Suffer the ChildrenBy Bert Sacks
Washington Post Letters to the Editor
Saturday, February 26, 2000; Page A19
A four-word summary of your Feb. 21 editorial "Sanctions Sanctimony" could be "It's all Saddam's fault." A four-word rebuttal would be "46,900 excess children's deaths."
The New England Journal of Medicine reported "an excess of more than 46,900 children died between January and August 1991."
UNICEF says that number has now climbed to 500,000 "excess" children's deaths. The New England Journal of Medicine explained one major reason: "The destruction of the country's power plants had brought its entire system of water purification and distribution to a halt, leading to epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, and gastroenteritis, particularly among children. Although the allied bombing had caused few civilian casualties, the destruction of the infrastructure resulted in devastating long-term effects on health."
Why did we bomb Iraq's civilian infrastructure and destroy the electrical grid? In 1991 your paper interviewed Pentagon planner Col. John Warden. He explained that "Saddam Hussein cannot restore his own electricity. . . . It gives us long-term leverage" ["Allied War Struck Broadly in Iraq," front page, June 23, 1991].
As one who has traveled to Iraq recently with the humanitarian group Voices in the Wilderness, I know that, nine years after the war, Iraqi children are still dying of polluted water for our "long-term leverage." We keep repeating, "It's all Saddam's fault." But our responsibility is becoming harder to avoid. The resignations of Hans von Sponeck and Jutta Burghardt--brave good people--challenge us to see what they've seen firsthand. Until we do, 150 more "excess" Iraqi children will die again tomorrow.