The Guardian article linked previously (but only in passing) makes some good points and is well worth a read:
Squeezed to Death
"Our own studies indicate that more than 40 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years' time to begin with, then long afterwards. Most of my own family now have cancer, and we have no history of the disease. It has spread to the medical staff of this hospital. We don't know the precise source of the contamination, because we are not allowed to get the equipment to conduct a proper scientific survey, or even to test the excess level of radiation in our bodies. We suspect depleted uranium, which was used by the Americans and British in the Gulf War right across the southern battlefields."
Under economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council almost 10 years ago, Iraq is denied equipment and expertise to clean up its contaminated battle-fields, as Kuwait was cleaned up. At the same time, the Sanctions Committee in New York, dominated by the Americans and British, has blocked or delayed a range of vital equipment, chemotherapy drugs and even pain-killers. "For us doctors," said Dr Al-Ali, "it is like torture. We see children die from the kind of cancers from which, given the right treatment, there is a good recovery rate." Three children died while I was there.
According to Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, the death rate of children under five is more than 4,000 a month - that is 4,000 more than would have died before sanctions. That is half a million children dead in eight years. If this statistic is difficult to grasp, consider, on the day you read this, up to 200 Iraqi children may die needlessly. "Even if not all the suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors," says Unicef, "the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivation in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war."
"The change in 10 years is unparalleled, in my experience," Anupama Rao Singh, Unicef's senior representative in Iraq, told me. "In 1989, the literacy rate was 95%; and 93% of the population had free access to modern health facilities. Parents were fined for failing to send their children to school. The phenomenon of street children or children begging was unheard of. Iraq had reached a stage where the basic indicators we use to measure the overall well-being of human beings, including children, were some of the best in the world. Now it is among the bottom 20%. In 10 years, child mortality has gone from one of the lowest in the world, to the highest."
A courtly, eloquent Irishman, Denis Halliday resigned as co-ordinator of humanitarian relief to Iraq in 1998, after 34 years with the UN; he was then Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, one of the elite of senior officials. He had made his career in development, "attempting to help people, not harm them". His was the first public expression of an unprecedented rebellion within the UN bureaucracy. "I am resigning," he wrote, "because the policy of economic sanctions is totally bankrupt. We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that . . . Five thousand children are dying every month . . . I don't want to administer a programme that results in figures like these."
"Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Sanctions Committee in New York]. There seems to be a rather ludicrous notion that such agents could be converted into chemical or other weapons."
The irony is that the US helped bring Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party to power in Iraq, and that the US (and Britain) in the 1980s conspired to break their own laws in order, in the words of a Congressional inquiry, to "secretly court Saddam Hussein with reckless abandon", giving him almost everything he wanted, including the means of making biological weapons. Rubin failed to see the irony in the US supplying Saddam with seed stock for anthrax and botulism, that he could use in weapons, and claimed that the Maryland company responsible was prosecuted. It was not: the company was given Commerce Department approval.
Denial is easy, for Iraqis are a nation of unpeople in the West, their panoramic suffering of minimal media interest; and when they are news, care is always taken to minimise Western culpability. I can think of no other human rights issue about which the governments have been allowed to sustain such deception and tell so many bare-faced lies. Western governments have had a gift in the "butcher of Baghdad", who can be safely blamed for everything. Unlike the be-headers of Saudi Arabia, the torturers of Turkey and the prince of mass murderers, Suharto, only Saddam Hussein is so loathsome that his captive population can be punished for his crimes. British obsequiousness to Washington's designs over Iraq has a certain craven quality, as the Blair government pursues what Simon Jenkins calls a "low-cost, low-risk machismo, doing something relatively easy, but obscenely cruel". The statements of Tony Blair and Robin Cook and assorted sidekick ministers would, in other circumstances, be laughable. Cook: "We must nail the absurd claim that sanctions are responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people", Cook: "We must uphold the sanctity of international law and the United Nations . . ." ad nauseam. The British boast about their "initiative" in promoting the latest Security Council resolution, which merely offers the prospect of more Kafkaesque semantics and prevarication in the guise of a "solution" and changes nothing.
What are sanctions for? Eradicating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, says the Security Council resolution. Scott Ritter, a chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq for five years, told me: "By 1998, the chemical weapons infrastructure had been completely dismantled or destroyed by UNSCOM (the UN inspections body) or by Iraq in compliance with our mandate. The biological weapons programme was gone, all the major facilities eliminated. The nuclear weapons programme was completely eliminated. The long range ballistic missile programme was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq's threat, I would say [it is] zero." Ritter resigned in protest at US interference; he and his American colleagues were expelled when American spy equipment was found by the Iraqis. To counter the risk of Iraq reconstituting its arsenal, he says the weapons inspectors should go back to Iraq after the immediate lifting of all non-military sanctions; the inspectors of the international Atomic Energy Agency are already back. At the very least, the two issues of sanctions and weapons inspection should be entirely separate. Madeleine Albright has said: "We do not agree that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted." If this means that Saddam Hussein is the target, then the embargo will go on indefinitely, holding Iraqis hostage to their tyrant's compliance with his own demise. Or is there another agenda? In January 1991, the Americans had an opportunity to press on to Baghdad and remove Saddam, but pointedly stopped short. A few weeks later, they not only failed to support the Kurdish and Shi'a uprising, which President Bush had called for, but even prevented the rebelling troops in the south from reaching captured arms depots and allowed Saddam Hussein's helicopters to slaughter them while US aircraft circled overhead. At they same time, Washington refused to support Iraqi opposition groups and Kurdish claims for independence.
"Containing" Iraq with sanctions destroys Iraq's capacity to threaten US control of the Middle East's oil while allowing Saddam to maintain internal order. As long as he stays within present limits, he is allowed to rule over a crippled nation. "What the West would ideally like," says Said Aburish, the author, "is another Saddam Hussein." Sanctions also justify the huge US military presence in the Gulf, as Nato expands east, viewing a vast new oil protectorate stretching from Turkey to the Caucasus. Bombing and sanctions are ideal for policing this new order: a strategy the president of the American Physicians for Human Rights calls "Bomb Now, Die Later". The perpetrators ought not be allowed to get away with this in our name: for the sake of the children of Iraq, and all the Iraqs to come
Wake up and smell the coffee people ... we're the bad guys!