What about Iraq? Stop the Bombing, End the Sanctions

Published by the California Tech on 26th October, 1999

It seems we have all forgotten about that far off country called Iraq. Our senses have been dulled by catch phrases such as “no-fly zones”, “weapons of mass destruction”, etc etc which are as nauseatingly overused in the press as terms like “ethnic cleansing” or “national security”. Today we barely see or hear anything in the newspapers about the regular air strikes by the United States and the United Kingdom or the continuation of the economic sanctions against Iraq. Is it not shocking to the majority of normal, compassionate individuals in the world that a country torn by poverty over nearly a decade of economic sanctions and ravaged by the after effects of anti-tank bullets suspected to be toxic, is being bombarded daily from the skies by the bastions of “Western Civilization” within their self-declared “no-fly” zones? Since January 1999 the US and UK have performed well over 200 air strikes against Iraq, routinely killing and injuring civilians. The very civilians who the so-called Allied Powers claim to be protecting from Saddam. Among the targets destroyed by US bombs were the UN World Food Program warehouse holding 260,000 tons of rice, Qurnah hospital in Basra, a cotton factory in Baghdad, a main water system in Karrada, a secondary school in the Northern Kurdish region, and a grain storage building in Salahiddin (taken from a UN survey of bombing damage, January 1999 Reuters report ). Additionally, over 50 civilians have been killed by bombs, and nearly 200 wounded since this January alone. Over the last year I have constantly heard the following response to any arguments against the bombing of Iraq and the sanctions against it: “well if only those Iraqis would oust that tyrant Saddam, everything would be wonderful, the sanctions would be lifted, the bombs would stop.” The implication of this evasive position being, “And while they allow him to stay in power, the Iraqis are suffering a well-deserved fate”.

What does the world gain by imposing sanctions on Iraq, a country devastated and falling apart under the weight of 8 years of US/UK aggression? Perhaps one can discern the massive Western concern over an Iraqi threat by examining some of the items banned to the Iraqi people as part of the sanctions which include an oil embargo. Among them are : ambulances, basic medication, books, magazines (including scientific and medical journals), bicycles, toys, cameras, chessboards, tissue paper, toilet paper, candles, carpets, chairs, children’s clothing, bathing suits, combs and hairpins, hats, shoes and sandals, paints, computers, watches, flower pots, forks and knives, pens, shampoos, thermometers, petroleum jelly, and even waffle irons (Compiled by Davidsson, E., December 1997). And this is just a fraction of the entire list.

If the list of banned goods seems to imply something other than a way to render harmless the Iraqi dictator, one could examine the direct effects of the sanctions on Iraq in order to assess their efficiency at subverting possible aggression by Saddam Hussein. One year ago, a Reuters report (August 1999) quoted 1.4 million Iraqis were dead as a result of the US/UK backed sanctions. Former United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Dennis Halliday, who resigned in protest of the sanctions last year, reported that 5-6000 Iraqis are dying each month (London Guardian, January 1999) and pleaded “We must find another solution”. Most analysts admit that the sanctions strengthen the Iraqi leadership and further weaken the people of the country. A 1998 UNICEF report on the effects of the sanctions imposed on Iraq finds that the alternative solution, a UN sponsored “Oil-for-Food plan has not yet resulted in adequate protection of Iraq’s children from malnutrition/disease. Those children spared from death continue to remain deprived of essential rights.” Meanwhile Saddam Hussein stays firmly in power.

The countries most responsible for the suffering of Iraqi people are the United States and the United Kingdom who have openly defied the UN Security Council’s unanimous rejection of their use of force by continuing air strikes against Iraq and vehemently supporting the economic sanctions. A March 22 1991 New York Times article explains the United States’ reasons for keeping the sanctions in place: “… by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.” This attack on the people of Iraq is in direct violation of numerous international agreements, among them the Geneva Conventions, the International Conference on Nutrition, the Constitution of the World Health Organization, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of genocide, the Convention of the Rights of the Child (which the United States alone refuses to ratify), the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, ironically, satisfies the conditions that define international terrorism according to the United States Legal Code (Title 18′ 2331). Additionally, according to Noam Chomsky, a leading US foreign policy critic, “It costs the US/UK nothing to keep a stranglehold on Iraq and to torture its people — while strengthening Saddam’s rule, as all concede. There is a temporary oil glut, and from the point of view of the oil majors (mainly US/UK and clients), it’s just as well to keep Iraqi oil off the market for the moment; the low price is harmful to profits.” (Taken from Znet Commentary, early 1999).

It is clear enough who benefits from the effects of the bombing and the sanctions and who suffers. That this world allows such an atrocity to occur is shameful. That the United Nations allows and sponsors it is testimony to the free reign of terror in today’s world. It is clear that the sanctions and bombing are not hurting Saddam. It is clear that the only victims are the millions of Iraqi citizens who are being bombarded illegally by bombs from above while being legally starved to death. This is nothing less than an all-out war against the people of Iraq, authorized and carried out by the US and UK, and tacitly approved of by the rest of the world.

So what can you as a member of the Caltech community do to help bring
an end to the war against Iraqi people? Educate yourself and others
about the issue via alternative media sources – the mainstream US
media is not discussing the issue in any detail at present and this
article cannot do justice to the entire issue. Two of the many
excellent sources of information on the internet are: The Iraq Action
Coalition at www.iraqaction.org, and Z Magazine Online at
www.zmag.org. Write to President Clinton at The White House, 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20515, or call him at
(202)456-1414, or fax him at (202)456-2461 and let him know that you
oppose the bombing and starving of millions of innocent
Iraqis. Contact your elected representatives and urge them to support
an immediate end to bombs and sanctions. Take some time out to join
activist groups in the Pasadena and Los Angeles area such as our very
own Caltech Progressive Coalition (www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~progress), or
the International Action Center in Los Angeles (www.iacla.org) when they organize demonstrations to express opposition to the US/UK policies on Iraq. Join the women and men of Voices in the Wilderness (www.nonviolence.org/vitw) who send delegations bringing food and medicine to the people of Iraq by openly defying the travel ban to Iraq in protest of the sanctions. Let us not wait before it is too late. As informed and educated citizens and students it is our duty to speak out against the crimes committed by the US government against Iraqis in our name.