… read this chillingly important essay by my good friend Andrew Cockburn.
Andrew’s subject is the effect of sanctions on Iraq since 1991. Sanctions are merely a modern form of the oldest and most primitive form of war: blockade or seige. It reflects a strategic mentality that usually occurs when the attacker has vastly superior military forces but is out of ideas on how to use his superior power to impose his will. Blockade may be the surest form of war — if it can be sustained, the result is inevitable; but it is also the most expensive and messiest, because it usually ends in indiscriminate killing or viscous collective punishment. Moreover, it is often (not always) accompanied by a blowback of unintended moral effects that weaken the “victorious” besieger and strengthen the besieged (or their memory), thereby sowing the seeds of revenge that guarantee continued conflict.
London Review of Books, Vol. 32 No. 14 · 22 July 2010, pages 9-10
Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions by Joy Gordon
Harvard, 359 pp, £29.95, April 2010, ISBN 978 0 674 03571 3
Few people now remember that for many months after the First World War ended in November 1918 the blockade of Germany, where the population was already on the edge of starvation, was maintained with full rigour. By the following spring, the German authorities were projecting a 50 per cent increase in the infant mortality rate. In a later memoir, John Maynard Keynes attributed the prolongation of civilian punishment
to a cause inherent in bureaucracy. The blockade had become by that time a very perfect instrument. It had taken four years to create and was Whitehall’s finest achievement; it had evoked the qualities of the English at their subtlest. Its authors had grown to love it for its own sake; it included some recent improvements, which would be wasted if it came to an end; it was very complicated, and a vast organisation had established a vested interest. The experts reported, therefore, that it was our one instrument for imposing our peace terms on Germany, and that once suspended it could hardly be reimposed.