View Full Version : Sanctions Harden Iraqis Attitude to U.N.

08-23-03, 02:45 AM
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- When a truck packed with explosives blew up outside the United Nations compound in Baghdad and killed at least 23 people, much of the world recoiled in shock, horrified anyone would attack an organization known everywhere for its good works.

Everywhere, that is, except in Iraq, where there is a deeply ambivalent feeling about the world body.

For many Iraqis, the United Nations was synonymous with economic hardship - responsible for much of the everyday misery here.

The crippling international sanctions imposed by the world body after Iraq invaded Kuwait 12 years ago have been blamed for everything from high infant mortality rates to a ban on ice cream.

Geoff Keele, a spokesman for UNICEF who has worked in Iraq since June 2002, said under the previous government, the state press - the only source of information for people - would condemn the United Nations regularly, blaming it for the lack of quality health care.

"So there are people who are out there who do feel that the United Nations is to blame for a lot of the situations they find themselves in right now in this country," Keele said.

Many Iraqis couldn't separate U.N. humanitarian programs from the political measures meted out by its member states. For them, the same organization that tried to fund schools and bring in rice and flour under the Oil for Food Program was also the instrument that laid the groundwork for the 1991 Gulf War.

The 12 years of sanctions that followed did nothing to diminish the United Nations' image as a lackey for the United States.

"When you talk to me about the United Nations, what comes to mind is a political organization," said Moaid Al Rawi, 27, in his electrical appliance store in downtown Baghdad. "I don't consider their humanitarian contribution to be so great for us here. But don't get me wrong," he quickly added, "no one agrees with what happened."

Tuesday's bomb, which blew off the facade of part of the three-story Canal Hotel, killed Iraqis and U.N. staffers, including the top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounded more than 100 others. FBI agents combing through the evidence say the blast was the work of a suicide bomber.

U.S. officials in Iraq have said that foreign terrorists are infiltrating the country to try to undermine the U.S.-led Coalition and its mission to rebuild Iraq. But they stopped short of blaming non-Iraqi militants for the bombing.

FBI agents have surmised that the enormous payload of explosives most likely came from Iraqi military caches of Saddam Hussein's former regime, something to which an Iraqi, not a foreigner, would have access.

"While most people in Iraq right now are absolutely shocked by what has happened and they don't like to believe that Iraqis are capable of this kind of act, there are some who are much more indifferent to what has happened," Keele said. "A lot of that has to do with the fact that the United Nations has been associated with something like comprehensive economic sanctions."

Iraqis had to make do without ice cream and chocolate while sanctions were in place, since goods that required sugar were banned from production. Anyone switching on a television set would find either Saddam, a reading from Islam's holy Quran or a blasting diatribe against the U.N. sanctions.

Students taking high-school examinations were expected to write an essay on Saddam, the Israeli-Palestinian issue or how sanctions had affected their lives. There were weekly school assemblies where teachers would give lectures on the evil consequences of the sanctions. Students were regularly pulled out of class to march in demonstrations against the United Nations.

Nevertheless, the U.N. officials said they believed the organization's multinational nature and desire to help rebuild would win over Iraqis. One official said the organization did not want a big U.S. military presence at its headquarters out of fear it would compromise humanitarian work.

It didn't help that the Canal Hotel, which housed many of the humanitarian agencies, had been the office of the U.N. weapons inspectors before the war.

Anas Madah, 26, blamed the inspectors and their aborted mission to search Iraq for banned weapons of mass destruction for the onset of the U.S.-led invasion and Iraqis' economic woes.

"This is all because of the United Nations - the lack of security, no jobs. The United Nations could have prevented the war; wasn't the whole world against it?" he asked.

Still, other Iraqis sought to affirm that the world body was not only welcome here, but necessary to the country's resuscitation.

"We don't blame the U.N. for anything," said Bassam Nasser, 29, who runs a shoe shop. "We hope they will stay and fix our problems."


08-23-03, 05:02 AM
I think we should triple the budget and presence of psy-ops to combat this. If the Iraqis believe that American sunglasses have x-ray vision, then them blaming the UN is not a far stretch. Changing perceptions is right up their alley.

A successful psy-ops campaign can have the effect of a whole division, which is realy expensive to raise and delpoy.