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[casi] Arguing against sanctions

Dear Listmembers,
I thought I'd share the tactics that I use in discussing sanctions with
people. Over the years, and after many fruitless discussions
(seemingly, though I try to remain hopeful), I've discovered an order
of raising the issues that I find most productive -- it induces the most
humane reponses. I hope it is useful to others.

I start by asking why they think that a humanitarian programme of
food distribution -- the biggest, longest and most complex in history --
is necessary in Iraq. I have found that that this is the
most effective way to begin. The US/UK government propagandists have
focussed their efforts on promoting the claim that Saddam Hussein and
the Iraqi government are responsible for failures of the programme,
and -- not surprisingly -- say relatively little about the reasons for the
existence of the programme. So when ordinary people think about Iraq they
tend to recall what they have read (``Saddam is witholding medicine''
``Saddam is not distributing enough food'') and are ready to respond
with this reflex when asked why thousands of children are dying every
month. But they have not usually stopped to think why Iraqi people need
the humanitarian aid in the first place. On this simple point, they have
no protective veneer of manufactured answers and you can reach their human
feeling quite directly. Begining the discussion away from the failures of
the aid system and the dispute over who is responsible for them, focusses
the attention on the reasons the aid is necessary: the destruction
of infrastructure in 1991 -- electricity, water, sanitation, transport,
communications -- and the complete civil economic collapse caused
by sanctions leading to widespread poverty and destitution.
These things there is no dispute about. There is no dispute that there
is a desperate need for food aid. And there is no dispute that we have
caused it: they were our bombs, it is our blockade, imposed by our warships.

Once this is established, the simple question can be asked: is it right
to reduce Iraqi children and their families to poverty so extreme that
they require humanitarian food aid and maintain them in that poverty for
12 years? Most people repond in a moral way.

Of course the propagandists do try to throw the blame for the
very existence of sanctions onto Saddam Hussein too
but that is where their argument is absolutely weak: If Iraq complied then
sanctions would be lifted. But that is an admission that the entire
population of millions of innocent people to is being held to ransom and
most people consider that to be wrong. (That's even without needing
to go into the fact that the US/UK don't want Iraqi compliance with the
UN at all as we see so clearly at the moment.)

It seems this might also be a useful tactic in addressing public figures,
``Why do the Iraqi people require humanitarian aid, Mr Blair?'' Almost any
answer to that question immediately exposes the immorality of US/UK policy.

Best wishes,

+  Fay Dowker                       Physics Department               +
+                                   Queen Mary, University of London +
+  E-mail:       Mile End Road,                   +
+  Phone:  +44-(0)20-7882-5047      London E1 4NS.                   +
+  Fax:    +44-(0)20-8981-9465                                       +
+  Homepage:          +

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