The cost of U.S. policy in Iraq

By the

February 15, 2001

The United States’ policy towards Iraq has been without a sane “helmsman” for the past 20 years. The United States actively supported Saddam Hussein even while he committed human rights crimes against his own people. In fact, the Bush and Reagan administrations provided Hussein with expertise regarding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in addition to according him diplomatic approval. The United States did not want an end to the Iraq-Iran war that would favor either side, so it bolstered a losing Iraq to keep the status quo in the war. This shows how U.S.-Iraq relations have been rather friendly, especially considering the crimes which Hussein was committing.

Then there was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Suddenly Saddam Hussein lost his last name and became “Saddam,” a name synonymous with a bloodthirsty tyrant. As if he was acting any differently than before! Saddam backstabbed American interests when he invaded Kuwait, threatening the stability of oil prices and consequently U.S. prosperity. Yet, by all accounts, this arose in part from a misunderstanding between Saddam and the Bush administration, which was then in power. Saddam thought he had an “orange” light to shore up falling oil prices, caused by increased production in Kuwait. Although the CIA couldn’t help but notice the increase in Iraqi military activity along the disputed Iraqi-Kuwait border, the agency did nothing to warn Saddam. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Colin Powell, refused to send a Navy flagship to the Persian Gulf; U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie has been blamed for “turning a blind eye” to Saddam by declaring that affairs between Arabs was not the business of the State Department. According to testimony, the ambassador did not provide Saddam with a conclusive objection to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The Bush administration naturally felt sheepish about the ensuing miscommunication which thus created the Gulf War. Saddam quickly became a focus for senators to voice their steadfast concern for America’s security by calling for a stranglehold of sanctions against Iraq. The policy that ensures U.N. inspectors access to Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction has also succeeded in killing more than 100,000 children a year. These children would not have died had there not been sanctions, affirms UNICEF. Such a tragedy arose from the fact that for five years the United States refused to “sanction” Saddam purchasing food and medicine. Only under increasing international pressure did the Clinton administration permit the “Oil for Food” program.

Throughout the time that sanctions were upheld uncompromisingly by the United States, the United Nations operated monitoring teams in Iraq. According to many U.N. officials, significant progress was being made, despite Saddam’s repeated recalcitrance about co-operating. According to the former Executive Director of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), the main agency responsible for inspecting Iraq’s weapon’s capabilities, the commission succeeded in destroying the effectiveness of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program for many years to come.

In 1998, however, a cloud of allegations began to hang over UNSCOM. The CIA admitted that in conjunction with the Israeli equivalent to the CIA, the Mossad, it had co-opted American members of the U.N. inspection teams to spy in Iraq. With the relations between the U.N. Inspections Commission and Saddam deteriorating because of Saddam’s lack of co-operation with U.N. inspectors, the U.S. military decided to bomb Iraq, without the approval of the United Nations. That was two years ago.

Since then the sanctions propounded principally by the U.S. have without a doubt succeeded in keeping the child mortality rate two-and-a-half times higher than it was before the Gulf War, with 60 to 75 more children dying every day thanks to the continuation of economic sanctions. Examples of the problems with the sanctions include the ban on substances that could be used to sanitize water because they could also be used in chemical weapons experimentation and the ban on replacement parts for ambulances because they could be used for military purposes. In addition, the United States bombs Iraq on average every two days causing destruction not only to military defenses, but also to general infrastructure and creating “collateral damage” when innocent bystanders are injured. A rising death toll in Iraq is the sole achievement of U.S. policy thus far. The failure has been in monitoring possible attempts by Saddam to begin a new weapons of mass destruction program. Saddam is definitely still in power. A change in U.S. policy is long overdue.

Saddam is not an erratic bloodthirsty tyrant, but simply, a bloodthirsty tyrant. For years, until our quid pro quo with him ended, we managed to keep the topic of Iraq low key. Deterrence made Stalin, a demagogue with millions of deaths to his name, think twice before attacking the United States with his nuclear weapons, so why not use deterrence against Saddam Hussein and simultaneously end sanctions against the people of Iraq? Barring a military invasion, Saddam will stay in power, so the United States might as well let the poor people of Iraq live as best they can under his dictatorship without making things worse for them through sanctions and bombings.

Dennis Halliday, former U.N. Assistant Secretary General and Chief Coordinator for Relief in Iraq, has provided eloquent testimony before Congress for an alternative to sanctions. His efforts and the efforts of many others prompted 72 Congressmen to sign a letter to the Clinton administration last year , calling for the de-linking of economic sanctions from military sanctions in order to relieve the suffering of the people of Iraq.

On Jan. 22, Kuwait, the victim of Saddam’s aggression and pillaging, claimed that it “welcomes a call to lift United Nations sanctions on Iraq,” according to Education for Peace in Iraq Center. Yet sanctions that kill the innocent still continue. The United States must end its economic sanctions against the people of Iraq today.

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