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Two Important Letters on Iraq.

Salaam alaikum.
   This first letter is written by the chapter head of the ADC in Austin 
while the second one is in response to an NPR broadcast about Iraq.

Economic Embargo Hurts Children of Iraq
By Sylvia Shihadeh

The voices opposing the war against the Iraqi people are growing louder. 

It began with a few brave citizens traveling to Iraq to learn about
conditions precipitated by a brutal and inhumane economic embargo and
challenging the notion that systematic killing of the most vulnerable --
the children, the sick, the aged -- was necessary. 

Then 54 U.S. Catholic bishops voiced their concern. The pope and religious
leaders around the world joined in. 

Now, 70 members of the House of Representatives have pleaded with
President Clinton to lift the sanctions, with one of them calling it
"infanticide raised to the level of policy." 

And for the second time, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator, the
person in charge of saving lives in Iraq, has resigned in protest, saying
he could not be silent in the face of such suffering. The World Food
Program official in Iraq also turned in her resignation. 

"The tragedy must end," said Hans von Sponeck, the U.N. official. The
cause of the tragedy is well known. After Iraq's civilian infrastructure
was destroyed by bombing during the 1991 Gulf War, the harshest regime of
economic sanctions in history has remained in place. The lack of adequate
nutrition, health care and clean water has turned Iraq from a prosperous
society with extensive social services into a devastated wasteland. 

As a direct result of the sanctions, at least 1 million -- more than half
of them children -- have died, according to U.N. statistics. Today, about
5,000 children under the age of 5 to die every month. 

Why are the sanctions in place? Because the United States rejects the
international consensus and demands that the embargo remain. The cover
story is fear of the Hussein regime rebuilding weapons of mass destruction
and threatening neighbors. Throughout the 1980s, such concerns didn't
bother policy-makers, for Hussein was a U.S. ally. 

The real story of U.S. policy is about control of the resources of the
Middle East and the profits that flow from those resources. It is about
the imposition of unilateral control and a rejection of international

The anti-sanctions movement is gaining strength, as people begin to
understand that systematically starving children is not an acceptable
policy. Sanctions are not an alternative to war; they are a different kind
of war, every bit as brutal. 

In the past year in Austin, we have been lucky to hear from many experts
who have been traveling to raise their voices to tell the truth. Denis
Halliday, the first humanitarian coordinator to resign in protest, last
year pleaded with people to pressure the U.S. government to change course.
And Kathy Kelly, one of the courageous dissenters who has organized
countless trips to Iraq to deliver supplies and hope, asked us to think
about what we would say to an Iraqi parent cradling a baby who would die
from lack of simple medicine. 

What would we say to that parent? And what will we say to the leaders of
this country who have said that the deaths of more than half a million
children are "worth the price"? 

Will we raise our voices? Will we keep speaking the truth until the
administration hears, and this tragedy is ended? 



From: Ali Abunimah <>

February 28, 2000

Dear NPR News,

Mike Shuster's report about Iraq, on All Things Considered today contained
some positive elements, but on the whole it amounted to a cursory and
inadequate treatment of a story that NPR has consistently neglected. There
were some inaccurate and misleading statements in the report as well. 

Shuster's report was about mounting criticism against the economic embargo
on Iraq. The report mentioned that this criticism has recently come from
70 Members of Congress who signed a letter to President Clinton calling
for the lifting of the embargo, and from Hans Von Sponeck, the head of the
UN "oil for food" program, who recently submitted his resignation in
protest at the sanctions.

It was good that Shuster's report quoted Von Sponeck at some length,
mentioned the doubling of child mortality in Iraq since sanctions were
imposed, mentioned the Congressional letter and referred to the fact that
the United States has used its position on the UN committee which oversees
the sanctions to block the approval of about two billion dollars worth of
contracts for supplies for Iraq.

But there were significant problems with the report. First a correction:
the sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, shortly after its invasion of
Kuwait, not as Shuster stated, following the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The
original purpose of the sanctions was to force Iraq to leave Kuwait. This
purpose was extended after the war to include disarming Iraq.

Second, while Shuster's report covered Von Sponeck's resignation, and
mentioned that a second UN official had resigned following him, it failed
to mention that Von Sponeck's predecessor, Denis Halliday had also
resigned in protest at the sanctions. I think this is highly relevant,
especially since NPR virtually ignored Halliday's resignation at the time.
When one person resigns it can be dismissed. When two, independent
professionals resign from the same senior post, then tough questions must
be asked. It would also have been informative to quote or interview some
of the leading members of Congress who have spoken out. For example, House
Minority Whip David Bonior called his own administration's approach to
Iraq "infanticide masquerading as policy." Surely such an unprecedented
and sharp rupture in the mainstream political consensus on Iraq is worthy
of greater note.

Third, Shuster's discussion of the "oil for food" program, and the new UN
resolution 1284, was superficial and misleading. In characterizing the
"oil for food" program, Shuster stated that it now allows Iraq to sell an
"unlimited amount of oil in the international markets and use the bulk of
the revenues" to buy food medicine and other necessaries.

This is true only if we consider, as President Clinton might, that it
depends what the meaning of the word "unlimited" is. While on paper, Iraq
is allowed to sell an "unlimited" amount of oil, in practice it is
severely limited by the dilapidated state of its oil industry, a condition
made worse by the fact that as reported, the US has consistently blocked
contracts for equipment to repair bombed and worn equipment. Prior to the
lifting of the ceiling on oil sales in December, Iraq was scarcely able to
fulfill its quotas, or was able to get close only by using pumping
techniques (such as forcing water into the wells) that risk irreparable
damage to the oil fields. 

It has been almost ignored by the US media that the United States is
increasingly dependent on cheaper Iraqi oil purchased mostly through
Russian and European intermediaries. According to a recent report in the
Dallas Morning News (January 20, 2000)--the only one I've seen--US oil
imports from Iraq doubled last year, making Iraq the fifth largest
supplier of oil to the US. In 1996, the US was importing no oil from Iraq.
According to the report, the US is buying the oil below the cost of
comparable grades from other suppliers. At a time when world oil prices
are high and rising, this differential--only possible because of the
subordinate and uncertain state Iraq is kept in--is one clear incentive
for the United States to keep the sanctions on and prevent Iraq from
regaining its freedom to manoeuver in world oil markets. Larry Goldstein,
president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation in New York,
explained that Iraqi oil is cheaper because "It's the last piece of crude
a refiner would look at because of the uncertainty of supply, so it has to
be competitively priced." Hence in the current market, the conflict with
Iraq and the instability it creates is actually advantageous to the United
States government. 

Shuster characterized the recently passed UN Security Council Resolution
1284 as being designed to keep the pressure on Iraq to allow inspectors
back in, while easing the burden on Iraq's people: "That in fact is the
goal of the Security Council's most recent approach to the problem. In
December, in an attempt to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq--they
haven't been there since late 1998--the Council agreed to suspend
sanctions, but in exchange the Council said that Iraq would have to allow
inspections to resume...So far the Iraqi government has refused to
cooperate with this plan."

Not so fast Mike: this characterization glosses over the fact that the new
resolution only calls for the suspension of sanctions 120 days at the
earliest after Iraq allows the inspectors back in and "cooperates" with
them. It is extremely vague about about what "cooperation" means, and it
is because of this vagueness that three of the five permanent members
abstained from voting for it. From the perspective of the Iraqi people, it
leaves them hostage to the whims and decisions of both the United States
and the Iraqi government, and fails to provide the immediate relief
needed. While legally it may represent the will of the Council,
politically speaking it hardly represents a consensus or a new approach.
Shuster's description misleadingly suggests that the suspension of
sanctions would take place as soon as, or possibly before, the inspections

Finally, Shuster noted that President Clinton cited "the healthier
conditions of the ethnic Kurdish population of northern Iraq, where the
'oil for food' program is controlled by the UN directly, not by the
government in Baghdad, as it is in the rest of the country," as evidence
that Iraq's government and not sanctions are to blame for the difference.
Shuster should have noted that this interpretation is considered by many
experts, including the UN officials who have run the programs, to be
misleading: the Kurdish north is not subject to the same tight embargo as
the rest of Iraq, and goods flow in freely from Turkey, with whom Kurds
have an enormous sanctions-busting trade.  The north of Iraq has better
conditions for agriculture than the rest of the country, and hence is able
to produce more food.

I do not know whose decision it was to devote only four minutes to this
story, one which you have virtually ignored for months, but in such a
short time it is impossible to adequately address the issues. 

It remains to be seen if NPR will begin to take its neglect of Iraq
seriously and to take steps to rectify it. I urge NPR's ombudsman to take
this matter up on behalf of its woefully ill-served listeners.


Ali Abunimah
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