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Letter to Wash. Post: Iraq


To the Editor
The Washington Post

February 24, 2000

Dear Sir/Madam,

Howard Schneider's "Letter from Iraq; A Land in Limbo, Sinking ever
lower" (February 23, 2000) paints a sobering picture of an Iraq drifting
into third world conditions.

Schneider talks about the "controversial estimates of 'excess deaths'
attributable to the [sanctions]."  Thus, Schneider terms the
well-documented evidence of an increase in child mortality as
"controversial," a term usually deployed to cast doubt. But not even the
United States government has contested the findings of the 1999 UNICEF
survey which found that 500,000 toddlers and infants have died because of
the sanctions.

Schneider also refers to the 'recurrence of diseases due to poor
sanitation,' yet why does Schneider fail to mention that the "poor
sanitation" is largely because the United States deliberately destroyed
Iraq's civilian infrastructure, including water treatment and power
plants, in complete violation of the laws of war and without any plausible
military necessity?  Furthermore, because of the sanctions, this critical
infrastructure has not been restored.

Hans Von Sponeck, the latest UN humanitarian programme coordinator in
Baghdad to resign in protest at the human rights catastrophe created by
sanctions, recently stated that the situation in Iraq is getting worse:
"We have increasing evidence on many fronts. When you look at the
mortality situation you could see there is a rising trend." (Reuters,
February 17).

Despite this evidence, Schneider, echoing the official US government line,
asserts that some conditions in Iraq are "improving." The most critical
indicators  -- including health and education -- clearly are not.

While Schneider does allow the reader to gauge some of the devastation
caused to Iraq, he is careful to excise any suggestion that western
governments have played a role in creating and perpetuating this
situation, a role that was highlighted most recently by US House Minority
Whip David Bonior, who described the sanctions as "infanticide
masquerading as policy." Surely it is time to take the mask off once and
for all.

Ali Abunimah

Rania Masri
Coordinator, Iraq Action Coalition

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