American Group Takes Anti Sanction Activism to New Heights
Iraq has apparently succeeded in re-awakening international sympathy for its relatively forgotten cause. On the regional level, thanks to the spirit of Arab unity, which was sparked by the current Palestinian uprising, Arab governments began a slow yet significant process of normalizing relations with the long-isolated Arab state. On the international level, courageous steps carried out by France and Russia to challenge the flight sanctions on Iraq have turned out to be a much greater success than originally anticipated.
Now anti-sanction groups in the United States are now getting into the act, vowing that they will also dare to break the air-siege on Iraq. Conscience International, a leading anti-sanctions force based in Atlanta, Georgia, announced on November 9 its intentions to send two humanitarian flights to Iraq, directly from the United States.
Although the dates for the two trips have not been finalized, December 2-12, and January 13-23 have been decided as tentative dates, according to a statement released by the group.
During an interview with iviews.com before his departure from Amman to Baghdad, Conscience International President James Jennings said he hopes his group will "draw attention to the effects of the sanctions on the innocent civilians of Iraq, especially children, in order to advocate that they be totally lifted."
"Arrangements are 98% complete for the initial US-based flights into Baghdad," said Jennings. "Conscience International's petition to the Jordanian Foreign Minister and meeting with airline officials in Amman in October apparently helped the airline (Royal Jordanian Airlines) gain long-sought permission to begin regular flights"
Jennings invites activists from around the United States to "make the historic journey to Iraq with one of the first Conscience International flights to Baghdad." Details of the two airlifts to Iraq have already been issued, including the cost of the tickets.
"They (the sanctions) are ineffective and counterproductive, and constitute a violation of the UN charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Jennings said. "They are genocidal and racist in their application and have serious potential for classification as war crimes before the world court and theory international bodies."
The US State Department's reaction to the scheduled flights has not been made public, although indirect recognition of air traffic to Iraq was made in early November. The no-fly zone, created by the United States and Britain without UN consent remains forbidden territory.
"We caution that the [no-fly] areas are areas of continuous military operation and present significant danger to aircraft and passengers," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in a statement issued on November 4th. The statement indicated an American concession that areas out of the no-fly zone are open to air traffic. But it remains unclear whether the indirect concession applies to sanction busters who could face heavy fines and imprisonment for violating the sanctions.
But Jennings is says he can avoid breaking any laws by first stopping in another country before landing in Baghdad, and stressed that the trip was strictly humanitarian. He also said that Secretary of State Madeline Albright "has commented on (the trip) with an attitude of benign neglect".
His flight to Iraq comes at a time when world attention to the plight of Iraqis is gaining momentum and also at a time when most Americans have their attention diverted to the hotly contested Presidential election results.
Groups such as Voices in the Wilderness, Iraq Sanction Challenge and other human rights groups have succeeded, after years of activism and outspokenness, to raise awareness among many Americans of the harm inflicted by the decade-long sanctions. Such success however, has failed thus far in softening America's stiff foreign policy on Iraq. Nonetheless, the activism to bring an end to the sanctions still continues.
American Arabs and Muslims are also working on awareness campaigns to educate the American public on the effect the sanctions. In early November, a "Day of Silence" for the people of Iraq was initiated throughout the United States, where activists gathered to mourn the 5,000 deaths in Iraq each month, and to tell passersby and local media outlets about the reason for their deaths.
Ramzy Baroud is a freelance journalist in Seattle, Washington and a regular contributor to iviews.com.
Topics: Iraq, United States Of America