Sir: Caroline Harper ignores some "central facts" herself ("Blame Saddam", Letters, 20 June). She writes that "the Iraqi people have been in an impoverished state ... for many years". The fact is that in 1989 the World Health Organisation recorded Iraq as having 92 per cent access to clean water, 93 percent access to high-quality health care and high educational and nutritional standards.
Today Iraq's healthcare system is in a state of near-total collapse. This month the UN Secretary General's special envoy to Iraq, Prakash Shah, noted that the sanctions on Iraq will have long-term adverse effects such as malnutrition of children, social deprivation and economic hardship and the deterioration of infrastructure and education.
The Security Council "oil for food" Resolutions 706 and 712 (August and September 1991) that Ms Harper refers to were, in reality, little more than a cynical exercise in public relations. The June investigatory mission led by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the UN Secretary General's executive delegate, reported that Iraq was "on the brink of calamity" and required $6.8bn over 12 months to provide for food and medicine and to restore some basic services. In stark contrast, Resolution 706 provided for the sale of $1.6bn of oil every six months - to be paid into a UN-administered account, with only a fraction allocated for humanitarian relief for the Iraqi people.
Saddam Hussein is indeed a brutal tyrant - as he was prior to August 1990, when he had US support. However the history of US economic warfare against, for example, Vietnam and Cuba shows that such considerations as the welfare of the Iraqi civilian population carry zero weight.
Letting Iraqi oil back onto the market "would destroy the the huge profits the US stands to gain from its massive investment in Caucasian oil production" an Arab statistician suggested to The Independent's Robert Fisk - a much more reasonable explanation for the indefinite perpetuation of the embargo than fairy stories about Saddam Hussein being a threat to the entire world.
Thus the people of Iraq are confronted with two problems: the murderous thug who leads the country and the callous indifference of Western governments to the suffering caused by the embargo. It is within our power to do something about the latter. If we can then the Iraqi people might have a chance of dealing with the former. Otherwise, the prognoses are grim.
Junior Research Fellow