Monday, March 31, 2003

Still on Friday, March 28's New York Times. A longish piece, written out of the U.N. by Felicity Barringer, ran on page B10 under the hed "Blair and Annan Confer on U.N. Role in Getting Food and Water to Iraqis."

The oil-for-food program, last mentioned in the March 27 Stickfinger, was still being held hostage to politics as John D. Negroponte, the U.S. delegate to the Security Council, walked out on a session last Thursday when "the Iraqi ambassador, Mohammed Adouri, launched into a speech criticizing the United States."

The Security Council is trying to reach agreement to reinstate the oil-for-food program, which "has been the primary source of food for 14.5 million Iraqis." [An AP article from today, March 31, "U.N. Plans Major Food Aid for Iraq," reports the population of Iraq as being 22 million. The CIA World Factbook puts it at "24,001,816."]

A page 1 story by Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, "War to Keep Going Until Regime Ends, Bush and Blair Says," quoted Bush as saying the oil-for-food program "must not be politicized," a surefire guarantee that his administration is doing just that. Bush of course is referring to Russia and France's positions on the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.

Felicity Barringer's piece notes that the oil-for-food program currently "has $2.4 billion worth of food and medical supplies in the pipeline for Iraq" and that "United Nations officials estimate that they will have to assist at least 350,000 refugees with everything from tents to food, and will have to spend more than $60 million restoring electricity to urban areas or providing spare generators."

God, this one is chock-full of information. "Refugees International estimates that Iraq will need 80,000 metric tons of wheat immediately and 410,000 tons each month thereafter to provide full rations to the Iraqi civilian population. Its officials warn that 'nowhere near this quantity of food is ready to be shipped into Iraq.'"

"Thirteen leading private aid groups sent a letter to President Bush urging him 'to ask the United Nations to serve as the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq,' instead of having United States government aid agencies take the lead in the care of the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the homeless." The letter was signed by the CEOs of Refugees International, CARE, the Campaign for UN Reform, Mercy Corps, the United Nations Association of the U.S.A., Save the Children, Oxfam America, the Christian Children's Fund, the International Rescue Committee, the International Crisis Group, World Vision, Operation USA, and the United Nations Foundation.

The Web site of Refugees International includes a link that lets you send an e-mail to President Bush calling on him to "push for UN humanitarian role in Iraq."

Clean water, at the moment, is the top priority. One of two photos that ran with the "Blair and Annan" piece shows "British and American soldiers handing out bottles of water to Iraqi civilians." (The brand of water is clearly visible in the photo as Hatta. A Googling of the brand name yielded a reference to the Hatta water pools of the United Arab Emirates. Are they one and the same?)