In last week’s New York Times Magazine, David Rieff asks, Were Sanctions Right? It’s a thoughtful article that examines the real effects of the sanctions that followed the first Gulf War, not just on the Iraqi people, but on the nature of the regime, and on the people imposing the sanctions. It’s pretty clear now (as it was to many people before the war) that the sanctions actually strengthened the hold of Saddam Hussein’s regime over his people, and had the side benefit of enriching a lot of scumbags in Iraq and their trading partners outside. Indeed, the perverse cruelty of the sanctions regime was the main reason why I could never say that I was against war in Iraq. Simply letting Saddam Hussein do as he wished did not seem reasonable to me, and both war and sanctions struck me as unbelievably cruel. That said, the sanctions were not getting rid of Saddam, were enabling him to kill thousands of his own people through targetted and planned deprivation, and were hurting the United States as well by exposing our cruelty to the world. In retrospect, it would have been better to finish off the regime 10 years ago.