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Lest We Forget
September 16, 2003 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Cool War: "In searching for evidence of the potential danger posed by Iraq, the Bush Administration need have looked no further than the well-kept record of U.S. manipulation of the sanctions program since 1991. If any international act in the last decade is sure to generate enduring bitterness toward the United States, it is the epidemic suffering needlessly visited on Iraqis via U.S. fiat inside the United Nations Security Council. Within that body, the United States has consistently thwarted Iraq from satisfying its most basic humanitarian needs, using sanctions as nothing less than a deadly weapon, and, despite recent reforms, continuing to do so. Invoking security concerns -- including those not corroborated by U.N. weapons inspectors -- U.S. policymakers have effectively turned a program of international governance into a legitimized act of mass slaughter." [More inside]
posted by stonerose (36 comments total)

 
While doing research at the U.N. in 1998, I had the opportunity to interview Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was, at the time, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. He told me that U.N. Sanctions reform could not be successfully pursued until the U.S. lifted the sanctions against Iraq. We both looked forward to that day. He was killed last month while serving as the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General in Iraq.
posted by stonerose at 7:09 PM on September 16, 2003


hmm...what's French for bullshit?
posted by nobody_knose at 7:25 PM on September 16, 2003


I'm open to criticism of this Harper's article, but not from the likes of Matt Welch and his libertarian poseurs.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:36 PM on September 16, 2003


facts are facts...sorry if you don't like the messenger.
posted by nobody_knose at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2003


First, this article is of somewhat dubious relevance, having been published in November 2002. Moreover, if one follows the logic of the piece, this year's war was one of the best things that could have happened, given that one of the most immediate outcomes was the lifting of sanctions. Indeed, some have pointed out that if we use UNICEF's estimate that 5,000 Iraqi children were dying every month before the war, the "Iraq body count" should be running solidly in reverse.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:58 PM on September 16, 2003


Alas, I don't have time to slog through the Harper's story or Matt Welch's contrasting piece in "Reason". I occasionally agree with "Reason" but - given it's insistence that Global Warming is bunk and that man-made chemicals are always good for all life on earth - I'm starting off a bit skeptical. On preview I think I'd side with the UN opinion (which is not synonymous with that of the author of the Harper's piece).

Meanwhile ( more of the "guilt by association" argument) :

pardonyou's website citation from Ambit makes me a little dubious too - Ambit's "Afghanistan is looking up" bit is a little.....ummmm......well, OK. I guess things are peachy on the Afghan economic scene. [ That sort of journalistic treatment, a la Ambit, could make a mangled, bloody corpse newly run over by a freight train look lively ]. It must be that record breaking opium crop this year. Drugs are bad boys and girls, 'mkay, except if their sale benefits a Republican administration. Right then. I'm going to bed.

But I haven't directly refuted any relevant arguments here, 'mkay?
posted by troutfishing at 8:56 PM on September 16, 2003


here's another piece describing how the food for oil program was a complete sham (article originally published in the New Republic).
posted by nobody_knose at 9:38 PM on September 16, 2003


Here's a NY Times article about corruption in the Oil -for-Palaces program.

And here's an excerpt from an article interviewing doctors from Baghdad hospitals--

Iraqi doctors now say what our intellectuals and our reporters should have felt in their bones. Iraq's children were dying not because of us, but because of Saddam. And even the parades of dead children were part of a monstrous hoax.

Dr Amer Abdul a-Jalil, the deputy resident at Baghdad's Ibn al-Baladi Hospital, has told the London Telegraph that "sanctions did not kill these children -- Saddam killed them".

"Over the past 10 years, the government in Iraq poured money into the military and the construction of palaces for Saddam to the detriment of the health sector," he said.

"Those babies or small children who died because they could not access the right drugs, died because Saddam's government failed to distribute the drugs."

As the hospital's chief resident, Dr Hussein Shihab, confirmed to Newsday: "We had the ability to get all the drugs we needed. Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong -- that these children died from the fault of the UN."

Dr Azhar Abdul Khadem, a resident at Baghdad's Al-Alwiya maternity hospital agreed: "Saddam Hussein, he's the murderer, not the UN."

In fact, Dr Oasem al-Taye, who now runs the Baghdad Children's Hospital, said last week that after Saddam's fall he'd found plenty of medical supplies and equipment at a hospital once reserved for leaders of Saddam's regime.

"They were willing to sacrifice the children for the sake of propaganda," he said bitterly.

THE parades of dead children were part of that same propaganda.

Doctors say hospitals were forced to keep the bodies of babies who had died prematurely or of natural causes for up to two months until Saddam had enough to stage a parade of the little corpses, with women bussed in to act as "mourners", screaming insults at the US in front of television cameras.

"All 10 hospitals in Baghdad were involved in this and the quota for the parade was between 25 and 30 babies a month, which they would say had died in one day," Dr Hussein al-Douri, deputy director of the Ibn al-Baladi hospital, told the Telegraph.


Ugh.
posted by wrffr at 2:09 AM on September 17, 2003


Iraqi doctors now say...

Yep. Apparently all four of 'em.

And gosh, these docs say our erstwhile military buddy Saddam was actually spending money on the military while sanctions were in effect? No shit? What a revelation. And who could have possibly, possibly guessed that the tightly controlled people in a poor country (and not the leadership) would be the ones killed off by sanctions, right? Our Motto: kill the body, and the head will fall off. Yeah, it's all Saddam's fault.

....this year's war was one of the best things that could have happened, given that one of the most immediate outcomes was the lifting of sanctions.

Oh, please. Murderous sanctions or a murderous war were the only options? No doubt a certain poverty of intellectual rigor and imagination exists in America, particularly among those prosecuting and supporting the war, but that kind of binary thinking really defies credibility

And speaking of bullshit, nobody_knose, did you even bother to read the Welch article you quoted above? Even stained with Welch's childish, yellow name-calling ("loonies on the left") and ad-hominem swill therein, there sure ain't much in it to substantially refute anything in the Harper's article.

Welch: "Sanctions give anti-American enclaves, whether in Cairo or Berkeley or Peshawar, one of their few half-convincing arguments about evil U.S. policy since the end of the Cold War."

'Course, before Welch notes Bin Laden using the death of Iraqi children for his own propaganda purposes (and right before Welch uses his own tearjerker for his propaganda purposes: "While firefighters were still pulling out warm body parts from Ground Zero...", he breathlessly asks "have sanctions against Iraq murdered millions?"

Right. And now with that straw man numerical range firmly in place, any lesser number conjured just must mean a vast leftist conspiracy continues to give aid and comfort to America's enemies.

Welch: "The other, far more credible source of the 500,000 number is a pair of 1999 UNICEF studies that estimated the under-5 mortality rates of both Iraqi regions based on interviews with a total of 40,000 households. "If the substantial reduction in the under-five mortality rate during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s," the report concluded, "there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998." If the expected mortality rate had stayed level rather than continuing its downward slope, the excess death number would be more like 420,000."

And Welch does seem to be enamored of a study by Richard Garfield. So why don't we see what else Richard Garfield has said, shall we?


For 1996, after five years of sanctions and prior to receipt of humanitarian foods via the oil for food program, this model shows mortality among children under five to have reached a minimum of 80 per one thousand, a rate last experienced more than thirty years ago. This rise in the mortality rate accounted for between a minimum of 100,000 and a more likely estimate of 227,000 excess deaths among young children from August 1991 through March 1998. About one-quarter of these deaths were mainly associated with the Gulf war; most were primarily associated with sanctions. Mortality was highest in the southern governorates of the country and lowest in Baghdad. Mortality was higher in rural areas, among the poor, and among those families with lower educational achievement. The increase in mortality was caused mainly by diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. The underlying causes of these excess deaths include contaminated water, lack of high quality foods, inadequate breast feeding, poor weaning practices, and inadequate supplies in the curative health care system. This was the product of both a lack of some essential goods, and inadequate or inefficient use of existing essential goods.

Following these assumptions, an estimate of more than 100,000 excess deaths occurred among under five-year-old Iraqis from August 1990 to March 1998. During January 1996 through March 1998, this represented an average of about 1800 excess deaths among under five-year-olds per month, or about 60 per day. This conservative estimate is 40% of the number of 4500 excess deaths claimed by the Iraqi Ministry of Health in 1996. If these conservative assumptions are replaced by the main estimates for values of the variables included above, the total number of estimated excess deaths thru March 1998 more than doubles to 227,000
[Garfield has since revised his estimates upwards of 300,000]

Given the most likely estimate of 227,000, there were an average of about 60 excess deaths each day. These child deaths far outnumber all deaths on all sides, among combatants and civilians, during the Gulf war. It exceeds the number of deaths known to result from any of the bombing raids in Iraq even on the days of the bombings. It exceeds each week the number of deaths that occurred in the tragic bombing of the Al Furdos bomb shelter during the Gulf war. That incident caused an international uproar, an apology from the Joint Military Command, and a revision in the procedures for selecting targets. Reaction to the much greater number of child deaths associated with sanctions has been far more muted. Confusion over the number of deaths and rhetorical argument over which side is responsible for those deaths has prevented the international community from focusing more effectively on how to prevent their continued occurrence.

Studies from 1996 onward suggest that there was little decline in mortality rates at that time.

Sustained increases in young child mortality are extremely rare in this century (3). Such a large increase as that found here is almost unknown in the public health literature. In Iraq, a rate of mortality among under five-year-olds in excess of 80 per one thousand births was last experienced about twenty years ago (52) (52). Living conditions in Iraq, thus, represent a loss of several decades of progress in reducing mortality. This is a social disaster which should be urgently addressed. To the degree that economic sanctions complicate access to and utilization of essential goods, sanctions regulations should be modified immediately. In addition, the international community should urgently make available to Iraq materials and expertise to improve child health programs and policies in the fields of feeding and weaning practices, diarrhea and respiratory infection recognition and care, and maternal and child health care, family income, and education.


In an afterward to Garfield's study, David Cortright and George A. Lopez write:

Evidence of Baghdad's disregard for its own people can be seen in its spending choices. Despite the sanctions, Iraq has not been without financial resources. It has retained access to hard currency reserves and overseas financial holdings, despite international efforts to seize these assets. It has managed to earn export revenues through a small but lucrative illicit oil trade via Turkey and Iran. Limited oil sales have also been allowed through Jordan. Baghdad could have used the limited but nonetheless significant resources at its disposal to take more vigorous action to address the needs of its people and relieve humanitarian suffering. Instead it has marshaled its resources for such purposes as constructing dozens of "palaces," erecting monuments to its own glorification, and attempting to rebuild its vast military apparatus (including efforts to smuggle military technology and circumvent restrictions on weapons of mass destruction).2 During the past six years Baghdad has also undertaken a massive civil engineering project and campaign of military oppression against the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq.3 The tragic irony is that while Basra and other Iraqi cities still lack adequate water piping and sewage treatment facilities, the government has found the resources to drain the marshes and build a 350-mile river channel through the southern region.

Precisely because it is known that the Iraqi government is victimizing its own population, the UN incurs an obligation to adjust its policies and find a different approach to achieving its objectives in Iraq.

The culpability of U.S. officials arises from their misuse of the sanctions instrument in Iraq. We have addressed this issue at greater length elsewhere but suffice it to say here that officials in Washington have been excessively rigid and unyielding in their use of sanctions and have refused to offer incentives to encourage Iraqi cooperation. Iraq has made some minor concessions over the years, however reluctantly, and substantial progress was made by UN weapons inspectors in dismantling Baghdad's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.

The resort to bombing indicated that Washington and London no longer have confidence in the ability of sanctions to pressure Iraq to comply with weapons inspections. They have rejected the option of using sanctions as an instrument of carrots and sticks diplomacy to obtain a just resolution. Sanctions have now become secondary to the use of military force and have lost their claim to ethical purpose. They have become merely instruments of punishment that cause suffering for the vulnerable. U.S. officials seem to be aware of the moral difficulties of such a policy and have responded by offering to expand the oil-for-food program, but this ameliorative program cannot resolve the underlying immorality of continuing comprehensive trade sanctions.

In the aftermath of the bombing, divisions and uncertainty about the UN mission in Iraq have increased. American officials oppose the completion of weapons inspections and argued instead for a policy of containment enforced through continued sanctions and the threat of military force. Members of the Russian Duma, angered by the U.S. and British military action, argued for unilaterally abrogating the sanctions, and resuming trade with Iraq. French policymakers spoke vaguely of a new mission for UNSCOM and an easing of trade sanctions. The bombing seems to have pushed UN policy further away from securing Iraqi compliance with weapons inspections, and toward a narrowly punitive mission directed exclusively by the United States and Great Britain with yet again Iraqi citizens being the victims. Such a policy cannot meet the standards of effectiveness, morality, and authority.


So....Welch? At least hundreds of thousands of dead just among very young children....and the death toll marches on. If folks had listened to the "loonies on the left"....people who have actually called this shameful militaristic bullshit spectacle for what it is (over decades)....there'd be literally hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children growing into young adulthood right now. Their blood is on the hands of the Iraqi and American leadership (and those "patriots" who bravely called for sanction and war from the safety of their writing offices and living rooms).

Perhaps someday, some Iraqi parents will tell us that what the future became was worth their loss. The rage of millions will calm, and American skyscrapers will no longer beckon the vengeful.

After all....the loss of a child to a parent (even hundreds of thousands of times over) isn't really the worst thing that could have happened to a parent...and a people.

Is it?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:18 AM on September 17, 2003


I want to be Foldy when I grow up.
posted by bshort at 4:49 AM on September 17, 2003


Hear, hear, bshort. Great response foldy!
posted by nofundy at 5:19 AM on September 17, 2003


Is it worth pointing out that it was the Clinton administration that maintained the sanctions program until 2000, and that it was the Bush administration that ultimately got the sanctions lifted (albeit through military force)? Just to play devil's advocate, you know.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:23 AM on September 17, 2003


It's just as worthwhile as mentioning that the sanctions were enacted during the Bush I administration, as a result of the first Gulf War. Really, isn't that "Don't bash Bush, look at what Clinton did" argument just a little tired?
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:50 AM on September 17, 2003


Really, isn't that "Don't bash Bush, look at what Clinton did" argument just a little tired?

It is, but I'm not making that argument. Bash Bush all you want (and, this being MetaFilter, I have no doubt you will). As I've said numerous times, I'm not even a Bush supporter. Instead, it's the selective memory of so many people that bothers me. You can't use the "literally hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children growing into young adulthood," (™ the foldster) as an argument against Bush when 8 out of the 12 years of sanctions were Clinton years. Let's at least acknowledge that if the U.S. is truly "responsible" for those deaths*, the Clinton administration is responsible for 67% of them.

*not an argument I agree with, btw. Hussein both diverted the funds that were provided and had every opportunity to get the sanctions lifted. If we're allocating responsibility, his is in the 99+ percentile.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:26 AM on September 17, 2003


Bash Bush all you want (and, this being MetaFilter, I have no doubt you will).

Ah, just as I expected. It's a shame that foldy's magnificent demonstration of the safe and efficient way to hand someone's own ass to them is likely going to be used as a later example of "Mefi's leftist slant."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:34 AM on September 17, 2003


of course, foldy's post is in the long tradition of "no matter what, it is America's fault." The only actor that matters is the USA, and all other actors are presumed to be automatons blindly following Washington's lead.

The fact that the Iraqi regime had ample opportunity to comply with the sanctions regime instead of playing what has been called "cheat and retreat" is scarcely mentioned. This regime, which was briefly a strategic ally of the US (1980-1984) and was actually armed by (France, Russia, China, and to a lesser extent Germany 1977-2003), systematically ran Iraq into the ground at the cost of millions of lives.

Still, despite all of this f&m puts the blame only on the USA, not on Saddam or his long term allies in Europe.

Despite the heat and noise generated, he does raise an interesting point: what should the US have done? Give in to "Cheat and Retreat" undermining the influence of the IAEA and the UNSC (1998-2003)? Roll over on the WMD programs (1990-1995 we now know) and let Saddam build the atom bomb he was 6-12 months from finishing with French help (1990-1991)? Why stop there? Should it have allowed him to seize Kuwait in 1990?

The pathetic state of Iraq's military and WMD programs in 2003 did not happen by accident, it was the result of a decade of containment. Throw out containment, and you have a self sufficient, nuclear-armed dictatorship with the third largest army in the world, revanchist ambitions, and a human rights record that rivals that of Stalin. Is that better?

Iraqis (save a few hundred) didn't get to choose the policy of suicidal confrontation chosen by Saddam, the policy of containment via sanctions favored by the UNSC (unanimously at first), nor did they choose to continue the broad sanctions when "smart sanctions" were blocked by the Russians, French and Chinese, nor did they choose the policy of war that eventually liberated them from their dictatorship and ended sanctions over French, German, Russian, and Chinese objections ("Blame America" indeed!). If they had been asked, I would presume they would have rejected all three, including the path of confrontation that brought first containment, then war. The trouble is, they weren't and they could not have been, thanks to the Iraqi regime.
posted by ednopantz at 7:42 AM on September 17, 2003


Let me add an interesting link:

Confessions of an Anti Sanctions Activist MEQ Summer 2003

Anti-sanctions groups sought to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people. In fact, they became—whether wittingly or unwittingly—mouthpieces for Saddam in the United States. I should know: I have the dubious distinction of having been one of them.
posted by ednopantz at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2003


Saddam had WMDs
Saddam was evil
We're actually liberating the Iraqi people
It's all Clinton's fault
Why do you hate America so much?

Right on schedule, ednopantz. Thanks.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:54 AM on September 17, 2003


....whatever.
posted by ednopantz at 8:18 AM on September 17, 2003


I could only make it to page 4 before feeling sick to my stomache.

That the US is doing this is obscene.

But dying children don't vote, I guess.
posted by drinkmaildave at 9:13 AM on September 17, 2003


Is it worth pointing out that it was the Clinton administration that maintained the sanctions program until 2000, and that it was the Bush administration that ultimately got the sanctions lifted (albeit through military force)? Just to play devil's advocate, you know.

I don't really get this line of argument. Do we need to say that no one here is in favor of lifting the two-term restriction to re-instate Clinton? It seems to me that he is one of about four people living in the US (Ford, Bush I, and Carter being the others) who can not possibly be offered as a solution.

You could also point out that Clinton's foreign policy was pocked with bad decisions, chiefly blowing up the Sudan asprin factory. You would be right. But this would not justify anything anyone else did, would it?

ednopantz:
If it is unacceptable to lay any blame for the sanctions at the feet of those who enforced and instated them, then how would you see it? If you were fully aware that your neighbor was an axe murderer, but you let him babysit your kids, would it be %100 his fault if your kids got axe murdered? Maybe in your eyes, but we've got this thing called cause and effect in the world I live in, and we use it to predict outcomes and temper decision making. It's pretty cool.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:37 AM on September 17, 2003


Cortright/Lopez: "the tragic irony is that while Basra and other Iraqi cities still lack adequate water piping and sewage treatment facilities, the government has found the resources to drain the marshes and build a 350-mile river channel through the southern region."

excellent BBC resource on the still-terrible problem of access to water in Iraq (and other shortages):


Do all Iraqis now have access to clean water?

No. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), clean water supplies are not back to pre-war levels, although the situation varies dramatically around the country, as well as within Baghdad itself. There are two problems: no access to water at all, and access to dirty water.

Iraq has two large rivers - the Tigris and the Euphrates - so, in essence, water should not be a problem. But electricity is needed to purify and pump water and electricity shortages have therefore had a knock-on effect.

In Baghdad about 80% of the capacity is said to have been restored and the UN is delivering water in tankers to other areas that need it less well supplied areas. There have been isolated problems with sabotage. In the middle of August, the main pipe supplying water to Baghdad was bombed, flooding a motorway and leaving the city of five million without water. There is still a problem that inadequate sewage treatment means that much of it flows back into the rivers.


ps foldy, I'd email you but you don't provide an address, so: when you manage to avoid your trademark chuckles and tone down the gleeful contempt for this community that usually drips freely from your comments, you are a very interesting, very effective poster -- having demolished Welch's (and his fans) lame argument without managing to tack an editorial on your comment you did a great job. since you obviously care so deeply about issues I perfectly understand your tendency to add dramatic little op-eds to your comments. but -- my two cents here of course, just disregard it -- when you stick to logic and links without adding, as I said, a chuckle here and there, you're much more effective. even devastating, as in this thread. anyway, thanks for the good job


posted by matteo at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2003


IJR:
To use a color metaphor, I'm not saying that the US white, I'm saying it isn't black. I'm also saying that the US doesn't bear 100% of the responsibility because it didn't wield 100% of the power. Saddam could have ended sanctions by knuckling under but he chose to defend what was by 1996 a largely nonexistent WMD program. (Jeez, at least the US thought it had a reason to keep sanctions on!) France, Russia, and China could have allowed smart sanctions and taken the burden off of ordinary people but chose instead to hold out for an end to sanctions that would allow their unlimited arms sales, debt payments, and oil prospecting to go forward.

A common belief among the lazy "blame America" crowd is that there are no other actors on the world stage. America may wield (say) 35% of the power to the next most powerful actor's 12%, but that hardly means every outcome is what America wanted.

Apportionment of blame aside, I'm not sure that the sanctions, deadly as they were, was the wrong choice.
Do you want a nuclear armed despot with ambitions of greatness and the wars that will bring or do you want half a million dead children? (Remember, the Iran/Iraq war killed about 1M people)

Even with 20/20 hindsight it still isn't a slam dunk either way, much less when one considers the reasonable belief (in 1990) that no country could hold up under "non-violent" economic sanctions for so long. People underestimated Saddam's arrogance, power, and brutality. If there was a realistic third option, I'd love to hear it.

In hindsight, Bush Sr. made an enormous blunder by not going all the way to Baghdad, but no one thought that would be necessary. Everyone thought Saddam would be hanging from a lamppost soon.

What really burns me is the conflation of war and sanctions to say that those who favored war also favored sanctions out of bloodlust, which is f&m's contention. In 2002-3 the choice was between 1) dropping sanctions and leaving the regime which was (at least partly) responsible for the aforementioned dead kids firmly in power, 2) keeping sanctions in place and putting more kids in coffins, or 3) going to war and ending the sanctions without that regime in power. To me, 3 is obviously the best solution even on purely utilitarian body count terms, but honest people can differ.

Oh, and IJR, I remember when you used to make insightful, informed comments instead of swaggering about ("we have this thing called cause..."), please go back to that.
posted by ednopantz at 10:29 AM on September 17, 2003


I'm going to have to dig up several of the articles that I've read over the last few months about this very topic. But I have to add to ednopantz, that he does have a valid point. A great amount of effort was made by various Euro countries to throw obstacles in the way not only of the food for oil program, but also the weapons inspections. When it came to the weapons inspections (I know, slightly off topic), it was France and Germany who refused to continue support in the mid-1990s and pushed for their withdrawal.

I'm not a Bush supporter, nor did I ever buy his line of BS about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - but the Europeans are trying damned hard to demonstrate that they aren't the bullies in all of these shenanegans. When in reality, they probably threw up just as many obstacles and trip-wires as the US government did. Let's spread this blame around a bit, shall we?
posted by tgrundke at 10:54 AM on September 17, 2003


Oh, please. Murderous sanctions or a murderous war were the only options? No doubt a certain poverty of intellectual rigor and imagination exists in America, particularly among those prosecuting and supporting the war, but that kind of binary thinking really defies credibility.

Yes, sanctions and war are very bad things. So is dictatorship. I normally try not to feed these type of blame-assignment threads, but honestly, after all the words spilled on MeFi in this thread and over the entire last year, I still have no idea what any of you are proposing in place of murderous sanctions and murderous war. If you really want to oppose binary thinking, you have to climb down off your moral high horse and explain how there is a third way that is better.

And that's why you have failed to convince 80% of Americans of the righteousness of your position. Can someone please suggest an alternative course of action before Bush wins 2004 in a landslide?
posted by fuzz at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2003


Where the fu*k do you get the "blame America first" bull ednopantz?

Do you think it is unacceptable to examine our mistakes if we haven't first tried to blame everyone else?

Kinda comes off like a "Defender of All Things Duhbya" comment that one might hear from "fifth columnist" Andrew Sullivan to me.

Give me one good reason we should NOT discuss the foreign policy failings of what is supposedly a democracy before you sling that tired old "blame America first" crap around here, OK?

Unless of course you agree that the Great Dear Leader Duhbya should always be unassailable, unquestioned, and above reproach, then I'll just wink and nod after giving the stiff arm salute.
posted by nofundy at 11:30 AM on September 17, 2003


I still have no idea what any of you are proposing in place of murderous sanctions and murderous war.

A narrower program of sanctions - one that allowed a much broader spectrum of 'dual use' items (chlorine, equipment to sustain electrical generation, water and sanitation provision), essential medications, etc. - would have had the following advantages. It would have saved thousands of lives. It would likely have reduced (but by no means eliminated) widespread rage against the U.S. in the Arab world. It would have robbed Saddam of propaganda points (which he eventually used with great success to undermine the U.S.'s lame coalition-building efforts prior to Gulf War II). It would have greatly increased pressure on Saddam to admit a more robust system of WMD monitors. It would have reduced the rage against the U.S. in Iraq - rage that is spilling out now, to the detriment of the mission.

There were widespread calls for just such a system of targeted sanctions, but the U.S. spurned them all. Was Europe standing in the way? Not bloody likely: France and Russia, in particular, wanted sanctions lifted for their own selfish reasons: so their companies could trade with Iraq.

So: there's the plan. Would it have worked? Possibly not. But the failure of the sanctions, combined with the clear presence of an alternative which carried the potential of achieving both broad and narrow goals of U.S. foreign policy, while saving countless lives, means that this plan deserved due consideration. It didn't get that consideration. This isn't a partisan problem, folks, nor purely an American problem. But the fact remains: most other countries, including my own, were calling for such a plan, but the U.S. foreign policy establishment - buttressed by the willful ignorance of the American people about this issue - fucked up because of an unwillingness to admit that its policies had failed, and an unwillingness to look 'weak' (i.e., nimble, creative, sensible, humane). Now look where we are. Thousands of people dead, a country in chaos, widespread anger and resentment against the U.S., a tired and overstretched army, loss of U.S. and British credibility and soft power.... the list goes on, as does the insistence of the neocons that they know best how to safeguard American security, influence, and prosperity in the world. Meet the New American Century. Same as the old one. Only worse.
posted by stonerose at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2003


The "blame America" argument exists, as this thread proves and it is intellectually lazy. Instead of examining all of the actors involved, guaging their various goals, perceptions and means available at the time the choices were made, some would just choose to heap vituperation on the US as an easy target. See how f&m makes the argument that the sanctions tragedy was 100% Washington's fault without engaging the other actors: Saddam, the French, Russians, and Chinese govts, Emirati oil smugglers, defenders of Iraq's soverignty, anti sanctions campaigners, etc. All of these actors caused the outcome, but only one gets blamed.

One sees this all over the European press and all over the left. Instead of examining the alternatives to the policy choices made (I have yet to hear a real alternative to the sanctions, war, or nuclear Saddam choice), many paint a mustache on whoever happens to be the US president at the time and march about in circles. It is lazy thinking. So is equating "US is not 100% at fault" with " Great Dear Leader Duhbya should always be unassailable" Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Oh, and nice Godwin.
posted by ednopantz at 12:10 PM on September 17, 2003


Where the fu*k do you get the "blame America first" bull ednopantz?

Nice subtle insertion of a word ("first") ednopantz never used, nofundy. So if you take that word out, your question becomes: "Where the fu*k do you get the "blame America" bull ednopantz?" For starters he probably gets it here:

there'd be literally hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children growing into young adulthood right now. Their blood is on the hands of the Iraqi and American leadership (and those "patriots" who bravely called for sanction and war from the safety of their writing offices and living rooms).

Seems to me you can't have it both ways. If you contend -- as folderino clearly does -- that the blood of those Iraqi children is on the U.S.'s hands, then you've essentially equated the U.S. (primarily the Clinton administration) with Hussein as a mass murdering regime. Maybe you feel that way, but at least call a spade a spade and don't criticize ednopantz for correctly challenging your "blame America" position. If you don't feel that way, it seems to me that you should at least acknowledge that there are degrees of culpability at issue, and that the individual that bears far and away the principal responsibility for those deaths is Saddam Hussein. Note I'm not suggesting -- and I don't think ednopantz is either -- that you can't criticize U.S. policy. It's just important to some of us that this be put in context -- context that was notably lacking from this thread.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:24 PM on September 17, 2003


There were widespread calls for just such a system of targeted sanctions, but the U.S. spurned them all. Was Europe standing in the way? Not bloody likely: France and Russia, in particular, wanted sanctions lifted for their own selfish reasons: so their companies could trade with Iraq.

Wrong. The US wanted "smart sanctions," France and Russia wanted no sanctions. Russia blocked targeted sanctions because they were holding out for a complete lifting. Anti sanctions activists also campaigned against them for the same reason, although without the self-interest of the Russians.
posted by ednopantz at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2003


Oh, please. Murderous sanctions or a murderous war were the only options?

So, tell us some others. As Ross Perot once said, "I'm all ears."


*crickets*
posted by jonmc at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2003


There are a finite but large number of options for all things. To claim otherwise is to put forward a false dilemma.
posted by bshort at 2:07 PM on September 17, 2003


Wrong. The US wanted "smart sanctions," France and Russia wanted no sanctions.

That was back when the Bush administration cared about what the U.N. decided, right? It was all set to give the Iraqi people what they needed, but that darn Security Council got in the way of saving childrens' lives. Give me a break. While paying lip-service to the idea of targeted sanctions, the U.S. was prosecuting anti-sanctions activists for sending bottles of aspirin to Iraq. The U.S. knew perfectly well how to play diplomatic ballet with Russia and France, while planning for war with Iraq.
posted by stonerose at 2:09 PM on September 17, 2003


There are a finite but large number of options for all things. To claim otherwise is to put forward a false dilemma.

Fine. So (once again) what are/were they? Or, more precisely, what were the options that were better than the ones chosen?
posted by pardonyou? at 2:38 PM on September 17, 2003


That was back when the Bush administration cared about what the U.N. decided, right? It was all set to give the Iraqi people what they needed, but that darn Security Council got in the way of saving childrens' lives. Give me a break.

Actually, they were trying to save childrens' lives, if only because dead kids are bad PR. The sanctions were a huge liability, everyone knew that. Narrowing the sanctions would make life easier for the Iraqis as well as US allies in the region. In short, it was in US interests to limit the humanitarian damage, as well as being good for ordinary Iraqis. The two can occasionally coincide, you know.

The U.S. knew perfectly well how to play diplomatic ballet with Russia and France, while planning for war with Iraq.

Apples and oranges. There is a big difference between being able to ignore R&F when they opposed war and not being able to ignore R&F on sanctions. Washington had the soldiers and materiel to defeat Saddam's army with or without allies. It did not, however, have the ability to enforce sanctions without the cooperation of other states. Jordan and Syria prize the UN enough not to ignore the UNSC's dictates, at least officially. Without those two, sanctions would have collapsed entirely.

Remember, there are times when the US isn't omnipotent, omniscient, and 100% to blame for all the evil in the universe, despite how satisfying and comforting that would be.
posted by ednopantz at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2003


"if only because dead kids are bad PR"

hhmm, bad PR... the Bush administration being famously careful not to look bad to foreigners, especially in the Arab world, right?

"The sanctions were a huge liability, everyone knew that"

well, if "everyone" knew that as you seem to believe, the White House (both with Clinton and W) was, ahem very quiet about that. you know, it made them look tough, and tough is good, you don't want them to be mistaken for a bunch of Human Rights Watch-supporting, AmnestyInternational-loving "wobbly" liberals... (btw I still remember the -- frankly scary -- view of 250-pound Samuel Berger pontificating on national tv about Iraqi children having more than enough food to eat -- and he was a Clinton man.
(But maybe you're right, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld just couldn't sleep thinking about the plight of Iraqi children and have always been careful to try to look good to the Arab "street")

"Remember, there are times when the US isn't omnipotent, omniscient, and 100% to blame for all the evil in the universe, despite how satisfying and comforting that would be".

as, of course, everybody else here has been arguing _exactly_ that the US is omniscient and 100% to blame for all the evil in the universe

with this kind of straw men arguments, you're ready to fill in for AndrewSullivan, next time he's on vacation
posted by matteo at 11:22 PM on September 17, 2003


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