Thursday, December 9, 1999

Sanctions Hit Children Hardest

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

NEW YORK (USA Today) Dec. 9, 1999 - Can moral Americans watch with indifference as 200 Iraqi children die each day due to the economic blockade imposed against their nation by the United Nations and, more directly, the United States? The Fellowship of Reconciliation, the world's oldest interfaith peace and justice organization, says, ''No!''

The terrible events of the 1990-91 Gulf War created a firestorm of mass destruction and death in Iraq. More than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers died in the conflict, while the coalition's air war destroyed or seriously damaged thousands of Iraqi electrical power stations, water treatment plants, grain fields, factories and food storage facilities far from the front lines. Iraq emerged from the war as a militarily defeated and economically decimated nation.

Severe international economic and military sanctions, imposed on Iraq since 1990, have continued the effects of the war. The military sanctions have ended Iraq's capacity to deploy biological, chemical and atomic weapons. But economic sanctions have impacted Iraqi civilians, resulting in catastrophic shortages of food, medicine, drinkable water and more.

Adequate food cannot be produced because Iraq lacks seeds, fertilizer, tractors and the electricity needed for irrigation equipment. Cities and towns are flooded with untreated waste and unsafe water. Medicine cannot be adequately distributed inside Iraq because of the lack of refrigerated storage facilities.
All of this adds up to the death each day of an estimated 200 Iraqi children under 5 years of age, an April 1998 UNICEF report found. These are not Republican Guard commanders, secret policemen, government officials or even members of Saddam Hussein's family. They are children.

While we celebrate the last Christmas, Hanukkah and Ramadan seasons of the millennium, we should remember that human life, and not political interests, is sacred, and that all weapons of mass destruction -- including deadly economic sanctions -- are abominations in the eyes of God.

The people of Iraq, especially the children, are not our enemies. They must be allowed to live in peace and dignity. In the name of compassion, we must lift economic sanctions now.