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Von Sponeck editorial to the Philadelphia Inquirer

To fellow Iraqi activists - I just sent this editorial off to the Inquirer, 
who covered the Von Sponeck story with one of its short paragraphs in the 
second page International News section (no coverage of the UN protest, of 
course).  Bob Allen is working on another Von Sponeck editorial.  I agree 
that the more of us who write, the more pressure there is to cover the story.

The Inquirer reported on February 15 that Hans von Sponeck, the top
United Nations humanitarian official in Iraq, resigned his post because he
had lost hope for an improvement in conditions for the Iraqi people.  He
became the second top UN official in Iraq to resign in protest, following
in the footsteps of his predecessor, Denis Halliday, who resigned in
December 1998 after spending a little less than a year in Iraq overseeing
the Oil-for-Food program.  Yet another top official has now resigned,
Jutta Burghardt, the chief of the UN World Food Program, who said in a
CNN interview, "It is a true humanitarian tragedy what is happening
here... ."
     The US pressured UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to fire von
Sponeck back in October 1998, when he began criticizing US policy. 
According to a recent Reuters report, when Annan extended von
Sponeck's term to April 25 (rather than for a full year), von Sponeck had
been told to curb his public statements.  In resuming his public criticism,
von Sponeck said, "So I'm not alone in my view that we have reached a
point where it is no longer acceptable that we are keeping our mouths
      While the US blames Saddam Hussein for the suffering of the Iraqi
people, the voices of career UN diplomats, speaking courageously from
personal knowledge, tell a different story.  They know why the 
Oil-for-Food program has failed to provide the basic necessities for the
people of Iraq.  First, at least 30% of the revenues from Iraqi oil sales go
for war reparations and to pay for the extensive UN bureaucracy.  What
is leftover is not enough to provide an adequate diet for the Iraqi people
who exist on a UN food basket.  Second, the high death rate of Iraqi
children is due largely to Iraq's ruined infrastructure, so that children
drink polluted water, play in sewage-drenched streets, and hospitals
struggle with electric failures and unhygienic conditions.  It is the US's
insistence on strictly enforcing what are called "dual use" sanctions that
has prevented Iraq from rebuilding its electric, sewage and water
treatment facilities.  Over a billion dollars of Oil-for-food revenues
remain unspent because of US refusal to approve expenditures on
infrastructure-related goods.  
     As the United States becomes increasingly isolated in the UN, its
efforts to silence people of conscience such as Von Sponeck should be
roundly condemned.  We in the United States must applaud these
truthtellers and rally behind their example to demand that the US stop its
war against the people of Iraq. 

Kitty Bryant
5 Awbury Road
Philadelphia, PA 19138
(215)438-4181  e-mail: 
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