The Iraq Sanctions Myth Rears its Ugly Head at Scripps College

This unusually interesting article just appeared in the the Los Angeles Times (coming to me via Michael Shermer).

The obvious angle is the spectacle of protesters at one women’s college (Scripps) attempting to follow the  path of another (Smith) in disinviting a female commencement speaker (Madeleine Albright) who had shattered gender barriers in a male-dominated world.  That said, harsh treatment of commencement speakers seems to occupy a central role in American identity almost analogous to the English tradition of replacing regular train service with buses. So maybe the gender connection is just a coincidence here, not the driving force.

There is a lot to chew over in this letter from some Scripps faculty members.   Here I just want to highlight the issue of central concern to the blog – they fall hook, line and sinker for The Iraq Sanctions Myth.


In fact, the Scripps Scholars even nibble on the Tony Blair version of the myth which he used in front of the (apparently) credulous Chilcot Inquiry to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

More Iraqis died as a result of 13 years of U.S.-led and controlled sanctions than as a result of the 2003 US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

The old evidence the Scripps Scholars use to support their sanctions claims would be like citing Colin Powell’s Presentation to the UN Security Council on Iraq’s WMD Program to prove that Iraq really had WMD.

All that said, there is room to criticize of Madeleine Albright over her interview with Lesley Stahl in which she did say that it was worth sacrificing half a million Iraqi children in pursuit of the sanctions policy.  Stahl’s question turned out to be based on a false premise that both Stahl and Albright accepted at the time and Albright’s answer was appalling.

There is a rough analogy here with the notorious Milgram experiments during which some participants were fooled into believing they were administering huge electrical shocks to other participants but kept pushing the button anyway amidst the screams of increasingly keyed up actors.  We know that nobody was actually shocked during these experiments but we might still criticize those who thought they were seriously harming other people but kept going.

Perhaps the Scripps Scholars will now correct the gaping error in their indictment of Madeleine Albright?.  This shouldn’t take too long.

Don't make him hold his breath too much longer.
Please correct your error before I run out of air.


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