Tuesday, March 19, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 111


The Iraqi citizenry needs relief

Lema Mousilli

When Americans heard there were a few Palestinians who
celebrated and cheered at the news of the attack on the World
Trade Center, we were outraged beyond belief. We shuddered in
horror and asked ourselves how anyone with a conscience could
act so inhumanely and be so callous.

In sincere confusion, we wondered why they hate us so much.
Perhaps it would be well to remind ourselves that we too
celebrated when Baghdad went up in flames nearly 10 years ago.
We rallied, tied yellow ribbons and turned on our headlights, as our
powerful navy and air force wrecked havoc, horror and death upon
the innocent tolling more than 10,000 civilians killed during the
five-week air campaign alone.

Iraqis who were watching the reaction of Americans must have
looked on dumbfounded. They must have wondered why anyone in
a wealthy, democratic nation, under the protection of a mighty
military force living half a world away, would celebrate the killing of
helpless civilians huddled terrified in their bleak homes while
hundreds of jet fighters dropped bombs on their city for five weeks
of merciless bombing.

Iraq still has not recovered from the 1991 war, during which it was
on the receiving end of the heaviest bombing in world history,
destroying much of the country's civilian infrastructure. Briefly
consider the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who died
an agonizing, slow death from disease directly caused by the
destruction of Baghdad's sewage system.

The United States has insisted on maintaining strict sanctions
against Iraq to force compliance with international demands to
dismantle any capability of producing weapons of mass
destruction. However, the blunt of the blow of enforcing strict
sanctions against Iraq has landed squarely on Iraq's citizens.

With as many as 5,000 people, mostly children, dying from
malnutrition and preventable diseases every month as a result of
the ongoing sanctions, the humanitarian crisis has led to worldwide
demands to relax the sanctions even from some of Iraq's historic
enemies, who would presumably be most threatened by an Iraqi
capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction.

The statistics on infant mortality and malnutrition rates since the
Gulf War are staggering and deeply disturbing. An alarming
example is that Iraq had one of the lowest infant mortality rates in
the world 10 years ago and now, as a result of the sanctions, has
one of the highest. Instead of ravaging the country and its
citizenry with air strikes and lethal sanctions, the United States
must begin an effort to formulate an alternative approach to
dealing with Iraq.

Rather than follow the logic of Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, who told <I>60 Minutes<P> in 1998 that even if
sanctions against Iraq cause the death of half a million Iraqi
children, "the price is worth it," we must find a policy that
alleviates the suffering of the Iraqi people. We must separate, to
the extent that it is possible, policy directed at the regime in Iraq
from policies we formulate to meet the needs of the people of the

In 1998, Dennis Halliday, the coordinator of the UN's oil-for-food
program in Iraq, resigned in protest against continuing sanctions.
He toured many European countries and the United States in a
desperate effort to draw attention to the unjust sanctions.

During his visit to the UH campus, he forewarned us that an entire
society was being destroyed. He, along with many other UN
inspectors and officials, insisted that Iraq has no capacity to
threaten anyone with weapons of mass destruction. In other words,
sanctions have long since served their original purpose of blunting
Saddam Hussein's ability to bully his neighbors yet they remain
in place.

Expanding on its "War on Terrorism," the United States is currently
mobilizing its forces to attack Iraq again, possibly with nuclear
weapons yet it has not garnered much support from the
international community, including Iraq's neighbors.

Many countries warn the United States against such attacks. It is
interesting to note that only the UN Security Council has the
prerogative to authorize military responses to violations of its
resolutions; no single member state can do so unilaterally without
explicit permission. At this point one might even question the U.S.
policy of opposing efforts by Arab states to produce weapons of
mass destruction, while tolerating Israel's sizable nuclear arsenal
and bringing U.S. nuclear weapons into Middle Eastern waters, as
well as rejecting calls for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the

Unfortunately, the Bush administration still perpetuates the
ill-founded notion that terrorists are evil, demon-like creatures who,
for no rational reason other than envying our "freedom," kill our
innocent citizens.

Could there be some truth, however, to the old adage "evil begets
evil"? Considering that the cruel sanctions on Iraq have already
cost half a million innocent lives, some ill feelings towards us may
be justified.

Are not these sanctions alone enough to spawn an individual to
lash out? It would therefore be in our best interest to remedy
these grievances.

Mousilli, a senior English and political 
science major, can be reached at lema@mousilli.com.


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