Note from the editor: Matt
Welch's analysis of conflicting claims over the effect of sanctions
on Iraq, published
magazine, is typical of the "war-blogger"
mentality: preening arrogance and pretensions to a strict just-the-facts
standard. When he isn't sneering at Noam Chomsky, and otherwise
critiquing the politics of sanctions critics, he accuses the anti-sanctions
movement of telling "glaring lies" and then concedes
that "the truth is bad enough."
But as Kathy Kelly points out, by underestimating
the ancillary effects of the sanctions, Welch's own biases so
prominently on display in his piece get in the way of truth.
Welch's impressive knowledge of statistics and sources regarding the
number of children, under age 5, who have died as a direct result of
economic sanctions provides a helpful overview of conflicting claims. Those who agree that the UN shouldn't be instrumental in waging economic
warfare against innocent civilians should also agree that the cause
of ending economic sanctions against Iraq is best served by using reliable
statistics and always providing sources.
points out that the truth is bad enough. But some important points are missing from Welch's article. Welch
doesn't present evidence of a deliberate US policy of inflicting great
civilian harm in order to coerce a government's compliance with US demands. During the Gulf War, the US deliberately destroyed
Iraq's electrical-generating plants, knowing full well what the consequence
would be on the water and sewage systems. The US said this was done for "long-term leverage" and
to "accelerate the effect of the sanctions." On June 23, 1991, a front page Washington
Post article, by Barton Gellman, reported that "the worst civilian
suffering, senior [American] officers say, has resulted not from bombs
that went astray but from precision-guided weapons that hit exactly
where they were aimed at electrical plants, oil refineries and
transportation networks." Gellman quotes a senior defense planning officer
who said, "People say, 'You didn't recognize that it was going
to have an effect on water or sewage. Well, what were
trying to do with [United Nations-approved economic] sanctions
help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on
infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of sanctions." Gellman's
interview with Col. John Warden II, deputy director of strategy, doctrine
and plans for the US Air Force further clarified the purpose of
destroying Iraq's electrical grid. By
doing so, said Col. Warden, "you
have imposed a long-term problem on the leadership that it has
to deal with sometime… Saddam Hussein cannot restore his own electricity,"
he said. "He needs help. If there are political objectives that
the U.N. coalition has, it can say, 'Saddam, when you agree to do these
things, we will allow people to come in and fix your electricity.' It
gives us long-term leverage."
overlooks reliable medical data (which Richard Garfield believes is
credible) in a September 24, 1992, New England Journal of Medicine
survey. This research found an excess of 46,900 children's
deaths from January through August, 1991. That comes to 5,862 excess
deaths a month. The journal also
printed an editorial calling attention to this health care catastrophe.
England Journal of Medicine attributes many of these deaths to water-borne
diseases due to the lack of electricity and water-processing
i.e., due to the bombing of civilian infrastructure.
echoed these concerns after his visit in 2000 to Iraq. In a letter to
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Hall said,
share UNICEF's concerns about the profound effects of increasing deterioration
of Iraq's water supply and sanitation systems on its children's health.
The prime killer of children under five years of age diarrhoeal
has reached epidemic proportions and they now strike four times
more often than they did in 1990."
on contracts for the water and sanitation sector are a prime reason
for the increases in sickness and death," Hall wrote in a press
release issued June 28, 2000."Of the 18 contracts, all but one
hold was placed by the U.S. Government. The contracts were for purification
chemicals, chlorinators, chemical dosing pumps, water tankers, and other
UN offered Iraq a deal to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, the UN
limited Iraq's oil sales to $2 billion every six months. 30 per cent of this sum was immediately directed to pay reparations
to individuals and groups who were harmed by the Gulf War, to finance
UN controlled humanitarian distribution in the north of Iraq, and to
pay for all UN programs, including UNSCOM inspection teams, throughout
Iraq. The remaining amount available
for distribution throughout the center and south of Iraq amounted to
about $10 a month for each Iraqi citizen. This paltry sum was intended
to cover all of the needs of the people in a country which the UN knew
had been devastated. Why did
the UN limit how much Iraq could spend of its own money under these
On the 5th
of December, 2000, the US Ambassador to the UN Security Council told
the Security Council that the US government was satisfied that the oil
for food program meets the needs of the Iraqi people.
Sponeck, the former UN coordinator of humanitarian concerns in Iraq
who resigned his post in order to speak more freely about the punitive
effects of sanctions, regards the oil for food program as completely
inadequate. He denounces it as a moral smokescreen which
covers over the fact that UN statistics from December '96 to July 2001
indicate that the amount of money available per capita in Iraq through
oil for food sales is $119.70
points out that the entire oil revenue from the 4½ year period came
to $44.4 billion. Speaking in
Seattle in November 2001, Hans von Sponeck unpacks what he calls the
the humanitarian side, for the oil for food program, $26.3 billion became
available….Now, that amount of $26.3 billion, if it had been entirely
spent on humanitarian supplies, would have meant quite a sobering
figure, I think $220 US per person per year in humanitarian supplies.
That's all. But what actually, what actually had arrived during that
period from December '96 to July 2001 is half of it: $13.5 billion.
And that translates into a per capita figure of and I call this,
and you understand why, the $119.70 scandal. Because it is clearly a
scandal! $119.70 is the entire amount that Iraqi civilians got as benefits
under the oil for food program per year per person. And that is for
what? That is not an amount in the pocket. This is for food, for medicines,
sanitation, for agriculture, for electricity, and for education. That
10 2001, Mr. Denis Halliday sent a statement in support of a Voices
in the Wilderness press conference and vigil held at a Baghdad electrical
power plant. Summing up his opposition to economic sanctions, Halliday
die in Iraq today under the UN embargo, linked to Gulf War damage, in
numbers and in the full knowledge of the member states of the UN Security
Council. With this knowledge,
determining to sustain the economic embargo preventing improvements
constitutes genocide under the provision of the UN Convention on Genocide. The shortages in Iraq today of electric power
and the resulting absence of clean drinking water and sanitation for
much of the civilian populace constitute an ongoing crime against humanity. A crime committed in our name by the US-driven
I will look
forward to Mr. Welch's response to the viewpoints offered by Mr. Halliday
and Mr. Von Sponeck. If such a dialogue develops, Mr. Welch may want
to leave the caustic language behind.