Magazine article U.S. Catholic

War by Another Name

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

War by Another Name

Article excerpt

Can the humanitarian crisis in Iraq help establish "just sanctions" principles?

BEFORE THE GULF WAR BROKE OUT IN JANUARY 1991, many urged that political and economic sanctions, rather than stealth bombers, be deployed to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. American political leadership then had little patience for sanctions, but they appear to have found the forbearance now to continue a political and economic embargo of Iraq nine years after the end of the war. Asked how long the United States intends to maintain this isolation of Iraq, a state department spokesperson replied, "As long as it needs to."

In other words, the U.S. remains committed to a--to this point--futile campaign to drive Hussein from power, whatever the human cost. Church leaders across the world have called for the end of U.N. and U.S. sanctions against Iraq, arguing that the effort has not managed to dislodge Hussein but has succeeded in profoundly diminishing living conditions for the most vulnerable in Iraq.

Few have commented as eloquently on this matter as Pope John Paul II: "I must call upon the consciences of those who.., put political, economic, or strategic considerations before the fundamental good of the people, and I ask them to show compassion. The weak and the innocent cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible."

According to U.N. and other sources, at least 1 million Iraqis have died because of malnutrition and a scarcity of basic medical supplies resulting from the trade embargo against Iraq. Perhaps hardest hit have been Iraqi children. After decades of steady progress in reducing childhood mortality, Iraq has seen its mortality rate for children under 5 more than double since the sanctions were imposed--from 50 per 1,000 in 1990 to 125 per 1,000 in 1998. As many as 6,000 children are dying each month as a direct result of the sanctions, according to Father John Dear, S.J., director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in Nyack, New York.

"Obviously nobody supports Saddam Hussein," says Dear. "[But] the children of Iraq are not our enemies and should not be suffering because of our policies."

It is doubtless that a more humane regime in Iraq would have handled this crisis differently, perhaps made amends with the world community and ended the sanctions long ago. …

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