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Re: [casi] The Secret Behind the Sanctions

Tom Nagy's research does show that the US knew what was happening, knew
specifically that the sanctions were creating a humanitarian
catastrophe. This is a crime against humanity. It does not show that
water treatment was targeted for bombing.

As for the issue of whether the effects were intended or not, I have
written elsewhere (in my article on power, propaganda, indifference and
the sanctions - see my website - URL below):

'Intentions matter, and intending to inflict human cost is morally
worse than not intending to inflict it. Hence, for example, whereas
some leaders have sought the death of vast numbers of people, mass
death is not an objective of the sanctions. Furthermore, remedial
measures have been instituted intended to reduce the scale of suffering
in Iraq, especially since 1996 and the establishment of the UN Oil For
Food (OFF) programme permitting Iraqi oil exports from which most of
the proceeds go towards the purchase of humanitarian goods under UN
supervision. Another difference is that the killing is indirect rather
than direct: in other words, the deaths are caused by shortages of
necessary items rather than by individuals being executed or bombed. As
Mueller and Mueller put it, the deaths caused by sanctions are
<LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>dispersed rather than concentrated and statistical rather than
dramatic.<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>[13] This means that responsibility for the deaths is much
less obviously attributable or intentional. However, when we say that
we did not intend something to happen, it usually means that a
consequence was not functional to the pursuit of our objectives, was
unexpected, the product of omissions rather than actions, unavoidable,
something we try to end or reverse once we become aware of it, or some
combination of these. There is a clear sense in which the human cost of
the sanctions is functional to various versions of the objectives of
the sanctions. Iraqi society is a resource for Saddam Hussein to
survive and be powerful. Damaging Iraqi society can contribute to
limiting his power or reducing his chances of survival, and it can also
be seen as a means of putting pressure on Saddam Hussein to comply with
the relevant UN resolutions. Consequences matter as well as intentions,
and where consequences are anticipated and, once they have occurred and
are known, culpability is increased. From the outset, the huge scale of
death and suffering in Iraq was a fully anticipated consequence of the
sanctions due to their reinforcement of the effects of US-led bombing
in 1991 and Iraq<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>s long war with Iran in the 1980s.[14] When those
anticipated consequences became a reality, the sanctions continued.
Furthermore, the human cost in Iraq is not merely a product of
omissions, but of actions as well.[15] The sanctions were set up and
run one way rather than some other way. This is particularly important
in that international law and human rights conventions do not give
decision-makers, at the state or UN level, the right to act in any way
they see fit in pursuit of their perceived interests. In this vein, the
UN General Assembly<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>s Inter-Agency Standing Committee of UN,
non-governmental and inter-governmental humanitarian agencies
emphasised to the Security Council that: <LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>The design of a sanctions
regime should [...] take fully into account international human rights
instruments and humanitarian standards established by the Geneva
Conventions<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>.[16]  In a report commissioned by the UN, Belgian Law
Professor Marc Bossuyt concluded that: <LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>The sanctions regime against
Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing international law and
human rights law<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK> and <LEFT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>could raise questions 
under the genocide
Convention.<RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK>[17] Hence culpability is further deepened by the fact that
these omissions and actions are those not of just any actors but of
those with specific role responsibilities. The avoidability or
otherwise of consequences also comes into play. Even within the
sanctions regime, much of the human cost could have been avoided by
offering from the outset a large-scale programme of supervised oil
sales for humanitarian supplies. Instead, the offers that were made by
the UN in 1991 were for an unspecified share of a one-off small amount
of money (working out at about $73 per person). A revised offer made in
1995, and accepted by an economically shattered Iraq in 1996 as the OFF
programme, at least specified and increased the amount of money to be
available for humanitarian supplies.[18] The offers of remedial action
allowed pro-sanctions officials to refuse to accept blame for the human
cost by enabling them to argue that a humanitarian programme had been
offered to Iraq: making a strictly humanitarian offer aimed at saving
Iraqis was not a priority.

 In sum, the human cost of the sanctions has been instrumental in the
pursuit of policy objectives, anticipated, known, a product of actions
rather than omissions, avoidable, subject only to limited remedial
action and that remedial action has not clearly been motivated
primarily by a desire to avoid that human cost. These points do not
undermine the unintentionality defence completely, because we need to
retain the capacity to identify and condemn those who do intend such
things in the sense that the human cost of a policy is seen as an end
in itself. However, even here the distinction is not absolute because
what they have in common is a strong streak of indifference, involving
both an uncaring awareness of human cost and also a sheer lack of
attention to that human cost through avoidance of thinking about it or
acting to avert it.'


Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Office tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Mobile tel. +44-(0)7771-966608
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

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