Critics of U.S. and international policy on Iraq have long complained that policymakers and the media have purposefully implemented a program of deceit and subterfuge to create hostile general sentiment towards Iraq. From Richard Butler's questionable leadership of UNSCOM to misleading and inaccurate news coverage of ongoing air strikes in the illegally enforced "No Fly Zones," plenty of fuel has been added to the fires of conspiracy theorists.
But the sad reality of the continuing crisis in Iraq is that there is large-scale deceit, subterfuge and irresponsible reporting taking place.
If this weren't the case, then how else does one explain the following erroneous comments by U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, quoted in a September 14 San Francisco Chronicle article entitled "Iraq Wastes Money on Amusement Park for Loyalists, U.S. Says:"
The government has failed to distribute about 50 percent of the medicine, about 60 percent of the supplies for clean water and agriculture and 40 percent for education. So what we see here is a situation where Saddam Hussein is clearly not allowing the food, medicine and water to be distributed that would improve the lot of the Iraqi people.
If you talk to Iraqi officials, they will confirm that large percentages of medicines and other humanitarian goods have failed to reach the Iraqi people. But unlike the predictable personal indictment of Saddam Hussein tossed out for media consumption by Rubin, actual facts on why this is the case can easily be obtained from Iraqi officials and those same facts can even more easily be confirmed by the United Nations.
The truth of the matter is that the sanctions on Iraq are so ludicrous, that often times a particular medicine is approved for distribution, but materials and substances needed for its use are not. One example is I-V fluid. That has been approved. The needles and tubing to administer that fluid has not. Therefore the fluid sits. Another example is certain kinds of anesthetics that require an antidote in order to revive a patient. In many cases, the anesthetic is approved, the antidote is not, and therefore the much-needed anesthetic sits.
The same can be said of foodstuffs that fail to reach citizens because trucks needed to transport those items are out of commission due to lack of approval for replacement parts to fix them. And the same applies to water treatment supplies that also remain tangled in red tape.
So either Rubin and the intelligence system providing him with information are incompetent, or the U.S. administration is participating in extreme spin-doctoring and subterfuge, with the media buying the government rhetoric hook, line and sinker. Plain and simple. And since the U.S. intelligence community is thoroughly informed about most everything happening in Iraq, it seems that only the latter option would apply.
Now this is not to deny that Saddam Hussein is wasting large sums of money. In fact, Hussein is putting the finishing touches on an opulent presidential palace in Baghdad right now. But while the money for such projects could be spent on the Iraqi people, rest assured that every penny of Iraq's "Oil for Food" money is accounted for by the United Nations, and kept separate from whatever black-market and private funds Hussein uses for his pet projects. Reports in the media however would have the public believe that Hussein was dipping into humanitarian funds left and right.
The onus is therefore on the United States to cease the log-jamming tactics that keep food and supplies tied up in bureaucracy, and that keep a hold on the full disbursal of "Oil for Food" money. Of course the easy answer to the problem is the full and complete lifting sanctions against Iraq. But when a government is locked into game of deceit and subterfuge, such simple solutions rarely enter the picture.
Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com