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A conversation with ... Richard Butler

From: David Muller <>

In the interview, Mr. Butler answered questions on the
sanctions regime, and on the Middle East double-standard relating to the
continued possession of nuclear weapons by Israel.

Mr. Butler refused to answer further questions on this last matter and
walked out of the interview. This interview was part of the proceedings
at the State of the World Forum held in San Francisco recently.


A conversation with ... Richard Butler
 U.N.'s Iraq supervisor Richard Butler talks to SWF News Team
 member Jeremy Rose 

 SWF News Team member Jeremy Rose speaks to
 Richard Butler, the executive chairman of the United
 Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), which
 is charged with ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass

 Rose: Would you comment on the recent resignation of
 U.N. Assistant General and head of the UN humanitarian
 mission in Iraq, Denis Halliday. According to reports he
 left in protest at what he said was the incompatibility of
 the sanctions regime with the U.N. Charter, and the
 terrible human cost it was imposing on ordinary Iraqis?

 Butler: His first point that they are in contradiction of
 the charter is bullshit. It is simply without foundation.
 Secondly, sanctions have been very difficult for the Iraqi
 people. And there are a lot of people looking at the issue
 of sanctions as an instrument to bring about conformity
 to the law, and trying to refine them to hurt the
 leaderships with bank accounts in Switzerland, not the
 ordinary people.

 The third point I have to make to you [is] that Iraq has
 been brilliantly successful in spreading, in a rather
 propagandist way, the notion that sanctions have been
 awful for them. But at the same time two things are true.
 One, the leadership is awash with money, they have
 everything they want, including money to buy military
 materials. Secondly, that they have always had in their
 hands the key to get out of sanctions. And it's called
 disarmament. And they have made this disarmament job
 last eight years when it should have been over in one

 Rose: Surely, the point is that the people of Iraq don't
 choose their leaders, and if people such as Denis Halliday
 who have been criticizing, and UNICEF who claim that
 5,000-6,000 children are dying every month as a result of
 sanctions are right?(interrupted) 

 Butler: If they're right?

 Rose: But aren't we the civilized side of the coin. It's not
 surprising that a dictator like Saddam Hussein doesn't
 care about his own people?

 Butler: But where does that leave us? No it's not
 surprising. Does that lead us to a position where we
 should accept or follow that? I mean, look, Iraq sends
 out reams of propaganda every day about how this is
 killing them and how this is a wicked thing being done to
 them by the world community. I tell you it is being done
 to them by their own leader. He could have turned that

 Rose: But again, we could have turned that key?

 Butler: No, no, years ago. By telling us the truth about
 his biological weapons program. That man has traded the
 welfare of 22 million people for his preference to have a
 biological weapons program. 

 Rose: And to stay in power?

 Butler: Different issue. No one has ever said, there's
 nothing in the resolution that says he should be removed
 from power. Nothing.

 Rose: I believe [secretary of state and ambassador to the
 U.N.] Madeleine Albright has said that?

 Butler: That's her problem. There is nothing in the
 resolution of the Security Council that says that Saddam
 Hussein doesn't have the right to be the president of Iraq.
 All they say is that he has no right to have weapons of
 mass destruction and the minute they are got rid of us
 sanctions will go. So he has had that key in his hand for
 eight years. I tell you he has chosen to have a biological
 weapons program rather than the welfare of his people.

 Rose: I'm sure you are familiar with the metaphor of
 shooting down an airliner to punish the hijackers?

 Butler: It isn't like that at all. 

 Rose: If the figures of 750,000 children dead and so on
 are right. Why is that metaphor not apt?

 Butler: Because the hijacker is not someone standing
 behind an innocent pilot with a pistol to his head. He is
 the person flying the plane. At any time he could have
 turned it around and landed it safely. 

 Rose: So you're saying the threat of Saddam to the rest
 of the world is such that we simply could not risk
 relieving the pressure for fear of what he might do?

 Butler: I'm saying nothing of the kind. I don't know
 how you extrapolate that. I'm saying that it is really
 simple. They put themselves into the history books of the
 U.N., by being the only member state in 53 years of
 history to invade, and seek to absorb, a fellow member
 state of the U.N. No one else has ever done that. There
 have been breakdowns, cross-border disputes, coup
 d'etats, etceteras. No one except Iraq has ever simply
 sought to absorb a fellow member state of the U.N.,
 which is utterly contrary to the charter of the U.N. to
 article one of the charter Number one.

 When he [Saddam] was expelled from that, the U.N. put
 on him some very heavy-weight law in respect to the
 breathtaking array of weapons of mass destruction that
 he had accumulated. Including weapons that he had
 promised under treaties to never seek to accumulate. So
 the man behaved as a total outlaw.

 Rose: I absolutely accept that the man is a total outlaw.
 What I don't accept is that the U.N. can absolve itself
 completely from the effects of those sanctions? Because
 they are dealing with a man without scruples and his
 population is suffering for that?

 Butler: Whose fault is that?

 Rose: Certainly it's his fault, but if there is any possibility
 to relieve?(interrupted)
 Butler: I've already said that. People are very concerned
 about this and I'm amongst them. And I've been working
 quite hard at headquarters with others to try to design
 sanctions that wouldn't hit the ordinary people, but would
 hit the leadership. 

 Rose: Could you give me a bit of an insight into how
 those might work?

 Butler: Swiss bank accounts and things like that. I think
 that's the future. I think the future in the Security Council
 will be more sophisticated designs of sanctions to try and
 mitigate the effects on innocent people, and to target
 those who really are the criminals. And I think that is the
 future. And I hope it comes soon. But as far as this piece
 of law is concerned it is irreducibly true that the law is
 heavy. I've said that in public many times. This is very
 heavy law. It was put there because of the gravity of
 what Saddam did and the seriousness of the weapons
 situation. But from day one he was given the key into his
 hands to get out of it.

 Let me illustrate this for you. We had been doing this for
 eight years, right. The first resolution on disarmament
 called for Iraq to declare its weapons of mass destruction
 within 15 days. The Security Council had in mind such a
 short time frame. Fifteen days for declarations, six
 months of work to get rid of the stuff. The Security
 Council had in mind that it would be over in six months.
 The structure of my commission, as originally conceived
 of, was created as a temporary body. They had in mind it
 would be over in six months. And why it's taken eight
 years is because he has made it so. 

 Rose: I would like to raise the question of Israel. Israel is
 generally accepted to be the only possessor of nuclear
 weapons in the region, and has also occupied territories
 against the wishes of most of the members of the United
 Nations, and through Arab eyes that must be seen as

 Butler: There's widespread talk about what is routinely
 called the double-standard in the Middle East. And, I am
 deeply aware of the point. And it makes our good work
 of trying to get rid of the prohibited weapons of Iraq
 much harder than it should be. That's all I can say about

 Rose: Would you support some form of pressure on
 Israel to disarm?

 Butler: I won't talk about it further. There is a paragraph
 in our main piece of law that says that the disarmament
 of Iraq should be a step towards a wider development of
 the Middle East as a zone free of weapons of
 mass-destruction. And I frequently refer to that when I
 speak to people. I frequently say we are singling out Iraq
 because of what it did. But it's actually a bigger picture
 than that.

 Rose: The sharing of intelligence information by
 UNSCOM with Israel must have made that even more

 Butler: What sharing? 

 Rose: I thought you had said that in an interview with
 the BBC?

 Butler: Not with me. 

 Rose: It must have been Scott Ritter. Did that sharing
 not take place?

 Butler: Israel did what 50 member states have done,
 which is give us information, and that's legal, because the
 decision of the council on Iraq requested all member
 states to give us all possible assistance.

 Rose: I thought his [Ritter's] assertion was that
 UNSCOM had given Israel information?

 Butler: Ah?Not to my knowledge.

 Rose: So there's been no spy film shared?

 Butler: Not to my knowledge.

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