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"Half a million dead kids prove sanctions brutal as bombs"

The following - which includes further information from Richard Garfield -
has been circulated in the U.S. via the Newhouse Syndicate,  whose reach is
substantial.  This instance appeared today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, at .  Thanks to Edward
Lee for posting.

Thanks and comments can be sent to   If you write,
please mention that sanctions needn't be all-or-none (a point Sullivan

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

Half a million dead kids prove sanctions brutal as bombs
Published: Thursday, August 19, 1999

In the first systematic assessment of childhood deaths in Iraq since
international sanctions were imposed in 1990, the United Nations Children's
Fund says an extra half a million kids have died.

 That's right -- 500,000 children who might otherwise have lived to see age

 UNICEF documented a doubling of under-5 mortality in southern and central
Iraq over the last decade. More than 10 percent of young kids are dying.

 It is a frightening indictment of the societal crisis that has enveloped
this once-prosperous country since the end of the Persian Gulf War.

 The crisis for Iraq's children has many causes -- bureaucratic rigidity,
internal neglect, U.N. sanctions, the continued U.S. bombing and isolation
of Iraq, and Saddam Hussein's evil manipulations, using the deaths of
children to advance his own international agenda.

 Saddam wants sanctions lifted, and he'll do just about anything short of
self-destruction to accomplish it.

 But that doesn't excuse U.S. officials' callousness.

 Presented last week with this first credible evidence of what humanitarian
aid workers had been saying for years about dying Iraqi children, the United
States blamed it all on Saddam. As if our bombs and our support for
sanctions played no role.

 "The bottom line is that if Saddam Hussein would not continue to hoard
medicines and capabilities to assist the children of Iraq, they wouldn't
have this problem," said State Department spokesman James Rubin. "So,
clearly, the blame for the suffering of the Iraqi people falls squarely on
the shoulders of its tyrannical leader."

 This ranks Rubin right up there with Saddam on the cynicism scale.

 Contrary to Rubin's assertions, recent U.N. reports on Iraq's handling of
the oil-for-food program (it sells oil and the United Nations deducts war
reparations, then buys food to give the Iraqi people) show a different
picture. Food is being handed out aggressively in the south and center of
the country. The nutritional value of the food basket is vastly improved,
although the drop in oil prices caused problems in getting high-quality

 Richard Garfield, a U.S. epidemiologist who was in Iraq in May and June,
said medicines were also finally coming out of the warehouses, where
bureaucrats had mired them. He said Saddam regards food handouts as a matter
of his own survival -- without the food baskets, people might be rioting in
the streets.

 The chief problem remains unrepaired wartime damage in rural areas, where
most childhood and infant deaths are occurring. Without money to fix ruined
irrigation systems and get electrical grids and drinking-water systems
working again, aid experts say, the health of kids in southern and central
Iraq may continue to deteriorate.

 Rubin made much of UNICEF's finding that trends for kids in northern Iraq,
an autonomous area run by the United Nations, were better than for children
elsewhere in Iraq, where the Iraqi government hands out food -- proof
positive, he said, that Saddam and not the sanctions was killing kids.

 But Garfield said northern Iraq had three times as many nongovernmental
do-gooders as did the south and center of the country. Northern Iraqi kids
also get about 10 percent more food per capita, because no war-reparations
money is being deducted. Finally, he said, cash is given in addition to
food, something that doesn't happen in the south.

 Garfield also argued that the trend lines were skewed since so many Kurdish
kids in northern Iraq were dying five years ago after a vicious civil war
and internal embargo.

 It may be true that, given Saddam's agenda, little can be done to fine-tune
the U.N. sanctions to make them more humane. But UNICEF's study is a useful
reminder that sanctions are a blunt weapon. The very poor, the very young
and the very innocent are the very first to suffer.

Sullivan is foreign-affairs correspondent for the Plain Dealer of Cleveland.
Distributed by Newhouse News Service.

Address of original story:

(c) 1999 St. Paul Pioneer Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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