As most of is know, Saddam Hussein has exploited a few selected statistics for propaganda purposes. This is illustrated by the web site of the Iraq mission to the U.N. Its "Basic Facts on Iraq" contains none of the customary economic indicators. But it includes a table titled "Total number of deaths due to the embargo" (referring to the sanctions imposed by the Security Council following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990). It claims that more than 1.5 million have died since the inception of sanctions in 1991, including 713,065 children under five. It alleges that the number of deaths of children under five in 2001 (84,012) was nearly 12 times the number in 1989. There is no way these claims can be verified by independent bodies without a detailed examination of Iraq's vital registration records or by undertaking large scale surveys. This hasn't been done. Yet some U.N. agencies have taken the Iraqi data as gospel and I am soooo shocked . And this dubious evidence has been used to mount a campaign against sanctions from within the U.N., and from the numerous NGOs orbiting it. And now some hard facts. The WTO reports that Iraq's exports (allowed under the U.N. oil-for-food program) reached $19.3 billion in 2000. Iraq's export revenues amounted to $828 per head in 2000, significantly higher than in neighboring countries like Iran ($471), Jordan ($387), Syria ($261) and Lebanon ($166). This should have been more that enough to pay for imported food, medical equipment and medicines required to supplement its domestic capacity to meet the nutritional and health needs of its people. Iraq's domestic capacity compares favorably with those of its neighbors. In 2000, its freshwater resources per capita were 73% higher than Syria's, more than double Iran's, and 33 times Jordan's, according to the World Bank. The percentage of Iraq's cropland that is irrigated jumped to 63.6% in 1997-99 from 32.1% in 1979-81, while it remained as low as 19.5% in Jordan, 21.6% in Syria, 38.6% in Lebanon and 39.8% in Iran. Fertilizer consumption per hectare quadrupled in Iraq over the same period. It is now roughly on a par with Syria's and 14% higher than Iran's. So it's difficult to believe Iraq's claim that its cereal yield per hectare has dropped by 27% over the past 20 years. That would make Iraq's average yields just half of Syria's and a third of Iran's. These Iraqi estimates seem designed to back-up a propaganda message. They are hardly compatible with its inputs of water and fertilizer. So the WHO's assertion that "the vast majority of the country's population has been on a semi-starvation diet for years" appears to be more than a little overblown. Similarly, evidence suggests that Iraq's industrial and transport facilities are better able to satisfy its population's needs than it pretends. The International Energy Agency reports that Iraq's commercial energy use per capita increased by 36% from 1980 to 1999, and tops the level in the four neighboring countries cited earlier. The International Road Federation says that the number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people reached 51 in Iraq in 1999, up from 14 in 1990. The latest figures are higher than those of Iran and Syria. The WHO says that Iraq's total health expenditure (5.6% of GDP) tops Iran's (4.2%) and Syria's (2.4%). In light of this evidence, is it plausible that child mortality rates in Iraq were more than four times higher than Syria's, Jordan's and Lebanon's in 2000, and nearly three times higher than Iran's? Saddam's propaganda should be taken with more than a pinch of salt, but unfortunately, even Americans are falling under the spell.