from Voices in the Wilderness, May 17 2001:
We’re writing in response to news that the British government has proposed an easing of economic sanctions against Iraq. The British proposal would allow more commodities into Iraq. But, if ordinary Iraqi people don’t acquire greatly increased purchasing power, greater availability of supplies and commodities won’t necessarily help them meet their needs. Presently, Iraqi people who are employed are paid low wages in a greatly devalued currency. To provide ordinary families with purchasing power will require reflating the Iraqi economy to generate employment and to restore the value of the Iraqi Dinar. This requires repair of Iraq’s badly deteriorated infrastructure, especially the oil sector.
|Kathy Kelly with old woman and children.
from the Summer 2000 Voices in Basra project
photo by Alan Pogue
We’re told repeatedly that such undertakings demand massive investments of public and private monies. It’s hard to imagine that the government of Iraq could manage such investments and repairs if it does not have control over its own oil revenues.
Several of us within the Voices in the Wilderness network have spent time in US federal prisons, as inmates. US prisoners work in the prisons, but their earnings go directly into an account maintained by the Bureau of Prisons. The Bureau of Prisons then allows inmates to purchase goods from the prison commissary, and the BOP determines what they can buy and how much each item will cost. It seems that the new proposal will be akin to demanding that the Iraqi people consign themselves to living in one big prison, compounding the isolation and suffering that already exists. It’s understandable, to us, that many in Iraq will not want to accept a proposal that still traps them in enforced poverty. The new proposal offers a deal that no government would want to accept, and yet Iraqi civilians would continue to pay the price for a dispute over which they have no control.
The US government may characterize Iraq’s rejection of the new proposal as evidence of the Government of Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with measures intended to help their own people. Please consider writing to your media and elected representatives about valid reasons for rejecting the new proposal. Question whether or not the proposal now being considered by the US government is genuinely intended to alleviate massive suffering in Iraq. Ask if this proposal may have more to do with rising short term energy demands than with honest efforts to establish fair trade relations with Iraqi people.
At a March 19 2001 address to the Israeli lobby, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that "violence is always a dead end." Economic sanctions have pushed Iraqi people into dead end conditions that are destroying a civilian population. The magnitude of humanitarian needs warrants our continued clamor for a complete lifting of economic sanctions.