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I didn't put this in this week's news because, I prefer to keep editorial opinion out of the news clippings. This is an interesting article that appeared in the Toronto Star. 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: `BLAME SADDAM' SYNDROME 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 Axworthy: ``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. SKEPTICISM ON NUMBERS 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. ANTI-ARAB RACISM 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.'' DOUBLE STANDARDS 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 Chrétien: ``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. MUDDLED AMERICAN AGENDA 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 sanctions. 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. Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Sundays and Thursdays. His e-mail address is hsiddiq@thestar. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi