"The envoy had travelled extensively in the country, and found a major and 'dramatic' -- to quote the adjective used -- cause for world concern. Iraq is devastated, with roads and means of communications destroyed. There is a desperate shortage of food throughout the country. The agricultural system has broken down due to the failure of fuel supplies, which like the food storage containers, have been destroyed by the bombing. The price of corn is...beyond the reach of most Iraqis. ...They are not receiving proper medical treatment. There is a chronic shortage of medicine as well as food for Iraqis, and with the coming hot weather the risk of plague is increasing. The pressure should grow, the report concluded, for the Secretary General to reconvene the Security Council in order to ask that the embargo on food and medicine in Iraq...should be lifted."
The movie South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, portrays Saddam Hussein (having been killed by a pack of wild boars, "...and the world is still glad to be rid of him," a TV news anchor happily intones) as the abusive, manipulative, overbearing lover of Satan. Such is the depth of his evil that he reduces The Devil himself to tears at one point. Satan finally concludes that, "He spent so much time convincing me that I was weak and stupid that I...believed it myself."
It's a testament to the effectiveness of the United States' demonization of Hussein that this portrayal doesn't seem over-the-top. To be sure, the U.S. has invoked other Hitlers-du-jour to justify its military adventures -- Qaddafi, Noriega, Castro, Khomeini, the Soviets, Bin Laden, and of course Milosevic; for example. But none has been as enduring or has captured the imagination of U.S. planners quite like "Saddam".
While much of what they say about Hussein is true -- he is a dictator, he is a tyrant, he does use brutal methods -- we would do well to remember a few points.
To wit, 1.7 million people have been killed as a direct result of the sanctions -- most of them children under five years old. Each and every day, 250 more people die. According to the World Food Program, access to potable water is 50% of 1990 levels in urban areas, and 33% in rural areas. The leading causes of death for small children are dysentery and diarrhea. 32% of children under five are chronically malnourished. Depleted Uranium shells dropped during the Gulf War are the likely cause of the fourfold increase in cancer rates --while the recovery rate for leukemia, which before the sanctions began was 70%, has dropped to literally 0%, as no medications are available. This is just a small sample: the list of horrors is sickeningly long.
The passage quoted above is from a pamphlet by Tom Leonard. It was written not yesterday, nor last week, nor even last year. The pamphlet was entitled On the Mass Bombing of Iraq and Kuwait, Commonly Known As "the Gulf War", and was published in the early part of 1991. Eight and a half years ago this UN envoy was calling for the sanctions to be lifted, yet they are still in place!
Here is an excerpt from another eyewitness report, from Lauren Cannon, after a trip to Iraq in May of 1998: "What we found in Iraq was a country in a state of siege, as if the Gulf War had ended yesterday: bombed bridges still in shambles, power outages every two hours, abandoned tanks on the roadside. There were gaping bomb holes in the earth -- the fertile crescent ripped open -- war wounds, still bleeding, eight years later."
Adding insult to injury, Iraq has been one of the favorite bombing targets of President Clinton's most hawkish of administrations. Time and again he has gone to the well. After the Ohio State debacle in February of 1998 -- in which he found that the American people's bloodlust is not nearly so great as his own -- he decided to bomb, in December of last year, without attempting even to obtain our consent. Now, he is bombing Iraq almost daily, without even bothering to tell anybody. As of this writing (August 28), we have, in 1999, hit 360 targets with 1,100 bombs during over 10,000 sorties over Iraq.
Yet try to find a mention of it. A typical report in the Seattle Times lies buried on page A6 and runs about two column-inches. Scour the A-section every day, and you'll find a few reports a week, though we're bombing almost daily. Moreover, the reports are generally too small to merit inclusion in the Times' web archives. Only twenty such reports are archived and only five since March 23. (In other words, since the advent of the Balkan War, an already largely unnoticed story has almost disappeared entirely, even though in that time casualties from the bombings have greatly increased.)
We'd like to briefly address some common misperceptions regarding a few elements of current U.S. policy.
The U.S. government would have you believe that the Oil-for-Food programme, which was begun in December of 1996, would be a panacea for the people of Iraq were it not for the fact that Saddam Hussein and some of his cronies are sucking up the money to spend on lavish luxuries for themselves, leaving the people with nothing.
In point of fact, there is no money. Proceeds from the sales of oil are held in an escrow account, and used as needed. Further, 40% of the proceeds are used to fund the UN bureaucracy in charge of the program, and to pay Gulf War reparations. Dennis Halliday, a former UN Assistant Secretary General, who administered the program until the fall of 1998 (when he quit in protest of its insufficiency in solving the problems created by the sanctions -- and the lack of political will to do anything about that insufficiency) estimates that Iraq would need $30 billion a year to meet its basic food and medical needs, and make basic repairs to infrastructure. Yet, under the programme, Iraq is only allowed to sell $10.4 billion worth of oil every year, and often can't even sell that much because its equipment has been damaged by repeated bombings. As for the claims that Hussein is simply "warehousing" food and medicine, rather than distributing it, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq Hans Van-Sponeck notes that a severe lack of training and funding, combined with incompetence (many of Iraq's technical experts have fled the country) are responsible for the breakdown in Iraq's inventory and distribution systems.
In short, the programme was never meant to solve the crisis caused by the sanctions, merely to ameliorate it; Iraq can't even reach the woefully inadequate quotas due to continued menacing from "Allied" bombing runs; and, according to UN observers, what little food and medicine does reach Iraq is distributed to the best of the Iraqis' current abilities.
The U.S government would have you believe that were it not for Iraqi intransigence toward weapons inspectors, the sanctions would have ended long ago. There are a few problems with this assertion. Just a few.
The two No-Fly Zones in Iraq have absolutely no basis in international law. They are a unilateral imposition of the United States, and as such, a major violation of Iraqi sovereignty. The U.S. justification for all the bombings this year has been Iraqi targeting of U.S. patrols in the No-Fly Zones. But Iraq has every right to target these illegal incursions into its airspace, therefore every bomb dropped by the United States is an act of aggression, and a war crime.
Aside from having no legal basis, the No-Fly Zones have no moral basis either. The United States cares nothing for the Kurds it purports to protect. After the Gulf War, the U.S. encouraged a Kurd uprising against Hussein, which when undertaken, the U.S. watched silently as Hussein brutally crushed it, the U.S. announcing that it preferred the "stability" of the Hussein regime after all. And just this year, the United States said nothing as Turkey bombed Iraqi Kurds inside the northern No-Fly Zone!
Dennis Halliday has called U.S. policy toward Iraq "genocidal", and insists that when people have told him it's an inappropriate word, he challenges them to suggest a better one, but that they cannot. One might well ask why the United States has chosen to punish this people almost to the point of extinction. Is it pure sadism? No, it's not. Unfortunately, we don't have space in this short flyer to get into the motives driving U.S. policy, but suffice to say that shortly after World War II, the State Department labeled the Middle East oil reserves, "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history," and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment." It has been the goal of the United States to secure the profits íVand the concomitant power -- from this "prize", and it hasn't stopped at much in doing so.
But we'd like to put it to you that the motives are irrelevant in any case. Official justifications for widespread violence and devastation have been proven over and over and over to have been specious (at best) lies, politicking, and game-playing. To bring so much misery upon so many people -- in clear contravention of any known international laws and/or moral guidestones -- is breathtakingly unconscionable, and it must end. The obliteration of Iraq has already secured its place as one of the most monumental crimes in human history. But every day that it continues is so much more disgrace upon the American people who allow it to continue.
These are our demands: