Sanctions against Iraq: why? & “Merchant of Menace”


Jan Slakov

Greetings RN list,

When I first encountered the argument that even military sanctions against
Iraq should be dropped, I could not see why. The following article from the
International Action Center does a good job of explaining why... Still,
though, we ought never to forget that ideally, there would be no arms trade

One more small but still important reservation I have with the IAC article:
it says "it is the United States, not Iraq, which is the greatest military
threat and violator of human rights--in the Middle East and around the
world." I do not doubt that the US is a more threatening military power than
any other country in the world. But can we truly say it is the greatest
violator of human rights? Reports from the Chetchen war are appalling, also
the war in Sudan. If we include the policies of the IMF and the World Bank
as being "US" policies, then certainly the US government bears enormous
responsibility for many, probably most, human rights violations in the
world. But still, human rights violators in other countries than the US bear
some responsibility too. I think, to be clear, it would be better for that
sentence to read like this: "it is the US government (and those who wield
the most influence over US government policy), not the Iraqi government,
which poses the greatest military threat and is most responsible for human
rights violations in the Middle East and around the world."

Following the article from the IAC is Frank Scott's March column, which also
investigates the reasoning behind the sanctions being imposed on Iraq,
linking that reasoning to commercial capitalism (or corporate
globalization). This article makes other important links too, all in a few
tightly written paragraphs!

all the best, Jan
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 16:36:28 -0500
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
Subject: sfp-47: Sanctions a cover for taking over Iraq? 

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This analysis makes sense of an apparently brutally stupid US/UK policy.
If true then the leaders of both countries are guilty of a stupendous
crime against humanity that truly deserves comparison with the evils of
Nazism.  The 20th has been called Hitler's century - he lost the war, but
won the "peace", and his foul ideology has infected the victors of WWII.

U.S. strategy vs. Iraq & UNSC Resolution 1284
By Richard Becker, 
Western Regional Co-Coordinator, International Action Center

It should be apparent by now to even the most casual observer that a major
goal of U.S. foreign policy is to overthrow the government of Iraq,
deprive that country of its sovereignty, and reduce it to the status of a
colony.  They even have a name for it in Washington: "regime change."
There is virtually no debate at the top on the legitimacy and desirability
of this aim--just some minor differences of opinion over how best to
achieve it.

For nearly a decade the U.S. rulers have waged war against Iraq and its
people by military, economic, financial, political and diplomatic means.
The United States funds, sponsors, trains and organizes political and
military opposition to the Iraqi government.

What drives U.S. policy, which has remained virtually unchanged under both
the Republican Bush and Democratic Clinton administrations?  In short,
it's for domination and profit: domination of the key Persian/Arabian
Gulf, which holds up to two-thirds of the world's petroleum reserves, and
the immense profits to be made by exploiting those fabulous resources.
Iraq itself sits atop a sea of oil. It is ranked second in the world in

This reality, of course, must be concealed to the greatest degree
possible, especially from the U.S. public. It wouldn't go over very well
to tell people that the Pentagon is spending $50 billion to $60 billion a
year to blockade and starve Iraqi children in order to safeguard the
present and future profits of Exxon, Chevron and Citibank. So the
modern-day incarnations of Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels in the
State Department and White House have spun a different story. They are
motivated by their deep "concern" over "human rights violations" and
"weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, Iraq's president,
is relentlessly presented in their bought media as the personification of
all that is evil--"worse than Hitler," they sometimes say.

As if the U.S. ruling class, with its blood-drenched history at home and
abroad, and armed to the teeth with every imaginable nuclear, chemical,
biological and conventional weapon, could really be "concerned" about
either Iraq's internal policies or armaments.

Anti-sanctions movement
Unfortunately, some in the anti-war and anti-sanctions movement have taken
a position that, unintentionally or otherwise, lends credence to the
imperialist policy makers' arguments. This viewpoint can be summarized as
1) Economic sanctions are wrong because they are causing great
suffering among the Iraqi people, while not hurting the regime; 
2) Saddam Hussein should be indicted as a war criminal and removed from
office; and
3) economic sanctions should be "delinked" from military sanctions,
meaning that economic sanctions should be ended while military sanctions
are kept in place.

A letter currently circulating in Congress argues this line. This position
implicitly credits the U.S. government, and the United Nations Security
Council which it dominates, as qualified to sit as judge and jury on Iraq.
In other words, the U.S. government is legitimate and the Iraqi government
is not.  Moreover, this position gives credit to U.S. policy's stated and
phony aims by agreeing with them. "Yes," this perspective says, "Saddam is
evil. He must be replaced by a democratic government and Iraq must be
disarmed so that it cannot threaten its neighbors." This view disregards,
in addition to Iraq's right to self-determination, the fact that it is the
United States, not Iraq, which is the greatest military threat and
violator of human rights--in the Middle East and around the world.

There is no greater proof of the U.S. leaders' criminality than the
sanctions themselves. Nine-and-a-half years of near-total blockade have
killed at least 1.25 million Iraqis and inflicted unimaginable suffering
on a whole country and people. To call the sanctions genocidal is no

Opposition to sanctions
Opposition to the sanctions has grown around the world, especially in the
two years since the February 1998 crisis that brought the United States to
the brink of a major new military attack on Iraq. In the Middle East, the
opposition is so wide, deep and bitter that even some of the most pliant
U.S. client regimes feel compelled to call for the blockade to be lifted.
Three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council--Russia, 
China and France--favor ending the sanctions.

But the U.S. leaders want to keep the sanctions, which they see as a vital
element in their "regime change" strategy. As they were designed to, the
sanctions have destroyed or severely weakened much of Iraq's
infrastructure, industry and agriculture, as well as the country's
military capacity. The latter had always been wildly exaggerated in the
Western media.

The sanctions, along with continued bombing raids, are intended to grind
down Iraq and its people. The United States, as President Bill Clinton,
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other top U.S. officials
admitted during the 1998 crisis, intends to keep sanctions in place until
the current government is removed or overthrown. To do this, they must
keep alive the myth that Iraq possesses fearsome weapons or the capacity
to produce them, with which it threatens its neighbors.

Enter UN Security Council Resolution 1284 
The Security Council passed Resolution 1284 in December 1999, after nearly
a year of rancorous debate. It supposedly provides for lifting the
sanctions on Iraq if the country agrees to allow UN weapons-inspection
teams to return and verify that Iraq no longer has any more "weapons of
mass destruction."

For eight years, Iraq was the most inspected country in history. Hundreds
of UN weapons-inspection teams, known as UNSCOM, made thousands of visits
to every corner of the country.  Twenty-four-hour video cameras were set
up in every factory that was deemed to have "dual-use technology."
"Dual-use" means that a facility has the potential to produce military as
well as civilian goods--as does much of modern industry anywhere.

Yet the sanctions and the horrific suffering of the Iraqi people remained
unchanged. In the fall of 1997, Iraq halted the inspections, declaring
they would not be allowed to resume until it was made clear how and when
they would lead to an end to the blockade.

In addition, the Iraqis charged that many of the inspectors were actually
spies for the government most committed to maintaining the sanctions
indefinitely:  the United States. While U.S. officials and media at first
ridiculed this charge, even they were forced to admit that it was true a
few months later.

Weapons inspection began again in March 1998. They continued until
December, when the UNSCOM teams fomented a new crisis, leading to the
intensive U.S./ British bombing of Iraq for four days, Dec. 16-19, 1998.
Since that time, there have been no inspectors in the country.

Resolution 1284--a tactic to maintain sanctions
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, speaking to delegates from the
Iraq Sanctions Challenge in Baghdad on Jan. 18, described the U.S.
position as "pretending to seek a solution" in the year-long Security
Council negotiations. Resolution 1284, Aziz said, "presents that sanctions
would be suspended if Iraq cooperates. But Iraq has cooperated for many
years, from 1991 to 1998, and got as a reward missiles and bombs. "If you
watch CBS News or read the New York Times," Aziz continued, "you would
hear that there is a resolution to end sanctions, but the Iraqi government
of Saddam Hussein refuses and so is responsible for the miserable
situation.  It's propaganda."

Under Resolution 1284, Aziz explained, Iraq would be subject to even more
strict controls than under the old system. The resolution invokes all the
past UN resolutions against Iraq, and adds the word "verification" to the
mission of the weapons inspection team. This means that Iraq must prove
that no "weapons of mass destruction," nor the capacity to produce them,

Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general who headed the recent
Sanctions Challenge to Iraq, points out that "it's impossible to prove a
negative, to prove that no weapons exist in an area as large as Iraq." And
in fact, as Clark explained, that is exactly the point: to set conditions
that cannot be met, thus allowing the sanctions to continue without limit.

There are no provisions for financial arrangements or controls in
Resolution 1284. The subject was left for later discussions. Given that
Iraq has received less than one-third of the value of the $19 billion in
petroleum it has sold under UN Resolution 661--the so-called "Oil for
Food" deal--the new financial arrangements are likely to be even less
satisfactory, according to Aziz and other Iraqi officials.

Clearly, Resolution 1284's real objective is to keep the sanctions in
place while making it appear that Iraq itself is responsible for their

'Dual-use' bulls
At the same time, $6 billion in contracts under the "Oil for Food"
resolution remain blocked by the Security Council. The vast majority of
contracts to repair the damaged water, sewage, electrical and other
infrastructure have been denied or put on hold. The usual excuse given by
the United States and Britain, which lead the way in blocking contracts,
is that the commodities in question could be "dual use." So neither pipes
nor chlorine, both desperately needed to rehabilitate the water system,
have been allowed into the country.

The extreme to which the "dual-use" pretext can be taken was illustrated
by Iraq's recent attempt to import 15 breeding bulls. The contract was
denied.  When asked why, State Department mouthpiece James Rubin replied,
"It's not the bulls we have a problem with, it's the vaccine that goes
with them."  Rubin claimed that the vaccines, necessary for modern animal
husbandry, could be used to make biological weapons.

The story of the 15 bulls shows just how bankrupt the "delinking" argument
is.  In reality, it plays into the hands of those who want to perpetuate
the sanctions forever, or until a government to their liking is
established in Baghdad.

The anti-war and anti-sanctions movement needs to call for the
unconditional lifting of the genocidal sanctions, an end to the constant
assaults on Iraq's sovereignty, and for the United States to get out of
the Middle East, where it has done so much damage over the past

International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
email: •••@••.•••
phone: 212 633-6646
fax:   212 633-2889

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 13:29:12 -0800
From: frank scott <•••@••.•••>
Subject: march column

(415)868 1600 FAX (415) 868 0502
P.O. Box 31
Bolinas CA 94924
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March, 20000

The Merchant of Menace

Commerce has been a major force in the material  progress  of humankind.

It has helped us evolve from a race facing unimaginable struggle for
survival, to a  developed state in which a major portion of humanity is
still struggling, while another lives in material excess.  Our
commercial  process has helped develop a  life of privilege for many,
but it still consigns others to   deprivation and misery.

Why have we advanced so far, and yet left so many  in poverty and
despair? While the privileged  classes often achieve  material affluence
only at the cost of mental misery?

The answer is that both the progress and the deprivation are  direct
results of a  particular process of  commerce known, though rarely
understood, as capitalism .

People  communicating and trading in markets has  motivated much of what
is good about humanity. But the anti-democratic and anti-social process
of capitalism that has dominated  commerce for hundreds of years  is
the cause of maddening inconsistencies in production, distribution and
consumption. And just as important, it is threatening the air, land and
water that are the foundations of  life.

A worldwide movement calling for democratic power to be exercised over
global trade, really amounts to an  argument for radical change in the
system of commerce.  But the longer it takes  to agree on that point ,
the more threatening  the problem becomes. We are seriously menaced by
the continued merchandising of pollution, waste and human suffering, all
in pursuit of a private profit that creates devastating social loss.

The mercantile force is currently putting on its election show, spending
incredible amounts of money to imply a democratic system where none
exists. Two major candidates, Bradley and McCain, offer some change from
the front runners , but neither are about anything different when it
comes to  commerce . Both believe that our present system  is wonderful.

We merely need to make some personal adjustments and re-introduce
honesty  to the practice of politics  - if it ever was there -  and
everything will be fine. Sure.

While this election performance  has been occupying the minds of a
minority, the majority has witnessed other spectacles that tell more
about our problems than any of the empty vessels presently being hyped
as our next president. Among these are two major cases of international
child abuse . Some political figures  are belatedly  speaking out
against these situations, though very carefully, in obedience to  the
dollar power of their employers in commerce.

More than a million people have been killed in Iraq as a result of  our
wicked sanctions. There is some sign that the barbarians may be tiring
of the bad publicity it generates internationally, if not here in the
states. Due to that publicity,  we may soon end the depraved policy that
is murdering an entire nation, especially its innocent children. A less
bloody but equally notorious case here in the USA, is the fiasco  of the
Cuban child, Elian Gonzalez. Months  have passed in which nothing but
propaganda and evil have triumphed, while a child and a family  are
defiled, all in political pursuit  of money and power.

The rich and fanatic  Cuban-American minority in Miami may be blamed for
this sordid episode, but they could not act without the complicity of
those in power. And the performance of that second group has been
disgraceful  . Whining platitudes about the good of the child and the
evils of Castro have been the blatherings of most politicians, who
cannot speak any truth without including rhetorical sops to the Gusano
Gestapo,  hopefully assuring future financial contributions.

And this cowardly performance by the political establishment occurs
while brave Cuban-Americans who are not part of the fanatic cult have
been moved to speak up, at risk to their own physical safety. Nothing
has  helped , except to recently move the story  off the front pages.
We have been witness to every form of exploitation  of this child, with
the exception of  his being sexually molested on national TV. The  total
disregard for Elian's well being is an example of how we treat tens of
thousands, perhaps millions of children in America, and millions more
across the globe.

We  profess love for some kids, but we murder them in places like Iraq ,
and we consign them to miserable lives of poverty and even jail them as
adults in our own nation. Then we select a trophy child like this abused
Cuban, and  in so doing make a  mockery of ourselves and the warped
double standards that motivate our society.

It is not a demonic individual , but  commercial  capitalism that is
responsible for the murders in Iraq and the child abuse in Miami Beach.
Just as it is that system which defoliates forests,  pollutes air and
degrades  morality, all in pursuit of  profit. Iraq is made a bloody
example , not because of its dictator, but because it disobeyed the
culture  of the great white gas guzzler. And we carry out a vindictive
policy towards Cuba , not because of Fidel, but because that tiny
nation dares to practice a commerce that puts people before profits.

The fanatic, if sincere cult in Miami would be gone in a nano-second
without the support of a fanatic but  insincere cult in  Washington,
USA. And that Washington cult, and the economy which it serves, will
maintain  control as long as the election process continues in its
present form.

The national democratic structure is  built on a foundation of the
commercial forces that are the root cause of our problems. The
marketing  of politics perpetuates  the molesting of the public mind
and the abuse of the public body. This perverse process will continue
until democracy  stops  the  capitalist merchant of menace which
dominates our commercial life.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

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frank scott
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