The truth on Iraq?

Once again, John Pilger has indulged in polemic at the expense of the facts (13 November). He suggests that humanitarian relief available to the Iraqi people under UN programmes is "pitiful". But between $16bn and $17bn is available to Iraq for food, medicines and humanitarian goods under the "oil-for-food" programme this year alone. Per capita, this sum is three times what the average Egyptian spends on food and medicine. The World Health Organisation's world health league table of June 2000 placed Iraq at 103 of the 191 countries reviewed, ahead of Syria, Brazil and Russia, and just behind Iran. As for child mortality rates, Pilger should treat them with extreme caution. Their source is often the Iraqi regime, which has just refused access to UN experts wishing to make a proper assessment of the humanitarian situation.

Pilger acknowledges that Saddam Hussein has a terrible human rights record, yet suggests that Foreign Office accounts of Iraqi human rights abuses are lies. I refer him to the August 2000 report of the UN special rapporteur on human rights, which documented the Iraqi regime's continued torture and ill-treatment of men and women by means of electric shocks, suspension by the hands, beatings and rape.

Peter Hain
Minister of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This article first appeared in the 20 November 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Interview - Lord Falconer