Voices in the American wilderness:What is Nader doing here?

Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx xxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx
Tue Aug 15 21:31:17 MDT 2000

 Al-Ahram Weekly
 10 - 16 August 2000
 Issue No. 494

Voices in the American wilderness

By Salah Hameid

Opponents of the UN sanctions against Iraq made their voices heard this
week when they marked the 10th anniversary with demonstrations, hunger
strikes and statements of condemnation. The US administration, which
still insists that the embargo is a necessary strategy in its war
against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, despite its devastating effects
on the Iraqi people, was one of the main targets of the anti-sanctions

On Sunday, four Americans began a symbolic hunger strike outside the
main UN office in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad to protest the
continuation of sanctions. Kathy Kelly, from Voices in the Wilderness, a
US-based anti-sanctions organisation, said the move was aimed at drawing
international attention to the plight of millions of Iraqis who are
suffering under the sanctions. "What we are doing is nothing compared to
the sufferings of Iraqis," she said.

Other capital cities of the world also witnessed symbolic actions and
public events. In  London, Dave Rolstone climbed part of the city's
newly opened 450 feet high Millennium Wheel. In Washington, about 300
people led by the Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader ended a
day of marches and rallying in Lafayette Park, opposite the White
House, demanding an immediate end to the blockade, which they said only
harms the Iraqi people and helps Saddam's regime. "This policy
represents a massive injustice against Iraqi civilians and it must be
ended now, not after Mr Clinton leaves office," Nader told the
protesters. In the Jordanian capital Amman, some 200 activists fromthe
opposition parties rallied Sunday at the UN offices urging their
government to defy the sanctions.

Reflecting increasing official frustration at the terrible impact of
sanctions, Egypt's Foreign Minister Amr Moussa announced that the time
had come to end the sanctions. The French government also criticised the
blockade as having become "cruel, ineffective and dangerous." During
talks in Moscow last week, the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told
Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that his government firmly
supports an early end to sanctions and is considering the resumption of
flights with Iraq once other countries permit Russian planes to fly
through their airspace.

Internationally, the media have devoted column spaces and air time to
detailing the crippling effects of the US-sponsored sanctions on
ordinary Iraqis. Respectable world organisations, such as UNICEF and the
World Food Organisation, have published scathing reports on the
deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq as a result of the

Yet, the Clinton administration is maintaining its hard-line stance,
rebuffing all demands to end the 10-year embargo. Thomas Pickering, the
State Department's under-secretary, repeated Washington's claim that
President Hussein is responsible for the plight of his people. "This is
not a UN problem; this is not a world community problem: this is an
Iraqi government problem," he said. In a television interview broadcast
internationally, Pickering said the UN supervised oil-for-food programme
covers a wide range of goods, not just food and medicine. Without
providing specific evidence, Pickering reiterated American charges that
President Hussein was diverting income under the UN-sponsored oil-for
food programme to his inner circle and storing supplies for his
military. "If sanctions were lifted now it would open the floodgates for
the rebuilding of President Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
destruction. It would threaten the controls on the import of goods that
could have a military use," he said.

However, it is becoming clear after 10 years of tight sanctions the
United States is losing support for its policy towards Iraq. Last year,
France stopped its participation in the implementation of the no-fly
zones over north and south Iraq -- a policy which many countries believe
is not in line with UN resolutions. Nevertheless, US and British jets
have continued to bomb daily what they describe as "military targets"
but which are often innocent civilians.

This week, France and Russia said they would seriously examine whether
the air embargo imposed following Iraq's  August 1990 invasion of Kuwait
is part of the sanctions' resolutions. French and Italian
non-governmental groups have announced they are considering chartering
flights to Baghdad in defiance of the air embargo. Nevertheless, there
is no prospect that the Clinton administration will soften its position
on the embargo. The question is whether the mounting international
pressure will make the next American president rethink US policy on

Related stories:
The great divides - 20 - 26 July 2000
Demons no longer deferred - 13 - 19 July 2000
Focus: Camp David II - 13 - 19 July 2000


Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx
PhD Student
Department of Political Science
SUNY at Albany
Nelson A. Rockefeller College
135 Western Ave.; Milne 102
Albany, NY 12222

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