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Pressure Mounts to Lift Sanctions Against Iraq

by Peter Frase and Jess Sundin |
October 17, 1998
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Minneapolis, MN - Public disapproval is growing fast against US-backed UN sanctions against Iraq. October 1-14, peace and justice groups nationwide protested the sanctions. Student organizations in the Twin Cities and Chicago areas educated hundreds about the devastation in Iraq."We wanted to start the school year by getting the word out and putting on pressure to stop the genocidal sanctions!" said Jackson Potter, student activist at the University of Illinois - Chicago. Grassroots pressure won a letter from Congresspeople urging President Clinton to end economic sanctions against Iraq.

While Iraq fades from headlines, its people suffer the effects of sanctions. These sanctions, the harshest ever imposed on any country, restrict even food and medicine imports. Despite Iraqi cooperation with United Nations inspections, the United States refuses to consider lifting sanctions. US officials admit they aim for sanctions to topple Saddam Hussein's government. Meanwhile, Iraqis blame the US government for growing misery. UN agencies report that the sanctions have already killed over 1.7 million people.

In June, the US bombed a water reservoir, claiming that nearby Iraqi radar had been tracking American jets. This strike worsened a critical shortage of drinking water. Because chlorine and machinery for water treatment are barred by sanctions, much of Iraq's drinking water is unsafe. While US officials denounced the "cowardice" of embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, US policies punish Iraqis for the actions of their government.

August bombings of Afghanistan and Sudan, and the new "war on terrorism," continue the US government's racist attack on Arab people as violent fanatics. These actions attack the Middle East, an effort to assert military control in a region important to maintaining US global economic power.

While the attacks failed to distract Americans from presidential scandals at home, they served as another excuse to punish Iraqi people with sanctions. Reportedly, Iraq bought medications from the medicine factory destroyed in Sudan.

Last month, the UN announced it will not review the sanctions this October as planned; the Iraqi parliament ended cooperation with UN weapons inspectors until a timeline is set for review of the sanctions regime. Tensions raised after the US reported VX nerve gas on junked missile fragments found in Iraq. In late September, European scientists found that there was no nerve gas on missile parts from the same site, confirming Iraq's response to the allegations.

Sanctions against Iraq isolate the US more every day. For Western allies, sanctions limit economic opportunities; the US is alone in defending inhumane sanctions. Pressure at home and around the world takes a toll on US policy makers.