The Guardian May 3, 2000

Iraq: Genocidal sanctions
Interview with Denis Halliday, Part II

After working for the United Nations Organisation for 30 years Denis 
Halliday resigned from the position of Assistant-Secretary General for 
Human Resources Management in 1998. At the time he was overseeing the "Oil 
for Food Program in Iraq. "There was no way I wanted to be associated with 
this program which effectively, through sanctions, had become genocidal, 
said Denis. By leaving the UNO Denis became free to speak out on the 
Program which, he said, had become "totally incompatible with the UN, its 
Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights. This is the second part of an 
interview with Denis by Anna Pha for The Guardian. (Part 1 of the 
interview appeared in The Guardian on April 19, issue No 997.)

Anna Pha: What is the purpose of the sanctions against Iraq?

Denis Halliday: The first regime of sanctions was intended to get 
Iraq out of Kuwait. And people accepted that and many pacifists endorsed 

It was endorsed because it was seen as an alternative to war. But of course 
when you sustain it for a long period it's a war in its own right, it kills 
people in a very silent, deadly way over a very long, long period.

That failed and the Gulf war then kicked in. There were all sorts of 
possibilities for peaceful settlement, Saddam himself made a number of 

Bush needed a war, he was losing an election, the Americans have been 
humiliated in the defeat of Vietnam, they wanted an easy win. They went for 
that war.

It was good business in every sense of the word. And they wanted to destroy 
Iraq and Saddam Hussein, their friend and ally who was so useful when he 
took on the Ayatolla Khomeini.

He was getting much too courageous and they decided to crush him and the 
country and they did it very effectively under the UN umbrella. It was the 
beginning of the UN tragedy in relation to Iraq.

So then the second regime of sanctions under Resolution 687 came in 1991. 
That has been declared by many international lawyers as illegal.

As a sustained comprehensive regime targeting the people of Iraq, in order 
to put pressure on the government of Iraq to disarm, that is quite 
irrational. But they sustained it for 10 years with horrible results.

The disarmament of the Iraqi Government has taken place under UNSCOM. They 
destroyed hundreds of thousands of tons of military equipment, 
manufacturing capability, chemicals, missiles  you name it.

To the point where Richard Butler [in charge of the UN inspections] 
announced clearly "there is no capacity in Iraq today for nuclear weapons, 
for long-range missiles, for chemical or biological warfare. It does not 

The potential, of course, exists because many of the scientists are still 
there. The potential for re-creating these capacities is undoubtedly there 
but not the capacity on the ground today.

Iraq presents no current threat to its neighbours.

In fact it's the reverse. It's the neighbours who are now dangerous. If 
Turkey invades Iraq at will  they've just been back in the north shooting 
and killing Kurds in Iraq.

Israel is another dangerous neighbour, not only does it have nuclear 
warheads but of course it invades Lebanon at will and there are no 
consequences, no sanctions against Israel.

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Abudabi  they've spent over a hundred 
billion dollars buying American arms  F16s, missiles, what have you.

Iraq is actually surrounded by aggressive, well-armed neighbours.

I often say that Saddam Hussein should get a cut from the Americans when 
they sell arms because he is the best salesman they've got in the Middle 

That regime came to an end thanks to Mr Butler who rather fictitiously 
created a new crisis which satisfied the Americans and then allowed Blair 
and Clinton to bomb Iraq in December 1998.

There were 400 Tomahawk missiles fired into the country, mainly Baghdad. 
That broke down the whole military inspections regime, finally Butler 
withdrew the inspectors and Saddam Hussein would never allow them back 

That led over one year to a third Resolution imposing economic sanctions; 
that is known as Resolution 1284 which Iraq has refused to accept, which 
reinstitutes the military inspections system under Hans Blix, the former 
head of the Atomic Energy Agency and designed to restart the whole process 
all over again.

This time holding out the carrot of suspending economic sanctions if 
everything works, say if they are good boys and do all the right things 
after say 10 months. The waiting period of 10 months condemns another 
50,000 children to death.

Apart from that, we all feel that the Americans are never going to accept 
that everything is well, after 10 months or even 20 months. They don't 
want those sanctions lifted, they made it very clear they are not going to 
lift sanctions.

The whole thing is a very insincere game, a very sinister game of 
sustaining economic sanctions with an impact which is well-known.

UNICEF, others, the General Secretary himself has reported repeatedly to 
the Council that Iraq is being destroyed, individuals are losing their 
lives by the continuation of economic sanctions.

When the [UN Security] Council makes a conscious decision to sustain those 
sanctions knowing the consequences, that constitutes in my mind intent  
intent to sustain a program which is genocidal.

That's why I use that charge that the member states of the Security Council 
are guilty of genocide in respect of the Iraqi people.

That is an appalling tragedy under any circumstances. For the United Nation 
to be guilty of genocide is appalling.

In the sense that it undermines totally the UN Charter, the UN 
Declaration on Human Right, the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, the Hague 
Conventions, it undermines the rights of women, the rights of the child; 
economic and social rights  you name it  the UN has destroyed itself, 
the very bases of its own foundation.

That is a huge crisis and tragedy for the United Nations.

I am not taking away that the first crisis is of course for the people of 

We are seeing a global institution, the only one we have falling apart and 
being seen world-wide, in Europe, in particular, in the South to have been 
absorbed by the United States.

It has become a creature of the United States and that's a great, great 

AP: What is behind this attack on Iraq?

DH: I think it's manifold. The industrial, military technology, 
media complex is very much behind it.

This is good business. This is really good business, this is billion-dollar 
business. They just sold in Abudabi  Abudabi is the size of a postage 
stamp  US$3.3 billion worth of F-16s the other day. That's good money. 
That's certainly part of it.

I think it began, to recover the lost face of the Vietnam defeat.

Bush had this whimp factor problem in those days, he wanted to be the tough 

Schwarzkopf was anxious to go, the military were looking for a battle, an 
easy one they knew they were going to win. They used the UN as an umbrella 
for an American policy.

They thought they needed the UN umbrella in those days. Since then they 
don't. Now we have UK, US attacking Iraq at will  the no-fly zones 
bombing runs without UN presence.

It's just the further loss of prestige of the UN, disregard of the UN by 
the UK and US in particular.

Underlying all of this there are two other factors: one is the oil 
industry, the strategic importance of controlling oil. Everybody else has 
basically succumbed except for Iran.

They wanted to control Iraq which has become very dangerous in terms of its 
prosperity and potential, highly educated sophisticated people with real 
potential for leadership.

Secondly, they wanted to punish their friend and their ally, Mr Saddam 
Hussein, the good guy who had worked with them taking on Ayatolla Khomeini 
when America, in particular, was incensed by the hostages and all the other 

And he unfortunately did that with a lot of help from the West and the 
United States. Military intelligence, chemical weapons, biological weapons 
came from the US. Sold with the approval of the Commerce Department.

I suppose he did a good job. He fought a terrible battle with the Iranians, 
a million people lost their lives, half of each country. Baker, the 
Secretary of State, and others said `we are happy with this, they are 
wiping each other out'. The arrogance of the United States is just mind-

And of course they almost did wipe each other out. Saddam emerged 
victorious in a sense though totally broke owing money to the Saudis, the 
Kuwaitis, Europe and everybody else, and not having good revenue from oil 
because Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, with the help of Americans, were flooding 
the market so prices were way down.

He couldn't repay his bills, he couldn't rebuild the economy, he couldn't 
get proper access to the sea, to the Gulf, because of Kuwait.

On top of all that Kuwait was stealing his oil, slant drilling his oil on 
the border. All these things combined led to the invasion. The Iraqis would 
say today that they had got signal from the Americans that it was OK, `it's 
not our business, go ahead'.

This was was an invitation designed to have it happen, and allow General 
Schwarzkopf and the boys to come in and destroy Iraq. Which they did.

It's exactly what the Americans wanted.

Having done that, they then decided to leave Saddam Hussein in power. It 
was strange at the time but it's really very clever because what they've 
done is to destroy the capacity of the country but they've left effective 
leadership which provides stability.

And that's what it's all about. Nobody cares about democracy, in fact 
democracy would be extremely dangerous in Iraq. It would terrify the Saudis 
and of course the Kuwaitis.

They've got stability, they've got a Kurdish population of three million 
which is not happy but not unhappy. They are willing to live and work with 
Baghdad. They looked around the neighbourhood  they looked at Iran and 
they looked at Turkey. And of course they decided that the best place to be 
is Kurds within Iraq.

Certainly not in Turkey where the Kurds have appalling problems with the 

In the Shia south, the majority of Iraqis are Shia, 65 per cent.

The reason the Sunnis run the country in a sense is the result of the 
typical British colonial policy of having a minority run the country. They 
did it just about everywhere they have been  India, Africa ...

You have this Sunni minority in charge of a country, the majority are Shia. 
Not just in the south. In Baghdad alone there are 1.5 million Shia living 
there. The Foreign Minister is a Shia. Many people in the government are 
Shia, or Kurdish or Sunni, or Christian  whatever. It is very much a 
secular state.

This conflict between Sunni and Shia is much stirred up, in my view, by 
overseas opposition including the United States. 

As you know after the Gulf War debacle, tremendous damage and criminality 
on the part of the UN forces, Bush had very much encouraged the Shia to 
rise, rebel against Baghdad. He did the same with the Kurds.

The Shia did rise up out of anger and frustration, given their experience 
in Kuwait, particularly the military were very much angry with Baghdad and 
were feeling abandoned.

And then they were slaughtered by the Americans, 20,000 were murdered by 
the Americans in the Basra road incident.

They rose  the Americans did not support them. They did not allow them to 
have access to equipment.

Worse, they actually provided cover for the Baghdad Government to come in 
with helicopter gunships and tanks and kill thousands of Shia in the south. 

Schwarzkopf was in the country. They all supervised the destruction of the 

When it came to the Kurds, they did exactly the same. They provided air 
cover for the helicopters of Baghdad to go in and destroy the Kurds. Again, 
thousands of people lost their lives.

These are civil wars.

There is a charge which gets people excited: "Saddam Hussein has killed his 
own people. It's true but it was under a situation of civil war.

There are not many countries in the world that unfortunately have not had 
to do the same thing. When you have an outbreak of rebellion or whatever, 
they are usually put down by central government and of course people get 
killed. That's part of the tragedy of our current world situation.

It was very true of Iraq, put down with great brutality but, as I said, 
supervised by the Americans which is an extraordinary irony, particularly 
as Bush claims he was a friend of the Kurds, and a friend of the Shia.

NEXT WEEK: in the third and final part of this interview Denis Halliday 
discusses the "no-fly zones, the US take-over of the United Nations and the 
need for reform of the UN.

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