Very few will dispute that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein is “ruthless, un-elected, and undemocratic” (Don’t fall for Saddam lies, Citizen 02.27.01). However, Martin Williams’ conclusion that by flying a planeload of medicines and milk powder to aid Iraq’s starving people, we are “frittering away credibility by wading in to prop up yet another dictator”, is way off the mark.
Williams states that he does not want to be reminded of the “tear-jerking …horrors wrought during recent attacks by evil US and British forces”.
Should the world, then, ignore the deaths of 1,3 million people, of whom 567,000 are children, because their leader is a tyrant created and supported by the very forces imposing sanctions against it? Britain virtually invented Iraq and divested it of Kuwait in order to divide and rule the region, laying the roots of this war. The Americans helped to put Saddam Hussein in power, providing him with a hit list of his opponents.
Prior to Iraq’s 1991 defeat at the hands of the US-led 33-nation alliance, its ability to provide for the basic necessities of most of its people in the areas of health, education and food was indeed commendable. It received Unicef’s award in recognition of the national immunization and welfare programs which had dramatically reduced the infant mortality rate and wiped out entire classes of children’s diseases such as polio, typhus and typhoid.
The Iraqi medical services have virtually collapsed though the sanctions ostensibly do not cover medicines and medical equipment. However, foreign medical companies have refused to honor contracts with Iraq, and the US and Britain have blocked Iraq’s attempts to purchase both medicines and food. For example, when Iraq asked to purchase a medication for controlling high blood pressure, it was told that the sale had been blocked because the 0,5 milligram tablet contained 0,00005 milligrams of glycerol trinitrate; a chemical that could be used to build weapons.
The overall effect is that the supply of medical items such as vaccines and even syringes has been drastically reduced, leading to a corresponding rise of polio, diphtheria, measles and tetanus. Also, malnutrition related diseases such as kwashiorkor and marasmus are on the rise, due to a lack of milk powder. This Anglo-America embargo is nothing less than genocide!
It becomes easy to kill mercilessly if the victims are savages and subhuman. In Vietnam the Americans killed “mere gooks” who US officials said don’t feel pain like Westerners. In Rwanda and Burundi and Bosnia the ‘international community’ watched with folded arms as a million people were butchered. Asians, Arabs and Africans are quite clearly given zero weight. This is what Madelein Albright said when asked on US television if she thought that that the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying, “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.”
Of course, Martin Williams echoes the Western powers argument that Iraq is the problem, that sanctions will be lifted the moment Iraq complies with UN Security Council resolutions. This is another example of Western sham. The sanctions were first imposed because of Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait. The understanding was that as soon as Iraq quits Kuwait, the sanctions will be lifted.
After Iraq was forced out of Kuwait in February 1991, the US and its allies decided to impose new conditions for lifting of sanctions. Each time Iraq complies with these conditions, the Western allies come up with new demands. In mid-1991, the issue was Iraq’s biological weapons. After that, it became Iraq’s nuclear weapons. Then, for a while , the spotlight turned to the delineation of Iraq’s border with Kuwait. This was followed by the alleged ill-treatment of the Shiites of southern Iraq, and subsequently the Kurds in the north.
It does not matter what Iraq does or does not do. The US and Britain are determined to keep sanctions going, and the real motive is not just oil. Iraq was perhaps the only Arab country with the potential to challenge the existing power structure in the Middle East which allows the US and Israel to dominate the entire region. This was why Iraq- from the point of view of the US and its close ally, Israel – had to be destroyed at all costs. The harsh, punitive sanctions imposed upon Iraq by the US and its allies, in the name of the UN, should be seen as a concerted endeavor to eliminate once and for all any threat to US-Israeli dominance of the Middle East.
It will a matter of great sorrow-and shame- that we will allow thousands of Iraqis to die, because of the West’s Machiavellian policies in the region. The South African government has, commendably, embarked on a mission to alleviate the horrendous plight of the ordinary Iraqi people. This humanitarian effort may lead to the end of the colossal slaughter of human beings, and this can only enhance our credibility, not fritter it away.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)