Socialist Worker

U.S. sanctions regime was guilty of murder

Issue No. 1952

The allegations against George Galloway relate to the oil for food programme. The Guardian revealed this week that the US administration ignored widespread illicit dealings by US firms during the time of the programme.

Over half of the “kickbacks” paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime in return for cheap oil deals came from US sources.

The oil for food programme was set up in 1996 by Denis Halliday, then the United Nations (UN) humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. The measure claimed to counter some of the worst effects of sanctions, which had been imposed in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War. The great powers announced that Iraq could sell oil, the UN would collect the proceeds, and the money could be spent on “approved” items. This brought little relief.

In 1998, Halliday resigned in protest at the devastating effects of the programme. “These sanctions,” he said, “represented ongoing warfare against the people of Iraq.

“They became, in my view, genocidal in their impact over the years, and the UN Security Council maintained them, despite its full knowledge of their impact, particularly on the children of Iraq.”

When then US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was asked if the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying for sanctions, she replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In May 2000 Halliday told David Edwards of Media Lens, “Washington, and to a lesser extent London, have deliberately played games through the sanctions committee with this programme for years—it’s a deliberate ploy. That’s why I’ve been using the word ‘genocide’, because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq.”

Hans von Sponeck, Halliday’s successor, also resigned. In his letter of resignation, von Sponeck wrote, “How long should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?”

Von Sponeck and Halliday cited a UN report which concluded, “The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments’ delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad.”

Such truths are never mentioned in the discussions on the oil for food programme. The US wants to tightly control the investigation into whether there was corruption involved in the way the programme was implemented.

In the Duelfer Report the names of US companies and businessmen who may have been involved were removed, in case they embarrassed the oil multinationals.

Many in the White House hope that the investigations can now be manipulated to produce “shock” headlines about the UN, clearing the way for even fewer barriers to US imperial adventures.

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