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[casi] Nagy Visit on Iraq Sanctions Takes Denmark by Storm

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Assyrian News Watch
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Assyrian Chaldean Syriac


Published on Monday, July 15, 2002 by

Nagy Visit on Iraq Sanctions Takes Denmark by Storm

by Norbert Payne and Coilín ÓhAiseadha

While US plans for the production of Gulf War II rumble on relentlessly,
the Danish campaign to abolish the sanctions against Iraq was given a huge
boost by the visit of Professor Tom Nagy at the start of June. Here, Nagy
presented unshakeable documentation for how the sanctions have been applied
to ban the import of water purification equipment and chemicals, thus
provoking epidemics of diseases such as cholera, hepatitis and typhoid

Nagy’s current position is Associate Professor in the school of business
and public management at George Washington University, and has previously
held full-time research posts in the area of public health.
While searching on the Pentagon’s Gulflink site for data that might shed
some light on Gulf syndrome, Professor Nagy almost accidentally entered the
search term “water”, and was horrified by one of the reports he turned up.
Headed “Iraq water treatment vulnerabilities” and dated January 1991, the
Defense Intelligence Agency report details the difficulties the civilian
population of Iraq were predicted to experience in finding potable water in
the presence of restrictions on the import of water purification equipment
and chemicals.
Like a warder doing his rounds to ensure that all doors are securely
locked, the report addresses, point by point, the various sources of water
that might be considered, explaining why each one is precluded:
Most of Iraq’s water supply “is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish
to saline.”

“Precipitation occurs in Iraq during the winter and spring, but it falls
primarily in the northern mountains.”
Iraq's rivers "contain biological materials, pollutants, and are laden with

The document states: “Unless water treatment supplies are exempted from the
UN sanctions for humanitarian reasons, no adequate solution exists for
Iraq's water purification dilemma ...” And it explicitly presents the
expected consequences for the civilian population: “Unless the water is
purified with chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis,
and typhoid could occur.”

A series of six related reports document the degradation of the Iraqi water
supply that took place in the first half of 1991. Predictions were made of
outbreaks or epidemics of hepatitis and cholera, and the fulfillment of
these predictions was subsequently documented in detail.

In an article published in The Progressive magazine, Nagy quoted
Representative Tony Hall, Democrat of Ohio, who wrote to then-Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright, expressing his concern about blocks and holds
placed on contracts for import of water purification equipment and
chemicals in the UN Security Council. Holds on seventeen out of eighteen
contracts were placed by the United States, and the last was placed by the
United Kingdom.

Professor Nagy’s article, “The Secret Behind the Sanctions”, has been
nominated by Project Censored as one of the top ten censored stories of the
year 2001. In contrast, Nagy was overwhelmed by the level of attention he
received in the Danish media. Two national newspapers and one of the
foremost current affairs programs on national radio lined up for in-depth

And the reception from the Danish public was equally powerful. The audience
at a meeting entitled “Stop the Cholera War”, held at Copenhagen University
on June 4, was by turns curious, appalled, moved, and many of those present
were ultimately inspired to participate in an ongoing campaign to abolish
the sanctions.

Nagy’s presentation was remarkably up-beat, culminating in a patriotic
proposal that the US make atonement for its inhumane policies of the past
by investing in a global clean water project: "According to the World
Health Organization, 2.3 million children under the age of five are dying
every year as a result of water-borne diseases. This could be globally
prevented for the sum of nine billion dollars annually. The United States
should pay this sum as a memorial to the children who have died in Iraq,
and as a sign of remorse." This measure, he argued, would likely be more
valuable in countering terrorism than any increase in military expenditure.
The next day was Constitution Day, on which Danes traditionally take a half
day off to listen to elected representatives making cheerful speeches about
the thriving state of Danish democracy. First stop for Nagy was the
Christiansborg Peace Watch, which has been standing in protest outside the
Danish house of parliament every day since Denmark entered the War on
Terrorism on October 19 last year. An interview for the radio was followed
by a photo session for one of the newspapers and a train ride to the
provincial capital of Odense, for a Constitution Day meeting with a
distinctly different flavor.

Coverage in the newspapers and on radio over the next weekend and into the
following week was very gratifying for the visiting professor. A
double-page spread appeared in the Sunday edition of the daily Politiken,
under the heading: “When Water is a Weapon”. The Monday interview in the
independent intellectual broadsheet, Information, bore the heading: “US
Deliberately Lets Children Die”.

A follow-up article in Information, under the title “Denmark Shuts Its
 Eyes”, presented the responses of the foreign policy spokespersons of a
range of Danish political parties. Perhaps most significantly, the press
secretary of the Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that the
minister was unable to make a statement, as the ministry was unaware of
documentation for the assertion that the United States has banned the
import of water purification equipment.

Clearly, the Danish Committee for Peace and Development in Iraq has a
significant level of ignorance to address. But with the success of Tom Nagy
’s visit behind it, the committee is confident that an October visit from
former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans-Christof von Sponeck, will
do much to create enlightenment.

Meanwhile, Professor Nagy has returned to Washington more than content with
a level of media coverage that currently seems almost unimaginable within
the United States. But perhaps it is still possible that he will be
recognized as a prophet in his own land. Norbert Payne is a technical
writer who regularly does logistical support in the field, including water
supply and purification in refugee camps, for a medical NGO.

Coilín ÓhAiseadha is a medical doctor with clinical experience in Northern
Ireland. Currently self-employed as a full-time freelance translator.
Contact: Coilín ÓhAiseadha
Both authors are Irish, but living in Copenhagen, Denmark, and active
members of the Peace Watch, which has stood in protest outside the Danish
house of parliament since Denmark entered the War on Terrorism, on October
19, 2001.

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