(en) The Sanctions Holocaust in Iraq

Shawn Ewald (shawn@wilshire.net)
Sat, 20 Dec 1997 17:34:41 -0700

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________________________________________________ The Sanctions Holocaust in Iraq

By Husayn Al-Kurdi

Exclusive for the Portland Free Press c Husayn Al-Kurdi

The United States government and its associates have inflicted a genocide of holocaust proportions on Iraq. The sanctions-embargo regime imposed by the United Nations under U.S. supervision has resulted in the deaths of over a million Iraqis, most of them children under the age of five. A plethora of U.N. reports indicates that the Iraqi population has been reduced to a level of poverty and suffering unheard of in the recent history of the Middle East.

The purpose of the sanctions is allegedly to force the Iraqi government to divest itself of all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons-manufacturing capability. This gives Iraq's tormentors an excuse to prevent lead pencils, chlorine and even ordinary nuts and bolts from reaching Iraq. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen can glibly assert that "we're not seeking to bomb anyone into the stone age," knowing full well that that objective was achieved in the Gulf War of 1991, when America's top political and military leaders boasted of that great accomplishment.

During the Desert Slaughter of 1991, over 200,000 Iraqis were massacred and what was a relatively strong, modern and prosperous country was reduced to rubble and ashes, its infrastructure destroyed beyond repair, so long as the sanctions continue. The unprecedented sanctions imposed since then have taken a human toll several times as great as that exacted by the war itself. Almost all of Iraq's agricultural crops were lost in the war. Almost all of Iraq's drinking water became hopelessly contaminated, resulting in epidemics of diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Starvation and severe malnutrition became the New World Order of the day for millions of Iraqi children and babies. The average life expectancy has fallen by over ten years, to under 57. Medicine is not available to treat easily curable diseases, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. It is alleged that over five thousand children a month are dying in Iraq as a result of the embargo.

According to author Jeff Archer,(1) "Only one in five children born in Iraq since the end of Desert Storm has a chance to grow up and live a productive life. Two will die by the age of five, and two will either be retarded or physically not able to conduct a normal life." Conditions not seen in Iraq for more than three decades made a reappearance, including starvation-related diseases such as marasmus and kwashiorkor. Of the Baghdad children surveyed in a U.N. poll,(2) over seven out of ten were either "wasted, stunted or underweight."

In the present standoff, ostensibly centered on the expulsion of U.S. members of the U.N. Nuclear Inspection team in Iraq, USA representative to the U.N. Bill Richardson proclaimed that the "United States has the right to attack Iraq if it carried out its order to expel the Americans." Arab-American activist and constitutional scholar Dr. M.T. Mehdi disagrees with this position, stating that "Iraq has a right to expel U.S. citizens or anyone else. That is a right recognized by international law." Dr. Mehdi, who was "born in Baghdad and reborn in Berkeley, at the University of California in the early Fifties," called the U.S.-pushed sanctions "illegal, immoral and self-defeating," noting that Saddam Hussein and his ruling clique are not hurt but rather helped by the sanctions, which turn the people's attention to the superpower and away from their local dictator.

A small but growing group of people calling themselves Voices in the Wilderness (VitW)(3) is organizing against the sanctions. Led by Chicagoan Kathy Kelly, an energetic and articulate 41-year-old peace and justice activist who is committed to non-violent forms of protest and civil disobedience, the group organizes trips to take medicines to Iraq and investigate conditions there, defying a travel ban which could carry heavy penalties and imprisonment if the government can successfully prosecute them.

Kelly spoke of her repeated experiences holding dying and sick children in her arms and listening to their mothers' laments. The mother of one child wondered out loud at American policies which were resulting in her child's unnecessary demise, exclaiming, "Would they want this for their child?" Explaining the group's name, Kelly said, "We'd like to be voices in what is really a wilderness of awareness and compassion."

Kelly does not believe that the United States wants to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but rather that they are maintaining the sanctions instead to keep Iraqi oil out of the market. "As long as Iraqi oil is off the market, the Saudis can charge more per barrel and that gives them more revenue to spend on our type of crop in this country - weapons." She believes in organizing and educating the old-fashioned way: "There's something more credible about going beneath the radar - to the alternative press, community groups, churches, mosques and synagogues; to the schools and universities."

A Portland peace activist, 33-year-old Dan Handelman, will be in Iraq during the Thanksgiving period (which should more appropriately be a time of International Mourning over the unparalleled misdeeds of the world's remaining superpower). Handelman is outraged that "We've killed 1.2 million people. I don't think that that's an appropriate way to enact foreign policy, to starve people to death." He is part of VitW's eighth delegation to Iraq. A member of The Iraq Affinity Group connected to Peace and Justice Works (4), this will be his maiden voyage to the area. Handelman noted that the Oregonian, Oregon's leading daily newspaper, was urging the bombing of Iraq. "We call it the WARegonian," he reported, noting that they had run an "op-ed suggesting `housebreaking Saddam Hussein with a good bombing.'"

Dr. Mehdi, who leads the National Council on Islamic Affairs and has been a major Arab-American and Islamic activist and public figure in the United States for over four decades, was exasperated at possible pending attacks against Iraq. Discounting the "evil dictator and madman Saddam" rationale for continuing attacks, Dr. Mehdi stated that he "would rather have this tyrant in power than America attacking Iraq and killing innocent people."

Dr. Mehdi joined me and others over nine years ago in denouncing Saddam's chemical bombing of the Kurdish village of Halabja. At that time, Saddam's patrons in the U.S. State Department covered up for this atrocity. They were backing him to the hilt in that typically fiendish Israeli-U.S. project known as the Iran-Iraq war, which devastated both countries and their peoples for over eight years.

As for the pretext that Saddam may have some weapons of mass destruction hidden or ready to assemble somewhere, Dr. Mehdi pointed out that Israel has virtually every known weapon of mass destruction, including over two hundred nuclear warheads, armed and ready to be activated against Arab population centers. Israel, backing all destructive initiatives of the U.S. and others toward the Arab world, has had over 130 U.N. resolutions of various kinds censuring its outrageous behavior toward its neighbors and toward the Palestinians, whose very land it occupies. In most cases, the United States stood virtually alone in opposing these resolutions. Needless to say, the U.S.-controlled U.N. is not likely to pressure Israel into compliance in the same manner in which they are handling Iraq.

Dr. Mehdi insisted that the key to a solution in the Middle East lay with "the human rights of the people of Iraq, of Palestine, of Kurdistan. The recognition of these people's rights is the only foundation for true peace and security in the region." The American people need to know what "their" government's policies mean in terms of the human suffering in Iraq. It is more than fair to ask the question, along with so many grieving mothers who have lost babies and children because of the sanctions, "Would they want this for their children?" I don't think that most American people would want it for anybody's children anywhere.


(1) Jeff Archer is editor and publisher of The Alternative and Alternative Publishing in San Diego, California. He is also a correspondent for News International Press Service. He is the author of a book, The Sledgehammer and the Ant, and numerous articles on Iraq and U.S. Foreign Policy.

(2) U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Report, December 1995. For more details, see The Children Are Dying, published in 1996 by World View Forum, Inc., and distributed by International Action Center, 39 West 14th Street #206, New York NY 10011. The FAO Report is included in this book.

(3) Voices in the Wilderness, 1460 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago IL 60640. Phone 773-784-8065.

(4) Peace and Justice Works, PO Box 42456, Portland OR 97242. Phone 503-236-3065.

Additional recommended reading on the subject: The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf, Ramsey Clark, 1992, Thunder's Mouth Press; and War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq - Ramsey Clark and Others report to The Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal, 1992, Maisonneuve Press.

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