15 Years of War On the Iraqi People
one million dead and one million refugees
In 1990 the United States imposed economic sanctions on the country of Iraq. They were supposed to be a non-violent means to force Iraqi troops from Kuwait. But during the ensuing Gulf War the U.S. bombed and deliberately took out 96% of Iraq’s electrical capacity. (1)
This had a predictable, disastrous effect on Iraq’s water and sanitation. The New England Journal of Medicine reported epidemics of water-borne diseases and concluded that from January to August 1991, the 'excess' deaths of Iraqi children came to 46,900.(2)
These facts were available from very credible sources, yet they were virtually unknown to most Americans. If I could get the issue of economic sanctions on Iraq into a U.S. court of law, I believed the facts would be heard and the disaster of these sanctions might be ended.
In 2002 I got my wish. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a $10,000 administrative fine against me for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine to children without asking them for approval. (3)
Under what conditions should the government prevent a citizen from bringing medicine to relieve suffering and save lives? Common sense and decency says there must be a very good reason. OFAC has never offered any. The Geneva Convention actually prohibits restrictions, stating that parties to the treaty "shall allow free passage of medical and hospital stores ... even if the latter is its adversary." (4)
This seemed like a clear-cut instance of the U.S. government violating the Geneva Convention. After all, even the U.N. sanctions had never included or restricted medicine. How could the government lawyers possibly respond? And how could the judge justify the violation?
Based on legal arguments that the Geneva Convention is not "self-executing" and that I do not have a "private right of action" against the federal government, on October 22, 2004, Judge Robart ruled that "The Medicine Restriction is a valid exercise of authority ..." (5)
But what about the consequences of this policy of bombing a country's infrastructure, re-imposing draconian sanctions that prevent it from being able to feed it's people, and then restricting the free passage of medicine to children, even when hundreds of thousands of them die as a result. When does this come to constitute the crime of genocide?
At the stage we were at in our legal case against the federal government, Judge Robart had to consider that all of our claims were true since we had not yet been given an opportunity to present evidence to support them. How did the Judge rule on a policy that arguably came to constitue genocide against the Iraqi people?
Here is Judge Robart's ruling from his decision of October 22, 2004: "Although the United States has ratified part of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, it also provided that the Convention creates no 'substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any proceeding.'" (emphasis added) (6)
We are currently appealing this decision to the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court. We might have a decision by the end of this year. Still, whatever the Ninth Circuit rules, there is important clarity that is coming out of this legal process for me ... and, I hope, for others as well.
There has been a denial of the right to life for half a million Iraqi children -- simply because they are Iraqi and we wanted to coerce their leader. So far we have not yet managed to have this human-rights violation weighed on the scales of justice of our legal system.