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FORUM ON IRAQ (12/29/98)
MR. IBISH: Good morning. I am Hussein Ibish, Media Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and I would like to welcome you all to the ADC Foreign Policy Symposium, "What Next: Towards a Responsible Iraq Policy." This symposium is the first in what we hope will be a series of interventions designed to broaden and uplift the debate on U.S. policy on Middle East affairs.
As the title of today's symposium indicates, ADC and our distinguished panelists are drawn together by a sense that there is a fundamental problem with the current United States approach to Iraq. The pillars of this policy -- including sanctions, force, inspections and no-fly zones -- were all set in place in 1991-92 and have not been formally reviewed, let alone reevaluated, in many years. It is a measure of the poverty of the current discourse on Iraq policy that we have essentially two identical available positions -- that of the Clinton administration, which restricts itself to an unwavering continuation of these policies, and the President's Republican critics on the right, who do not challenge the policies, but simply call for more of the same. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as a direct consequence of these policies. Yet, the Iraqi regime remains firmly in power.
As the recent bombing of Iraq again demonstrates, the current policy achieves none of the goals set for it, while causing death and suffering to the Iraqi people and doing great harm to the international reputation and credibility of the United States. It is also increasingly damaging to long-term U.S. interests in the region, because the double standards that inform this policy are the source of tremendous anger and resentment in the Arab world. It provides fodder for those in the Middle East and here in the United States who would promote the false idea that there is a generalized conflict between the United States and the Arab World or between the West and Islam.
It is our hope that this panel can help us all begin to think beyond the ineffective and cruel policies on Iraq to which we continue to cling, and move, instead, towards a more responsible and constructive approach.
Our distinguished panelists today view these policies from different perspectives and will offer a variety of analyses and suggestions. We seek here not unanimity or uniformity, but, rather, insight and dialogue. Our aim is not only to make a serious contribution to the debate, but to help break the spell of a discourse on Iraq that has reduced so many thoughtful people to repeating slogans and buzzwords rather than using their critical faculties.
I would like to introduce very briefly our panel in total, and then we'll proceed and I'll introduce each speaker individually as their turn comes up.
We have with us today -- and we are honored to have with us today -- Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll from the Center for Defense Information; Mr. Denis Halliday, the former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and head of the UN humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq; Dr. Clovis Maksoud, former
Arab League Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States; and Phyllis Bennis, Mideast specialist and Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
I would like to begin this morning with Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information (CDI).
Thank you very much for joining us today, Admiral Carroll. Please.
ADMIRAL CARROLL: Thank you.
Good morning. You are probably all familiar with the legendary Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." If current events on Capitol Hill, in Kosovo and in Iraq are any indication, 1999 may be very interesting, indeed.
I would like to open our examination of the situation in Iraq by examining the question of military action there, the resort to military force. And let me start by saying that any resort to military force must be justified by objectives which can reasonably be attained, subject to two essential criteria.
The first one is that the objectives must be achievable at affordable costs, not only in terms of money and lives, but in terms of the probable political consequences; and, two, will the benefits -- the benefits must warrant the use of lethal force and the concomitant destruction and death which accompanies lethal force.
What were the objectives of Desert Fox, then? Why did we go in with guns blaze?
First, delay and degrade suspected Iraqi efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. Notice that the objective was not to destroy and eliminate such purported efforts, but to degrade and delay. It was agreed that elimination was impossible.
Two, to weaken the military capabilities of Iraq to threaten neighboring states. It isn't exactly clear which of their military capabilities were being used in what way to threaten which states, but we were going to weaken that.
And, third, to weaken internal domestic support for Saddam Hussein, the government of Iraq. We'll have questions about that, I'm certain. It wasn't even agreed in the United States. Secretary Cohen said our intention was not to undermine the current government in Iraq. It was to degrade the military capabilities. The Secretary of State apparently had not met with him beforehand and said it was clearly to undermine the government and to look to a new government in Iraq.
Notice that none of the objectives really promised to change fundamentally the political posture and military capabilities of Iraq. In fact, the strikes were virtually guaranteed to harden political intransigence in Iraq and to unite the nation in some measure against the continuing demands and threats of the United States.
On the military side, it is clear that the damage we achieved did damage to the missile-production facilities, the command-and-control installations and the troop barracks in Iraq. So they achieved some measure of that objective. Exactly how much damage cannot be determined, but it is reasonable to assume that it did degrade, in some measure, the current military forces and capabilities of Iraq.
As to reducing Saddam Hussein's threat to his neighbors, it is true that he is not threatening them today, but I don't know how he was threatening them yesterday, nor is his government's authority and control within Iraq weakened in any apparent fashion.
Thus, ill-conceived objectives were only partially accomplished, but at what cost? Was it affordable?
On the positive side, thankfully, no U.S. or British lives were lost. We don't know the extent of death in Iraq.
The dollar cost for U.S. actions only exceeded about $500 million. I don't know whether that's affordable for the results, but you can add that now to the approximately $7 billion we have spent since 1991, since Desert Storm, attempting to restrain and constrain Saddam Hussein.
But what were the other costs? First, the loss of the valuable presence of UNSCOM in Iraq. Constrained as they were, interfered with as they were, by their own estimates, they, and the IAEA inspectors, were able to accomplish the great bulk of all inspection objectives in Iraq. Now, we have nothing.
Second, great criticism and protest has arisen, not only from a number of Muslim states, including Egypt, but also from UN Security Council members France, China and Russia. Support from many of our closest Western allies has been lukewarm at best and absent totally, in some cases. We must very much expect a storm going in New York when the UN session opens and examines the situation in Iraq next week.
Because of widespread opposition to U.S. actions against Iraq, we have been forced to close many U.S. embassies, in Africa particularly, due to angry demonstrations against American interests abroad. We also had great trouble in Damascus.
Saddam is now shrewdly exploiting sentiment against the unilateral use of U.S. and British force in the growing no-fly-zone confrontation. Because the no-fly zones were not established and prescribed by UN Resolution 687 in 1991, but were imposed subsequently by the U.S. and some of our allies, they will be yet another wedge at the UN and between the United States and our critics there.
In short, the decision to strike Iraq this time was a no-win action by America.
Far from having achievable objectives worth the cost, our use of force constituted little more than a punitive reprisal against Saddam Hussein for his defiance; and, of course, the destruction fell not on Saddam Hussein, but upon already victimized and suffering Iraqi people.
The decision to go ahead with the strikes without full consultation and consensus in the UN was unwise and counter-productive to the goal of sustained cooperative enforcement of Resolution 687 sanctions. It actually was more motivated, I think, in part by fear that our continued threats against Iraq, not having been carried out, must now be carried out to maintain the credibility of the United States and of the President. It is extremely poor foreign policy to be forced by your own bellicose rhetoric to act against your best interests out of fear that you'll lose credibility if you don't attack, and yet that's the position we were in.
Today, as the unchallenged military superpower, the United States can ignore, in large degree, world opinion and deny UN leadership in regional affairs.
But how long can we afford to do so? Already, the costs exceed the rewards in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, and it will only get worse -- more costly -- if we persist in this idea of using our power in our interest, according to our own definitions and standards. It is already beyond our will -- even though we are a superpower -- beyond our capability -- to impose our will on Iraq by unilateral military action, when there is no consensus in support of U.S. policies and actions. We have this immense power, but it simply has limits, and we cannot, by ourselves, impose our objectives on Iraq. But it is not too late to show a proper regard for world opinion by exercising our undeniable role as a world leader in the United Nations, and through the United Nations. We should seek to create and abide by -- this is important -- create and abide by a determination of UN policy toward Iraq. We can't always have our way. We can't always set the objectives and demand that everyone else agree and support them.
We must abide by a determination of UN policy toward Iraq, which comes as close as possible to realizing our valid, long-term security interests in that region.
I urge our President, our Congress and the American people to realize that we cannot go on indefinitely being the world's superpower, on guard everywhere, ready to resort to the use of military force, when, in the long term, this will not contribute to the security and wellbeing of the American people. (Applause.)
MR. IBISH: Thank you -- thank you very much, Admiral Carroll.
Now, I would like to introduce our next speaker, Mr. Denis Halliday. Denis Halliday is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and head of the UN humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq, including the Oil-for-Food Program.
In October, he left and walked away from a 34-year career at the United Nations, partly, I understand, because he found that the effects of the United Nations sanctions in Iraq were unconscionable and inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the UN Charter.
MR. HALLIDAY: Good morning. Thank you, Hussein Ibish.
This is a subject of great concern to me; that is, the long-term consequence for civil society and domestic political leadership. I feel rather modestly qualified to speak, given the wealth of experience in this room and elsewhere. My justification is that you understand that I am neither an expert on the Arab people, nor the people nor politics of Iraq. Having, until recently, lived in Baghdad for a period of some 13 months, I am, in fact, only an observer. Those more knowledgeable than I will, I trust, correct my statements or offer alternative views when they have the opportunity in this session.
On leaving Iraq at the beginning of October, I was anxious to bring with me information or at least impressions of the impact of sanctions and policies of the UN Security Council and of the United States on the people of Iraq, other than the tragically obvious -- malnutrition and death -- horrible, unacceptable and criminal, although they are. Both, in fact, could be ameliorated in the relatively short run were sanctions to be lifted, were the oil revenues to flow adequately into Iraq and were the priorities of the Iraqi government to focus investment immediately on rehabilitation of health care, electric power, safe water, sewage systems, plus investment in domestic agricultural production and in education.
In addition, immediate and expanded expenditure would be required for the therapeutic feeding of millions of children in particular, and together with the earliest introduction of a balanced nutritious diet for all -- adults and children alike -- not currently being provided under the Oil-for-Food Program.
I am asked this morning specifically to focus on the longer-term impact of sanctions and UN/U.S. policies on Iraqi civil society. These aspects of sanctions are often less tangible, perhaps psychological, more subtle, and certainly harder to recognize and address than conditions, for example, resulting from collapsed health services and loss of nutritional wellbeing.
Thus, I would like to touch briefly, and modestly, on the impact that sanctions and military strikes -- policies of isolation and containment -- may have had on civil society and on the next generation of political leadership.
Many of you here are well-versed in the high standard of Islamic family values -- respect for the family unit, parental authority, care of family members, including, in particular, children. Today, in Iraq, much of this has been disrupted. Single-parent families are common and now have added difficulties, due to disruption of traditional extended-family support and governmental welfare systems near collapse. Deadbeat dads have emerged in Iraq -- a new phenomenon -- due to a sense of hopelessness and depression or the need for flight overseas for employment, after long years of sanctions.
Divorce rates have increased, based on the stress of one-time wage earners and family supporters no longer able to find employment -- factories damaged by missiles, availability of raw materials and markets damaged by sanctions.
We find homes often stripped of anything worth selling, taken to the street and auction houses for money to keep food on the table, buy shoes, get the children to school, whatever is deemed essential. We find a sense of lost family dignity and self-esteem, a sense of not just having lost a standard of living, but having lost old values of behavior and decency.
Children in poor homes are being taken from school to go on the streets to beg. Many a night my car was stopped by four or five-year-old children asking for food or money or both, the latter to give to their parents, the former to eat on the spot. Begging, as you know, is frowned upon in Iraq, but necessity has driven young children, old men, aging widows into the streets, hiding shame in order to survive -- and "survive" is the correct word.
They ignore shouts from angry passers-by embarrassed to see a foreigner being approached.
There is a new level of crime in Baghdad and other cities throughout Iraq, once safe after dark. No longer can one safely leave the key in the hall door or in the family car. In February of this year, when I briefed UN Iraqi staff on the possible close-down and international evacuations, due to impending U.S. military strikes at that time, many were afraid to go to the country, as they did in 1991, for fear of looting. In '91, property was safe, but not now. Such is one consequence of sanctions on Iraqi behavior.
In the souk, in the older parts of the city, tea shops and the stalls close down as darkness arrives for fear of criminal gangs. They used to stay open and be the center of the city's social scene. Muggings, break-ins and violent crime have become common today, not so in the 1980s.
Combined with all the other calamities of life in Iraq today, the very soul of social interaction and joy of living has been diminished, and for whom?
For those who are blameless and innocent, certainly not involved in decision-making with respect to Kuwait.
Children of all ages -- the future of Iraq -- are suffering much, as I have indicated. Some have lost their childhood by being forced to work, to beg, to get involved in crime and even enter prostitution. Can you imagine what it must do to an Iraqi family to have to decide which daughter goes into prostitution? Some mothers, widows or single parents are forced to sell themselves, sometimes for payment in kind -- food or clothes -- from Jordanian truck drivers bringing supplies into the country. Can you imagine the impact on the family and on the children now and in the years ahead? That kind of social damage will not heal quickly, if ever.
Women are also suffering. Professionals, who had taken advantage of opportunities presented by the shortage of men during the Iran/Iraq War years, have lost ground. Some can no longer afford to go to fixed-income jobs -- civil service, teaching -- as, due to inflation and devaluation, their once good salaries now buy little. Many professional women have retreated to their homes, while others have found sweatshops for sewing and such income-producing activity.
Marriage, for many, has become impossible -- obliged to work for the family's needs, men, no longer employed and therefore without the income to propose -- no money for the very cost of the wedding itself and nowhere to live once the relationship is formalized. As CNN's Rula Amin showed some months ago, some women in their thirties have lost forever their opportunity for a family, settling for a sweatshop income and providing support for the family instead. Hard, but necessary choices.
This can mean that many positive developments for women in Iraq are now lost and professional careers, or even careers such as bus driving or as policewomen, are gone. Independence is gone. The chance to get out of the home, meet people, see a newspaper has gone. Access to the modern economy has been lost. Contacts in the civil service tell me they are subsidized by their families in order to continue to work and reap the benefits of interaction, communications, reading material, otherwise unobtainable to them.
As I have mentioned, fixed-income professional Iraqis have been very hard hit. They do not receive food rations over and above the Oil-for-Food Program. Sorry, they do receive rations, but they do not have access to the handout provisions of the welfare legislation that provides for the established poor and most vulnerable -- widows, orphans, disabled, the aged -- the demand for which has increased by over 40 percent since the sanctions began.
The once proud educational system of Iraq has also been badly hit. As in other professions, there is a conspicuous brain drain. Some of the best universities and schools in the Islamic world and further afield in Europe and North America now benefit from this Iraqi loss. Iraqi deans and professors aplenty can be found, I understand, readily employed, given the very high standard of modern education that Iraq has enjoyed for decades.
This is a tragic development and is denying to the Iraqi student, at all levels, the opportunity that the earlier generations, including many of the generation that now leads the country, once enjoyed. Not only is it building dangerous levels of anger and frustration, but it is undermining the capacity of Iraq to reenter the modern world when sanctions finally go, as they must.
The damage caused by lack of access to good teachers, textbooks, educational technology, foreign professional colleagues, is devastating for the present and for the future. From being in front in many respects, Iraq's education system now lags behind the countries in the Mideast and elsewhere -- out of touch with advances -- starting with some 8,000 school buildings needing furniture, electric power, even basic sanitation, and extending to universities without computers, professors of the high standard expected in Iraq. The negative impact is hard to estimate.
Primary and secondary school children show a drop-out rate of some 30 percent, often have no desks to sit on, no heat in the winter, no cooling in the summer -- and that is no luxury when temperatures can be 50 centigrade plus. We find no running water, sewage systems and no lunch program. Some lucky children bring food, some cannot. Ten thousand teachers have quit since 1991 out of frustration at being unable to do their professional work. You can appreciate the bottom-up tragedy throughout Iraqi education that reaches to the very top, including medical, engineering and other professional schools.
And what does all this mean for the future of politics and political leadership in Iraq? There is much confusion in the media and in Washington -- what might or is happening in Iraq due to sanctions and following the most recent internationally-condemned and illegal military strikes. None of us may fully understand what is emerging, but I still see a secular country that is stronger and more integrated than many outside the country want to recognize. They erroneously talk of a Shia minority ready to rise up.
They refer, of course, to the Shia majority of some 60 percent that includes 1.5 million Iraqis of Shia faith in the City of Baghdad alone.
They talk of the Kurds being ready to rise up. They are Sunni, Shia and Christian.
Furthermore, both Barzani and Talabani indicate that they see the future of their three million Kurdish people in Dohuk, Sulmanya and Irbil within Iraq. I have met both these Kurdish leaders several times and I have worked with their ministers under the Oil-for-Food Program auspices. They know the realities of the Kurds in Turkey and in Iran, and I feel, I believe, that with some recognition of ethnic and semi-autonomous needs they would be better off as part of Iraq. That is the position that both Barzani and Talabani have taken. No one who thinks is thinking of Kurdish independence as being realistic.
And what of the every-hungry neighbors of Turkey, Iran, Syria? I am digressing, but my point was that Washington and London need to focus less on the collapse and break-up of Iraq, which they superficially seem to find attractive.
I would suggest it might be calamitous in terms of regional peace and balance. Instead, we all need to focus on what sanctions and military strikes are doing to the leadership, not of today -- we know today that impact is one of enhancement -- but of the future, the next generation of leadership, the leadership with which the rest of the region and the rest of the world will need to live and work. That is what is most important.
I get reactions of disbelief, anger even, when I say that the younger membership of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq finds the present leadership to be too moderate, but that, in fact, is the case. Many of the future leadership find the unending willingness, as they see it, of the President and Mr. Tarik Aziz to compromise and dialogue with the United Nations unproductive and damaging to Iraq. They are too angry, too impatient. They feel Iraq has suffered enough. What happened to sovereignty, national pride, the great historical contribution of the Iraqi people?
Senior members of the party have told me of this phenomenon: bottom-up impatience and anger and demand for change and a tougher line of action. Some have told me they are being criticized by their own children for making no progress with the United Nations and the United States in particular.
Many serious Iraqis advocate going it alone. They feel that they can do better, can rebuild, can show the resilience of the Iraqi people. They know it may be tough, but it would be worth it to be free of sanctions, UN/U.S. intrusion, and to rebuild national self-esteem.
So that may be in the near future. Much now depends on confirmation that UNSCOM is, indeed, dead, the development of a genuinely international means of secure arms control and end of sales to Iraq and to all developing countries. Despite the plea of the Pope, it is hard to be optimistic when the five permanent members of the Security Council manufacture and sell some 85 percent of arms today. Nevertheless, with arms control, with international monitoring of capacity-building of weapons within Iraq, we might see progress.
It appears that China, Russia, France, for a variety of reasons, are ready to consider lifting economic sanctions, in total or in part. This looks hopeful. Considerable compromise, however, is going to be needed on the part of all concerned.
Whatever happens now, I would underline the importance of responding to the younger generation of leadership in Iraq. Let's avoid the possibility of a Taliban-type of movement emerging in the country, brought on by the isolation and anger and alienation that sanctions and now military strikes are breeding. Let us also avoid the development of political Islamic fundamentalism which has and is hurting global relations of other countries in the region.
My Iraqi contacts say both developments will not occur in Iraq, as it is too sophisticated and remains firmly secular. Let's hope they are right, but let's not take the risk any longer.
If we are going to succeed in the foreseeable future in bringing Iraq back into the international community -- regional and global -- the reasons for Iraqi attitudes of isolation, alienation and a perception of constant external aggression, in both words and deeds, needs to be removed. A situation that is seen to be threatening to the greatness of the old Iraq and Mesopotamia -- insensitive to sovereignty, national pride and the dignity of the Iraqi people -- sadly not well understood in Washington, is never going to produce peace. Under these circumstances and compounded by eight years of brutal and inhumane sanctions, there can be little hope for productive change.
Without the removal of sanctions, there can be no real possibility of a responsible political opposition or for any moves towards democracy, assuming that is what would be right for Iraq at this time.
It is important to world peace for Iraq to take its place -- responsible, non-aggressive place -- in the Arab world and in the international community.
For this to happen, many things need to fall in place.
We must also see Iraq, not alone, but as a part -- an important part -- of the Gulf region, the Middle East and the wider world. The member states of the United Nations must support the Gulf and regional states to establish and tackle the root causes of aggression and conflict in their region.
We need to limit external foreign influence. Instead, let us have the UN, the IMF or others on standby to assist with investment, technology or whatever is needed to resolve some of the long-standing differences that keep Gulf countries tense and unstable. There are collaborative models, such as ASEAN and the European Union that bear looking at. To me, an understanding of the core differences and the many commonalities and the interdependence of the countries of the Gulf region is not only viable but it is the only viable way to go forward in trying to encourage peace and establish wellbeing for the peoples of the Arab world, growing rapidly in number and in global importance.
Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. IBISH: Thank you very much, Mr. Halliday.
Now, I would like to introduce our third panelist this morning. Phyllis Bennis is a Middle East specialist and Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and has been the author of a number of books, including, Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN, published by Interlink in 1996.
Welcome, please, Phyllis Bennis.
PHYLLIS BENNIS: Good morning.
Thank you, Hussein.
I think that the recent U.S. military strikes against Iraq represent an abandonment of a number of earlier components of U.S. strategy in the region. It means an abandonment of dual containment, which has guided U.S. strategy -- to its detriment, I would say -- for some years. It represents an abandonment of disarmament as both a reality, in the form of UNSCOM -- a weak, but, nonetheless, functioning reality -- and as a pretense.
It means abandoning even the claim that disarmament underlies current U.S. policy, and -- perhaps most dangerously -- I think that it represents an abandonment of the United Nations and multilateralism in U.S. policymaking on the question of Iraq, in favor of a world assertion, on the part of the U.S., that it, and it alone -- with the British running along behind to keep up, -- but, essentially, a unilateral kind of decision-making, where NATO, if anything, becomes the only necessary international credential for this kind of military action. And, instead of this earlier policy, what we see is a new aggressively unilateral effort to use military force and even tightened economic sanctions aimed specifically not at containment, but at overthrowing the leadership of the regime in Iraq, and I think that is an important distinction, because I don't think that U.S. policymakers actually want to overturn the entire regime. This is, after all, the same regime that had such close ties with the United States throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was led then by Saddam Hussein as well. Like in other countries -- Panama comes to mind -- when an allied dictator, who the U.S. once endorses, becomes unaccountable to the U.S., the U.S. turns on that dictator and decides that suddenly this is a dictator who must be removed. But I don't think that the U.S. is seriously interested anymore now than it was in 1990-91 in a real, popular and democratic uprising in Iraq, a real transformation of the nature of the Iraqi state.
I think there is an urgent need, not least because of the level of political capital that has been invested in this effort, to get Saddam Hussein personally out of the way. That may come by assassination, through missiles -- if they're lucky -- they haven't been in the efforts that have been used so far. They got his sister's house. They didn't get him, similar to the situation we saw in 1983 in Libya, when the U.S. went after Qaddafi with missiles. Didn't get Qaddafi. Did get his three-year-old daughter. This is not likely to work, nor are the presumably increasing efforts by the CIA and other covert operations to carry out efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein, in my view, likely to have much impact on actual U.S. policy or on developments on the ground in the country.
So, on the one hand, we have a specifically unilaterally-driven effort to use military force aimed at overturning the regime. The economic sanctions, if anything, will, I'm afraid, become harsher, rather than recognizing that they are a failed instrument, the kind of blunt instrument that can only affect civilian populations, while the military regime remains privileged from the worst ravages of those sanctions, and where disarmament, essentially, plays no role in U.S. strategy, and what we are told is we have no option.
This is the Clinton administration's line. This is the Pentagon's line.
This is the line of many in Congress. We have no option, but to use military force. This is the only language that the Iraqi government understands. This is our only option.
In fact, there are a number of options that have never been taken seriously, and I think, first, we have to start with the given that economic sanctions have to come to an end. They have had, as we have seen, little impact on the government in Iraq. They have, if anything, made worse the human rights violations committed by the Iraqi regime, in the context of civil and political rights being denied to its population, while the population now faces the added and far more physically debilitating human rights violations imposed by U.S.-engineered sanctions, in the name of the United Nations, those being the economic and social rights, the other human rights, which are so rarely spoken of in this country.
I think we have to reclaim certain aspects of UN policy, and, first, we have to claim for the United Nations the legitimacy of Iraq policy and decision-making on Iraq, and that means looking at the full text of what the UN resolutions actually call for. We hear a great deal in this country about Resolution 687, and we hear mostly about Article 22, which outlines the six things that Iraq has to do, all having to do with weapons of mass destruction, in order to get economic oil sanctions lifted.
We don't hear very much about the preamble, and we don't hear very much about Article 14, both of which talk about the need to establish weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zones, and, specifically, a nuclear-weapons free zone throughout the Middle East. That's not me talking. That's not the Arab group at the United Nations talking. That's the Security Council. That's Resolution 687 that says explicitly that efforts to disarm Iraq must be shaped by the effort towards regional disarmament. And yet, we see, as my colleague has already indicated, the permanent members of the Security Council, led by the United States, by an enormous - an enormous - lead, providing increasing amounts of weapons to all the states in the region, without taking into account Israel's nuclear arsenal, Syria's chemical weapons, Iran's missiles, Turkey's and Saudi Arabia's missiles and weapons of virtually every description that get more advanced and broader in their reach every year.
So instead of abiding by the conditions of Resolution 687 that says that Iraqi disarmament must take place in a regional framework, what we see is a U.S. effort to say only Iraq should be subject to disarmament efforts.
And, in fact, one of the demands that I think we must make today -- when UNSCOM is not on the ground in Iraq, when the UNSCOM inspectors themselves are -- I don't know what they do -- sitting around watching CNN, perhaps, waiting to go back or waiting for whatever they're waiting for -- waiting for Godot, perhaps -- that they must be allowed to do something they have never been allowed to do before, and that is to make public the documents they have found in Iraq that identify the sources of Iraq's weapons systems.
By UN mandate -- by Security Council mandate -- UNSCOM has been prohibited from making that public. The U.S. and its allies on the Council were afraid.
They were afraid of being embarrassed, at being found out at being the source of this.
Why do we think U.S. policymakers were so afraid of what Iraq might have left after the Gulf War in 1991? Well, I would assert it wasn't least because the U.S. specifically knew exactly what U.S. companies had provided throughout the 1980s - in the 70s also, but more relatively in the 1980s - including after the infamous use by the Iraqi regime of chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians and Iranian troops.
Right here outside of Washington -- and some of you are all too aware of this -- the American Type Culture Collection Company, Rockville, Maryland, that provided to the Iraqi regime -- to the Iraqi military, in fact -- the seed stock for producing biological weapons all through the 1980s, for producing botulism, anthrax, ecoli -- and those are the ones I can pronounce. I don't try and follow the rest of them. It's a horrifying list; and they were not a rogue company. They weren't violating any U.S. law. This was not part of a black-market operation. They were licensed by the Commerce Department.
Now, we understand that there were some in the Pentagon that were uneasy about this, that felt this was not such a great idea, that the State Department was a little ambivalent. I was informed -- reminded, in no uncertain terms -- by Congressman Tom Lantos from California that there were voices in Congress saying this should not go forward; but what a surprise, commerce trumped disarmament once again. Market democracy triumphs, and the order went out, the license was given, and the Iraqi regime, which suddenly -- within weeks -- went from being a military partner -- junior partner, to be sure -- of the United States, became Hitler. What happened here?
What happened to U.S. policy that could allow for this kind of a transformation, and expect the American people not to ask hard questions, like, "What are those documents saying that UNSCOM has found?";
We know from the last year or more UNSCOM has been concentrating not on weapons themselves -- because very little is left -- but on documents, on trying to find documents that would give indications about what is the potential for future capability in Iraq and what are the past sources of Iraq's weapons, but they have been prohibited from making that public. It seems to me that this has to be on top of the agenda, for public calls for a policy change in the U.S. to take the lead in the Security Council -- and we know that when the U.S. leads in the Security Council it generally gets its way -- to make those documents public.
We must also stop allowing the Clinton administration and others to make the claim that in carrying out unilateral, or, in this case, bilateral - barely bilateral - military strikes against Iraq it is somehow following or abiding by UN resolutions. It's a lie. It's absolutely not true.
The two that are usually claimed are Resolution 678, which authorized the use of force -- passed on November 29, 1990 -- which authorized the use of force - and we can talk at another time about the kinds of bribes and threats that were required to get that passed, but, nonetheless, it did pass. It did authorize the use of force, for a very specific purpose.
It authorized the use of force to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait, and, therefore, becomes expired on the day that the last Iraqi troop crossed the border. That happened a long time ago. There are no longer Iraqi troops in Kuwait.
The other resolution that U.S. officials often talk about is Resolution 1154, which was passed last March 2, after the February dust-up that led to an almost U.S. strike, and in that one, then almost-Ambassador Bill Richardson - I guess he was Ambassador at that time, I'm sorry -- Ambassador Bill Richardson had succeeded, and was very proud of the fact that he had succeeded in getting the Security Council to include the language that said there should be severest consequences in the event of a future Iraqi action, and it is certainly arguable, from the Butler report, that there have been certain discrete violations by Iraq. Butler's report -- I would mention for those of you who haven't seen it - says specifically that those violations take place in a broad context of what he calls "majority inspections taking place with Iraqi cooperation"; Those are Butler's words, not mine. Nonetheless, there have been some violations, but the UN Resolution makes very clear to avoid what the Russian Ambassador called "automaticity"; He made up this new word to define what the Security Council was not agreeing to, that the Resolution somehow gives the U.S. the automatic right to use military force. It says explicitly that the Security Council remains in control of the issue and that any decision about future violations, in deciding what are the violations, has there been a violation and what should be the international response to the violation, rests with the Security Council. So when anyone in Washington says that that Resolution somehow justifies future military strikes, it's not true.
And I think, finally, we have to come back to the question of disarmament. Disarmament, in this arms-glutted region, is a crucial priority, and I think that we have the means to begin targeting the suppliers. In his speech right here in the Press Club last week, Sandy Berger talked about - he said, "We can watch Iraq's external procurement activity".
Well, that's fine, but let's go beyond that. Let's stop Iraq's procurement activity. Let's stop the procurement activity throughout the entire Middle East and identify publicly which are the companies that are providing the basic seed stock for chemical weapons, for biological weapons, for nuclear technology throughout the entire region. Then, we will have some basis to talk about an international mobilization and creating weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zones, not only in Iraq, but throughout that region. Until then, I think that the U.S. is poorly placed to claim the legitimate right to determine, as the largest arms dealer in the region, the right to determine who should and should not have the right to get other weapons.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. IBISH: Thank you, Phyllis.
And, lastly, concluding our panel this morning - although we will have questions and answers afterwards - we are delighted to welcome Dr. Clovis Maksoud, the former Ambassador of the League of Arab States to the United Nations and to the United States, and, currently, Director of the Center for the Global South at American University and Professor of International Relations there. Dr. Maksoud, please.
DR. MAKSOUD: Thank you very much.
After the three previous speakers, who have given us a very comprehensive analysis, it seems that I am doomed today to abandon sophistication and communicate the gut feelings throughout the Arab world. So with this proviso, I might not sound relevant. Maybe I will sound consistent, but I think that there is a certain level of depth, sentiments, feelings throughout the Arab patrimony that has never been unraveled to be seen, to be heard, only to be dismissed as the "Arab street"; only to be marginalized as a temporary phenomenon, only to be ridiculed as emotional outbursts, but never taken seriously as a formative determinant of collective Arab attitudes, never taken seriously as a potent force that can, if not overcome the governments that exist, at least it can deter them. And the Iraqi situation and the attack on Iraq last week provided an opportunity for the so-called "Arab street" to demonstrate its deep anger and frustrations, not only against the attack, the ruthlessness of it, the fact that Iraq, as other countries in the Arab world have become prey to the projection of sheer power in their patrimony, it has indicated that there is a level of Arab unity that seems to flower at moments of deep crisis.
Of course, this sense of Arab unity, reinforced by the feeling that the Arabs are abused as a patrimony and complimented as so-called moderate states and governments, in a way, moderation has become the classification of any Arab government that is willing and able to accommodate America's accommodation of Israel.
Yet, there is also this feeling of anger, another feeling of judging the United States by its historical values, which are usually distorted, in many instances, by the American policies in the Middle East.
A short synopsis of this blending confrontation took place when the Palestinians in Gaza, welcoming President Clinton in a manner that more or less transcended their suffering, their exploitation, their marginality, their poverty, their lack of self-determination. They welcomed him as an articulator of historical values of the United States. Hence, the response, the marriage of an American and a Palestinian flag, never anticipated in the dreams of either the Americans or the Palestinians.
There was an indication of a sensitivity towards the agony of the Palestinians, and that this sensitivity might be the bridge that brings back values to policies. And, yet, no sooner than President Clinton left the airport in Israel than he ordered the bombing of Iraq. The same people, almost, in Gaza, who raised the two flags together, started a vendetta, burning and tearing the American flags, all in the 72 hours that characterized the time in which Iraq was bombed.
What does this mean? Has anybody in the policy establishment in the United States, in the media establishment in the United States inquired into this unbelievable phenomenon? What took place in the three days? What took place is that the Palestinians realized that policy takes precedence over values. They realized that there is a commonality between Palestinians and Iraqis, but also between Egyptians and Moroccans, et cetera, a sense of unity of feelings; but, perhaps, feelings is no more a contributive factor to policy. Yet, it is these feelings of a sense of uniformity of reaction that constitutes one of the major dimensions, because Iraq, in the Arab national conscience, is the Iraq of the great poets. It is the Iraq of great professionals. It is the Iraq of women's empowerment in the past. Iraq is the anchor of a humanitarian civilization. Iraq is civil society -- as Mr. Halliday has just articulated - is the bosom in which any form of corrective to the situation in Iraq can be brought out.
And so what is the result? The result, on the one hand, is that the goodwill that President Clinton had in Gaza has been squandered, that the sense of frustration among the people has been deepened. And when frustration is not addressed, that is the prescription for an explosion. And in order to avoid the explosion, civil society, as a coherent body and a countervailing force in Iraq, has to be encouraged, enhanced, emboldened, and that cannot be unless there is the lifting of the sanctions on the Iraqi people.
People also have to understand that Iraq is on the conscience of the Arabs in general, even those who suffered some of its attacks or aggressions, even in this respect the people in the Gulf countries realize that there is a basic unfairness, that any kind of oposition or objection to the Iraqi regime should not spill over to a vengeance against the Iraqi people, and that civil society, when reactivated in Iraq, will be the only corrective, if a corrective is necessary.
Furthermore, what we have listened to today explains - explains the crisis of conscience, and it seems - it seems - our British and American friends do not realize that this combination -- especially the British component as a junior partner - do not understand that it rubs and hits a raw nerve in the psyche of the Arabs because there is a perception that Britain, through the United States and with the United States, is vicariously reconstructing its imperial role, and the United States, as has been mentioned earlier, requires, by necessity, a total review, and -- if I may use a word that is not supposed to be used -- a "reassessment" of its policies.
In this respect, there is a need to decouple the mechanism of humanitarian assistance delivery and aid from the mechanism that seeks to secure compliance with various Security Council resolutions. This is in order to insulate the population of Iraq from the vagaries of whether there has been compliance or not. There should be a level of proportionality on the issues of humanitarian assistance in direct proportion to the level, degree and percentage of compliance. There should be a realization that the no-fly zone is the prelude for the breakdown of Iraqi territory. There should be a growing sensitivity on the parts of the Arab governments to the feelings, sentiments, emotions of their people. That the Arab League has been postponed on a summit level indicates that we are still in the mode of not being able to cope with the multiplicity of challenges of our time.
And so the Security Council, as has been mentioned earlier, has to reconstruct its role, redefine its purpose. It can no longer be as a collective will, the hostage of talking at the Iraqis or the Arabs like Chairman Butler does. It can no longer be a rubber-stamping organization. There is too much at stake for humankind to allow any kind of undermining and introducing paralysis to this global, international organization.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. IBISH: Thank you very much, Dr. Maksoud.
And now we'll move to the question-and-answer period. I would like to ask you, please, to keep your remarks brief, to speak clearly, to identify yourself, and, if you would like, to direct your question at any of our panelists.
We'll begin with you, there, sir.
Q: Yes. Barry Schweid, Associated Press.
Mr. Halliday, would you elaborate on a couple of things you said? You spoke of - you proposed or you thought it would be very helpful to have a genuine system of international arms control, I believe, of the region. You also - one sentence after that talking about - I think you used the word "surveillance" or "monitoring" -- you meant a way of looking into it.
How would you arrange such a system, given Saddam Hussein's track record, and what did you mean -- because there was sort of diplomatic ambiguity - when you spoke - when you rued or you criticized - you said we need to limit extension of foreign influence in the region? Who is in the region that you wish weren't there or who is using its influence -- that you wish -
MR. HALLIDAY: May I?
MR. IBISH: Please.
MR. HALLIDAY: Okay. Thank you. I'll do my best to respond. In terms of arms control, it's my impression, listening to what Tarik Aziz has been saying recently, that there is going to be a trade-off. I think everybody understands that. Despite the very sensitive issues of sovereignty and dignity that Iraq is very much focused upon, they understand the realities, nevertheless. They are extremely practical people. In the Oil-for-Food Program, I have watched them, many times, buying huge quantities of wheat from the United States, because that is where the best price was obtainable.
So, I mean, they are a very practical, realistic government. So I am going on the assumption that if sanctions can be removed - and I think those of us who know the situation and see the appalling damage that has been done and how counter-productive sanctions are, they will have to go, and I am very much hopeful that the Security Council will come to that conclusion.
The trade-off, however, is going to be not an UNSCOM, but something much more, perhaps, overwhelming in a sense, and for me it would have to be - it should be a global phenomenon. I'm completely opposed to arms-manufacturing sales. The Pope has spoken on it recently. We know the five members - the permanent members of the Security Council are the main problem here.
They are the big manufacturers and sales people. Phyllis Bennis has just given us an insight to the UNSCOM situation, where they know perfectly well where this dreadful material is coming from, where it's come from, and that should - I agree with her entirely - needs to be identified and shared with the world, so we can put some real control on manufacture of companies and issuance and sale by countries, not just to Iraq, not just to the Arab world, but to the entire world. We are destroying the world through arms sales. Take a country like Cambodia. Fifty percent of its budget is going into arms. I mean, it's just outrageous, unbelievable.
So I think this whole package of arms control, capacity-building within Iraq is a trade-off for the dropping of sanctions.
Now, how do you control this? Because I realize this is nothing - there's nothing easy here. I think, as the Ambassador just told us, the fact that the Arab League has postponed its meeting is a whole indication of the complexity and the difficulty of the Arab countries themselves to deal with their own difficulties. So I'm not saying it's going to be simple, but, for me, the solution has got to be we've got to establish what are the root causes of the problems in this part of the world, because if we don't determine them, to focus back on Iraq, what exactly led to Kuwait?
What exactly creates the possibility of further aggression on - let's say -- on the part of President Saddam Hussein? If we don't know exactly what the problems are, we will never be able to stop this sort of problem.
The capacity will always be there. Through the Internet, you can now manufacture VX and other appalling things, I understand. So if the will to do that is there and the reasons for the need have not been removed through some collaborative community effort -- spirit -- we are always going to be in this quagmire that we are now obviously in.
My reference to foreign influence, you know, I think we have to respect that the Arab world is an ancient world. It has made a huge contribution - and I'm going back - you know - thousands of years, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other parts of that area. We have to recognize the wealth and depth of strength of the Arab people. If you look at the figures, you know, in 50 years more people will speak Arabic than the English language. The English language is in decline. Arabic is in the increase. The numbers, the influence of that part of the world is going to be extremely important.
We are in a declining mode here in Europe and North America. So we need to - even for those reasons alone -- look ahead and see where we should place ourselves. But the continuing foreign influence, which is so insensitive and so unable to understand the history and the sensitivities of the Arab people -- and the Ambassador has said it so well, and I don't - I couldn't possibly begin to repeat it as effectively as he -- but until we get foreign influence out of that part of the world and allow the Arab and Gulf states to solve their own problems, we are going to perpetuate the problem. And to have forces in the Gulf - military forces of that size - to dump military hardware on Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf, to continue that build-up and presence, to allow the double standard we see in the Security Council of some countries being armed to the teeth with nuclear warheads on hundreds of missiles, others being stripped bear -- that imbalance, to allow Turkey to invade the north of Iraq repeatedly, supposedly chasing their own Kurds, well, that is not justifiable either.
To allow these things to happen is just unacceptable. So let's get the foreign influence out and let's leave that part of the world to be resolved by the people who live there and who have got to get on with each other and help each other in the future. When the oil revenues start declining, it's going to be their problem and they need to work out relationships there and how they're going to support themselves.
MR. IBISH: I think Phyllis Bennis would like to add something.
MS. BENNIS: Just very briefly. I think that an additional point that we need to look at, beyond reconstituting the Security Council's role, which I agree does need to go forward, I think we also need to broaden the international agencies taking up this issue beyond the Security Council, to include, for example, the Disarmament Committee of the General Assembly, which is not only far more democratic and without a veto, represents far more countries, but also is the committee within the United Nations system charged with disarmament on a broad scale. We can look to the committees - the states' parties to the conventions on chemical and biological warfare, both of which are empowered to engage in various kinds of monitoring efforts, who have never been allowed to play a role in Iraqi disarmament, as well as the regional groups, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the G-77.
I think that I agree with both Clovis Maksoud and Denis Halliday that the delay in the meeting of the Arab League is a disturbing development, but I think, as much as anything else, it reflects the fact that the Arab League has been so marginalized for the last eight years from having any real power in this issue, despite the fact that the UN Charter calls for reliance on regional groups before the UN itself is brought to bear. So I think there needs to be a broader vision of which organizations, which agencies can be brought in to bring their expertise and their political legitimacy and their more democratic character to be involved in this issue.
Q: I'm Jim Anderson, GPA, the German Press Agency.
I get a general feeling on the part of the panel that what ought to be done is that the sanctions ought to be dropped for humanitarian reasons and political and other reasons, and that there is a general desire for disarmament, but what I don't -- haven't received from this discussion is what does the panel suggest we do about Iraq after the sanctions have been dropped?
MR. IBISH: Whoever would like to - Well, you can begin.
MS. BENNIS: I think the key thing is to not identify Iraq as somehow a different kind of problem than exists in other places in the world. There are lots of governments that are very unpalatable, that are military dictatorships, that invade or occupy other countries, that carry out human rights abuses against their own populations or those in occupied territories. This is not something limited to Iraq. Iraq's government is certainly right up there with the terrible governments of the world. I'm not sure I'd want to try and measure which one is worse. There's a number of bad ones, and Iraq is certainly one of them, but it seems to me that when you have a situation in which the IAEA has said for over a year that Iraq has no viable nuclear weapons program and that it is getting full compliance with - the term it used was, "sufficient cooperation" for all of the inspections it wanted to carry out -- and when the Butler report itself says that UNSCOM was carrying out the majority of its inspections, that we're looking at a country which is no longer a military threat.
The possibility of a reconstructed military threat at a future time exists in all countries, and I think the question of what we do as we de-link the sanctions and say that economic sanctions should be lifted, while we actually tighten military sanctions, that means we tighten them by going regional, we stop allowing the suppliers to supply Iraq or its neighbors.
We stop the countries and the companies that are providing the seed stock for chemical or biological or missile technology or nuclear technology from exporting that. At a certain point, I would hope that on an international level, there will be campaigns similar to the land mines campaign that will make unacceptable even the production of those weapons, even within nation states, let alone to be exported.
But we can start more modestly. We can start with an effort here in the United States, which is by far the largest arms exporter in the world, to stop the ability of the U.S. arms industry from exporting those weapons. That would go a great deal towards mitigating the problem of over-arming of the Gulf region in general, and perhaps of Iraq, because one of the results of not having UNSCOM allowed to go public with its documents is that we don't know if, for example, the American Type Culture Collection that was sending biological weapons stock to Iraq in the 1980s still is. We have no idea. We can be pretty sure they're not doing it under license by the Commerce Department, although we don't know that for sure, but we can be pretty sure of that. But we don't know if they're doing it on the black market or the grey market, because those documents remain sealed.
That's one of the first things that we can do.
MR. IBISH: Admiral Carroll.
ADMIRAL CARROLL: I would like to respond briefly to both of the questions. The arms trade in the world is a scandal and no place worse than the Middle East. The Center for Defense Information attempts to maintain a data bank on arms trade, and the lacking element is transparency. So the first requirement for Iraq and everybody is transparency. There must be an account of the trade in arms. Then, Iraq must be clearly given to understand by the Security Council - by the way, the five permanent representatives on the Security Council account for 85 to 90 percent of that trade - must be given to understand by the Security Council that they are part of this transparency problem. They must be open and disclose their armaments, just as the other nations must join in, and they should be given a certain time, if at all possible, when they will be deemed in compliance and the sanctions lifted.
But the sanctions, I don't believe, can be lifted without a price.
I'll add this thought: Iraq started and lost a very brutal war and there is a price to be paid for losing wars. Part of that price is to be open to the world in their military preparations.
Q: Yes, thank you. A question for Admiral Carroll, please.
MR. IBISH: Could you identify yourself, please?
Q: Doug Roberts from VOA.
If one were to move toward reconstituting UNSCOM, the UN Security Council's role and control in this matter, what then do you suggest the U.S. military posture would be?
ADMIRAL CARROLL: If you're going to make the UN the source of leadership in dealing with security in the Middle East, the UN has been a casualty of the Cold War for 45 years, and it has no military capability. It simply cannot take first responsibility for any military measures associated with a stable peace in the Middle East. The only way it can be given such a capability is by leadership from the United States, Russia, China and so on, and there's where I see the hope for progress. If we would realize jointly that the cause of stability - stable peace -- would be advanced by an improved UN capability to maintain and enforce that peace, then we could make progress, but, today, the UN doesn't have a scintilla of that ability. They lack everything.
Q: Miles Palmer from Congressional Quarterly.
As you indicated at the beginning of the presentation, there's many in Congress who believe the administration has not gone far enough, particularly in aiding the Iraqi opposition -- in London and elsewhere. And from the various comments a number of you made during your presentations, you seemed to indicate that the possibilities of opposition will be better after sanctions were lifted and would not come from these kinds of groups. I was wondering if you could get into that a little more, in terms of whether this conservative argument makes any sense in terms of stirring opposition in Iraq.
MR. IBISH: Who would like to -
MS. BENNIS: I guess you should -
DR. MAKSOUD: Well, no, I want to answer the -
MR. IBISH: Do you want to go back to -
DR. MAKSOUD: Yes.
MR. IBISH: All right. And then we'll come to your question after that. Would you -
DR. MAKSOUD: Let me just give a couple of examples. This morning it was reported that the President of Iran objected to the strike and requested for regional stability, the lifting of the sanctions. Now, this is the president of a country that had an eight-year war with Iraq.
In a way, there is a level of a vision of an arena which has been the arena of conflict, perhaps by the Iranian example can become an arena of reconciliation.
This has eluded the attempt at the peace process to bring about that historical reconciliation, and we know what are the reasons, but I think that there is the beginning of genuine and serious assessment of the dilemma in which the region is on.
Let me realize also that we have major problems, and I think, in answer to the question on the United Nations, I think it is important, immediately, to have a mechanism of prevention introduced into the Secretariat so that we don't have this rush to bomb that we have had in the Iraqi situation.
This preventive mechanism can be very useful and constructive in bringing about further credibility to the United Nations, because what is important is not to resolve a conflict, what is even more important is how to prevent one, and, in doing so, you don't go only to the political culture or conflicts of political cultures, but to the deep causes of these conflicts in terms of poverty, in terms - all these are recurrable violence if they are not addressed at their root causes.
Furthermore, it is important that when the no-fly zone is applied and not authorized by the United Nations, that, in itself, renders that the United States and Britain have subsumed the international community and it has created varying degrees of deep resentment.
Now, it is possible that, as the only superpower, the United States can get away with it momentarily. However, any kind of long-range planning must realize that the no-fly zone over the north of Iraq means that if that is broken off, the contagion of separatism is going to create a geopolitical explosion in the region of northern Iraq, Turkey and other places where the Kurds - so -
And then the notion that Shia are separate from the Iraqi body politic and, therefore, they can have their own revolution has been, to a large extent, diffused this morning by President Khatami's position, and so there is a great deal of ad hoc-ness. There is a great deal in the United States' policies that politics interrupts coherent polices, and, therefore, the ability to develop terms of reference that bring about an understanding of the outcome of whatever policy is pursued.
MR. IBISH: And returning to your question, sir, I'd like to ask Mr. Halliday
MR. HALLIDAY: Well, I think the -- Thank you.
MR. IBISH: Certainly.
MR. HALLIDAY: The point we tried to make - I think the Ambassador and myself in particular - was that there is no possibility of any sort of change in governance, in introduction of democracy of any sort -- and assuming democracy is what Iraq requires, and I'm not even sure that is correct -- but whatever system the Iraqi people determine to be the best system, given their history and their present situation, it is not likely to develop at the moment, because, to succeed, it has to be an internal, home-grown development. The capacity for that is no longer there. The professional middle classes are sadly depleted. They are reduced to poverty.
They are reduced to survival. There is not the - I think - the time or the focus on systems of governance, participatory government or whatever.
The brain drain has taken away a million or perhaps two million professional Iraqis overseas, and that is another huge loss, so that the capacity under the present system of sanctions is simply not there.
Therefore, I would argue - and many of us would argue - remove sanctions, restore the economy, get people back to work, establish the wellbeing of the Iraqi middle classes, the thinking intelligencia, and then you'll see change coming about. You will not find it now.
Secondly, anything imposed from outside - and perhaps anything particularly imposed by Washington - is simply going to be dead in the water, under present circumstances, in my view. So to finance - to spend $97 million on the splintered Iraqi opposition outside the country, I think, is just futile, money down the drain. These people, I don't think, have legitimacy in their own country. That, I think, is also futile.
I just want to pick up one point, if I may
MR. IBISH: Please
MR. HALLIDAY: - on the Security Council. I think we have a tragedy in the Security Council. I think we've got a situation where the Council is undermining human rights, the Charter, the very Declaration of the Rights of the Child and so on. It's a tragic story. I won't go into it in detail, and one of the problems is there is no device to supervise, to oversee the work of the Security Council. Now, we have conventions -- I think it's the Hague and the Geneva Conventions -- governing warfare.
Nothing - there's no convention, no comparable device to govern the application of sanctions, for example, and sanctions today, given the Iraq situation, is, in a sense, a declaration of war, given the death rate that we see.
We need some sort of international panel of jurists to take a look at the Security Council, at its resolutions, and establish some standards, some control, a global Supreme Court, so to speak.
MR. IBISH: Okay. Madam, you've been very patient.
MR. IBISH: Continue with your -
Q: The gentleman who raised the first question brought about the issue of track record and inquired about the people, as he put it, _________ the country and the region, which some of the panelists might consider problematic in terms of the disarmament of the regions, but I think that he did not get a direct answer to his question, and I would present one that derives from the Arab street that Professor Maksoud talked about.
The track record that is currently under review in the Arab street is that of Israel, specifically, especially when people here -- President Clinton, addressing the Muslim world on the occasion of Ramadan, you know, which was also used to send presents, you know, in the form of missiles from racist military personnel in this country, on that occasion, and on other occasions, we've heard the President talk about Iraq as somehow exceptional in having used its military strength to expand onto the territory of its neighbors, and, yet, we have not heard any - you know - any problem in relation to Israel, which, as Ambassador Maksoud knows very well, himself being a Lebanese, continues to occupy Lebanon to this day. So this whole issue of double standard, I think, is at the heart of the frustration of the Arab street, so-called.
MR. IBISH: Is there any panelist you would like to address that to?
Q: But I would also want - you know - to point to the insinuation, indeed, the veiled accusation, that the UN is somehow in cahoots with the Iraq regime, and that the UN data that we receive about the malnutrition, death among children is somehow exaggerated. I would just want to ask Mr. Halliday to comment.
MR. IBISH: And let me add that recently on an addition of CNN's program, "Crossfire" Mr. Bill Press announced that he didn't believe the Iraqi propaganda about thousands of children dying as a result of sanctions. So we can ask that in a general form. What about those who consider all of this shocking data about the effect of sanctions on Iraq to be Iraqi propaganda? How would you respond to that, Mr. Halliday?
MR. HALLIDAY: Well, I think we have - I also am shocked to find that UNICEF -- the world health organization -- being questioned for their integrity. It is quite extraordinary, but the fact is that the figures that we have all used, whether it's 5,000 children a month or 6,000 or more, as WHO would have us believe, the fact is these figures are independently put together, endorsed by UNICEF, by the World Health Organization (WHO), and I think they are absolutely rock solid, and they're appalling. If they're 100 or 1,000 or 5,000, they're equally appalling, but the fact is they are UNICEF, WHO figures, and my WHO colleague in Baghdad has said to me when I was leaving, "Look, you can say with complete confidence 5,000 to 6,000 children are dying each month due to sanctions in Iraq today." We believe that's an underestimate, because the fact is in rural parts of Iraq today, children are not being registered at birth, many die within the first couple of months, and they're never registered, and the figures don't even show. So that is, perhaps, a modest figure, but I think they're absolutely rock solid.
DR. MAKSOUD: Can I say something?
MR. IBISH: Please. Absolutely.
DR. MAKSOUD: I just want to add just one - I think that the fact of challenging the credibility of the statistics that the UNICEF and others give is made deliberately in order to avoid having prejudiced policies interrupted by facts and realities.
MR. IBISH: Um-hum.
I would invite the next question, and let me just remind you, please, to identify yourself, and, please, be brief. Sir.
Q: Gene Bird from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
You have danced around some very interesting regional questions regarding Iraq, and I would like to return to Ambassador Maksoud's statement that there needs to be a review of U.S. Middle East policy. Obviously, problems of domestic policy in the United States today and in Israel today are going to delay anything very substantive on the peace process for some time.
Chuck Hagel - Senator Hagel is the only Member of the Congress that I know that just a few weeks ago, in a similar Iraqi panel, suggested that there was a linkage between progress or lack of progress on the peace process, including on Lebanon, and the activities and aggressiveness of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
I would like to ask - okay. We know where we are, and we know where we'd like to get. Would the panel, individually, give us an idea of how we are going to get there, when there's only one member of Congress that is speaking honestly about this problem of the linkage between U.S. power to effectively bring about a peace process and the __________ of U.S. power in the United Nations and otherwise? Where -- how are we going to get this review -
MR. IBISH: Right. Okay -
DR. MAKSOUD: Let me just mention that when the attack on Iraq took place, after its invasion of Kuwait, President Bush stated very clearly that there is no linkage. What took place in Gaza between Monday and Wednesday is an indication of how closely linked are these various issues and challenges in the Arab world. As far as what to do in Congress, well, that's where a sort of politics interrupting policies has to be revisited, and in this respect, that is what I - there must be a bold attempt to break through from the established premises where the United States misreads much of what is taking place in the Arab world because it has confined itself to certain governing elites to shape their policy, and, therefore, become, as I said earlier, dismissive of anything that appears to be not in tune with those who are totally dependent on the strategic shielding of the United States to these regimes.
MR. IBISH: Phyllis Bennis.
MS. BENNIS: I think that it is important to recognize the degree to which U.S. strategy in the Middle East is driven, primarily, by the State Department and the Pentagon and, to some degree, Congress, not by the pro-Israeli lobby or other lobbies. I know this is a long-standing bone of contention.
I come down squarely on the side that the perceived national interest or the claimed national interest is what drives that policy, and the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby, and other lobbies as well, influence that in tactical ways, but not shaping the overall strategy. That makes the job of changing the strategy very difficult, because it means that we have to challenge the very fundamentals of what are assumed to be the basics of U.S. national interests in a given region, whether it be oil, whether it be the protection of and alliance with Israel, whether it be the creation of a market-friendly stability throughout the region. All of these are at the core of what the U.S. is trying to accomplish.
What we have to do, I think - and I think it's right to say that there is no leadership coming from Congress - we have to create a leadership from outside of Congress. There has to be a change in how the media covers this issue. There has to be a change in what are the operative assumptions that school children are taught through their textbooks, and through how the discourse on this issue emerges, so that the question isn't "How do we best defend U.S. control of oil access for its allies, how do we best maintain protection of Israel and how do we best create market-friendly democracies in the region?" but, rather, to reshape the issue to: "How does the U.S. behave in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world in ways that foster real democracy in all the countries, in ways that foster economic as well as political democracy, in ways that foster economic, as well as political human rights?" rather than starting with what are the interests of U.S. corporations, U.S. government, U.S. military contractors, and saying, "What is the best way to defend those?" We have to change the way the issue is addressed. It's a very difficult task, and I don't think that we can present - it would be dishonest of any of us to say, "Well, here's how we do it. Number one. Number two. Number three."
Part of what we're doing with this panel is trying to reshape that discourse, and understanding that it's a very long proposition, and it's not one that we're going to see the effects of tomorrow or next week.
MR. IBISH: Admiral Carroll.
ADMIRAL CARROLL: Very briefly, I would like to say that to address each of those questions and to advance U.S. interests in the Middle East, in every instance, cutting down the flow or arms into the region is the first and vital step, and that is something the United States, clearly, can take the lead in, to its own benefit, and strengthen the role of the UN in the process -- cut down the flow of arms to make the place more stable and secure.
MR. IBISH: Right.
Sir, you've been very patient.
Q: Richard Anderegg, S. Zeitung, Switzerland.
What Iraq are you talking about? I mean, the patchwork that came to being after the First World War was - well, falling apart. On the Kurdish side certainly and with the no-fly zones and with the treatment now that's all been broken wide open. Now, whether - you were all mentioning, I think, is the Sunni minority around Baghdad, and one factor that drives them to support Saddam Hussein is that they know that if - the way he's hollowed out successive generations of intelligencia, if he falls, it might well be the end of the Sunni domination of Iraq, and there you break open a hell of a lot of questions, and the feeling one gets here as a foreign correspondent is that actually there is nobody in the American government that has ever replaced the old Cold War foreign policy with a finer instrument, not to step with elephant's feet on problems.
MR. IBISH: Would you care to address that to any of our particular panelists?
Q: I don't know who -
MR. IBISH: All right. Who would like to - any
DR. MAKSOUD: Well, I mean, you know, in a way, I am a little bit old-fashioned. I mean, the minute somebody begins to talk about Sunni, Christian, Muslim, I feel - I feel - that it is a reality, however.
Q: I'm talking about Muslim and Muslim -
DR. MAKSOUD: Yes, no, no. I mean, Muslim, Shia, I mean, this is a new phenomenon in the Arab politics of the 50s and 60s, which have been sort of denounced recently by the so-called "practical realists".
So - but I really feel uncomfortable. I am giving you, once again, my gut feeling, my gut response. That doesn't mean it's a studied response.
Let me - you see, we are faced with a dilemma throughout the Arab world, and that dilemma is that the United States, the only superpower, fluctuates between a position that, "We are the leader of the world" -- good -- and, "We are not the global policeman of the world, and we determine to intervene when our 'national interests' are involved."
So the people outside the United States -- and perhaps Britain has its little empire -- don't know that there is such a series of ad-hoc policies that only a superpower can go and get away with.
The other thing is that this fluctuation - what is the national interest of the United States -- and that is the rub. What is the national interest of the United States in the region that we are discussing, in the Middle East? It is here where the United States has an arrested policy. It is here that the calculations are that the Arabs must not get together, that they cannot negotiate together - as we have seen either in Camp David or in the Oslo Agreement, and, lately, in Wye River. They are not supposed to. Any two getting together becomes, not a threat the United States, but a stronger bargaining position for Israel. So, in a way the reassessment of American policy becomes indispensable, so that its national interest is clear, and, therefore, that might inhibit transgressions on the national interest and the international community.
MR. IBISH: Um-hum.
MS. BENNIS: Just very briefly, I think that it is important to recognize realities that exist today. The Arab states that were established after World War I were, for the most part, established without a whole lot of concern about existing historical unities and disunities, but they are what exists -
DR. MAKSOUD: Cultural, ethnic, religious.
MS. BENNIS: - in both the Middle East and in Africa, and they're not up for challenge.
And I think it is also important to recognize that, internally, the claim that Iraq is somehow on the verge of dismantlement is really not accurate.
What has happened, as you have mentioned, is that the northern zone that has been cut off from -- economically -- from the rest of Iraq and provided with a separate system of UN food and medicine, that sort of thing. There has been a growing separation, but it's not one, as far as I've been able to tell, that leads to a demand for a severing of Iraq. The claim that was made early in the Gulf crisis, by the U.S. and others, that there is the threat of the dismemberment of Iraq if there is not a strong leader -- that sort of thing - which was used as the basis of allowing the Iraqi military to use helicopters against the Shia uprising and the Kurdish uprising that did emerge just after the war, I don't think those were accurate claims. I don't think that they reflected actual moves towards the collapse of the unity of the Iraqi state, and I don't think that U.S. policy, right now, is shaped by that. I think it's shaped, far more, by economic and political goals of the U.S. imposed on the region, almost despite what the impact might be on the internal situation. Those are just not considerations that are driving U.S. policy.
MR. IBISH: Okay. Admiral Carroll.
ADMIRAL CARROLL: I cannot begin to address the Sunni-Shia question, but the question of the dismemberment of Iraq is one of great importance. The Secretary of State, about three weeks ago, in a very public forum, casually proclaimed that the United States was prepared to guarantee the territorial integrity of Iraq if the central government were to lose control. This is a horrifying proposition. We need a strong central authority in Iraq, and we need not to be responsible for maintaining it. So all of our policies have to be directed toward, somehow or other, containing Saddam Hussein's ambitions, and restraining Iran's, Turkey's and Syria's ambitions with respect to Iraq, and that is going to take a tremendous amount of leadership, which is totally lacking in the UN now because the U.S. continues to go its own way.
MR. IBISH: Mr. Halliday.
MR. HALLIDAY: Well, yes, the Kurds have been mentioned frequently, and I think, of course, there is always a Kurdish dream of bringing together the 15 million or 20 million Kurds in Turkey and the 3 million or 4 million Kurds in Iran and the 3 million or so Kurds in Iraq and going for some independent state. I mean, we can understand very well why Kurds would think along those lines, but the fact is the political leaders have long since, I think, set that dream aside and acknowledge that there is no way it is going to happen. The Turks would never allow any independent, autonomous Kurdish region in the north of Iraq. They would probably invade the country. Only recently, they put a claim on Mosul as a Turkish territory. The Iranians would feel, probably, equally nervous. Barzani and Talabani have made it very clear, I think, in recent weeks, recent months, despite their concerns about the Baghdad regime, they know that their future is in Iraq. They plan to work and live within Iraq. What they are looking for is some sort of semi-autonomous status, which they have had for some time, and some recognition of their ethnic needs and differences, and they - under those conditions, they are prepared to stay within this stronger Iraq, which, I agree with the Admiral and other colleagues, that it is an essential part of the future for this region.
MR. IBISH: Sir.
Q: Khaled Elgindy, the Arab-American Institute.
Given what we've seen in terms of the over-personalization of this whole conflict, crisis, time and time again, and, really, the demonization of Saddam Hussein - personalizing the conflict to the point that Iraq is equated solely with his person, and the fact that there is a great deal of - I would say - machismo associated with the U.S. policy - when you hear Sandy Berger saying, "If he builds it, we will come," and, you know, quoting Hollywood, using these kinds of showmanship sort of tactics, you know -- Secretary of State Albright explaining the rationale for American policy in terms of, "Well, it's because we're American," and given that scenario and the severe isolation that has resulted from the military strikes against Iraq - maybe Admiral Carroll can address this specifically, and then the others can contribute - do any of you see a way out for the corner that the U.S. - this administration has backed itself into? Is there a reasonable way out that they can maintain their credibility, save some face, and, at the same time, articulate and develop a meaningful policy towards Iraq?
MR. IBISH: Admiral Carroll.
ADMIRAL CARROLL: I will begin by stating you have proposed the imponderable, almost.
The first thing we have to do is to quit making threats that we will act -- what was the President's exact words? "We will act multilaterally, where possible, and unilaterally, where necessary." We've got to quit putting that challenge in front of ourself. The only way I can see it can be done is by consciously deferring to the UN, promising our support, even paying our dues - that's rather radical - and handing off the decision-making to the international community, and then supporting the decision, even though it does not satisfy all of our immediate objectives.
Is that going to happen? Not with this present Congress. Jesse Helms is perhaps a bar all by himself to any such rational action, but that's what we have to do, quit being the superpower and become a contributor to a constructive and cooperative effort to maintain a peaceful world order.
MR. IBISH: All right. I think we're running out of time. So the last question will go to you, sir.
Q: Sam Husseini from the Institute for Public Accuracy.
To what extent can we take statements by the administration at their face value? For example, the U.S. administration says it wants compliance, but, then, contrary to the UN Resolution, says that the sanctions will stay in place, even if there is compliance with the weapons inspectors.
Didn't that undermine the weapons inspectors and lead to the destruction of UNSCOM, as we quite possibly see here?
And, now, they seem to be saying,"We want the regime of Saddam Hussein to fall," and yet they give aid to the opposition -- in effect, the kiss of death, as far as I can tell - and a bombing campaign that -- I don't know what regime could get overthrown in the midst of a bombing campaign. Are we to believe their pronouncement? Is it ineptness or is there some other undercurrent, possibly, as Hussein, in his introductory remarks, said, a movement towards a clash of civilizations, which, it seems to me, this does help to bring about? Whoever would like to respond.
MR. IBISH: Please. Phyllis Bennis will begin.
MS. BENNIS: I think that the - some of the things the administration says have to be taken at face value and some can't. I mean, I think that is the reality of any political actors, and this administration, perhaps, being more political than some, it's a very ambiguous situation.
I think what is true is that the U.S. would like to see Saddam Hussein overthrown.
I don't think that's the same in their mind as the regime being overthrown.
I think that for a long time they thought they didn't have to get even the person overthrown, despite the demonization, but, now, I think they have come to the conclusion that they have invested so much political capital in this battle of the big men that overthrowing the man has become very much a goal, without wanting, necessarily, to overthrow the regime that has played a rather positive role for them, in terms of militarization, in the past, of course, buying lots of weapons, keeping the population under control. All these things are sort of not bad for the U.S. There's a single oil industry that they can deal with when sanctions are lifted, that sort of thing. So I think, on the level of overthrowing the person, that is part of it.
I think the big problem with the demonization campaign, of course, is that the punishments aimed at this demon don't affect the demon at all, but affect the population as a whole. So the question of smart sanctions that can target ruling elites - military and economic elites and political elites - rather than the masses of the population, have yet to be created in a serious way. There are some small ones, but nothing really serious.
I do think that the U.S. has consistently moved the goal posts, as you have mentioned, on the question of what is required to lift sanctions. The U.S. has maintained that Iraq must abide by what is required in Resolution 687, but, at other times, has referred to other resolutions and linked them back to the oil sanctions. Now, whether it wants to do that unilaterally or whether it would fight to maintain the sanctions on that basis in the Security Council has never been tested, partly because the U.S., so far, has succeeded in preventing the kind of serious point-for-point sanctions change that Clovis Maksoud and others have discussed, where certain parts of compliance by Iraq would be met with the lifting of certain aspects of the sanctions. That has never been allowed to be tested. So until it is, I don't think we really know what the U.S. intention is, except we do know that the UN has no intention of allowing UN multilateralism to be the determinant of its policy in this region. It is keeping a unilateral grip on policy.
MR. IBISH: Ambassador Maksoud.
DR. MAKSOUD: Sometimes it is absolutely amazing that this - the policymakers in the United States have such a core of information, but it seems that the information is at the expense of analytical knowledge, and I say that with trepidation, because - first of all, $97 million for the outside opposition to remove an authoritarian regime only triggers a reaction that if the opposition is sponsored by -- whoever it is, and, in this case, by the Americans trained by the CIA, et cetera, et cetera - I mean, immediately, there is somebody in United States policymaking who thinks that that would be attractive to the Arabs. I mean, we might be underdeveloped, but we are not mentally retarded. (Laughter.) I mean, to even anticipate that such a development will take place is beyond comprehension.
The other thing is that - I mean, if there is to be a corrective, it has to come from within. It has to be deep rooted in the suffering, a realization of the limits of the power.
The misreading also applies to the fact that a certain relief is that the Arab summit is not taking place now.
A third aspect is that the United States is so sensitive to the Muslim sensitivities that it would not strike during Ramadan.
I mean, whoever is devising these policies - these, in a way, humiliating - I mean, Arabs, I think, for a long time, because of circumstances, have been humbled militarily in many instances, but I don't think that they - humbling is the prelude of humiliation. It is the prelude for a corrective, and that is where the United States, as the pivotal power -- everybody recognizes that it is the pivotal power, but it is not the unilateral power, and that is agitating all sorts of reactions to disavow pure American policies.
MR. IBISH: Thank you.
Well, as I began by saying, that this panel, we hoped, would be the first of a number in which we would cast a critical and questioning eye towards various U.S. Middle East policies, and I certainly hope that you'll join us for the next one.
Again, as I said, we sought not unanimity or uniformity, but insight and dialogue. I think we certainly received that from our distinguished panelists. So I would like to thank Admiral Carroll, Mr. Halliday, Ms. Bennis and Clovis Maksoud for joining us, and thank you all for joining us here.
On behalf of ADC, I would like to invite you to the next ADC Foreign Policy Symposium coming shortly. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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