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Toronto Star Article (courtesy of Peter Griffith via Colin Rowat)

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
- 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 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


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 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

``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

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.

Haroon Siddiqui is The Star's editorial page editor emeritus.
His column appears Sundays and Thursdays. His e-mail
address is hsiddiq@thestar.

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