Saddam lets his people suffer as he leaves billions unspent

editorial@web.fairfax.com.au
 
To the Editor:

With so many Iraqis starved and diseased to death by the sanctions, Mark
Riley owes Herald readers more than just repetition of US State Department
charges.  ["Saddam lets his people suffer as he leaves billions unspent,"
March 1, 2001.]

All three heads of the "oil-for food" program, Denis Halliday and Hans von
Sponeck (who both resigned in protest over the sanctions) and now Tun Myat
have reported that Iraq's use of the program was the best it could be.

So why has a problem suddenly developed, with only a portion of the money
"unspent"?

First, Riley should have told us that, according to the UN set-up, Iraq
can't apply for its own funds.  It must make contracts, and the provider
must apply for the funds.  If the provider doesn't apply, what can Iraq do?

Then, he might have checked with Tun Myat, who currently runs the program in
Baghdad.  He reports that the difficulties are "nothing sinister," but the
result of a change of Iraqi law, trying to eliminate middlemen (who often
cheat Iraq on the quantity and quality of goods provided) [Reuters, Jan 30
Interview: http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/reuters20010130_801.html].

He might have called Hans von Sponeck, who pointed out that Iraq had relied
on its new pharmeceutical plant to provide its own medicines, but that the
plant had failed to produce as expected.

All these together accounted for the shortfall of applications.

Finally, it is simply disingenuous to blame Iraq for money that is
"unspent."  Even after the money is applied for, spending for contracts can
still be vetoed by members of Committee 661.  Or held up by the Bank of
Paris itself, which holds the account in escrow for the UN.  When the funds
are applied for, and a country like the US exercises its veto more 1,000
times over those applications, it isn't hard to figure out who is to blame
for the "unspent" money.
 

(Rev.) G. Simon Harak, S. J.

West Side Jesuit Community
220 West 98th Street
New York, NY  10025-5669
Tel: 212-663-3599; Fax: 360-358-2055
Email: GSHarakSJ@yahoo.com