Gulf War Anniversary: Time for US to Evaluate Iraq Policy

On the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, Iraq's Health Ministry is busy estimating the death toll of its people, resulting from an endless war and genocidal sanctions.

Concurrently, George Bush is also busy finalizing his national and foreign policy agendas. One of these proposed policies is to continue employing the economic sanctions against Iraq. Moreover, Bush is also threatening to use military force, if needed.

During his election campaign, Bush's knowledge regarding foreign policy affairs was the hottest joke on late-night talk shows across the country. To dismiss the allegations that his knowledge in foreign affairs hardly exceeds that of a high school student, as some suggested, Bush repeatedly tackled the issue of Iraq, the war, Saddam and the sanctions.

On every occasion when Iraq was discussed, Bush emerged as the super hero of the West whose mission was to keep criminals in their hideouts and crime under control.

While he appeared uncertain and vague regarding issues of great complexity, such as America's involvement in Africa and the Middle East peace process, Bush was resolved and very determined when describing his future Iraq policy.

The President's policy toward Iraq was detailed in a 45-minute interview with Reuters in January, during which time he described Saddam Hussein as a "big threat" that must be "contained".

"I do think he is a big threat," declared Bush. "I do think he is a big threat to our friends in the Persian Gulf and he's a threat to Israel...We must continue to contain Saddam Hussein and we must watch his money and we must make sure he doesn't develop weapons of mass destruction."

Of course for the trusting American public, Bush's words were wise and reflected a great deal of maturity. But the real meaning behind Bush's words, at least for those who consider that the life of the innocent has greater value than a cheap barrel of oil, is devastating.

The ten years following "Desert Storm", which nearly destroyed one of the most advanced Middle Eastern countries, proved that neither war nor sanctions can bring a lasting peace nor can it solve disputes. On the contrary, the US-led UN sanctions have brought about incomprehensible devastation to innocent Iraqi people, with over 1.3 million deaths reported.

Bush's words are a clear indication that the sanctions policy is a main aspect of his foreign policy against Iraq. Both strategies proved impotent in the past, and shall always bear nothing, but human tragedy.

But why would the US continue with such an unrewarding and inhumane approach?

Perhaps it is in part, plain arrogance. Lifting the sanctions could be seen as a defeat for the American economic sanctions policy, and a victory, not for Saddam Hussein as an American official could naively claim, but for the Iraqi people whose resistance has proven stronger than hunger, cruise missiles and depleted uranium. Such sentiment could harm the US's reputation as the indivisible superpower.

As for Iraq being a threat to America's "friends" in the Gulf and to Israel, it is just a red herring. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, plainly and unconditionally demanded a lift of the sanctions. Saudi Arabia has recently reopened a border post with Iraq, and Saudi companies are now conducting business with a country that is more or less perceived as a former enemy, not a current one.

Iran is now upgrading its ties with Iraq to a greater degree than it had before the war and sanctions. Even Kuwait, who still opposes an unconditional lift of the sanctions, is passionately addressing the human suffering of the Iraqi people.

As for Israel, that country is in fact a threat to stability in the region. Israel is in fact the one that has been systematically aggressing against Palestinians and its neighbors. Israel is the only country openly building and maintaining a nuclear weapons arsenal that is capable to wreak havoc, not only in the Middle East, but also all over the world. Israel is the only nation in violation of numerous UN resolutions.

George Bush joined by two Desert Storm architects, Colin Powel, as the Secretary of State, and Dick Cheney as the Vice President, seems to be little interested in relieving the suffering of the Iraqi people. They are talking about smart sanctions to replace the current sanctions, as if the lives of millions of people are a field for American experimentation, or a policy of trial and error.

In his second televised debate with Al Gore during the folding Presidential campaign, many Arabs and Muslims credited Bush for courageously addressing issues of great concern to their communities. He said that if he was elected President he would make sure that they get the respect they deserve.

But if he is to uphold his campaign pledge, then the US must stop its campaign of starving and bombing innocent men, women and children of Iraq.


Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance writer living in Seattle, Washington and a regular columnist for

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