by S. Amjad Hussain
WASHINGTON, DC -- It is hard to believe but the policies of our government are causing genocide in Iraq and not many people have paid any attention. As a result half million children have perished from malnutrition and preventable diseases.
Six years ago our country marshaled an unprecedented international coalition, some say gang pressed unwilling nations, into supporting the Gulf war. That turkey shoot was ostensibly carried out to punish an errant despot, Saddam Hussain, for his ill conceived and illegal occupation of Kuwait. In the most secretive war ever waged by the United States, Saddam Hussain was routed out of Kuwait and his army decimated. It was expected that after the humiliating defeat the Iraqi strongman would soon fall. Today Saddam Hussain remains as entrenched as he was at the time of his ill fated invasion of Kuwait.
Since the Gulf war our government has done every thing possible to punish Saddam Hussain by punishing the people of Iraq. The economic sanctions dictated by the United States (and obediently rubber stamped by the UN) have brought misery and devastation to a segment of the population most vulnerable to such sanctions- children. They on the other hand have done little to dislodge Saddam Hussain from power.
Human rights organizations from around the world, including our own country, have been drawing attention to these inhuman policies against the people of Iraq but to no avail. Recently a panel of respected jurists including Ramsey Clark, the attorney general in the Carter administration, did the same in a full page ad in the New York Times. All this has fallen on deaf ears. A law suit filed by Mr. Clark against our own government challenging the sanctions has not borne any results either.
Last year in May the CBS news magazine Sixty Minutes aired a report on the effects of embargo on Iraqi children. Lesley Stahl while interviewing Madeleine Albright, who was at the time our ambassador to the United Nations, asked if the price of half million dead children was worth the price. She simply replied that it was.
Contrary to the common impression that things will get better once Saddam Hussain is gone, it is not in the best interest of the United States to have Saddam Hussain disappear from the scene. Saddam, all the rhetoric aside, is serving a useful purpose for this country and his departure will create an undesirable vacuum in the region, a vacuum that Iran will most certainly try to fill. Arch enemies Iraq and Iran had fought a war for eight long years until Iraq ended the war unilaterally as a prelude to Kuwaiti invasion. Saddam's presence is also keeping a lid on the Kurdish and Shia populations in Iraq. Further more the West needs a demon in the Middle East to rally against.
Last year Iraq was allowed to sell four billion dollars worth of oil. Half of that amount was exhorted for war reparations, UN operations in the region, aid to the Kurdish population and repairing the oil pipeline. The remaining amount if divided among 18 million Iraqis comes to a paltry 25 cents per person. While the West can point to this gesture as a sign of its good will, in reality it is meant to continue its choke hold on Iraq.
The time it has taken you to read this piece one more innocent child has died in Iraq..
[Surgeon-writer S. Amjad Hussain lives in Toledo, Ohio where he writes a bi-weekly column for the Op-Ed pages of The Blade.]
[Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the
'starving' in new Iraq," BBC, March 30, 2005]