Texas cowboy politics is the order of the day. The Bush Government is continuing to say that inspections don’t work, even though they do and are. Bush and Rumsfeld want to go it alone. They are willing to leave their “truest friend” Tony Blair in the dust if he can’t get it together and is sidelined by his own Labor party. In the cafeteria of the US Congress, anything that has the word French on the menu is being attacked, for want of a thoughtful and well reasoned argument about why it is better to let Hans Blix do his job until the job is done. So Republican supporters of the Bush Doctrine called a press conference, yes a press conference, to make a profound observation, namely that they hate all things French. So French Toast has become Freedom Toast and French Fries taste better because now they are to be called Freedom Fries. So what’s going to happen to French kissing?
But let us look beyond the swagger, bravado and outright dangers of Texas cowboy politics. The UN’s Oil for Food Program continues. And it’s working. This barter policy was implemented under Security Council Resolution 986 in 1995, five years after sanctions were imposed in 1990 (under Resolution 661) on Iraq following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Some 3.4 billion barrels of Iraqi oil valued at almost $64 billion have been exported under the programme since December 1996. Of this amount, 72 per cent of the total has been allocated towards humanitarian needs nationwide since December 2000. The balance goes to: Gulf War reparations through a Compensation Fund ,25 per cent, since December 2000; UN administrative and operational costs for the programme, 2.2 per cent, and costs for the weapons inspection programme 0.8 per cent, (quoting UN Iraq Programme sources).
The latest Food for Oil report (March 2003) shows that the program is maintaining the two-way flow of oil and food plus humanitarian supplies and infrastructure rehabilitation, without serious impediments, either by internal administrative measures or external interference. There are none and of course the program could work even better.
The Oil for Food Programme has been highly successful, by several independent accounts, largely due to the efficient food distribution system set up and implemented by the Government of Iraq. The nutritional value of the monthly food basket has doubled since 1996, with 2200 kilocalories being distributed per person per day. It is important to note that 60% of Iraq’s population depends exclusively on food distributed under this program. Under the Food for Oil Plus Programme, the Office of the UN Secretary General reports “notable achievements in the health sector. There have been no cases of polio in Iraq in the last 32 months” and “cholera has been eradicated in the three northern governorates.” (Source S 2002/1239). Malnutrition among children are half those in 1996. The numbers of underweight children has fallen from 23 % in 1996 to 10% in 2002. Chronic malnutrition has been reduced from 32 % in 1996 to 24% in 2002, and rates of acute malnutrition have seen a further reduction from 11% in 1996 to 5.4%. These are UN stats. In other words, the Food for Oil Program is meeting the basic minimum needs of ordinary Iraqis. In other words, Saddam Hussein is a monster but the Oil for Food Program, mainly under direct UN oversight, is working.
It’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the Food for Oil program, following the Bush Government’s threat of No Other way, War Any Day. It appears likely that the Food for Oil program will continue despite serious disruptions that can almost certainly be anticipated, if war begins. So the good work of the Security Council under Resolution 986, will likely be overshadowed and interrupted by the negative consequences flowing from Resolution 1442. Will the Food for Oil program be replaced by the Blood for Oil decree of President Bush? Cowboy politics rules, and some Resolutions seem to be made to be broken.