Memo To: Matt Welch, Reason
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: How Many Died in Iraq?
Re your article in the March Reason, "The Politics of Dead Children," you seem to have gone to a lot of trouble to whittle down the number of children who have died under the age of 5 as a result of the embargo on Iraq. The UN had the number at 500,000 in 1996. Baghdad now says 600,000. After slicing and dicing from afar, you say it has "contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990." You may be right. I have not been over there to do a body count. When you get to this level of kiddie deaths because of the embargo of calories and chemicals needed for water and sewer sanitation, though, I do not think the time spent on kicking these dead children around has any good purpose. Yet you say that "With Bush set to go to war over Saddam's noncompliance with the military goals of the sanctions, there has never been a more urgent time to confront the issue with clarity." How so?
In any case, the number of Iraqi civilians who have died since the Gulf War, under 5 or over 5 years of age, is enormous. It has been the result of US policy to make the Iraqi people suffer so much that they would overthrow Saddam Hussein. Our political establishment and the major media that does its bidding has known and supported this evil policy all along. There is your story, but don't bother trying to get it published where anyone will see it.
The exact number of dead children is unimportant when set against Madeleine Albright's stupid remark about it being worth the deaths of 500,000 children to contain Saddam. Once that went into global circulation, it is a waste of time for reporters to fuss about the exact number. The reporting on Iraq by our press corps has been scandalous and as a result of its incompetence, 9-11 was the price we have paid. So far.
You say "There have been no weapons inspectors in Iraq since 1998. As a result it is exceptionally difficult to know with precision what nuclear or biological weapons Saddam has on hand or in development."
You are right about chem-bio, but as Rumsfeld himself acknowledges, chem-bio can be produced in such small places which cannot be identified that it was always foolish to think UNSCOM inspectors could find them anyway, if they did exist. All weapons "found" by UNSCOM were identified by November 1991, none since, and the Iraqi government took the inspectors to the places where they were they had been destroyed.
As for nukes, you are flat wrong. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which polices the Non-Proliferation Treaty, has just returned from its annual inspection of Iraq and said there has been no change in the status of the fissile material it had acquired for use in its nuclear power plant. There has been no evidence it has acquired additional amounts. If it had a nuke weapons program, it would be identifiable by spy satellite, as it requires enormous amounts of electrical power to run the cyclotrons. If you wish to know the truth, we have not the slightest interest in getting inspectors into Iraq to snoop around for stuff, because we know they would not find any, unless you count fertilizer of the kind that Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City. Saddam Hussein will permit inspectors back in today if the sanctions are lifted, which is what we do not want to do under any circumstances that puts money into the Baghdad government.
Besides, the focus has now shifted to Iran. Just last weekend, my favorite nuclear scientist, Gordon Prather, covered much of this material in his weekend column at www.worldnetdaily.com. You might give Dr. Prather a call before you write your next article when you want to cover another urgent issue with clarity and weapons of mass destruction are involved.