is open to question. It was based on data from within a regime that tortures children with impunity. All but one of the researchers used by Unicef were employees of the Ministry of Health, according to the Lancet. The dead babies are blamed by Saddam's regime on cancers and birth defects which first appeared in 1991 and were, it says, caused by depleted uranium weapons. While no one should underestimate the lethality of these weapons and the stupidity of the US military machine, the claim does not make radiological sense. According to Dr Nick Plowman, head of clinical oncology at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, the claim 'is ridiculous. It flies in the face of everything learnt from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.' Cancers do not develop overnight. Bombs that fell in 1991 could not have caused cancers or birth defects in that year. Fast leukaemias might occur in four or five years, heavy tumours around now, said Plowman. Richard Guthrie, a chemical weapons researcher at Sussex University, said: 'It's much more likely to be chemical weapons. There are serious clusters of cancers in the south of Iraq near Basra. In the late Eighties, Basra was almost taken by Iranian human-wave offensives, and Saddam stopped these by dropping chemical weapons on them and, by accident, on his own people. · John Sweeney's report will be shown in Correspondent on BBC2 at 7.15pm _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk