Sanctions didn't work

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2004

I'd like to comment on Lisle Hebert's letter regarding Iraq and weaponry prohibited to it by the United Nations. Mr. Hebert states there was no proof of those weapons and thus no justification for invasion. What he neglects to mention is that the United Nations wasn't demanding proof that they existed, they were demanding that Saddam and his regime prove they didn't exist, using the compulsory mechanism of economic sanctions and weapons inspections.

Unfortunately, these sanctions, put in place in 1991 and only recently removed, were never more than partially successful, at best. Ideally, a host government reacts to sanctions in a prescribed way, i.e., complies with inspections and surrender of whatever objectionable material, and is certified "clean." Sanctions are then removed. Such was the case with South Africa and its nuclear capability. That was never true with Iraq, which complied grudgingly only to the minimum level they calculated they could get away with, when they cooperated at all.

Indeed, Saddam actually turned sanctions to his advantage by utilizing them to justify oppression of his own people while painting himself as the only Arab leader with the guts to stand up the world. He was so successful, in fact, that the United Nations felt compelled to amend their sanctions with the oil-for-food program in order to provide humanitarian relief to Iraqi citizens. While this program largely accomplished its humanitarian goals, it also had the effect of defeating the sanctions it was meant to augment and became an engine for corruption on a scale still being defined. The sanctions didn't work is the bottom line here.

The United Nations failed not because sanctions didn't work, but because the world hid behind rationalizations like "containment" and "imminent threat" rather than admitting that stronger measures were necessary to insure Iraq indeed didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and wouldn't develop the capability of having them.

Rick Kaufman


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