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[casi] Now They Cite the Toll of Sanctions - The Progressive

March 28, 2003
Editor Matthew Rothschild comments on the news of the day.
Now They Cite the Toll of Sanctions

At the Bush-Blair press conference on March 27, I heard an increasingly common and absolutely 
shameful justification for this Iraq war.

Tony Blair was the one who uttered it. To illustrate the brutality of Saddam's regime, Blair said, 
"Over the past five years, 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died of malnutrition and 
disease, preventively, but died because of the nature of the regime under which they are living."

But that's not exactly right. All those children died, in large part, because the United 
Nations--at the behest of Britain and the United States--insisted upon maintaining economic 
sanctions on Iraq. These sanctions prevented basic items from getting to Iraq, items like chlorine 
to purify the water supply there. And, yes, Saddam is partially responsible, as well. If he had 
obeyed U.N. Security Council resolutions, those sanctions might have been lifted.

For years, human rights activists urged a lifting of these economic sanctions because of the 
terrible toll they exacted, a toll that only now Tony Blair seems concerned about, only now when he 
can use that toll as an excuse for war.

This is the bottom of the barrel of immorality. During the Clinton Administration, Madeleine 
Albright notoriously told Lesley Stahl of Sixty Minutes that this civilian death toll was "worth 
it." Albright understood and acknowledged U.S. complicity in those deaths, but accepted them 
anyway. That was bad enough.

Now Blair and Bush have finally discovered the sanctions issue themselves, but they refuse to 
acknowledge any responsibility for those deaths and instead seize upon them simply to justify their 
war of aggression.

But Britain and the United States could have forced the U.N. to lift those sanctions any time they 
wanted to. They could have saved those 400,000 children from dying. They chose not to.

Now to come out and say they are aghast at the toll is not only a futile exercise in hand-washing 
but also an amazingly brazen switcharoo.

(For a related commentary, see "George Will Discovers Economic Sanctions," This Just In, March 17, 

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