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Friday, May 09, 2003
A few things need to be said about this.
First of all Schuett uses numbers that Matt Welch has argued were probably always too high and certainly have been two high for the last few years. And the figure that Schuett uses for the number of civilian deaths as a result of this war have been called into question by Josh Chafetz for overestimating the number of such deaths.
Additionally Schuett implies that the continuation of sanctions was the only alternative to war when in fact many opponents of the war were also opposed to sanctions.
Behind this assumption, is an idea that Schuett expressed in a response to yesterday's mth.blogspot.com entry and which is very popular in hawkish circles; that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein alone bears responsibility for the effect that sanctions had on the Iraqi people. Howard Fienberg of Tech Central Station expressed this idea relatively succinctly in a November 18 commentary:
If Iraqis' ill health, poverty and environment are merely the results of "war" and "sanctions," then it becomes the United States' fault, since they imposed these twin boogeymen on Iraq. But what if the boogeymen were just resulting from the actions of one person (whose last name does not end in Bush). Well, that would be too simple, wouldn't it?There is a major problem with this. Sanctions were first imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council on August 6, 1990 in response Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. After Iraq had been repelled from Kuwait, the Security Council decided in an April 8, 1991 resolution to continue to place sanctions on Iraq for an undetermined amount of time and demanded that, amongst other things, Iraq eliminate all of the weapons of mass destructions it had, cease the production of such weapons and stop sponsoring terrorism. Although sanctions were supposed to be up for review based on Iraq's compliance with the demands placed on it, the U.S. made it clear that so long as Saddam was in power they would support the sanctions. "My view is we don't want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power," President George H.W. Bush said in a much quoted comment from May 20, 1991. Similar views were expressed by officials in the Clinton Administration, and keep in mind that, as a permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S. could veto any move to lift sanctions. There appears to have been no way that sanctions could have been lifted so long as Saddam remained in power.
The removal of Saddam might seem like a reasonable demand and one that the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council were forced to make, but in reality there was nothing qualitatively or quantitatively unique amongst his misdeeds. In fact, all five of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -the People's Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation (which on April 8, 1991 was the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom and the U.S.- have arguably engaged in similar activities at one point in their histories and certainly many other countries have engaged in similar activities since the founding of the U.N. and not been subject to such treatment. The implementation and continuation of sanctions on Iraq should therefore be understood not as something that had to be done but rather as a choice that was made by the Security Council and therefore that the U.N. Security Council bears much, if not most, of the responsibility for the effects of the sanctions.
Even if one believes that sanctions on Iraq were a necessary response to the misdeeds of Saddam's regime, it is nevertheless important to place responsibility for at least some of the effects of the response on those who responded as a way of ensuring an appropriate response to the misdeed. A response that is "proportional to the injury suffered" is one element of "the just war doctrine." While some may not agree with all elements of that theory, the fact that responses should "proportional" is generally accepted hence most societies do not believe execution is an appropriate punishment for petty offenses and country X would hardly be justified in attacking country Y with nuclear weapons because Y had violated an element of a trade agreement by X and Y. Similarly if the Security Council is not held responsible for how it responded to Saddam's misdeeds, then any response at all would be appropriate. The Security Council could have authorize the killing of every Iraqi and Saddam would have been responsible.
For the sake of the argument, let's say Saddam is responsible for the effects of sanctions on Iraq. It would seemingly also be true that he is responsible for putting the U.S. in a position where it needed to invade the country and depose of Saddam's regime. If that is true, then the "free Iraq" President George W. Bush has promised is also the work of Saddam. I doubt it is presumptuous to assume readers of this blog see the problem with such thinking.
None of this necessarily means that sanctions on Iraq were not just or that Saddam did not act in ways that prevented as much possibility relief for the Iraqi people as was possible. Those are issues for another time. However just or unjust the actions of the Security Council or Saddam were, the responsibility for the sanctions does rest with the Security Council.
After arguing that Saddam was to blame for all of the effects of the sanctions, and saying, at another point is the same entry this post is responding to, saying, "I don't understand how any can blame anyone but Saddam for those deaths," Schuett does in fact blame opponents of the stage of the war that would come to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom for delaying the war and furthering hurting the Iraqi people. I'm not positive he is being sarcastic, but I will assume that he is, since it is at odds with what else he has said, unless I hear otherwise.