Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Painful Truths

George Bush has made the first of what will apparently be a series of major speeches on the strategy for victory in Iraq. Yesterday, Scott McClellan said that the speeches would all relate to a document called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." This document is, he said, "an unclassified version of the plan that we've been pursuing in Iraq". It's available as a PDF here, courtesy of the BBC (although I'm sure you could get it from the Whitehouse if you prefer). I've started reading through it and I'm pretty sure I'll feel the need to comment on this victory plan in due course. It's a big document so it may take a while to assimilate.

In the meantime, as I read through it, I couldn't help but notice that it contained an outrageous lie. It's on page 13 of the PDF (handily labelled as page 10), under the general heading "Victory will take time". The document attempts to explain why. One reason is this:
Saddam Hussein devastated Iraq, wrecked its economy, ruined its infrastructure, and destroyed its human capital.
That is simply a bare faced lie. How is it that the facts can be misrepresented so blatantly in this official document from the US government?

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. This is true. He committed many atrocities against his own people. This is also true.

But, he *did not* wreck the Iraqi economy. And, he *did not* destroy its infrastructure. And he did not destroy its human capital*.

He was undoubtedly a vicious tyrant but the blame for these problems cannot be laid at his door. They are, instead, the deliberate result of policies of the US and UK governments since 1990. The economy, infrastructure and human capital of Iraq have been destroyed by a combination of bombing raids during and after the first Gulf war, including whilst enforcing the "no fly zones", and the UN sanctions imposed at the behest of the US and UK governments. These facts are not disputed. They are just very rarely mentioned.

Madeleine Albright's infamously stated that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions was "worth it". It has been suggested that these words were taken out of context. Here's the context:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.
--60 Minutes (5/12/96)
Albright did not dispute that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of the sanctions. The US and UK governments were aware that the sanctions regime they had imposed were destroying the economy, infrastructure, and human capital of Iraq. That was the point. They were fully aware that the price was being paid not by the regime but by ordinary Iraqis. Hundreds of thousands of innocent children died as a result of the sanctions and the governments who insisted on it knew that it was happening. It was, they believed, a price worth paying.

Some people will say that Saddam was ultimately responsible. These people probably don't understand the concept of moral agency (I'm only just coming to grips with it myself). The agents who were responsible for the effects of the sanctions were those who insisted that the sanctions be imposed and maintained. They did this in the full knowledge of the consequences that the sanctions were having on Iraqi civilians. Some people will say that the UN allowed the Oil for Food problem to be corrupted. This is true, and some portion of blame may well be attributable to the UN officials involved. Neverthless, the sanctions were maintained long after the war at the insistence of the US and UK governments. The devastating effects of this policy were visible long before the corruption came to light. The corruption was damaging, but the policy itself did far more damage. The US and UK governments, knowingly and deliberately, maintained, for many years, a policy which directly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. They destroyed Iraq's economy, infrastructure, and human capital to a far greater extent than Saddam ever did.

This is something which the mainstream media is astonishingly loathe to report. You might have noticed that I haven't provided a link for the full Albright quote above. That's because trying to find MSM coverage of this is not at all easy. It is, I believe, a form of self-censorship. Journalists and editors understand, at least on some level, that reporting on certain matters will be detremental to their career. They, perhaps subconsciously, chose just not to go there. And besides, some truths are just too awful to contemplate.

But this is the truth We should never forget that.

* This third may have some small element of truth. He did destroy many humans in Iraq. But he was, before Gulf War One, very committed to promoting human capital in Iraq (as long as people did what he wanted them to) and invested very heavily in all forms of education.

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