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Dear all I found the following message, a critique of John Pilger, in my news clippings folder. I don't know if it was intended for the whole list. I have written a reply which I have added top the end of this message. Yours Peter ---------- From: Chris Parsons <Chris.Parsons@manlycouncil.nsw.gov.au> Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 17:17:46 +1100 To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: The deaths of Iraqi children from the effects of sanctions. You'v e been sucked in. Hi, I think you might be interested in some of these items. For example; http://www.mattwelch.com/NatPostSave/Sanctions.htm If not interested already, you soon will be. Have you ever wondered how John Pilger substantiates the claim that according to UNICEF, a half-million (or more) Iraqi children have died since 1990 as a direct result of the sanctions against Sadam's regime? And have you noticed how the figure keeps going up and down? On his website, John Pilger on 17 Oct 2002 claimed that embargo against Iraq, "according to the United Nations Children's Fund, has led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 600,000 Iraqi children." It can be found on-line at http://pilger.carlton.com/print/119612 In an August 1998 article archived at a web-site run by the 'Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq', Pilger claims "a million children have died as a direct result of sanctions. Other sources put the figure at over a million." In other words, about 143,000 per annum - or 390 per day. This claim can be found on-line at http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/1998/msg00246.html (on a page titled 'Good old John Pilger.' In the New Statesman, 21 August 1998, Pilger claimed: "Eight years of sanctions have killed two million Iraqis, including one million children. That is the child population of a medium-sized British city." This figure was revised down by 50 per cent for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 June 2000 where Pilger reported the "death of half a million children due to economic sanctions, and the continuing bombing of populated areas in Iraq by American and British aircraft." A few weeks later, on 31 July 2000, a different claim was made. Citing "a UNICEF report", Pilger claimed then that on average 200 hundred Iraqi children are dying every day (73,050 per annum) as a result of the sanctions imposed on Iraq, or "more than half a million" since 1991. This claim can be found at http://pilger.carlton.com/iraq This daily death-toll of children was further revised down to 177 by Pilger on March 23, 2002 in the New Statesman, where he stated "The death of some 5-6,000 children a month (66,000 per annum - or 726,000 since 1991) is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments' delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad." This claim can be found on-line at http://www.zmag.org/content/MainstreamMedia/pilger_compliantpress.cfm This total figure of child victims increased 226,000 in one year from the 500,000 victims Pilger claimed have died, in the 21 September 2001 edition of The Guardian, as a result of the sanctions. This claim can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/wtccrash/story/0,1300,555452,00.html So which, if any of these varied claims is right? Because Saddam Hussein's government blocks any real independent inquiry, no one really knows how many civilians have died as a direct result of United Nations sanctions, which were originally imposed 12 years ago in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. But it is possible to declare, with some precision, that the UN has never said sanctions have killed 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five. When people calculate child mortality among the under-fives in Iraq, the measuring unit is the gruesome euphemism of "excess deaths" -- the number of children who died "in excess" of what could be expected in "normal" times. This immediately begs two questions that are seldom asked: What is "normal," and how can you assign specific responsibility for the excess deaths? A list of candidates for the latter would include: sanctions, drought, hospital policy, breast-feeding education, destruction from the Iran-Iraq and Persian Gulf wars, Saddam's misgovernance, depressed oil prices, farm policy, overdependence on oil exports, differences in conditions between the autonomous north and the Saddam-controlled south, and so on. Saddam has not wasted any time on such interpretative nuance: Every death, "excess" or otherwise, is the embargo's fault. According to the Iraqi government, in the 10-year period from 1991-2001, UN policy has killed 670,000 children under five, and 1.6 million Iraqis overall (5,550 and 13,300 per month, respectively). Note the "5,550" figure for child deaths. It is - surprise, surprise - virtually identical to the figure Pilger quotes in his March 23, 2002 New Statesman article of "some 5-6,000 children a month". So where did the 500,000 figure touted by Pilger come from? In August, 1995, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) gave officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Health a questionnaire on child mortality, and asked them to conduct a survey in the capital city of Baghdad. On the basis of this five-day, 693-household, Iraq-controlled study, the FAO announced in November that "child mortality had increased nearly fivefold" since the era before sanctions. As embargo critic Richard Garfield, a public health specialist at Columbia University, noted in his own 1999 survey of under-five deaths, "The 1995 study's conclusions were subsequently withdrawn by the authors.... [Yet] their estimate of more than 500,000 excess child deaths due to the embargo is still often repeated by sanctions critics." In March, 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its own report on the humanitarian crisis. It reprinted figures -- provided solely by the Iraqi Ministry of Health -- showing that a total of 186,000 children under the age of five died between 1990 and 1994 in the 15 Saddam-governed provinces. According to these government figures, the number of deaths jumped from 8,903 in 1990 to 52,905 in 1994. Then, a New York-based advocacy outfit called the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) took a look at the Iraqi government's highest numbers - and promptly tripled them. In May, 1996, CESR concluded "these mortality rates translate into a figure of over half a million excess child deaths as a result of sanctions." Then, in a May 12, 1996 CBS 60 Minutes broadcast that would later, ironically, win several journalism awards, journalist by Lesley Stahl threw CESR's bogus numbers at Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "We have heard that a half million children have died," Stahl said. "I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." Pilger has been repeating this ever since. He doubtless knows the full story behind the phoney "half million" and "million" child death's resulting from the UN sanctions. But he ain't saying nothing MY REPLY Dear Chris Parsons This may serve as a good critique of some aspects of John Pilger's reporting. But you've sent it to me presumably as someone involved in the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. CASI, and Voices in the Wilderness (which is the most militant anti-sanctions group) have always been scrupulous in pointing out a) that the 1995/6 FAO and WHO figures are unreliable and b) that the much more reliable UNICEF 1999 report doesn't attribute the 'excess deaths' uniquely to sanctions. That is information you will find on the CASI website very quickly whereas you have to look quite hard before you find the article you are attacking. You respect the work of Richard Garfield. The only book that CASI has published (Sanctions on Iraq) includes an essay by Garfield which summarises his main conclusions in this field. We do often quote the Leslie Stahl-Madeleine Albright interview, making it clear that the 500,000 figure is unreliable. But the point is that she didn't question it. The figure was about at the time and the US government declared that such a figure (if true) wouldn't cause it to rethink its policies. In 1991 the entire industrial infrastructure of Iraq (only recently developed at - as is customary with the process of indutrialisation - huge social cost) was destroyed. A blockade that had been imposed on the country during the war was kept in place so that nothing could go in and out. For a while the Iraqis were able to do something in the way of restoring electricity, clean water, communications (roads, bridges) etc on the basis of what material they still possessed but that soon ran out. Eventually, after five years, they agreed to Oil for Food, a system that puts the entire national income from exports into the hands of their enemies. The system requires them to list everything that needs to be imported into the country in the full knowledge that a large part of what they ask for won't be delivered because of its possible 'dual use' applications (noticeable though that the blocking or unblocking of huge quantities of material seems to be related not to the danger it poses to world peace, but to the state of diplomatic relations with Russia eg at the time of negotiations over 'smart sanctions'). Because there is no 'cash component' none of the money from oil exports can be used to develop the native Iraqi economy (fortunately some elements of an Iraqi economy have been able to develop through smuggling). Oil, as I'm sure you know, is the only thing the Iraqis are allowed to export so when you mention 'overdependence on oil exports' among your explanations of infant mortality, that too falls under the heading of sanctions, as does 'destruction from the Iran-Iraq and Persian Gulf wars' since sanctions have been the main reason why the destruction has not been repaired. It really doesn't take very much mental effort to understand that such a system will have a huge effect on the wellbeing of the population even if that effect is impossible to measure in precise scientific terms. Those who defend this policy still have a huge moral obligation to explain why the price is worth it. Yours sincerely Peter Brooke _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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