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Major sanctions coverage in the Houston Chronicle and Toronto Star

The Houston Chronicle has published a special section on "Iraq Today".  The
Chronicle sent two staffers into Iraq for the story, as did another Hearst
Corp. paper (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) earlier this year.  The
Chronicle's story began prominently on Page 1 of its Sunday edition, and is
online at

Also on Sunday, the Toronto Star began a two-part OpEd by Haroon Siddiqui,
the editor emeritus of its editorial page.  This piece is extremely
(refreshingly) hard-hitting for the mainstream press, as you'll see below
(also online at

Notes of support can be sent to the Houston Chronicle at, and to Mr. Siddiqui at
Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA
Canada must speak out on embargo
September 12, 1999
By Haroon Siddiqui

WHY IS CANADA vacillating at the United Nations over lifting the genocidal
economic sanctions on Iraq that are killing hundreds of thousands of
civilians, especially children? As an influential member of the Security
Council, we should be taking a strong moral stand. Instead, Foreign Minister
Lloyd Axworthy is reining in his reformist instincts to appease America and
Britain, the only Western states still insisting on pursuing the perverse
policy of getting at Saddam Hussein by inflicting untold miseries on
innocent Iraqi civilians. 

For eight months now, the United States and Britain have been waging an
undeclared war on Iraq, deploying 22,000 troops, 19 warships and 200
aircraft that have have fired 1,100 missiles and flown 10,000 combat sorties
- two-thirds of the missions mounted by the entire NATO command in the war
over Kosovo. 

The ostensible reason has been that Iraq has been violating the two no-fly
zones set up after the Gulf War. But the misdemeanours - foolish boasts from
Saddam about Iraqi sovereignty, the odd Iraqi radar locking on to an
American aircraft, or an Iraqi plane puncturing the prohibited air space for
seconds - are neither new nor serious enough to justify the longest
U.S.-British bombing campaign since Word War II. 

The real reasons for the bombing blitz are the American frustration over the
collapse of the discredited United Nations weapons inspection program,
following revelations that the CIA had infiltrated it to spy on Iraq, and an
American decision to topple Saddam, somehow, without ushering in democracy. 

But the bombing is no more likely to weaken his hold on power than the
eight-year-old economic sanctions that have been inflicting a slow death on
innocent civilians instead. 

The horrors have been catalogued in studies by several U.N. agencies,
academic institutions and NGOs, the latest being a UNICEF report. With minor
variations, they tell us this: 

> Iraqi civilian infrastructure, bombed to the Stone Age, has collapsed to
the point that it needs $41 billion to fix, $7 billion just to bring the
electricity generating capacity back to pre-Gulf War level. The country is
literally falling apart; 
> Hospitals have little or no electricity, anesthesia or drugs, not even
enough antibiotics and painkillers. 
> Water purification systems are broken, as are sewage lines. The percentage
of people with access to clean drinking water is down to 45 per cent, from
96 per cent. 
> Standard of living has plunged to the point that half the work force is
unemployed. Inflation is running at 5,000 to 7,000 per cent. About 10,000
teachers have quit, unable to survive on $3 to $5 monthly salaries. A third
of the children in schools have dropped out. 
> More than 2 million Iraqis, mostly professionals, have left. 
> A majority of the 20 million still stuck there are malnourished,
especially children. Infant mortality rate has doubled in the last nine
> The number of civilian deaths since 1991 is between 1.5 million and 1.7
million, including 500,000 children. The death toll of kids under 5 is about
250 a day. 

That's not the end of the horror story. 

Radioactive residue from the 1991 allied bombing is working its way through
humans. There's 800 tonnes of it from the 1 million rounds of ammunition
coated with depleted uranium to make it tough enough to slice through tanks.

The number of babies born with huge heads, abnormally large eyes, stunted
arms, bloated stomachs, missing heart valves is increasing. The
thalidomide-like deformities are showing up in a whole generation in some
villages - gruesome testimony to the monumental hypocrisy of America's
campaign against Iraq's covert nuclear and chemical weapons program. 

America and its apologists deflect the entire blame for such Iraqi suffering
to Saddam. Or they clear their conscience by pointing to the oil-for-food
program that allows $5.2 billion of sales every six months for essentials. 

That program has its own limitations. Nearly half the revenues are withheld
for U.N. expenses, including weapons inspection, and for compensating
victims of the Gulf War (including Western oil conglomerates that have so
far skimmed off $2.8 billion). Of the half left, Saddam diverts some to his
military and ruling elite. And the U.N. screening committee, under U.S.
pressure, puts its own bizarre import limitations - no chlorine for
desalination plants (because it can supposedly be diverted to chemical
weapons) or no pencils (because the lead may be used as a radar-deflecting
coat on planes). 

America remains unrepentant, unmoved by the plight of Iraqis. ``I think the
price is worth it,'' was the icily cruel response of Secretary of State
Madelaine Albright. 

Do Canadians think the price is worth it? 

There's growing consensus - both among governments and grassroots - that the
cruelties being inflicted on Iraqi civilians contravene the Geneva
Convention against genocide. Let our silence not make us accomplices to such
a crime. 

(To be continued on Thursday). 

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