Spin Doctors Need SurgeryBrain
Surgery, That is
Iraq: Whos the Bully?
In December of last year, Hans von
Sponeck, former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, confirmed
50,000 Iraqi children die every year as a result of the UN-imposed
economic sanctions. Recent statistics released by the Iraqi Health
a total of 1,351,535 deaths for all ages since August 1990, when the
sanctions were imposed, through last May. Of the total deaths, 1,338,808
were children99 percent. Others estimate that nearly 5,000 Iraqi
children under the age of five are dying each month; thats 150
a day. Just take a moment to let that sink in. Von Sponeck, who resigned
from his position in March 1999 in protest of the sanctions, recently
expressed his outrage: Is the death of a person
as a result
of hunger and disease any different than the death of a child or an
adult because of war and bombs? Well, is it?
In 1996, when asked on national television if half a million dead children
as a result of sanctions against Iraq is justified, then-Secretary
State Madeleine Albright answered, We think the price is worth
it. (60 Minutes, 5/12/96.)
Last month the Bush administration flexed its muscles in the Gulf,
bombing Iraq. At first, politicians and their lackeys clamored to claim
an act of self-defense in protection of the
so-called no-fly zone (an area through which only Iraqis
cannot flyTurkish planes zoom through unmolested on missions to
bomb Kurds in southern Turkey), and implied that the Iraqis were firing
on American war planes (as if the need for Iraqi self-defense werent
real), which was not the case. Then the Pentagon disclosed that apparently
the Iraqis had developed better radars that could possibly detect American
bombers (oh nohaving a heads-up on impending bombs is against
the rules!). Senior Senator Chuck Schumer huffed that the
only way to deal with a playground bully was by force.
Well, who is the bully here?
Since President Clinton took office in 1993, the U.S. (with negligible
assistance from the U.K.) has regularly bombed Iraq, on average, every
other day. Most Iraqis wonder daily whether they will be bombed. One
Pentagon official has complained that theres nothing left to bombtheyre
down to the last outhouse. This last show of muscle was,
in fact, the fourth bombing of Iraq to take place since W. took office.
The only difference was that this one required permission from our
Executive Officer, because, technically, it was an act of war. But
then, when has America ever fussed over technicalities when it came
own behavior? Details, details
Yet, we continue to brutally punish the entire population of a country
because their president wont comply with technicalities
that the U.S. dictates via inspections for weapons of mass destruction
and the technology for their creation. Two separate international teams
have determined that Iraq is not capable of generating such weaponry
and is effectively disarmed; but, definitions of compliance
change as compliance becomes more of a possibility. The U.S. government
has even acknowledged that members of the UN inspection committee supplied
information to the U.S. military, making their choice of effective targets
so much easier. But when Iraq threw out a group that was compromising
its national security, the U.S. conjured up the boogey man
and claimed the Iraqis were hiding weapons of mass destruction. Did
you ever play a game with a bully who yelled Time Out! every
time he or she was about to lose? Changing the rules to benefit yourself
is a universal definition of a playground bully. How long can this
go on and at what cost?
Who Let the Bully Out?
If we hold a people fully responsible for the actions of their
leader, the world will do the same to us, and the responsibility will
the heads and hearts of average Americans, no doubt. Right now, 22
million Iraqis are being punishedessentially by the U.S.apparently
for the actions of Saddam Hussein. Its no wonder the Iraqis rally
behind him. The U.S. president is seen by many in the world as a murderous
despotnot as an advocate of freedom. Leaders who stand up to the
worlds hyperpower are seen by their populace as courageouseven
if they themselves are murderous despots. Think about it: an entire
generation of Iraqis is growing up who know nothing except American
tyranny, the primary culprit for their poverty, high death rate, poor
health and hunger, and, ultimately, for the denial of their childhood
and national pride.
There is a reason why the U.S. will not ratify the pact to establish
the International Criminal Court, which would try individuals accused
of mass murders, war crimes and other gross human rights violations.
Since we are the most powerful and aggressive of nations, we define
who is a war criminal and what acts are terrorism.
But as the Alpha Male, these definitions cannot and will not be applied
to ourselves, or to any of our friends. Currently, the UN establishes
war crimes tribunals with the authority to investigate crimes related
to a specific area, such as Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Thus, it is to our
advantage not to have a global court that could potentially try U.S.
leaders or soldiers for war crimes. Can you imagine the outrage and
indignation Americans would feel if George Herbert Walker Bush
and William Jefferson Clinton appeared alongside the names
Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic on the list of indicted war
criminals still at-large? As a citizen, I cant be expected to
personally answer for Bills sexual foibles or for Daddy and Baby
Bushs acts of terror. Why, then, should the Iraqi people suffer
for Saddams brutality?
It is an explicit violation of the UN Charter to deliberately destroy
facilities essential to civilian life, such as electricity-generating
power plants, communication systems, reservoirs, and water-purifying
and sanitation centers. Thus, the systematic decimation of the Iraqi
power grid and clean water and sewage systems are war crimes. It is
considered a war crime to purposefully destroy civilian economic targets,
such as textile factories and oil refineries. It is also a war crime
to bomb indiscriminately, not to distinguish between civilians and soldiers.
We did all this and more during the Gulf War, and continue to do so
to this day.
On top of this, the U.S., under the guise of the UN, exacerbates the
damage by blocking the ability to repair power, water and communications
infrastructures by determining lists of items considered to have dual
naturesmeaning, they could potentially be used for the creation
of weapons of mass destructionthat cannot be imported into Iraq.
These include: bleach, cleaning detergents, paper, pencils, water pumps,
artificial respirators, heart machines, air-conditioned vehicles such
as ambulances, piping for sewage and water systems, reeds for clarinets
and violin strings, computer equipment, and a host of other things.
Most hospital floors stink of gasoline because they dont have
access to other cleaning agents.
Before the Gulf War and the cruel decade-long regime of sanctions,
the most important problem facing Iraqi pediatricians was childhood
and the average Iraqi enjoyed a quality of life similar to that of
most Greeks. Now Iraq has a child mortality rate worse than that of
poverty has skyrocketed and the quality of life has plunged. With the
deaths of 5,000 children each monthmostly from treatable illnesses
such as diarrhea, malnutrition, gastro-intestinal inflammations, heart
disease, high blood pressure and diabeteson our consciences, weve
got to ask ourselves: who is the one engaging weapons of mass destruction
here? How on earth can such collateral damage be justified
in the name of democracy; in the name of the American people? Von Sponecks
question haunts my conscience: Is the death of a person
a result of hunger and disease any different than the death of a child
or an adult because of war and bombs? Effectively, there is no
difference. I imagine that if they really knew what was going on, most
Americans would be appalled.
An excellent source of information is: Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly
Impact of Sanctions and War, edited by Anthony Arnove, available
from South End Press.