This week marks the tenth anniversary of the continuing US-led blockade on the Iraqi people, as well as the 55th anniversary of the atomic bombings on Japan. The similarities between the final attacks on Japan and the continuing US war against Iraq (both sanctions and bombings) are chilling.
The amount of explosives dropped on Iraq in the first day alone (Jan. 17, 1991) of air and naval attacks was equivalent to the explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This military onslaught on a defenseless people included the first-time use of more than 300 tons of depleted uranium, a radioactive waste product from the uranium enrichment process.
"This [DU] is the Agent Orange of the 1990s - absolutely," according to Doug Rokke, a former US Army health physicist who was part of the DU assessment team in the Gulf War.
All in all, more than 140,000 tons of explosives, equivalent to seven nuclear bombs, were used against the Iraqi society in destroying their civilian infrastructure and environment (in violation of the Geneva Convention).
Unfortunately, the war against the Iraqi people did not end with the cessation of military attacks in 1991. The war continues to this very day, with the bombing of Iraq (US bombs Iraq an average of once every 3 days) and with a suffocating blockade. According to UN reports, since the imposition of sanctions Iraq "has experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty" and "Infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world."
The August 1999 UNICEF report revealed that more than 500,000 toddlers and infants have died as a direct result of these 'sanctions.' Approximately 250 people die every day in Iraq due to the effect of the sanctions. Furthermore, "the Oil-for-Food plan has not resulted in adequate protection of Iraq's children from malnutrition/disease. Those children spared from death continue to remain deprived of essential rights addressed in the Convention of Rights of the Child." (source: UNICEF, 1998)
Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter wrote in the Boston Globe (3/9/00) that, "...from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has in fact been disarmed... The chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missile programs that were a real threat in 1991 had, by 1998, been destroyed or rendered harmless." How can we justify this 'sanctions' policy? I repeat the question that Hans von Sponeck, the second UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, asked in February before resigning, "How long the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, should be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?"
On the weekend of August 5th-7th, thousands of activists from all over the United States will gather in Washington, DC to demand the abolition of comprehensive sanctions, a weapon of mass destruction waged upon the Iraqi people. With a growing number of countries, former UN officials, Members of Congress, religious bodies, and organizations coming out against these sanctions, the time has come for us to gather and take a principled against the Clinton administration's genocidal policy toward Iraq.
(This piece was written by members of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.)