rn: C. Ballard on sanctions & our responsibility; a beautiful protest


Jan Slakov

Dear RN, 

Once again, a most useful column by Carolyn Ballard. It's great to think
that articles like these are getting printed, not just diffused on the net!

all the best, Jan

From: "Carolyn Ballard" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: latest @ Odds column -- sanctions & embargoes as weapons of war --
the case of Cuba & Iraq
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 15:01:32 -0800

@ Odds

If the average American were asked to list some modern weapons of war, it's
doubtful that trade embargoes or sanctions would make the list. However, in
the bizarre world of real politik, they have become some of the most lethal
weapons for maintaining Pax Americana. No two nations demonstrate their
effectiveness (and the schizophrenic nature of American foreign policy)
better than the tiny Caribbean nation of Cuba and that ancient cradle of
civilization -- Iraq.

Much of Cuba's history is the story of its valiant struggle against one
imperial oppressor or another. Becoming a colony of Spain in 1511, Cuba
waged a failed ten-year war for independence from Spain that began in 1868.
Cuban nationalists took up the cause of independence again in 1895. This
time, however, they were aided by another former colony and champion of
democracy - the US. In American history books, this is known as the
Spanish-American War of 1898 - that "splendid little war."

Splendid, indeed, because what was at stake, as the hapless Cubans quickly
learned, was not Cuban autonomy, but the lucrative sugar industry that
American sugar companies lusted after. So, with Congress' 1901 passage of
the Platt Amendment that gave the US the right to intervene in Cuba any time
it darned well pleased, Cuba became a de facto protectorate of the US until
1959. With the blessing of the US government, American businesses wasted no
time in buying up land and industries in Cuba.

Cuba during the 1950's became a hedonistic playground for the rich, famous
or bored. The Mafia moved in and established a thriving gambling and
prostitution business, and the corrupt, US-supported regime of Fulgencio
Batista couldn't have been happier. American dollars were rolling in, and
Batista and a minority of ruling-class elites were getting rich.
Unfortunately, the wealth didn't trickle down to the majority of working
class Cubans. Enter Fidel Castro and his band of revolutionaries in 1959.

With his small army of mountain-based guerillas, Castro liberated Cuba from
the greedy grasp of Batista and his cronies. The Cuban working class
cheered, while the wealthy Cuban elites grabbed their assets and hightailed
it to Miami. Briefly supporting Castro's takeover in the beginning, the US
quickly did an about-face, when Castro committed the unpardonable sin of
nationalizing the US-owned Cuban Telephone Company. He had this strange idea
that ownership of Cuban property and the means of production should belong
to Cubans. After the US refused to renew Cuba's sugar quota agreement in
1960, Castro nationalized US properties. It was time for Castro to go, the
CIA decided. 

In its 40-year undeclared war against Castro and the Cuban people, the US
has utilized a formidable array of weapons and engaged in often farcical
espionage plots, from the Bay of Pigs fiasco to illegal tax payer-funded
assassination attempts to biological warfare (the CIA dropped Swine Fever
germs over the country in 1971, resulting in the slaughter of 500,000 pigs
in Cuba). But in 1960, the US pulled out its big gun - a trade embargo.

Beginning as a partial embargo prohibiting all exports to Cuba except
non-subsidized foodstuffs and medicines, the embargo has tightened over the
years and put a stranglehold on the Cuban economy. The latest such effort
came in 1996 with the Helms-Burton Act, introduced by Indiana's Republican
representative, Dan Burton, and North Carolina's own vitriolic
ultra-conservative-anti-communist-"give 'em hell Jesse"-Helms. Under this
new piece of legislation, American companies investing in Cuba are subject
to lawsuits, while the State Department can deny visas to those company
heads and their major shareholders.

During the Cold War years, the Cuban economy remained stable as a result of
trade agreements with and foreign aid from the Soviets. With Soviet support
and Castro's socialist policies, the Cuban economy accomplished such
admirable achievements as health care and education for all Cubans. Even
today, Cuba has one of the highest literacy and lowest infant mortality
rates in the world.

Then came the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1989.
With the Russian economy in shambles after its disastrous experiment with
capitalism, Cuba's Russian economic lifeline ended as well. Cubans refer to
this post-Cold War period of economic hardships and ubiquitous shortages as
their "Special Period." The resourceful Cubans have learned to survive their
deprivation, however, by adapting. The Iraqis have not been so fortunate.

In 1991, after the US and her coalition partners bombarded Iraq back to the
pre-Industrial Era with their arsenal of high-tech weaponry (including the
deadly uranium-tipped anti-tank missiles), the "Beast of Baghdad," Saddam
Hussein, still remained in power. Unlike Castro, Saddam wasn't just the one
who got away, he was evil incarnate and had to be stopped at all costs. Why?
Because he purportedly possessed nuclear and biological weapons with which
he could blow his neighbors (read Israel) to kingdom come. And how did we
know that? Because the US had sold them to him during the 1980-1988
Iran-Iraq War to destroy our other evil foe, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

So, Saddam, too, had to go. With the bizarre logic that often afflicts US
foreign policy, we decided that what the superior might of the US-led
international coalition couldn't accomplish, the Iraqi people surely could.
They merely needed to be motivated. It was time, once again, for the weapon
of last resort - trade sanctions.

Persuaded by the clout and Security Council veto power of the US and Great
Britain, the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq almost ten years ago. The horrors
of what sanctions have done to that nation and its people are almost too
terrible to contemplate. 

Since the imposition of sanctions, over a million people have died and half
of those are children. Under the Oil for Food Program implemented in 1996,
Iraq can sell a fraction of its oil for money that then goes to the Security
Council. After reparations to Kuwait and other expenses are deducted from
each sale, approximately $30 per month is left to feed each Iraqi citizen.
Diptheria and cholera, once unheard of in Iraq, are now rampant. Cancer
rates have skyrocketed, which Iraqi scientists blame on the amount of
radiation deposited in the soil and water supply by the uranium-tipped

Because of the sanctions, PhD's drive rattletrap taxis to earn a few dinars
these days in Iraq. Mothers sell their family heirlooms on street corners,
while their children beg for food. Four thousand Iraqi children under the
age of five die each month as a result of the sanctions, according to
UNICEF. But when asked on TV if the death of half a million Iraqi children
was a price worth paying for ousting Saddam Hussein, US Secretary of State
Madeline Albright replied: "This is a very hard choice, but we think the
price is worth it." And she was actually serious.

To date, three UN officials responsible for coordinating humanitarian relief
to Iraq have resigned in disgust. Unlike Secretary Albright, they did not
possess the same ruthless logic that could justify the deaths of half a
million innocents. Denis Halliday, who resigned in 1998 after 34 years with
the UN, was quoted in a March 5 article in The Guardian of London: "I had
been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of
genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a
million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime,
Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price for economic sanctions; on the
contrary, he has been strengthened by them. What is clear is that the
Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its
own Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.
History will slaughter those responsible." 

American humanitarian groups who have visited Iraq or Cuba have often
reported that citizens whom they've met in both nations do not blame
Americans themselves for the suffering that the US government is inflicting
upon them. However, as Americans, we must demand that government account for
policies that it pursues in our name, and an accounting is long overdue in
the cases of Iraq and Cuba. History, at least, will assuredly hold us

                 (c) Carolyn Ballard (2000)
                - Republication permission granted for
                 non-commercial and small-press use under "fair use"
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 21:32:00 +0530
From: TASC <•••@••.•••>

On resisting the socio-economic cluster bomb of sanctions against Iraq...

On March 16, we saw again how the maintenance of war and sanctions against
Iraq means diminishing democracy, whatever that is, here at home. The
constituency office of Maria Minna, Member of Parliament for Beaches
Woodbine, was closed by staff because of a small, symbolic demontsration
protesting the fact that 150 children under the age of 5 die each day in
Iraq because of sanctions maintained, in part, through Canadian military
and diplomatic action. Manyof those present were at Homes not Bombs in
Otytawa in November, and some are working to close the Hamilton War Show.

"CIDA and its many partners across the country have been leaders in the
fight against poverty and in efforts to make this a better world in which to
live. Our world is a safer and healthier place as a result. It is because of
this kind of support that more children see their first birthday, more
people are going to school and learning to read and write, and more people
are living longer, healthier, more prosperous lives."

"the situation of the [Iraqi] civilian population is increasingly desperate.
Deteriorating living conditions, inflation, and low salaries make people's
everyday lives a continuing struggle, while food shortages and the lack of
medicines and clean drinking water threaten their very survival." -
14 December 1999
Iraq: A decade of sanctions. ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross]
activities on behalf of Iraqi civilians  1999-2000

"Canada is committed to fully supporting United Nations policy regarding
Stan Keyes, MP Hamilton-West.  December 1, 1998

"I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognize as a true
human tragedy" - Hans von Sponeck, the second Humanitarian Coordinator in
Iraq to resign in the last 18 months.  Seattle Post-Intelligencer: February
9, 2000

By Andrew Loucks

In an effort to break the deathly silence of sanctions that drones on,
members of Hamilton's Global Movement to End the War against Iraq and
Toronto supporters gathered at Minister of International Cooperation, Maria
Minna's MP office in East Toronto on Thursday, March 16.  Rather than
yelling above the blasts from Ottawa that warn of Saddam Hussein and
"weapons of mass destruction", we relied on imagery to illustrate mounting
death tolls from sanctions.

During the Beaches-East York constituency office's hours we laid to rest
150 dolls inside and outside the office,
representing the 150 children under 5 that die each day in Iraq due to
sanctions.  We leaftletted passers-by and held visible a large banner which
Sanctions are in effect a giant socio-economic cluster bomb, killing and
maiming an entire society, releasing bomblets in the form of malnutrition,
pneumonia, diarrhoea, cancer, infrastructure degradation and massive
poverty.  The Canadian Government is committed to supporting and enforcing
sanctions against Iraq.

Initially, Minna's office staff appeared stunned as they responded to my
explanations with "ok...ok...ok", and later only sought assurances that
visitors not be blocked from entering.  We then proceeded to enter the
office one by one, every minute or two, laying our tiny baby dolls on the
chairs, desks, shelves and filing cabinets of the Minister of International
Cooperation.  Some doll carriers expressed their opposition to sanctions by
quietly speaking upon entering the office.  Minna's staff reacted to
demonstrators who walked further into the office, laying dolls on filing
cabinets.  Evidence of the destruction caused by sanctions was also
delivered in the form of UN reports, interview transcripts and literature.

It was interesting to see how powerful a symbol, well-explained, can be.
When one demonstrator placed a doll on a cabinet in the middle of the
office, the staff demanded that he remove it. When he refused, explaining
that this doll represented the death of yet another child, and that to
remove it would be to look the other way and not take responsibility for
this death, the staff were sent into a quandary. What to do? They did not
touch it, nor did the police officer who eventually went into the office.

But less than 90 minutes into our delivery the office doors were locked and
police had been called.  54 Division constable Lee Graham, a veteran of last
spring's protest of NATO bombings, explained that the staff felt intimidated
by the dolls and demonstrators, who numbered about 15 and included at least
one enthusiastic 11 year old.  Graham and the office staff said they were
concerned about what the dolls might contain.  Either out of embarassment or
fear, Minna's staff refused to move the dolls from locations they objected
to.  Police later escorted Minna's employees discreetly out the back of the
office to their cars.  Before leaving, employees were asked to arrange for
the dolls to be sent to Iraq, which is nearly impossible for the average
Canadian to do under sanctions.  Out front, demonstrators continued by
piling dolls outside Minna's door.

We enjoyed the safety of a 2 man, 1 woman strong police observation team
from 54 division right up until the last doll was delivered to the 3-foot
high pile
propped-up against Minna's office.

Andrew Loucks
The Global Movement to End the War against Iraq

c/o OPIRG McMaster
Box 1013, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton  ON  Canada  L8S 1C0

phone: 905-525-9140 ext. 27289

fax: 905-523-0107 (ATTN: Iraq Working Group - OPIRG)

email: •••@••.•••