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~"What If Iraqis Were White Europeans?"~

   The following editorial by Editor Emeritus Haroon Siddiqui is from the 
Toronto Star.  (2 Feb 2000)

~ What If Iraqis Were White Europeans? ~ 

{ "The number of deaths from sanctions in Iraq are similar to those killed 
during Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia. And it is higher than the 
number of deaths during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda."
---Inter-Church Action, a coalition of Canadian churches. }

THE DECADE-LONG American-led sanctions are strangulating a whole nation. 
Saddam Hussein does not care. But do we? 

Several church, non-governmental and citizens' groups obviously do. There is 
widespread public unease, but no outcry, yet. Why? 

Several explanations are profferred by a broad range of concerned 
commentators and observers: 


Propagated by America, parroted by Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, it makes 
for good tactics but bad morality. 

As Chris Derksen Hiebert of the Central Mennonite Committee says, Saddam may 
``make it easy for people here to say, `Not our fault Iraqis are dying; it's 
his fault.' But in supporting sanctions, Canadians are culpable.'' 

Raymond Legault of Voices of Conscience, Montreal, wrote recently to 

``Invariably, you lay the blame on the Iraqi regime. Notwithstanding its 
undeniable crimes, the Iraqi government is not responsible for the war which 
we have waged against Iraqi society as a whole.'' 

To which should be added this sobering fact: 

Our sanctions have killed far more people than Saddam ever did in invading 
Kuwait or in squashing subsequent internal insurrections.


Hardliners dismiss the figure of 1.5 million deaths attributed to sanctions 
as Iraqi propaganda. They also mock the oft-cited high child and maternal 
mortality rates. 

As callous and diversionary as such assertions are, they deserve a response. 

The numbers come not from Baghdad but UNICEF. It estimated that from 1990 to 
1997, 1.2 million Iraqis died due to lack of food and medicine, including 
750,000 children. The toll has since been projected to 1.5 million deaths, to 
Oct. 1999. 

Others have come to similar conclusions: the International Red Cross, Human 
Rights Watch, Food and Agricultural Organization, World Health organization, 
U.N. Development Program, and even a Security Council panel. 

More than numbers, though, what's important is this: 

The scale of the disaster is indisputably huge. We can no longer deny, even 
obfuscate, our role in inflicting slow, agonizing death on innocent people. 


This factor has often been cited across the Middle East and the entire Muslim 
world. In the West, it was first articulated by such scholars as Edward Said 
of Columbia University, an Arab Christian. Now it is percolating more 
broadly. Here's a sample: 

``It is difficult to believe that the American-Canadian-British alliance 
would perpetuate the same kind of carnage on a Caucasian population.'' 

So writes Toronto's Dale Hildebrand, head of Inter-Church Action, a coalition 
of Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian and United churches. 
He also adds: 

``Many have pointed to a racist politic inherent in the West's sanctions in 
Iraq. Arabs have long been demonized as violent and irrational terrorists. 
Horror and hatred of Arabs has been a constant theme, not only of foreign 
policy but also the American media and entertainment industry.'' 


Denis Halliday of Ireland, who resigned as head of the U.N. humanitarian 
coordinator in Iraq in protest and was recently in Ottawa to lobby against 
the sanctions, says: 

``One of the complaints of the Arab world is the double standard. When Israel 
neglects a (U.N.) resolution, nothing happens. This double standard drives 
them all bananas.'' 

The point is being made by Canadians as well, at times obliquely, at others 
quite bluntly. 

Walter Pitman, chair of Project Ploughshares, wrote to Prime Minister Jean 

``The international community's willingness to tolerate persistent defiance 
of other Security Council resolutions related to the Middle East has 
contributed to the weakening of the U.N., and the international community's 
capacity to act effectively in the Iraq case.'' 

Hildebrand's position paper on Iraq questions the American zeal in going 
after only Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. 

``A serious question must be raised as to why such objectives apply to Iraq 
and not to other countries, not only in the Middle East, but elsewhere. The 
U.S., the driving force behind the Iraqi sanctions, has all types of weapons 
of mass destruction, as do many other members of the U.N.'' 

Hildebrand even dismisses the rogue-state argument, noting the wide 
differences in Washington's approaches to various such states.


America sided with Saddam's decade-long war against Iran. It attacked him 
only when he grabbed oil-rich Kuwait. But it stopped just short of toppling 
him. Now it demonizes him. It says it has no quarrel with the Iraqi people, 
yet starves them. 

What does America really want? 

It wants Iraq intact but crippled. Sanctions are ``the brutal weapon of that 
realpolitik, of which the civilians are the victims.'' 

That's the chilling assessment of Rex Brynen, professor at McGill University 
and an expert on the Middle East. 

``Civilian sanctions can be more effective militarily than military 

If a country's economy is operating well and it has impressive domestic 
engineering capability and can build industrial plants, it can mount military 
operations. But if you can keep its economy in the toilet, it poses no threat 
to anyone.'' 

But since such a strategy is ``morally beyond any justification,'' America 
keeps up its red-hot rhetoric against Saddam. ``His non-compliance is very 
convenient for America'' - and confusing for the public. 
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