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THE DEADLIEST WEAPON SANCTIONS AND
Posted By: AssyrianVoice4Peace (22.214.171.124)
Date: Friday, 15 November 2002, at 11:48 a.m.
THE DEADLIEST WEAPON SANCTIONS AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN
IRAQ.(report)(Brief Article)(Statistical Data Included)
Author/s: Richard J. Walton Issue: May, 2001
Saddam Hussein is the enemy, three successive U.S. presidents -- George
Bush the Elder, Bill Clinton, and now Bush the Younger -- have proclaimed.
So what have ten years of UN sanctions (the most draconian in world
history) accomplished? Well, the Iraqi dictator is more secure than he was
a decade ago. And about a million Iraqi civilians, most of them young
children, have perished from malnutrition and disease.
Step into the Children's Hospital in Baghdad. There are no enemies here,
just dying kids who would not be sick, or who could easily be cured, if not
for the sanctions. You blink back tears as you move from one shabby ward
to the next, each crowded with family members, most of them stoic, some
wailing in grief. One scene I will always remember: One of our group, a
woman from Massachusetts, standing at a bed silently stroking the head
of an unconscious infant while the baby's black-robed mother looked on.
Neither spoke. Even if they had a common language, what could they say?
During the Gulf War, the United Nations (largely the United States)
unleashed one of the most ferocious aerial bombardments in the history of
air warfare, much of it against civilian targets. Among those targets were
water purification systems, sewage systems, and food production,
processing, storage, and distribution facilities. Then came the economic
sanctions, which embargoed any goods that could have a "dual use," that
is, military or civilian. In a modern economy, that covers almost
everything: For example, chlorine, which is used in water purification, is
designated as a "dual use" commodity. The sanctions have made it
difficult, often impossible, to restore potable water and public sanitation
or to produce or buy sufficient food.
Over the last ten years, the ancient plagues of hunger and disease have
been visited on the Iraqi people to a shocking degree. The following gives
some idea of the progression. In 1989, just before the Gulf War began,
there were 7,110 deaths of children under five from respiratory infection,
diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and malnutrition. Within a year of the war and
the imposition of sanctions, the number of deaths had risen to 27,473. By
1994, the figure stood at 52,905, and in the first 11 months of 1999, it
soared to 73,572. That's a ten-fold increase over ten years.
Here is another measure. In 1990, only 4.5% of Iraqi children were born
with low birth weight (less than 2.5 kilograms, or about five and a half
pounds). By November 1999, the figure was 24.1%, or just under one in
four. Many of these children will have underdeveloped organs, suffer from
mental retardation, and be more prone to illness, malnutrition, and low
One nutrition-influenced disease, kwashiorkor (seen in children with
horribly swollen bellies, who can suffer long-term organ damage, including
brain damage, unless the condition is quickly arrested) was rare in Iraq
before 1990. By 1998, it had increased by 61.4 times. Cases of marasmus,
which causes children to waste away, increased more than 50-fold. Also in
1998, nearly two million Iraqis (out of a population of about 23 million)
were suffering from severe and protracted malnutrition.
The war and the sanctions are directly responsible for these terrifying
health problems. The galloping increases in grotesque birth defects and
childhood leukemia are attributable to the widespread use of depleted
uranium in U.S. ammunition. There has been a dramatic rise in cases of
cholera (from zero in 1989 to 2,560 in 1998), amoebic dysentery (a 13-fold
increase, up to 264,000 cases in 1998), and typhoid fever (a nearly 11-fold
increase) all rarely found in Iraq before the sanctions, all preventable with
potable water and effective sewage treatment. Because of vaccine
shortages, such diseases as whooping cough, measles, mumps, and even
polio (which had been all but eradicated) have also increased.
In addition, hospital patients are dying because of a lack of antibiotics,
anesthesia, oxygen, antiseptics, x-ray film, functioning medical
equipment, and even aspirin. Major surgical operations have plummeted
from a monthly average of 15,125 in 1989 to 3,823 in November 1999, a
decline of 74%.
In short, the ongoing war against Iraq has reduced a resource-rich country
with free, cradle-to-grave medical care to the level of an impoverished
African nation, where illness and malnutrition are widespread.
There is a terrible irony here. The U.S. government claims that sanctions
are necessary because the Iraqi regime might develop weapons of mass
destruction, which it might use against its neighbors. So the United States
(no other country on the UN Security Council, except for the United
Kingdom, continues to support the present sanctions) deploys actual
weapons of mass destruction -- epidemic disease and hunger on a massive
Resources: The data provided here are compiled from a variety of sources,
primarily the UN and its various agencies, the World Health Organization,
the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, and
UNICEF. Other sources include Iraqi ministries.
Richard J. Walton, who teaches at Rhode Island College, visited Iraq in
January as part of an International Action Center delegation headed by
former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark. A member of the National
Committee of the Association of State Green Parties, he has written a
number of books on U.S. foreign policy.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Economic Affairs Bureau
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