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Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel joins the growing list of mainstream American newspapers who have recently published hard-hitting reports from Iraq. The JS capped this effort yesterday in their lead editorial, calling for sanctions to be lifted (though certainly, they're owed a letter or two concerning the complexities of North/South differences).
Published on Sunday, August 13, 2000 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Lift Sanctions Against Iraq
It's time to take another weapon out of the hands of Saddam Hussein, to reduce his control over events and Iraq's people and to again expose him for the brutal despot he is. It's time to lift the U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Heinen recently visited Iraq with a small group of peace activists and concerned observers from Milwaukee. His reports, published last week, powerfully detailed the misery, heartache and poverty that many Iraqis experience.
Shortages of food and medicine are common; it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died prematurely.
The greatest portion of the blame for the humanitarian disaster falls on Hussein. But there is little doubt that the sanctions, which the United Nations put into effect in 1990 after the Persian Gulf War, have contributed to the tragedy despite a massive oil-for-food relief program.
This newspaper has supported the sanctions and their critical goal: crippling Hussein's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction. But there is good reason to question the sanctions' effectiveness; they certainly haven't weakened Hussein's iron grip on Iraq. What there's no question about is Hussein's use of them for his own ends.
Blame the Americans, he tells his people. Your lives are miserable? Your homes in ruins? Your children dying? Blame the Americans. They are not giving you what you need; they are preventing me from helping you. Blame the Americans.
So a generation of children grow up with hatred in their hearts for the United States and admiration for Hussein, the great hero who defies the Americans. Future leaders of Iraq will come from this generation.
In fact, it is Hussein who has caused their plight. The State Department reported in March that child mortality rates in northern Iraq are below pre-Gulf War levels; however, the rates in central and southern Iraq are experiencing "a disturbing rise." The difference is that the U.N. controls distribution of the oil-for-food program in the north.
The State Department also reports that vaccination levels in areas controlled by Baghdad are lower than they were in 1994 and that Iraq has still not implemented supplementary feeding programs recommended by the U.N. for malnourished children.
Hussein's manipulation knows no bounds, but why make things easier for him?
The Defense Department reported last week that Iraq is not much of a security threat anymore. "Iraq is contained," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. "It has a broken economy. It is an isolated state."
If that's the case, why not declare victory and remove the sanctions? Keep the no-fly zones in place so that Hussein cannot use his planes to attack his own people or the rebels who dream of ousting him. Keep enough military forces in the area to make him think twice about attacking anyone.
Monitor Iraq for the development of weapons of mass destruction, and destroy facilities designed for such purposes. And wait for the effects of the Internet to help undermine state control.
Yes, Hussein will use the lifting of sanctions to declare his own victory over the U.S. and its allies. But that will be a onetime declaration. Without the sanctions, Hussein will have nothing to blame, and his people should soon realize that the quality of life in Iraq is determined not by outside influences, but by the priorities and policies of Hussein himself.
Right now, Hussein is able to use the sanctions as a club to control and beat his own people. It's time to take that club out of his hands and remind his people that they are ruled by a monster. Lift the sanctions.
© Copyright 2000 Journal Sentinel Inc.