Friday, March 24, 2006

Perspective on Iraq

Mark Steyn wrote a provocative column today about our Iraqi policy pre-war, which led to Wretchard at Belmont Club expounding on it. To keep the memetic momentum alive, here is an illustrative, but by no means exhaustive, compendium of news articles from the nineties:

The Nation, July 26, 1999:
NATO's nightly airstrikes against Yugoslavia have ceased, but the periodic Anglo-American bombing of Iraq continues. Between mid-April and July 4, American and British warplanes hit Iraq twelve times, almost always in the northern air-exclusion zone. ...

On the ground, despite tireless efforts by the State Department to bring about a lasting rapprochement between the feuding Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), success continues to elude the Clinton Administration.

The Nation, May 31, 1999:
The Gulf War was also popularly thought to be about "getting" an evil dictator, whose position was never seriously threatened by the war and who is still in control, despite sanctions that have destroyed Iraq's economy and caused the deaths of thousands upon thousands of ordinary people through disease and malnutrition-despite, indeed, ongoing US bombings, which now and then rate a short paragraph on a slow news day. What's humanitarian about any of that?

The Nation, May 17, 1999. Saddam the Phoenix:
Since the end of the Gulf War, Iraq has altered little politically. But its economy is in tatters, its middle class in terminal decline and its economic infrastructure has deteriorated to the point where it is becoming irreparable. The cost of returning Iraq to pre-1991 standards in infrastructure is put conservatively at $ 50 billion. And, as a direct result of the UN sanctions, an estimated 1 million Iraqis have died, more than half of them children.

At the first sign of central authority in Baghdad weakening, Iran will exploit the situation, as it did in the aftermath of the Gulf War...Were the Iraqi Kurds to declare an independent state of Kurdistan as the central power in Baghdad waned, the Turkish military would march into Kurdistan.

The Nation, February 16, 1998:
Indeed, America's sanctions policy has done more to strain U.S.-European and U.S.-Russian relations--to the benefit of Iraq and the detriment of international cooperation generally--than it has to alter the behavior of Cuba, Iran or Libya.

The Nation, December 8, 1997:
Six years after the Gulf War, the severe sanctions against Iraq punish only the Iraqi people, give no incentive to Saddam to change his behavior and in fact strengthen his support in some quarters. And the heavy hand of U.S. sanctions worldwide now colors international perceptions of Washington's objectives. The Helms-Burton Act punishing foreign investors in Cuba has more than a little to do with erosion of the international consensus on Iraq, as do similar attempts at imposing extraterritorial sanctions on nations doing business in Iran and Libya. Add to this the matter of U.N. dues -- those U.N. weapons inspectors delivered their reports of Iraqi anthrax production the very week Congress voted down payment of S] billion in back dues -- and you have a climate in which US. unilateralism has Poisoned relations with its closest allies.

The New York Times, September 24, 1999:
The question of Iraq preoccupied the Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- who were unable to bridge their differences today on a resolution opening the way for United Nations weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.

The New York Times, September 21, 1999:
Secretary General Kofi Annan sounded a warning today to a frequently paralyzed Security Council, urging it to act faster and more effectively to meet the challenge of a world engulfed in civil wars that quickly descend into the slaughter of helpless civilians.

In an address to world leaders at the opening day of debate in the General Assembly, Mr. Annan also said that countries that have resisted international intervention will no longer be able to hide behind protestations of national sovereignty when they flagrantly violate the rights of citizens.

Mr. Annan did not single out the United States, the Security Council's most powerful member, or any other major nation, but his unusually strong criticism of the Council's initial failures to deal with genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and its inability to agree on responding to Serbian atrocities in Kosovo during the last year pointed obliquely at American policy decisions.

The New York Times, December 26, 1999:
Thus the continuing standoff with Mr. Hussein. No arms inspections are likely soon, and therefore there is no end in sight for sanctions, which Mr. Hussein sees as a gross insult to Iraq's sovereignty, as is American enforcement of no-flight zones in the north and south, where Iraq fires on American planes and the planes keep bombing Iraq's air defenses.

In recent months Mr. Annan has become very outspoken and self-critical about the mistakes the United Nations makes when it tries to treat abusers of their own populations with the nonjudgmental neutrality accorded other heads of government. Some people are just evil, a recent report on the 1995 fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of its Muslim population recently concluded. Mr. Annan has been stung in Bosnia, Serbia and Rwanda -- and said so with extraordinary contrition. He has criticized Russian action in Chechnya and supported NATO in Kosovo.

But Iraq? By the evidence of United Nations Human Rights Commission monitors and human rights organizations, President Hussein rules with ruthless terror and is not squeamish about gassing his own population or using the suffering of civilians as a propaganda tool. Mr. Annan's entourage does not dwell on this.

The New York Times, November 3, 1999:
Mr. Halliday, an Irishman, resigned last year to protest what he said was the damage inflicted on ordinary Iraqis by the sanctions, which he said were incompatible with the United Nations Charter. Mr. Halliday contended that 6,000 Iraqi children were dying every month because of sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

It is rare for the United States to criticize a United Nations official by name. But diplomats said the chief American delegate to the United Nations, Richard C. Holbrooke, and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas R. Pickering, have expressed concern to Mr. Annan about Mr. Sponeck. They are reported to have questioned his objectivity, as well as his ability to deliver food and medicine to the intended Iraqi recipients.

The New York Times, November 14, 1998:
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, briefing reporters before departing for the Asia-Pacific economic conference in Malaysia, said the United States had pursued military and diplomatic options on Iraq.

"Unfortunately," she said, "one by one, the diplomatic options have been rebuffed."

She said Mr. Hussein had blamed the United Nations, the United States and others for the breakdown of the inspection program. That, she said, "is completely disingenuous and dishonest and despicable."

The Guardian, August 24, 1999:
A shepherd and his family of six had been bombed to death on one day, his sheep the next. Apart from a news-in-brief item in the Guardian, this was not news in Britain.

Such acts of murder are routine, carried out by US and British pilots over Iraq...Numerous other studies on the suffering of the civilian population of Iraq have been ignored or buried. A Unicef report in 1997, which left no doubt that the malnourishment of a million children was caused by 'the impact of sanctions", was confined largely to an article in the Economist. In 1995, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation concluded that 'the moral, financial and political standing of the international community intent on maintaining economic sanctions is challenged by the estimate that since August 1990, 567,000 children in Iraq have died as a consequence." That is four times the number of children who died at Hiroshima.

The Guardian, August 16, 1999:
But sanctions have given the Iraqi government a powerful propaganda weapon. It can blame child mortality, and the general infrastructure of the country, on sanctions. It says that more than 1.5m people, including children, have died as a result of sanctions...Will sanctions ever help to topple Saddam Hussein?

The west's policy towards Iraq appears bankrupt.

The Guardian, July 30, 1999:
Documents released under the US freedom of information act indicate that US forces fired a total of 944,000 rounds of DU-tipped weapons during the Gulf war, leaving 300 tonnes of DU in Iraq and Kuwait.

It is the first use of radiological weapons in the history of mankind . . . You don't find a family without cancer or malformations from Basra to Mosul. According to Dr Mona Kammas, these children are suffering from congenital abnormalities because their fathers were exposed to depleted uranium weapons used in the Gulf war.

The Guardian, July 19, 1999:
I suppose we knew that before the war started; if western governments were motivated by humanitarianism, they could lift sanctions against Iraq and, according to UN figures, save the lives of 4,000-5,000 children a week.

The L.A. Times, September 3, 1999:
Despite the damage to Iraqi society by economic sanctions, despite the destruction of more Scud missiles, chemical and biological warheads and secret weapons facilities than were destroyed in the Gulf War, Iraq apparently is still capable of producing unconventional weapons and Hussein's grip on power has not slackened. It's time to consider a new policy.

The no-fly zones patrolled by U.S. and British aircraft over northern and southern Iraq and the almost daily attacks since last December on Iraq's air defense sites have held Hussein's aggressive instincts in check. But in the face of increasing Iraqi obstruction, UNSCOM, the U.N. arms monitoring program, ceased functioning nine months ago. Meanwhile, economic sanctions have taken a fearful toll, not on Hussein and his cosseted military and police forces but on the Iraqi people. Hundreds of thousands of deaths, especially of children, have been blamed on a lack of imported food and medicine that has been only partly relieved by letting Iraq resume some oil sales. Hussein has been unmoved by this suffering but has sought with some success to manipulate the compassion of others. International support for Washington's determination to hold to a tough sanctions policy has steadily eroded. ...

For the United States, the painful fact to be faced is that sanctions haven't achieved what it sought. While Iraq for now is contained, the absence of U.N. arms inspectors raises concerns about its future military potential.

The L.A. Times, August 29, 1999:
The Clinton administration must decide over the next month whether to do battle with some of its own allies to keep alive a policy aimed at undoing the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein--or compromise in ways that might help a leader who was once compared to Adolf Hitler stay in power.

The core of the U.S. dilemma is that no end is in sight to its costly strategy, despite recent rumbles of unrest in southern Iraq. ...

Eight months of almost daily U.S. and British airstrikes in response to Iraqi provocations have failed to cow the Iraqi military. Pilots have flown about 70% as many sorties as NATO flew in its 78 days of saturation bombing of Yugoslavia, yet Iraq has managed to rebuild several facilities hit since four days of Operation Desert Fox in December led to an escalation over the northern and southern "no-fly" zones.

Hussein has defied every intelligence prediction of internal trouble or an imminent demise. ...

The Clinton administration has gone one step further than the Bush administration in calling for a regime change before sanctions are lifted. But a growing number of countries are prepared to lift sanctions as soon as the U.N. certifies that Iraq has destroyed its deadliest weapons, thus allowing a totalitarian leader to remain in power indefinitely.

The L.A. Times, May 6, 1999:
The real question is why we punish Saddam for his probably ineffectual efforts to develop such weapons by crippling the people of Iraq with sanctions. According to John and Karl Mueller, writing in the May issue of Foreign Affairs, economic sanctions are the weapon of mass destruction. "They may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all the weapons of mass destruction throughout history."

The post-Cold War West, rather than defeating terrorism, has become its chief sponsor.


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