Right of Reply: Geoff Simons
The writer responds to a critical review by Fred Halliday of his latest work
Monday 01 March 1999
It is absurd to imply that the Iraqi people suffered in the Eighties as today. Iraq's social provisions were excellent - when Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were bankrolling Baghdad, the US was a war ally of Saddam in the Gulf, and Western firms were aiding his weapons plans.
Halliday is wrong to deny the ban on food and medicine exports to Iraq. The West blocks or delays humanitarian contracts; firms are told not to supply free medicines; and "unauthorised" charities are criminalised (eg Voices in the Wilderness workers threatened with $1m fines and jail). The recent US cruise missile attack on Sudan targeted a pharmaceutical factory licensed to supply medicines to Iraq; grain silos were targeted during Operation Desert Fox.
The nominal $10.5 bn-worth of oil a year cannot be pumped. Sanctions prevent Iraq from repairing its bomb-damaged oil industry and oil prices have plummeted. Moreover Saddam has no access to revenues; they are paid to a UN account. The agricultural potential cited by Halliday is ruined because of the sanctions block on pesticides, antibiotics and equipment imports (including the means to prevent land salination).
It is wrong to say that resources are being diverted. Michael Stone, ex-head of a UN observer unit, has denounced this "common and dangerous misconception".
Madeleine Albright (on US TV in 1996) said that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, because of sanctions, "is worth it". Fred Halliday, in supporting this deliberate carnage (which he admits does not affect Saddam),violates the UN Genocide Convention. It is a derelict response to the abuse of a people.
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