Dunia Faleh, 9 months old,
has diarrhea and nutritional marasmus.
Weight is 8.8 lb.;
ideal weight would be 18 lb.
Basra, September, 1998.
photo by Chuck Quilty

excerpted from the Monday, August 2, 1999 San Jose Mercury News:

EACH month, 4,000 Iraqi children under 5 perish from the consequences of U.S.-inspired, U.N.-imposed economic sanctions.

That's 133 children each day, nearly 50,000 a year. They add up to an incessant, silent slaughter of the most vulnerable population at the direction of the world's most powerful nation.

They perish from complications from malnutrition and sewage-contaminated water, from diarrhea, pneumonia and diseases like polio, cholera and typhoid, which were virtually unknown in Iraq a decade ago.

Each month, sanctions claim an additional 5,000 Iraqis over 5 -- primarily the elderly and the disabled. They die from heat prostration and hypertension and once-curable cancers.

Saddam Hussein did not fabricate those figures. They are the average of various estimates by the United Nations and humanitarian organizations. Take your pick: a low of 2,700 or high of 6,000 children per month. Sanctions may claim more lives this year than died in the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Economic sanctions were imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Defensible then, they are reprehensible now. After eight years and perhaps three-quarters of a million lives, they are misdirected and counterproductive. Yet they have been extended, at the Clinton administration's insistence, with a disquieting nonchalance and moral indifference-rarely mentioned in the news media, barely discussed in Congress.

Sanctions have not forced Saddam from power or incited the people to rise up and overthrow him. They are struggling to survive; he and his clique remain entrenched, immune from the impacts of deprivation.

One can argue that crippling Iraq's economy has checked its capability to rearm-but at what price? Sanctions have wrecked Iraqi society and impoverished the poor and the middle class, those who are victims of Saddam's oppression. They have cost the United States the respect of Arab leaders and the support of allies, who see sanctions as vindictive and futile. They have embittered the next generation of Iraqis, sowing seeds of future terrorism and instability. Even the leaders of U.S.-funded Iraqi opposition groups have condemned sanctions.

The embargo continues on pharmaceutical equipment, insecticides, education supplies-even pencils-and the water disinfectant chlorine. The oil program has been able to produce at most $3 billion every six months, of which a third is diverted to a war reparations fund. The remainder cannot meet the needs of a nation that had been importing 70 percent of its food.

U.N. sanctions would end immediately if the United States agreed. The time has come for Washington to relent.