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Commentary :: Education : Human Rights : International
Truth and Demagoguery: Churchill's Erroneous View of the Iraq Sanctions
10 May 2005
The author of a courteous Churchill critique was urged to "read Churchill", as though, as a former student at CU Boulder, he wasn't already a result, Jeremy now has a renewed distaste for Churchill and his impact on the left, finding him, to be blunt, nothing short than a historical revisionist of the worst sort. This article focuses on wild claims made in the notorious 911 essay, and discovers them to be utter fabrications couched in terms which are, to again be blunt, are little short
In the notorious 911 Essay "On the Justince of Roosting Chickens" Ward Churchill claims that the purpose of the UN sanctions on Iraq was to exterminate Iraqi children. That is a gross revision of the history and warrants the most vigorous rejection by anyone who does not wish to delude themselves.

The sanctions were clearly developed to discourage Saddam and to protect the Kurds and the Shiites and the marsh Arabs. They were partly a boycott along the lines of the boycott of South Africa and the boycott of Israel which many people advocate today.

It is ludicrous to accept boycott and embargo as a legitimate tactic to use against the South African apartheid but, when used against the murderous Saddam, to designate the tactic as a horrible and evil crime against humanity. Yet that is exactly what Churchill asks us to believe.

That double standard of Professor Churchill is as reprehensible as any of the legendary distortions presented by Tony Blair and George Bush and should be rejected with equal vigor.

Saddam was a proven danger to the people of Iraq. He was a mass murderer. He defied the international conventions against biological and chemical weapons - and used them.

The reason for the sanctions was to stop him. The reason for the sanctions was not a racist attempt to wipe out a whole generation of Iraqi's as claimed by Churchill.

Not Only Does He Get the Facts Wrong, He Fans the Flames With A Straw Man Characterization of The Ugly American

It is particularly reprehensible that Churchill would use the terminlogy that he does, refering to Iraqi children as "little brown babies", as if the sanctions were the result of a vicious, murderous visceral racism. The sanctions were intended to help protect those people from chemical weapons attack, and to the extent they were part of a plan to force Saddam into compliance, or even regime change, they were at no time informed by the kind of racism that Churchill invokes.

In my opinion, for Churchill to use that kind of inflammatory imagery in his writing is itself quite racist.

The Overflights: Some Unpleasant Facts of History Ignored by Churchill

Saddam had been caught producing VX in 1995 and he had used Chemical Weapons against Iranian soldiers and Kurdish civilians

Saddam littered the landscape with dead bodies, victims of mustard gas and sarin. The only way to stop him was to prevent him from importing the precursor chemicals (such as chlorine) and to patrol the no-fly zone. Yet Churchill equates the economic boycott and embargo with genocide. He compares the overflight patrols, which seldom resulted in shooting, to the cowardly attack of 911, in which 3,000 non-combatants were mass murdered.

Out of tens of thousands of UN sanctioned overflights, there were seldom casualties. When there were casualties, those casualties were generally Iraq army who were operating SAM installations that were illegal under UN mandates.

It is not surprising that Ward Churchill tries to obscure the nature and purpose of the overflights and the embargo. What is surprising is that so many people actually believe him.

"Pacifist" Objections to the Sanctions Lead to A New Approach: The Oil for Food Program

It was Saddam who was the primary culprit in the high infant mortality rate in Iraq. The proof of that is that the clamor of humanitarians lead to abolition of the sanctions as then known, and a new approach was fashioned to address their concerns. The Oil for Food program was fashioned to address the public health consequences of the sanctions, a fact that Churchill conveniently overlooks in his attack on American intentions.

Note that Churchill's Roosting Chickens essay ruthlessly excorciates liberals and non-violence activists, as if no one cared about the impact of the sanctions on Iraq civilians. This is the same group of activists who succeeded in documenting the negative impact of the sancetion. The same group of activists who got the Oil for Food program put in, which was what needed to be done at that point in time.

Yet Churchill teaches a fictional account in which not one single solitary American ever did anything whatsoever to try to address the problem of sanctions impact on civilians. He then contradicts himself somewhat as he excorciates mere pacifist liberal activists as mere hand-wringers.

He then suggests that the anarchist black block kids, most of whom who knew very little about Iraq, were the vanguard of social change when they broke windows. Nobody in their right mind thinks that the relaxtion of the Iraq sanctions resulted from the blockers busting out windows in Seattle. To the extent that occured, it resulted from the very pacifistically inclined Left that Churchill despises as "putrid" because they prefered not to use property damage as a tactic.

Nevertheless, Saddam looted the Oil for Food program, and Churchill persists in his claim that American are to blame for all of the problems in Iraq during the 90's.

The sanctions had many bad side effects. But they were not a deliberate policy of genocide and to suggest otherwise is intellectually irresponsible in the extreme.

The Sanctions Prevented the Development of Mustard Gas

Prior to the first Iraq war, Saddam had an active nuclear program as well as Chemical Weapons which he had used with such gruesome consequences . The sanctions did serve the good purpose of putting a hold on his nucleur program . They also prevented him from importing material for continuing production of VX and mustard gas.

He circumvented the sanctions and imported 15 million tons of chlorine, only 10 million of which were accounted for and could have been used to produce mustard gas.

Yet Churchill pretends that the US was implementing an embargo which would have prevented Iraqis from disinfecting their water supply which is completely untrue.

There never was a US policy to undermine Iraq's ability to provide clean water. It did not exist. There is only Churchill's misrepresentation of a few lines of a report, buried under tens of thousands of pages of documents. The report made passing mention of the possibility of disease if people did not boil water and Saddam's regime neglected to prioritize clean drinking water.

Chlorine is a precursor to the production of Mustard Gas. Saddam had used mustard gas on the Kurds. Saddam had used deceptive practices to subvert the UN inspections. And Saddam had illegally produced chemical weapons after 1991.

There was every reason to restrict his import of chlorine. A report indicated that at some point there might be an adverse public health impact if people neglected to boil water.

Implicitly Racist to Suggest Iraqi's Can't Boil Water

Iraqi's are not primitive savages who cannot be made to understand when there is a need to boil drinking water. Churchill takes an obscure reference to a remote possibility that Iraqi's might have to boil their water if the situation deteriorated. He then proposes to us that that single remark is "proof" of a vast conspiracy to wipe out an entire generation of Iraqis, and he lays the blame at the feet of every man woman and child in the USA as justification for the 911 attack.

He ignores the fact that any such deterioration in Iraq's water supply would be as much a result of Saddam's diversion of water to military purposes as any action by the UN. He ignores the fact that it was the UN Security Council and not the US government that was ultimately responsible for the sanctions. Although Churchill never tires of reminding us that it was "brown" tots and toddlers he focuses on, he overlooks the fact that the total membership of the UN Security Council consisted of many representative of third world countries of various racial and ethnic groups.

The Reality

This presumed dire emergency never did materialize in Iraq. San Bernardino had bad water for a while. I don't see Churchill accusing the California Water Board of genocide.

Furthermore, whatever problems with the water supply did or did not develope utterly pall in signifigance compared to having Saddam's military spraying your house with mustard gas. Apparently Churchill's followers seem to think that having to boil your water is on the same level. But given a choice between the inconvenience of boiling their water, or a good dose of Mustard, Ithere is no doubt they would choose the latter.

Churchill used a few lines from the DOD report which discussed consequences if indeed the Iraqi water treatment facilities diverted their capacity to industrial production and Saddam neglected to furnish clean drinking water to the cities. The report was cautionary in that regard, and in no manner urged a deliberate attempt to impact the drinking water supplies. By no means did the report suggest that civilian public health impacts were to be encouraged.

Churchill puts over a misleading impression that the US was waging a war of genocide against Iraq. In actuality the lines in the report could be interpreted as much a caution against allowing civilian impact as anything else


And Yet Churchill argues a fiction that the purpose of the sanctions were a conspiracy of genocide, a patently false allegation which underlies the notorious essay "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens".

Undoubtedly, the vast majority of working people in this country do not buy into anything that Churchill has to say. Sadly, some portions of the intelligentsia seem to uncritically accept anything he writes as Gospel. Again, the intelligentsia trails the masses.

See also:

From Churchill's own citations in Roosting Chickens:

Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future

4. Causes of Suffering Sanctions are not the sole cause of human suffering in Iraq. The government of Iraq bears a heavy burden of responsibility due to the wars it has started, its lack of cooperation with the Security Council, its domestic repression, and its failure to use limited resources fairly.

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Re: Truth and Demagoguery: Churchill's Erroneous View of the Iraq Sanctions
10 May 2005
Pictures failed on reload; HTML not available as per drop down menu. Repost pictures if you can figure out how to, before nuking previous post. Thanks.
10 May 2005
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