Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions

Andrew Cockburn writes:

Few people now remember that for many months after the First World War ended in November 1918 the blockade of Germany, where the population was already on the edge of starvation, was maintained with full rigour. By the following spring, the German authorities were projecting a 50 per cent increase in the infant mortality rate. In a later memoir, John Maynard Keynes attributed the prolongation of civilian punishment

to a cause inherent in bureaucracy. The blockade had become by that time a very perfect instrument. It had taken four years to create and was Whitehall’s finest achievement; it had evoked the qualities of the English at their subtlest. Its authors had grown to love it for its own sake; it included some recent improvements, which would be wasted if it came to an end; it was very complicated, and a vast organisation had established a vested interest. The experts reported, therefore, that it was our one instrument for imposing our peace terms on Germany, and that once suspended it could hardly be reimposed.

(LRB 22 July 2010)