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Dear all, As Glen wrote on Wednesday, the White House 'Office for Global Communications' has issued a report on entitled 'Apparatus of Lies: Saddam's Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003' [http://www.whitehouse.gov/ogc/apparatus/index.html] The report covers a variety of issues, ranging from the Amiriyah bunker-shelter to depleted uranium. In one of the subsections, entitled 'Exploiting Suffering' it also makes brief comments on the issue of sanctions, of which this email is a commentary and analysis. I apologise if this mainly covers familiar ground. It is saddening that a report like this could be written after year's of argument about sanctions, but it nonetheless seems important to remind ourselves of our responsibility for the wellbeing of the Iraqi people. ------ On sanctions, the report follows a familiar course of argument. "the Iraqi government makes food and medicine scarce for average citizens. It then shifts the blame for the suffering of the Iraqi people from Saddam's policies to the United Nations, which established the sanctions." The claim is that a) well-documented human rights abuses of the Government of Iraq (GoI); b) the GoI's choice to prioritise its own wellbeing over that of its people; c) evidence that the GoI has made implausible and unverifiable statements about hardship in Iraq, constitute evidence that: i) hardship in Iraq is not severe and ii) such are there is, is attributable not to sanctions, but to the policies of the GoI. This is a perturbing document. While claiming to be about Iraqi disinformation, it fails itself to make use of such independent and high-quality information as there is about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. Meanwhile, some its statements are inaccurate, resulting either from very poor research or deliberate misstatements of the situation. There can be no doubt that much hardship in Iraq is caused by the Iraqi government. Political oppression and human rights abuses have been chronicled by Amnesty International, Human Rights, Watch, and the UN itself; the OGC report gives further examples. However, the OGC proceeds from this observation to make the false syllogism that because the Iraqi people suffers, and much suffering in Iraq is caused by the Iraqi government, no suffering is caused by sanctions. This refusal to acknowledge that the international community has any responsibility for the impact of its policies on the people of Iraq is perhaps the most worrying tendency of the report. It makes the false claim that food imports were allowed into Iraq from the day sanctions were imposed , while the truth is that it took six months before this was agreed. It is more concerned to establish that 'Saddam lies' about issues such as nutrition and child mortality instead of examining the best available evidence; this is despite the far-reaching implication this information has for the justice of continued sanctions. It makes unsubstantiated claims that a different distribution of supplies imported under 'Oil-for-Food' (OFF) would suffice to lift Iraqis out of poverty, and makes false assertions about Iraqi government diversion of OFF supplies. The Iraqi people is thus caught in a political conflict over which they have no influence, and in which neither party demonstrates much concern for their wellbeing. Their own government has priorities which it apparently considers more important than actions that would result in sanctions' lifting, while the international community denies any responsibility for the consequences of its attempts to coerce the Iraqi government. This refusal not only puts into question the current rhetoric of 'liberation' of the Iraqi people. It also have grave consequences of for the reform of sanctions. Significantly, the OGC report makes no mention of the role of Iraqi income and the state of the infrastructure, notably water, electricity, and sanitation. This is despite the fact that Unicef, the FAO, and other UN agencies as well as NGOs have identified these as key constraints on the wellbeing of ordinary Iraqis. Without a diagnosis of the way sanctions hurt Iraq, reform will not be based on humanitarian needs but on political convenience. This appears to have been the mechanism behind last year's shift towards 'smart sanctions', which essentially constitutes a reform of import procedures. Below follows an analysis of some of the issues raised in the OGC report; much of it is only loosely referenced, as email does not lend itself well to this. THE EXTENT AND NATURE OF HARDHIP The OGC report to argue that there is no suffering in Iraq has been overstated. "According to the UN, under the Oil-for-Food Program the daily food ration in Iraq rose from about 1,200 kilocalories per day in 1996 to over 2,200 kilocalories per day in August 2002 ... Iraq therefore implausibly claims that child mortality soared while the average caloric intake for Iraqis increased by 80 percent, and while medical supplies were becoming more plentiful." This is a poor discussion of data. Firstly, 1,200 kilocalories did not constitute the total caloric intake of an average Iraqi prior to 1996; this would have resulted in widespread famine. The UN has investigated the issue, and found that "[t]he effective nation-wide rationing system set up by the Government of Iraq in 1991 prevented famine [FAO 2000, p vii], The most reliable figure available also an independent (UN) estimate, is of c. 2,250 kcal/person/day in the period 1991-1996 [FAO 2000, p. 2]. As of 2000, there was little incidence of adult under-nutrition in Iraq (although malnutrition persisted to some extent) [FAO 2000 p 23] Food availability is thus no longer a major feature of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. It is therefore unfortunate that this is the main focus of the OGC report's discussion of sanctions; it means that its conclusions can be very limited. The other component discussed in the report is that of excess mortality: "Iraq claims that 1.7 million children, including 700,000 under the age of five, out of a total national population of 22 million people, have died because of sanctions. According to an Iraqi government website, after the Oil-for-Food Program was instituted the number of children who died before the age of five jumped 50 percent from 1996 to 2001" As the report correctly argues, the GoI has a clearly identifiable incentive to overstate such figures. Any serious discussion of sanctions and their impact would therefore do better in not relying on them, and proceed to use the best available, independent information. Like food availability and nutritional intake, the issues of child mortality and nutrition have been rigorously investigated by the UN itself. In 1999, Unicef surveyed 40,000 Iraqi households to determine the extent to which infant and under-five child mortality had changed since sanctions' imposition. They observed a sharp break with the long-term trend of improvement, concluding that an additional half million children under the age of five had died between 1991 and 1998. Subsequent reports indicate that 'Oil-for-Food' has been able to stem some deterioration, but unable bring about much improvement. In the fifth year of 'Oil-for-Food', the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation surveys concluded that child malnutrition "remains unacceptably high ... since the six-monthly surveys began in 1997 it appears that there has been little further improvement except for chronic malnutrition ... still, at least about 800,000 children under the age of five are chronically malnourished"[FAO 2000 p. 17]. These findings "corroborate ... the findings of the 1999 Mortality Survey supported by UNICEF that found more than a two-fold increase in infant and child mortality since the end of the 1980s"[FAO 2000 p. 21]. The coexistence of food availability and child mortality is no contradiction: "malnutrition, especially child malnutrition, is often caused by factors other than those related to food", notably "disease and unsafe water", overcrowding, poverty, and the lack of education [FAO 2000 p. 34]. For someone genuinely concerned to assess the humanitarian impact of United Nations policy towards Iraq, there is no shortage of independent information. Confining the discussion, as the OGC report does, to the problems with Iraqi government data contributed very little to this. At most, it can demonstrate that the Iraqi government gives inaccurate information. Neither by logic nor by an evaluation of evidence does it follow that sanctions have not impoverished and caused hardship in Iraq. CAUSES OF HARDSHIP: DIVERSION The OGC report also discusses the causes of hardship in Iraq. Its argument is that it is solely attributable to distribution, and that the GoI is 'blaming sanctions for regime failure'. "The Iraqi regime has diverted to its weapons program or to luxuries for the regime's elites many millions of dollars that were intended for food, medicines, and other necessities." Insofar as this is a claim about the adequacy of the 'Oil-for-Food', however, this is incorrect. The one example of diversion of 'Oil-for-Food' resources given in the report is poorly researched: "Infant formula sold to Iraq under the Oil-for-Food Program has been found in markets throughout the Gulf, presumably exported by the regime to circumvent the sanctions." The reference given is to the wrong page of a 1999 State Department report about Iraq [http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/iraq/iraq.pdf]. This report in turn refers to an incident of a shipment of what turned out to be talcum powder, not baby milk [see, for example, http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/1999/msg00631.html or http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/1999/msg00480.html]. As a crowning irony of this issue, it would probably be of benefit to Iraqi infants if the GoI ceased to provide infant formula in the 'Oil-for-Food' rations: as happens in many other developing countries, its use undermines breast feeding and, in the absence of clean water, is a health hazard for infants. None of this, however, is particularly relevant in assessing in how far the impact of sanctions could have been successfully mitigated by the 'Oil-for-Food' programme had the Iraqi government behaved differently. The question is whether diversion has taken place to the extent that what could have been adequate in alleviating Iraqi poverty and deprivation has been rendered ineffective. Turning to the UN sources, there is no evidence for this. The UN monitors the end-use of all supplies entering Iraq under OFF through its Multidisciplinary Observation Unit, and the Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme has stated: "We have the capacity and the necessary monitoring and observation mechanisms in place to monitor oil spare parts and humanitarian supplies arriving in Iraq to provide the assurances to the Council and its Committee that supplies arriving in Iraq under the programme are indeed being utilized for authorized purposes." [http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/background/latest/bvs010308. html] The absence of substantial humanitarian improvement under OFF has many causes. Some surely involve Iraqi government negligence, incompetence, or inability; much is attributable to the structural inadequacy of a commodity-import programme in substituting for normal economic activity and markets. However, there is no evidence that the diversion of supplies by the GoI occurs to an extent that significantly affects the humanitarian situation. CAUSES OF HARDSHIP: DISTRIBUTION Another claim of the OGC report is that the problem in Iraqi is not one of overall inadequacy of resources and income, but of distribution of existing resources. This is repeated numerous times in the report: "While devoting massive resources to opulent palaces and huge weapons programs, the Iraqi government makes food and medicine scarce for average citizens." "while many Iraqi citizens face near starvation, Saddam Hussein continues to use oil wealth to build castles and weapons. All the while, the regime falsely blames the plight of the Iraqi people on UN sanctions." Undeniably, the Iraqi government's spending priorities do not perfectly reflect the preferences and needs of the population: Iraqi children would be better off if resources went towards the building of schools instead of 'palaces' or Olympic stadiums (as was included in one of last year's OFF distribution plans). Unfortunately, this does not point to an easy cure to Iraqi poverty, and it does not explain why, as the report puts it, 'many Iraqi citizens face near starvation' now when they did not do so under the same regime but without sanctions. Meanwhile, it is very hard to evaluate statements such as: "Even after the [Oil-for-Food] program was in place, the regime continued to deprive its citizens of the food and medical commodities that the international community wanted to supply." It is not made clear to what this claim refers. The obstacles to the effective implementation of OFF were long the inadequacy of resources, owing to a UN-imposed cap on oil exports. Even after this cap was removed entirely in 1999 (by SCR 1284), years of underinvestment and damage to oil infrastructure prevented Iraq from increasing oil exports [See http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/background/reports/oilexpertsreport.pdf] With estimates of lost oil revenue around $150bn [this is the Economist's estimate], no amount of redistribution could have compensated for the drop in income occasioned by sanctions. This is true without taking into account issues such as the combined effects of war and sanctions on degrading infrastructure; the undermining of local economic activity by free imports; and years of inadequate training and education under sanctions. Wasteful consumption by small elites in the midst of widespread poverty might be distasteful, but when underlying total income is insufficient, redistribution is no cure of poverty. CAUSES OF HARDSHIP: FAILURE TO COMPLY Sanctions have been in place for 12 years, and much hardship would have been avoided had they been lifted a long time ago: "In a total of 29 separate resolutions, the UN Security Council has stated clearly its reason for imposing sanctions: to force Iraq to comply with previous UN resolutions. But Saddam Hussein refuses to comply." The reasons for this non-compliance are complex. They surely include both the fact that the GoI has hoped to see sanctions abolished without fulfilling disarmament obligations. Equally, it is likely that repeated US statements portraying sanctions as part of a policy of regime change will have removed much incentive for compliance [see http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/background/reports/oilexpertsreport.pdf for examples]. In addition, however, Iraqi failure to comply is in fact explained in the OGC report itself: "In 2000, Forbes magazine estimated Saddam Hussein's personal wealth at $7 billion, acquired primarily from oil and smuggling." [p 14] "High-ranking regime loyalists receive the most expensive medical care ... while basic medicines are in short supply for the Iraqi people" As these and other statements makes clear, the elite appears to have succeeded to a large extent in insulating itself from the dramatic decline in living conditions experienced by ordinary Iraqis since 1990. Unfortunately, it is these 'high-ranking regime' loyalists, not the Iraqi people, who decide on Iraqi policy. This is a major reason why coercion by economic sanctions has been unsuccessful in Iraq. With hardship confined to those without influence over GoI decisions - ordinary people - the regime's incentive for compliance with the UN's demands has been relatively weak. As long as the regime prioritises its freedom of action and survival over the wellbeing of the Iraqi people, the link between coercion through sanctions and compliance will be weak. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk