Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Iran: Don't Drink the Economic Sanctions Kool-Aid

I've mentioned from time to time that the "sanctions" (with some bombings added just for shits and giggles) against Iraq, initiated by Papa Doc Bush and escalated under Bubba Clinton, that were essentially genocidal. There is no way to sugarcoat it, as the following quote from Arthur Silber's blog illustrates:
At this point, I suppose I should also remind you that the "unsustainability" of a sanctions policy was one of the reasons used to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. That particular reason was enormously popular with many liberals, among others. Moreover, it is well-known -- or at least, it should be well-known -- that sanctions do nothing to deter the targeted country's leaders from pursuing the policies disfavored by those who demand the sanctions, while they inflict grievous, terrible suffering on the country's population in general. In brief, sanctions are an unspeakably cruel, complete failure.

On this subject, I will turn the floor over to Stanley Kutler, whose entire article I recommend with special emphasis to those liberals and progressives who continue, with no factual support whatsoever, to view Clinton's foreign policy in the 1990s through rose-colored glasses so heavily tinted that they render those who wear them almost completely blind:
Where was our attention for the decade following the Gulf War in 1991? ...

And what attention did we give to the thirteen-year campaign of sanctions and bombings of Iraq? For Barry Lando, in his useful new book Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, sanctions were the weapon of mass destruction used against the Iraqi people to starve and reduce them to a Third World level of poverty. Lando's work opens our eyes to one of the most tragic episodes in the lengthy, sorry history of "Western" dealings with Iraq. ... The British preferred Winston Churchill's imperial ambitions. We chose Bushes, a Clinton and their respective entourages. Either way, disaster was not far behind.


The sanctions and bombings of the 1990s are directly linked to Bush's determination to invade Iraq in 2003 and attempt to remake it--again, in our image. History illuminates the present, and we would do well to absorb Lando's narration.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq as part of the run-up to the first Gulf War. The Security Council severed all imports and exports between Iraq and the world--from food and vaccines to hospital equipment and medical journals. Iraq imported 70 percent of its food, largely paid for by oil exports. The UN's writ is not meaningless--not when the United States and Great Britain rigorously enforced the sanctions. And to underline for the Iraqis where the muscle was, the two powers regularly bombed the country.

We estimate between 500,00 to 1 million Iraqis died in the 1990s, a very large proportion being children. To what end? Not, Lando maintains, to destroy Saddam Hussein's WMDs but to force him out. ...

The CIA badly miscalculated that sanctions, coupled with Iraq's devastating defeat, would result in a military coup, toppling Saddam. Anything but. The sanctions and Saddam's heightened repression insured his survival--much to the frustration of Western leaders.

The sanctions worked only as partly intended: They imposed untold suffering on the population. Americans at the UN blocked a request to ship baby food because adults might use it. They vetoed sending a heart pill that contained a milligram of cyanide because tens of thousands of such pills could become a lethal weapon. The banned list included filters for water treatment plants, vaccines, cotton swabs and gauze, children's clothes, funeral shrouds. Somehow, even Vietnamese pingpong balls found their way to the proscribed list.

Sanctions devastated the country's medical system, once one of the best in the region. Sanctions insured that malnutrition would morph into virtual death sentences, as Lando notes. Babies died in incubators because of power failures; others were crippled with cerebral palsy because of insufficient oxygen supplies. As early as May 1991, a visiting Harvard medical team concluded that Iraq had a public health catastrophe.


Iraqis hoped for a better day with the new President, Bill Clinton. Alas! Clinton's background and his political calculus determined that he had to establish his macho credentials and his credibility with the right. He authorized a Tomahawk missile attack against Baghdad, supposedly in retaliation for Saddam's alleged plot to assassinate former President Bush. (The Kuwaiti-provided evidence, many believe, is quite tenuous.) In any event, Clinton's attack went off track and killed eight civilians, including a gifted artist. His UN Ambassador, Madeleine Albright, carefully monitored the ever-tightening sanctions. In late 1994 the New York Times reported on children in filthy hospitals, dying with diarrhea and pneumonia, people desperately seeking food, and Iraq's inability to sell its oil--the country faced "famine and economic collapse." Without doubt, the sanctions consolidated Saddam's power. UN Administrator Denis Halliday wrote that the people blamed the United States and the UN for their travails, not Saddam Hussein. Halliday resigned, refusing to administer a program that he called "genocide."


The present Iraq War and occupation is but another chapter in our melancholy, misguided and decidedly bipartisan relations with Iraq. Lando painfully underscores how we knew--and deliberately enforced--such policies just to heighten that civilian suffering. The chimera of Saddam's imminent overthrow only tightened the screws for the Iraqis.


When in March 2003, the Bush Administration launched its inevitable invasion, American forces confronted an empty shell of defenses and a dispirited, devastated and despairing populace. The invasion was a cakewalk. But our not-so wise policy-makers wanted more, and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz promised our troops garlands of flowers as Iraqis would welcome their liberators. Some welcome. The American and British sanctions' policy had done its work quite well--painfully, devastatingly well. Remember: Much of this was pursued by the Clinton Administration, anxious to show that its statesmanship credentials could match any Bush. So the last word properly belongs to Secretary Albright. Although she belatedly disavowed her comments after the Iraq disaster was obvious to all except George W. Bush, nevertheless, she said of sanctions and bombings: "It was worth it."
The Clinton administration's Iraq policy, as well as its interventions in the Balkans, strengthened the groundwork of our bipartisan foreign policy and provided unbroken continuity to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Anyone who tells you otherwise is ignorant or lying, or both. The Clinton administration and its defenders in the realm of foreign policy have a great deal to answer for.
Those who pine for the "good old days" of the Clinton regime and would do practically anything (and I do mean anything) for a return of Clintonism (be it under the Clinton II, Obama, or Edwards) really need to ask themselves how many more starving kids, how much more spilled blood, how many more ruined lives they're willing to gleefully ignore for the "noble cause" of keeping the dollar as the reserve currency and of course opening up those Iranian oil fields up to the big oil conglomerates (and hence line the pockets of already rich and spoiled CEOs)? Anyone who tries to convince themselves that there is something "humane" about US hegemony under the Clinton era are seriously deluded; the genocide perpetrated in Iraq during the course of the 1990s was not "kinder or gentler."

No comments:

Post a Comment