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End the Sanctions Against Iraq - NYT Ad

April 28, 1999


Advisory Board

Noam Chomsky, MIT

Howard Zinn, Boston University

Edward W. Said, Columbia University

Robert Jensen, University of Texas at Austin

William Keach, Brown University

Edward Herman, University of Pennsylvania

Ad Coordinator: Sharon Smith



Sanctions Are Weapons of Mass Destruction

We the undersigned call upon the United States government to end all sanctions against the people of Iraq.

At the end of 1998, the United States once again rained bombs on the people of Iraq. But even when the bombs stop falling, the U.S. war against the people of Iraq continues-through the United Nations harsh sanctions on Iraq, which are the direct result of U.S. policy.

This month, U.S. policy will kill 4,500 Iraqi children under the age of 5, according to United Nations studies, just as it did last month and the month before that all the way back to 1991. Since the end of the Gulf War, more than a million Iraqis have died as a direct result of the UN sanctions on Iraq.

To oppose the sanctions is not equivalent to supporting the regime of Saddam Hussein. To oppose the sanctions is to support the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein is a murderous dictator, who promotes those who are loyal to him and kills all those who voice opposition to his regime. But throughout the 1980s, when it suited U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East, the U.S. government was more than willing to ignore Saddam Hussein's brutality. In fact, U.S. and European companies provided Iraq with materials used to produce Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction." Moreover, the sanctions have not affected the lifestyle of Saddam Hussein or his inner circle. Food and medicine are available for those who can afford it. The sanctions hurt only the Iraqi people.

The sanctions are weapons of mass destruction. When a UN inspections team visited Iraq to survey the damage from the Gulf War in March 1991, it concluded that the bombing has reduced Iraq to a "pre-industrial age." The team said at that time that if the sanctions were not lifted, the country faced "immediate catastrophe." Yet the sanctions have continued for the last seven years, preventing Iraq from obtaining the hard currency to buy basic food stuffs and medicines-or to rebuild its infrastructure. The oil-for-food deal that allows Iraq to sell $5.2 billion of its oil every six months has had only marginal effects. The United Nations takes one-third of all oil revenues for war reparations and its own expenses. The oil-for-food program does not generate enough money to feed adequately a population of 22 million. Raising the ceiling would not help. The refineries were bombed during the war and need to be rebuilt-even now, Iraq is unable to produce all the oil it is allowed to. In October, Denis Halliday, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid to Iraq, resigned in protest, arguing that the sanctions "are starving to death 6,000 Iraqi infants every month, ignoring the human rights of ordinary Iraqis and turning a whole generation against the West."

The sanctions also prevent Iraq from importing many basic necessities. Most pesticides and fertilizer are banned because of their potential military use. Raw sewage is pumped continuously into water that people end up drinking because Iraq's water treatment plants were blown up by US bombs in 1991-and most have never been repaired. Yet chlorine is banned under the sanctions because it also could be of military use. Typhoid, dysentery and cholera have reached epidemic proportions. Farid Zarif, deputy director of the UN humanitarian aid program in Baghdad, argued recently, "We are told that pencils are forbidden because carbon could be extracted from them that might be used to coat airplanes and make them invisible to radar. I am not a military expert, but I find it very disturbing that because of this objection, we cannot give pencils to Iraqi schoolchildren."

For the past several years, individuals and groups have been delivering medicine and other supplies to Iraq in defiance of the U.S. blockade. Now, members of one of those groups, Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness, have been threatened with massive fines by the federal government for "exportation of donated goods, including medical supplies and toys, to Iraq absent specific prior authorization." Our government is harassing a peace group that takes medicine and toys to dying children: we owe these courageous activists our support.

This is not foreign policy-it is state-sanctioned mass murder. The Iraqi people are suffering because of the actions of both the Iraqi and U.S. governments, but our moral responsibility lies here in the United States. If we remain silent, we are condoning a genocide that is being perpetrated in the name of peace in the Middle East, a mass slaughter that is being perpetrated in our name.


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