The Iraq Sanctions Challenge, a 100-strong delegation from the United States, has successfully defied U.S.-led United Nations sanctions. Jubilant delegates, led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, celebrated their arrival in Baghdad today. They brought tons of medicines for the Iraqi people.
Others on the delegation include Rev. Lucius Walker of IFCO/Pastors for Peace; Christoph Arnold, author and elder of the Bruderhof Community; Sara Flounders, Gloria La Riva and Brian Becker of the International Action Center; Clayton Ramey of Fellowship of Reconciliation; Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness; Kadouri Al Kaysi of the Committee in Support of the Iraqi People; Ahmed El Sherif the President of American Muslim Council, Mid-West; Sonya Ostrom of Metro New York Peace Action; Dr. Barbara Nimri Aziz (anthropologist); and Manzoor Ghori of the American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice.
Other delegates, including religious leaders, health care professionals, trade unionists and students, landed in Amman, Jordan yesterday. They continued on over ground in two groups, crossing into Iraq through Jordan and Syria. Chanting delegates drove buses and trucks filled with medicines and draped with banners in proclaiming "End the racist sanctions now!" and "Let Iraq live!" in English and Arabic.
The Iraq Sanctions Challenge delegates are staying at the Gazart Al Riais Hotel in Baghdad. A press conference will be scheduled.
During their stay, which last through May 13, teams of delegates will bring medical aid to hospitals and schools in Baghdad, Fallujah, Kerbala, Basra and Mosul. "Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had the Middle East's most advanced and comprehensive health care system," said Ramsey Clark. "Now Iraq lacks even basic medicines to treat preventable diseases because of the sanctions. More than 1.5 million have died as a result of the sanctions, and at least 5,000 continue to die every month. Most of the victims are children and elderly people."
The delegates will also visit the Ameriyah bomb shelter, site of the infamous U.S. air attack that incinerated Iraqi civilians during the Gulf War. They will visit sewage and sanitation facilities that Iraq has struggled to keep operational despite a ban on spare parts. They will also meet with experts studying the long-term effects of depleted uranium weapons by the United States, suspected of causing increased cancer rates in Iraq and a possible source of the "Gulf War Syndrome" suffered by thousands of U.S. veterans.
The Iraq Sanctions Challenge will also request to meet with UN officials at the World Health Organization, the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Program to demand briefings from them.
Support actions are scheduled in the U.S. this week to demand an end to the sanctions and no interference from Washington when the delegates return May 13.