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The following ran in Tuesday's Boston Globe (http://www.globe.com/dailyglobe2/278/oped/America_s_wars_on_civiliansP.shtm l): --- America's wars on civilians By James Carroll, 10/05/99 hen Americans read an Associated Press report last week of No Gun Ri, where hundreds of Korean civilians may have been massacred by GIs during the Korean War, first comparisons were drawn with My Lai, where GIs killed something like 500 Vietnamese civilians. But a difference quickly became evident. The Americans at My Lai were regarded as berserk. However much their actions resulted from the inherent stresses of that war, their brutal targeting of noncombatants was said to be an exceptional deviation from orders. But according to documents found by the AP, the GIs at No Gun Ri may have been acting under orders. Shooting civilians was seen to be necessary because enemy soldiers used flows of refugees as cover, and it was thought the only way to kill the soldiers was to kill the civilians. The rush with which the Pentagon announced an investigation into No Gun Ri last week implies a refusal to openly justify the direct targeting of civilians, even to get at enemy soldiers behind them. A humane military force simply does not massacre old people and children. That principle is promulgated as well by the spirit of remorse with which the by-now elderly American veterans acknowledged the ''wholesale slaughter,'' as one described it, of the refugees in Korea. And yet the strategy of shooting through the innocent, as if babies were bits of foliage, is alive and well and at the heart of American foreign policy. Instead of using the bullets of machine guns, however, the United States uses economic sanctions. A comprehensive strategy of punishing the elites of hostile states, and indirectly hampering their militaries, by directly choking their whole societies has evolved over the last decade into a central arc of the American sway. Since 1991, the administration and Congress have acted unilaterally to impose sanctions on various countries dozens of times. And the United States has been the enthusiastic sponsor of numerous programs of collective international sanctions imposed mainly by the UN Security Council. The one undisputed success of an international sanctions strategy, in South Africa, seems to have licensed a broad denial of the more typical failure of sanctions elsewhere to dislodge repressive governments, much less to advance democracy. Meanwhile, according to disinterested agencies like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of civilians have died as a direct result of economic embargoes. An epic sweep of malnourishment, starvation, disease, infant mortality, economic stagnation, and social collapse has crossed the globe from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Colombia to Iran, Iraq, and Syria; from Sudan, Angola, and Libya now to Yugoslavia. Sanctions imposed on such nations lead to the failure of industry and the growth of unemployment, to the lack of fertilizer and the destruction of farmland, to the decline of wages and a skyrocketing of living costs, to the breakdown of sewage treatment and the return of cholera, and to the radical demoralization of whole populations, which makes humane political change less likely, not more. Sanctions are war in slow-motion but with this difference: Enemy armies are the least affected. Dictators and oligarchs wall themselves off from the worst effects of deprivation while the most vulnerable are thrown into its maw. In some places, like Iraq, ''humanitarian exceptions'' have been made, supposedly to enable medicines and other necessities to get through - but to little effect. One UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Denis Halliday, resigned in protest, declaring, ''No one wants to acknowledge the amount of nonmilitary damage, the destruction of cold food and medicine storage, the power supply.... I didn't realize our level of complicity in the suffering.'' Each month, according to the UN's own figures, more than 4,000 children die in Iraq because of sanctions. Protests from peace groups like one named Voices in the Wilderness have been ignored (See ''Peacework,'' a publication of the American Friends Service Committee). Questions about the morality of sanctions have been raised (See Larry Minear in ''Hard Choices,'' edited by Jonathan Moore). Deadly medical results have been documented (See Richard M. Garfield in ''War and Public Health,'' edited by Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel). Nearly two years ago US Catholic bishops asked President Clinton to lift sanctions against Iraq ''because they deprive innocent people'' of ''food and medicine, basic elements for normal life.'' Not even the witness of an insider like Halliday, whose protest and resignation came more than a year ago, has led to a reconsideration of this inhumane strategy. Indeed, when President Clinton reconfirmed the international sanctions regime against Yugoslavia at the end of the NATO air war, hardly anyone seemed to think badly of the idea, even though it means shooting at Slobodan Milosevic through the bodies of those who will now die as a result of polluted water, scarce electricity, shortages of medicine and food, and, soon, a lack of heat in freezing weather. The Pentagon investigation into the massacre at No Gun Ri may well turn up an order-issuing culprit on whom to hang the larger blame, and the United States may even make reparations to the families of the Korean victims. But such actions in the name of the high idea that this nation does not target the unarmed and the weak will ring hollow as long as our child-killing strategy of sanctions remains in place. James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe. This story ran on page A17 of the Boston Globe on 10/05/99. ---- -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Please do not send emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***