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Published on Friday, August 11, 2000 in The Irish Times
UN Sanctions Against Iraq Only Serve US Ambition
by Denis J. Halliday
Like many Irish readers, and others overseas who approached me requesting a response, I was shocked by the degree of over-simplification and misinformation contained in the article by the US Secretary of State, Ms Madeleine Albright, published in these pages (August 4th).

Ms Albright ordains that the UN sanctions must continue. This despite their failure and human cost, as determined by UNICEF to be the death of some 5,000 children under five years of age each month, and that excludes teenagers, adults and the elderly also dying unnecessarily under the UN embargo. One can only assume that she calls for its continuation to meet American ambitions for suppression of Iraq and control of the Middle East.

The status quo sustained by US-driven sanctions has made for a certain stability within Iraq under Saddam Hussein as required by nervous neighbours. This is combined with an instability outside of Iraq enabling the US, Britain and others to sell vast amounts of weapons to the Arab countries. Thus the US economy is thriving on arms sales with the resulting impoverishment of the Arab world.

In addition, this instability has allowed US control of oil resources, one of the underlying ambitions of President Bush when he set in motion the Gulf War under the respectability of the UN in 1990.

In terms of Kuwait, Ms Albright is correct - the invasion was illegal and the results horrible. Atrocities were committed. However, the atrocities of the Kuwait invasion hardly justify the crimes committed by US troops using depleted uranium, ploughing under live Iraqi troops and for the Basra road massacre when in broad daylight US aircraft slaughtered thousands of Iraqis in retreat from Kuwait.

Has Ms Albright forgotten the My Lai atrocity in Vietnam when US troops killed hundreds of innocent women and children of that village. Nothing justifies crimes against humanity regardless of the guilty but we need to remember our own failures.

Yes, she is correct when she says that the US brought under the UN umbrella many of the Arab states against Iraq after the Kuwait attack. She omitted to explain their artificial dependency on the US - Egypt alone receiving some $3 billion a year. Nor did she mention the current concern of countries such as Saudi Arabia in having an occupying force of 50,000 US troops in a land so central to Islam.

Yes, the monarchies and the undemocratic governments supported Bush, while the Arab "street people" supported Iraq and, unfortunately, still consider Saddam Hussein a hero.

It is tragically true that Iraq was not talked out of Kuwait peacefully rather than waiting for the crushing force the US prepared over six months. Ms Albright failed to mention that the UN Security Council was in fact discussing a peaceful withdrawal as the US bombed Baghdad in 1991.

The Arab League and King Hussein had been given 48 hours by President Bush to find a peaceful solution! As the Secretary-General of the Arab League informed me in July, James Baker (then Secretary of State) panicked at the possibility that peaceful withdrawal might succeed at the last moment. He was delighted when a peaceful solution failed and the US could go to war.

Why? To redeem the US military after its bitter defeat in Vietnam and to crush former ally and friend Saddam Hussein, to ensure control over his extraordinary country, its oil and its strategic location in an Arab region of the world.

MS ALBRIGHT is right to be concerned about the 605 Kuwaiti people missing since the Gulf War. They must be accounted for some day. She forgot to mention the 1,050 missing Iraqis in Kuwait, or that seeking the missing cannot justify the sustained dying of thousands each month under the UN embargo.

I say that assuming she regrets her very public attempt to justify the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children during a 1996 CBS TV interview as being necessary to "contain" Saddam Hussein! Yes, she is correct again in that Saddam failed to meet the ill-defined and open-ended requirements of UN Resolution 687.

This is the same resolution that punished (and still does under the update known as 1284) the innocent children and people of Iraq to punish and disarm the decision makers in Baghdad, a resolution many international lawyers believe lacks all proportionality and is a breach of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting the targeting of civilians. Sanctions have become a form of deadly and illegal warfare.

Ms Albright says Saddam Hussein is rebuilding the Iraqi military machine. I wonder which spies have yielded that information?

Regardless, we must be concerned as long as Baghdad is surrounded by armed and dangerous neighbours, armed by the US and others, such as Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia to name a few. The Iraqi excuse, were Ms Albright correct, would undoubtedly be strengthened by Israeli nuclear warheads, some undoubtedly aimed at Baghdad.

Whatever the truth, the situation underlines the responsibility of those countries (and in particular the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) to stop selling, or allow to be sold, weapons of mass of destruction as in paragraph 14 of Resolution 687. The US and others need to police themselves, sanction themselves in respect of weapons manufacture and sales. Ireland, new to the arms business, needs to take note.

As for the oil-for-food program me revenues, the UN takes 35 per cent from the gross, putting 30 per cent into compensation for Kuwaiti losses during the seven-month occupation.

This is a crippling constraint for Iraq with dying children due to lack of UN-approved funding for reconstruction of electric power, water, sewerage and agricultural capacity destroyed by US bombing during the Gulf War. Bombing continues almost daily in total breach of international law. There is no UN resolution approval for the no-fly-zone bombing of Iraq.

I am also sure that Ms Albright is right, Saddam Hussein would like to forget the use of chemical weapons, just as the US would like to forget the use of the atomic bomb on the Japanese and forget about the use of chemicals in Vietnam and depleted uranium in the Gulf War. Crimes against humanity abound on all sides.

DESIGNED to stop further deterioration in 1996, the oil-for-food programme has failed even as a stopgap measure. The genocide of Iraqis has continued for 10 years.

The only solution is to lift the embargo and rebuild the economy while sustaining control over availability of weapons of mass destruction within and around Iraq. Were the political will existent, the UN and the US might use the model used by President Clinton and now President Putin in reaching out to North Korea. The US needs to apply something similar to Iraq.

We need to take up our Western and democratic responsibilities while holding Saddam Hussein partially responsible for the killing in Iraq today and tomorrow. But we must move away from the ongoing war with Iraq which sanctions constitute and indeed, as Ms Albright says, bring Iraq back into the community of nations.

We must assist in ending genocide in the Arab world and encourage rapport with Baghdad on the part of its neighbours and the international community.

We must stop the UN-sponsored killing and oblige Iraq through dialogue to change its policies and reassure Kuwait and others that on going fear is redundant. The missing of Kuwait and Iraq must be addressed. The rights of the Kurds must be resolved. It will take time but the sooner we start, the better.

The sustained UN embargo does not begin to do it. Blaming Saddam Hussein neither protects the children of Iraq nor justifies their deaths. The statement of Ms Al bright is no more than a justification for the continuation of killing under a UN umbrella. This is something which must be clearly established as unacceptable to us Irish, given our own history of unnecessary famine and death.

We reached out to the people of East Timor, now let's use our good standing in the UN to change existing sanctions policy and reach out to the innocent people of Iraq.

Denis J. Halliday is former UN Assistant Secretary-General and head of the Humanitarian Programme in Iraq.



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