This week's column was going to be a continuation of our discussion last week. But then I heard from a fella I've come to know pretty well during my stint as a columnist/commie-pinko, socialist, liberal pundit.
His name is Bert Sacks - a soft-speaking soul ablaze with compassion. I've written about his activism before in this space. He sent an email to inform me of indications that the United States may be on the verge of launching yet another bomb attack on Iraq, and about the passing of a Seattle activist with whom I was acquainted. (Anci Koppel - God rest your soul).
Sacks has been to the devastated Iraq several times, breaking federal law by bringing medicine and toys to those Iraqi children who have not been killed by the economic sanctions. The feds are threatening him and another gentle spirit named Randall Mullins with a $10,000 and $11,000 fine.
When Anci first learned of this travesty carried out in the name of American law and order, she said: "If what those guys did is criminal - bringing food, medicine, and toys to Iraq - then I want to be criminal, too." Bert reminded me that she was one of the first to join what has become a regular group of Americans who openly violate the sanctions in an act of civil disobedience.
Today, Sacks and a delegation of other concerned American citizens are heading off to Iraq. Bert sent me 10 reasons why it's important for the good people of this nation, especially in an election season, to look at what's going on in Iraq.
"August marks 10 years of sanctions on Iraq. UN sanctions began on Aug. 6, 1990. This date is also the 55th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, where an estimated 140,000 Japanese died.
"According to UNICEF, 500,000 Iraqi children would be alive today if 1990 conditions in Iraq had continued through 1998. (You check the source list for these facts at www.scn.org/ccpi/10reasons.html).
"Rep. Tony Hall, just back from Iraq, wrote 'The prime killer of children under 5 years of age - diarrhea diseases - has reached epidemic proportions and they now strike four times more often than they did in 1990. Holds on contracts for the water and sanitation sector are a prime reason for the increases in sickness and death'."
Of the 18 holds on contracts, he wrote, all but one was placed by the United States.
"Iraq's polluted water is due to the intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure during the Gulf War. This was done, according to Col. John Warden of the Pentagon, for 'long-term leverage'. People say: 'You didn't recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage,' said the (Pentagon) planning officer. 'Well, what were we trying to do with (UN-approved economic) sanctions - help out the Iraqi people? No. What we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of sanctions.'
"Bombed infrastructure followed by economic sanctions is a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Foreign Affairs magazine reported that sanctions have killed more than all 'weapons of mass destruction' put together. To be a credible threat, a WMD must be useable. Imagine a WMD so deadly that it kills 10 Vietnam-veteran walls full of children - and no one notices. ABC, CBS and NBC did not give a word of coverage to UNICEF's 1999 report of 500,000 children's deaths.
"As Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire observed, 'Sanctions are the economic nuclear bomb.'
"Respected voices are speaking out and need to be heard. In an editorial from April, The Economist wrote: 'If, year in, year out, the UN were systematically killing Iraqi children by air strikes, Western governments would declare it intolerable, no matter how noble the intention. They should find their existing policy just as unacceptable.'
"A former head of UNSCOM, a former UNSCOM weapons inspector, a former UN assistant secretary general, two former top UN aid coordinators in Baghdad, religious leaders, 70 Congressmen and women, the New England Journal of Medicine...and several newspapers have reported on or editorialized against the sanctions policy on Iraq.
"Truthful reporting can stop more deaths in Iraq. Hans von Sponeck, the last oil-for-food program coordinator who resigned in protest over sanctions, said '(There is) disinformation, distortion, misinterpretation, wherever you look ... but the finest example of distorted information is a State Department report... .'
"US/UK policy cannot stand the light of day. It is the job of responsible media to shed that light. Tomorrow, the lives of yet another 150 Iraqi kids will be at stake'."
Isn't that reason enough?
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist.
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