Chilcot Cometh

At long last the Chilcot report is out and I’m proud to announce that I’ve already read 0.000019783% of it.

So far I have fixated mainly on the issue for which I threw down a marker earlier on the blog – Tony Blair’s use of bogus child mortality figures before the Inquiry to justify the invasion of Iraq.

This press release is the initial fruit of my reading.  Please have a look and let me know what you think of the high resolution picture.  (Warning – at least on my computer the picture came out small until I clicked the supersizing button on my screen.)

I’ll definitely be back on Chilcot.


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.


Who Remembers the Chilcot Inquiry?

OK, that was an unfair question.

Few readers are old enough to have well-formed memories of the days when disco was King and the Chilcot Inquiry, also known as the Iraq Inquiry, opened its doors.

But at long last we are hurtling toward a conclusion to this epic adventure so I’d like to throw down a little marker in advance of the report’s release.

Tony Blair to the Chilcot Inquiry:

In 2000 and 2001 and 2002 they [Iraq] had a child mortality rate of 130 per 1,000 children under the age of five, worse than the Congo…. That figure today is not 130, it is 40. That equates to about 50,000 young people, children [alive today who would not be if Saddam Hussein had remained in power] … that’s the result that getting rid of Saddam makes.

This statement is packed with errors you can master at your leisure by reading this and this.  Meanwhile, you can see the basic problem straight away with this graph of under-five mortality in Iraq taken from our old friend

Multiple surveys converge around the level of 40 deaths per thousand per year on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This is a far cry from Tony Blair’s 130 per thousand per year that he uses to justify the invasion retrospectively.

(Yes, I know there is an outlier survey that estimated death rates pushing 120 in the 1990’s.  I treat this in my articles I link to above and I will return to this survey in future posts.)

The Chilcot committee seemed entirely ignorant of the facts about child mortality in Iraq and they allowed Tony Blair to escape unscathed after his claim.  Subsequently, I tried everything I could think of to educate the committee on this point.  But to this day I’ve seen no indication that I ever got through to them.

Will Chilcot rebut Tony Blair’s falsehood in the final report?

We shall see.

Clarity on Economic Sanctions

This article made something click for me.

If you impose economic sanctions on a country to encourage it to change its behaviour then you need to remove the sanctions if the target country meets your conditions. Moreover, leaders in the target country must believe  you will remove the sanctions if they comply with your conditions.  Otherwise, they have no incentive to change their behaviour.

The US seems to have a habit of imposing economic sanctions to merely express disapproval of a target country with no intention of ever removing the sanctions under some conditions.  Such gratuitous sanctions will not change in behaviour.  They do, however, work in the same sense that eating chocolate works to make you fell better.