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[casi] Iraq: "We didn't know" or it didn't happen? (repost)

Dear List,

The article "Doctors tell how children's deaths
became propaganda" has reminded me of an opinion
piece that appeared in the Globe and Mail on
October 8, 2002: "Who's killing the children of
Iraq?" by Margaret Wente.

The answer to Ms Wente's rhetorical question is
easy to guess. In fact, she claimed that the number
of people killed by sanctions are credible only if
you believe Saddam Hussein. The figures "come
straight from Iraq's mighty propaganda factory."
The deaths never happened.

But nothing will "dissuade the gullible and the
naive" said Ms Wente. They will persist in their
pathetic pilgrimages to Baghdad...

It was this last sentence that prompted me to
subscribe to CASI. And on December 4, I posted an
emotional and incoherent response on this list.
The article "Doctors tell..." has struck the same
chord. So I am going to repost this response, despite
its shortcomings, to voice my anger and frustration
to an unfeeling - and patently dishonest - world.

I had one more disappointment at that time: this
Globe columnist had cited a report by an "Iraq expert",
one Amatzia Baram, as the source of her denials. He
turned out to be an Israeli historian. I read
Dr. Baram's analysis, which had its own deceptions
and insinuations. But it not support Ms Wente's
wild allegations - I thought.

So I wrote to Dr. Baram for confirmation. He
eventually wrote back, defending his academic
integrity and supplying additional disinformation.
He even echoed the columnist's tone and tenor.

But he never answered my question if the article's
conclusion had been a fair interpretation of his
analysis. Apparently, he identified with the
columnist. This was a disappointment.

I hope I won't see the day when the original CASI
members begin to deny the effects of the sanctions.
This would be my greatest disappointment.

I am attaching this letter to Dr. Baram and a
repost of my first posting to CASI.


Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 02:13:33 -0400 (AST)
From: H Sutter <>
To: ----------
Subject: The Effect of Iraqi Sanctions:... MEJ, Spring 2000

Dear Dr. Baram,

I am attaching an article that cites you as the "Iraq
expert" for the gist of its conclusions. This article
"Who's killing the children of Iraq" appeared in the Globe
and Mail (Canada) on October 8, 2002. The author, Margaret
Wente, refers to your "lengthy analysis in the _Middle East
Journal_". Although no expert, I have great concerns
about the fairness and accuracy of Ms. Wente's conclusions,
and would appreciate if you could confirm whether these
conclusions are indeed a fair interpretation of your

(Your expertise, I understand, is academic: you are an
historian at the University of Haifa, and Iraq is your
field of specialization. And the _Middle East Journal_,
in which this paper appeared, is a publication of the
Middle East Forum, a think tank that promotes "American
interests in the Middle East"... and seeks a stable supply
and a low price of oil...")

I have read your paper, to which Ms. Wente refers: "The
Effect of Iraqi Sanctions: Statistical Pitfalls and
Responsibility", Volume 54, Number 2, Middle East Journal,
Spring 2000. I have also read the Unicef report whose
figures, Ms. Wente feels, you have "debunked": the 1999
report on child and maternal mortality in Iraq, released
August 12, 1999.

These figures she feels, "come straight from Iraq's mighty
propaganda factory", i.e., the "Iraqi Government. Based
supposedly on your paper, Ms. Wente claims that it was the
Iraqi Health Ministry who supplied "all the statistics".

She was corrected in a letter to the editor by a
representative of Unicef Toronto, who pointed out that
the 1999 figures were taken from direct surveys and compared
to pre-sanction (1980s) rates. The report compares
death/1000 live birth 1984-1989 to death/1000 live birth
1994-1999. - Population growth or emigration does not enter
into this comparison.

You, however, refer to various Unicef figures starting
with 1995. And you are toying with an increase or decrease
in Crude Birth Rates manipulated, as you suggest, by the
Iraqi government.

Ms Wente then picks up your conclusion: "Most of the persons
missing in 1997 according to the Iraqi claim were never born."
Irrelevant, even if valid, to the 1999 Unicef report: it does
not refer to any "Iraqi claim".

The article leaves uninformed readers with the impression
that Iraqi children killed by the sanctions regime are
figments of their government's imagination.

Has Ms. Wente correctly interpreted you analysis? I would
be interested in your comment, Dr. Baram.

Elga Sutter

Date: Wed, 4 Dec 2002 02:15:42 -0400 (AST)
From: H Sutter <>
Subject: Iraq: "We didn't know" or it didn't happen?

Dear List Members,

I have just recently subscribed to CASI, for solace. I was
trying to escape from the deafening drums of war all
around me: from the cries of politicians, the media, and
the public that this attack is "inevitable"... but mainly
from the indignant claims that it is Saddam Hussein's and
not the West's "fault" that Iraqi children are dying each
day of leukaemia, kala azar, diarrhoea.... Hussein, the
public wants to believe, has caused the "suffering of the
Iraqi people".

"Who's killing the children of Iraq?" was the title of an
opinion piece in the Globe and Mail (a Canadian national
newspaper) on October 8, 2002. The author, Margaret Wente,
starts off with the rhetorical device called begging the

     "Of all the reasons to oppose a war against Iraq,
     one of the most compelling is the image of innocent
     civilian victims. Children will die -- if only
     because Saddam Hussein won't hesitate to build
     orphanages atop his weapons labs."

And goes on:

     "And of all the accusations hurled against the
     West in its treatment of Iraq, the most damning
     is the human cost of sanctions. According to many
     peace groups, humanitarian organizations and
     politicians, sanctions have killed 500,000 Iraqi
     children. The total death toll from sanctions
     amounts to a million and a half innocent people.

     Are these figures credible?

     Only if you believe Saddam Hussein.

     The truth is that these numbers come straight
     from Iraq's mighty propaganda factory...."

This piece was Ms. Wente's (or the Globe's) reaction to
a statement signed by 120 Canadian artists, scientists,
academics, clergy, labour leaders, and others, declaring
war on Iraq "immoral". It was delivered to all members
of parliament. And apparently that appeal for peace
struck fear (?) in the hearts of mainstream Canada:
"Stick to your poetry and pianos" was another article
in the Globe, September 27, 2002.

"We, the undersigned," the statement begins, "are deeply
alarmed that the most powerful nations in the world
continue to rely on military force to achieve their global
political and economic goals while eroding the standard of
living, environment and the security of people throughout
the world."

It continues: "We are united in the belief that a
military attack on Iraq at this juncture would be
profoundly immoral, and would almost certainly result in
destabilizing repercussions that would endanger the whole

The "undersigned" also spoke to the press: "The way to
deal with Saddam Hussein is not by killing thousands of
Iraqi civilians, any more than the way to deal with
American foreign policy was by killing thousands of
American civilians on September 11th," a law professor
told a reporter.

Back to the Ms Wente's op-ed in the Globe. This sentence
about not "killing thousands of Iraqi civilians" caused
her to describe the peace promoters as "useful idiots":

     "I suspect this fact will do nothing to dissuade
     the gullible and the naive. They will persist in
     their pathetic pilgrimages to Baghdad...

     I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein, like Stalin,
     will continue to attract his share of useful
     idiots -- of whom Canada has contributed more
     than its share."

Thinking of what Mark Twain said about the "better
sleep" everyone enjoys after such "process of grotesque
self-deception", I can understand Ms Wente's rationale.
It's the rationale of politicians, the media, and most
of the public.

What I cannot understand is this sentence: "They will
persist in their pathetic pilgrimages to Baghdad..." I
have read this many times, and wondered about the meaning
of "human being".

The words "their pathetic pilgrimages to Baghdad" will
stay with me -  and compel me to collect all the facts I
can. Perhaps you can help me by answering questions I
might have.

Once I came across an article entitled, "De vernietiging
van Irak" (the destruction of Iraq). It's a "systematic"
destruction, says the Dutch author, and cites, among others,
Denis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck, Prof. Guenther,
Said Bouamama, Michel Collon, and Prof. Marc Bossuyt.

"The states imposing the sanctions could raise questions
under the genocide Convention." This is Marc Bossuyt's
conclusion in his report to the Sub-Commission on the
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, June 21, 2000.
Referring to that report, the Dutch author then says:

     "Niemand zal ooit kunnen zeggen 'Wir haben es nicht
     gewusst'" (Roughly, I think: "No one today will be
     able to say 'we didn't know'")

The second sentence is German and alludes to the reply
attributed to German citizens when confronted with the
facts of the holocaust after WWII: 'we didn't know'
('Wir haben es nicht gewusst'.)

For some this may even be true - then and today. But today
politicians and the media are trying to say "it didn't
happen" - it's all propaganda. And this must not go
unchallenged. The victims of the sanction regime are not
the figment of anyone's imagination. Nor can they safely
be attributed to Saddam Hussein. - Reading UN resolutions
661 to 986 is a start: the originators knew that Iraq
depends on imports for 70 percent of its foodstuff.

What's more, sanctions are meant to inflict "suffering"
on the population. Why else impose them? "Apply this
economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will
be no need for force", advised Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

But what has been imposed on Iraq are no _ordinary_
sanctions, it is a total embargo - and a complete takeover
(and control) of Iraq's foreign trade and economy.
Nor did Iraq escape force:

     "... we will bring you back to the pre-industrial
     age", told James Baker the Iraq's Deputy Premier
     Tariq Aziz on January 9, 1999 in Geneva. And he made
     good on that promise.

Nothing was to be spared: "roads, railroads, power systems.
That is a nice list of targets; but it is not enough... The
cutting edge is downtown Baghdad." [General Michael Dougan,
then chief of Staff of the U.S Air Force]. General Dougan's
plan also included "what is unique about Iraq culture that
[the Iraqis] put a high value on, that psychologically would
make an impact on the population and the regime in Iraq."

They also targeted hospital, schools, oil refineries,
telecommunication systems, ports, bridges, food processing
plants, and - most devastatingly - Iraqi water treatment
facilities and sewage treatment plants. Almost the entire
infrastructure was destroyed.

     "...nothing we had seen or read had quite prepared us for
     the particular form of devastation.... The recent conflict
     had wrought near-apocalyptic results upon the economic
     infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a
     highly urbanised and mechanised society...Iraq has now for
     sometime to come been relegated to a pre-industrial age."
     [Martti Ahtisaari who lead a UN investigation team to
     Iraq in March 1991.]

In 45 days more explosives were dropped on Iraq than on
Europe during the whole of WWII. And Iraq was the first
country to be hit with uranium munitions - leaving 300 tons
of DU as a conservative estimate.

However traumatic the impact of this devastation, it didn't
seem to break the spirit and the determination of the Iraqi
people. So the embargo continued the assault. And more
force: regular bombings - dubbed "pinpricks" by Clinton.

On December 16, 1998, the "pinpricks" escalated to a
full-scale bombing "campaign". For four days it hailed
missiles on Iraq - far surpassing the 6-week gulf war.
Secretary of State Cohen was "proud", "very proud" of his
troops. And Clinton sent the Iraqi people a message via
an Arab TV station:

     "I hope you realize that these attacks were in
     your best interests... Our dispute is with the Iraqi
     leaders and not the Iraqi people."

But many Iraqi people had given up hope: "this situation
has been repeated many times, again and again, for 8 years.
I prefer to die immediately in a bomb attack rather than
slowly and steadily in the sanctions", an Iraqi woman told
Masako Ito, member of a Japanese NGO during "Desert Storm".

The Iraqi people also knew that Japan was one of the
countries supporting the 1998 bombing. "Did we do something
wrong to Japan ?", they asked Mrs. Ito. And: "how come do
peace loving Japanese do such a thing against the public
opinion around the world ?" - Can you imagine how Iraqi
people would feel if they read Ms Wente's cynical
denial, coming from _peace-loving_ Canada?

After "Desert Fox", the bombing continued almost daily
in the no-fly-zones. And such were US sentiments:

     "They know we own their country. We own their airspace...
     We dictate the way they live and talk. And that's what's
     great about America right now. It's a good thing,
     especially when there is a lot of oil out there we need."
     [U.S. Brigadier General William Looney, who directed the
     bombing in the no-fly-zones.]

The sanctions continued too. But the malign workings of UN
Resolution 986 April 14, 1995 are rarely discussed. This
is the so-called "Oil-for-Food" Program. All payments by
oil purchasers (67% US) go into an escrow account in New York
(Bank National de Paris). Suppliers too are paid out of
that account by the OIP. The Iraq Government doesn't get
a single dinar from their own money. How does the UN Security
Council expect the Government of Iraq to pay for the upkeep
of schools, hospitals, roads, and so on? Pay salaries, and
all the rest? Surely not from oil smuggling? That would be
the height of hypocrisy.

This offer ("Oil-for-Food") was first made in 1991 as
Resolution 706 with the same conditions. Iraq turned it
down as gross interference in its sovereignty that would
turn the country into a virtual UN protectorate. So it is.
And any other government would have turned it down too. And
now Saddam Hussein is blamed for not having accepted that
"window of opportunity" - which was illegal to start with.

Thanks to the conditions of that "humanitarian program",
Iraq has a galloping inflation. The dinar now stands
approx. 3000 to the dollar (before the gulf war it was 3.3
to the dollar.) Unemployment is up to 80 percent. The
average monthly income is $5 (a doctor makes about $10).

People had to sell their belongings: furniture, books,
jewellery...their houses. Some people even have to sell
items from the monthly food basket to buy other essentials.
Many are homeless. Kids go begging in the streets. A
highly educated middle class has disappeared. - Basra,
the "Venice of the Middle East", is now a slum.

And then in June 2001, came the "smart" sanctions - a
PR move to stifle criticism. "Anything not on the List
can now be freely imported." What's the use, even if that
were true? How could people afford to pay?

"Every year we make small progress, and now another war
to destroy everything?", a doctor in a Basra hospital asks
a visiting European colleague. A mother hands that visitor
her undernourished baby - please take him with you to Europe
where he will survive, she begs. How great must be the
despair of that mother.

And now a new "inevitable" war is looming. One day
questions will be asked by our children or their children:
"What did _you_ do Mum and Dad, Grandma, Grandpa when they
were killing the children of Iraq? But the final questions
will be asked by the Iraqi people. As one Iraqi put it:

     I am afraid of one thing: the time will come one day
     when Iraqis will demand retributions for the crimes
     committed against them. If sometime westerners are
     attacked, and they ask: why, we haven't done anything?.
     The answer would be: Because YOU HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING.
     You stood by and allowed our kids to be killed. You gave
     support to governments, and elected people who bombed us
     and killed our people. Because in a democracy, you have
     the right to say NO, and you didn't. Since you have given
     up your rights then, and you have none left...

     Is that what those supporting an attack on Iraq want
     for their children??"

Elga Sutter

P.S. Sorry, I didn't mean to make it that long.

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