In my last post I highlighted some of the reasons why Americans should condemn the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. However, as deplorable as the past five years of war have been, I also believe it is necessary to look back at the economic war that was waged against Iraq in the 1990’s. The Iraq Sanctions, supported by the Clinton administration, are considered to be some of the most brutal in all of history. The ostensible goal of those sanctions was to weaken Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian grip on the people of Iraq and to eliminate the “threat” posed to the Middle East and the West by Hussein and his alleged weapons programs. Of course, that’s not the way things would pan out. In fact, the Clinton backed Iraq sanctions and the invasion of Iraq begun by Bush in 2003 have one dubious “accomplishment” in common. They have both resulted in tremendous suffering for the Iraqi people.
In the early 1990’s the U.N. Security Council passed resolutions which placed sanctions on Iraq. The first Bush administration believed the sanctions should not be lifted as long as Hussein remained in power. But, Bill Clinton was and still is a humanitarian, right? Surely he wouldn’t feel the same way. Or would he? In 1993, as he takes office Clinton says:
“I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.” (The New York Times, January 14, 1993)
Clinton adds regarding Hussein: “I have no intention of normalizing relations with him.”
On May 12, 1996 on 60 Minutes Ambassador Madeleine Albright is asked:
“We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?”
“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price-we think the price is worth it.”
Then, on October 4, 1996, UNICEF releases a report on Iraq in which it states:
“Around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying here every month from hunger and disease.”
And of course, it gets worse. On October 3, 1997 a joint study conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program discovers that the sanctions:
“significantly constrained Iraq’s ability to earn foreign currency needed to import sufficient quantities of food to meet needs. As a consequence, food shortages and malnutrition became progressively severe and chronic in the 1990s.”
In the face of this disaster, what does Bill Clinton do? He responds with bluster. In November 1997, during a standoff on weapons inspectors, the President says:
“What he [Hussein] says his objective is, is to relieve the people of Iraq, and presumably the government, of the burden of the sanctions. What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts. So I think that if his objective is to try to get back into the business of manufacturing vast stores of weapons of mass destruction and then try to either use them or sell them, then at some point the United States, and more than the United States, would be more than happy to try to stop that.” (Emphasis Added)
Is this the same Bill Clinton who is now regarded as a supreme humanitarian? Just think of all of those bumper stickers that read “Nobody died when Clinton lied.” The truth is that hundreds of thousands of people died when Clinton lied.
Anyway, the tragedy in Iraq continued, as on November 26, 1997 UNICEF reported:
“The most alarming results are those on malnutrition, with 32 per cent of children under the age of five, some 960,000 children, chronically malnourished-a rise of 72 per cent since 1991. Almost one quarter (around 23 per cent) are underweight-twice as high as the levels found in neighbouring Jordan or Turkey.” Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF Representative in Baghdad: “And what concerns us now is that there is no sign of any improvement since Security Council Resolution 986/1111 [oil-for-food] came into force.”
Just a couple of weeks after this report is issued Clinton reminds the public of his intentions:
“I am willing to maintain the sanctions as long as he does not comply with the resolutions…. There are those that would like to lift the sanctions. I am not among them.”
Then on January 10, 1998 the Pope speaks out against the sanctions:
“I insist on repeating clearly to all, once again, that no one may kill in God’s name,” recalling “our brothers and sisters in Iraq, living under a pitiless embargo… The weak and the innocent cannot pay for mistakes for which they are not responsible.”
The next grim report from UNICEF would come in April. It stated:
“The increase in mortality reported in public hospitals for children under five years of age (an excess of some 40,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is mainly due to diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition. In those over five years of age, the increase (an excess of some 50,000 deaths yearly compared with 1989) is associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney diseases.”
On October 6, 1998, Dennis Halliday, the former head of the “oil for food” program for Iraq gives a speech on Capitol Hill in which he cites:
a “conservative estimate” of “child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month.” Halliday states: “There are many reasons for these tragic and unnecessary deaths, including the poor health of mothers, the breakdown of health services, the poor nutritional intake of both adults and young children and the high incidence of water-born diseases as a result of the collapse of Iraq’s water and sanitation system-and, of course, the lack of electric power to drive that system, both crippled by war damage following the 1991 Gulf War.”
However, the Clinton administration remained unbowed in their steely eyed determination to oust Hussein from power through the crippling sanctions. They too, espoused more nonsense about WMDs, for which George W. Bush is now infamous. On November 10, 1998 State Department spokesman James Rubin said:
“We’ve stated very clearly that it is up to Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council that lay out the needs and requirements, including on weapons of mass destruction, coming back into compliance with those resolutions, including on Kuwaiti prisoners, Kuwaiti equipment, and, in short, demonstrating his peaceful intentions, in which case we are prepared to see an adjustment in the sanctions regime.”
And let’s not forget the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, in which it is averred that Iraq:
“…has persisted in a pattern of deception and concealment regarding the history of its weapons of mass destruction programs.”
So we see that the lies of 2001 and 2002 are strikingly similar to the lies of 1998. Two different Presidents, yet the lies remain the same. In the 1990’s Clinton’s lies led to the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis through those despicable sanctions. In the early 2000’s Bush’s lies have led to the mass murders of possibly over a million Iraqis.
Call one a Democrat. Call the other a Republican. One is “conservative.” One is “liberal.” That is all irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that they are partners in crime.