Excerpted from the July 19, 2000 issue of Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo, Egypt):
Death For Oil
An Interview With Dennis Halliday, Ex-UN Assistant Secretary-General Heading The UN Humanitarian Mission In Iraq.
by Amira Howeidy
Dennis Halliday is probably the most high-profile critic of continuing sanctions against Iraq the world over. He should know. As UN assistant secretary-general heading the international organisation's humanitarian mission in Iraq he was first hand witness to the havoc the sanctions were wreaking on the country and its people. In 1998 he resigned in disgust.
While in Cairo last week, Halliday found time to talk to Amira Howeidy about the 10-year long genocidal war still being launched against Iraq and the medieval tactics used in a dangerous game masterminded by Washington.
On 9 June, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1302, which extends the Oil-for-Food programme for another 180 days. How do you evaluate this resolution and should we expect improvement in the plight of the Iraqi people?
Halliday: Resolution 1302 is a continuation of the Oil-for-Food programme, which was not designed to resolve the crisis in Iraq. When it was assembled in 1996, it was designed to stop further deterioration. But the fact is that Oil-for-Food has sustained the humanitarian crisis. Mortality rates of children under five years of age still remain at 5,000 per month, plus an additional 2,000-3,000 people per month among adults, other children and teenagers. These people are dying because of bad water, inadequate diets, broken down hospital care and collapsed systems.
We have massive malnutrition in Iraq, despite the Oil-for-Food programme. There is a huge social collapse, families falling apart with children out of school taking to the streets. The electric power is 35 per cent of what it was in 1990. So the Oil-for-Food programme has totally failed to bring about the well being of the Iraqi people. Having said that, it has, however, provided something like 20 million tonnes of basic food. It does make a huge difference in keeping the Iraqi people alive -- but only barely alive. The conditions in Iraq today under the UN economic sanctions and the Oil-for-Food programme constitute famine conditions. The average birth weight of a child in Iraq today is less than five pounds. That is an indicator of famine. The Oil-for-Food programme is something that the UN should be ashamed of. It is a continuation of the genocide that the economic embargo has placed on Iraq.
I say genocide because it is an intentional programme to destroy a culture, a people, a country -- economic sanctions are known to do that. [Secretary of State Madeleine] Albright herself acknowledged half a million dead children back in 1996. Yet the member states -- the United States and the United Kingdom in particular -- have continued the economic embargo despite their knowledge of the death rate of Iraqi children. That is genocide.
…Calls are now being made to have Western leaders who caused this genocide sit trial in the War Criminals Tribunal. Is this possible and do you support such calls?
Halliday: I do. I think it has become known as the Pinochet tactic. Pinochet has done us all a favour by being vulnerable and being caught -- even though he was released. It was a signal to everybody from Bush, Albright to Hussein; men and women alike who make decisions that constitute crimes against humanity have got to watch out. They're not free to travel, they're not free to do these things. They will be -- and must be -- prosecuted.
So you think President Bill Clinton should be tried?
Halliday: Absolutely. He is the commander-in-chief and he approved the bombing of Iraq, for example, in December 1998. There was no justification for this, no UN resolution. It is a breach of international law. It is outrageous and it is, of course, a crime against humanity.