JUST ANOTHER HATCHET JOB?
New York City
There is too much absurdity in the article you published about me in your Big Media issue to respond to all of it, but I'd like to set the record straight on some of the more egregious misquotes and inaccuracies [Mark Dowie, "A Teflon Correspondent," Jan. 7/14].
§ Steve Wilson did not make an "alarmed" call to my colleague Arnold Diaz, and Diaz did not say what you quote him--secondhand--as having said to Wilson.
§ Lowell Bergman was not my first producer, and had he been, he could not have kept me out of an editing room.
§ My lecture fees rarely go to the Palmer R. Chitester Fund; most go to Central Park Conservancy.
§ I earn no income from sales of my videotapes; that goes to ABC.
§ I have never said "regulation of business makes no sense whatsoever"--in fact, I praise basic environmental regulation.
§ Above all, I do not report on the benefits of free markets because I like "making real money," as Dowie simplistically speculates; I report on them because freedom has lifted more people out of poverty than government dictates ever will.
Maybe it's my fault Dowie got so much wrong, because I wouldn't cooperate with him; after reading his hatchet job on Gina Kolata, I feared he wouldn't be fair to me. He wasn't.
I won't say "cancel my subscription," because I treasure what The Nation publishes on corporate welfare and "nation building." I just hope, for the sake of your readers, that those articles are more accurate than what you published about me.
New York City?
I was more than a little disturbed to see myself quoted as criticizing my longtime friend and colleague John Stossel in Mark Dowie's article. To begin with, no one from your publication ever called me to verify the quote, which Dowie got secondhand from Steve Wilson. Second, I cannot recall ever saying those things to Wilson. Third, I do not believe them to be true.
John Stossel and I have been best friends for more than twenty-five years. I respect and admire his work. Even when I disagree with him journalistically, I find him well informed and able to defend his point of view. He is an intelligent reporter who refuses to fall into predictable patterns of thinking and responding. His is a much-needed contribution to the news product.
Your depiction of him as a man motivated by money could not be more off the mark. He is, first and foremost, a person of principle. If his work has attracted enough of a following to justify a larger than average salary, more power to him.
ABC News 20/20
Mark Dowie's story about John Stossel's organic food critique ["Food Fight," Jan. 7/14] contained two serious factual errors and one misleading statement. First, at no time in the 20/20 segment did I make statements regarding the presence of pesticide residues on any foodstuffs tested by ABC News. Considering that this statement was the main point of contention and the subject of Stossel's subsequent correction, attributing such statements to me seriously and erroneously impugns my reputation.
Second, Dowie wrongly attributes to me statements that organic food is no more nutritious than conventional food and calls it "an unproven claim." Again, I made no such statements. It is ironic that significant errors such as these were committed in an article focused on journalistic accuracy. It was actually the spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association who twice told Stossel that organic food was only "as nutritious as any other product on the market." British authorities recently ordered the organic industry to stop claiming nutritional superiority because they have not documented it.
Tufts University nutritionist Dr. William Lockeretz, co-founder of the pro-organic American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, told an international organic conference in 1997, "I wish I could tell you that there is a clear, consistent nutritional difference between organic and conventional foods. Even better, I wish I could tell you that the difference is in favor of organic. Unfortunately, though, from my reading of the scientific literature, I do not believe such a claim can be responsibly made."
Finally, Dowie points out that the Hudson Institute gets donations from agribusiness corporations, which is true. He might also have pointed out another fact he was made aware of: For ten of the twelve years I have been a Hudson scholar, I have taken no salary from Hudson, including the period when I did the Stossel interview. (I have a full federal retirement.)
DENNIS T. AVERY, director
Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute
Point Reyes Station, Calif.
John Stossel says it himself. Had he cooperated I would have known and reported that he had switched laundromats from Chitester to Central Park Conservancy and that Lowell Bergman was not his first producer (as if that matters). I had only Bergman to rely on for that item. And had ABC's imperious media flack, Jeffrey Schneider, permitted Arnold Diaz to take an interview, I would have learned, as Diaz told me after publication of my article, that he is "a very close friend of John's and admires his work." And if he had read the article carefully, Stossel would know I never said or implied that he made a cent on Stossel in the Classroom videotapes.
As for the "real money" question, those are not my words. Curious about why my subject mutated rather rapidly from a dedicated consumer reporter to a procorporate spaniel, adding at least one digit to his income in the process, I could only rely on the firsthand account of his former colleague, Steve Wilson, who recalls Stossel telling him: "I got a little older, liked the idea of making real money, so started looking at things a little differently." Neither Stossel nor Wilson contests the accuracy of that quote.
To Arnold Diaz, my apologies for the unprofessional secondhand quote. I assumed you would be called for verification or that Jeff Schneider would relent and allow me to speak with you.
By claiming that his reputation was "impugned" by the fact that he didn't say on camera that pesticide residues had not been found on food, is Dennis Avery announcing a change of heart on the subject? This will be welcome news to the Organic Trade Association.
And I didn't say that Avery drew a salary from the Hudson Institute. I said that the Center for Global Food Issues, for which he speaks, is a project of the institute, which it is.
EKE-ING IN THE DARK...
Oh, how I love a Gore Vidal sarcasm attack! Where was it that a frothing William Buckley offered to hit Gore? Nobody does it better than Vidal ["Times Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore," Dec 17, 2001].
Eke! Why did Gore Vidal leave out the juiciest passage of all in his biting commentary on the New York Times's inept reporting of the Florida recount? Just a bit further on (after they've lost all but the most indefatigable readers), Fessenden and Broder finally admit, "If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin.... Using the most restrictive standard--the fully punched ballot card--5,252 new votes would have been added to the Florida total, producing a net gain of 652 votes for Mr. Gore, and a 115-vote victory margin. All the other combinations likewise produced additional votes for Mr. Gore, giving him a slight margin over Mr. Bush, when at least two of the three coders agreed." Technospeak for "Gore won." Period.
Gore Vidal mentions his dismay that the hijacked election and the first appointment of a President by the Supreme Court hasn't generated the furious reaction it deserves. Well, I'm furious but don't have a clue about how to make it known. Letters to the editor of my local newspaper (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) are heavily censored in favor of the war. My legislators in Georgia who are not Republican seem curiously muted--or are they censored also? The national media are so biased in favor of Republicans and the monster businesses that own them that I've given up watching the evening news and pick up the BBC and the London and Canadian newspapers on the Internet. How would Vidal suggest we make our displeasure known? We may be on our way to losing our democracy, as Germany did in the 1930s, and as our founding fathers continuously warned us was possible.
Port Townsend, Wash.
There are active lay shadow media that have been following the Florida and NORC cases intently since the moment Bush's first cousin called the election for him on Fox TV. One hotbed of this activity is in the Florida-related threads of the "White House" TableTalk forum on www.salon.com, much of which has been archived for permanent reference. Another more recent hotbed is the "White House" forum on www.prospect.org. There was a great deal of on-the-ground reporting from TableTalk residents in Florida that never made it anywhere near the major media outlets, as well as continual detailed analysis from Paul Lukasiak and others. The consensus of evidence and speculation from these sources is that widespread grievous Republican vote fraud took place in Florida, accounting for a net surplus of many tens of thousands of unaccountable and uncounted actual "overvotes" for Gore and another candidate. If Vidal ever decides to write a book named 2000 as a companion volume to 1876, the record of this shadow media might prove a motherlode of source material.
New York City
A Trial by Jury, both the book and Carl T. Bogus's review ["A Verdict on the System," Dec. 10, 2001], were interesting and insightful, but I offer the following: Bogus says, "If convicted, Milcray [the defendant] could go to prison for life. They [the jurors] were not supposed to know this because under New York law the jury's only job is to determine whether the defendant is guilty of the charged offenses; it is the judge who decides the sentence" [my emphasis].
Actually, it is not the judge who decides the sentence. The legislature sets the framework, e.g., the options are at least fifteen years to life or at worst twenty-five years to life for a murder conviction, as in this case. The judge cannot deviate from that formula. However, it is the parole board that decides when, if ever, to release the prisoner. (I believe The Nation pointed this out last summer in an article about Kathy Boudin, in whose case the judge imposed a sentence of twenty years to life with a recommendation that she be released after twenty years; however, the parole board disagreed and she remains incarcerated until the parole board--not a judge--decides to release her.)
It is in drug cases that the sentencing has especially frustrated and rendered judges powerless, since only the prosecutor may permit deviation (usually minor) from the mandatory minimums, and almost always in exchange for a guilty plea. The last person to decide the sentence is the judge, regardless of what she finds the equities to be, or the individual and the facts to deserve.
EMILY JANE GOODMAN
Justice, New York State Supreme Court
Carl Bogus wrote, "No one can say whether the jury made the correct decision in this case." The jury did indeed reach the "correct" verdict: Because the prosecution did not prove its case (or disprove self-defense) beyond a reasonable doubt, the proper verdict under the law, as the jury determined, was "not guilty." If Bogus meant that the "correct decision" should reflect what "truly" happened that night, the legally relevant "truth" was that the state did not meet its burden of proof.
What impressed me was that the jurors applied the law properly and managed to set aside their conjectures, hunches and suspicions. When faced with the massive power of the state, a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and when the state does not meet its heavy burden of overcoming that presumption beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant should, as a matter of law, continue to enjoy that presumption. Sometimes we don't know the "truth" about what happened, but the rule of law requires recognizing the truth that no one should be punished as a criminal when the state doesn't prove its charges.
L. ROY ZIPRIS
Defender Association of Philadelphia
New York City
I thoroughly enjoyed Russell Neufeld's December 10, 2001, book review, "The Rope and the Law." As I see it, the heart of the matter concerning the correctness of Justice Potter Stewart's rationale for execution in Gregg v. Georgia (the 1976 decision that restored the death penalty) is the proper role of our due process clause. We, in the due process tradition, condemn mob-dominated trials like that of Leo Frank, where the cries for the defendant's blood by the throngs outside the courthouse were heard and felt by the jurors. If Justice Stewart was correct that to avoid vigilantism the law must do in the courtroom what the larger society outside insists on and would do for itself if the law failed to do it on it's behalf, then have we not succumbed to vigilantism right inside the courtroom? Public justice is not private justice. Is it not intolerable for the ministers of the law to ask the larger society concerning the accused, "Do you want a piece of him"? Would the judicial robe or all the pomp, dignity and wood paneling in the world mask the essence of that courtroom transaction from it's bottom-line meaning, "We have ordered that the condemned be put to death, for if we don't, the mob outside will"?
WILLIAM M. ERLBAUM
Acting Justice, New York State Supreme Court
AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
Memo to: Foreign Policy Therapist
From: Your Supervisor
Re: Advice to Patient, The United States of America (December 3, 2001)
Any time you offer therapeutic advice in a public forum, you run the risk of simplifying the therapeutic process and offering a one-dimensional analysis. In this case your patient has suffered a horrible tragedy, is feeling traumatized, anxious and insecure and is struggling to find a way to heal. Yet you provide no empathy nor suggest immediate, realistic things the patient can do to feel better. Instead you tell the patient his/her problem is "denial." This only furthers resistance and does not help the patient collect ego strengths to work toward positive change. Worse, instead of acknowledging that a real problem of loss and death has occurred, you say that the patient's "real problem is simply the way millions and millions of people around the world feel about you." This generality is not helpful, nor is it an accurate way to portray the problem, or any problem for that matter. Your vision of the world as operating as a "unified mechanism" is itself mechanistic and does not allow for the free play of choice.
Yes, it's important that the patient examine the part he/she plays in a hurtful relationship, but your advice sounds like blaming the victim. You refer to some vague way for the patient to change but stop short of saying what kind of change. It is as if you are skeptical that the patient even can change, which smacks of countertransference issues. This is therapy?
FOREIGN POLICY THERAPIST REPLIES
New York City
The patient is armed and dangerous and is killing people between sessions. Compassion must be offered, and helpful suggestions for possible approaches to undeniably reasonable anxieties could be beneficial also, but in this case I felt that a sharply administered declaration of bitter truths was the best way to deal with a very volatile situation.
IMPEACH THE FELONIOUS FIVE
Thank you for revisiting the issue of Bush v. Gore with Vincent Bugliosi ["Still Time to Impeach the Supreme Court Five," Dec. 3, 2001]. I, for one, have not forgotten that Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas conspired to commit one of the most egregious crimes in the history of our democracy. They turned their back on the Constitution, on the will of the people, on the federal laws granting Congress the power to resolve disputed electoral slates and on 200 years of legal precedent to appoint George W. Bush as President. They deserve no less than impeachment.
BARBARA L. HAMRICK
BLATHER AND BIAS AT TIMES, POST
New York City
In his critique of the Washington Post's hawkish Op-Ed pages ("Word Warriors," Nov. 26), Michael Massing focuses on what he dubs the "Stentorian Seven" (Will, Novak, Krauthammer, Hoagland, Kristol, Kagan and Kelly). He points out that the Post "does feature some alternative voices, like David Broder, E.J. Dionne Jr. and Michael Kinsley, but they tend to focus on domestic affairs." That Broder is considered an "alternative" says more about the bias of the Post Op-Ed pages than the blather coming from the Stentorian Seven. Broder sure wasn't offering much of an alternative on September 13 when he called for a "new realism--and steel--in America's national security policy.... For far too long, we have been queasy about responding to terrorism. Two decades ago, when those with real or imagined grievances against the United States began picking off Americans overseas on military or diplomatic assignments or on business...we delivered pinprick retaliations or none at all."
Massing writes that the Post offers "much less diversity of opinion than, say, the New York Times Op-Ed page." That's not quite what FAIR found when we surveyed the Times and Post Op-Ed pages in the three weeks following September 11. The Times ran not a single column dissenting from a military response, while the Post ran two. Not much of a choice. See FAIR's survey, "Op-Ed Echo Chamber," at www.fair.org.
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
New York City
Steve Rendall seems to equate diversity with "dissenting from a military response." Surely there are other measures, and while I have not sat down to count columns, I do think the Times is far less clogged with national security-type voices demanding that the United States invade Iraq.
SHOCKED BY 'A ROYAL SCANDAL'
New York City
I was shocked to read "A Royal Scandal" by Aram Roston [Dec. 3, 2001], who received his information from Mohammed Al-Khilewi and Saad al-Fagih, both discredited persons and unreliable sources. Roston defames Saudi Arabia, an important friend, ally and economic partner of the United States. During the past thirty years, Saudi Arabia has developed into a major modern state. There is no country in Europe or the Americas that has accomplished as much progress so rapidly during this period.
Saudi Arabia bought the most sophisticated US weapons, and its armed forces and national guard have attained the highest professional standard in the entire region. Prince Sultan, the defense minister, and Prince Abdullah, the crown prince, built up the armed forces and national guard and made Saudi Arabia a very strong state that can defend itself against any enemy. Its armed forces played a very important role against Saddam Hussein in 1990.
Prince Sultan also formed the Prince Sultan Charitable Foundation, which built hospitals and other charitable projects all over the country. He was a great friend and associate of King Faisal, and they both were against any kind of corruption. Prince Sultan is loved and respected by all Saudi citizens and by many foreign states, including the United States.
Killing Sanctions in Iraq
New Haven, Conn.
David Cortright's "A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions" [Dec. 3] was a slick attempt to defend a ten-year war against innocent civilians. Cortright charges that the number of dead is commonly overestimated by critics of sanctions, usually alleged to be a million. He claims the most reliable studies estimate that the number of Iraqi children under 5 who died is actually 350,000. Curiously, he makes no attempt to estimate the number of children over 5 who perished, or the elderly who died of malnutrition or the sick adults finished off by lack of medicine. If Cortright is correct and critics (who base their figures on UN and NGO studies) are wrong, that's wonderful news indeed. Hundreds of thousands presumed dead are still alive. But why is he doing The James Rubin, figuring out every which way to blame the Iraqis for what is being done to them?
He says the sanctions would have ended if Iraq had been more accommodating to the arms inspectors. Rubbish. Presidents Bush and Clinton both swore the sanctions would not end until Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Cortright also faults Iraq for not agreeing to "oil for food" sooner. I'm no defender of the tyrant and war criminal Saddam, but it was a hard call. Any Iraqi leader would try to protect oil, the country's only natural resource. Has Iraq been treated fairly in the five years since "oil for food"? $44 billion in oil has been sold, but only $13.3 billion worth of goods has been delivered to the Iraqi government.
Quoting a figure of $10 billion in oil revenue for the last half of 2000, Cortright claims that "Baghdad has more than sufficient money to address continuing humanitarian needs." That's a downright falsehood. Iraq doesn't get a dime. All the money for the oil sales goes into a UN-controlled account in New York. Iraq arranges contracts for goods, but it gets only the goods that the United States allows to be imported. The $13.3 billion is for five years, less than $3 billion a year. Compare that to 1989, before sanctions, when Iraq's imports were $11 billion for that year alone.
The lowering of the death rate in the Kurdish areas is Cortright's final charge. He admits that northern Iraq is favored in aid and resources, but omits the fact that oil and other goods are smuggled back and forth to Turkey with a knowing wink by the sanctions authorities. He also fails to mention that the damage to infrastructure by UN bombing in 1991 was far less in the Kurdish north. In 1999 when Unicef did the study that showed differing mortality rates north and south, it explicitly refused to blame Iraqi officials for those differences.
Cortright charges mismanagement by Iraq while he is silent about US policy that uses the very importing of goods to Iraq to further torture the people. Jesuit priest G. Simon Harak, a frequent visitor to Iraq, described how insulin would be allowed in, but syringes would be banned. Iraq would have to use precious resources to refrigerate the medicine in hopes it could someday be used. This mismatching has gone on for years. It's deliberate.
Cortright praises the "smart sanctions" approach that would allow everything into Iraq except "dual-use items"--anything that could remotely be of military value. The "dual-use excuse" has been used all along to deprive Iraq of a range of items: ambulances, chemicals to purify water, even nitroglycerine tablets.
In December 2001, when at least 350,000 innocent lives have been snuffed out, when thousands more will be the "collateral damage" of the coming "war of liberation," the last thing we need in The Nation is a thinly disguised defense of US Iraq policy.
Middle East Crisis Committee
David Cortright is certainly right to argue that "changing American policy in Iraq is an urgent priority." Whether the actual number of Iraqi children under 5 who have died is now 350,000 or 500,000, the numbers are horrifying.
But Cortright's prescription, to improve the so-called smart sanctions, is misguided. Smart sanctions are about the United States, Britain and the United Nations shifting blame, not about ending the effects of the embargo for ordinary Iraqis. After ten years of hearing from Clinton and Blair & Co. that they "have no quarrel with the Iraqi people" and that the sanctions are designed to target the regime, not civilians, we are supposed to believe that the sanctions will now (does this sound familiar?) target the regime and not the people. But under the proposed smart sanctions, the United States will be able to use its power in the UN to block essential goods by citing "dual use" concerns. And the economy will continue to suffer. Tinkering with sanctions isn't the solution. Ending them is.
As for disarming Iraq, that can be achieved only in the context of regional disarmament and US disarmament. It's a bit hard to explain why Iraq must open its doors to weapons inspectors when the Bush Administration just told the world that US chemical and biological weapons facilities can't be inspected by international monitors because it might compromise "industrial secrets."
Editor, Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War
Northampton, Mass.; Amherst, Mass.
Exactly what is David Cortright trying to tell us--and why must The Nation contribute to the horrifying debate about accurate numbers of civilian deaths? By focusing narrowly on the number of deaths, Cortright ignores the overall health and nutritional status of children and ordinary citizens in Iraq. All surveys since the beginning of the embargo have essentially told the same story: severe malnutrition in hospitals, malnourished children and undernourished adults in the towns, ever-changing food prices, increased mortality and a general breakdown in the whole fabric of society.
Economic sanctions are designed to produce deprivation and poverty. Poverty is the key cause of malnutrition on a global basis; poverty induced by sanctions will function no differently. The world community, represented by the United Nations, has known about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq since the early 1990s. Yet the UN has, under US and British pressure, enforced this sanctions policy despite overwhelming evidence that it is responsible for the increased level of human suffering in that country. Speculation that Saddam Hussein could end this crisis does not excuse the UN, the United States or Britain from their international responsibilities for upholding human rights. Sanctions are purported to be a humane alternative to war. As they function in Iraq, they are not humane. They are lethal and they target the already poor and vulnerable.
Northampton Committee to Lift the Sanctions and Stop the Bombing in Iraq
Team leader for four UN Food and Nutrition Missions in Iraq
David Cortright questions the normally accepted numbers of deaths attributed to the sanctions, specifically those derived from the 1995 study by the Food and Agricultural Organization, which asserted that sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 567,000 Iraqi children. He then cites the "two most reliable scientific studies on sanctions in Iraq" to challenge the FAO study: one by Richard Garfield, and another by Mohamed Ali and Iqbal Shah in The Lancet. Unfortunately for Cortright, these two studies contradict each other. The Garfield study asserts that from 1990 to March 1998, there were 228,000 excess deaths of children under 5, as opposed to the FAO claim of 567,000. The "Ali and Shah study," as Cortright titled it--used as evidence of Iraqi mismanagement--is actually a published account of Unicef's mortality data, which is the basis for the calculated half-million death toll. (Ali headed a Unicef team of consultants in Iraq, Shah reviewed the survey report, and both wrote the Lancet article.) This Unicef report is entirely independent of the 1995 FAO report.
Cortright is correct in stating that "as we work to change US policy and relieve the pain of the Iraqi people, it is important that we use accurate figures.... The more credible we are, the more effective we will be." Perhaps Cortright should take his own advice.
Author of several articles on the Iraqi sanctions, most recently in the November Z magazine
Washington, D.C.; New York City
Despite the lack of any serious evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration is continuing to escalate threats of expanding the "war against terrorism" to Iraq. So David Cortright's choice of moment to urge the Administration to impose "smart sanctions" on Iraq has serious consequences. By opening with references to statements about the deadly impact of the Iraq sanctions made by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, Cortright adroitly delegitimizes all other critics of US Iraq policy by linking them to the two most demonized leaders in the world. Cortright is right that many in Washington have made their careers arguing that anti-sanctions campaigners have exaggerated the numbers of deaths; he is wrong in claiming that this argument is anything more than a pretext for maintaining a failed and deadly sanctions policy.
The debate over numbers of civilian Iraqis killed by sanctions is a red herring. If the goal was to discredit the debate over numbers as horrifyingly irrelevant, Cortright's response should be simple: "We don't know for sure how many hundreds of thousands of children have been killed; we do know that even 1,000 is too many. And we know that the debate is a spurious effort at denial and deflection." But instead, Cortright contests the most often cited UN numbers in great detail, attempting to replace them with lower figures asserted in some other studies. However careful his language, what implication can be drawn other than the notion that economic sanctions are somehow more acceptable if "only" 250,000 children, rather than the half-million whose deaths Madeleine Albright memorably found "worth it," have been killed?
The other significant fallacy is Cortright's claim that a few incremental amendments to the existing sanctions regime would solve the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. In fact, the billions of dollars required to even begin rehabilitating Iraq's shattered infrastructure will be available only through massive investment in the oil sector. That means lifting, not just tinkering with, economic sanctions. Because even if the prohibition on private-sector oil investment was lifted, no oil company would risk massive outlays knowing that Washington and the Security Council might change their minds and prevent the repatriation of profits. The kind of multibillion-dollar outlays needed to rebuild Iraq's water, electrical, telecommunications, health and other bombed-out infrastructure will be available only when sanctions are lifted.
The only smart thing to do with economic sanctions now is to end them--not to further discredit those who have been fighting to do just that (see Bennis and Halliday's full rebuttal at www.thenation.com).
Institute for Policy Studies
Former UN assistant secretary-general and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq
Bennis and Halliday have requested space on our site for the publication of a longer letter regarding David Cortright's Dec. 3 article. This follows Cortright's reply, below.
I'm glad my article has stirred debate about sanctions in Iraq. Such a debate is especially critical now, as Phyllis Bennis and Denis Halliday note, because of the increasing danger of a new US war against Iraq.
With my critics, I have long opposed US military attacks and have urged the lifting of sanctions on civilians. As I said in the article and have written elsewhere, the United States is primarily responsible for the catastrophe in Iraq because of its policies of military aggression and unrelenting sanctions. I have demonstrated and lobbied to change these policies, and I am actively working now to prevent a new war.
But I also support nuclear disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. I oppose such weapons for the US or any other government--including Iraq, which used chemical weapons in the 1980s and was and may still be actively developing nuclear weapons. The UN disarmament mandate, accepted by Iraq in 1991, is a legitimate and important step toward strengthening international norms against the development and use of weapons of mass destruction. It has reinforced the trend toward more intrusive on-site inspections, which are necessary to guarantee disarmament. To abandon this mandate, especially after so much progress toward Iraqi disarmament was achieved during the 1990s, would be a setback to global nonproliferation efforts.
Acknowledging Iraq's obligation to disarm is also important because the rationale for US military action, if it comes, is likely to be the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That threat is unknown right now, because of the end of UN inspections three years ago, and no doubt has been greatly exaggerated by the war lobby to stir up fear. But we cannot ignore the possibility of that threat, or the tremendous hold it has on public opinion. We need to espouse an alternative policy that contains Iraq's military ambitions but avoids harm to innocent civilians.
Smart sanctions point in that direction. They would lift all restrictions on civilian imports. The review of dual-use items (which the United States has indeed abused) would be limited to a specific Goods Review List, which the Security Council is now considering. The only sanctions remaining would be the embargo on military imports. The continuing arms embargo should then be broadened, as Anthony Arnove rightly argues, into a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, as specified in paragraph 14 of the original Gulf War cease-fire resolution. The fact that disarmament ultimately must be global is not a reason for discounting progress in particular countries or regions.
Paragraph 22 of the cease-fire resolution also requires the Security Council to lift sanctions once Iraq complies with the UN disarmament mandate. If Iraq permits UN inspectors to complete their work, all sanctions must be lifted. Reiterating this obligation is necessary to provide an inducement for Iraqi cooperation. Without such assurance, Iraq faces the prospect of unending sanctions and is left with no recourse but to resist.
In this regard Stanley Heller is right to criticize my overstatement that sanctions could have been lifted long ago if Iraq had accepted UN demands. As George Lopez and I noted in The Sanctions Decade, Iraq has complied with many of the UN's requirements. Instead of responding to these partial concessions with an easing of pressure, however, the United States has hijacked UN policy and asserted that sanctions will remain until Saddam Hussein goes. This regime-change policy is the single biggest obstacle to the lifting of sanctions. On the other hand, if the government of Iraq had cooperated with rather than obstructed UN weapons inspectors, it would have been more difficult for the United States to justify its policy.
Heller says it is a falsehood that Iraq has the means to meet its humanitarian needs, but he ignores the quote from Kofi Annan that Iraq is indeed in a position to address the nutritional and health conditions of the Iraqi people. More than 70 percent of Iraq's considerable oil income can be used for the purchase of humanitarian goods. Total oil revenues in 2000 were approximately $18 billion, of which more than $13 billion was available for civilian imports. This compares favorably with the $11 billion in total imports in 1989.
Claudia Lefko and Peter Pellet correctly note that the world community knew early in the 1990s of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. This is precisely why the Security Council proposed the oil-for-food program in 1991. If Iraq had accepted the plan then rather than five years later, much suffering could have been avoided.
The Garfield and Ali/Shah studies are complementary, not contradictory as Jeff Lindemyer asserts. Garfield's recent estimate of 350,000 deaths is based directly on the Ali/Shah study. The latter was indeed commissioned by Unicef, but the authors did not publish an estimate of 500,000 deaths.
Bennis and Halliday make the most important point: that whatever the numbers, they are far too high. No level of preventable death among children is acceptable. My critics and I differ over the best way to end this humanitarian nightmare, but we share a common commitment to easing civilian suffering and preventing a war that would compound and intensify Iraq's misery. Let us work together toward these urgent priorities.
Washington, D.C.; New York City
The Bush Administration's rapidly escalating threats of expanding the "war against terrorism" to Iraq are pushing the eleven-year-long US-Iraq sanctions and bombing-based conflict to newly dangerous levels. Despite the lack of any serious evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks, the exploitation of already wide-spread government and media-created anti-Iraq sentiment among the American public makes the possibility of a new US assault a serious danger.
The US war against Iraq, still characterized by crippling economic sanctions imposed in the name of the United Nations and continual low-level military strikes, has emerged as the linchpin of the Administration's debate over the future of foreign policy. That debate pits the ideologues grouped around Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, against the Secretary of State Colin Powell-led pragmatists. And while Washington policy-makers and pundits ruminate, the UN Security Council's December 27 compromise on extending the "Oil for Food" program in Iraq prolongs the still-simmering debate over so-called "smart sanctions" to replace the current "dumb" sanctions regime in place since 1990.
It is in this highly volatile and dangerous context that David Cortright took to the pages of The Nation to argue for a new "smart sanctions" regime. He predicates his analysis on the hardly novel idea that peace and religious groups opposed to sanctions must recognize that "the more credible we are, the more effective we will be." The problem is, Cortright's misleading and sometimes disingenuous argument ends up agreeing with Administration or other critics that the anti-sanctions case is not credible, and accepting the legitimacy of continuing the US effort to strangle the Iraqi people, albeit by slightly amended methods.
By opening with Osama bin Laden's statements about the deadly impact of the Iraq sanctions, and data on loss of life indicated by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (and endorsed by the UN and others), Cortright adroitly delegitimizes all other critics of US Iraq policy by linking them to the two most US/UK demonized leaders in the world. He is right in stating that many in Washington have made their careers arguing that anti-sanctions campaigners have exaggerated the numbers; but he is wrong in claiming that this argument is anything more than a pretext for maintaining a failed sanctions policy. If Cortright's goal was to appropriately discredit the debate over numbers--is it really 567,000 total children or 227,000 children under five killed by sanctions?--as horrifyingly irrelevant, his statement should have been simple. "We don't know precisely how many hundreds of thousands of children have been killed; we do know that even one thousand, let alone a hundred thousand, and certainly let alone several hundreds of thousands, are way too many. And the debate is a spurious effort at denial and deflection." Instead, Cortright contests the often-cited UN numbers in misleading detail, seeking to legitimize instead lower figures calculated by private sources. However careful his language, what implication can be drawn other than that economic sanctions are somehow acceptable if "only" 250,000 children, rather than the half a million whose deaths Madeleine Albright memorably deemed "worth it," have been killed?
He then goes on to claim that "sanctions could have been suspended years ago if Baghdad had been more cooperative with UN weapons inspectors." Such a claim negates the success of UNSCOM's early years, regardless of whether Iraqi compliance was eager or reluctant, when hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions, and all manufacturing and production capacity in Iraq (for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) were destroyed. And, even more relevant, has Cortright forgotten the myriad of US commitments to keep sanctions in place regardless of such Iraqi cooperation and compliance? James Baker said in 1991 "we are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power." In spring 1997 Madeleine Albright announced "we do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." And President Bill Clinton, later that same year, said that "the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he [Saddam Hussein] lasts."
In discussing the impact of economic sanctions on the Iraqi infrastructure, Cortright admits that most of the civilian deaths are in fact linked to sanctions, recognizing that "comprehensive trade sanctions compounded the effects of the war, making it difficult to rebuild and adding new horrors of hunger and malnutrition." In doing so he seems tacitly to acknowledge the linkage between the damage done by US bombing of Iraq's civilian
infrastructure in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions, the child death rates (as reported by UNICEF) from water-borne diseases, and the way that sanctions prevent the repair and reconstruction of that infrastructure.
But he undermines that recognition by claiming that the UN Oil for Food program now includes "broader economic assistance and the rebuilding of infrastructure," as if the program was an international aid program. In fact, he even criticizes Iraq for continuing "to obstruct and undermine" what Cortright calls "the aid program." Iraqis know--though many Americans may not--that the oil for food program is not an aid program at all, but simply a mechanism for insuring UN control of Iraq's own oil revenues. The program allows the UN to control the spending of Iraqi oil revenue, first taking off the top some 30--35 percent for overhead and compensation payments, now mainly to the Kuwaiti royal family, Israel, and US oil companies. There is virtually NO international aid going into Iraq, with the exception of a few small and under-funded NGO projects. Calling Oil for Food an "aid" program doesn't make it so.
Cortright is right in recognizing that under the program, "oil exports are regulated, not prohibited." But large-scale investment in the oil sector, the kind of investment required to pay for the serious rebuilding of the water, electrical, telecommunications and other bombed-out infrastructures, IS prohibited. And even if the current prohibition on international private investment in Iraqi oil was lifted, no oil company worth its stockholders would risk multi-billion investment in an Iraqi economy subject to the whims of Security Council [read: US and UK] shut-down.
Cortright claims the Oil for Food program "was a bona fide effort by the Security Council to relieve humanitarian suffering. If the government of Iraq had accepted the program when it was first proposed, much of the suffering that occurred in the intervening years could have been avoided." While some Council members from Europe and the global South may indeed have been concerned about the crisis facing Iraqi civilians, the overriding concern, particularly of the Council's most powerful members, was one of bad propaganda. Oil for Food was a sophisticated effort at spin control. And from its origins, it was understood and explicitly stated that it was never designed to repair Iraq's shredded economic and social fabric, but simply to prevent even further deterioration and loss of human life. As for Iraq's initial rejection of the program, the early version offered would have provided less than $2 billion per year, of which 30 percent would be diverted to the UN Compensation Committee and another 5 percent designated for UN overhead costs. Considerations of sovereignty aside, that would not provide enough to even keep a population of 22 million people alive, let alone healthy, and it certainly would have denied any possibility of rehabilitating even part of the civilian infrastructure. Iraq would have remained forbidden to rebuild its infrastructure or its economy.
Cortright blithely claims that "oil revenues during the last six months of 2000 reached nearly $10 billion. This is hardly what one would call an oil embargo." No one ever said it was an oil embargo. It isn't. It's a trade, investment, intellectual, educational, scientific, social, cultural and communications embargo. Ten billion dollars in oil revenue translates into significantly less than half of that in goods and services actually reaching Iraq. Cortright ignores that much of the total revenues even within the limits of the oil for food program are unavailable largely to Iraq because of U.S and UK holds on contracts needing approval by the UN Contracts (661) Committee in which Washington holds a veto. In the entire six years of the Oil for Food program, over $44 billion worth of Iraqi oil has been sold. But of that huge-sounding amount, only about $16 billion has reached the 22 million Iraqis.
Why? Cortright himself acknowledges that "funds are still controlled through the UN escrow account, with a nearly 30 percent deduction for war reparations and UN costs." The official compensation fund deduction has recently been reduced from 30 to 25 percent, but there is also 5 percent in overhead costs paid to the UN (including the costs of the new still undeployed arms inspection agency UNMOVIC approved in December 1999). And as of November 2001, according to the Secretary-General's report, there are currently $4.2 billion in contracts for various civilian goods held up by US (occasionally UK) veto, and $3.5 billion sitting in the UN escrow account in Paris waiting to be disbursed.
But despite that clearly desperate scenario, Cortright still claims that "Baghdad has more than sufficient money to address continuing humanitarian needs." His source for this assertion is UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's statement that "the Government of Iraq is indeed in a position to address the nutritional and health concerns of the Iraqi people." The Secretary-General's unwillingness to directly contradict Washington may well have led him to speak of "addressing" such problems rather than actually "solving" them. But significantly more important is the unassailable fact that nutrition and health are not the only humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. Such a claim would ignore that the basic requirements of education, employment, housing, repair of the social fabric, rebuilding of electrical generating capacity, water and sanitation infrastructure, freeing up the economy, reestablishing normal international commercial and communications links, etc., are also essential for the recovery and well-being of the people of Iraq.
In a similar vein, Cortright examines the on-going disparity between conditions in the Kurdish North where the Oil for Food distribution is UN-administered, and the government-controlled Center-South of Iraq. He does go further than most US officials are willing to go in acknowledging the real reasons for the comparatively better living conditions in the North. Northern Iraqis get 22 percent higher per capita income from the Oil for Food funds, the North has most of Iraq's rain-based agriculture, there is significant cross-border trading with Turkey in the North, there are numerous private European relief agencies. Those factors have led to a modest difference between North and Center-South. Infant/child mortality is only some 5 percent less than in the Center-South, for example. But then, inexplicably and without any citation or source, Cortright goes on to claim that "these differences alone do not explain the stark contrast in the mortality rates. The tens of thousands of excess deaths in the south-center, compared to the similarly sanctioned [sic] but UN-administered north, are also the result of Baghdad's failure to accept and properly manage the UN humanitarian relief effort." Given his recognition of the specific differences facing Iraqis living in the two zones (above), Cortright should realize that Iraqi Kurds are not, in fact, "similarly sanctioned"--although like everyone in Iraq they do suffer greatly.
Even more significantly, he provides no facts to back the claim of "Baghdad's failure to properly manage the program," a claim that flies in the face of reports of the Secretary-General plus consistent evidence provided from all former and current directors of the Oil For Food program. From Denis Halliday (one of the authors of this article) and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, both of whom resigned their posts in protest of the continuing impact of sanctions despite the Oil for Food program, to the current director Tun Miyat, every director has recognized that Iraq's management of the program was perfectly proper. The problems in the program stem not from Iraq mismanagement, but from its UN-imposed constraints that prevent restoration of a working economy
Cortright proposes a number of improvements to the "smart sanctions" proposal brought to the UN by Washington and London earlier this year. Some of his ideas appear superficially useful, such as allowing foreign investment, eliminating restrictions on non-oil exports, or allowing a cash component in center-south, but in reality not so. The bottom line remains that until Iraq regains control of its oil reserves and revenues so that it can negotiate large-scale investment with whatever oil companies it chooses, the rebuilding of the once-modern economy and country and its once-cosmopolitan, once-educated and once-healthy urban population, remains out of reach. As long as the US-orchestrated escrow account, combined with UN politics and bureaucracy, controls Iraq's economy, the smartest sanctions remain way too dumb, missing their alleged targets like American "smart" bombs.
Cortright concludes that "Despite the evidence of Baghdad's shared responsibility for the ongoing crisis, sanctions opponents have continued to direct their ire exclusively at the United States and Britain." This demonization of those who oppose sanctions-driven genocide is simply not accurate; there is plenty of blame to go around, and most anti-sanctions campaigners have no hesitation to say so, including both of the assistant secretaries-general who resigned and both authors of this article. Baghdad is responsible for plenty of problems; it is a regime as repressive now as it was throughout the 1980s when it was backed financially, politically and militarily by Washington. But the Iraqi regime is not responsible for the deaths from hunger and disease of hundreds of thousands of its citizens--that responsibility lies with the US-dominated UN Security Council.
And sadly, that responsibility lies overwhelmingly with our government, and the anti-sanctions movement is right in keeping our focus there. Cortright himself, despite his apparent belief that no one in Washington pays attention to the anti-sanctions movement, admits that the United States and the United Kingdom developed their smart sanctions plan specifically "to parry this criticism." For those who see Baghdad's responsibility for the overall crisis as more central, what possible justification can there be for Washington to further punish the beleaguered people of Iraq whom it professes to care about, those who are forced to live under that regime? One would expect such justifications to arise from ignorance or malice--from the White House, the Pentagon or State Department apologists. One would have hoped that long-time peace activists such as David Cortright would know better.
Some version of smart sanctions may have been appropriate for the UN back in 1990; after more than a decade of devastatingly dumb sanctions, it's simply too little and too late, and Iraq is too badly devastated, for such proposals. Military sanctions as defined in paragraph 14 of Resolution 687, aiming at creating a weapons of mass destruction-free zone throughout the Middle East (including but not limited to Iraq), should continue. But the only smart thing to do with economic sanctions now is to end them--not attempt to discredit those who have been fighting to do just that.
DENIS HALLIDAY and PHYLLIS BENNIS
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