Crisis in Iraq


August 6, 2002 marked 12 years of utterly inhuman sanctions against the people of Iraq. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has demonstrated that these sanctions are responsible for the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children between 1991 and 1998. An estimated 5,000 children continue to die each month due to sanctions.

Western media now report matter-of-factly about U.S. Government plots to overthrow Saddam Hussein, through covert operations or direct military assault. The debate has been reduced to how Iraq should be attacked; it is beyond dispute, we are to believe, that the U.S. has a moral right to bomb societies and oust leaders it does not like.

What threat does Iraq pose?

Scott Ritter, former lead inspector of the United Nations Special Commission to disarm Iraq (UNSCOM) is unequivocal: "from a qualitative standpoint, when you judge Iraq's current weapons of mass destruction capabilities today, they have none. In terms of long-range ballistic missiles, missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, Iraq no longer has these missiles. They have been disarmed. In terms of missile production facilities, which were associated with the production of long range missiles, these facilities have either been destroyed, dismantled, or prior to the American military action in 1998, under strict monitoring by the weapons inspectors. The same holds true with chemical weapons. The same holds true for biology. The same holds true for nuclear. So when we talk about Iraq's current weapons of mass destruction threat, the answer is: there are no weapons of mass destruction threat." (Congressional Briefing, 3 May 2000)

What are sanctions?

Sanctions are restrictions on the import and export of goods. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations (UN), led by the U.S., imposed the most comprehensive sanctions ever envisaged against the people of Iraq. They remain to this day. These restrictions have included materials needed to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure - water and sewage treatment facilities, electrical systems, communications facilities, roads, hospitals, schools, and industries - targeted during the Gulf War. Postwar reconstruction has been virtually impossible.

Three successive UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq have denounced these devastating sanctions. Following his resignation in protest in October 1998, Denis Halliday explained: we "are in the process of destroying an entire society. is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral."

Renewed every six months, the current version, dubbed "smart sanctions," was passed in May 2002. The revisions are purported to allow a greater flow of civilian goods into Iraq, but without a sustained revival of the Iraqi economy and the massive investment needed to rebuild the country's infrastructure, the humanitarian crisis will continue. While the stated intention of sanctions was to weaken the regime of Saddam Hussein, it has served to entrench his power.

The regime has not suffered, and those of the middle class, seen as the most likely source of effective opposition to Saddam, have either been reduced to poverty or have fled the country. Ordinary people have become dependent on government rations for their very existence, ensuring submission (if not loyalty) to his regime.

Sanctions are to remain until Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction capability. Problem is - the goalposts keep moving, and partial compliance has not met with partial lifting of sanctions. As long as each nut and bolt has not been accounted for, the U.S. insists that the brutal sanctions regime remains in place. The U.S. government pursues its agenda of removing Saddam Hussein from power, at the expense of diplomatic means of dis-armament.

So what's it really all about?

Oil. Not weapons of mass destruction, not freeing the Iraqi people, not the "war on terrorism." The ultimate goal of the U.S. government is to install a more compliant regime to run the world's second greatest source of oil. It's that simple. And while the world may finally be rid of the vile Saddam Hussein, what are the prospects of prosperity, security, and democracy for the 24,999,999 Iraqis who will also suffer the chaos and cruelty of bombings, invasions, and occupation?

What can I do?

1. Inform yourself

2. Involve yourself Contact CESAPI who hold public meetings every one or two weeks in Vancouver planning and organizing educational events. Get on their e-mail or phone list at their Under the Volcano information table, or phone 604-985-7147.

On your own, you can:

Write (postage free )to:
Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons,
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
phone: 800-267-8376 or 613-992-5234

Phone your MP
Canadian policy supports sanctions, spending $35.9 million per year to provide a ship to support the blockade of Iraq's ports. This must change. In April 1999, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT), then chaired by Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, urged the Canadian Government to "urgently pursue the 'de-linking' of economic from military sanctions with a view to rapidly lifting economic sanctions in order to significantly improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people".

Please remind Bill Graham of this recommendation.

CESAPI is a coalition of organizations and individuals from greater Vancouver working to increase public awareness of the effects of the UN sanctions against the people of Iraq and to bring about an end to these sanctions.

Initiatives have included:

  • Delegations to Iraq to witness, document, and present the effects of sanctions to people of conscience across Canada
  • Public forums with Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinators to Iraq who resigned long-standing careers with the UN in protest of the sanctions, and with British MP George Galloway, an active campaigner against the sanctions
  • Presentations to SCFAIT during their investigation into the humanitarian tragedy in Iraq
  • Direct actions including fasts, marches, and demonstrations participation in a cross-Canada caravan to speak out against the sanctions, hosted by 31 cities
  • media work and government lobbying

Currently, CESAPI is working to bring Scott Ritter to speak in Vancouver in October. Details soon.
Ritter is the former lead investigator with UNSCOM and author of "Endgame: The Crisis in Iraq - Once and For All."