American Delegation Returns from Iraq Fact-Finding Mission

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AMERICAN DELEGATION RETURNS FROM IRAQ FACT-FINDING MISSION

In the midst of a Bush administration debate between moderates calling for "easing sanctions" and hard-liners demanding a "regime change" and tighter sanctions, a delegation of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans traveled to Iraq on March 20, to witness firsthand the effects of the sanctions on the Iraqi people. With a backdrop of appalling photos of Iraqi suffering, the delegation released a report entitled Ten Years of Sanctions Against Iraq: Enough is Enough, at the National Press Club on April 6. Then, sometimes fighting back tears, they shared what they had seen.

For six days, the delegation visited hospitals, schools, universities, orphanages, U.N. offices and civic organizations in Baghdad and Basra. They met with doctors, teachers, students and others who told them the genocidal scope of 10 years of U.N. sanctions, which have killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis and affected 23 million others. As designed, the blockade has devastated Iraq, destroying much of its infrastructure and civilian economy, and setting the country back many decades.

"If the goal of the sanctions was the destruction of a people, they have almost succeeded," Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) communication director Margaret Zaknoen told the journalists. If the goal was to hurt Saddam Hussain, however, sanctions have failed, for the Iraqi people now are too battered to overthrow Saddam, who is content to build lavish palaces as his people suffer. If sanctions are lifted, the returned delegates said, Iraq can rebuild its agriculture, water and electrical systems, and its people can begin to recover.

"Seeing is believing. Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of a stoic mother with her child wasting away on her lap, dying from a curable disease," Zaknoen said. "I wish former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright or present Secretary Colin Powell could have seen what we saw. People we met had a certain dignity and steadfastness. Somehow they didn't hate Americans. They were able to separate the American people from the American government. They told us to tell the American people that they don't need our charity. They just want the sanctions removed. We are punishing a population with our own weapon of mass destruction."

Altaf Husain from Muslim Students' Association (MSA) International, said that Iraq is on the brink of social as well as physical destruction. …