The U.N.'s Oil-for-Food Program -- and consequences for Iraq's civilian population
Article from The Economist magazine (4/00)
Hans von Sponeck, director of oil-for-food program 1999-2000
Tun Myat, director of oil-for-food program 2001-present
Denis Halliday, director of oil-for-food program 1997-1998
Article from The Economist magazine, April 8, 2000
The Economist magazine, "Iraq and the West: When sanctions don't work," April 8th, 2000, page 24. The full article is at www.endiraqsanctions.org/economist-2000April08.html. Emphasis added.
"Originally, the [U.N.] Security Council authorised Iraq to sell $1.32 billion-worth of oil every six months to cover humanitarian imports. Large as the sum sounds, it provided little more than a dollar a month to cover food and medicine for each Iraqi, not to mention repairs to infrastructure. ...
"In 1998, faced with such obvious shortcomings, the council raised the limit on humanitarian purchases to $3.4 billion. The situation scarcely improved. Iraq's oil pumps and pipelines had fallen into such disrepair that it could not export enough oil to meet its new allowance, despite having the second-largest reserves."
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Hans von Sponeck, former director of oil-for-food program
Mr. Hans von Sponeck -- the second head of the oil-for-food program in Iraq and the second UN Assistant Secretary General to resign to protest US/UN sanctions on Iraq -- spoke in Baghdad to a delegation sponsored by Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility on April 5, 1999. The full transcript is at www.endiraqsanctions.org/vonsponeck.html. Emphasis added.
Q: "But what about the oil-for-food program? Because you gave the...half yearly income. Can you explain where those figures come from, because at the moment, in theory, Iraq is allowed to raise I think 5.26 billion [dollars]?"
V: "Well, you know, it's 5.2 [billion] since May of last year. The oil industry is in such bad shape that it cannot meet that. Plus the oil prices are poor, were poor. From a high of $16, $17 per barrel, it went down as low as $8 per barrel. So the income has not been what was expected. It's less. So, instead of 5.2, it was closer to 3 billion. Out of the 3 billion [dollars], you have to deduct 30% which go the Iraq Compensation Commission in Geneva that looks at government, industry, and individual claims for compensation arising out of the Kuwait-Iraq War. Then comes out of that 0.8% for UNSCOM, [and] 2.2[%] overhead for the whole running of the program. And then you end up with something which is in the neighborhood, as I said, of $1.7 and $2.0 billion per six months. On a 12 month basis, you have let's say $4 billion for 22-and-a-half million people. If you divide that, you get per person about $177 per year. And that is obviously a totally, totally inadequate figure..."
Q: "It seems to me that the infrastructure has to be repaired in order to return the citizens here to a decent standard of living, so they can drink their water safely, so they don't have brown-outs of electricity everyday. Do you see any prospects of that happening in the near future with sanctions as they might, or are likely to, continue under all of the constraints you have described to us?"
V: No, the money isn't there...The lead up time - if you free sanctions, let sanctions go tomorrow - it will take years before you have an uptake in revenue. ... So, you know, it is not going to be today a problem and tomorrow, no sanctions, end of the problem. I think the catching up, also the fact that you have such a large number of people who by now should be in medium level leadership positions and who are in nothing, to make them really competent, it will take also time. I think it will take 10 plus years...before you get back to...from the moment sanctions are dropped to a more normal situation.
Hans von Sponeck, at a public talk in Seattle, Washington, November 9, 2001. (By this time, Mr. von Sponeck had resigned his UN career to speak against US/UN sanctions.) Transcript at www.endiraqsanctions.org/vonsponeck-2001nov09.html. Emphasis added.
"... what actually had arrived during that period from December '96 to July 2001 is half of it: $13.5 billion. And that translates into a per capita figure of -- and I call this, and you understand why, the $119.70 scandal. Because it is clearly a scandal! $119.70 is the entire amount that Iraqi civilians got as benefits under the oil for food program per year per person. And that is for what? That is not an amount in the pocket. This is for food, for medicines, for water, for sanitation, for agriculture, for electricity, and for education. That is nothing.
"So how -- each time I say what I say to you now, I get really upset - on the 5th of December, last year, the US ambassador to the Security Council, goes before the Council and says the US government is satisfied that the oil for food program meets the needs of the Iraqi people. You can read it. It's a public document. $119.70 is enough to meet the needs of the Iraqi people? I can't comprehend it."
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Tun Myat, director of oil-for-food program
Tun Myat is the third UN head of the oil-for-food program in Iraq. He spoke to a visiting delegation in Baghdad, May 14, 2002.
"No matter how much you try and modify [the existing program of 'smart sanctions'], it is not designed for -- and it will never be -- a substitute for normal economic activity." [When asked about Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, his two predecessors, who had resigned, he said] "If by my resigning today, sanctions would be lifted tomorrow, I would be very happy to do so."
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Denis Halliday, former director of oil-for-food program
Denis Halliday, [after his resignation as UN Assistant Secretary General to protest sanctions] October 18, 1998, NY Times, p 4.
"Sanctions are starving to death 6,000 Iraqi infants every month, ignoring the human rights of ordinary Iraqis, and turning a whole generation against the West. ... I no longer want to be part of that."
"We are in the process of destroying an entire society... It is as simple and terrifying as that."
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To learn why it was necessary to implement
the Oil-for-Food program, click here.
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