The 'food-for-oil' program is a failureExcerpted from the Thursday, June 21, 2001 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
One of the Post-Intelligencer's June 14 editorial conclusions on the Iraqi sanctions is well-supported: The present "oil-for-food" sanctions are not working.
The reality on the ground in Iraq is not contested. Thousands of innocent children and adult civilians die every month as a direct result of the 1991 bombing of civilian infrastructure: sewage treatment plants, electrical generating plants, water purification facilities. Allied bombing targets included eight multipurpose dams, repeatedly hit, which simultaneously wrecked flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power.
In May 1996, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reaffirmed that the "price" of 500,000 dead Iraqi children was "worth it."
The resulting devastation frequently has been confirmed. A physician study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992 concluded that the Gulf War and trade sanctions caused a threefold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under 5, estimating 1991 deaths alone at approximately 50,000 children. Those numbers have become a numbing yearly reality. A report released by UNICEF in December 2000 substantiates the dramatic increase in child mortality in the past decade. The same agency reports that 50,000 children continue to die every year.
Article 54 of the Geneva Convention states: "It is prohibited to attack, destroy or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population" and includes foodstuffs, livestock and "drinking water supplies and irrigation works."
Even if we could set aside the law and the humanitarian crisis, our campaign has been a failure in political terms. Saddam continues in power as his people suffer and the United States is effectively blamed throughout much of the world for their privations. Our response, the so-called "food-for-oil" program, has been a stunning failure.
Denis Halliday, the original administrator of the program, gave up a 34-year career when he resigned. He describes the program as keeping many Iraqi people alive in "famine conditions." He has candidly called it genocide because "it is an intentional program to destroy a culture, a people, a country." H.C. Graf Sponeck, successor administrator of the program, also resigned in protest. A diplomat as fundamentally conservative as Scott Ritter, former head of UNSCOM in Iraq, resigned in protest and has been moved to speak out against sanctions as nothing less than a crime against humanity.
This is the heart of a proposal endorsed by 70 members of Congress more than a year ago. They urged President Clinton to "de-link economic sanctions from the military sanctions currently in place against Iraq." They recognized that current policy "makes the children and families of Iraq into virtual hostages in the political deadlock between the U.S. and the government of Iraq."
I hope we will all consider the conclusion of these members of Congress and urge it on political leaders.
Kate Pflaumer is former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington.
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