How Quickly Politicians Choose To Forget

In answer to a question from a member of the House of Commons in the British Parliament, Douglas Alexander, the Minister of State for International Development, told the House that with regard to the Iraqi health service:

“There were literally decades of under investment and mismanagement within the health system ..’ (under Saddam Hussein.)

The truth is that thirteen years of sanctions by the west, following the first Gulf War of 1991 and led by Britain and the USA, reduced the Iraqi health service to a shambles, causing severe shortages of drugs, syringes, and the parts necessary to repair vital machines. Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children died because there was no way to treat them.

This was the misery our politicians inflicted on an innocent population in an attempt to force Saddam Hussein to heel. The misery was finally compounded in 2003 when those same countries invaded Iraq, magnifying the suffering of that populace to an even greater degree.

Douglas Alexander probably wasn’t too aware of the suffering his nation, and its bully-buddy, were inflicting on Iraq around that time. He was only twenty-four years old in 1991, and had spent a number of years at US Ivy League universities, and working for Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential election, returning to Britain as a speech writer for the man who is now Britain’s latest prime minister.

Apparently fond of his books, our Douglas returned to university to study law and graduated in 1993, whereupon he joined a firm of lawyers.

It’s easy, then, to understand why Douglas Alexander should be ready to blame Saddam Hussein, rather than his own nation’s politicians (at the time a Tory government led by John Major) for the state of Iraq’s health service.

Thankfully, some of us are more qualified to know the truth, and perhaps none more so than Felicity Arbuthnot, a freelance journalist who has spent long periods in Iraq and is an expert on the Iraqi health service.

She found Alexander’s remarks to be at odds with her own opinions, and wrote to him with the following observations:

“….The United Nations State of the Nations Report of 1989, recorded Iraq as having over ninety percent access to ‘free high quality health care’ (based on the British National Health Service, incidentally) and to clean water and an educational system so exemplary (free from kindergarten through university) that two years running, Iraq was awarded a special U.N., prize for its excellence. Hence the high qualifications of the country’s professionals. The medical profession was one aspired to especially, by students. On qualification, many were paid for, by the Iraqi government, to also undertake post-graduate studies in the West, thus benefiting from expertise in both Iraqi and Western practices. Many of the students came to Britain, who benefited greatly financially from the Iraqi government’s policy.

Thirteen years of the most draconian embargo ever imposed by the United Nations (driven by the US and UK) after the 1991 bombing, led to disaster in a country which had (on the advice, ironically,, of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization) imported – broadly – seventy percent of everything. The forty two day carpet bombing defied the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, which states: It is prohibited to ‘ attack destroy or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population… including : foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations … irrigation works.’ All the former were about seventy percent destroyed. Water and irrigation facilities, were totally destroyed, at the behest of US Central Command………

…….. Iraq’s heath care system is not ‘ .. the result of decades of under investment and mis-management’, but of thirteen years of draconian sanctions and bombings, an illegal invasion and five years of further destruction and decimation. Given Britain’s pivotal role in the all, the country has a duty to right an appalling wrong. With a change of Prime Minister, [Gordon Brown] an electorate which has never been more cynical, which was promised a change of direction., Iraq will for ever be Labour’s nemesis. Such a policy of reparation on Iraq’s health care, might just win back a few British hearts and minds.[1]

These are excerpt’s from a long letter worthy of further perusal. It has been posted in full on the website of the Center for Research on Globalization, and the Iraqi site Gorilla’s Guides.

It is so easy to twist and alter the tales of history, whether by accident or design. It behooves all of us to ensure the stories that are eventually passed down to future generations are correct, and not deformed by those who would seek advantage from such manipulations.

Over the centuries, much of world history has been distorted beyond recognition. While it is taught in our schools today, mostly as unassailable fact, the majority is tainted and tinged by lies, exaggerations, and political convenience.

Douglas Alexander was guilty of just such ‘political convenience’ in the British House of Commons recently.

He, and his like, should not be allowed to get away with it.

[1] Public Health Crisis in Iraq – Felicity Arbuthnot, February 16th 2008.

(My thanks, as ever, to TOB for bringing the matter to my attention).

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5 Replies to “How Quickly Politicians Choose To Forget”

  1. I’m literally gobsmacked, RJA, at the alternative universes these asinine hacks create for themselves. Alice in Wonderland had nothing on these jokers.

  2. * He, and his like, should not be allowed to get away with it. *

    Damned right they shouldn’t, R.J. Sadly, so far the b**tards have though.

    Thanks a million for picking this up and passing it on, btw. And thanks too for the great job you’ve made of your entire piece.

    And to think that for so many of my formative years I thought “revisionism” was a mischievous none-word invented by China – and/or Russia. My God, the UK and US could give master-classes in revisionism – to the whole world.

  3. Yes it is our tradition to manipulate facts so that we look good. Maybe a human characteristic, no one ever says “I am bad” but always people find a way to prove that the victim brought it on himself. Clinton cannot claim to be any kinder to Iraq than Bushie.

  4. Lord…in a country that lost more civilians during and “after” the war than under the admittedly foul feet of Saddam and his sons, to leave water, sewer, health care and electricity shortages at the dangling feet of Saddam?!?! While we have been in “control” for years?

    If it were a joke, it still wouldn’t be funny.

  5. WWW – they may live in Wonderland, but they create Nightmareland for the rest of us.

    TOB – only to happy to pick it up. The older I get, the less I have time for ‘political moments’. They’re very good at temporary amnesia, when it suits them.

    Flimsy – Clinton just hid it better.

    Jerry – no joke, unfortunately, and as you rightly comment – if it were, it wouldn’t be funny.

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