Dec 9, 2002
Hardly had the U.N. inspectors installed themselves in Baghdad than in Washington, Bush's representatives found a new occasion to raise the stakes by going on the offensive over economic sanctions.
It's important to remember that behind Bush's current threats there has been a low-level war going on for twelve years now, and in particular drastic economic sanctions. These sanctions paralyzed the Iraqi economy which was already ruined by the destruction of the Iran-Iraq War, which Iraq carried out, supported by the U.S., and then the Gulf War. Not only have the sanctions prevented Iraq from rebuilding its infrastructure, including in areas as important for the population as the provision of electricity and drinkable water, but they have deprived this population of basic necessities, including medicines and basic food products.
For a dozen years, these sanctions produced many more civilian victims, and in particular young children, than had the bombs of the Gulf War. And it's the U.N. which has been and continues to be the project manager for those sanctions which have already made so many victims.
Since 1996, these sanctions were carried out in the framework of a hypocritically "humanitarian" program titled "oil for food." Since 1999, this program authorized Iraq to export – but under very close control – a part of its production of crude oil, without any limit on the amount. The receipts of these sales were then transferred to an account at the New York branch of the National Bank of Paris, managed by U.N. functionaries.
A quarter of these receipts go to finance the war reparations imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War, in particular to the profit of Kuwait. Three% goes for the cost of the functioning of the U.N., which includes the salaries of some 4,400 people employed in the management of this program and even the cost of U.N. inspectors. Finally the 72% remaining is used for the payment of Iraq's imports, but with a restriction: only two thirds of this sum goes to Baghdad, the rest is under the joint management of the autonomous administration of the Kurdish territories in northern Iraq and the local delegates of the U.N.
But this doesn't mean that Iraq is free to import whatever it wants. After the revelations of the groundless and scandalous blockade of a whole series of basic necessities by the U.N. bureaucracy, a so-called "rapid" procedure was finally established this year for such products.
Nonetheless, the products which Iraq is authorized to import are subject to numerous limitations. In particular, they can't have a "double use," both civilian and military. In this way ordinary products are prohibited – products like water pumps (which are indispensable for pumping stations and water treatment facilities), and chemicals used in basic medicines.
This list of prohibited products can become the pretext to up the ante.
Some weeks ago, Washington intervened publicly with the Turkish government to put an end to Iraq's secret purchases through Turkey of protective equipment against chemical and bacteriological weapons. Today the U.S. leaders intervene in the same direction through the U.N. From all the evidence, whether or not Bush has decided to go to war, his administration continues to prepare to carry it out. They don't even bother to hide their intention of utilizing those same "weapons of mass destruction," which they prohibit Iraq from having, against the Iraqi population.