Published on Tuesday, June 18, 2002 in the Seattle Times
Seattle Man Faces Fines, Prison After Taking Medicines to Iraq
by Gina Kim
For Bert Sacks, traveling to Iraq isn't a question of breaking the law it's a question of right and wrong.
And not paying a $10,000 fine for a policy he believes is killing innocent children is simply staying that course.
"Where was the world when the Jews were being killed at Auschwitz? ... Well, sanctions kill. No one can deny that thousands of children are dying," said the 60-year-old Seattle resident. "Where is the world?"
Last month, after his eighth trip to Iraq, Sacks received a letter stating he had 30 days to pay.
But he doesn't plan to pay a cent. Yesterday, he personally delivered a letter to a Treasury office in Washington, D.C., outlining why.
Sacks believes he has every right to take medical supplies to those who need it. And he believes it's unconstitutional to fine him without giving him a court hearing.
He said his stance stems from years of research on the effects of the U.S. and U.N. embargo on the Iraqi people: Many don't have access to potable drinking water. Raw sewage is dumped in the rivers. Diarrhea cases are rampant.
Sacks blames the sanctions, imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. He said Iraq is unable to get materials to repair or rebuild water- and sewage-treatment plants destroyed during Iraq's 1980s war with Iran and during the Persian Gulf War.
A 1999 United Nations Children's Fund report blames the sanctions for killing half a million children younger than 5 over seven years.
But according to the U.S. State Department's Web site, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's failure to implement policies to boost economic growth and improve living standards is the reason for the country's economic woes. And Saddam's refusal to allow weapons inspectors into the country keeps the sanctions in place.
A Treasury Department spokesman wouldn't comment on the specifics of the agency's probe of Sacks, but he said the fine could be garnisheed from any wages Sacks might have.
The threat of being fined even more up to $275,000 for his trips or sentenced to 12 years in jail and given $1 million in criminal penalties doesn't rock Sacks' resolve.
"I hope Americans will realize what policy our government is pursuing. And if that means the threat of court, I will do that," said Sacks. "I hope to educate Americans as to what we're doing."
Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company