Petition for Peace and
Economic Development in Iraq



Anita Lilburn
Swedish Iraq-Committee against the Economic Sanctions (SIES)


September 3, 2002

For twelve years, the Nordic countries have supported and participated in economic sanctions against Iraq. These sanctions have been described by many high United Nations officialsæincluding Denis Halliday, Hans von Sponeck and Jutta Burghartæand representatives of UN agencies and NGO's as "an ongoing genocide". The figures stated in reports issued by the UN itself are well known by now: more than 1.5 million Iraqis have died as a direct consequence of the sanctions and ongoing bombings. According to UNICEF 5000 children a month are dying from lack of food, medicines and clean water, a severely damaged infrastructure and a devastated economy.

No exemption has been made to the sanctions to allow for the import of water purification equipment and chemicals. Without these the population of this desert country has no access to potable water. In the UN Security Council, the United States and United Kingdom have on 18 occasions blocked the import of such equipment and chemicals. They have done this despite the knowledge that this policy has led to epidemics of diseases such as cholera. In the new sanctions programme introduced through UN Resolution 1409 in May 2002 there are still restrictions on the import of items needed for the purification of water as well as on items needed for medical treatment

The sanctions have not led to democratic changes. On the contrary, civilian society is being crushed, Saddam Hussein's power within Iraq has been strengthened, and the internal opposition weakened. Through its adherence to the sanctions policy, our countries are participating in a crime against humanity.

And now the US is trying to lead a reluctant world to accept and support a full-scale military assault on spreading misinformation in the international media regarding Iraq's "persistent stocks of WMD",

There are many dissident voices regarding the military status of Iraq, struggling to make themselves heard.

When the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control (WPNAC) published a false report that Iraq had carried out nuclear tests in 1989, it was refuted by the American Independent Commission on the Verifiability of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). According to the report of that commission, there had been no seismic activity within 50 km of the alleged test site in 1980-99, demonstrating that no nuclear tests had been carried out at that site during that period.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made its annual inspection in Iraq in January, 2002, and its chief inspector, Anrzey Pietruwski, reported to Reuters that Iraq had cooperated completely and that the inspections had proceeded unhampered. (Reuters, 31 January, 2002)

Hans Blix, former chief of IAEA, said in an interview on Swedish radio in May, 2000, that the nuclear capacity of Iraq had been totally destroyed in 1998, and that its missile capacity had been destroyed to a sufficient degree to satisfy the criteria of the inspections. Hans Blix is not a "dove" regarding Iraq; he is in fact a strong advocate of sanctions, but he is not prepared to issue false information to support their maintenance at all costs.

Blix's views on the disarming of Iraq are supported by Major Scott Ritter of the American Marine Corps, who participated in the Gulf War and later became chief of the United Nations Special Commission weapons inspection team in Iraq (UNSCOM), 1991-1998.

In The Guardian on 19 January, 2001, Ritter said: "During the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapon programmes were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless in the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility ... was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate ... Moreover, Iraq was subjected to intrusive, full-time monitoring of all facilities with a potential biological application. Breweries, animal feed factories, vaccine and drug manufacturing facilities, university research laboratories and all hospitals were subject to constant repeated inspections."

In a lecture at the Sul Ross State University of Texas in November, 2001, he said: "Iraq does not pose a threat to anybody. It is a devastated country and it has not had a chance to rearm." Major Ritter advocates a resumption of weapons inspections, a continued arms embargo and an immediate lifting of the economic sanctions.

Within the United States, American politicians are well aware of Iraq's military weakness, and some of them have spoken out on the issue. On retiring from his post, William Cohen, Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, said to President Bush: "Iraq no longer poses a threat to its neighbours." And on the TV programme, "Face the Nation", the present Secretary of State, Colin Powell, commented on the military status of Iraq: "That million-man army of ten years ago is gone. He is sitting on a very much smaller army ... that does not have the capacity to invade its neighbours any longer." But the wing within the Bush administration that has chosen to ignore these voices has proved to be the strongest.

An attack on Iraq would affect the whole explosive region. Nevertheless, the United States, a country situated thousands of miles away, seems determined to "defend" Iraq's neighbours, against their wishes. The Arab League summit meeting in Beirut in March unequivocally rejected an attack on Iraq, saying: "We reject the threat of attacking Arab countries, especially Iraq. We reaffirm our complete rejection of any attack on Iraq." In addition, the Arab League called for "the lifting of the sanctions on Iraq, ending the punishment of the Iraqi people."

Opposition to US threats has also been expressed from diverse other sources. Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party, recently said: "The Iraqi issue will not be solved by military action or covert action." In England, many members of the Labour Party have indicated the strongest opposition to their leader, Tony Blair's endorsement of any American action against Iraq, including a full-scale military invasion. Several EU countries, as well as Russia and China, have also expressed opposition.

While the Iraqi people are living under this threat of war, the deadly economic sanctions continue. Despite steadily growing opposition to them all over the world, the leadership of the US and UK have insisted, year after year, that the sanctions must stay in place as long as weapon inspectors are not allowed into Iraqæand lately, as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.

But in the light of the circumstances under which the weapons inspectors left Iraq in December, 1998, and in the light of subsequent events, it is difficult to see that the US and UK have a sincere commitment to weapons inspections. In his documentary film, Shifting Sands, the former UNSCOM weapons inspector, Major Scott Ritter, describes the process by which the head of the programme, Richard Butler, deliberately provoked a critical deterioration of relations with Iraq, in order to justify the withdrawal of the UNSCOM team and the bombing campaign that followed immediately after. As Ritter reveals, allegations that the weapons inspectors were "thrown out" of Iraq constitute a matter of widespread misinformation.

More recently, in an article in the Los Angeles Times in June, 2002, Major Ritter describes reports of approval for covert operations to overthrow President Hussein as being calculated to derail negotiations to reintroduce weapons inspections teams, which are susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services. Again, the function of the release of "strategic information" is apparent.

What guarantees are there that Iraq will not rebuild its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction if the sanctions are lifted? None, of course. As long as Iraq possesses human knowledge, scientists, pens and paper, there will also be opportunities to develop arms. But this is true for all countries. There can be no guaranteeing a total lack of weapons of mass destruction in any country. Should punitive economic warfare against the population of that country therefore go on forever?

The criteria that have been used to justify the sanctions and the persistent military hostilities against Iraq could be used to justify sanctions and hostilities against quite a few countries, not least the US itself. The US possesses both chemical and biological weapons, and the largest arsenal of weapons of mass destructionænuclear weaponsæin the world. The United States is also the only country in the world ever to have used nuclear weapons. But independent weapon inspections are not permitted within the US. All the other nuclear powersænow including Israel, India and Pakistanæfulfil the criteria, too. But would we wish to punish the peoples of those countries for the policies of their regimes by depriving them of their right to life and health? Would we wish to see bombs fall over Washington, Moscow, Paris, London, Tel Aviv, New Delhi? Of course not! So why the Iraqi people? Why Baghdad?

According to international law, no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. The fact that the Iraqi people live under a dictatorship does not give other states or the UN the right to act on behalf of that people. A change of leadership will not be accomplished through economic sanctions against the people, who did not choose him. And it must not be achieved by bombing towns and villages, nor through invasion by another state.

The people of Iraq must decide their own fate, and the best way we can help them is to lift the sanctions. When starvation and disease, poverty and desperation are no longer dominating people's lives, when they can regain their strength and dignity and again work for a living instead of being beneficiaries of a humiliating and inadequate hand-out system, then they will be in a far better position to act for what they themselves see to be in their best interests.

But the establishment of democracy is not part of US plans for Iraq. The American government already has its own candidates with which to replace their former favourite, Saddam Hussein: former Iraqi military officers, some with a great deal of blood on their hands, and all of them sympathetic to US determination to control the oil resources of the region. One of these is General Khazraji, formerly Saddam's chief of staff, who lives in political asylum in Denmark and has been accused of involvement in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. The interests of democracy and human rights are subordinate to the Bush government's interests in abundant sources of oil.

What line will Sweden and Denmark take in the planned war against Iraq? Will our governments side with a state that violates international law and exercises what should correctly be termed state terrorism? Or will they obey international law, respect the spirit of the UN Charter and refuse to support such a war?

And what about the sanctions? We cannot excuse ourselves by saying: "We knew nothing!" We know enough, and we have known for a long time.

We demand that our governments voice their opposition to an all-out attack on Iraq. In addition, we demand that our government advocate and actively work within the UN for:

- an immediate stop to the bombing raids on Iraq;

- an unconditional repeal of economic sanctions against Iraq;

- the convention of an international peace conference for the Middle East, with the participation of all concerned parties, including states and representatives of national minorities, with the objective of resolving the major conflicts in the region: weapons of mass destruction, the Palestinian question, the Kurdish question and other human rights issues.


Anita Lilburn

Spokesperson of the Swedish Iraq Committee Against Economic Sanctions (SIES)

Hind al Naimi_Kjaer, Danish Committee for Peace and Development in Iraq

Coilin OhAiseadha, Christansborgs Peace Watch, Denmark

Elias Davidsson Coordinator Against the Sanctions on Iraq, Iceland

Arnljot Ask, Irak-aksjonen, Norway

Grethe Haldorssen, Irak-aksjonen, Norway

Jan Öberg, peace reasearcher, Director of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) Sweden

Christian Hårleman, TFF, Sweden

Maj Wechselmann, journalist and filmmaker, Sweden,

Hans von Sponeck UN ex-coordinator for the oil-for-food programme in Iraq, Switzerland

Tony Maturin, Quakers' Peace and Service Committee, New Zealand


Svenska Irakkommittén mot de Ekonomiska Sanktionerna (SIES)




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