Were Sanctions Right?: "American officials may quarrel with the numbers, but there is little doubt that at least several hundred thousand children who could reasonably have been expected to live died before their fifth birthdays. The damage, according to those who fought against sanctions, was terrible, medieval. It was, in the literal sense, unconscionable, since those who died had not themselves developed weapons of mass destruction or invaded Kuwait. Rather, they were the cannon fodder for Hussein's war and the victims of his repression. " Added to that was the destruction of the infrastructure of a relatively modern country. The only alternatives were allowing reconstruction of Saddam's armed forces, including its WMD, or going to war.
In the mid-90s, "the French and the Russians were pushing hard within the Security Council either for a ratcheting down or an outright lifting of sanctions. Nancy Soderberg states flatly that the French and the Russians allowed their eagerness to develop business deals with Iraq to affect their work on the 661 Committee. ''The French and Russians wanted to make money,'' she told me. ''By the time of the second gulf war, the Russians had $40 billion in prospective deals with Saddam Hussein's regime.'' (As for the French, as the International Peace Academy's David Malone puts it, ''Paris never offered an effective alternative to sanctions, simply grandstanding on humanitarian questions while doing business with Iraq.'') ..
"The Iraq I traveled to in May was full of dissonant voices and contradictory opinions. People were no longer afraid to speak their minds. And yet what I found was an almost universal opposition to sanctions -- a stern, unshakable conviction that the 1990's were a human and economic catastrophe for the Iraqi people and that sanctions were at the heart of the disaster. Khaled Afra, a young physics student I met shortly after I arrived in Baghdad, phrased it this way: ''Saddam was a criminal, the biggest. But sanctions were also criminal. There was a huge amount of victims due to illness. You see, sanctions really killed our dreams -- not my personal dreams only, but those of my Iraqi people, all of us.'' ..
Most Iraqis and most outside observers agree that food was the area in which Saddam Hussein's government coped best with sanctions. .. The food success buttresses the case of those who always claimed that the toll exacted on the Iraqi people through sanctions was all the fault of Saddam Hussein. He could have provided Iraqis what they needed all along, they say. But instead of doing so, he chose to devote his country's resources to building palaces for himself and for his family and functionaries, mosques to please the disaffected believers among his citizens and weapons with which to menace his neighbors and the world. To a limited extent, anyway, many Iraqis seem to agree with this analysis... ''First we got used to the idea that the government provided food,'' a young Iraqi journalism student named Aziz told me. (He preferred that I not know his last name.) ''Then we started to see the government as the provider of absolutely everything. For Saddam, it was great. The more he controlled distribution, the more effective the Iraqi police state became. After all, practically the worst thing you could do was to lose your ration card.'' In many ways, Saddam Hussein became a master at manipulating the sanctions system to his own ends. ..
''Everyone traded here,'' the scion of an important Arab business family told me, asking that I conceal his identity. ''Gulfis, Saudis, Egyptians, Russians, Chinese -- they all made money out of Iraq and out of sanctions. The poor U.N. didn't have a clue about what was going on. They were just idiots. It was a bazaar. Every contract was marked up by 10 percent. But Saddam controlled it all, and until the war started, he, not the Americans, was the big winner.'' He hardly needed to add who the big loser had been. ..
Not that every Iraqi I met preferred sanctions to war. To the contrary, some even insisted that given the choice between being subjected to open-ended sanctions and the bloody resolution of an American invasion, they would opt for the latter. ''I detest the Americans and want them to leave Iraq now, immediately,'' one Shiite notable told me. ''But they got rid of Saddam, and now they have lifted the sanctions. That's good. Otherwise, who knows how long this slow death by water torture, which the sanctions were for us, would have gone on?'' ..
in the run-up to the second gulf war, many of the same countries and campaign groups that had pushed hardest for the lifting of sanctions began to insist that sanctions and containment should be given time to work. ''After spending 1995 to 2000 criticizing Iraq sanctions, the Germans and French fell in love with containment,'' Rubin observes sardonically. ''They wanted better, more extensive containment. They were ready to rethink their opposition to sanctions.'' ..
And there is always the example of apartheid South Africa -- the one instance where comprehensive, multilateral sanctions do appear to have succeeded in producing ''regime change.'' .. the humanitarian costs were low (South Africa was nowhere near so dependent on imported staples), and there was an effective and viable opposition in the African National Congress. ..
while sanctions imply rationality -- the knowledge on both sides that the pressure being applied can be lessened by compliance -- tyrants like Hussein and Mugabe are often fundamentally irrational. And so my own sense is that sanctions, even the ''smartest'' sanctions, will continue to exact an appalling human toll.
There may indeed be no way around them. .. opting for them meant choosing American security over Iraqi mass suffering. If tragedy, as the German philosopher Hegel said, is the conflict of two rights, then sanctions are truly a tragedy. " 11:57:13 PM