The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [casi] FW: C. Brown in MEQ: "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist"

Shalom David Chaviv,

The URL you are referring us to tells:

"The Middle East Forum - Promoting AMERICAN Interests"

Khaver: Reading at least this latest contribution of yours makes it
abundantly clear why the Iraeli HAZBARAH lies in ruins.

Maybe your supervisor could send someone more apt?



----- Original Message -----
From: "Zohar David" <>
To: <>; <>;
<>; <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Montag, 28. Juli 2003 09:57
Subject: [casi] FW: C. Brown in MEQ: "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

-----Original Message-----
From: MEF News []
Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2003 4:59 PM
To: Zohar David
Subject: C. Brown in MEQ: "Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist"

Confessions of an Anti-Sanctions Activist

by Charles M. Brown
Middle East Quarterly
Summer 2003

On May 22, 2003, the United Nations (U.N.) lifted the sanctions regime it
had imposed on Iraq twelve years earlier. The end of the economic embargo
invites a review of the "peace" activism that was aimed at bringing down the
Iraq sanctions while Saddam Hussein ruled. Anti-sanctions groups sought to
relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people. In fact, they became-whether
wittingly or unwittingly-mouthpieces for Saddam in the United States. I
should know: I have the dubious distinction of having been one of them.

My own interest in Iraq goes back to Desert Storm, when as a
nineteen-year-old Army reservist fresh out of a semi-rural high school, I
was very nearly deployed to Saudi Arabia as a medic. This aroused my
curiosity about Iraq. After I did some work in several homeless shelters run
by Catholic Worker activists, I gravitated toward their allied movement
against sanctions. For three years I was dedicated to the anti-sanctions
cause. I traveled to Iraq in 1998 in order to see sanctions firsthand, and
upon my return to the United States, I made two national speaking tours on
the college activist circuit, in 1998 and 1999. (At the time, I was
completing my undergraduate degree in Middle East studies at Western
Washington University.)

I intended to use the knowledge I acquired in my academic work to aid my
"real" job as an anti-sanctions activist. But I got derailed when I realized
that in order to return to Iraq with the group I represented-the
Chicago-based "Voices in the Wilderness"-I and other group members could not
speak publicly about issues that would embarrass the Iraqi regime. These
included its horrendous human rights record, its involvement with weapons of
mass destruction, and the dictatorial nature of the regime. We were allowed
to speak only of one thing: the deprivations suffered by ordinary Iraqis
under the sanctions regime.

This one-dimensional depiction of life in Saddam's Iraq was pure Baath
propaganda, and I (as well as other group members) knew it. As I came to see
this as a complicity and collaboration with one of the most abusive
dictatorships in the world, I tried to get the rest of my group to
acknowledge that our close relationship with the regime damaged our
credibility. I failed to persuade them, so I quit. Unfortunately, it seems
that my former colleagues have regarded this decision as a kind of political
"defection," and it has cost me several friendships, which were apparently
contingent on my continued willingness to toe the (Baathist) line.

Since then, I have returned to university with the objective of becoming a
professional historian of Baathist Iraq. I am no longer a political
activist, and it will likely be some time before I assume that role again,
if I ever do. In this article, I wish to look back at this rather peculiar
aspect of the American peace movement and offer an honest and firsthand
account of how it worked from the inside.

The Pedigree

My group, Voices in the Wilderness (henceforth, Voices), was founded in
1996. Its name is an allusion to the biblical prophet Isaiah, who cried out
for justice in a wilderness of injustice (Isaiah, 40:3). The name clearly
embodied the group's view of Iraqi sanctions: they were acts of injustice
perpetrated by the United States government upon the people of Iraq. Someone
had to cry out for justice-understood to be the unconditional lifting of
sanctions-and Voices members saw themselves as modern-day Isaiahs, calling
America to its conscience.

Voices preached by its actions-more particularly, by conducting regular
trips to Iraq to deliver medical and other supplies, all in violation of the
U.N. sanctions regime as well as several U.S. laws and presidential
executive orders. The quantity of aid we brought to Iraq was always a
paltry, symbolic amount, but the real emphasis of Voices was to have group
members "witness" the detrimental effects of sanctions for themselves, by
visiting Iraqi hospitals, schools, and other areas-always in the presence of
official "minders" of the Iraqi regime. These orchestrated trips provided
the grist for group members, who returned home to educate their communities
on the horrors of the U.S.-imposed sanctions. In my case, the propaganda fed
to me in Iraq by regime spokespersons was my primary source of information
on sanctions, which I then imparted to audiences all across the United
States. The same was true of my colleagues.

The story of Voices is one of a simplistic utopian vision of peace being
applied to an intractable humanitarian and political catastrophe. This may
be a trait that cuts across the entire peace movement, but Voices had its
own unique characteristics, which reflected its distinct pedigree within the
larger peace movement. Voices was formed from the remnants of what has been
dubbed the "Catholic Ultra-resistance,"[1]-those Catholic radicals centered
on the Catholic Worker movement and the personalities of Dorothy Day, Thomas
Merton, and, especially, the radical priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan.
Almost without exception, the founding members of Voices were drawn from the
Catholic Worker movement, which has always seen U.S. government's foreign-as
well as many domestic-policies as violent, and therefore, morally

The Catholic Worker movement developed a doctrine of nonviolent resistance,
and its actions drew national attention during the Vietnam war. The Berrigan
brothers became famous by stretching the meaning of nonviolence in their
antiwar actions. In 1968, they "nonviolently" entered a draft board office
in Catonsville, Maryland, and used homemade napalm to burn the files of
recent inductees mobilized for the Vietnam war. This action was seen as a
way to end (or at least retard) the war-making process; because it was
against the war, it was seen as inherently nonviolent. The Berrigans
performed this and other acts that extended Gandhi's definitions of
nonviolence on the basis of their own belief that Catholic ethics summoned
them to perform radical actions for peace.

Such provocative actions were, for the Berrigans, not just protests against
the war but also dramatic prayers for peace. This peculiar combination of
high drama and liturgy manifested itself again in the Plowshares movement,
beginning in 1980. The Berrigan brothers, as well as Catholic (and
non-Catholic) radicals, would sneak onto military bases housing the U.S.
nuclear arsenal and bang away on missile casings until they were arrested by
military police. By such acts, they were symbolically "beating swords into
plowshares." This movement is still active, and its members frequently end
up in federal prison for performing such acts of "nonviolence."

Voices belonged very much to this tradition with its emphasis on symbolic
acts. The group's trips to Iraq with symbolic amounts of medical aid were to
Voices what the burning of draft files was to the Berrigans and what the
beating of nuclear weapons into "plowshares" is to the Plowshares movement.
In fact, many individual Plowshares veterans supported Voices and
occasionally joined it. Daniel Berrigan himself gave Voices a ringing

An embargo has advantages over armed conflict; no Americans need die, no
international furor over smart bombs incinerating people in shelters. It's
simple and cheap, the noose tightens, and children and the aged and sick die
in great numbers. This must be countered. "Voices in the Wilderness" is
doing just that-cutting the noose.[2]

All of these interrelated social movements are characterized by
"dramaturgy"-the combination of drama and liturgy, with ostensible prayers
for peace and dramatic protest action in the face of significant jail terms.
For some of these activists, dramaturgical protest has become nearly
synonymous with other (traditional) Catholic sacraments, as exemplified by
the title of Jesuit priest John Dear's popular volume, The Sacrament of
Civil Disobedience.[3]

The Voices' specific dramaturgical protest involved travels to Iraq in
direct violation of a U.S. government travel ban. The point of the ban was
to prevent Americans from aiding the Iraqi economy, on the theory that the
regime, once weakened, would either comply with U.N. disarmament
requirements, or perhaps fall altogether. Voices always highlighted the fact
that it was breaking the law. The penalties for Voices' Iraq delegations
could have reached twelve years in federal prison and $1.25 million in fines
and fees. Voices tempted the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets
Control (OFAC) to levy these penalties against them every time its members
went to Iraq, perhaps hoping for the maximum penalties in order to bring the
maximum amount of publicity to its cause.

But the Treasury Department only imposed fines on a few members, and in
amounts far less than the staggering maximums that we in Voices boasted
about when we made our post-trip presentations. To my knowledge, the
government has never successfully collected a fine. For example, in December
1998, Voices was notified that it was to be fined a total of $163,000 by
OFAC. Nothing further happened until Bert Sacks, a Seattle member, was
actually served with a $10,000 fine by OFAC in May 2002. Sacks declined to
pay the fine, seeing it as unethical to give money to the government he saw
as responsible for the situation in Iraq.[4]

So with its own version of Berrigan-esque "dramaturgy," Voices fancied
itself as heir to the mantle of the Catholic ultra-resistance, the
Berrigans, and the Plowshares movement. There was just one problem: we
refused the punishments that we defied the government to impose on us. The
Berrigans were sentenced to significant jail terms and served years in
prison for their protest activities. Voices always refused the (few) fines
levied on it and escaped serious consequences. Because of this, and despite
tracing its heritage to the radical priests, Voices never achieved even a
fraction of the Berrigans' dramatic impact. The government's decision to not
pursue Voices (as it did the Berrigans) lessened the group's impact and
probably reflects the fact that Voices never represented a serious threat to
the sanctions regime or the government's policy of containing Saddam.

The Cause

When the issue of Iraq sanctions first crossed our radar screens sometime
around 1995, the default position in the peace movement rapidly came into
focus: sanctions were imposed by the U.N. at the behest of the United States
in order to secure U.S. control over Iraq's oil. The United States did not
care about the "fact" that the sanctions apparently killed hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis by withholding necessary foodstuffs and medical
supplies. The peace movement was in search of new issues in the post-Cold
War environment, and this one seemed serviceable. Then-U.S. ambassador to
the U.N. Madeleine Albright's unfortunate and oft-quoted interview on 60
Minutes only helped us frame the sanctions issue in a very simplistic
fashion. Albright was asked this question: "We have heard that a half
million children have died (as a result of sanctions against Iraq). I mean,
that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price
worth it?" Albright did not contest the claim, but simply answered: "I think
this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth
it."[5] That was the perfect grist for our mill.

What did we know about Iraq? Hardly anything. Stephen Zunes, a "progressive"
activist academic, once acknowledged that "peace activists largely share
with most Americans a profound ignorance of the Middle East, Islam, and the
Arab world."[6] This was certainly true for our group, but we didn't give it
much thought. We saw ourselves as people of action, not reflection. Did we
really need to learn the intricacies of Iraqi history and politics and plumb
the broader political and economic issues? Who wanted to sit in the library
when there were prayer vigils to organize? We opted to march, fast, and hold
our signs. Here was a new cause, in need of champions, and that's just what
we were. Iraqi sanctions had to go!

Voices' arguments about sanctions were straightforward-and utterly
simplistic. In retrospect, I am embarrassed to think that I propagated them.
Voices held that sanctions were violence that the U.S. government committed
against Iraq, through the exercise of raw power. The Iraqi regime was
entirely helpless and passive and had no ability to respond to the economic
pressure the U.N. had put on Iraq since 1990. Voices was oblivious to
deliberate Iraqi obfuscation on disarmament and to Saddam's domestic
policies, designed to maintain his iron grip over the Iraqi people for as
long as possible. It was our stubborn view that the regime had little or no
ability to control or direct Iraq's destiny. We saw the U.S.-sponsored
sanctions as the primary cause of violence in Iraq and so overlooked (or
denied) Saddam's decades-long legacy of severe repression.

Even worse, we were quite willing to consider the Baath regime as a reliable
source of value-free information on Iraq. Group members had neither the
training nor the inclination to dissect Baathist propaganda, and we in
Voices regularly parroted this propaganda in our public presentations as if
it were fact, without much editing or critical reflection. Little effort was
expended in learning more about general trends and issues in Iraqi history,
culture, and politics. As a result, our presentations were rife with factual
errors and misstatements. I was known as something of a bookworm within the
group, but I realized even before my trip to Baghdad that I understood
hardly anything about Baathist Iraq. I also was bothered by the fact that my
colleagues seemed untroubled by our ignorance.

For example, the background reading for delegation members bound for Iraq
consisted of a page-and-a-half of text covering the several dozen centuries
of Iraqi history between Nebuchadnezzar and Saddam Hussein. I will always
remember the words of my mentor at Western Washington University, Leonard
Helfgott, regarding my plans to go to Iraq with Voices: "Have you read Hanna
Batatu's book on Iraq?[7] You must read it before you go. If you finish it,
you will know more about Iraq than anyone in Washington State!" I confess
that I left without finishing Batatu's 1,000-page-plus tome, and I paid for
my inattention by being led astray by my friends in Voices. The most glaring
example I saw of gross unfamiliarity with Iraq was a Voices group member who
was wholly unaware that the Iran-Iraq war had ever taken place.[8] This
latter episode revealed that the larger context of the violence in Iraq-a
context that long predated the sanctions-mattered very little to Voices.

Works on contemporary Iraqi history and politics that did not take the
injustice of Desert Storm as their point of departure were not only ignored,
but were very often denounced as pro-American or even pro-Israeli
propaganda, created to serve the "violent" U.S. (or Israeli) policies toward
Iraq. For example, some members of Voices dismissed the important works of
Kanan Makiya, the most prominent Iraqi dissident intellectual in the United
States, as "pro-Israeli."[9] Toward the end of my involvement with Voices, I
circulated copies of two articles that showed how the Iraqi regime had
misrepresented the extent of the damage caused by sanctions.[10] These too
were rejected as "pro-Israeli." In an intellectual climate where the only
morally acceptable works for Voices either supported or ignored the role of
Saddam's regime, the group found itself with a very short reading list.

Because of our collective ignorance of Iraqi history and politics, we were
largely unaware of the service we rendered to the regime. Not only did
Voices members meet senior Iraqi officials (including Tariq Aziz), but the
group was publicly thanked for serving as an official channel of information
from the Iraqi regime to the American people by Saddam Hussein himself.[11]
We had no interest in Iraqi dissidents, exiles, and opposition groups, who
had documented Saddam's past aggression, genocide, and flaunting of U.N.
Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Voices simply parroted Baathist
propaganda, and the regime learned to use us (and other peace movement
groups) for just that purpose.

For example, not only did we demand the complete unconditional lifting of
sanctions but we also bought into the regime's notion that weapons
inspections were a pretext for U.S. domination of Iraq. We even imported the
regime's fantasy that the U.N. weapons inspectors were American and/or
Israeli spies. The U.S. concern over weapons of mass destruction was simply
a pretext for continuing the sanctions, so that American oil companies could
secure control over Iraq's nationalized oil resources. By going beyond our
declared agenda of advocacy for the Iraqi people and bringing this kind of
regime propaganda back to the United States, we played right into Saddam's

Our myopia arose largely from the fact that we accepted-or at least did not
publicly challenge-the demonstrably false notion that Saddam's regime acted
in the best interests of the Iraqi people. We could not imagine that the
Iraqi regime might use, or even exacerbate, the sanctions crisis for its own
political ends. For example, we simply ignored Iraq's own periodic
suspensions of oil exports. There were five instances of oil export
suspension beginning in 1998, by which the Iraqi regime forfeited
approximately $3.4 billion.[12] These suspensions seriously diminished
Iraq's ability to generate the revenue needed to provide medical aid
supplies and war reparations and greatly retarded humanitarian recovery
efforts. It was a case of the regime itself exacerbating the suffering of
the Iraqi people.

But then we-like the Iraqi regime-were always antagonistic towards the
Oil-for-Food program (known sometimes as UNSC Resolution 986). One Voices
founder, Bob Bossie, in a group meeting to evaluate the program, determined:
"The biggest problem [Voices] face[s], as I see it, is Resolution 986."[13]
The reason was explained by founding member Chuck Quilty in an interview
conducted for this article: "The problem [Voices] saw right away was that
986 would be used by the United States to say that humanitarian problems in
Iraq were taken care of and allay any of those who might be concerned that
sanctions were killing innocent people."[14] They abhorred the program
because it improved the lot of ordinary Iraqis, and therefore, diminished
U.S. culpability.

To be perfectly frank, we were less concerned with the suffering of the
Iraqi people than we were in maintaining our moral challenge to U.S. foreign
policy. We did not agitate for an end to sanctions for purely humanitarian
reasons; it was more important to us to maintain our moral challenge to
"violent" U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happened in Iraq. For
example, had we been truly interested in alleviating the suffering in Iraq,
we might have considered pushing for an expanded Oil-for-Food program.
Nothing could have interested us less. Indeed, we even regarded the paltry
amounts of aid that we did bring to Iraq as a logistical hassle. When it
suited us, we portrayed ourselves as a humanitarian nongovernmental
organization and at other times as a political group lobbying for a policy
change. In our attempt to have it both ways, we failed in both of these

We were so preoccupied with our own agenda that we didn't notice or care
that the regime made use of us. When critics asked us whether the group was
being exploited by the Iraqi regime, we obfuscated, and in so doing put
Saddam and his minions on the same level as the U.S. government:

We do not know Saddam Hussein's intentions, but we believe that our work is
effective and educative. We also do not know Saddam Hussein's feelings, but
we do believe that the existence of sanctions is not stopping Saddam Hussein
in any of his efforts. We believe they are only encouraging his people to
support him more because they view the U.N. and United States as the
organizations that are allowing their children to die.

Before the sanctions, Iraq had world-class hospitals. Everyone had access to
heath care and free education all the way through graduate level.

Does our government not take advantage of people who fear homeless people,
people of color, etc?[15]

Silence in the Wilderness

What led us to maintain so studied a silence over Iraq's horrendous human
rights record? Travel to Iraq was central to the method of Voices, and we
were wholly dependent upon the regime's good graces to gain necessary travel
permits and visas to enter and travel throughout the country. In fact, until
about 2000, there was a policy within the group barring us from publicly
criticizing the violence of the Iraqi regime when speaking in the name of
Voices.[16] This was a particularly ironic stand for a group dedicated to
ending violence along Gandhian principles.

In order to advocate for the Iraqi people, we had to remain silent on such
significant issues as the legacy of the genocidal Anfal campaign against the
Kurds, the regime's crushing of the 1991 intifada, the wide-ranging and
systematic abuse of human rights, and especially, Iraq's refusal to comply
with the disarmament requirements of UNSC resolutions 687 and 1441. If we
were seen by the Iraqi regime as hostile to its interests, then there would
be no reason for it to allow us access to Iraq. And without direct access to
Iraq, we would lose our special credibility to criticize sanctions. In other
words, we could continue our chosen form of activism only if we collaborated
with the Iraqi regime.

Despite the lifting of the gag order on regime behavior after 2000, we
continued to understate the issues of human rights and Iraqi bad faith in
its negotiations over sanctions:

When threatened, [the Iraqi regime] may react with any violent means at its
disposal. But it doesn't mean in and of itself that the GOI cannot and will
not negotiate in good faith with the U.S. and with the U.N. Security

Clearly, we were not so na´ve as to be completely ignorant of the existence
of Iraq's dark side. We acknowledged-but then dismissed-the character of the
regime, as if its authoritarian, self-serving, and brutal nature did not
somehow inform its diplomatic efforts. It was here that we lost much of our
potential audience. Because we could not balance our public presentations by
acknowledging the regime's criminal character, our audiences were
increasingly made up of other activists, and we wound up preaching to the

Our uncritical treatment of the Iraqi regime was not a case of ignorance. It
was the result of a deliberate choice we made among our priorities. We had
to decide which moral challenge we wanted to make. We chose to limit that
moral challenge to the U.S. policy of maintaining sanctions against Iraq. We
were never particularly interested in or suited to challenging Saddam and
his regime over their invasion of two neighboring states, the systematic
genocide against the Kurds, or Saddam's consolidation of one of the most
violent internal security systems in the world.

We often justified this choice in terms of American patriotism: we felt an
obligation to challenge U.S. policies because we were trying to help the
United States become a more responsible member of the world community.
Because we were U.S. citizens (for the most part), we felt we had a special
responsibility to attempt to modify U.S. policies. We had no control over
Iraqi policies-so we convinced ourselves. Needless to say, this was wholly
disingenuous on our part. Who, if not foreign nationals, could apply
pressure on the Iraqi regime to change its behavior? Iraqis certainly could
not. And often such pressure succeeded. For example, when U.N. officials
applied such pressure over the periodic terminations of oil exports, it
usually worked, and oil flowed again soon afterwards.[18]

Voices' unwillingness or inability to criticize the regime effectively
turned us into its unwitting apologists. It was tragically ironic: Voices
and the regime did not share a single value. Voices was an attempt by
Catholic radicals and their disciples to promote their vision of world
peace; Saddam Hussein's only apparent desire was to maintain his iron grip
over Iraq. Voices and the regime agreed only that the sanctions crisis was
rooted in U.S. policy. Yet that single point of agreement became the fulcrum
of Voices' venture in Iraq. This was yet another case of politics making for
the strangest possible bedfellows.

My Break and Aftermath

I can remember the exact instant when I decided to leave the utopian fantasy
world of Voices. I was on a train from Bellingham, Washington, where I lived
at the time, to Portland, Oregon, to visit a friend. It was the spring of
2000, and I was reading a new article on sanctions by Amatzia Baram. Baram
proceeded to shatter the myth that 1.5 million Iraqis had died of
sanctions-related disease. He did it by checking Iraqi claims against recent
Iraqi census data. Since 1991, Iraq's population, even by Iraqi figures, had
grown way too fast for there to be anything near the number of
sanctions-related deaths claimed by Iraq. Baram's conclusions contradicted
everything I had heard in Iraq and from Voices:

The [mortality] statistics provided by the government of Iraq (GOI) are
false in some cases and misleading in others. In the first place the regime
is providing inflated figures of mortality as a result of the embargo. This
affects the credibility of all the information provided by Baghdad and
greatly complicates its cooperation with international humanitarian

If this were true-that the Iraqi regime was obfuscating as much on sanctions
as it did on weapons-then my trip to Iraq and all the subsequent work I had
poured into anti-sanctions activism had been in vain. I desperately searched
for anything that could support Voices' take on the sanctions and disprove
Baram. But I found nothing, and I began to seriously rethink my role in the
group, as well as some of my most basic political assumptions.

But my split with Voices was not simply the outcome of reading Baram's
article. From the outset, I had expected that Voices would cultivate
knowledge on all things Iraqi as we set about our task of ending sanctions.
I expected the better academic works on Iraq-the landmark studies by Baram,
Batatu, and Marion and Peter Sluglett-to be on the office bookshelf. Instead
all I found were uninformed tracts by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Edward

I had also expected a deeper concern for the people of Iraq. But Voices
would have nothing to do with the U.N. humanitarian effort. The closest it
got to U.N. headquarters in New York was the sidewalk across the street.
There, Voices' activists, bellowing at the top of their lungs, preached
against the American-induced apocalypse in Iraq. It was a mystery to me how
such soapbox sermons, often quoting scripture, could possibly help the
people of Iraq.

In the end, I concluded that the Voices campaign against sanctions was a
case of misplaced radicalism. Voices had borrowed the concepts developed by
the Berrigan brothers against the war in Vietnam and applied them to their
agitation against the Iraq sanctions. But this hand-me-down rhetoric was not
suited to a deep understanding of the sanctions crisis in Iraq (and it might
be the case that the Berrigan-style rhetoric was ill-suited for a better
understanding of the war in Vietnam as well). Voices was acutely aware of
its Catholic ultra-resistance heritage and wanted to ensure that it
continued. It needed a cause. Unfortunately, it picked the wrong one.
Voices' tragedy is that there may no longer be any causes amenable to its
concepts and methods, and that the really important policy debates of our
time have left it irrelevant and anachronistic.

So I left Voices, and I am no longer affiliated with it in any way. Perhaps
it is poetic justice that I am now training to become a historian of
Baathist Iraq. I now spend hours pouring over the documents of the defunct
regime; perhaps this time I'll get it right. My studies mitigate my
embarrassment over my years of misguided activism. But political na´vetÚ is
not the worst skeleton to have in one's closet, and in any case I have left
the closet wide open, for all to see.

Since I left Voices, it has lost its cause. Voices enjoyed a strangely
symbiotic relationship with the regime of Saddam Hussein, which is now gone.
I once asked Kathy Kelly, one of Voices' cofounders, what we would do if
sanctions were to end or be significantly modified. She replied that the
group would likely disband. Members might elect to channel their activism
into nongovernmental organizations bringing aid to Iraq, but Voices itself
would evaporate. Most of the members of Voices migrated to the issue of Iraq
from other issues, and I suppose they will most likely migrate somewhere
else. No doubt they will detect creeping U.S. militarism elsewhere and
doggedly protest it with symbolic gestures that have little or no meaning,
except for themselves.

Charles M. Brown is a master's of arts student in Middle Eastern studies at
the University of Utah.

[1] Francine du Plessix Gray, quoted in J. Justin Gustainis, American
Rhetoric and the Vietnam War (Westport: Praeger, 1993), p. 67.
[2] Daniel Berrigan, at:
[3] Baltimore: Belknap Press, 1994.
[4] "American Fined $10,000 for Admitting to Bringing Medicines to Iraq,"
Voices press release, at Sacks' final legal
disposition is still pending. Sacks' legal response can be found on the
Citizens Concerned for the People of Iraq (a Seattle-area anti-sanctions
group) website, at
[5] "Punishing Saddam," produced by Catherine Olian, 60 Minutes, May 12,
[6] Stephen Zunes, "The American Peace Movement and the Middle East," Arab
Studies Quarterly, Winter 1998, p. 30.
[7] Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of
Iraq (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).
[8] This conversation took place with a Massachusetts-area Voices member at
the al-Fanar Hotel, Baghdad, Sept. 1998.
[9] Interview with Chuck Quilty, via e-mail correspondence, Dec. 2001.
Makiya's major works on Iraq are Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern
Iraq (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) and Cruelty and
Silence: War, Tyranny, and the Arab World (New York: W.W. Norton and Co.,
[10] Amatzia Baram, "The Effect of Iraqi Sanctions: Statistical Pitfalls and
Responsibility," Middle East Journal, Spring 2000, pp. 194-223, also at; Michael Rubin, "Sanctions on
Iraq: A Valid Anti-American Grievance?" Middle East Review of International
Affairs, Dec. 2001, at
[11] Saddam Hussein, "A Letter from President Saddam Hussein to an American
Citizen," Oct. 18, 2001. This speech was located on the official regime web
site at However, all Iraqi
regime web pages went down in the first week of the war. This speech
highlighted Voices' bringing the Iraqi regime's official condolences for the
September 11 attacks to the American people (no official condolences were
sent to the U.S. government).
[12] The figure of $3.4 billion lost to oil export suspensions was derived
by averaging total Iraqi oil production in the four weeks prior to the
suspension and multiplying this figure by the price of oil at that time.
This loss of Oil-for-Food revenue is approximately equal to forfeiting an
entire six-month phase of the program. Statistics were obtained from the
U.N. Office of the Iraq Program website, where the relevant Oil-for-Food
production statistics are broken down by week from Phase IV (Aug. 29 - Nov.
27, 1998) to the present. For oil exports from 1998-2000, see:, and for
statistics from 2001-present, see:
[13] Quoted in Kathy Kelly, "Voices in the Wilderness: Nonviolence and the
Ongoing War against Iraq," in G. Simon Harak, ed., Nonviolence for the Third
Millennium: Its Legacy and Future (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2000), p.
[14] Interview with Chuck Quilty, via e-mail, Oct. 5, 2001.
[15] Ramzi Kysia, "Frequently Asked Questions," Voices, at
[16] Interview with Chuck Quilty, via e-mail, Sept. 10, 2001.
[17] David Smith-Ferri, "Dancing with the Devil: Rumsfeld's Four Lies about
Iraq," Aug. 28, 2002, Voices, at
[18] I am grateful to Amatzia Baram for this point.
[19] Baram, "The Effect of Iraqi Sanctions," p. 195.

To unsubscribe from the MEF News list, go to
To subscribe to the MEF News list, go to
To receive television and media appearance alerts from the Middle East
Forum, please sign up for the MEF Alerts mailing list at:

You may freely forward this information, but on condition that you send the
text as an integral whole along with complete information about its author,
date, and source.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]