David Cortright

8 Essential Lessons We Learned From the Vietnam Antiwar Movement

The Vietnam War is back, suddenly re-appearing in public consciousness on the 50th anniversary of the US escalation and 40thanniversary of the war’s end. In late April PBS aired several documentaries on the war—including My Lai Massacre, Last Days in Vietnam and The Draft. The Nation, Harpers, Mother Jones, AARP,The New Yorker and many other magazines have published feature articles in recent weeks.

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Into the Breach

U.S. officials have declared Iraq in material breach of its obligation to present a "full and complete" declaration of its weapons of mass destruction. As a factual matter the Iraqi declaration is indeed inadequate. But Baghdad's failure to provide a satisfactory weapons report is not a deal breaker. It will not prevent the UN from achieving the effective disarmament of Iraq, and it is not a legal justification for war.

Iraq has been in violation of the obligation to report its weapons holdings for more than 11 years, since the Security Council first imposed this requirement in Resolution 707 in Aug. 1991. The most recent Security Council measure, Resolution 1441 adopted in Nov. 2002, acknowledged this pattern of deceit by declaring Iraq in material breach. During the 1990s Iraq submitted several weapons declarations, none of which was full or complete. Baghdad's most recent report apparently follows the same pattern. Although some 12,000 pages in length, the Iraqi document has "not much significant new information," according to chief UN inspector Hans Blix. U.S. Secretary of State Powell said that the document contains "serious omissions."

At issue is Iraq's apparent failure to address uncertainties identified by previous UN inspections. The Jan. 1999 final report of the earlier UN special commission and a Mar. 1999 Security Council report raised questions about a number of unresolved weapons issues. These included Iraq's failure to document its claim to have destroyed chemical weapons and missile warheads. Also unaccounted for were large volumes of chemical precursor elements, biological growth media and more than a dozen indigenously produced Iraqi missiles. In the new report, according to Blix, most of these uncertainties "remain unresolved."

According to Blix's Dec. 19 statement to the Security Council, the Iraqi declaration consists mostly of a rehash of previously submitted documents. In a few areas, however, the declaration provides useful new information. According to Blix, the report provides new documentation on chemical weapons that may "help to achieve a better understanding of the fate of the precursors." The report also provides information on the import of aluminum tubes for a short-range rocket system. This information, in Blix's words, "may be relevant to well-publicized reports concerning the importation of aluminum tubes." This is a diplomatic way of saying that U.S. and British claims about the use of these tubes for uranium enrichment may be incorrect. On the other hand, the report omits previously submitted information about the import of bacterial growth media used for the production of anthrax.

The overall impression is that the Iraqi weapons declaration is seriously flawed. This is a matter of concern, but it is not a major threat to security. It is important to keep Iraq's weapons declaration in perspective. None of the reported omissions or discrepancies involves the capability to develop nuclear weapons. Nor is there any reported indication that Iraq has functional long-range missiles. The concerns about chemical or biological capabilities involve mostly precursor elements not militarily deliverable weapons. There is no evidence from the report or in anything UN inspectors have revealed so far that Iraq has rebuilt its weapons of mass destruction. Blix told the Security Council that at this point the UN commission is "neither in a position to confirm . . . nor in possession of evidence to disprove" Iraq's claim that it no longer has such weapons.

On the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence that most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were eliminated in the 1990s. UN reports confirm that previous weapons inspections dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons infrastructure, accounted for all but two of Iraq's 819 Scud missiles, and destroyed all of the country's known chemical and biological weapons production facilities. Nothing in the new Iraqi declaration or the U.S. and UN reaction to it suggests anything different. Iraq is a weakened power. It suffered military defeat in 1991, more than a decade of UN sanctions and 7 years of vigorous on-site inspections, all of which resulted in a significant reduction of its capacity to commit aggression or develop weapons of mass destruction.

Under the terms of Resolution 1441 the lack of a complete weapons disclosure is not meant to be a trigger for military action. Indeed there is nothing in the resolution referring to the use of military force. Further sanctions and tightening of existing restrictions on military related imports could be imposed in response to Iraq's inadequate disclosure. However, the resolution says only that, in the event of "further material breach," Iraq will face "serious consequences." The diplomatic understanding among members of the Security Council is that a determination of further material breach would be justified only if Iraq interfered with the ongoing UN weapons inspections. U.S. and British officials agreed to this interpretation in the political maneuvering that led to the adoption of Resolution 1441. An inadequate weapons declaration alone does not constitute "further material breach." Iraq must also obstruct weapons monitoring efforts.

To date that second condition has not been met. The inspection process has proceeded smoothly so far. In their first three weeks of operation the new UN weapons commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have conducted more than 130 inspections. To date they have not met any Iraqi interference or obstruction. The inspectors have had unfettered access to all sites and complete freedom of movement, as required in the new resolution.

The determination of whether Iraq is in further material breach is a matter to be decided by the full Security Council not a single government. Under the terms of Resolution 1441 it is up to the Security Council to meet and decide whether Iraq is in further violation of its obligations. It is also up to the Council to consider the nature of the "serious consequences" that Iraq should face in the event of defiance. There is no authority in the current resolution for a single government to take action on the basis of a determination of material breach. As a practical matter, as long as Iraq gives UN inspectors free rein and does not interfere with the weapons inspectors, it is unlikely that the Security Council will make a determination of further material breach or be willing to consider more forceful action.

The lack of a complete weapons declaration complicates the task of disarming Iraq, but it does not prevent the process from proceeding. If UN monitors are able to conduct continuing inspections throughout the country, they will be able to assure Iraq's effective disarmament. On-site monitoring is the key to disarmament. Blix has indicated that his team of more than 200 trained professionals will conduct as many as 1,000 inspection visits to potential weapons sites in the coming months. As long as this process continues, the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction will be neutralized.

UN inspectors are now installing an Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) system. The OMV system involves the installation of an elaborate array of radiological and chemical sensors, cameras, seismographs and other detection systems at numerous locations throughout Iraq. This will be supplemented by no-notice inspections in which UN monitors verify the disarmament of designated locations. The OMV system is designed to provide monitoring of potential weapons sites on a permanent basis. Once this system is in place, which may come as early as Feb., UN monitors will have a sophisticated capability to detect nuclear, chemical or biological weapons activity. The OMV system will provide a high degree of assurance that any significant weapons activity can be detected.

The resumption of on-site weapons monitoring provides a substantial security benefit. The presence of hundreds of highly trained weapons specialists, conducting dozens of on-site inspections every week, equipped with the world's most advanced detection technology, will enable UN officials to detect any militarily significant weapons activity. Iraq will not be able to develop or use any substantial nuclear, ballistic missile, chemical or biological weapons capability as long as UN weapons inspector remain in the country. The continued monitoring and verification of Iraq's potential weapons capability provides security guarantees against the threat of weapons of mass destruction.

If the goal is assuring Iraq's disarmament, that goal is already being met. Never before has the international community been able to mount such a comprehensive weapons verification and monitoring effort. In Aug. 2002 Vice President Dick Cheney described UN weapons monitoring of the 1990s as "the most intrusive system of arms control in history." The new monitoring system now being installed in Iraq is equally intrusive and is employing even more advanced technology. The current UN weapons inspection process can assure Iraq's effective disarmament.

David Cortright is president of Fourth Freedom Forum, Goshen, IN, and a research fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame.

An Urgent Call to End Nuclear Danger

A decade after the end of the cold war, the peril of nuclear destruction is mounting. The great powers have refused to give up nuclear arms, other countries are producing them and terrorist groups are trying to acquire them.

Poorly guarded warheads and nuclear material in the former Soviet Union may fall into the hands of terrorists. The Bush Administration is developing nuclear "bunker busters" and threatening to use them against nonnuclear countries. The risk of nuclear war between India and Pakistan is grave.

Despite the end of the cold war, the United States plans to keep large numbers of nuclear weapons indefinitely. The latest US-Russian treaty, which will cut deployed strategic warheads to 2,200, leaves both nations facing "assured destruction" and lets them keep total arsenals (active and inactive, strategic and tactical) of more than 10,000 warheads each.

The dangers posed by huge arsenals, threats of use, proliferation and terrorism are linked: The nuclear powers' refusal to disarm fuels proliferation, and proliferation makes nuclear materials more accessible to terrorists.

The events of September 11 brought home to Americans what it means to experience a catastrophic attack. Yet the horrifying losses that day were only a fraction of what any nation would suffer if a single nuclear weapon were used on a city.

The drift toward catastrophe must be reversed. Safety from nuclear destruction must be our goal. We can reach it only by reducing and then eliminating nuclear arms under binding agreements.

We therefore call on the United States and Russia to fulfill their commitments under the nonproliferation treaty to move together with the other nuclear powers, step by carefully inspected and verified step, to the abolition of nuclear weapons. As key steps toward this goal, we call on the United States to:

-- Renounce the first use of nuclear weapons.

-- Permanently end the development, testing and production of nuclear warheads.

-- Seek agreement with Russia on the mutual and verified destruction of nuclear weapons withdrawn under treaties, and increase the resources available here and in the former Soviet Union to secure nuclear warheads and material and to implement destruction.

-- Strengthen nonproliferation efforts by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, finalizing a missile ban in North Korea, supporting UN inspections in Iraq, locating and reducing fissile material worldwide and negotiating a ban on its production.

-- Take nuclear weapons off hairtrigger alert in concert with the other nuclear powers (the UK, France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel) in order to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorized use.

-- Initiate talks on further nuclear cuts, beginning with US and Russian reductions to 1,000 warheads each.

To sign the statement, go to UrgentCall.org or send name, organization/profession (for id only) and contact information to Urgent Call, c/o Fourth Freedom Forum, 11 Dupont Circle NW, 9th floor, Washington, DC 20036. We need tax-deductible donations, made to Urgent Call, to disseminate this call. Please mail to the same address.

This call was drafted by Jonathan Schell, the Harold Willens peace fellow of the Nation Institute and the author of The Fate of the Earth; Randall Caroline (randy) Forsberg, director of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament studies and author of "The Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race," the manifesto of the 1980s nuclear weapons freeze campaign; and David Cortright, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum and former executive director of SANE.

A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions

The humanitarian disaster resulting from sanctions against Iraq has been frequently cited as a factor that motivated the September 11 terrorist attacks. Osama bin Laden himself mentioned the Iraq sanctions in a recent tirade against the United States. Critics of US policy in Iraq claim that sanctions have killed more than a million people, many of them children. Saddam Hussein puts the death toll at one and a half million. The actual numbers are lower than that, although still horrifying.

Changing American policy in Iraq is an urgent priority, both for humanitarian reasons and as a means of addressing an intensely felt political grievance against the United States. An opportunity for such a change may come soon, as the UN Security Council considers a "smart sanctions" plan to ease civilian sanctions. As we work to change US policy and relieve the pain of the Iraqi people, it is important that we use accurate figures and acknowledge the shifting pattern of responsibility for the continuing crisis.

The grim question of how many people have died in Iraq has sparked heated debate over the years. The controversy dates from 1995, when researchers with a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) study in Iraq wrote to The Lancet, the journal of the British Medical Society, asserting that sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 567,000 Iraqi children. The New York Times picked up the story and declared "Iraq Sanctions Kill Children." CBS followed up with a segment on 60 Minutes that repeated the numbers and depicted sanctions as a murderous assault on children. This was the program in which UN ambassador (and later Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright, when asked about these numbers, coldly stated, "The price is worth it."

Albright's comments were shocking, as were the numbers, but doubts were soon raised about their validity. A January 1996 letter to The Lancet found inconsistencies in the mortality figures. A follow-up study in 1996, using the same methodology, found much lower rates of child mortality. In October 1997 the authors of the initial letter wrote again to The Lancet, this time reporting that mortality rates in the follow-up study were "several-fold lower than the estimate for 1995--for unknown reasons." While the initial report of more than 567,000 deaths attracted major news coverage, the subsequent disavowal of those numbers passed unnoticed in the press.

The two most reliable scientific studies on sanctions in Iraq are the 1999 report "Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children," by Columbia University's Richard Garfield, and "Sanctions and Childhood Mortality in Iraq," a May 2000 article by Mohamed Ali and Iqbal Shah in The Lancet. Garfield, an expert on the public-health impact of sanctions, conducted a comparative analysis of the more than two dozen major studies that have analyzed malnutrition and mortality figures in Iraq during the past decade. He estimated the most likely number of excess deaths among children under five years of age from 1990 through March 1998 to be 227,000. Garfield's analysis showed child mortality rates double those of the previous decade.

Ali, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Shah, an analyst for the World Health Organization in Geneva, conducted a demographic survey for UNICEF in cooperation with the government of Iraq. In early 1999 their study surveyed 40,000 households in south-central Iraq and in the northern Kurdish zone. In south-central Iraq, child mortality rates rose from 56 per 1,000 births for the period 1984-89 to 131 per 1,000 for the period 1994-99. In the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, Ali and Shah found that child mortality rates actually fell during the same period, from 80 per 1,000 births to 72 per 1,000.

Garfield has recently recalculated his numbers, based on the additional findings of the Ali and Shah study, to arrive at an estimate of approximately 350,000 through 2000. Most of these deaths are associated with sanctions, according to Garfield, but some are also attributable to destruction caused by the Gulf War air campaign, which dropped 90,000 tons of bombs in forty-three days, a far more intensive attack than the current strikes against Afghanistan. The bombing devastated Iraq's civilian infrastructure, destroying eighteen of twenty electricity-generating plants and disabling vital water-pumping and sanitation systems. Untreated sewage flowed into rivers used for drinking water, resulting in a rapid spread of infectious disease. Comprehensive trade sanctions compounded the effects of the war, making it difficult to rebuild, and adding new horrors of hunger and malnutrition.

Sanctions opponents place the blame for Iraq's increased deaths squarely on the United States and the continuing UN sanctions. Certainly the United States bears primary responsibility for the war and unrelenting sanctions. Washington has pursued a punitive policy that has victimized the people of Iraq in the name of isolating Saddam Hussein. The United States has continued to bomb Iraq over the years, and if some in Washington get their way, it will soon launch new military attacks in the name of antiterrorism.

The government of Iraq also bears considerable responsibility for the humanitarian crisis, however. Sanctions could have been suspended years ago if Baghdad had been more cooperative with UN weapons inspectors. The progress toward disarmament that was achieved came despite Iraq's constant falsifications and obstruction.

Also significant has been Iraq's denial and disruption of the oil-for-food humanitarian program. UN officials proposed the relief effort in 1991 when evidence was first reported of rising disease and malnutrition. The idea was to permit limited oil sales, with the revenues deposited in a UN-controlled account, for the purchase of approved food and medical supplies. Baghdad flatly rejected the proposal as a violation of sovereignty. Concern about worsening humanitarian conditions led the Security Council to develop a new oil-for-food plan in 1995. It increased the level of permitted oil sales and gave responsibility for relief distribution in the south-central part of the country to the Iraqi government. Again Iraq rejected the program, but after further negotiations, Baghdad finally consented in 1996, and the first deliveries of food and medicine arrived in 1997.

The oil-for-food program was never intended to be, and did not provide, the needed economic stimulus that alone could end the crisis in Iraq. But it was a bona fide effort by the Security Council to relieve humanitarian suffering. If the government of Iraq had accepted the program when it was first proposed, much of the suffering that occurred in the intervening years could have been avoided.

The Security Council has steadily expanded the oil-for-food program. In 1998 it raised the limits on permitted oil sales, and in 1999 it removed the ceiling altogether. Production has risen to approximately 2.6 million barrels per day, levels approaching those before the Gulf War. Oil revenues during the last six months of 2000 reached nearly $10 billion. This is hardly what one would call an oil embargo. Oil exports are regulated, not prohibited. Funds are still controlled through the UN escrow account, with a nearly 30 percent deduction for war reparations and UN costs, but Baghdad has more than sufficient money to address continuing humanitarian needs. Said Secretary General Kofi Annan in his latest report, "With the improved funding level for the programme, the Government of Iraq is indeed in a position to address the nutritional and health concerns of the Iraqi people."

Not only are additional revenues available, but the categories for which funds can be expended have been broadened to include oil production, power generation, water and sanitation, agriculture, transportation and telecommunications. The program is no longer simply an oil-for-food effort. The emphasis has shifted from simple humanitarian relief to broader economic assistance and the rebuilding of infrastructure.

Despite these improvements, Baghdad has continued to obstruct and undermine the aid program. Iraq has periodically halted oil sales as a way of protesting sanctions. During the first half of 2001, oil sales were approximately $4 billion less than in the previous 180-day period. According to Annan, the oil-for-food program "suffered considerably because ... oil exports ... [have] been reduced or totally suspended by the government of Iraq." In June and July 2001, as the Security Council considered a new "smart sanctions" plan, Iraq again withheld oil exports to register its disapproval of the proposal. The result was a further loss of oil revenues and a reduction of the funds available for humanitarian needs.

The differential between child mortality rates in northern Iraq, where the UN manages the relief program, and in the south-center, where Saddam Hussein is in charge, says a great deal about relative responsibility for the continued crisis. As noted, child mortality rates have declined in the north but have more than doubled in the south-center. The difference is especially significant given the historical pattern prior to the Gulf War. In the 1970s child mortality rates in the northern Kurdish region were more than double those in the rest of the country. Today the situation is reversed, with child mortality rates in the south-center nearly double those in the north. The Kurdish zone has enjoyed a favored status in the relief program, with per capita allocations 22 percent higher than in the south-center. The region contains most of the country's rain-fed agriculture. Local authorities have welcomed the continuing efforts of private relief agencies, and have permitted a lively cross-border trade with surrounding countries. But these differences alone do not explain the stark contrast in mortality rates. The tens of thousands of excess deaths in the south-center, compared to the similarly sanctioned but UN-administered north, are also the result of Baghdad's failure to accept and properly manage the UN humanitarian relief effort.

Despite the evidence of Baghdad's shared responsibility for the ongoing crisis, sanctions opponents have continued to direct their ire exclusively at the United States and Britain. To parry this criticism, and to further expand relief efforts, Washington and London have developed a smart-sanctions plan to lift most restrictions on civilian imports, while retaining a tightly enforced arms embargo. Under the US/British plan, civilian imports would be permitted to flow freely into Iraq. Weapons and military-related goods would continue to be prohibited, and dual-use items would be subject to review. Oil revenues would still flow through the UN escrow account, but there would be no limits on the volume or range of civilian goods that could be purchased with these funds. While not a formal lifting of sanctions, the proposed restructuring plan would further remove restrictions on the civilian economy and provide additional relief for the Iraqi people. Most governments have supported the plan, and fourteen of the fifteen members of the Security Council were prepared to vote in favor when it was considered in July. Russia balked at the proposal, however, primarily out of economic self-interest, with Baghdad promising lucrative contracts to Russian oil companies in exchange for Moscow's support for a complete lifting of the sanctions. The plan was shelved, but it is expected to come up again at the Security Council in December.

Many peace and religious groups opposed the smart-sanctions plan when it was proposed. Some condemned the proposal even before the details were announced, flatly asserting that smart sanctions kill children. A more effective response would be to highlight the shortcomings of the plan and urge further steps toward the easing of civilian sanctions. Such steps would include permitting foreign investment in Iraq, eliminating restrictions on non-oil exports, and providing cash for the purchase of food and other goods from local producers rather than foreign suppliers. It is also important, peace and human rights groups surely would agree, to maintain military sanctions until Iraq complies fully with the UN disarmament mandate and permits a final round of weapons inspection.

We can and must do more to help the Iraqi people. The more credible we are, the more effective we will be.

David Cortright is co-author, with George A. Lopez, of "The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s" (Lynne Rienner).