300 words on sanctions and war
some 6 months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq
of anger and hatred we've created by our policies." (7)
Before we rush to war with Iraq again, Americans must know what happened in the last war. In 1991, we bombed Iraq's civilian infrastructure to "accelerate the effect of sanctions" knowing it would shut down their water and sewage systems. (1) The UN reported there would soon be "epidemic and famine" and "time was short" to prevent it. We said that "by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people we would encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein." (2) And we waited for this to happen.
We used epidemic and famine as tools of our foreign policy. We did it to cause suffering--and death--to get regime change at low cost. We tried to force the Iraqis to do it. But it was not low cost.
We learned from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992 what happened: "These results provide strong evidence that the Gulf war and trade sanctions caused a threefold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under five years of age. We estimate that an excess of more that 46,900 children died between January and August 1991." (3)
That report was virtually ignored in this country, so that by 1999 UNICEF had to report on 500,000 excess Iraqi children's deaths. (4)
A World-Trade-Center's worth of Iraqi children continue to die every month. Diarrhea is "the prime killer." (5) Meanwhile we live in a fantasy world of surgical bombing, with few civilian casualties, and the untrue belief that the oil-for-food program could possibly meet Iraq's needs. (6)
But these basic facts are unknown to most Americans. A second Gulf War, done the same way as the first, may just overflow the reservoir of anger and hatred we've created by our policies. No one knows what will happen then. Until we recognize what we've done, we cannot judge what might happen. (7)
Posted originally on August 11, 2002.