On Thursday, August 12, UNICEF released a report detailing a two-fold
increase for infant and child mortality in Iraq over the past decade. This
adds to a litany of reports that have been released during this period
detailing the dire health situation in Iraq. It is with these reports that a
growing international anti-sanctions movement has demonstrated that the
U.S.-led UN sanctions have caused massive destruction throughout Iraq--that
they are, in fact, a weapon of mass destruction.
In the past nine years, over 1.7 million people in Iraq have died as a direct
result of the sanctions. 250 die each day. Every child in Iraq suffers from
some degree of malnutrition. A simple cut can lead to death because of
contaminated water and lack of even the most basic medicine.
For the past nine years, it is the U.S. that has led the effort to continue
the UN-imposed sanctions. This is not headline news. But this UNICEF report
has been. Why is that?
When people find out the true effects of the sanctions and the U.S.
intentions in the region, they join the anti-sanctions movement. The U.S.
and other backers of the sanctions don't want this, so they attempt to
manipulate the facts to justify continuing sanctions.
And how are the doing this?
The report claims that it is to the credit of the oil-for-food deal that
infant and child mortality is lower in the north than in the central and
south of Iraq. There are many factors that contribute to malnutrition,
including access to medication and health care facilities, education, and
water. According to the WHO, in 1989-90, 96 percent of the population in
Iraq had access to clean drinking water. By 1994, it had dropped to 45
Eighty percent of disease in Iraq originates in contaminated water. It is
the south of Iraq that is downstream from the country's capital of Baghdad,
meaning the water is far more contaminated. Water contaminated from the
central city of Baghdad with far under the required amount of chlorine must
travel through pipes damaged heavily during the war and left unrepaired
because the sanctions prohibit the importation of the necessary parts and
equipment. And again, 80 percent of disease originates in the water.
The UN's own agencies¸FAO, UNICEF, WHO, WFP¸report that 250 people die every
day as a direct result of the sanctions. They report that Iraq's
distribution of aid receives an ╬A' rating. They
conduct over 650 observations of day of Iraq's civilian sector. And they
report that it is the UN committee that is delaying contracts for the
The U.S. destabilization plan for Iraq
The U.S. has clearly admitted that it has a destabilization plan for Iraq, in
public speeches and in the recent allocation by Congress of $97 million to
fund Iraqi opposition groups. Each component of the attack on Iraq is a part
of this strategy, be it the bombing blitzes, the imposition of the no-fly
zones, or the sanctions.
This same strategy has been used by the Pentagon and CIA many times in the
past: from 1950 to 1953 against the elected government of Mossadegh in Iran,
leading to its overthrow and the bloody reign of the Shah; in 1954 against
the democratically elected government of Arbenz in Guatemala, leading to a
U.S.-engineered military coup and the subsequent slaughter of over 100,000
Indian people; from 1970 to 1973 against a democratically elected government
of Salvador Allende in Chile which ended in the coming to power of the
dictatorship of General Pinochet and the murder of 30,000 Chileans.
In each case, those governments were replaced by U.S. puppets that looted the
countries' land and resources for the benefit of Western corporations and
transformed the territory into a staging ground for CIA operations in the
respective regions. This is precisely what they seek in toppling the
government of Iraq. You do not have to be an ideological or political
supporter of the Iraqi government to mobilize militant opposition against
this kind of imperialist interference.
The International Action Center believes that the Iraqi people must be free
to determine their own destiny without CIA subversion, sanctions or war.
Understanding this must be the basis for any genuine international solidarity
movement with the people of Iraq.
The U.S. policy of economic destabilization and overthrow in Iraq will not
lead to a democratic government, but rather to a dictatorship compliant to
U.S. bidding, as has been shown time and again.
U.S. to blame for death of Iraqi people
The U.S. charges the government of Iraq with the death of the population.
But Iraq's health care system before the Gulf War was the pride of the Middle
East. Health care was and is free to the entire population. People used to
travel from other countries because the health care in Iraq was so good, and
they too received treatment free of charge.
The U.S. claims that bombing and sanctions are for the "humanitarian" benefit
of populations worldwide, from Iraq to Yugoslavia. But what are the
priorities of the U.S. and its UN oil-for-food deal?
Under the oil-for-food deal, Iraq is permitted to sell $5.2 billion of oil
every six months. Only 53 percent of the revenue goes to humanitarian aid.
The other money goes for such things as funding the UN Special Commission¸the
body responsible for weapons inspections in Iraq, of which there have been
over 9,000--and funding the UN Compensation Commission.
And what is done with the 30 percent of the revenue that goes into the
"compensation commission"? On June 25, the UN awarded almost $2.8 billion to
several oil companies, including more than $500 million to a subsidiary of
Texaco, Inc., for equipment and facilities that were damaged when the U.S.
led a 43-day war against Iraq in 1991. These oil companies that make tens of
billion dollars a year were paid out of the UN Compensation Commission.
For the past ten years, the U.S. government has spent $50 billion a year to
militarily back up the economic sanctions. In the past 8 months, the U.S. has
fired more than 1,100 missiles against 359
targets, triple the targets of the four-day bombing campaign December 16-19.
This is costing almost $1 billion more a year. Domestically, the Pentagon
budget exceeds $300 billion a year while 43 million people are without health
care, and deep cuts are made in health care and other social services.
August 22 is the three year anniversary of Clinton signing the Welfare Reform
Law, which has led to draconian cuts and forced people off welfare across the
The oil-for-food deal cannot solve the health problems in Iraq and it's not
meant to. The oil-for-food deal is and always will be used by the U.S. to
divert attention from the genocidal effects of the sanctions. It is only a
complete lifting of the sanctions and a withdraw of the U.S. from the region
that can end the crisis in Iraq.
U.S. plans to expand war
It is the U.S. and UN who are to blame for the crisis in Iraq. The anti-war
movement should remain alert to the possibility of an expanding war. There
is a movement within the government for air strikes, increased military aid,
increased funding of opposition groups, and even ground troops. All aspects
of the U.S. strategy including the manipulation of this UNICEF report are a
part of the destabilization campaign.
[The International Action Center is headed by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark]
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