The Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) is a Cambridge student organisation concerned about the humanitarian consequences of sanctions on Iraq. It does not support Saddam Hussein's regime.
It's been a long time since the last CASI newsletter, but here it finally is. I think that its delay reflects the demanding term that we've had, trying to stay organised in a rapidly changing situation.
The following items mentioned below are of particular importance:
While CASI's concern for the Iraqi people is humanitarian the political and the humanitarian do influence each other. We therefore provide a few paragraphs summarising and commenting on some of the past months' political events. Comments below should not be taken as expressing an anti-American viewpoint generally; on this issue, from what we are able to understand, we feel American policy to be inconsiderate of the legitimate needs and aspirations of the people of Iraq and possibly regionally destabilising.
At the political level, the chief weapon's inspector for Unscom, Scott Ritter, resigned last summer, followed in September by the man in charge of the oil-for-food programme in Baghdad, Denis Halliday. After a confrontation in November in which the US and UK threatened to undertake military action without UN authority December saw them make good their threat. The report of Richard Butler, head of Unscom, to the Security Council is available on http://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/s98-1172.htm. It has been claimed by Middle East commentators that only some 5 or 6 sites of 300 or 400 inspected were obstructed; the report, while admitting that, "in statistical terms, the majority of the inspections of facilities and sites under the ongoing monitoring system were carried out with Iraq's cooperation", is not clear enough on its own to substantiate this claim. The report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), responsible for overseeing Iraq's nuclear programme, is contained in the same document and is much clearer; it is satisfied with Iraq's cooperation. The report was just being debated by the Security Council when the US/UK bombing began.
This month Iraq has continued to challenge the "no-fly zones" over Iraq, and US General Anthony Zinni is now tightening the screws by threatening military action if Iraqi troops violate so-called "no-drive zones" in Iraq. Relevations from Washington about US spying on Iraq via Unscom bring that fragile institution even closer to the brink. Stratfor, a US "business intelligence consultancy" suggests that "Desert Fox" was meant to coincide with a US-UK sponsored coup within Iraq but was moved up when the coup attempt was detected at the last minute. Their analysis may be found at http://www.stratfor.com/services/giu/010699.asp.
British participation in these strikes has been especially discouraging given signs that it had been seeking to move away from the US position on Iraq. In general Britain, for example, has supported the idea of a "strong" International Criminal Court in which people committing crimes against humanity or war crimes could be tried. The United States, on the other hand, has sought to weaken the ICC by demanding that it be unable to try US citizens and, defeated on that, still opposes the court on the grounds that it would interfere with US foreign policy. It prefers to try Hussein in an ad hoc court. On this issue, though, British organisations like MP Anne Clywd's Indict Saddam also call for an ad hoc court, in this case in the Hague.
Britain had also expressed concern in the past about attacking Iraq without explicit Security Council consent, a concern that the United States has not publicly shared. Both, however, have publicly stated their belief that existing Security Council Resolutions support military action. Rarely are these resolutions referred to directly. Pressed, Robin Cook mentioned November's SCR 1205; this resolution does condemn Iraq's decision to break off cooperation with Unscom inspectors but mentions no possibility of UN action other than to remain informed about the situation. It, like many other resolutions, stresses, "the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Kuwait and Iraq". The SCR suggesting the possibility of the, "severest consequences" is February's SCR 1154. This resolution was passed after Kofi Annan's successful diplomatic mission to Baghdad but notes that failure to continue to cooperate could have the severest consequences. It is the Security Council that has the right to decide whether or not cooperation has taken place; December's attack began just as the Security Council was beginning to examine Unscom's report.
The so-called no-fly and no-drive zones similarly lack SCR support. Further, they would seem to violate repeated affirmations of territorial integrity. SCR 686 (March 1991) demanded that Iraq cease, "hostile or provocative actions by its forces against all Member States including missile attacks and flights of combat aircraft"; this resolution is superseded by SCR 687 which does not mention flights. April's SCR 688 condemns the repression taking place in "many parts of Iraq" and demands that Iraq end it. There is no reference to geography other than "Kurdish populated areas". It again affirms the territorial integrity of Iraq. UN Security Council Resolutions may be found on http://www.un.org/Docs/sc.htm.
In Cambridge we began the academic year with a speaker meeting and slideshow by Milan Rai of Voices in the Wilderness UK, who had recently returned from his second trip to Iraq, reminding us all of the very real and unpleasant effects the sanctions are having in Iraq's hospitals.
Also in October, we began looking into the idea of national coordination. Last year we had worked primarily in isolation and came to suspect that, in the absence of coordinated national campaigning, this work would be of very limited use. We were also led in this direction by the sense that our local MP and the FCO were not willing to engage with the issues raised in letters written to them. We came to believe that they had adopted the view that not enough people in the country cared for them to have to present a more coherent position.
We consequently met with Gordon West of the London-based Emergency Committee on Iraq (ECI, co-ordinated by George Galloway, MP), which considers itself the leading national campaign.Gordon expressed an interest in our suggestion that there be a national planning meeting to which the various groups campaigning in the country could bring their ideas, resources and concerns. CASI co-hosted that meeting here in Cambridge with Voices in the Wilderness UK, in December. Bishop Michael Hare Duke came down from Scotland to chair the meeting, which was attended by some twenty participants from London, Cambridge, Birmingham and Sheffield. Bishop Hare Duke's involvement in Iraq dates back to the 1991 Gulf War when he editted "Praying for Peace". whose contributors included the Pope, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Prince Hassan of Jordan, Desmond Tutu and Rabbi Hugo Gryn. "Praying for Peace" can be ordered from amazon.co.uk at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0006275958/ for 3.50 pounds. Minutes of the meeting are available on the CASI website at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/5-12-98/minutes.html.
Finally, as the December bombing began, CASI members helped organise candlelit vigils outside the Cambridge Guildhall in the Market Square for the Thursday and (rainy!) Friday nights as well as the Saturday afternoon. By then it was estimated that at least eleven cities in the UK were holding vigils or demonstrations. News of the Cambridge vigils were carried on local television and radio stations, with people, like one mother with her son from Cottenham, coming in to join us; on Saturday we had an interview with the Observer. The first night brought some 60 people out and subsequent days 30-40. Special thanks are due to Eliza Hilton and Myfanwy Davies, who produced the flyers for the Saturday vigil. Stuart Hemsley, also at the vigils, circulated a petition which he submitted to Cambridge MP, Anne Campbell. Accepting the petition Ms Campbell ejected the Cambridge Evening News photographer that Mr Hemsley had arranged to cover its submission. Stuart and his wife, Ann (without an "e", she emphasises), have quit the Labour Party; both had campaigned on behalf of Anne Campbell during the last general election and Ann had subsequently managed some of Ms Campbell's surgery sessions.
As CASI has always emphasised that it is not a political organisation but one with exclusively humanitarian concerns it has avoided taking a position on bombing in the past. In the actual face of it, though, the bombing threatened worsen the regional situation, killing Iraqis both directly and indirectly (by interrupting the oil-for-food programme) and reducing the ability to the UN to mediate with any authority in the Middle East.
One project that we have left by the way side was the proposed trip to Iraq. It was felt that the organisational effort and cost of arranging this risked outweighing the benefits. Some members, of course, are still interested in seeing the situation first hand.
An immediate consequence of meeting some of our Cambridge neighbours during the December bombing is that there will be a Cambridge planning meeting at 7:30pm on the 18th of January; the meeting will be in the Friend's Meeting House on Jesus Lane. This should help us to plan more actively, rather than simply reacting to arising events. Thanks to Stuart Hemsley for arranging this!
In the week after that meeting CASI is flying the former oil-for-food coordinator in Baghdad, Denis Halliday, to the UK for a speaking tour (for full details see http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/halliday/). After 13 months overseeing the programme Mr Halliday resigned in September claiming, "It doesn't impact on governance effectively and instead it damages the innocent people of the country," and that it, "probably strengthens the leadership and further weakens the people of the country." He claimed that the sanctions were incompatible with the UN charter as well as UN conventions on human rights and the rights of the child. He claimed that World Health Organisation figures suggested that some 5,000 to 6,000 children were dying monthly as a result. He is also concerned about the rise of a Taleban-style Islam in Iraq as a result of its ostracisation from the rest of the world.
Perhaps the most surprising endorsement for Mr Halliday has come from resigned weapons inspector, Scott Ritter. Mr Ritter, an American marine who pioneered the "challenge inspections", claims to have, "nothing but the highest respect for Denis Halliday. And it would surprise a lot of people to find out that I totally agree with Denis Halliday. Sanctions are horrible. The sanctions regime being imposed on Iraq is a huge injustice. Being perpetrated by the United Nations at the behest of the United States."
Denis Halliday will be in the UK from the 23 - 28 of January, speaking in London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Coventry and Cambridge. In Cambridge on the 27th he will be speaking in a 'forum' style event together with George Galloway MP at 8pm at the Union Society on Round Church St; admission is £2.50 (n.b. change) for non-members of CASI or the Union. Details of the other events were included in the previous email sent to this list on 12th January and are on the CASI website.
On 30th January, a planning meeting will be taking place in London for a national "day of action" on 27 February. The Day of Action, a project initiated at the December planning meeting in Cambridge, coincides with the Saturday of the eighth anniversary of the official end of the Gulf War. Groups from across the country will be planning actions in their cities, with Voices in the Wilderness UK working on a poster for national use. Groups interested in attending the January planning meeting should contact either Sheila Abdullah of the Sheffield Committee Against War in the Gulf at 6 Bedford Road, Oughtbridge, Sheffield S35 0FB (0114) 2862336 or Sylvia Boyes of Iraqi People First at 7 Greenhill Road, Mosely, Birmingham B13 9SR (0121) 449 1298. The meeting will be held from 11am - 5pm. CASI will be participating in this meeting.
CASI has yet to decide what it will be doing on the actual February day of action. Given the lack of awareness that many Britons have about the current situation in Iraq and the good reception that we had had in the town centre in the past a stall with a well-researched information package might be a good idea.
On a date not yet set, Michael Stone will be coming to Cambridge to address CASI. Mr Stone was head of the UN Multidisciplinary Observer Unit in Iraq for a year and a half; the MOU's job is to report on the progress of the oil-for-food programme. In a letter to the Independent last month he wrote that, "Ministers and senior members of the Opposition frequently state that the Iraqi leadership have diverted supplies under this programme. This is a serious error."
A final project in the works to come out of the December meeting is a open letter to the government to be published in a national newspaper. CASI and the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation are jointly coordinating this. We hope that signatories will be able contribute to its costs so that it will be self-funded.
We need help! Much of CASI's work continues to be done by a fairly small group of people. This work includes monitoring news, maintaining the e-mail discussion list, the CASI website and our database of over 400 individuals and organisations, organising the activities mentioned above, taking minutes at meetings or chairing them, researching issues for position papers and keeping CASI's books. If you wonder whether you might be able to help more please let us know. The CASI coordinator, secretary and junior treasurer positions all need to be renewed shortly so please consider applying.
Projects such as Denis Halliday's speaking tour are ambitious projects with all too real costs, so we would be very grateful for small financial donations. Cheques can be made payable to "CASI" and sent to Seb Wills, Clare College, The Colony, Chesterton Lane, Cambridge CB4 3AA. Any funds left in the CASI account upon disbanding will be forwarded to a charity at work in Iraq. Donations of 5 pounds or more will make you an official CASI member and ensure you receive paper copies our newsletters if you want them!
If you have an e-mail account you can join CASI's electronic discussion list. You will receive some two or three messages a day, containing news briefings, interviews published in other countries and discussion and planning with other members of the list. To join simply send an e-mail to email@example.com asking to join. The list currently has 150 members, and messages from the list are archived on our website for future reference. We also have a less frequently used announcements email list reserved for us to notify people about particular events we have organised.
We have already mentioned Voices in the Wilderness UK, affiliated with a sister organisation in the United States. Voices has been drawing attention to the sanctions by hand-delivering medicines to sick children in Iraq without export licenses. Voices UK members have had antibiotics confiscated while leaving the UK. Voices US members have recently been threatened with large fines for "exportation of donated goods, including medical supplies and toys, to Iraq absent specific prior authorization." Voices also prepares excellent briefing documents on the sanctions and postcards to be sent to politicians, so it is worth getting onto their mailing list. Voices can be reached at 12 Trinity Road, London N2 8JJ, Tel/Fax (0181) 444 1605.
The Emergency Committee on Iraq holds meeting in the Parliament buildings during times of crisis. The ECI, chaired by George Galloway, is advised by a committee including journalist Felicity Arbuthnot and lawyer Sabah Al-Mukhtar. George Galloway arranged for the Iraqi child, Miriam Hamze, to be flown to Britain for medical treatment for her leukemia. The childhood incidence of leukemia is felt to have increased substantially in the years since the Gulf War. The ECI is now planning a national tour of an exhibition of photos of Miriam. The ECI encourages individuals and groups to affiliate with them. They can be reached at Room 501, 7 Millbank, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA or (0171) 219 2874 (fax: 219 2879).
Hugh Stevens (0171 436 4636), firstname.lastname@example.org, runs the Campaign Against Sanctions and War on Iraq (CASWI), which hosts occasional events in London and organises demonstrations and vigils. Groups elsewhere in the country include the Sheffield Committee and Sanctions and War on Iraq (contact Sheila Abdullah on 0114 283 2336 or email@example.com), the Manchester Coalition Against Sanctions and War on Iraq (Rae Street on 01706 375266) and Iraqi People First (Birmingham) (Sylvia Boyes, 0121 449 1298).
A new group, the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) is being launced at a meeting in Manchester on 27th January. Contact Rae Street on the number above, or GMDCND on Manchester on 0161 834 8301.
A particularly useful website is run by the Iraq Action Coalition at http://leb.net/IAC/.
CASI can be contacted as follows:
telephone: 0845 330 4520
post: Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, c/o CUSU, 11-12 Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1QA, UK
[These contact details updated April 2002]