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Synthesis/Regeneration 22   (Spring 2000)

What If They Gave a War and Nobody Paid Attention?

by Ramsey Kysia, Northern Virginia Green Party

The US government is at war. It is at war with the government, and with the people, of Iraq. And what bothers me most about this war, aside from the actual war itself, is that it has somehow become "controversial" to even acknowledge it.

For over a year, in what is now the longest running air-war since Vietnam, the United States has been bombing Iraq on the average of 3-4 times a week. It has bombed Iraqi military and intelligence facilities. It has bombed radar stations. It has bombed communication centers. It has also bombed oil fields and oil pipelines, farms and food warehouses, water supplies, hospitals, schools, and civilian neighborhoods. But they say that somehow this is not war.

The military says that it bombs Iraq only in "self-defense." What does that mean when, after over a year of bombing missions, Iraq has not managed to hit one of our planes—let alone shoot one down? They say that they enforce the "no-fly-zones" to protect the people living under them. What does that mean when they continue to allow Turkish planes to violate those zones and drop bombs on those same people?

They deny that they are targeting civilians with their bombing campaign. And when we confront them with independent, UN or international press reports of civilian casualties, they say that these are "accidents." How the US government can consistently bomb civilians and civilian infrastructure by accident is something I do not understand.

They say that they are engaged in their non-war because they are fundamentally opposed to "weapons of mass destruction." If they are, if that is true, then why do they continue to use a weapon of mass destruction against Iraq? Sanctions are a form of collective punishment, and, in Iraq, they have indiscriminately killed over 1,000,000 people. Sanctions are the greatest single weapon of mass destruction at work in the world today.

Sanctions are the greatest single weapon of mass destruction at work in the world today.***

Since August 6, 1990, the US—through the United Nations—has enforced a world-wide blockade on all trade with Iraq. Because of this blockade, there are critical shortages of food and medicine. Because of this blockade, Iraq has been unable to rebuild the civilian infrastructure (specifically, electrical plants and water and sewage treatment centers) that were so thoroughly destroyed during "Desert Storm." Because of this blockade—these "sanctions"—over 1,000,000 people, mostly children, have died from malnutrition and disease. According to the UN, a child dies every 10 minutes in Iraq because of sanctions. And somehow this too is still not war.

The UN started an "oil-for-food" program in 1997 to try to address the massive crisis caused by this non-war. Denis Halliday, Assistant Secretary General in charge of "oil-for-food" and a 34 year veteran at the UN, resigned in protest over the inability of this program to address this crisis. He has called the sanctions an act of "genocide." Hans Von Sponek, the current director of "oil-for-food" and a 30 year veteran at the UN, has called sanctions a "crime."

All of the money generated by this program is controlled by the UN, and over 30% of it goes to pay reparations to Kuwait and to corporations that lost business or property during the Gulf War. The budget for the "Office of the Iraq Program" at the UN is paid for by Iraqi oil, and it is larger than the budget of the entire rest of the UN combined. But even if all of the money from "oil-for-food" were directly spent on food and medicine for Iraq, it would only amount to some 50-60˘ per person per day. And if Saddam Hussein plays politics with this program, then so too does our government when they place indefinite "holds" on orders for medical supplies, or deny Iraq schoolbooks and pencils, claiming that these are "dual-use" items that could potentially be used for weapons programs.

The budget for the "Office of the Iraq Program" at the UN… is larger than the budget of the entire rest of the UN...

Our government denies that it is killing civilians with its "sanctions." And when we confront them with independent, UN or NGO reports of civilian casualties, they say that these deaths are either all "Saddam's fault," or that they are the "price" of containing him. They say that this "price" is "worth it." How anyone can believe that they are starving hundreds of thousands of children to death in the interests of "peace" is beyond me. How anyone can believe that "who started it" is somehow important to the reality of this Genocide is also beyond me.

1,000,000 people are dead. 5,000 children die, for lack of adequate food, medicine, or clean water, each and every month. I traveled to Iraq in August of 1999 with Voices in the Wilderness. I visited hospitals in Baghdad, Basra and Ammara. In one of the richest countries in the world, I saw ward after ward filled with dying children. I saw their distended bellies, oversized heads, undernourished bodies. These children did not even have the strength to cry.

Our government says that Iraq threatens us. How well do you think the average Iraqi citizen, struggling to make ends meet in a devastated economy, listening to US planes flying overhead daily, cringing at the explosions of US bombs, watching their children suffer and, often, die—how do you think they react to our government's "fear?" Iraq killed roughly 150 US soldiers during "Desert Storm." The US killed, roughly, 150,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians during those same six weeks. No Americans have been killed since then, and over 1,000,000 Iraqis have died.

After 10 years of war in Vietnam, there were thousands of Americans working, very hard, to end that war. There were demonstrations and protests. There was debate. After 10 years of war in Iraq, most people in this country are not even aware that there is a war. And our massive silence is taken as consent.

I will not consent. I will not be silent. I will not allow my government to bomb civilians. I will not allow my government to starve children. I will not allow my government to kill 1,000,000 people in my name. I will oppose this war. I will do everything I can to oppose it.

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