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Re: [casi] Iraq imported chewing gum machines through OFF?

Hi Eric,

> 'the oil-for-food programme was abused by the Iraqi regime by, for
> example, using it to "import thousands of chewing gum machines"'.

I have no information to offer on this particular issue, but it is
not new; a November briefing by the FCO stated that:

"Iraqi orders submitted to the UN for approval during one week in October
included 22,000 tons of chewing gum machines, 12,000 tons of mobile
phones, 36,000 dishwashers and over three quarters of a million Tvs [sic]"

I'm inclined to think this is true: after all, FCO or MOD personell have
seen every application made under OFF.  It would also be a silly thing to
tell untruths about, as there are worse examples of sleaze even in public
information: the last few OFF distribution plan contain a 'Project for the
Construction of an Olympic Sports City'. [2] As it happens, Uday Hussein
is the head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee.  Even our government does this
sort of thing (e.g. Milennium Dome?), and a dictatorship like that in Iraq
is even more likely to have its preferences misaligned with that of its

All of this are peripheral, distractions which no one genuinely concerned
with the well-being of Iraqis would discuss as a serious issue.  The
characterisation of OFF as a programme for the import of unnecessary goods
is demonstrably wrong.  However optimally allocated, the 50-60c per day
delivered for the past six years under OFF is inadequate as provision for
Iraqis, let alone for the reconstruction of infrastructure and much-needed
investment.  What the Prime Minister's spokesman is urging is essentially
redistribution -- from chewing gum machine users to, say, children in need
of therapeutic feeding -- and as such is probably a good idea.  But with
inadequate resources no amount of redistribution is a remedy, and the
whole argument elides the question of why Iraqis were in need of these
rations in the first place.

All of this might now be a bit historical in nature.  For the first time,
the US and UK governments appear to see the smooth running of the OFF
programme as a priority.  Bush even adopted our long-standing argument
wholesale the other day, asking that the issue of OFF not be politicised.
Let us just hope that it is not long before humanitarian imports can be
fully resumed not only on paper, but in practise.

Best wishes,

Per Klevnäs

The press release contains numerous errors and omissions, some of which
are discussed in a previous CASI briefing available on

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