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This is not a campaign issue?


Sean Gonsalves

Thanks

to the state department and our "adversarial" free press, even those

who consider themselves well-informed about foreign policy have tremendous gaps

in their knowledge when it comes to our policy in Iraq.

You

may have heard the numbers, which have been confirmed by the most reputable

medical journals in the world: Over 500,000 Iraqi children (plus a million Iraqi

adult civilians) have died as a direct result of the sanctions that we imposed

ten years ago on that formerly prosperous nation.

Let’s

try to look at this in human terms, which is difficult for many Americans

because Iraqis, as a rule, are not portrayed as human beings, even in a

"bleeding heart" media.

It’s

mentally lazy to solely blame Saddam, who (no rational person disputes) is a

nasty dictator (although, his human rights transgressions don’t come close to

the atrocities committed by some of our foreign fiends – I mean, friends). But

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s sagely advice comes to mind: "We’re not all

guilty. But we are all responsible."

Some

readers might object: "Hey, sanctions are better than bombing. So what is

Sean complaining about now?" First of all, Iraq’s infrastructure was

completely destroyed by our bombs. To say that Iraq is a threat to world peace

is like saying a third-grade bully is a threat to Mike Tyson.

Once

you cut through the propaganda, a question arises: Is it our policy to simply

punish any "rogue" nation that even thinks about challenging American

dominance of Middle East oil reserves?

The

explicit purpose of the sanctions is to severely harm the civilian population in

order to "persuade" the "duped" to oust Saddam. Never mind

the moral repugnance of such coercive policy objectives, the intellectual

bankruptcy of the policy is that, in this case, the sanctions cannot possibly

reach their own intended purpose.

If

Iraqi civilians are forced to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence day-to-day, how

in the hell are they supposed to kick a dictator out of power?! What political

genius came up with that genocidal idea?

Now,

genocide is a much abused term in our world where talk-radio (il)logic reigns,

but that’s exactly what Dennis Halliday called it. Halliday was a senior UN

official, who resigned last year in protest of the stupid and cruel policy.

Some

people think the Iraqi people would have the medicine and food they need if only

Saddam would stop spending it on palaces and what-not. Not only is this an

embarrassingly mis-informed view, it’s also like blaming President Clinton alone

for the increasing number of homeless people in America even though there’s a

federal budget surplus.

As

UN humanitarian coordinator, Hans Van Sponeck points out, the UN – not the Iraqi

government – controls the money from the oil-for-food program. The UN

distributes the food and medicine purchased with that money in northern Iraq and

carefully monitors the distribution of these basic survival goods throughout the

rest of the nation.

A

major reason that limited medical supplies are often not being delivered is

because there’s an extreme shortage of delivery trucks and personnel. "You

have heard, I’m sure, a lot about the overstocking of medicine. When you get

from someone a monocausal explanation then you should start getting suspicious.

It is not – I repeat, it is not – a premeditated act of withholding medicine.

It’s much more complex than that," Van Sponeck told a group of Seattle

doctors who have gone to Iraq several times to study the situation and openly

violate the sanctions, bringing medicine and toys to Iraqi children. (According

to US federal law, you can get a 12 year jail sentence and a million dollar fine

for bringing toys and medicine to Iraqi children.)

"If

you earn a $1.50 a month in a warehouse that has medicine, will you work 14

hours a day? I doubt it. You can’t even afford to be there eight hours a day

because you have to somehow make some other money in order to get at least

enough to get into your kitty to finance the needs of your household," Van

Sponeck explained to members of the Washington Physicians for Social

Responsibility.

Also

banned from Iraq are medical textbooks and other educational material. "De-professionalization….It

is frightening….People who are well-trained have no chance to work with their

full capacity in the area of their training….You have what I would call

knowledge depletion. Right now we are setting the stage for depriving another

(Iraqi) generation of opportunity to become responsible national and

international citizens of tomorrow. That may be the most serious aspect of it

all, apart from the nutritional deficiency, apart from the health problems,

apart from the inadequacy of the food….It’s intellectual genocide," Van

Sponeck said. There’s that word again.

And

this isn’t even a campaign issue in the land of the free?

Last

week I interviewed Scott Ritter. Ritter was one of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors

in Iraq – the UN team in charge of dismantling Iraq’s weapons of mass

destruction program. Can you tell me about the "threat" that Saddam

Hussein poses to the Middle East region, in particular; and the world in

general?

"Let’s

talk about the weapons. In 1991, did Iraq have a viable weapons of mass

destruction capability? Your darn right they did. They had a massive chemical

weapons program. They had a giant biological weapons program. They had

long-range ballistic missiles and they had a nuclear weapons program that was

about six months away from having a viable weapon.

"Now

after seven years of work by UNSCOM inspectors, there was no more (mass

destruction) weapons program. It had been eliminated….When I say eliminated

I’m talking about facilities destroyed….

"The

weapons stock had been, by and large, accounted for – removed, destroyed or

rendered harmless. Means of production had been eliminated, in terms of the

factories that can produce this….

"There

were some areas that we didn’t have full accounting for. And this is what

plagued UNSCOM. Security Council 687 is an absolute resolution. It requires that

Iraq be disarmed 100 percent. It’s what they call ‘quantitative disarmament.’

Iraq will not be found in compliance until it has been disarmed to a 100 percent

level. That’s the standard set forth by the security council and as implementors

of the security council resolution the weapons inspectors had no latitude to

seek to do anything less than that – 80 percent was not acceptable; 90 percent

was not acceptable; only 100 percent was acceptable.

"And

this was the Achilles tendon, so to speak, of UNSCOM. Because by the time 1997

came around, Iraq had been qualitatively disarmed. On any meaningful benchmark –

in terms of defining Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability; in terms of

accessing whether or not Iraq posed a threat, not only to its immediate

neighbors, but the region and the world as a whole – Iraq had been eliminated as

such a threat….

"What

was Iraq hiding? Documentation primarily – documents that would enable them to

reconstitute – at a future date – weapons of mass destruction capability…But

all of this is useless….unless Iraq has access to the tens, if not hundreds,

of millions of dollars required to rebuild the industrial infrastructure

(necessary) to build these weapons. They didn’t have it in 1998. They don’t have

it today. This paranoia about what Iraq is doing now that there aren’t weapons

inspectors reflects a lack of understanding the reality in Iraq.

"The

economic sanctions have devastated this nation. The economic sanctions combined

with the effects of the Gulf War, have assured that Iraq operate as a Third

World nation in terms of industrial output and capacity. They have invested

enormous resources in trying to build a 150 kilometer range ballistic missile

called the Al Samoud.

"In

1998 they ran some flight tests of prototypes that they had built of this

missile. They fizzled. One didn’t get off the stand. The other flipped over on

the stand and blew up. The other one got up in the air and then went out of

control and blew up. They don’t have the ability to produce a short range

ballistic missile yet alone a long-range ballistic missile….

"The

other thing to realize is: they are allowed to build this missile. It’s not

against the law. The law says anything under 150 kilometers they can build and

yet people are treating this missile as if it’s a threat to regional

security…It’s a tactical battlefield missile, that’s it. Yet, (Congressman

Tom) Lantos and others treat this as though its some sort of latent capability

and requires a ballistic missile defense system to guard against it. It’s

ridiculous. Iraq has no meaningful weapons of mass destruction program today.

"Now,

having said that, I firmly believe we have to get weapons inspection back in for

the purpose of monitoring…especially if we lift economic sanctions. And I

believe that there should be immediate lifting of economic sanctions in return

for the resumption of meaningful arms inspections. Iraq would go for that. What

Iraq is not going for is this so-called suspension of sanctions where the Iraqi

economy is still controlled by the security council and held hostage to the whim

of the United States, which has shown itself irresponsible in terms of

formulating Iraq policy over the past decade. The United States still has a

policy of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein – in total disregard for

international law and the provisions of the relevant security council

resolutions.

"I,

for one, believe that A) Iraq represents a threat to no one, and B) Iraq will

not represent a threat to anyone if we can get weapons inspectors back in. Iraq

will accept these inspectors if we agree to the immediate lifting of economic

sanctions. The security council should re-evaluate Iraq’s disarmament obligation

from a qualitative standpoint and not a quantitative standpoint."

 

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