Denis Halliday on Solutions for Iraq


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    Jan. 9

Some people, when they hear of activists protesting US/western aggression
against Iraq, say that the aggression is regretable, but basically the only
option we have, since "Saddam" is so dangerous.

The two items below, both by or about former UN diplomat Denis Halliday,
show that there are indeed better ways to deal with military threats than to
attack the inhabitants of a bad dictatorship.

all the best, Jan
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 00:33:57 -0500 (EST)
To: •••@••.•••
From: David Morgan <•••@••.•••>

The author of this article, Dennis Halliday, was an Irish career 
diplomat with the UN for 30 years.  He resigned this year 
because the US enforced UN sanctions cause the deaths of 
5-6,000 Iraqi children every month.
Seasons greeting and hope for peace in 1999,

David and Linda 

Date: Mon, 21 Dec 1998 15:57:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Rania Masri <•••@••.•••
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: [IAC] ALERT: Halliday in Irish Times 

=========Iraq Action Coalition ======== =======
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From: •••@••.•••
Subject: Halliday in Irish Times

People should try to get their local news papers to re-publish this. If an
editor has a problem with something, they can call me.
-Sam Husseini

The Irish Times
December 19, 1998

HEADLINE: Recognising roots of conflict key to finding solutions 
Denis Halliday says destruction is not the way to deal with Iraq; a peaceful
solution can come from recognising the roots of problems 

So, apart from speaking out and taking a moral stand, what do we do? 

That is a question I am asked frequently. Of course, there is no simple
answer. However, we could start by controlling arms sales and build-up
everywhere, including in the Middle East and in Iraq. I would support that
100 per cent.

Meanwhile, drop the sanctions that are so devastating to the Iraqi people.
For the longer term, we could recognise some of the root causes of the
conflict between Kuwait and Iraq. Maybe we could acknowledge that Kuwait
had been an integral part of Iraq for 3,000 years before some British
cartographer carved it out for geopolitical reasons in the 1890s.

We might recognise some of the debt-related problems between Iraq and
Kuwait after the Iran-Iraq War. We could try to understand the charges of
slantdrilling of Iraqi oil by Kuwait in the border area.

In my view, none of these issues warrants the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq,
no matter how undemocratic and exploitative the Kuwaiti family regime, but
it helps us to focus on a rationale for aggression rather than the
misleading political spin we usually hear.

And until we establish the root causes of angst and begin to resolve them,
or at least try to assist in a process of resolution by the countries
concerned, the potential for aggressive behaviour will likely remain.

And whereas the US and Britain can destroy the military infrastructure,
they cannot destroy the minds and misapplied skills of Iraqi scientists.
And we know how easy it is to manufacture appalling and deadly devices.
So, in short, physical destruction is not the answer. That is a futile
short-term irrational action of desperate men.

The ultimately constructive and peaceful solution is to begin to
understand the causes of tension and crisis. And offer to support their
resolution. It can be termed preventive diplomacy.

Right now, Iraq is surrounded by much more powerful neighbours, armed
largely by the US. They are militarily well stocked, including missiles
armed with nuclear warheads. Worse, some have proved to be inexcusably
aggressive themselves, as we have seen in regard to Lebanon, and much more
recently than the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, sadly ignored in the double
standards of the member-states controlling the UN Security Council.

And as for the appalling nuclear, chemical and other weapons of mass
destruction, one might well ask who supplied Iraq with chemical weapons
for use against the Iranian forces in the first place? Who has used
nuclear force anywhere in the world? Not Iraq.

Regarding other ghastly means of killing, including chemical weapons, many
countries of the world, and some in the Middle East, are armed to the
teeth, courtesy of the US and Europe. Yesterday's ally is today's monster,
and can become one or the other when politically convenient. In the
meantime, the responsibility has to be shared.

For the United Nations, its credibility is undermined by the Security
Council's improper resolutions sustaining economic sanctions, leading to
the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq. UNICEF estimates that
approximately 5,000 children die every month from preventable diseases;
another 30 per cent suffer malnutrition, and many more are likely to be
stunted physically and mentally for the rest of their lives.

This is caused by the actions of member-states of the UN. And people ask
me why I resigned after more than 30 years!

I would like to see the Irish Government take a lead in proposing that a
panel of international jurists be assembled to review the resolutions of
the Security Council and establish some constraints for the future.

The council needs a legal watch-dog, an international authority higher
than the International Court so that its actions would ensure acceptable
standards consistent with the United Nations Charter, the Declaration on
Human Rights and the Rights of the Child.

It is sad to note that whereas warfare is governed by international
conventions (The Hague and Geneva), the application of often deadly
sanctions is not.

Today, we not only have the killing of innocents via sanctions, we have an
illegal attack on Iraq that has split the five permanent members of the
Security Council and further offended the Arab and Islamic world, a part
of the world that is integral and essential for world peace now and even
more so for the future.

To be less than altruistic: whereas the power and influence of European
and North American "culture" declines, the influence of Islamic culture is
growing. Fewer people speak English today than 10 years ago. Many more
speak Arabic, and projections show a rapid increase in the next century.

Rather than warfare, let us focus on bringing Iraq back into the community
of nations. Let us talk rather than kill. Do missiles bring about sincere

No matter how difficult, let us try dialogue. Encourage the peoples of the
Middle East to find compromise and solutions to their many differences.
They might look at the ASEAN model - the co-operative association of nine
nations of south-east Asia - and see how it fits. Focus on trade,
financial support, development co-operation, employment opportunities and
sustainable economies for the years ahead when oil runs out.

They do not need the continuing interference of Europe and the US, but
they may need support, investment and a global environment conducive to
positive results, including shutting down arms manufacture and sales.

And let us also take the United Nations back to the moral and legal high
ground where it belongs.

Denis Halliday, an Irishman, is the former United Nations humanitarian
director for Iraq

Also, see

*   David Morgan,        *
*   240 Holyrood Road,   *
*   North Vancouver,     * (Canadian president, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms)
*   BC, V7N 2R5 CANADA   *
*   Tel: 604-985-7147    *
*   Fax: 604-985-7147    *        
*   <•••@••.•••>    *
The Deaths He Cannot Sanction: Ex-U.N. Worker Details Harm to Iraqi Children

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 17, 1998; Page E01 

There is no easy way to make this argument as bombs and missiles rain
down. No fashionable way to rebut those intent on vengeance against a
nation run by the likes of Saddam Hussein. So Denis Halliday offers only a
quick instruction in the mathematics of death, of the pure and deadly
efficiency of the United Nations sanctions he helped oversee in Iraq.

Two hundred thirty-nine thousand children 5 years old and under. That is
the latest -- and most conservative -- independent estimate of the number
of Iraqi children who have died of malnutrition, wasting and dysentery
since sanctions were imposed at the behest of the United States and Great
Britain in 1990.

Halliday, a tall and proper Irishman, is by temperament uncomfortable with
emotion. But the deaths and suffering -- and he'll hate this word -- haunt
him. "We need to talk ugly: We are knowingly killing kids because the
United States has an utterly unsophisticated foreign policy," Halliday 
says. "No matter how bad this bastard Saddam is, how can we justify that?
"And the catastrophe of more bombing will only make matters much worse."

Halliday is an outcast, as close to stateless as an international civil
servant can be. He announced his resignation as the U.N. humanitarian
coordinator in Iraq in August, a dramatic move that met with wide media
coverage almost everywhere except in the United States. In careful,
clinical language, he offered a most compelling narrative of destruction:
The allied bombing in the Persian Gulf War devastated Iraq's
infrastructure, systematically destroying power stations and water
purification systems. Uranium-tipped armor-piercing shells further
contaminated the water supply in the southern part of the country. And the
American and British-led decision to clamp U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq
compounded the problems.

"No one wants to acknowledge the amount of nonmilitary damage, the
destruction of cold food and medicine storage, the power supply," Halliday
says. "I went there to administer the largest humanitarian challenge in
U.N. history. I didn't realize our level of complicity in the suffering."

According to preliminary numbers in a study conducted by Richard Garfield,
an epidemiologist at Columbia University and a specialist on the health
effects of the embargo, the death rate for Iraqi children age 5 and under
has spiraled up, nearly tripling since sanctions were imposed in 1990. At
that time, child deaths in Iraq were on a par with much of the Western
world. "There is almost no documented case of rising mortality for
children under 5 years old in the modern world," Garfield says. "When the
U.S. hit a bomb shelter in the Gulf War, it admitted a grave mistake and
changed its rules . . . yet these sanctions are resulting in about 150
excess child deaths per day."

U.S. officials usually dismiss such talk of American responsibility as so
much agitprop. They say that Iraq is a conspirator in its own decline. And
they add that the country is now allowed to pump enough oil to stave off
the worst suffering. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq can sell $5.2
billion worth and use some of that money to buy food, medicines and
limited medical technology. That allows Iraq to buy about one-third of the
food and medicine it purchased before the war, according to Halliday.

Then-U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright went on CBS's "60 Minutes" in 1996
and assayed a defense of the toll taken by sanctions.  A reporter stated
that some estimates placed child deaths in Iraq at half a million
(Halliday uses the same figure), and asked if the price was worth it. "I
think this is a very hard choice," she replied, "but the price -- we think
is worth it." More recently, Albright returned to "60 Minutes" as
secretary of state and advised reporters that "you can't lay that guilt
trip on me. . . . I believe that Saddam Hussein is the one who is
responsible for the tragedy of the Iraqi people."

Halliday wades warily into this moral calculus of blame. He is not
inclined to defend Saddam Hussein and senior Baath Party officials, and he
acknowledges problems in the distribution of food and medicine. And Iraqi
officials have, on occasion, insisted on ordering sophisticated medical
machinery when wiser people would zero in on basic medicines and
foodstuffs. There are a few streets in downtown Baghdad, he concedes, that
seem strikingly cosmopolitan, full of well-fed shoppers.  That, however,
is but to concede the obvious: In all tragedies, even more so in
authoritarian nations, the poorest and most rural suffer worst. What's
more to the point, say two other U.N. inspectors who spoke on condition of
anonymity, is that even the best-run sanctions program could not deliver
enough food and medicine to ameliorate all the suffering.

Halliday seizes on that point, extends it. Let's suppose that sanctions
have contributed, through poor nutrition, stunting and dysentery, to but
100,000 deaths.  "I've been to hospitals where they have enough heart
medicine for two patients and there are 10 who need it. How do you count
that? How do you spread it?" He leans across the table toward a visitor.
He uses a word he has hitherto danced around. "These are criminal

He refused to talk about them at first, the four leukemia kids. It seemed
one of those maudlin stories the press favors, Dickensian puff pastry that
will only encourage those who favor a more punitive policy to dismiss
Halliday as a "damn bunny-hugger." He relents, finally, and tells of his
visit to the Saddam Hussein Medical Center in Baghdad. Once a modern
hospital, it's now filled with dust, baking in the heat of an infernal
summer. The air conditioning rarely works. He found four children there,
three girls and a boy, gravely ill with leukemia. There was not enough
medicine for all of them. So he broke his first rule in Iraq: He searched
for medicines on the black market, traveling by car on the hot dusty track
to Amman, Jordan.

He describes his next steps in a clipped, weary monotone. "I walked back
into the hospital. . . . We went to the ward, we had picked up some
presents for Christmas. We found that two of the children were already
dead." He didn't go to hospitals much after that. He had no solutions. And
he "didn't want to be one more foreigner gawking with no answers."

He recounts this in his sun-filled apartment on the East Side of
Manhattan. He is 57, with bred-in-the-bone reserve. He was an assistant
secretary general at the United Nations. It's considered bad form to
publicly rebuke a member nation. "I used to lecture my staff about such
things." He chuckles at himself. "Now I talk a lot about ends justifying

The leukemia incident wasn't the only time he bent the rules. Frustrated
at the rising death toll in late 1997, worried that the United Nations
lacked the will to stand up to the United States, he took the highly
unusual step of lobbying France, Russia and China to relax sanctions. And
one long night in Baghdad, he typed and retyped an uncharacteristically
passionate letter to his boss, Secretary General Kofi Annan.  "I wrote a
very nasty letter, probably too nasty," he says. "I said that we were
managing a process that was resulting in thousands of deaths. I told him
you have to stand up and speak." The letter fed a growing sense that he
needed to leave. But he refused. His staff needed a leader, and enough
could be done in the margins of sanctions policy to save thousands of lives.

Since his departure he's traveled a lot -- on his own dime, he says -- to
New Zealand, Iceland and all over Europe. He was invited even to Great
Britain to sit on a government-sponsored panel and criticize that nation's
policy toward Iraq. He has refused to return to Iraq, though, even when
invited by Saddam Hussein. He doesn't want to appear sympathetic to the

In this country, he's found himself appearing mainly on talk radio
shows and college campuses. The establishment press and Congress paid
far greater attention to the resignation of a different U.N. official:
UNSCOM arms inspector Scott Ritter. 

Ritter's narrative of Iraqi deception and the apparent willingness of the
Clinton administration to look the other way resonated in a nation that
has lived with the unfinished business of Saddam Hussein and Iraq since
the end of the Gulf War. Ritter, the war hero, has come to function as
sort of a doppelganger, his outsize personality and tougher prescriptions
overshadowing Halliday's. "You can't match Ritter. He's a hero, he's got a
great message to sell," Halliday says. "I play as just some jaded U.N.
official. I can't match his sex appeal."

The jokes conceal a tension that ran through relations between the
humanitarian staff and the arms inspectors in Iraq. The arms inspectors
are convinced, based on voluminous documents and intelligence sources,
that Iraq still harbors at least the raw stuff of weapons of mass
destruction: poison gas, biological weapons, perhaps worse.  It's a
history best paid notice: Saddam Hussein has used some of these weapons on
his own people.

But Halliday says he found it nearly impossible to get the arms inspectors
to work with his staff, and to persuade them to allow some technology into
the country, to repair energy and water systems. "I would drive home
through raw sewage, watching children all but bathe in it," Halliday says.
"But they wouldn't meet with us. They seemed worried we'd convert their
cowboys into bunny-huggers."

His doubts about the UNSCOM mission run deeper. It's a dangerous world, in
which companies and nations across the so-called civilized world hawk the
most murderous weapons, legally and illegally. To insist on staying inside
Iraq until every weapon is destroyed seems a fool's errand, he says. "The
inspectors destroyed tons and tons of arms and that was great," he says.
"But they need a timetable."

Nor is getting rid of Saddam Hussein necessarily the answer, he argues.
The dictator's son, for one, is far worse, he believes. As are the many
thousands of young Iraqis who have no access to Western thought and
education, and who increasingly believe that Saddam Hussein is too
moderate. "Beware what you ask for," Halliday says. "Killing Saddam does
not necessarily solve anything." Some American officials argue that there
is an exile movement with hooks deep into Iraq, and that a carefully
coordinated guerrilla movement could establish power someday.

Weeks after that interview, Halliday called again. He's worried that the
United States appears intent on war, he's flying to Washington to hold a
few meetings. Hours later, he's in Washington. The civil servant's reserve
is slowly falling away. He confesses he's getting radicalized, that he
feels the need to speak more deeply, more passionately. Of late, he's
taken to asking American audiences if they could survive on some beans,
some rice, a little yogurt and impure water. "I feel somewhat guilty for
abandoning my colleagues in Iraq during this talk of bombing," he said a
week ago. "Now I see the American generals talking about possibly 10,000
more Iraqi deaths. This is not a strategy, it's simply to the point of
madness.  "One day, we'll all be called to account and clobbered in the
history books."