by Ole Walberg
"It's a difficult choice, but I think it is worth the price," U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright said, when asked why hundreds of thousands of
children would have to die because The United States wants to get rid of
As head of the UN sanctions committee for Iraq the next two years Norway
will not face the same dilemma. Norway and the committee will not chair any
debate on the sanctions but put into effect the decisions made by the
Security Council and ensure that they are being respected.
The aim of the UN sanctions is to prevent Saddam Hussein from building up
an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. But the side effect has been that
around 10.000 people succumb every month due to the sanctions, according to
international relief organizations.
The bottom line is that foreign minister Thorbjorn Jagland and the land
of The Peace Price, with all its humanistic traditions, are chairing an
effort where mass death has been the most visible result since the sanctions
were introduced ten years ago. The US is the driving force behind the
sanctions and also keep up pressure on Saddam through sporadic air attacks
against the so-called no fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.
Foreign minister Thorbjorn Jagland is in no doubt that Saddam Hussein
must blame himself for the calamities that has entangled Iraq. -It is
obvious that the regime could have eased the situation, he says.
ROOM FOR ALL
President Bill Clinton said in a speech when the UN celebrated its 50th
anniversary that there must be room for all the worlds' children around the
table. This does definitely not apply to eight year old Naim or nine year
old Lydia at the Saddam children's hospital in Baghdad and half a million
other children who have died as a result of Saddam Hussein and the UN
sanctions against Iraq.
I asked myself many times where the children's rights fit in here, former
UNICEF coordinator in Baghdad, Margarita Skinner, said after visiting Iraqi
hospitals. "Why should any, but especially children under the age of five,
suffer so much and die in such numbers?"
The UN Sanctions make exception for food and medicines, but there is a
lack of both. The regime of Saddam Hussein is being accused of undermining
the oil-for-food program and ignoring his own population. But in the end it
is the UN and not Saddam Hussein that has decided that 320 billion dollars
from this program shall pay for Iraqi war damages.
THE NORWEGIAN ROLE
Norway has claimed its own share from this compensation and the foreign
ministry sees nothing wrong in such a claim. Norway had extraordinary
expenses in connection with the war ten years ago.
Former foreign minister Johan Jorgen Holst once underscored the importance
for Norway in cleaning up its own doorstep in order to be taken seriously in
non-proliferation issues. At the time Israel had, in secrecy and for more
than 20 years, used more than 20 tons of heavy water from Norway to develop
Thus Norway contributed to the introduction of nuclear arms and changed
the balance of power in the explosive Middle East. Now Norway will be given
the responsibility to prevent another country in the region from obtaining
weapons of mass destruction, and it shall happen through sanctions that
probably have claimed more than one million lives throughout the last ten
Does Iraq have such a potential? Not according to former US attorney
general Ramsey Clark.
"You are fully aware that there is no hidden arms, or arms program in Iraq
can possibly pose the threat to life anywhere, that the sanctions inflict on
Iraq every day," Clark wrote in a letter to the head of the UN special
commission for Iraq, Rolf Ekeus in 1996.
"The U.S. has perverted the UN weapons process by using it as a tool to
justify military actions, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter said when
The United States renewed their air attacks against Iraq in 1998."
Clark and other critics of the sanctions do not hesitate to coin the UN
measures as genocide, but it happens quietly with no dramatic television
pictures from war operations.
"People are dying silently in their beds. No TV pictures stir up the
American public. If 5000 children die each month it means 60.000 die each
year. After eight years the number has reached more than half a million.
This is equivalent to two or three Hiroshima bombs," the leader of the World
Food Programmed Ashraf Bayoumi said in 1998.
The most loud-speaking critics of the sanctions against Iraq have claimed
that the Iraqi people are victims of the USŤ need of a new enemy after the
Soviet Union - "The Evil Empire" - collapsed. "The United States have long
traditions for demonizing enemies, sometimes an entire population, like the
Japanese during World War II," said retired American colonel Harry Summers.
By turning Iraq into such a "Frankenstein", The United States has managed
to gather great proportions of the Iraqi people behind Saddam Hussein. That
is more than Saddam could have achieved all by himself.
Mr. Walberg writes for the Norwegian New Agency (NTB)
Copyright © 2001 Ole Walberg