Sanctions Born Of Indifference
October 25, 2000 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Sanctions Born Of Indifference The United Nations' sanctions against Iraq - which would have been lifted long ago, if not for America - have been killing 4,500 children a month for nearly 10 years now. A million people in all so far, half of them kids.

The Iraqis die because America insists the sanctions continue - despite their illegality under the principles of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, the United Nations Convention Against Genocide Convention and particularly the Geneva Convention: (Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions - 1977 Part IV, Section 1, Chapter III, Article 54)
1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.
2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.
posted by lagado (29 comments total)
lagado, do you have your own website? I would be interested to read it if you do-- good links.
posted by s10pen at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2000

If you feel strongly about this, Voices in the Wilderness is a great organization you might be interested in. It's run by Kathy Kelly, a wonderful, devoted woman who has been fighting these sanctions since they began. It's based out of Chicago, (actually, out of her home), and I was lucky enough to hear her speak. It was a very moving speech, and the slides were disturbing. (Warning, the site contains links to the photos. If you have a weak stomach, don't visit them.)

Kathy hasn't paid federal taxes in 10 years... she won't pay a penny until the US stops with the land mines, missiles, and sanctions. She's a very interesting lady--went to Federal Prison for planting corn seeds on a nuclear missile silo in my home state, Kansas.

And if that's not enough, she was nominated for a 2000 Nobel Peace Prize.

Most people don't realize that Saddam gets all the supplies he needs. He just sneaks them through the border. All the fine wines, cigarettes, and he's still building palaces. And his people are dying.
posted by gramcracker at 8:37 PM on October 25, 2000

Iraq has been permitted to sell oil in order to import food and medicine for that entire interval -- and have refused part of the time.

So whose fault is it? The food was offered and refused.

Anyway, they can easily get the sanctions lifted. All they have to do is stop resisting the inspections. That's it. Of course, as soon as they do so, lots of things are going to get found that they've been claiming for years don't even exist. That would embarass Hussein -- can't have that, can we?

The reason the children are dying is because Hussein wants to keep his weapons of mass destruction. Let's keep our eye clearly on who is really the blame here.

As an American voter, I fully support the sanctions. I feel sorrow but no guilt for those deaths, because it's Saddam Hussein's fault, not ours.

Nobody forced him to invade Kuwait. No-one prevents him from cooperating with the inspectors. The sanctions can be lifted any time he starts cooperating.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:00 PM on October 25, 2000

That's pretty conventional thinking there, Steve.

We already know Hussein is a bad leader and an evil person. So the sanctions are going to achieve what again exactly? Cause his people to rise up and overthrow him?

Ten years on they sure don't seem to have achieved their stated goal, or was their purpose merely to punish a civilian population who have no say in how their country is being run?

Diplomatically, this is a failed policy, instead it has permitted Hussein to consolidate his stranglehold on power.

posted by lagado at 9:41 PM on October 25, 2000

s10pen, thanks for the compliment! No, I don't have a website. I'm thinking it would take a little to much commitment just to keep it going.
Also, I must say I enjoy the immediacy of posting something up here on MeFi and then talking about it.

posted by lagado at 9:53 PM on October 25, 2000

And lifting them will make it even easier for him to consolidate etc.

Ultimately, Hussein is like Castro: the only solution is to outlive him. But in the mean time, we need to keep him weak, or he'll raise more hell.

He's already started two wars; why give him any more chances? Lift the sanctions, let him export oil and he'll import more arms and rebuild his army, and then what will he do? Cross Jordan and enter the West Bank? I wouldn't put it past him. (Last week he sent a convoy of trucks full of food to the West Bank -- why didn't he give that food to his own children instead?)

If we lifted the sanctions and let him export oil to raise money, you don't actually think he'd spend that money on Iraq's children, do you? (You also believe in the Easter Bunny?)

So far he hasn't shown any interest in their welfare at all. If he really cared about them, he'd have cooperated with the inspectors starting ten years ago. He doesn't give a damn about those kids. He's just been using them as a way of trying to shame the great powers into lifting the sanctions. To hell with him, and the horse he rode in on. Responsibility for those children is his, not ours. Their blood is on his hands.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:06 PM on October 25, 2000

Steven, I have to agree with you on this one.

The article offers a rather one-sided interpretation of events that few in the Hussein regime would disagree with.
posted by leo at 10:06 PM on October 25, 2000

That 4,500 deaths a month figure looks suspicious to me. If you search Google for that term you will see it's being used all over the place to condemn the embargo, and the source is supposedly a World Health Organization report compiled from figures provided by the Iraqi government's Ministry of Health.

In that report, it appears that the 4,500/month figure comes from this table:
Table 7(a): Reported mortality in children less than 5 years old
            from selected causes in Iraq (1990-1994)

    Year               No.              per 100 000
   1990               8903                   257
   1991              27473                   884
   1992              46933                  1460
   1993              49762                  1495
   1994              52905                  1536
 Source: Ministry of Health, Government of Iraq
  Note: 3 Northern Governorates excluded
The report only covers 1990 to 1994. The highest yearly death toll in children aged 5 and under is 52,905 deaths from 1994, which adds up to around 4,500 per month (4,408 to be exact).

So what we have is a worst-case total no more recent than 1994 that comes from statistics provided by a dictatorship that's trying to end the embargo. The same dictatorship that "currently exports more oil than any other country save Saudi Arabia, earns more from oil sales than it did prior to the embargo, and has been using those earnings to replenish its military arsenal." (Source: The New Republic.)

I'm not saying the present situation is acceptable, whatever the mortality actually is, but I have real doubts that 4,500 children a month are dying because of the Gulf War and subsequent embargo.
posted by rcade at 10:14 PM on October 25, 2000

Okay, so maybe it's not 4,500, but go to Kathy Kelly's site and see how "effective" our embargos are. The picture of the child up to his knees in human waste makes *me* proud to be an American.

> Anyway, they can easily get the sanctions lifted. All they have to do is stop resisting the inspections.

It's not like all the Iraqi *civilians* are all gung-ho about Saddam, but what are they supposed to do? Saddam has 4 internal intelligence agencies, spying on each *other*, so no one knows what the heck is going on. 1 out of 9 families is paid (minimally) by Saddam to be an informant of any anti-Saddam sentiments.

Yes, Saddam is guilty. But the Iraqi people aren't doing this, but they're definitely paying the price. The sanctions aren't stopping Saddam.

You're right, Steven... Saddam *doesn't* care about the children or the adults of Iraq. Obviously. And yes, he's responsible for them. But if a child here in the US is being abused, starved, or tortured by his or her parents (who are responsible for the child), we as a society have deemed it necessary to become responsible for the child, and help that child. I hope the same applies for non-Americans, too.
posted by gramcracker at 10:55 PM on October 25, 2000

Unless you're accepting the argument of the dictator, the sanctions are not the reason why there is starvation in Iraq; and if the sanctions are not the reason, why should their removal guarantee that starvation will be brought to an end? Hussein didn't need sanctions to kill off his own people when he invaded Iran or Kuwait, why should he suddenly be turned into a humanitarian if the only check on his power is now removed?
posted by leo at 11:29 PM on October 25, 2000

I can't prove this, but I have a very strong suspicion that Saddam is a CIA agent.

Two years ago when Clinton bombed Iraq for expelling the UN inspectors, Fox News Channel carried the bombings live with four on-camera reporters on the ground. To put this in perspective, Four Fox reporters with their camera crew had to apply for visa from Iraq and then drive for a day and a half from the Kuwait border to Baghdad. Wouldn't the sudden interest in his country by obscure Fox News reporters tip off Saddam about American plans to bomb his country? American bombs destroyed a school building. The UN inspectors could not find any biological arms at any of the suspected sites immediately following the air raid.

(Besides Fox News, CNN and NBC also had ground crew before the first American air strike.)

This whole Iraq thing has to be the greatest sham ever. Or I might be giving too much credit to CIA and State Dept.

posted by tamim at 12:06 AM on October 26, 2000

tamim wrote:
This whole Iraq thing has to be the greatest sham ever. Or I might be giving too much credit to CIA and State Dept.

I think you're giving too much credit to the CIA and State Dept.
posted by leo at 12:12 AM on October 26, 2000

Skallas, I don't expect the embargo to change Hussein. I expect it to keep him weak. That's sufficient to justify it.

I don't consider Castro to be as evil as Hussein, but I don't consider him a saint either. And I'd like to point out that Cuban troops fought in Angola. The US embargo on Cuba (and the loss of the subsidy from the USSR) keeps Castro weak, and that's a sufficient reason for maintaining it. When he dies, almost certainly something better will be put into place, and then we can raise the embargo to encourage it. By the way, note that we're in the process of raising the embargo of Serbia to encourage the changes there.

Gramcracker: It's not possible for the United States to solve the problems of the world. Besides, your solution to the problems of the people of Iraq is to give more money to their dictator so he can strengthen his hold over them and suppress them better? Did I miss something?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:11 AM on October 26, 2000

>It's Hussein

Yeah, and "You dumb bitch, I'd stop hitting you if you'd shut up! Shut up!".

Granted, it is not an exact parallel, but blaming your violence on someone else's (in)action doesn't absolve you of anything.

Almost no-one wants Iraq to be manufacturing chemical or biological weapons, but this surely isn't stopping him. It's like some morality play about the sin of pride being acted out with real people. (And gimme a break, if the Gummin't could kill Kennedy, they could kill Hussein.)

Like the moronic US policy towards Cuba, the sanctions against Iraq have destroyed the middle class and made revolution from within virtually impossible. They harm the people, not the leaders; they fuel nationalist sympathies and therefore even perpetuate the regimes they were intended to bring down; they cut off the legitimate economic pressures which (for better or worse, all you WTO-bashers) have been so effective in co-opting undesirable political arrangements and forcing positive (if gradual) change: just think what Cuba would be like today (cf. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica) if it hadn't been bullied by the US for the last 40 years ("keep him weak" — were you worried about Cuba invading or something?) Philip Morris, Nabisco, Sara Lee and PepsiCo alone could kick Castro's ass.
posted by sylloge at 3:44 AM on October 26, 2000

From Squeezed to Death by John Pilger

What are sanctions for? Eradicating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, says the Security Council resolution. Scott Ritter, a chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq for five years, told me: "By 1998, the chemical weapons infrastructure had been completely dismantled or destroyed by UNSCOM (the UN inspections body) or by Iraq in compliance with our mandate. The biological weapons programme was gone, all the major facilities eliminated. The nuclear weapons programme was completely eliminated. The long range ballistic missile programme was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq's threat, I would say [it is] zero." Ritter resigned in protest at US interference; he and his American colleagues were expelled when American spy equipment was found by the Iraqis. To counter the risk of Iraq reconstituting its arsenal, he says the weapons inspectors should go back to Iraq after the immediate lifting of all non-military sanctions; the inspectors of the international Atomic Energy Agency are already back. At the very least, the two issues of sanctions and weapons inspection should be entirely separate. Madeleine Albright has said: "We do not agree that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." If this means that Saddam Hussein is the target, then the embargo will go on indefinitely, holding Iraqis hostage to their tyrant's compliance with his own demise. Or is there another agenda? In January 1991, the Americans had an opportunity to press on to Baghdad and remove Saddam, but pointedly stopped short. A few weeks later, they not only failed to support the Kurdish and Shi'a uprising, which President Bush had called for, but even prevented the rebelling troops in the south from reaching captured arms depots and allowed Saddam Hussein's helicopters to slaughter them while US aircraft circled overhead. At they same time, Washington refused to support Iraqi opposition groups and Kurdish claims for independence.

"Containing" Iraq with sanctions destroys Iraq's capacity to threaten US control of the Middle East's oil while allowing Saddam to maintain internal order. As long as he stays within present limits, he is allowed to rule over a crippled nation. "What the West would ideally like," says Said Aburish, the author, "is another Saddam Hussein." Sanctions also justify the huge US military presence in the Gulf, as Nato expands east, viewing a vast new oil protectorate stretching from Turkey to the Caucasus. Bombing and sanctions are ideal for policing this new order: a strategy the president of the American Physicians for Human Rights calls "Bomb Now, Die Later".

posted by lagado at 5:28 AM on October 26, 2000

This ought to raise serious ethical concerns, since sanctions (like their low-tech predecessor, siege warfare) historically have caused the most extreme and direct suffering to those who are the weakest, the most vulnerable and the least political. At the same time, those who are affected last and least are the military and political leadership, who are generally insulated from anything except inconvenience and the discomfort of seeing "the fearful spectacle of the civilian dead," to use Michael Walzer's phrase. However devastating their effects on the economy and the civilian population may be, sanctions are rarely successful in achieving changes in governmental policy or conduct. Sanctions, like siege warfare, have generally been perceived by civilian populations as the hostile and damaging act of a foreign power. Sanctions, like siege warfare, have generally resulted in a renewed sense of national cohesion, not domestic pressure for political change.

Sanctions as Siege Warfare by JOY GORDON

posted by lagado at 5:38 AM on October 26, 2000

Steven Den Beste i find your simple, pro-American "Let's Starve The Bastards" arguments absolutely appalling. As i'm new here, i'm not sure how to code links into comments, but if someone could please point Mr. Den Beste towards the figures for health care, education and infant mortality in Cuba now, as oppossed to during the Baptista regime (when other good Americans used Cuba as a 3-in-1 tropical whorehouse/casino/toilet) i would truly appreciate that.
posted by Niccola Six at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2000

Isn't that what we did with the Nazis? We didn't send in a few laser guided million dollar bombs on a bunch of targets, we took down their fascist government and put them on trial and set up a democratic government, err at least on one side.

You haven't been reading history, I think. You ever hear of the sustained bombing campaigns by air over occupied Europe by the Allies? 200,000 men killed in the air, millions of pounds of bombs dumped on cities etc etc. That's how the Fascist governments were stopped - by destroying their industries and economies, thereby hampering their armies and thus leading the way for invasion (ever hear of D-Day?).

Yes, civilians were killed (it happens in war), but I can't think of any other way the Nazi menace could have been stopped.

And for those opposed to sanctions against Iraq, go look at what he does to the Kurds - air attacks using Sarin? He's the Hitler of the middle east - Kuwait would just have been his first step. And as we see from appeasement of Adolf Hitler, maniacs like him want more and more, until they have it all.

You can't win with left wing thinking individuals in situations like this, it's a catch 22. You use military force to stop genocide a la Kosovo there's outcry, and if you use sanctions there's outcry.

I'm by no means right wing (more centre), but for heavens sake look at the past - look at the likes of Hiter, of Stalin, Amin, Milosevic. Look at the damage they cause, the horrors they inflict and ask yourself is that better than sanctions or military strikes?

That's my opinion. You can have yours too. But please don't flame me.
posted by tomcosgrave at 12:27 PM on October 26, 2000

Skallas, the only way we can dismantle the Hussein government is by invasion. Is it worth ten or twenty thousand US casualties to you?

Are you seriously advocating that we go to war?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:17 PM on October 26, 2000

You are at war.
posted by lagado at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2000

My point wansn't about bombs. If you read the post you'd see I was advocating dismantling the Hussien government instead of the mess we're left in now.

I did read your post. Short of a war (which is what happened prior to de-Nazification), how do you propose to end his government?

It's not possible to equip anti-Hussein factions because there are barely any, and none strong enough to resist his forces. Given that, it's pretty hard to assinate him.

I've heard lots of condemnation of sactions against Iraq, but nothing in the way of a viable alternative to keep him at bay (we know what happened last time).
posted by tomcosgrave at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2000

Maybe if the United States didn't sell him the weapons and equipment to invade Kuwait next time, that might help. ;-j

This whole "Hilter of the Middle East" thing is a smoke screen designed to prevent any real understanding of the issues. Actually, this is more about US control of its strategic interests than about removing Hussein.

This discussion is assumes that the other countries in the region don't have an interest in defending themselves against Iraqi expansionism. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait certainly have such an interest and the means to keep Iraq in check.

Also, there are armed and active opposition groups to Hussein. They have publicly stated that the US abandoned them when they had him on the ropes. This was a time when he lost control of every city in Iraq. If the US really wanted to remove him then, they could have.

The limited aims of operation Desert Storm and its successors, however, were deliberately designed not to remove Hussein but instead to keep him in power.

posted by lagado at 5:05 PM on October 26, 2000

America, involved in a conspiracy of some sort, never :)
posted by Zool at 5:27 PM on October 26, 2000

Wow, that was nicely ambiguous, Zool!
posted by lagado at 7:10 PM on October 26, 2000

This whole "Hilter of the Middle East" thing is a smoke screen designed to prevent any real understanding of the issues.

The dubious "4,500 children a month" figure serves the same purpose.
posted by rcade at 10:11 PM on October 26, 2000

If CIA/State Dept puppet masters ever wanted to remove Saddam - he wouldn't be in power now.

posted by tamim at 10:59 PM on October 26, 2000

The dubious "4,500 children a month" figure serves the same purpose.

Not at all, rcade, unless, of course, you are denying the general magnitude of the crisis in Iraq, in which case I'd say you're pretty much on your your own.

UNICEF: Death rate for Iraqi children has doubled since Gulf War August 1999

Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children from 1990 Through 1998: Assessing the Impact of the Gulf War and Economic Sanctions July 1999

U.N. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS / Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights, July 2000

"When I came back from Iraq last year, with a group of experts I drew up a list of 17 drugs that are deemed essential for cancer treatment. We informed the UN that there was no possibility of converting these drugs into chemical warfare agents. We heard nothing more. The saddest thing I saw in Iraq was children dying because there was no chemotherapy and no pain control. It seemed crazy they couldn't have morphine, because for everybody with cancer pain, it is the best drug. When I was there, they had a little bottle of aspirin pills to go round 200 patients in pain. They would receive a particular anti-cancer drug, but then get only little bits of drugs here and there, and so you can't have any planning. It is bizarre."
-- Professor Karol Sikora, chief of the cancer programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) speaking to John Pilger
posted by lagado at 4:12 AM on October 27, 2000

Not at all, rcade, unless, of course, you are denying the general magnitude of the crisis in Iraq, in which case I'd say you're pretty much on your your own.

I've never said anything of the kind, and I think it's just a cheesy debating tactic to insinuate otherwise. You've had several chances to defend the legitimacy of the 4,500/month figure, and have passed up the opportunity. The only conclusion I can reach is that you can't defend it.
posted by rcade at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2000

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