Global Policy Forum

Americans, Flouting UN Embargo,


By Barbara Crossette

United Nations - Little by little, in small efforts linked by new networks, Americans are beginning to react against a policy of continued sanctions against Iraq by organizing their own relief projects for the Iraqi people.

Today, Americares, a private relief organization based in New Canaan, Conn., announced the largest mission to date. Over three days next week, with the help of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, the organization says it will carry out the first American airlift of more than 75,000 pounds of medicines and hospital supplies to Baghdad, where nearly eight years of sanctions have crippled the civilian medical system.

Guy L. Smith 4th, a vice chairman of Americares, said at a news conference this morning that it was purely coincidental that the American goods would begin arriving in Iraq on Monday, just as the Security Council prepares to renew the sanctions for another six months. "Americares goes where there is a need, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion," he said.

Other organizations are giving a more political slant to their activities, withholding any criticism of Iraqi policy while condemning the United States and the United Nations for continuing to impose a tough embargo on Iraq. The sanctions have been in place since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

Voices in the Wilderness, a Chicago-based organization that has been sending groups to Iraq with some medical and other supplies permitted under Security Council regulations, organized days of protests earlier this year outside the Baghdad headquarters of the United

Nations team charged with destroying Iraq's major weapons systems. The sanctions cannot be lifted until the commission declares Iraq free of prohibited arms.

In New York, a coalition called the Iraq Sanctions Challenge is being formed by Ramsey Clark, United States Attorney General in the Johnson Administration. The coalition intends to defy American policy wherever it can on this issue. It also plans to send volunteers and medical supplies to Iraq and to stage a week of protests in the United States from May 6 to 13.

"In the spirit of the civil rights movement, we refuse to abide by unjust U.S. laws or U.N. resolutions that result in death and destruction for Iraqi children, women and men," says a flyer being circulated to potential coalition members around the United States. It alleges that more than 1.5 million people have been killed by the sanctions.

The Iraq Sanctions Challenge has attracted the support of groups like Pastors for Peace, the Middle East Children's Alliance and the Bruderhof, a communal movement in New York, Pennsylvania and England, which has produced a graphic videotape of dying children in Iraq, asserting that they were killed by sanctions, which they label as "genocide." The video juxtaposes shots of Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, speaking in another context, calling the sanctions policy "worth the price."

Absent from virtually all of the calls for action circulating in the United States is any blame for President Hussein, who chose for more than five years not to buy medicine or food through the controlled sale of oil, which he was permitted to do by the Security Council. No mention is made of his marble-lined palaces, stables full of luxury cars, or of the human-rights record of the Iraqi Government, which a United Nations monitor recently reported had executed at least 1,500 people over the last year for political reasons.

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