Kommentar

God oppsummering av Irak-sanksjoner

David Rieff har vært i Bagdad og har et langt essay om sanksjonene mot Irak i siste NYTimes Magazine. Han drar opp hele historikken, og beskriver levende hvor sterke følelser irakerne har for sanksjonene. Mange er bitre på FN og USA. Andre er smertelig klar over at de ble presset fra to kanter: både FN og Saddam. Saddam avslo opprinnelig olje-for-mat programmet. I 1995. Det kom i stand i desember 1996. Blant annet fordi USA og FN fikk så mye kritikk for virkningene. Opinionen var i ferd med å svinge, noe Saddam utnyttet, og fortsatte å utnytte til det ytterste. Han drev en «trafikk» i lidelse.

One doctor I spoke to who spent several years in a hospital in the provincial city of Baquba, about 25 miles north of Baghdad, told me that the hospital staff had instructions, whenever a child died, to keep the corpse in the morgue rather than burying it immediately as mandated by Islamic custom. »When a sufficient number of bodies accumulated,» he explained, »the authorities would stage a mass funeral, railing against the sanctions, even though as often as not there was no connection between a particular child’s death and the sanctions.»

I asked the doctor how a child’s parents could possibly have agreed to such a deception.

»This was not a country in which one disagreed,» he replied. »And in any case, they got 50 kilos of rice and 50 kilos of flour. Or else they were paid, you know, like the families of the freedom fighters in Palestine.»

I inquired whether there had been other manipulations of the system to make things seem worse than they had really been.

»Of course,» he replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. »It happened all the time. For example, we would get a shipment from the Ministry of Health of vaccines provided by the World Health Organization. But then we would be instructed not to use them until they had reached or even exceeded their sell-by date. Then the television cameras would come, and we would be told to lie and tell the public how the U.N. made ordinary Iraqis suffer. You have to understand: this was a system where everyone knew what was expected of them. Most of the time, we didn’t even have to be told what to do.» FN overlot til Saddam å velge hvem som skulle få kontraktene. Det førte til utbredt korrupsjon, der en masse forretningsmenn skodde seg, men ingen mer enn Saddam selv. Olje-for-mat ga Saddam så store inntekter at en kan bare spekulere på hva han ville funnet på når sanksjonene en dag ble hevet.

Rieff har lite pent å si om russerne og franskmenn som blandet forretninger og moralske krav om heving av sanksjoner. Det rimer derfor dårlig når de plutselig ble tilhengere av sanksjoner i stedet for krig.

Den som er blitt gjort til den største skyteskiven i forbindelse med sanksjonene, er daværende utenriksminister Madeleine Albright, for sin kommentar om at 500.000 irakiske døde barn var en pris man var nødt for å betale for å holde Saddam i bånd.
Hun angrer nå på at hun formulerte seg som hun gjorde.

Madeleine Albright was widely excoriated in 1996 for telling a television interviewer who asked her about the deaths of Iraqi children caused by sanctions, »This is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.»

She says now that she regrets the comment — »It was a genuinely stupid thing to say» — and in a recent interview seemed still to be struggling with the moral and strategic questions that underlie the sanctions debate. For Albright, the comprehensive regime of sanctions imposed on Iraq represented at best a tragic choice between unhappy alternatives — a search for the lesser evil.

As Albright put it to me, »I wish people understood that these are not black and white choices; the choices are really hard.» Sanctions like the ones that were imposed on Iraq, she said, »are a blunt instrument. That’s their tragedy. What was so terrible for me was that I did see the faces of the people who were suffering — even if I thought then and think now that the sufferings of the Iraqi people were Saddam’s doing, not ours. There’s a terrible price you pay. A terrible price.»