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[casi] Reply to Tom Levitt

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Originally I had sent Levitt two letters, one asking him to pledge his support for the aims of 
Conscience, an organisation here in the UK which lobbies for the rights of Conscientious Objectors 
to not pay money towards WMDs and wars etc, and the other posted to this list. Levitt replied to 
both issues in one letter (5 paragraphs dealing with Conscience and 1 paragraph dealing with Iraq).

As a result, I cover both points in this letter. Should anybody wish to know more about the work of 
Conscience, they will send you an information pack if you request one from: Conscience, Archway 
Resource Centre, 1B Waterloo Road, London N19 5NJ. You can also e-mail them at or ring them on 0870 777 3223. There is a website 
( but it is currently under construction.

Letter follows:

Dear Tom

1.      Thank you for your reply of 28 June 2002. I appreciate that members of parliament must be 
reluctant to get into a protracted exchange of letters, however, your reply contained a number of 
errors which might indicate that you have been misinformed. For this reason, I am taking the 
liberty of writing to you once again in the hope that as my voice before the leaders of this 
country, you will share my concerns.

2.      On the issue of sanctions, they were never intended to ensure the return of weapons 
inspectors who, incidentally, were withdrawn from Iraq after US spies were found in their numbers. 
Sanctions were imposed to bring about the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Once this was 
achieved in 1991, sanctions were kept in place until Iraq was effectively disarmed. Once this was 
achieved (according to various UN bodies and the IAEA), sanctions were still viciously applied. You 
are right to state that the current ruse is that sanctions must remain in place until weapons 
inspectors return to Iraq and declare that there are no chemical weapons being made in the country 
after which time they may be lifted, subject to approval from the UN Security Council, within which 
both the USA and the UK exercise a veto. Nevertheless, the US has refused to meet with Iraqi 
representatives and has signalled repeatedly that a return of the inspectors might not be grounds 
for lifting the sanctions. Indeed, George Bush has indicated that sanctions will be lifted only 
when Saddam Hussein has been toppled. Such repeated shifting of the goalposts, combined with Iraq's 
position as the world's second largest oil producer would make even the most charitable mind 
question the sincerity of the motives behind the crusade of the US and UK governments.

3.      You refer to the new 'smart sanctions'. As I pointed out to you in my first letter, these 
sanctions have been rejected by a number of independent organisations who claim that they will 
change nothing for the Iraqi people and may in fact bring about a worsening of their suffering. It 
is worth stressing that the Iraqi people are not dying so much from starvation as they are from 
preventable diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. It is not the lack of food which is the main 
problem but the lack of resources. Iraq needs huge investment if it is to rebuild its 
infrastructure to anything approximating the pre-war state. Unfortunately, as you know, such 
investment is blocked by this country and the USA. To reinforce the enormity of the crime that our 
government is committing, I would remind you that UNICEF have linked sanctions with the deaths of 
over half a million Iraqi children. Other public figures such as Hans von Sponeck and Dennis 
Halliday, ex-UN Assistant Secretary Generals have actually resigned their positions in order to 
distance themselves from what they have termed 'genocide'.

4.      You make reference to the history of Iraq, and how the policy of its government is that the 
ruling class are always protected from the horrors and the people must bear the brunt of them. With 
respect, I would point out that this is the history of the ruling classes throughout the world, our 
own included. However, as a member of parliament, you have the power to ensure that your voice is 
used to protect the people, rather than shore up the privileged few. I hope you will rise to the 
challenge. I share your view that the Iraqi people must be the ones who bring about change in their 
country, but I fail to see how we can expect them to do that if they have to deal with disease, 
malnutrition, suffering and death at the hands of our government and the government of the USA, 
never mind the fierce repression inflicted by their own government.

  5.. On the subject of Conscience, I feel that you have missed the point somewhat. It is 
disingenuous to equate my reservations about paying taxes towards military expenditure with the 
qualms that others have paying taxes for education or roads because they either have no children or 
no car.

My reservation is a conscientious one, not a financial one. I have very serious and very genuine 
objections to my money being used to kill other people. The concept of 'conscientious objection' is 
provided for in law in only two circumstances which affect the UK. Citizens are entitled to object 
to being conscripted into an army and doctors are entitled to object to performing an abortion. 
What Conscience campaigns for is a space wherein people can redirect the 10% of their taxes that go 
towards military expenditure towards more peaceful initiatives. It might be that our success would 
encourage some people to begin an initiative designed to direct their taxes away from NHS abortions 
and towards some other alternative, but this is a single instance, and, more importantly, purely 

  6.. You imply that the right to object to one's money being spent on weapons of murder would 
subvert the whole democratic process, robbing the government of the power to deliver policies which 
the majority have supported at election time. On this point, I feel that it is important to remind 
you that the majority of the electorate did not support the policies of the government at election 
time. Furthermore, your assertion is based upon the assumption that peace can only be maintained 
through fighting or being prepared to fight. This is clearly not the case at all as history, all 
too sadly, reminds us. Of course, it is  also worth reminding you that governments very rarely 
deliver the policies they promised at election time!

  7.. You raise the issue of hypothecation in your letter, although this is something of a red 
herring. Conscience is not asking for a percentage of any specific tax to be diverted. Instead, we 
are demanding that the rights of conscientious objectors be recognised and that the military 
proportion of all taxes paid by COs be diverted. Thus, it is estimated that around 10% of the UK 
budget is spent on the military. People would be asked to declare their conscientious objection. 
The 10% would be multiplied by this number and the corresponding amount of money would be taken 
from the military budget and directed towards more effective means of peacekeeping.

  8.. Finally, having answered some of your concerns, I hope I can now convince you to act upon the 
points raised in my original letters. It is within your power to convey to the government my 
disapproval and rejection of the treatment we are subjecting the Iraqi people to. I hope that your 
conscience means that you will add your own personal convictions to mine. Secondly, I hope that my 
explanation of the aims of Conscience will be sufficient to transform your sympathy into something 
more active and that I can rely on you to lobby the government on my behalf and on behalf of the 
many other people who believe that it is wrong to kill other human beings.

With best wishes,

 Diarmuid Fogarty

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