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End Sanctions & Bombing: moving CBC commentary

On Wednesday, Bill Janzen the director of the
Mennonite Central Committee in Ottawa delivered a
stirring commentary calling for an end to both the
sanctions and bombing of Iraq on Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation's Radio 1 morning news program. It is one
of the few times that I am aware of Iraq's plight
being highlighted on CBC. Here it is. (Thanks to the
Ottawa MCC for supplying the transcript.)

For CBC Commentary
by Bill Janzen
December 8, 1999

Two weeks ago I was on a field in southern Iraq
checking a tomato project when American fighter planes
came overhead. Soon we heard anti-aircraft fire. Our
group was not in danger but it was a vivid reminder of
what the Iraqi people live with and of the policy
problems now before the UN Security Council.

In 1991, after Iraq was forced out of Kuwait, the UN
continued with economic sanctions. They were to
pressure Iraq to cooperate with UN inspectors sent to
ensure that it did not have weapons of mass
destruction. Understandably, Iraq did not like being
inspected but the inspectors say that by December
1998, one year ago, they were close to concluding that
Iraq had met the requirements.

Then a crisis developed. The inspectors were withdrawn
and bombers sent in. Some say the crisis was
manufactured by the US. Others blame Iraq.
What is clear is that for the last twelve months
American and British planes have made almost daily
'fly-overs' and frequent bombings. Though claiming to
target military installations, they have hit 
residential areas, hospitals, schools, markets, a herd
of sheep, and water-storage facilities. They've killed
several hundred civilians and injured thousands.

For the people of Iraq these bombings come on top of
the decade-long sanctions. These have led to severe
shortages of food, medicines, spare parts for water
treatment systems, and other necessities. Over a
million people have died. Our visits to Iraqi
hospitals are unforgettable. School attendance is
down. Stealing, prostitution and killing are up. And
salaries for teachers, doctors and civil servants are
at two
percent of what they were. To help alleviate these
needs, the UN and Iraq agreed, in 1996, to an
Oil-For-Food program. It allows Iraq to sell oil
and acquire humanitarian goods. This has helped but it
has not stopped the deteriorating trends.

In the debate now before the UN Security Council, most
countries say that Iraq must allow weapons inspectors
back in. The main argument is whether the sanctions
should now be 'suspended', meaning that they
could be reinstated if Iraq refused to cooperate with
the inspectors, or whether Iraq must first demonstrate
cooperation for, say, a four month period, before the
sanctions might be terminated. Both scenarios
suggest that the sanctions could end soon but that
cannot be assumed. President Clinton has said the
sanctions will stay as long as Saddam stays. That
stance, which hardly invites cooperation, may be a key
part of the problem.

Canada, to its credit, is trying to broaden and
improve the Oil-For-Food program. It should also
insist that UN resolutions be applied fairly, not only
those on Iraq, but those calling for regional
disarmament and
justice for the Palestinians. That is more likely to
elicit cooperation.

The current approach on Iraq is destroying a
generation. The human costs are enormous. People have
lost hope, and anti-western sentiment is
growing. It does not bode well for the future.

For Commentary, this is Bill Janzen in Ottawa.
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