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Were Sanctions Worth the Price?

Consider the economic toll alone. Prior to the sanctions, 60 percent of Iraq's GDP came from oil exports, which meant that an export ban immediately reduced the country's economy by more than half. To put this in perspective, in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, U.S. GDP had fallen only 27 percent from its pre-depression levels. A study published in 2005 estimated that by 1993, three years into the sanctions, real per capita GDP in Iraq--adjusted by real value of the Iraqi dinar--had fallen by 98 percent, from $718 in 1990 to just $13........
Indeed, between 1990 and 1994, the incidence of typhoid went from 11.3 to 142 per 100,000 and cholera grew from zero cases to 7.8 per 100,000. ....
The FAO casualty estimate became a kind of rallying cry for sanctions opponents, and was forever immortalized in 1996, when "60 Minutes" asked then-U.N. ambassador Madeline Albright about the death toll of 500,000 children. She responded: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."
Later studies would critique the methodology of the FAO report, but even a conservative analysis of the child morbidity and mortality rate in Iraq, published by public health and sanctions expert Richard Garfield, came up with a likely estimate of 350,000 dead children.
The bulk of these casualties came before the switch to "oil-for-food," which led to a dramatic decrease in malnutrition and a doubling of food intake. But even after the most abject humanitarian crisis was relieved, sanctions still enforced widespread social misery. "I would say sanctions made Saddam Hussein stronger, not weaker," says Denis Halliday, a former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq. "They demolished any political opposition. Middle class professionals were so busy trying to make a living or keeping their kids alive, they had no interest in changing the system."

After 13 months overseeing the Oil-for-Food program, Halliday quit in protest, eventually calling the United Nations policy "genocide." He was succeeded by Hans Von Sponeck, who lasted two years before he, too, quit in disgust.

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