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Sanctions Born Of Indifference
Published on Tuesday, October 24, 2000 in the Hartford Courant
Sanctions Born Of Indifference
by Amy Pagnozzi
 
"In truth, even had Congress not passed the resolution [to use force against Iraq], I would have acted and ordered our troops into combat."

-- Ex-President George Bush, from his book "A World Transformed"

"I want every Iraqi soldier bleeding from every orifice."

-- Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf

Truly, one of our greatest privileges as Americans is to live in a land that has never been occupied by foreign forces - or at least never in modern times, not since the British invasion in 1812.

It is also a most underappreciated privilege.

For those who have never served in the armed forces nor seen war at their doorstep, the absence of such suffering doesn't register.

That's no excuse for the average American's indifference to the goings-on around the world, but it helps explain our behavior when Bush the elder launched Operation Desert Storm in February of 1991.

We watched CNN around the clock, perched atop barstools, sitting down for family dinner, beside our mate, lying in bed, America's "smart bombs" putting us to sleep.

A bunch of nattering chimpanzees - waving our flags and thumping our chests.

It was America's first Nintendo War, providing patriotic entertainment for the whole family including the kiddies - that's how bloodless it seemed from this distance.

Eighty-eight thousand tons of bombs in the first 42 days - cluster, fragmentation, napalm, fuel-air explosives, the vast majority of them free-falling, a.k.a. dumb (even the smart ones missed their targets 30 percent of the time). On the ground, we fired radioactive bullets that utilize spent uranium.

It was high-tech warfare, our government told us, aimed at military targets that included Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Defense - any and all of which could have concealed "his weapons of mass destruction," said Bush the elder.

The fact that Iraq's president was a stone-evil mass murderer lent credence to the U.S. government's lies and omissions about the war, which we readily swallowed.

Whoopsy! That laser-guided missile we sent into a bomb shelter? It killed anywhere from 300 to 1,600 civilians.

Whoops again! Iraq's telephone exchanges, water, sewage treatment and power plants knocked out. (Well, they could have been storehouses for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, couldn't they?)

Our returning warriors, feeling poorly used, told us their actual orders were to kill anything that moved.

Palestinian refugees trying to escape from Kuwait.

Civilians walking along the road, seeking shelter, beside Iraqi soldiers seeking to surrender - U.S. airmen called it a "turkey shoot." Approximately 25,000 were killed, according to Bill Moyers' special PBS report after the war.

We used tanks and earthmovers to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers alive, piling sand into their trenches, raining machine gun fire over them.

"What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people's arms and things sticking out of them," according to U.S. Gen. Anthony Moreno, who arrived after the slaughter.

We know the United States perpetrated these war crimes - and through sanctions against Iraq commits more each day.

But we don't feel it from this distance.

That's why you must read every word of writer Matthew Hay Brown and photographer Brad Clift's extraordinary series, "Between Sanctions and Saddam."

You can catch up with what you've missed at www.ctnow.com. The United Nations' sanctions against Iraq - which would have been lifted long ago, if not for America - have been killing 4,500 children a month for nearly 10 years now. A million people in all so far, half of them kids.

Brown and Clift take you up close and personal to these suffering people whose homes and lives have been destroyed.

Their food supply is scarce, their water contaminated with sewage, their hospitals deprived of basic medicinal supplies, causing masses people to die of minor diseases.

Says Brown: "We're very aware as Westerners with money when we end up spending time with a family in a house, which is more like a cave; accepting their hospitality; people living among misery and squalor who insist upon sharing food with you that they very clearly can't spare."

The Iraqis die because America insists the sanctions continue - despite their illegality under the principles of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, the United Nations Convention Against Genocide Convention and particularly the Geneva Convention:

Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions - 1977

Part IV, Section 1, Chapter III, Article 54

1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.

2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.

Over a million dead, half of them children, and it's a non-issue to our presidential candidates as they strive for the title of most moral.

The Iraqi people should hate us, but don't. "As we walked around Baghdad and even around small villages, we would be surrounded by people who wanted badly for us to understand that their fight was not with us but with our government," Brown says.

Brown feels sure their kindness and lack of enmity is genuine - but he wonders whether it's based upon a false premise.

"Iraqis have the experience of a government over which they have no control. I'm not sure that they fully appreciate that in the United States the government is supposed to be the people.

"When they say it's not personal, they aren't appreciating that we are responsible for our government in a way that they can't be," Brown says.

It would be incomprehensible to Iraqis that we who have a say in what becomes policy cannot be bothered to speak - that we are so accustomed to freedom we neglect our responsibility to guarantee it shall be the birthright of future generations.

It should be incomprehensible to us.

Go to www.nonviolence.org to learn more about the sanctions and what you can do about them.

Copyright 2000 Myway Corp.

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