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Re: [casi] BBC article on OFF

For clarification, here's a letter of complaint Per sent the other day
(sorry for forwarding, Per, but I'm not sure whether you're on the
discussion list at the moment)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in response to Peter Greste's article 'Iraq oil-for-food
scheme ending', posted on

This article contains numerous grave inaccuracies:

1. It calls the programme 'the biggest aid scheme of [the UN's] history'.
This is incorrect: a dictionary definition of aid is 'assistance (as
economic aid) provided by one nation to another'.  The OFF programme was
not assistance, but a set of exemptions from economic restrictions: Iraq
was allowed to generate revenue through a single export (oil); have a
substantial portion deducted for compensation payments and payments of UN
officials;  and spend the remaining revenue on a limited set of
commodities, subject to UN approval and monitoring.  The funds spent were
always Iraqi, never others' donations.

2. It claims that sanctions were imposed seven years ago.  Sanctions were
imposed by Security Council Resolution 661, in August 1990, following
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.  The OFF programme, on the other hand, did in
fact come into effect some seven years ago; Mr. Greste has confused the
sanctions regime with its exemptions.

3. It gives the impression that the funds in OFF were spent by the UN
(e.g. 'It supervised the sale of Iraqi oil and used the funds to help keep
Iraqi civilians alive.').  This is untrue: spending was determined by
half-yearly distribution plans made by the Iraqi government, with UN
intervention limited to little more than banning those goods which were
considered banned or 'dual-use'; holding up unclear appliations; and
monitoring that supplies reached end-users.  Not only were the funds
Iraqi, but they were also spent by Iraqis.

4. It gives a misleading account of the extent of humanitarian assistance,
by claiming that the UN's control of revenue was purely humanitarian and
then saying that '$65bn passed through its accounts'.  The correct figure
to give in this context is that $33.6bn of humanitarian goods have arrived
in Iraq under OFF
(  Meanwhile,
some $17.5bn have been paid in compensation payments to victims of the
1990-91 Gulf War (  The rest is
still waiting to be disbursed, or has gone to payment of UN expenses, such
as inspections and monitoring.  The impression given, of $65bn spent for
the benefit of Iraqis, overstates the positive impact of the programme by
almost 100%.

On 28 March this year I wrote to you pointing out the exact same error of
OFF as an 'aid' programme (see  I hope that you will
amend you article, as you did then.  If your reporters need an
introduction explaining what Oil for Food is, I suggest they have a look
at its own website,

Yours faithfully,

Per Klevnas

On Tue, 25 Nov 2003, Eric Herring wrote:

> Dear Peter
> The way you are using the word 'historical' here implies 'merely'.
> History and its uses are not trivial, even in minor bits of BBC
> journalism. What the article does is reconstruct the truth about the
> sanctions in a way that whitewashes the sanctions. If this happens,
> then the story about the benign motives for the war and the occupation
> becomes more plausible. And challenging untruths about the nature of
> the UN sanctions is not the same them as 'defending the virtues of the
> Iraqi government'! That is a piece of rhetoric which was used against
> anti-sanctions campaigners and I am surprised to see you using it now.
> I also don't know who the 'we' is in your point about concentrating
> attention on immediate humanitarian issues.
> Best wishes
> Eric
> On Tue, 25 Nov 2003 09:26:26 +0000 Peter Brooke <>
> wrote:
> > Well, I suppose there is quite a lot to complain about but most of the
> > points are historical - a matter of defending the virtues of the Iraqi
> > government against the depredations of the UN - and we are always being told
> > that we should concentrate our attention on immediate humanitarian issues.
> > The humanitarian issue here is whether or not the Coalition Provisional
> > Authority will continue the scheme unchanged. So far as I can see CASI has
> > already supported the principle of the changeover (by welcoming the end to
> > sanctions) and doesn't yet have a clear picture of what the practical
> > consequences of the changeover are likely to be.
> >
> > Peter
> >
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Daniel O'Huiginn
07789 260207 01223 564613
O9, Queens College

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