Iraq suffers under America's heel

Here in Australia there has been considerable coverage of the Australian Wheat Board's "dodgy" contracts with Iraq during the oil-for-food programme. I won't go into details, but it looks as though the AWB was complicit in getting quite a few million extra dollars to Saddam's regime.

All up, the statistics are interesting. According to the Wikipedia article, the Oil For Food programme generated $65 Billion over the years that it was running. Of that amount, $46 Billion went directly for humanitarian needs, with the rest being directed towards Gulf-war reparations, UN administrative costs (for the programme) as well as directly funding weapons inspectors operating in Iraq during that period.

In addition to this $65 Billion, it appears that Saddam managed to gain $10.1 Billion via oil smuggling and ilicit surcharges.

Sadly, because of the investigation into this corruption, it appears as though many have "written off" the programme as being entirely given over to corruption and graft.

The reason why the Oil for Food Prgramme was set up by the UN was in a direct response to reports by UNICEF that the infant mortality rate in Iraq since the Gulf War was horrendously high. UNICEF, a department within the UN dedicated to helping children in underdeveloped countries, managed to convince the UN hierarchy (ie the ambassadors sent by every nation that meet in the General Assembly) that something needed to be done to ensure that Iraqs were able to gain food while at the same time keep Iraq free from developing WMDs.

I will say this simply - the Oil For Food Programme was a complete success. According to a UN foundation website:

...the OFFP enabled the importation of enough food to feed all 27 million Iraqis. During its existence, the average daily caloric intake of the people of Iraq increased 83 percent, from 1,200 kilocalories to 2,200 kilocalories per person per day. In addition, malnutrition rates in 2002 in the central and southern part of the country were half those in 1996 among children under the age of five; in the three northern governorates, chronic malnutrition decreased 56 percent.

According to an article in the November 21, 2004 edition of The Washington Post:

"International aid efforts and the U.N. oil-for-food program helped reduce the ruinous impact of sanctions, and the rate of acute malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis gradually dropped from a peak of 11 percent in 1996 to 4 percent in 2002."

This same article documented that malnutrition rates in Iraq have increased substantially since the end of the Oil-for-Food Program, from 4% to 7.7%.

Between 1997 and 2002, the capacity to undertake major surgeries increased by 40% and laboratory investigations increased by 25% in the center and south of Iraq. Communicable diseases, including cholera, malaria, measles, mumps, meningitis and tuberculosis were reduced in the center/south of Iraq during this period. As of May 29, 2003, there had been no cases of polio in Iraq for more than three years. In the three northern governorates, cholera was eradicated and the incidence of malaria reduced to the 1991 level. Vaccinations reduced measles morbidity considerably.

Preliminary findings indicate that between 1996 and 2002 there was a reduction in the number of underweight children from 23% to 10%; chronic malnutrition decreased from 32% to 24%; and acute malnutrition dropped from 11% to 5.4%. There were also significant improvements made to transportation, water and sanitation treatment facilities, agriculture, telecommunications and education among other infrastructure benefits.

So while Saddam was getting $10.1 Billion in illegal money, and while various people (including the AWB it seems) were also getting wealthy due to corruption, Iraqi children and families were getting more food and medical supplies, and the weapons inspection team obviously was able to keep Iraq from developing WMDs (something which is obvious now that none have been found).

All of this raises the question again of why it was necessary for America to invade. The UN sanctions which had kept Iraq from developing WMDs meant that Iraq was no threat to the US nor to any other nation. These sanctions unfortunately ended up exacerbating an infant mortality rate that was always going to high after America destroyed most of Iraq's civil infrastructure during the 1991 Gulf War. The Oil For Food Programme ensured that these negative social effects were being addressed and was in the process of fixing them quite successfully at the time America invaded in 2003.

So while it cannot be denied that Saddam and others made money on the deal, the fact is that the Programme managed to keep Iraq from developing WMDs, while at the same time feeding ordinary Iraqis and reducing infant mortality rates.

Moreover, the deaths attributed to the sanctions cannot be blamed upon Saddam, but upon the sanctions that were set up by the Gulf War protagonists - sanctions that killed Iraqi infants until UNICEF, part of the United Nations, managed to convince the world that something needed to be done.

Sadly, it appears as though the current rebuilding effort is completely corrupt and is going nowhere. "Riverbend", the pseudonym of an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, has posted a recent article comparing the current rebuilding efforts done by international contractors with the rebuilding done by Iraqis after the first Gulf War. In this article she points out with pride that ordinary Iraqis managed to rebuild the nation within two years of the 1991 war, while two years on from the 2003 invasion, there is much to be done. She says:

Two years (after 1991) and approximately 8 billion Iraqi dinars later, nearly 90% of the damage had been repaired. It took an estimated 6,000 engineers (all Iraqi), 42,000 technicians, and 12,000 administrators, but bridges were soon up again, telephones were more or less functioning in most areas, refineries were working, water was running and electricity wasn’t back 100%, but it was certainly better than it is today. Within the first two years over 100 small and large bridges had been reconstructed, 16 refineries, over 50 factories and industrial compounds, etc.

It wasn’t perfect- it wasn’t Halliburton… It wasn’t KBR…but it was Iraqi. There was that sense of satisfaction and pride looking upon a building or bridge that was damaged during the war and seeing it up and running and looking better than it did before.

Now, nearly three years after this war, the buildings are still piles of debris. Electricity is terrible. Water is cut off for days at a time. Telephone lines come and go. Oil production isn’t even at pre-war levels… and Iraqis hear about the billions upon billions that come and go. A billion here for security… Five hundred million there for the infrastructure… Millions for voting… Iraq falling into deeper debt… Engineers without jobs simply because they are not a part of this political party or that religious group… And the country still in shambles.

All of this is, to me, anecdotal evidence that the Iraqis are far worse off since the invasion than what they would have been under Saddam. This is not to somehow say Saddam is wonderful and great - but it should indicate just how much worse the American occupation actually is compared to a tinpot dictator.

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Dave Lankshear said...

Hi Neil,
another very interesting post.
Yes, I'll definitely have to rethink my position on the oil for food program. I don't know if I would applaud it as enthusiastically as you do though. Look again at the figures you quote.

In addition, malnutrition rates in 2002 in the central and southern part of the country were half those in 1996 among children under the age of five;

It raises a few questions.
How many children were still experiencing malnutrition in 1996?
Why did it take 5 years after the first Gulf war to prevent childhood malnutrition, and why were half of those children still malnourished 11 years after the Gulf War 1? Malnourished children does not sound like "Jus Post Bellum" to me.

Also, a few medical statistics need further light cast on them.

As of May 29, 2003, there had been no cases of polio in Iraq for more than three years. In the three northern governorates, cholera was eradicated and the incidence of malaria reduced to the 1991 level. Vaccinations reduced measles morbidity considerably.

My obvious question is why were there any cases of polio 9 years after the first Gulf War, rather than applauding the fact that they finally started to vanquish the problem by then (proved by the 3 year abscence of polio developing by 2003). Why did it take that long to deal with other health care issues such as malaria and why are there issues with measles morbidity?

Also, lets not forget that an estimated 1 million extra babies were stillborn than pre-sanctions levels, and an estimated 500 thousand children died as a result of easily preventable diseases. (I've deleted all my sources, as I swore I was never going to debate Iraq again! :-)

So I guess the fact that this report acknowledges that there were still malnourished children 12 years after the first gulf war, I would not call the oil for food program a glowing success.

It's personal. While Harry was on chemo, I effectively saw chemo induced "starvation" to the point where Harry's bony, pointy bottom hurt sitting in the bath because it was bone on enamel.
Starvation is not pretty. That this occurs anywhere in the world is horrific, and that starvation occured in a country that we defeated but then ultimately failed to properly conquer and heal through "Jus Post Bellum" should shame us all.

"Jus Post Bellum" and "Humanitarian Intervention" concerns may still have applied to Iraq up until 2003... I still need more information. These posts are interesting, and I grant that the oil for food program was better than I have previously still thought, although I still judge it as unacceptable due to their being significant populations of malnourished children.

Do you know the figures for Western country in a per childhood capita basis? Some kind of statistical comparison would be more useful than the way these latest reports have been compiled. Malnourishment in half those in 1996 among children under the age of five; is a vague way to discuss the figures.

One Salient Oversight said...

There's a number of places to check. The first would be the CIA world factbook which gives lots of demographic and social comparisons.

You could also look up the original UNICEF report into the problems that the sanctions were causing, including specific information about certain diseases and so on.

And, of course, the UN has lots of info on country comparisons, especially the Human Development Index which has all sorts of medical info available.

It's good that you're calling into question the sources that I have quoted. However, remember that one of the sources is an official UN website - so it is either objective in its analysis or skewed by the world conquering conspirators who run the UN.

I'd like to give you the information myself, but I read them and analyzed them about 6-9 months ago. Happy hunting.